Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Welcome to Tuesdays Together in the Word, hosted by DeeDee at I Have No Greater Joy...

I'm so sorry I didn't post last week. I'm feeling much better this week. Only the lingering cough shows signs of the sickness that gripped me. Steve is doing better, too. We're both back at work and are so thankful for God's healing touch and the wisdom He has given doctor's in knowing just the right medicines to prescribe for us.

A few nuggets of what I gleaned this week:

Lay Down My Life

"When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." ~ Acts 21:12-13 (NIV)

Paul was ready to lay down his life for Christ. Not just go to jail, face torture, but to die. Lose.His.Life. Am I willing? I asked God about this and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my faith in Him would allow me to do this in a nanosecond were I called to do so.
As further proof of my conviction, I had a dream one night last week that I was called to do this very thing. For some reason, there were seven of us selected. We were dressed a certain way and placed in the back of a military-type truck. We didn't know where we were going, but we knew why. Our faith in Christ. For some reason, we were the last seven hold-outs in the world. I didn't know the others in the truck with me, but we quickly became friends, singing hymns and praying together. If we agreed to renounce Christ, we could save the world. No one would ever be hurt or die again, no more sickness, no more tears. If we chose to continue to proclaim Christ, the world would end. Ours was not an easy choice to make. We had family and friends in the world who still had not accepted Christ and we could make the world a much better place, but the problem was that to do so we had to renounce Christ. We stood strong. Our knees did not knock in fear. We grieved for those who didn't know Christ and prayed that somehow they would come to know Him before the end of the world. It's a hard dream to explain. I think the point was that as long as we were on the truck and not whereever there yet was, there was still hope that souls could be saved. We knew that once we got where we were going we would not renounce Christ and that although there might be pain, it would be only temporary. We purposed to use the time in the truck to pray for those who had not made a decision for Christ. One of the people kept giving wrong directions to there to gain more time and it gave us more time to pray. Dreams are funny things. I dream, possibly due to medications that I take, feature length dreams. Vivid colors, smells, feelings. I'm talking whole plots. Some of my dreams are Oscar worthy. They're that clear. They usually fade by the time I get to work but some stick with me. This one did. Of course they're not all like this dream, but in this one I could feel the dirt and grime and calm spirit I had in the back of that truck. I could smell the diesel fuel. But when we got there I woke up.

Paul had no such luck. He was not dreaming. He knew that he was going to face flogging and all kind of torture and most certainly be martyred for his faith in Christ, if not then, soon. How obedient Paul was and how trusting. It just strikes me how much suffering Paul endured for the cause of Christ and how many believed because of him.

A Clear Conscience

During Paul's trial before Felix he talked about how the charges leveled against him could not be proven.

"When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: "I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense. You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." ~ Acts 24:10-15 (NIV, Emphasis, mine)

He was a man who had a clear conscience before God and man. Paul, formerly Saul who persecuted Christians, was a new man in Christ. He knew the power of confession and repentance and that it was important to keep a clear conscience before both God and man.

The Greek word for clear is aproskopos. It means:

1) having nothing to strike against, not causing to stumble
a) of a smooth road
b) metaph. of not leading others to sin by one's mode of life
2) not striking against or stumbling
a) metaph. not led into sin, blameless
3) without offense, not troubled by a consciousness of sin

Paul worked hard to keep his conscience clear before both God and man. He did not want to be a stumbling block and cause someone to sin. He worked hard at not doing the very things he was accused of. Notice that Paul didn't say he always had a clear conscience before God and man, but that it was something he strived at.

This was something Paul could not do by his own power. The Greek word for strive is askeō. It means:

1) to form by art, to adorn
2) to exercise (one's) self, take pains, labour, strive

Do I take pains to make sure that I walk my talk before both man and God? Am I willing to die to my selfish desires daily and seek to serve the Lord I profess? Do I set up stumbling blocks that may lead others to sin? Do I prepare a smooth road for the gospel of Christ to be shared with the people I come in contact with?

Many Days of Night

"We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved." ~ Acts 27:18-20 (NIV)

Luke, the author of Acts, was apparently with Paul on this journey. Can you imagine the terror that they felt at not seeing the light of day for so long while the storm raged around them? I was struck by the perseverance and assurance of Paul.

"Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.' So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island."" ~ Acts 27:23-26 (NIV)

Paul knew there was even more trouble in store for him ahead, but he had the assurance of the angel of God. How encouraging it is to know that we have that same assurance. No matter how dark the night or how long it lasts, we can keep up our courage that the Holy Spirit will comfort us in our time of chaos. While we may not receive the exact message Paul did, we can have faith.
The Greek word for faith is pisteuō. This verb implies action. It means:
1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in
a) of the thing believed
1) to credit, have confidence
b) in a moral or religious reference
1) used in the NT of the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of soul
2) to trust in Jesus or God as able to aid either in obtaining or in doing something: saving faith
3) mere acknowledgment of some fact or event: intellectual faith
2) to entrust a thing to one, i.e. his fidelity
a) to be intrusted with a thing
What are the things that I know to be true? In Whom have I placed my confidence? Do I trust in Jesus as being able to aid me? Do I remember to acknowledge Him? Deep thoughts to ponder. I loved thinking about this and looking back and seeing how many dreams He has brought to fruition in my own life.

Taking Time to Minister in the Midst of Trials

"There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed." ~ Acts 28:7-10 (NIV)
I love the example Paul set here. This was a man on the way to stand trial for Christ. Despite the suffering he had endured on the journey, God provided favor for him all along the way. He even healed Publius' daddy, who was sick. This extended into an outreach ministry and more were healed. I think it's precious that God rewarded his ministry with favor. They were honored and many of their needs were met. Remember, they had thrown just about everything there was that wasn't nailed down off the boat before it, ahem, set shore. (Crashed).
It reminded me that there may be times that I don't feel like ministering to people, but I need to press on. I need to show that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control to them despite how I feel.
Recently I was sick with bronchitis, ear infections, a sinus infection and a respiratory virus. I felt miserable and the medicine I took had a side effect of making me easily irritable. I was downright snippy with a man who did not deserve it. Then I read this and thought, "My problems are nothing compared to what Paul faced." He didn't get snippy with Publius' daddy. He extended love and mercy and healing to him. Talk about convicted!
In Closing
I had a wonderful week in the Word. Care to join us? Visit DeeDee at I Have No Greater Joy... and jump in. Meet us where we are. You don't have to go back to the beginning. Just jump in and start reading with us. Reading God's Word is awesome! I cherish it and find that the more I read, the more I want to read. You can rest assured that there is never a dull moment with Paul and his journeys if you'd like to go back and read through Acts.



Denise said...

Very awesome.

Kelly @ The Beauty of Sufficient Grace said...

Laurie Ann,

Oh...how I missed your sweet words of wisdom last week. Your insights into these scriptures bless my weary soul this morning as I get ready to leave for work. Your dream was amazing...I'm so glad you remembered it and were able to share it with us. Good questions to ask ourselves...soul-searching, gut-wrenching, stripping questions...how far would we follow Him? Paul's faith, his willingness to minister to others even through struggles, his complete trust in God continue to inspire and encourage me on these Tuesdays Together, which I have grown to love dearly. So glad you're feeling better, sweet friend.

Blessings to you,

He And Me + 3 said...

Oh to be like Paul and minister through the trials of life. I pray that I can stop worrying about self and hard times for me long enough to reach out and minister through the trials. Thank you for pointing that out!

DeeDee said...

So glad to have you back - and glad you are feeling better.
I have not been able to comment the last couple of weeks - because of what all has been going on in my life - and time restraints... but have read and prayed for you all. I too have loved sharing this time with you girls - maybe we will be able to get more to join us along the way.

I love how you said this: "It reminded me that there may be times that I don't feel like ministering to people, but I need to press on. I need to show that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control to them despite how I feel." And that is so true - and I have experienced this lately. However, when I just go ahead and do what I need/have to do - it helps to take my mind and thoughts off of myself. Good Post - Laurie Ann
Thanks so much for sharing!
Sweet Blessings,

Tricia said...

A great post Laurie Ann, I am glad you are back, I missed you last week!

I am short on time so this comment is short, but you had so many good "nuggets", thanks for sharing!