Month: February 2023

Singing at Midnight

Acts 16:25, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”

Paul and Silas were instructed in a vision to go to Macedonia and preach the gospel. Many were converted, but when Paul cast a demon out of a woman who had been following them, they were taken before the magistrates by her masters, who had been able to make money off of her divinations. Paul and Silas were falsely accused, severely beaten, cast into prison, and constrained by stocks. Nevertheless, at midnight they prayed and worshiped the Lord; immediately, an earthquake shook the prison doors open and loosed them from their bonds.

Imagine the being falsely accused and severely mistreated because you obeyed the Lord by faithfully spreading the gospel. Yet Paul and Silas endured all of this by giving a sacrifice of praise in the midst the midnight hour—a dark and frightening time in their ministry.

Their sacrifice to the Lord was heard by others in the prison and most importantly by the Lord Himself; moreover, they were freed and more converts were won to God’s Kingdom by their witness. While we may not always experience this kind of dramatic outcome when we praise the Lord in the midst of difficult circumstances, we will experience supernatural joy in the midst of our troubles: We should remember that before Paul and Silas were ever released, they sang from their hearts so joyfully and loudly that the other prisoners heard them. Praying and giving praise to God continually, through all circumstances whether good or bad, will always be to our benefit—our sacrifice will not only please the Lord, but at the very least, we will experience the kind of supernatural joy that will sustain us!

The Alpha and Omega

FOCUS PASSAGE: John 2:12-17

In this passage, John seems to record an earlier event in which Jesus entered into the temple in Jerusalem and drove out the money-changers rather than the temple-cleansing event described in the other three gospels (see the 7/9/22 post, “Be Angry, Yet Do Not Sin). John placed this cleansing of the temple shortly after Jesus began His ministry, immediately after His first miracle of turning water into wine. The other three gospels describe this event as taking place near the end of Jesus’ ministry, during the week of His crucifixion. Apparently, Jesus cleansed the temple two different times—one at the beginning of His ministry, and one at its conclusion.

ALPHA- First; beginning

OMEGA- Last; end

(Also, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet)

Both of the occurrences described above concerned the zeal Jesus had for the purity of His Father’s house, the Holy Temple. Jesus said that He would return for a glorious church (the called out believers in Christ who would be the temple of His Holy Spirit) who should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27). We know that almost from the start, the early church was infiltrated with false teachers and troublesome practices; moreover, at the end of Jesus’ time on earth, the church was still struggling with unholy ways. It is therefore notable that right at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, he purified the temple—His church; and also at the end, He continued to address its’ impurity, cleansing the temple once again before He finished His earthly work.

And so, although Jesus is the Alpha and Omega in many different ways, it is significant that at the beginning and the end of His earthly ministry He concerned Himself with the holiness and glory of His church. May we have the heart of Jesus and keep our temples pure—an effective house of prayer.

Without spot or blemish…”

Ephesians 5:27

Know Your Enemy

2 Corinthians 2:11- “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”

There is a popular story about an inquiry to a banker regarding how the bank could detect when certain paper money was counterfeit. The banker explained that they did not teach the bank tellers all about the aspects of counterfeit money; rather, they trained them to be so familiar with the feel and appearance of real money that they could detect anything other than the genuine article. This narrative has been cited to support the fact that we need not spend any time learning about Satan or his cohorts; instead, all of our time and energy should be devoted solely to learning about Jesus. The lesson from this story indeed has great wisdom and merit. Any effort we devote to learning about God and His ways is time well spent—Jesus is the “genuine article”—the true Savior; and Satan is a counterfeit, always trying to present himself as the one to be desired.

However, Paul explained that they (the believers) were not ignorant of Satan’s schemes—they recognized the characteristics of Satan’s counterfeit tactics. The point isn’t that we should become obsessed with investigating the dark ways of the enemy, but rather we should be aware of those ways to the extent that Satan cannot gain an advantage over us and thereby deceive us. The Scriptures clearly teach that we are wrestling with evil powers and we must be on guard against them; indeed we are to expose them (Ephesians 5:11 & Eph. 6:12). We learn from the Bible, for example, that Satan disguises himself as good and desirable (2Cor. 11:14; Mt. 7:15); he is a liar (John 8:44); he inspires false teachers (2 Peter 2:1-3); and he will produce signs and wonders (Mt. 24:24).



Mrs. Jones’ Greatest Lesson

Perhaps it was when I was in the fifth grade that I learned a lesson that would resound in my heart throughout the decades of my life. My favorite teacher from the entirety of my education was Mrs. Jones; not because she effectively taught me math and English (although she did), but because of something not found in our text books.

Mrs. Jones did not have favorites…at least none that one could discern. Every day at lunch, she would choose a different table whereby she would interact on a personal level with her students. She made sure to engage every single child in some form of conversation—the shy ones, the trouble-makers, the popular ones—she made no distinctions with her attention. In hindsight, I realize that she could have taken a break from the rigors of teaching 5th-graders by lunching at the teachers’ table; but she chose us. Mrs. Jones never raised her voice; she never seemed frustrated—she was kind:

KIND- Sympathetic; friendly; affectionate; gentle; tender-hearted, generous, courteous, etc.

Ephesians 2:7 states, “That in the ages to come he [God] might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Jesus Christ.” KJV

Mrs. Jones taught her greatest lesson through her kind actions to everyone in the class; she demonstrated the exceeding grace of Jesus in a way that resounded in my young heart—a lesson I never forgot.

Do you have fond memories of your favorite teacher that you can share?

Our Reasonable Service

In this passage, Jesus was teaching His disciples an important truth using a parable about a hard-working servant and his master.

Taking into account the verses prior to this passage (Luke 17:3-6), we see that Jesus taught how we are to forgive again and again—over and over—anyone who repents of a trespass against us. His apostles indicated they needed greater faith than they had to do this (Luke 17:5). Jesus—seemingly out of the blue—related how they could do mighty things with the faith they already possessed, and then immediately began to relate the parable of the unworthy servant. It may seem the entire context is unrelated, but as usual, Jesus’ teaching was perfectly attuned to every aspect of the situation.

I have found (perhaps like many of us) forgiving an offense over and over is one of the hardest things required of believers. Yet, we can do this and much more if we have faith even as tiny as a mustard seed. It is the grace of Jesus that enables us, and so we need not think too highly of ourselves just because we obeyed our Master…even in forgiving the undeserving.

As an example of this kind of humility, the parable describes how a servant who had worked hard plowing and feeding cattle came in from the field, yet was not allowed to sit and eat until after his master had finished his meal. Not only that, the servant did not merit being thanked for the work he had done! He had simply performed his duty as he was supposed to…there was no room for pride.

Recognition and appreciation are valued by our souls; so naturally, when we have worked hard and faithfully, we would like to hear at least a ‘thank you.’ While the Lord is a Rewarder to the faithful (see Hebrews 11:6-9), we should not expect or require a pat on the back when we are obedient to his commands; instead, we could think of submission to God’s will as a privilege and our reasonable service” (see Romans 12:1). That is, obeying His commands is our proper worship toward Jesus, the One who deserves far more than we could ever offer.

Go Light Your World

Isaiah 60: 1-3, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you. And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

Despite deep darkness coming on the earth and on the people of the earth, Isaiah assures us that the Lord will cause us to rise up with His light. God, the Father of Lights, inspired Paul to declare in Ephesians 5:8, “For you were sometimes darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, walk as children of light”; and Mt. 5:14 says, “You [believers] are the light of the world.” This means that we bear fruit in good deeds (Mt.5:16 & Eph. 5:7-4) and expose the darkness (Eph. 5:11 & Eph. 5:13). May we cause others to love the light of Jesus in all that we do and say.

Please watch to the end:

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