Tag Archive: Paul


Dead Sea w.ScriptureThis week in our Unsung Heroes of the Bible sermon series, we look at Barnabas—a man we don’t meet until chapter four in Acts. Barnabas was not only an important companion of Paul—Barnabas is the one who introduced the apostles to Paul. After Saul’s conversion on his way to Damascus, he began preaching in the name of Jesus. He tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem, but they were afraid of him, not believing he was a changed man. It wasn’t until after Barnabas took Saul (Paul) to the apostles and vouched for him that he was allowed to stay with the apostles and preach boldly in Jerusalem. (Acts 9:26-28)

Think of how many people heard the Good News of Jesus and came to faith through that introduction. Barnabas was the mediator between Saul and the disciples…and we have One mediator between us and God—Jesus Christ.

Pastor Tim Phillips shares his thoughts on Barnabas below…

The story of Barnabas is an interesting one. His real name was Joseph and he was a Jew from the Island of Cyprus. The name Barnabas is a nick name which means Son of Encouragement. We first read about Barnabas in Acts chapter 4 when he is an example of someone who for the sake of the Gospel sells his property and gives the money to the Apostles. This personal sacrifice reflects the heart and character of the man we call Barnabas. Generous, quick to act, and very trusting—these are ways we can describe him. Luke, the author of Acts, describes him this way, “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” The pattern that emerges from Barnabas’ life is that God used him repeatedly to bridge relational gaps. He was a connector, a peace maker and a networker.

The bottom line about Barnabas is that he was known by his actions. He lived his faith and many people were blessed as a result. As we think of that, it is good to challenge ourselves to make a similar impact. Are we known by our actions? How would others describe us? What impact are we making on those around us? What do others know about Jesus by watching us?

Photo credit: Stock Photo: Dead Sea

What Do You Hold Most Valuable?

Philippians 3.8

What do you consider valuable in your life?

Is it objects or possessions? These may be the first things that come to mind because we are used to thinking of things in terms of monetary value. A new flat screen television is more valuable than an old black and white one.

Or maybe you value time—where you would rather spend your time, or how much time spent earning something you really wanted.

Whether we realize it or not, we place value on people, things, and ways of life, and those values may change over time.

As a new mother, I valued sleep over staying up late to watch a movie. While more recently, I’ve realized spending time hanging out with my family is more valuable to me than spending time online.

Over time, and as our lives change, we realize certain things hold greater or lesser importance to us than they may have before.

For Paul, his values changed when he came to know Christ.

Known then as Saul, he was zealous for the Jewish law. Born straight from the lineage of the tribe of Benjamin, and circumcised at eight days old, he counted himself as righteous because he obeyed the law without fault. (Philippians 3:5-6)

And then…Saul met Jesus and his life was changed forever. He realized his value for upholding every aspect of the Jewish law paled in comparison to knowing Christ as his personal Savior.

Knowing Jesus changed him, and in turn, his values (and his name) changed.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! Philippians 3:7-11 NLT

That’s what Christ does—He transforms us.

As our faith grows, our values change…because knowing Jesus changes us—from the inside out.

Walking with Jesus changes our hearts. It changes what we see as important. And it changes what we don’t want to live without.

How have your values changed as your faith has grown and as you’ve gone through different life stages?

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Paul’s Final Days (4 Perspectives)

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Perspective 1- Pastor Phil

What’s your story?

In this chapter Paul shares his story or testimony with a number of people. It doesn’t always lead people to conversion or make people weep with sadness or joy. Unfortunately people will sometimes reject your story but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell it.

Paul had an experience with the risen Christ that changed his life forever. We see it once again as he retells the Damascus road story in chapter 30. It changed his life in such a way that he couldn’t avoid talking about it with the people he came into contact with. There was no way that he was going to shut-up about this, even if he was threatened with beatings and death. There was no stopping it!

When Jesus comes to us in our messy lives today, how can we stay unchanged and not talk about it? Have you spent time thinking about your story? What are the experiences you have had that God used to shape you? Who are the people whom God has put in your life to shape who you are?

We all have a story to tell. So what’s yours?

Perspective 2- Barb Miles 

Paul proclaimed the gospel among all classes of people, from the palace to the prison.

He knew he would not be on earth forever, so he wanted people – believers to use their gifts to be continual witnesses throughout the generations.  He spent time in jail twice  through these years of teaching and witnessing.  He did not wait for anyone to ask him who he was or what he was professing, but went first into the synagogue in the town he was visiting.

What a life well lived….What an example God has provided us. Whenever we feel down or discouraged, let us remember Paul.

Perspective 3- Dan Petrak

Perspective 4- Pastor Ron

The Apostle Paul has always fascinated me.  His tenacity, intellect, and mostly his passion for sharing the Gospel are inspirational.

In the later part of his ministry he feels compelled to go to Jerusalem.  The Holy Spirit tells him that he will be imprisoned.  The prophet Agabus demonstrates it for him by binding his hands and feet with Paul’s belt and declaring this is what is going to happen to you.  The people plead with him not to go.  Paul, convinced that God wants him to return to Jerusalem is relentless in his journey.  Sure enough they nearly beat him to death in Jerusalem, but what does he do as the Roman soldiers are carrying him off to jail where he will be safe?  He asks for permission to speak and starts making a case for the Gospel!  You read all of this and you think okay he has passion for the message, but I am not so sure about his intellect.  Just wait!

The next thing you know he is in front of the Sanhedrin – the Jewish court.  He knows that there are Pharisees and Sadducees in the group.  Pharisees believe in the resurrection from the dead for all people, while the Sadducees do not.  So Paul announces that he is a Pharisee and says that he is on trial because he believes in the resurrection of the dead.  Brilliant!  The Pharisees in the room come to his defense and begin arguing with the Sadducees.  The end result is that Paul is happy you see!  (I couldn’t resist that last line, but it does demonstrate Paul’s keen intellect.)

Paul is a powerful example of what happens when God gets ahold of your heart.  He uses all the uniqueness that He poured into you to bring about good for the kingdom.  How has God used all of your uniqueness to bring about good for the kingdom?

Paul’s Mission (4 Perspectives)

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Perspective 1- Diane Schmidt

This week’s chapter is about Paul and his mission. What was his mission? To spread the Gospel, to tell everyone he met about Jesus, how he lived, how he died, but most importantly how he defeated death and the devil for each and every one of us. So I sit here writing this perspective and yesterday I would have written something different. Why you ask? Because I sit here after serving at a funeral. The funeral was for a young mother, age 42. The theme verse, which she picked out, was 2 Timothy 4:7. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” These are words that Paul wrote to Timothy, reflecting on his ministry and how he lived his life. These are words that help us to keep our focus on Jesus. As I recall the words of Pastor Burcham during the message about how Tanya lived her life, walking beside Jesus, showing His love and His message to all she met it reminds me of the example that Paul set for us. That no matter what life throws at us, what blessings and what trials we can share the Gospel, we can tell everyone we meet about Jesus and what he did to defeat death and that someday, like Tanya, we will live with our Savior!

Perspective 2- Dan Petrak

 

Perspective 3- Barb Miles

This chapter covers a long period where Paul and Barnabas were doing so much traveling and witnessing. In most cases when they arrived in a town they visited Jewish synagogues first. After the Jews rejected the news about Jesus, Paul would start preaching to the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas were received with mixed reactions. Some wanted to hear the word of God, that “through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin.” Some would not believe and expelled them from their region. They healed a man who was lame. They were prisoned from removing a corrupt spirit from a woman, but after praying and singing hymns, the chains of all the prisoners were released. They chose not to escape but remained in the prison and witnessed to the jailer. After the jailer was told to release them, Paul told him to go and get the magistrates to escort them out of town. Paul was not going quietly but left in a way where he was acknowledged for being imprisoned wrongly because they were Roman citizens and had no trial.

Paul and Barnabas were truly standing up for Jesus. They had success and disappointment. But they were unwavering witnesses to God’s word.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the Cross!
Lift high His royal banner,
It must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory,
His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished,
And Christ is Lord indeed!

Perspective 4- Pastor Ron

New Beginnings (4 Perspectives)

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Perspective 1- Laura Rath

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished…”

The courage of Peter.

Peter, who denied knowing Jesus three times before his death, now can’t stop himself from standing in front of the elders and rulers proclaiming that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ. Oh, and by the way guys, you remember Jesus, right? He’s the man from Nazareth, whom you crucified!

So, what’s changed in Peter? How do you go from fearing for your life to boldly confronting the very men who put Jesus to death?

Peter is no longer acting on his own. Jesus had commanded him to wait with the other apostles, for God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. And when filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter was a new man—a courageous man who wasn’t afraid to speak boldly of Jesus’ resurrection.

Jesus knew what Peter was capable of on his own, but even better, He knew what Peter would do through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knows us too—what we try to do on our own, but even better, what we can do through His power and strength.

Perspective 2- Pastor Ron

Twice in this chapter Peter stands up fearlessly to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus.  This is the same Peter, you may recall, that swore up and down that he did not know him when Jesus was on trial. Now he defies even the religious authority of his day to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection. What gives? The Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit gives confidence. He gives words and persuasive arguments. He gives inspiration and courage. The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and it was Peter, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, who addressed the crowd. The next time we read about the Holy Spirit filling Peter is when he is before the High Priest and his family. This would be like the royal family in the religious world of the Jews. After healing a lame man Peter and John are hauled off to prison. The next day they are in court. The writer of Acts makes sure that we know Peter and John are just ordinary people and not very well-educated. Yet, Peter gives the speech of his life—no really, he probably saved his and John’s life that day. Actually, it was not Peter, but the Holy Spirit who inspired him and gave him the words.

It is the same Holy Spirit today as it was back then. I know this from personal experience—every time I give a message. I know it is the Holy Spirit who is using me, and I really cannot take any credit. If you think about it, you know the activity of the Holy Spirit in your life, as well. Have you ever been with a friend who was hurting deeply, with no idea what to say, and then the words just came? That would be the Holy Spirit. Have you ever said nothing and just listened? That would be the Holy Spirit. He is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow, just as the Father and the Son.

Perspective 3- Barb Miles

In this chapter, we read where Jesus returned to earth to teach the disciples to be his witnesses.  After Jesus’ suffering and resurrection he returned to earth for forty days before he ascended into heaven.  He spoke numerous times to the apostles he had chosen and taught them the Kingdom of God was for whomever believed.  Jesus prepared the apostles for going out to profess their faith in the one true Lord and to perform miracles.  There were situations through this time that caused tribulation and celebration.   Stephen and Saul were both apostles who came to share God’s word but one was stoned to death for his witness and one was allowed to witness after first loosing his eyesight.

This story is truly amazing to me.  With this small group of followers before Jesus’ persecution that heard Jesus say that he would fulfill the Old Testament prophesy, that he would be arrested, killed and in three days rise, we celebrate the glories of Easter.  Jesus returned to earth to empower the apostles to teach and witness!  Jesus did not give up on them!  Jesus has not given up on anyone.

Perspective 4- Dan Petrak

Both Eyes Open

Well known atheist, speaker, documentary producer, and author, Christopher Hitchens died last year. His last book has been published and part of the description found on Amazon reads, “Throughout the course of his ordeal battling esophageal cancer, Hitchens adamantly and bravely refused the solace of religion, preferring to confront death with both eyes open.”

Those who gladly claim the name “atheist” (such as Mr Hitchens) and most unbelievers who find it necessary to belittle religion, sincerely think that religious people can’t see with “both eyes open.”  We Christians (although they would include those of any religious faith) are duped into believing the unbelievable. The Bible is nonsensical to the atheist, and he or she hopes to convince religious friends that faith is a rejection of fact, science, and common sense.

That could not be further from the truth. We follow a God who has left His Story for us. Most of it was written by first hand witnesses–especially the story of God’s Son. It is true that Christians do not walk by sight alone, but our faith is the most logical of paths. Can man save himself? No. Can the perfect God find a way of salvation and eternal life with Him? Yes. Is there evidence of His existence? St Paul said in Romans concerning the non-recognition of God:

“…what may be known of God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made [every part of nature], so that men are without excuse.”

In addition to the miraculous nature that surrounds us, we have God’s word–His Story–in which He reveals Himself and His nature to us.

Mr. Hitchens believed that he faced death with both eyes open, but they were focused on the unreal, not the real.  Christians walk toward the end of their lives with both eyes truly open. What will we see? As St. Stephen said as he died under the stones thrown by his enemies, “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

As our pastors prepare to help us through “The Story”, I hope that you are already digging into the story of God and His love for us.

Sue Wilson

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