Acts 25-28; Almost Thou Persuadest me

Acts of The Apostles Chapter 41.

This chapter is based on Acts 25:13-27; 26.

Deeply affected, Agrippa for the moment lost sight of his surroundings and the dignity of his position. Conscious only of the truths which he had heard, seeing only the humble prisoner standing before him as God’s ambassador, he answered involuntarily, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” 

     Earnestly the apostle made answer, “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am,” adding, as he raised his fettered hands, “except these bonds.”  {AA 438.2} 

The key to overcoming covetousness is to appreciate the things we have. When we have Jesus we will no longer love and long for the things of this world. Instead we, like Paul will long for the world to have what we have. We will not be jealous of those with material treasures, but will long for them to have what we have which is Jesus.

Paul stood there in bonds before Agrippa in all of his glory and splendor but did not wish to have anything Agrippa had. Instead he wanted Agrippa to have what he had. If we truly love Jesus and believe God truly loves us and has given us everything we need to be happy, even God’s own Son, we too will no longer want what the world has but will long for the world to have what we have.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of The Cross.

Acts 15; Jew And Gentile

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 19.

This chapter is based on Acts Acts 15:1-35.

 I really love Peter’s humility in this story. Some try to claim that Peter was the first pope but Peter did present himself as infallible and if he was a pope then wouldn’t the church have just let his word settle this debate in Acts 15. Peter himself knows there is only one who is infallible and that is God Himself and that there is no man here on earth who can take His place.

Secondly I like how Peter accepted Paul’s rebuke when Paul tells his own version of the story of Acts 15 in Galatians 2. Peter does not respond to Paul saying, “Hey I have been in this church for years. You can’t talk to me like that! You are a new comer I have been here since the beginning.” No, Peter realizes that the Holy Spirit was speaking through Paul. Would that we all would realize that God can use anyone to correct us! Just because we may have been in the church longer does not mean cannot learn from new members. Even Peter learned from the new members. Peter did not resent being corrected by Paul, but later referred to him as his beloved brother in his own letter.

Acts 14;Preaching Among The Heathen

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 18.

This chapter is based on Acts 14:1-26.

But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. John 12:10-11.

 

I remember as a young boy going to see the Harlem Globtrotters. No matter how hard their arch rivals the Washington Generals tried to beat them they never could. The globtrotters won over 12,000 straight games against them. It’s the same with the Jesus and the devil. No matter how hard Satan tries he just can’t win for losing. For example Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead which was a big blow to Satan’s campaign. So what does he do? He tries to get the leaders to kill Lazarus now. Really? Like Jesus isn’t going to just turn around and raise him to life again and make an even more amazing miracle.

In Romans 8:28 Paul says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.” Christians can’t lose!

Those who stand on the side of truth can only win. For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.  2 Corinthians 13:8

 

The chapter Preaching Among the Heathen, talks about the victories of God’s people amidst great opposition.

From Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium. In this place, as at Antioch, they began their labors in the synagogue of their own people. They met with marked success; “a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.” But in Iconium, as in other places where the apostles labored, “the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.”  {AA 177.1} 

     The apostles, however, were not turned aside from their mission, for many were accepting the gospel of Christ. In the face of opposition, envy, and prejudice they went on with their work, “speaking boldly in the Lord,” and God “gave testimony unto the word of His grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” These evidences of divine approval had a powerful influence on those whose minds were open to conviction, and converts to the gospel multiplied.

The increasing popularity of the message borne by the apostles, filled the unbelieving Jews with envy and hatred, and they determined to stop the labors of Paul and Barnabas at once. By means of false and exaggerated reports they led the authorities to fear that the entire city was in danger of being incited to insurrection. They declared that large numbers were attaching themselves to the apostles and suggested that it was for secret and dangerous designs.  {AA 178.1} 

     In consequence of these charges the disciples were repeatedly brought before the authorities; but their defense was so clear and sensible, and their statement of what they were teaching so calm and comprehensive, that a strong influence was exerted in their favor. Although the magistrates were prejudiced against them by the false statements they had heard, they dared not condemn them. They could but acknowledge that the teachings of Paul and Barnabas tended to make men virtuous, law-abiding citizens, and that the morals and order of the city would improve if the truths taught by the apostles were accepted.  {AA 178.2} 

 

  In every age and in every land, God’s messengers have been called upon to meet bitter opposition from those who deliberately chose to reject the light of heaven. Often, by misrepresentation and falsehood, the enemies of the gospel have seemingly triumphed, closing the doors by which God’s messengers might gain access to the people. But these doors cannot remain forever closed, and often, as God’s servants have returned after a time to resume their labors, the Lord has wrought mightily in their behalf, enabling them to establish memorials to the glory of His name.  {AA 179.2} 

 

The labors of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra were suddenly checked by the malice of “certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium,” who, upon learning of the success of the apostles’ work among the Lycaonians, had determined to follow them and persecute them. On arriving at Lystra, these Jews soon succeeded in inspiring the people with the same bitterness of spirit that actuated their own minds. By words of misrepresentation and calumny those who had recently regarded Paul and Barnabas as divine beings were persuaded that in reality the apostles were worse than murderers and were deserving of death.  {AA 183.1} 

     The disappointment that the Lystrians had suffered in being refused the privilege of offering sacrifice to the apostles, prepared them to turn against Paul and Barnabas with an enthusiasm approaching that with which they had hailed them as gods. Incited by the Jews, they planned to attack the apostles by force. The Jews charged them not to allow Paul an opportunity to speak, alleging that if they were to grant him this privilege, he would bewitch the people.  {AA 183.2} 

 

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.

Acts 13; Paul and Mark

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of The Apostles Chapter 17

This chapter is based on Acts 13:4-52.

  Paul and his company continued their journey, going to Perga, in Pamphylia. Their way was toilsome; they encountered hardships and privations, and were beset with dangers on every side. In the towns and cities through which they passed, and along the lonely highways, they were surrounded by dangers seen and unseen. But Paul and Barnabas had learned to trust God’s power to deliver. Their hearts were filled with fervent love for perishing souls. As faithful shepherds in search of the lost sheep, they gave no thought to their own ease and convenience. Forgetful of self, they faltered not when weary, hungry, and cold. They had in view but one object–the salvation of those who had wandered far from the fold.  {AA 169.2} 
     It was here that Mark, overwhelmed with fear and discouragement, wavered for a time in his purpose to give himself wholeheartedly to the Lord’s work. Unused to hardships, he was disheartened by the perils and privations of the way. He had labored with success under favorable circumstances; but now, amidst the opposition and perils that so often beset the pioneer worker, he failed to endure hardness as a good soldier of the cross. He had yet to learn to face danger and persecution and adversity with a brave heart. As the apostles advanced, and still greater difficulties were apprehended, Mark was intimidated and, losing all courage, refused to go farther and returned to Jerusalem.  {AA 169.3} 
     This desertion caused Paul to judge Mark unfavorably, and even severely, for a time. Barnabas, on the other hand, was inclined to excuse him because of his inexperience. He felt anxious that Mark should not abandon the ministry, for he saw in him qualifications that would fit him to be a useful worker for Christ. In after years his solicitude in Mark’s behalf was richly rewarded, for the young man gave himself unreservedly to the Lord and to the work of proclaiming the gospel message in difficult fields. Under the blessing of God, and the wise training of Barnabas, he developed into a valuable worker.  {AA 170.1} 
     Paul was afterward reconciled to Mark and received him as a fellow laborer. He also recommended him to the Colossians as one who was a fellow worker “unto the kingdom of God,” and “a comfort unto me.” Colossians 4:11. Again, not long before his own death, he spoke of Mark as “profitable” to him “for the ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11.  {AA 170.2} 

Praise God that He was able to use Mark in the ministry even if he did not for a while meet Paul’s approval. Man does not determine our ministry, God does. Thank God for the encouragement of Barnabas. I am also glad that Paul and Mark patched things up.

You may find more studies and devtionals at In Light Of The Cross.

Acts 9; From Persecutor to Disciple

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 12

This chapter is based on Acts 9:1-18.

And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, [even] Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. Acts 9:17-18

As soon as Saul was converted he was introduced to Ananias and was baptized into the church. He had been called by God. “For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught [it], but by the revelation of Jesus Christ”.  Galatians 1:12 Still God had an elder lay hands on him in Acts 9 and be baptized into the church.

Thus Jesus gave sanction to the authority of His organized church and placed Saul in connection with His appointed agencies on earth. Christ had now a church as His representative on earth, and to it belonged the work of directing the repentant sinner in the way of life.  {AA 122.2} 

 

Many have an idea that they are responsible to Christ alone for their light and experience, independent of His recognized followers on earth. Jesus is the friend of sinners, and His heart is touched with their woe. He has all power, both in heaven and on earth; but He respects the means that He has ordained for the enlightenment and salvation of men; He directs sinners to the church, which He has made a channel of light to the world.  {AA 122.3} 

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of the Cross.

Acts 4-5; A Warning Against Hypocrisy

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 7

While Ananias and Sapphira practiced hypocrisy by claiming to be more giving than they were, many were sacrificing dearly for the sake of the gospel.

As the disciples proclaimed the truths of the gospel in Jerusalem, God bore witness to their word, and a multitude believed. Many of these early believers were immediately cut off from family and friends by the zealous bigotry of the Jews, and it was necessary to provide them with food and shelter.  {AA 70.1}
     The record declares, “Neither was there any among them that lacked,” and it tells how the need was filled. Those among the believers who had money and possessions cheerfully sacrificed them to meet the emergency. Selling their houses or their lands, they brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet, “and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”  {AA 70.2} 
     This liberality on the part of the believers was the result of the outpouring of the Spirit. The converts to the gospel were “of one heart and of one soul.” One common interest controlled them–the success of the mission entrusted to 
 them; and covetousness had no place in their lives. Their love for their brethren and the cause they had espoused, was greater than their love of money and possessions. Their works testified that they accounted the souls of men of higher value then earthly wealth.  {AA 70.3} 
     Thus it will ever be when the Spirit of God takes possession of the life. Those whose hearts are filled with the love of Christ, will follow the example of Him who for our sake became poor, that through His poverty we might be made rich. Money, time, influence–all the gifts they have received from God’s hand, they will value only as a means of advancing the work of the gospel. Thus it was in the early church; and when in the church of today it is seen that by the power of the Spirit the members have taken their affections from the things of the world, and that they are willing to make sacrifices in order that their fellow men may hear the gospel, the truths proclaimed will have a powerful influence upon the hearers. {AA 71.1}

I am currently working on my sixth year as a Bible Worker/Lay Pastor for the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. 

It has been a sacred honor and privilege to serve my Lord, His church, and community. Being in the ministry as a Bible Worker, one thing is certain. Most churches will not support a full time Bible Worker for six years! Maybe a year or two, but not six years and not full time. In Texas I was fortunate to have three churches, sometimes four, support me part time for almost five years. I want to thank my pastor, and the whole Tampa First Church family for willfully putting up with me for six years. I know it has taken a lot of sacrificial giving not just for a while but systematically for six years to put a full time Bible worker into our church and community. I pray that you are as glad to have me as I am to have you. I realize also that my church has not been sacrificing and giving just to see me write this. They have given from the heart because they love Jesus and they love the souls of our community and want to see them saved. When I got real sick last fall I saw that many of you were concerned, not for me alone but for the sake of the gospel in our community. It was a sobering experience for me. Thank you not only for loving and supporting me, but even more so for loving Jesus and the world He died to save!

I would like to dedicate this song, “Thank you”, by Ray Boltz, to my Tampa First Church family and all those who support the gospel work all over the world! Thank You!

Acts 3; At The Temple Gate

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 6

The disciples of Christ had a deep sense of their own inefficiency, and with humiliation and prayer they joined their weakness to His strength, their ignorance to His wisdom, their unworthiness to His righteousness, their poverty to His exhaustless wealth. Thus strengthened and equipped, they hesitated not to press forward in the service of the Master.  {AA 57.1}  

A short time after the descent of the Holy Spirit, and immediately after a season of earnest prayer, Peter and John, going up to the temple to worship, saw at the gate Beautiful a cripple, forty years of age, whose life, from his birth, had been one of pain and infirmity. This unfortunate man had long desired to see Jesus, that he might be healed; but he was almost helpless, and was far removed from the scene of the great Physician’s labors. His pleadings at last induced some friends to bear him to the gate of the temple, but upon arriving there, he found that the One upon whom his hopes were centered, had been put to a cruel death.  {AA 57.2} 

      His disappointment excited the sympathy of those who knew for how long he had eagerly hoped to be healed by Jesus, and daily they brought him to the temple, in order that passers-by might be induced by pity to give him a trifle to relieve his wants. As Peter and John passed, he asked an alms from them. The disciples regarded him compassionately, and Peter said, “Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none.” As Peter thus declared his poverty, the countenance of the cripple fell; but it grew bright with hope as the apostle continued, “But such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.  {AA 58.1} 

 In this story what Jesus promised is already taking place; Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.Believe me that I [am] in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  John 14:10-12

 I believe the church is the body of Christ, and through Christ it is capable of perfectly manifesting God’s love and mercy and bring healing from the power of sin and the diseases that are brought on by the consequences of a sinful world.

 When Peter healed the lame man in Acts 3, he could have taken all the credit, and saved himself ridicule for proclaiming the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit led Peter right back to many of the same leaders who there in the judgment hall when Peter denied Jesus, to escape ridicule. Just like with us, when we fail on one point God forgives us, but also leads us back through the same situation so that we can get the victory on that point and move on. Peter did not fail the second time. This time, when asked by what power this miracle was done, he boldly declared it was by the power of Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord we can accept the forgiveness of Jesus and experience His victory for ourselves, instead of making the same mistakes over and over again! The second time around, Peter lets God’s love and power flow perfectly through him!

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of  The Cross.

Acts 1; God’s Purpose For His Church

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8

The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning it has been God’s plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places,” the final and full display of the love of God.  Ephesians 3:10.  {AA 9.1} 

The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan is over the character of God. Is God love like He says or is He a cruel tyrant as Satan claims? The former quote reminds me of another quote in Christ Object Lessons, “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.”  {COL 69.1}  What God is wanting to place in the hearts of His people, is not a cold, formal or legalistic perfection. God is a forgiving God no doubt! He is not perfecting the church so that we can earn our way to heaven. Heaven is a gift. God is not watching our every move, looking for something to check off against us on His list. The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.  {SC 57.2

God is not perfecting His church so they can earn salvation. However He is empowering His church to perfectly represent His love and character to a world starving for love. There is a trial going on. We are not on trial, God is. Satan is accusing God of being a cruel, loveless tyrant. The world is sitting in the jury box, and what God needs from His church is proper representation of His character so that in this trial the jury can make an educated decision about the character of God. God accepts mankind, but mankind will not accept God until it knows for sure that God is indeed the God of love that He says He is. This is where God needs help from His church.

The church is God’s fortress, His city of refuge, which He holds in a revolted world. Any betrayal of the church is treachery to Him who has bought mankind with the blood of His only-begotten Son. From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth. In every age the Lord has had His watchmen, who have borne a faithful testimony to the generation in which they lived. These sentinels gave the message of warning; and when they were called to lay off their armor, others took up the work. God brought these witnesses into covenant relation with Himself, uniting the church on earth with the church in heaven. He has sent forth His angels to minister to His church, and the gates of hell have not been able to prevail against His people.  {AA 11.2}

     Through centuries of persecution, conflict, and darkness, God has sustained His church. Not one cloud has fallen upon it that He has not prepared for; not one opposing

force has risen to counterwork His work, that He has not foreseen. All has taken place as He predicted. He has not left His church forsaken, but has traced in prophetic declarations what would occur, and that which His Spirit inspired the prophets to foretell has been brought about. All His purposes will be fulfilled. His law is linked with His throne, and no power of evil can destroy it. Truth is inspired and guarded by God; and it will triumph over all opposition.  {AA 11.3} 

     During ages of spiritual darkness the church of God has been as a city set on a hill. From age to age, through successive generations, the pure doctrines of heaven have been unfolding within its borders. Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts.  {AA 12.1} 

 

Everyone in whose heart Christ abides, everyone who will show forth His love to the world, is a worker together with God for the blessing of humanity. As he receives from the Saviour grace to impart to others, from his whole being flows forth the tide of spiritual life.

 

The Jewish leaders thought themselves too wise to need instruction, too righteous to need salvation, too highly honored to need the honor that comes from Christ. The Saviour turned from them to entrust to others the privileges they had abused and the work they had slighted. God’s glory must be revealed, His word established. Christ’s kingdom must be set up in the world. The salvation of God must be made known in the cities of the wilderness; and the disciples were called to do the work that the Jewish leaders had failed to do.  {AA 16.1}

AA=Acts of the Apostles, COL=Christ Object Lessons, SC=Steps to Christ.

You may find more studies and devotionals on my personal website In Light of the Cross.

Acts of the Apostles-Paul a Prisoner

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 38.

This chapter is based on Acts 21:17 to 23:35.

The title of this chapter reminds me of a very simple lesson. In Ephesians 3:1 Paul writes;
 "I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus.." and in Ephesians 4:1 Paul Writes; "I therefore, 
the prisoner of the Lord.." Thus Paul did not recognize himself as a prisoner of the
Romans, or any man. Even though he was in prison he continued to serve the Lord, and 
understood that even in his chains he could do "all things through Christ." So today, 
I often visit with those who are in less than ideal family or career situations, or 
actually in prison. I remind them of what Paul wrote about being a prisoner of Christ
 and not of man. Just like Paul, regardless of whatever situation we are in, we can
 serve Christ and do all things through Him. If we have truly given our lives to Jesus,
 we will not see ourselves as "prisoners" of any man, but rather as prisoners of Jesus
 Christ. Like Paul, our lives are not in the hands of men, but in the hands that were
 nailed to the cross for our good. 
 
Imagine all the letters Paul wrote while in prison, that make up the New Testament.
 If he had been “free” he could have seen those people face to face instead of 
having to write letters. If that had been so though, we would be missing valuable 
instruction in the New Testament.
 
You can allow yourself to be a prisoner of circumstances or you too can be a
 prisoner of the Lord, and be free to be all He wants you to be.
You may find more devotionals and studies at In Light of The Cross.

The Acts of The Apostles-A Liberal Church

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 32

This Chapter is based on 1 Corinthians 9.

God’s chosen messengers, who are engaged in aggressive labor, should never be compelled to go a warfare at their own charges, unaided by the sympathetic and hearty support of their brethren. It is the part of church members to deal liberally with those who lay aside their secular employment that they may give themselves to the ministry….But when, through the selfishness of men, their rightful support is withheld, their hands are weakened, and often their usefulness is seriously crippled.  {AA 340.1} 

  The displeasure of God is kindled against those who claim to be His followers, yet allow consecrated workers to suffer for the necessities of life while engaged in active ministry. These selfish ones will be called to render an account, not only for the misuse of their Lord’s money, but for the depression and heartache which their course has brought upon His faithful servants. Those who are called to the work of the ministry, and at the call of duty give up all to engage in God’s service, should receive for their self-sacrificing efforts wages sufficient to support themselves and their families.  {AA 340.2} 
     In the various departments of secular labor, mental and physical, faithful workmen can earn good wages. Is not the work of disseminating truth, and leading souls to Christ, of more importance than any ordinary business? And are not those who faithfully engage in this work justly entitled to ample remuneration? By our estimate of the relative value of labor for moral and for physical good, we show our appreciation of the heavenly in contrast with the earthly.  {AA 341.1} 
     That there may be funds in the treasury for the support of the ministry, and to meet the calls for assistance in missionary enterprises, it is necessary that the people of God give cheerfully and liberally. A solemn responsibility rests upon ministers to keep before the churches the needs of the cause of God and to educate them to be liberal. When this is neglected, and the churches fail to give for the necessities of others, not only does the work of the Lord suffer, but the blessing that should come to believers is withheld.  {AA 341.2}

The above quotes from Acts of The Apostles, reminds me of a devotional I wrote back in 2006:

And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, [is it] not evil? and if ye offer
the lame and sick, [is it] not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will
he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts. 
Malachi 1:8

This morning I was reading Malachi for my morning devotional and this
verse caught my eye. The lord is asking why His people are giving him the
“scraps” from their flocks when He asked for the very best. And shouldn’t
He have the best? After all He gave His only begotten son, He gave the
very best He had. Still His people were keeping the best for themselves
and giving the least they could to God.

What caught my eye was that this is not just a money issue. It is also a
time issue. Just as God asked for the best of the flock for a sacrifice
and today asks for our firstfruits for offerings and not just what’s left
over after we pay our bills and buy of all our luxuries, so He also wants
the best of our time and our day. Do we give God the firstfruits of the
day, the morning moments? Do we make consecrating ourselves to Him our
very first work? Do we give Him the primetime of our day or is primetime
for TV? At the end of the day have we given God the best part of our time
and day, or just whatever “scraps” of time we have left?

Doesn’t “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all,”
deserve the best of all we have, including our time?

In Malachi when the people did not give their best of the flock, the
offerings were lame and defective. When we give God less than the best our
offerings are just as "lame".

Your Christian servant,

William
Look for more devotionals and studies at In Light of The cross.