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If you’re going to get worked up over something…

Father, grant us an eternal perspective today. Help us see what we hang on to that is really just temporary, and what we ignore that we should treasure. This life is something we live quickly through, and there’s only so much that really maters in the middle of the noise. Give us wisdom to latch onto those things, and to leave what is worthless or fleeting behind. Give us ears to hear & eyes to see what maters most of all. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 21:5-9
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

The disciples just heard about the widow’s offering moments before. Jesus talked to them about how her gift from the heart mattered more than someone else’s impressive looking gifts and offerings. He let them know it wasn’t about the pomp and ceremony, the first glance. Was this a ‘Nice story, bro.’ moment for the disciples? It sure sounds like it.

“Jesus, we get the widow, that’s sweet & she definitely has faith, but this place? This is still impressive. You can’t deny how awesome this building is.”

And we see a quick course correction by Jesus, again. He picks up right where He left off. This Temple was being freshly rebuilt. There was still work being done on it.The shine hadn’t worn off the steps or gutters even. In the face of a massive, moving human effort, Jesus was letting them know that it wasn’t going to stand for long. In fact the hinges on the gates wouldn’t even get a chance to start squeaking real good before the Romans came along and decimated the place. This impressive stuff was temporary, too.

It’s not the big offerings, the big stones that matter. We’re reminded by Solomon that life is temporary. He wrote Ecclesiastes as a treatise on the fleeting nature of pleasure, purpose & significance of human life apart from God. “Building projects?” he asks, “Meaningless.” Chasing after human passions, again he says, “Meaningless.” There is no eternal meaning in just doing things for the sake of doing them. There is no reward that actually comes from our little projects or attempts to draw attention to ourselves. It all turns to dust. Sounds uplifting, doesn’t it? But at the end of the book, Solomon brings it all back around and says that the end game for you & I is to honor & obey God with everything we have. That is where meaning comes from.

So the disciples ask a question of timing. They want to know when all this is going to happen. And that’s no surprise. Anyone would want to know that little tidbit. If you knew you were going to have a wreck on the way to work Monday, wouldn’t you change your route? If you knew a meteor was going to hit your hometown next Thursday, wouldn’t you warn people? Of course you would!

How do we prepare for the inevitable? How do we make sure that we are safe & square & that the people we care about have ample time to get clear, too? That is a perfectly sane & logical question to ask. What are the signs? How can we know?

Jesus doesn’t give them a day, hour or minute though. He warns them about something that is more pressing. More distractions & lies are coming. The Pharisees & Sadducees already had a hold on people and distracted them from God’s real desires for their lives. But now, after He goes, there will be more & times will be harder. But we aren’t to be distracted by that anymore than we are distracted by these big, impressive, temporary buildings & impressive offerings by impressive people.

Even the worst sorts of things are not to consume you. We have been given something better to consume our time, talent & treasure. There is a Kingdom on the move, a movement away from these temporary things & an eternal perspective to gain which propels us so far beyond this tangible, most, rust & thief prone things we see every day. If we will look to Jesus, and walk in the rhythms of His grace every day, then we will see what really matters. If we serve humbly & spend our life’s efforts on those things that really matter, we will see why timing is of the essence & why our concern needs to be for those who will find themselves unprepared when that day of wrath & judgment comes. We don’t build sandcastles in the face of waves. We work for the One who parts the sea itself & dries up the water so we can move beyond into promise & deeper things.

Eyes up. Heart aligned. Move in what matters today & leave the rest behind.

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Acts 18:24-28 // Intelligent Arguments for Faith

“24 A Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was powerful in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught the things about Jesus accurately, although he knew only Johns baptism. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home and explained the way of God to him more accurately. 27 When he wanted to cross over to Achaia, the brothers wrote to the disciples urging them to welcome him. After he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace. 28 For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating through the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.”

Acts 18:24-28

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There are several people in Scripture that are on my ‘I wish we knew more about this person’ list. John the Baptist is up at the top along with Melchizedek & Apollos is probably somewhere in my top ten. I think what is so intriguing about Apollos is his obvious passion and his desire for learning. Thos are two very admirable traits and they do serve to attract people to the message. A well spoken apologist, Apollos made an impression wherever he went for the sake of the Gospel. But, while being well-learned, he was also still teachable & that is a huge step toward his being approachable. People who are intelligent can also come off as arrogant & prideful. Apollos does not & in his humility, we learn a lot of how to engage others for the sake of Christ.

When it comes to engaging those who oppose us, we see that firm stance and vigorus refuting is totally okay. Someties, as Christians, we are under the belief that humility and meekness define us, and so to raise our voice or get excited might undermine the Gospel. On the contrary, we see Peter, Paul, Apollos, John the Baptist & countless Old Testament prophets stand firm, publicly confident, defending the faith and the Word of God. We have been marked as those who reveal the light of God’s truth to a dark and wandering world. And in this revelation, we must be sure, certain and secure. This is why it is totally acceptable to be both Christian and intelligent. This is why it is necessary for us to know what we believe and why.

Apollos turned to the Scriptures to give the answer for the hope that he had, and so should we. Listen to Peter, the fisherman who didn’t complete Rabbinical school, but at age 11-13 would have begun learning the family trade. What value does he give to knowledge and apologetics? Why do you think this is? It is important for us all to understand the ‘what’s’ and ‘why’s’ behind our faith so that we can answer well, defend well and put the knowledge of the Scriptures to work in our hearts, minds and mouths as we GoLove others in Jesus’ Name. 

1 Peter 3:13-16
“13 And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, 15 but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.”

2 Peter 1:3-11
“3 His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 4 By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self- control, self- control with endurance, endurance with godliness, 7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. 11 For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you.”

Acts 17:10-15 // Finding Answers

“10 As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas off to Berea. On arrival, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 The people here were more open- minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Consequently, many of them believed, including a number of the prominent Greek women as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica found out that God’s message had been proclaimed by Paul at Berea, they came there too, agitating and disturbing the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul away to go to the sea, but Silas and Timothy stayed on there. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible, they departed.”

Acts 17:10-15

How can I know God’s heart? How can I understand Him better? How can I get better at listening to the Holy Spirit? How can I know God’s will for my life? How can I make better decisions? How can I be stronger in my faith? How can I do a better job at answering questions about my faith? How can I be more confident in sharing my faith? How do I even know what to share and when? How do I do a better job of standing firm in tough times? How do I find comfort when it seem like I’m on my own? How do I do a better job encouraging people? How do I teach my children what’s right? How do I stand as a Christian in a culture that is so different from what I believe? 

There are thousands of other questions along these lines, and for the most part, they have one answer: 

Seek God through His Word.
There is nothing more to say. It is, in fact, that simple. “Consequently, many of them believed…”

Read the Bible. Do it daily. Don’t glance over it. Spend dedicated time in it. Ask God to guide your heart with His Holy Spirit and teach you. Be a ‘good Berean’ and examine the Word to find His answers as you GoLove others. 

Acts 10:17-33 // Taking the opportunity

“17 While Peter was deeply perplexed about what the vision he had seen might mean, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions to Simons house, stood at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon, who was also named Peter, was lodging there.

19 While Peter was thinking about the vision, the Spirit told him, “Three men are here looking for you. 20 Get up, go downstairs, and accompany them with no doubts at all, because I have sent them.”

21 Then Peter went down to the men and said, “Here I am, the one youre looking for. What is the reason youre here?”

22 They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God- fearing man, who has a good reputation with the whole Jewish nation, was divinely directed by a holy angel to call you to his house and to hear a message from you.” 23 Peter then invited them in and gave them lodging.

The next day he got up and set out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went with him. 24 The following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and worshiped him.

26 But Peter helped him up and said, “Stand up! I myself am also a man.” 27 While talking with him, he went on in and found that many had come together there. 28 Peter said to them, “You know its forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner. But God has shown me that I must not call any person common or unclean. 29 That’s why I came without any objection when I was sent for. So I ask: Why did you send for me?”

30 Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this hour, at three in the afternoon, I was praying in my house. Just then a man in a dazzling robe stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your acts of charity have been remembered in God’s sight. 32 Therefore send someone to Joppa and invite Simon here, who is also named Peter. He is lodging in Simon the tanners house by the sea.’ 33 Therefore I immediately sent for you, and you did the right thing in coming. So we are all present before God, to hear everything you have been commanded by the Lord.”

Acts 10:17-33

It would be nice if every divine appointment ran this smoothly and had both parties desiring to come together. ‘What keeps this from happening?’ you might ask. Honestly, I think it’s our own fear and possibly even an unwilling spirit that keeps most people from seeing these type of events more often. We all say that we would like to be used in this way, God directing two parties together, but in reality, we are often too resistant or fearful to follow through with these directives from the Spirit. 

“How was it that Peter was ready to do something difficult like this?”

I think it has to do with his willingness and desire to be used before hand. From his anticipation for the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost, to seeing how God then used him to heal people and empowered him to preach and resist the pressure of the authorities, Peter had grown in his trust and willingness when it came to the movement and direction of the Spirit. Most people who might say they have never felt used in this way probably say so because they haven’t grown in willingness or been open to these types of experiences. A hard-heartedness against the perceived ‘discomfort’ or lack of personal control has kept them from being effective, and this is truly sad. 

Why not trust God? Why not let Him move you to GoLove people in a way that will blow open your expectations and help you grow closer to Him in the process? Is He going to lead you into a trap? Get you somewhere, open and vulnerable and then abandon you? No, of course not! Then why not fear Him and trust Him and do what He says to do through His Spirit? Will you be uncomfortable, stretched? Sure, Peter makes it plain that he was doing something that he never would have done, but since when is that a bad thing? Since when is it bad to think something was going to be hard only to find out that it was a source of joy and a wonderous experience? Never, that’s when! 

Trusting in God, moving according to His Spirit, is never going to be something that you or I will ever regret doing, and that’s a promise.  When we trust in Him, He will teach us, show us and grow us to the point where we will see just how beneficial it is to take those leaps of faith. He will never let you down, leave you or forsake you, and this instance with Peter is proof-positive of this wonderful promise. Peter went in trusting that God was going to have him speak to one man, and found instead that his whole family had travelled in to hear what he would have to say. It was a blessing beyond measure, God exceeded his expectations and then some…

Trust God. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Grow and be stretched.

You will not regret it & God will be glorified in it all. 

  

Psalm 119:9-16 // ב Bet // The Word Leads to Purity

“9 How can a young man keep his way pure?

By keeping Your word.

10 I have sought You with all my heart;

dont let me wander from Your commands.

11 I have treasured Your word in my heart

so that I may not sin against You.

12 Lord, may You be praised;

teach me Your statutes.

13 With my lips I proclaim

all the judgments from Your mouth.

14 I rejoice in the way revealed by Your decrees

as much as in all riches.

15 I will meditate on Your precepts

and think about Your ways.

16 I will delight in Your statutes;

I will not forget Your word.”

Psalm 119:9-16

Purity is not stumbled upon accidentally. It must be intentionally sought out and pursued. 

Read this passage again, a little more slowly, listening to what David is saying.

Read it a third time, putting yourself in His place, thinking about your own pursuit of purity.

Read it a fourth time, making it your prayer & ask God to do the purifying work in you that needs to be done so that He is glorified. 

  

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