Are you beside yourself?

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This week’s devotion is found in chapter 26:24, “Paul, you are beside yourself. Much learning is driving you mad!” Paul was preaching the gospel to King Agrippa and Governor Festus and what he was saying seemed so crazy that the governor interrupted him and said he was crazy! Sometimes our faith walk with God can appear to be crazy to those on the outside. Believing that a person raised from the dead who was born of a virgin can sometimes set a person back. Believing that God created the entire universe and everything in it in six days has definitely staggered some people, even so-called believers. Believing that Jesus death on the cross paid for all of our sins can sound irrational to some. Loving our enemies defies common sense! Yet we are told in the Book of Hebrews chapter 11:1 that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Too many people will only believe what they can see and touch but that is not faith that is merely coming to a conclusion by observation. Walking by faith requires that we believe in things that are not seen and many times not even explained. Sometimes walking by faith can require us to do things that just don’t make sense. Craziness has many definitions. I may be crazy in the sense of unsoundness of mind but the more I study the Word of God, I sometimes believe God wants us to be a little crazy in the sense of a wild, fantastic belief in supernatural things.

I’m sure you’ve all seen people do some far-out wacky things and have thought to yourself, “These people must be out of their minds.” Someone risking their life doing a stunt is one thing but what about when it comes to doing God’s will? Some people thought that Jesus was out of his mind. In Mark 3:21 we are told that Jesus had been teaching in the synagogues and was healing the crippled and demon possessed. Word got out and He began to attract big crowds of people. Wherever He went the crowds followed. When His family got word of this they made a decision, probably out of genuine concern, to come and take Him away. They concluded that he was out of His mind. Until a person has been enlightened by God’s Holy Spirit by new birth, the preaching of the gospel will fall on deaf ears. But it is only because God’s people are willing to appear to be “beside themselves” that people are drawn into the ways of God. Seems paradoxical but that’s how it works. Paul was accused of being crazy. Jesus was accused of being crazy. Have you been accused of being beside yourself lately?

Sometimes it is Good to be Afraid

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This week’s reading is from Acts 24:25. “Now as the Apostle Paul reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid!” In today’s politically correct churches we are being told to never say anything that might offend someone, scare them away or make them afraid! How far we have fallen! There are times when it is necessary to tell people the truth about God’s ways and the truth about the judgment to come upon those who determine to go against Him. No one wants to go around offending people or making people afraid, but condoning bad behavior, allowing people to continue on a path that will destroy them is not loving them. Sometimes love is showing people the correct way, in hopes that they might repent and turn towards God. If you read the Gospels with an open mind, you will see that Jesus was comforting to the broken but He also was forceful at times to both the self-righteous and to the sinners, telling them that if they did not repent that they would be going to Hell. As a matter of fact, Jesus talked more about Hell in the four gospels than the rest of the entire Bible combined. Today all we hear about Jesus was that He was an enabler telling everyone that they were valuable and letting everyone continue doing whatever they were doing, even if it was destructive. Now if anything ought to make us afraid this should!

Having a Good Name

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“What is the most valuable thing you will ever own?” I remember my dad asking me this question when I was a young man. I did not know the answer. I guessed, “My catcher’s mitt, my cool stingray bike, my Boy Scout folding knife?” My dad then told me, “The most valuable thing you will ever own is your name. Don’t do anything to bring it shame!” That has always stayed with me. In today’s reading in Acts 22:12 we read about a man who had a good name. “Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there.” 

What does it mean to have a ‘good name?’ It means that when your name is mentioned the person behind it can be consistently depended upon to do what is legally and morally right, whatever the cost. In Proverbs 22:1 we read, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” As we go through life there are always opportunities to cut corners and to do things that are questionable. There will be many situations where we have said we will do something and then find it more difficult than we originally thought it would be, and be tempted to go back on our word. Don’t give in; be good to your word. Your word is your name. It is who you are. Whatever the price choose to do what is right and protect your name. Why do you think a good name is valuable?

How often should we take communion?

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This week’s reading is from Acts 20:7. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread…” It appears that the early church “broke bread” or took communion every time they got together. Today most churches take it once a year or once a month or once a quarter. I think this is a mistake. Some say that we should not do it weekly because it will lose its specialness. Then why do we encourage people to read God’s Word daily? Won’t it lose its specialness? Actually the more you read, the more you want to read, the less you read the less you want to read. The same is true with communion. The more we participate in it, the more we will want to have communion with God. The less we participate in it, the less we will want to have communion with God. I believe that the church is missing out on something each week as its gathers if it does not offer communion.

When we participate in the Lord’s Supper by taking the bread and the wine we commemorate the Lord’s death. We express gratitude to our Father for the wonderful power in the blood of Christ to wash away our sins. We rejoice because the power of sin in our lives has been broken, that sin has no more dominion over us. We are free from sin. Once and for all, we have been saved from a life of sin; and we believe that sin shall no longer have dominion over us because we are saved.

When Jesus said of the wine, “This is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” in Matthew 26:28; He was giving us a promise. We would not have to shed our blood to get forgiveness of sins. It would not be possible anyway! This does not mean that we will never sin again but that sin no longer has power over us. When we sin we can ask to be forgiven and the power of sin is broken and we are cleansed from our sins. When Jesus said, “This is my body, which is broken for you,” He was giving us a promise. His body would be broken so that our bodies would not have to be broken. This does not mean that we will never again be sick but that sickness has no power over our bodies. When we get sick we can ask for healing and the power of sickness is broken and we are cleansed.

I have heard some people say that they don’t feel worthy to take communion, especially if they have had a bad week. “Not being worthy” is the exact reason we do take communion! None of us will ever be worthy of forgiveness or eternal life. We take communion because we are confessing our need for forgiveness. I try to take communion each week with my family. I feel like it is my time to recommit my life to God and to ask for forgiveness of my sins. It helps me stay focused on what is really important in life. Jesus’ death paid for my sins so that I could have a relationship with God; that is what life is really all about. What does communion mean to you?

Turning the World Upside Down

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When Jesus went about preaching the ways of God’s kingdom many of the things He said were so unique and opposite of the way people thought. Jesus said, “The first shall be last,” and “If you want to find life you have to lose your own life,” and “Give and it shall be given to you,” and “The meek shall inherit the earth,” and many other spiritual truths. Truly God’s ways are not our ways. When the disciples took Jesus’ teachings out to the world in Acts 17:6 they were accused of ‘turning the world upside down!’ It may seem that God’s ways are upside down to our ways, but the truth is, God’s ways are really ‘turning the world RIGHT SIDE UP.’ The more we learn to apply Jesus’ teachings to our lives the more our lives will be right side up.