No Faith Without Fruit

Today’s Reading: Colossians 1:1-11

While in prison, Paul spent time writing to some of the churches he had visited, as well as the church at Colosse. This congregation is believed to be a church plant from the believers in Ephesus – FRUIT from Paul’s time in that city. Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon and Philippians are known as the “prison letters.”

When Colossians was written, Epaphras was visiting Paul. He told him all about how the church in Colosse was doing. Paul wrote three letters and sent them back with Tychicus to deliver to the church in Colosse, the church in Ephesus, and to a man named Philemon who lived in Colosse. Yesterday we looked at Paul’s letter to Philemon. Now let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

My husband, Scott, preached a sermon on Colossians years ago making five points that still stick out to me. I would like to take the next five days to look at those 5 statements Scott made regarding this letter to the Church.

There is no FAITH without FRUIT

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he explained to them that they are made right in God’s sight not by their own righteousness, but by God’s righteousness. He warned his readers of the danger of seeing all of the good things we are doing and making our salvation about what WE have done right in light of how wrong others are, forgetting that it is by HIS righteousness that we are saved and not our own.

In James’ letter, he teaches how God wants our faith to be evident in the way we live out our lives – the way we persevere through hard times, the way we treat those around us, the way we study God’s word, the way we speak to others, and the way we submit to God – in our FRUIT.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well” – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless…So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. – James 2:14-17,24 (NLT)

Made right with God – that sounds a lot like Paul’s letter to the Romans. But is James agreeing or disagreeing with Paul? Let’s look at how these verses in James agree with Paul’s letter to the Christians at Colosse and then how they agree with Christ’s own words.

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then THE WAY YOU LIVE will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good FRUIT. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. – Colossians 1:9-11a

So how can we live a life worthy of our Savior and please Him in every way?
Produce every kind of good fruit in our lives
Grow as we learn to know God better and better
Be strengthened by Him so that we may have great endurance and patience

As we spend time in God’s presence, growing and learning and getting to know God more and more, we are strengthened by Him. He gives us gifts of wisdom and endurance and patience. He begins to mold and shape us into who He created us to be. This change in our hearts is evidenced by a change in our lives. We begin to live out our faith, the faith by which we are saved, and the evidence of this faith is seen in our FRUIT.

Well we are off to a good start then because we are spending time today in His word, studying Scriptures and asking for wisdom and understanding so that we may know His will for our lives – so we may grow in the knowledge of God. And what happens when we ask God to fill us with wisdom? Let’s go back to James’ letter to answer this question.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. – James 1:5

And what is the product of the life of those given wisdom?

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by DEEDS done in the humility that comes from wisdom…But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good FRUIT, impartial and sincere.” – James 3:13,17

When we spend time in God’s presence and in the study of His Word, we begin to grow in wisdom and we are strengthened in our faith. It is this wisdom from God that produces the deeds. The result of this relationship – this intimacy with God – is evidenced in our FRUIT as we remain in Him all day.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much FRUIT. For apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

The lyrics of this song sung by Bethel Live speak to my desire to REMAIN in God’s presence. “Closer” is my prayer this morning:

“Your love has ravished my heart and taken me over, taken my over
And all I want is to be with you forever, with you forever
Pull me a little closer, Take me a little deeper
I want to know Your heart, I want to know Your heart
‘Cause Your love is so much sweeter than anything I’ve tasted
I want to know Your heart, I want to know Your heart…
How great your love is for me, How great is Your love!..”

A Letter of Recommendation

Today’s Reading: Philemon

I really enjoy studying Paul’s letters. I have so much to learn and Paul explains the gospel in a way I can understand and apply to my life. Paul’s letter to Philemon is the shortest of his letters. He was writing to Philemon and his church to let them know that Philemon’s runaway slave, Onesimus, was returning home. Paul was in prison while writing this letter and perhaps that is where he met Onesimus. There are two strong messages in Paul’s letter to Philemon – FORGIVENESS and GENUINE LOVE.


Have you ever written a letter of recommendation for someone? I love the opportunity we have to speak highly of someone and their ability to do something. Paul is sort of writing a letter of recommendation here. He is sending Onesimus back to his master to ask for forgiveness and to devote himself to him. Paul wants Philemon to see his slave as his brother in Christ and extend forgiveness to him. Paul speaks of Philemon’s faith in the Lord Jesus and his love for all of God’s people. He is trying to help Philemon identify his slave as one of God’s people to be loved in this same way, despite the way in which he has wronged his master.

And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you…I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus…Onesimus hasn’t been much help to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my heart. – Philemon 6-12

How often do we hold on to hard feelings or grudges out of a sense of justice? We have every right to be angry and the other person has no right to be forgiven, yet God makes it clear that we are to forgive others if we want Him to forgive us.


Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. – Colossians 3:13

My mind goes to Christ’s example of forgiveness He displayed while on the cross. Jesus was between two criminals – one shouting out condemnation and insults to him, one begging for forgiveness and grace. Jesus set the bar high for us. Even while dying for this criminal’s sins, as well as for my sins and your sins, Jesus was willing to forgive this man and offer him eternal life.

Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified – one on his right and one on his left.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:32-34a

One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself – and us, too, while you’re at it!”

But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43

Jesus, thank you for giving your life for me. Thank you for your willingness to die for all of our sins in order that we might experience eternal life. Lord, may your Spirit reveal in me any unforgiveness or unresolved hurt or anger toward anyone. Thank you for forgiving me. Give me the strength to always extend that same forgiveness to others, even if they are not apologetic. May my focus always be on You and not on me or on others. I love you, Jesus! Amen.

Finding Beauty in the Wreckage

Today’s Reading: Acts 28

God can make something RIGHT out of all of our WRONG. When we make a mess out of our lives by making our own decisions or doing our own thing, God is there to help us through the “shipwreck” we have created (see yesterday’s Morning Coffee). He takes this unplanned situation in our lives, the result of our sin, and makes something good out of it. We have stepped out of His will, but He is willing to display His handiwork if only we will put the broken pieces in His hands to fix. We let go and let God make something wonderful out of our mistakes and sin.

They had no plans to go to the island of Malta. When they left for Rome, the captain of the ship, the owner of the boat and the officer in charge ignored Paul’s warning (that shipwreck, loss of cargo and danger to the lives of all on board were ahead if they left this late in the fall). But they did their own thing, trusting in their own strength and knowledge, and they found themselves in the middle of a storm. When their ship fell apart, they all made it safely to the shore of the island of Malta – not their plan, but God is never without a plan and a purpose.


Praise God! He takes our wrong directions and creates a right destination. Why? Because He intends to make something good out of all the bad. Some decisions we make have consequences – “shipwrecks”. God is able to forgive us, staying by our side as we experience the results of our sin. And He sees the value of how our story can impact others in a positive way. That is what happened on the island of Malta.

Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us.

As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand. The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god. – Acts 28:1-6


Unfortunately, our mistakes and messes often have an audience. Even well-meaning Christians fail us and sit back expecting to see us crash and burn. There is only one audience we should concern ourselves with – God. Forgive them. Let God work on their hearts and stay focused on Him. He may even use what He makes out of your life to draw them to Himself. Don’t concern yourself with what they say or how they judge. Keep your eyes on God so that He can use you however He intends.

Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us and treated us kindly for three days. As it happened, Publius’ father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him. Then all the other sick people on the island came and were other sick people on the island came and were healed. As a result we were showered with honors, and when the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip. – Acts 28:7-10


God is so good! They were not even supposed to be on the island of Malta. God took their shipwreck and made great things out of the wreckage. Consider the lives of all the people on Malta that were changed forever because of Paul’s time on the island. Consider those who experienced the storm and shipwreck firsthand – the other prisoners, officers, crew – and how they were never the same. God provided for their safe journey on to Rome through the generosity of those who had been touched by God through their time there on the island.

In November of 2013, a tornado destroyed a large portion of our community, skipping across Tazewell County. Homes were destroyed and families were displaced. Block after block was leveled. From the wreckage of the tornado, artists pulled out pieces of debris and created gorgeous art pieces and furniture. What a great reminder that something beautiful can come from even the most devastating of experiences.

God can take a consequence of our sin…
God can take a bad decision made out of our own self-reliance…
God can take a storm we are experiencing…
God can take our shipwreck…
AND make something really wonderful out of it! God isn’t done with us when we mess us. He can MAKE THINGS RIGHT out of our wrong. He is not done with us. He has only begun.

Surviving the Shipwreck

Today’s Reading: Acts 27 (again)

“Men,” he said, “I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on – shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to our lives as well.” But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship’s captain and the owner than to Paul. – Acts 27:10-11


Been there, done that. How often do we ignore the advice of others or the prompting of the Holy Spirit because we feel we have a handle on the situation? We know what is best and believe we can handle anything that might come our way.

There have even been times in my life when someone pulled me aside and warned me there could be trouble ahead if I continue with my plans. In that moment, I had a choice – listen or do things my way. The officer had the same choice.

When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So they pulled up anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete. But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea. The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale. – Acts 27:13-15

There are times in our lives when what first appears as a light wind becomes of wind of typhoon strength and, before we know it, we have lost control of our direction. No matter how hard we try to turn things around and go in the other direction, we fail and find ourselves giving up.


We sailed along the sheltered side of a small island named Cauda, where with great difficulty we hoisted aboard the lifeboat being towed behind us. Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind.

The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard. The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. – Acts 27:16-20

In the midst of the storm, have you ever tried to keep it together on your own? Like the sailors, have you used ropes to try to keep your life from falling apart? Have you ever lowered anchor in order to control the situation? Things continue to get worse until there is no more light – no more hope.


No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.” – Acts 27:21-26

Oh, we could all use an occasional “I told you so” but I much prefer the rest of Paul’s message – Take courage! You are not alone; God is here! You’ve made a mess of things and there will be consequences, but God is right here standing beside you and will keep you safe in the midst of the coming shipwreck. Like Paul, I choose to believe God – that it will be just as He said!

Thank you, God, for taking the messes we have made in our life and keeping us safe in the storms. We give up control of the situation and place this ship in your arms. You are the only Anchor worth trusting. Thank you for your promise to stay with us and take care of us, even in the midst of the consequences and mess we have made. You are so good to us and we love you! Amen.

Floating on Debris

Today’s Reading: Acts 27


Have you noticed how quickly the weather can change this time of year? It can be a sunny 80 degrees when we wake up but cold, wet and windy by mid-afternoon. The weather is hard to predict as new systems arrive and temperatures abruptly change.

Paul and those on the ship to Italy experienced what we call “an abrupt change” in the weather. It was not a good time for water travel because it was late fall and a change in weather was to be expected. Paul advised the men that there would be trouble ahead if they sailed – shipwreck, loss of cargo and danger to lives. But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship’s captain and the owner than to Paul (Acts 27:11b).

Even though common sense said it was a bad idea, and even though Paul had predicted trouble if they went forward with their plan, the men did not want to spend their winter in Fair Havens. They wanted to make it at least as far as the harbor in Phoenix.

Oh, how often I push forward with my own plans even though I know it is unwise!

When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So they pulled up anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete. But the weather CHANGED ABRUPTLY, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea. The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale. – Acts 27:13-15

This passage reminds me of the times in our lives when we see the error of our ways or the foolishness of our decisions. We try to change course or survive our bad decisions, but our efforts make very little difference. It seems like everything is going well, according to our plan, and then some circumstance ABRUPTLY CHANGES and we find ourselves in the middle of a storm.

Scripture says those on the boat were afraid. They tried everything. They threw cargo overboard, they bound ropes around the hull of the ship in order to strengthen it, and they even threw some of the ship’s gear overboard. They lowered the anchor and drug it in hopes of slowing the boat down but they were driven by the wind.

The terrible storm raged on, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. – Acts 27:20


When we give up, we often let the circumstances and the decisions of others around us drive our life. We have stopped trying to win the battle and we just let life happen. But that is not God’s desire for us. He wants to be the one driving our life – determining our direction and guiding our decisions.

Thankfully Paul’s story ended well. God granted safety to everyone sailing with him. Paul led them in a time of prayer and the next morning they saw a bay with a beach. They attempted to make it to shore but the boat ran aground in the shallow water. They jumped out of the boat and headed to shore – some swam and some floated to shore on debris from the ship (Acts 27:39-44).


Sometimes we are able to “swim” to the shore God has provided but sometimes God uses the debris from our shipwreck to get us to where He wants us to be. We find ourselves in a situation that was never God’s plan for us, but He rescues us and provides an escape when we turn to Him for help. He uses the scattered fragments of our sin to bring us back into His arms.

Sometimes it is those things that were never meant to happen that God uses to take us from the disaster we have created to the haven of rest He has prepared.

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Thank you, God, for your goodness and for your grace. I praise you for you are a God who rescues, even when I am the cause of my need to be rescued. You are patient and you are kind. Lord, today I ask that you direct my path. I desire to follow your lead and sail down the path you have for me. I love you, Lord. Amen.

To Tell His Story

Today’s Reading: Acts 23:12 – 26:32

Yesterday, we looked at two very difficult days that Paul experienced. He had arrived back in Jerusalem from his third missionary journey, bringing gifts from the new Gentile believers to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. As was the custom in those days, Paul headed to the Temple for the purification ritual. When the seven day ritual was almost complete, Paul was confronted by some Jews from the province of Asia. They started a riot and drug him out of the Temple. The crowd became so violent that the Roman soldiers stepped in and rescued Paul, lifting him high above their shoulders to protect him (Acts 21:26-35).

With the Roman commander’s permission, the crowd was hushed and Paul stood on the steps to speak to the people. He had every right to be hurt and angry, but instead he used this opportunity to SHARE HIS TESTIMONY, to TELL HIS STORY. They listened quietly until he told them how the Lord had called him to minister to the Gentiles. This made them angry and they starting yelling, throwing off their coats and tossing handfuls of dust into the air (Acts 21:37-22:23).

The commander brought Paul inside and ordered him lashed with whips to make him confess to whatever crime he had committed, for surely he had done something to cause this kind of anger against him. When the commander realized Paul was a Roman citizen, he changed his approach and the next day took Paul to defend himself before the Jewish high council, which did not go well. When the commander learned of a plot to kill Paul, he put together an army of 470 soldiers to safely transport Paul to Caesarea where he could explain his situation to the governor (Acts 22:24-23:35).

Paul sat in prison for five more days, waiting for his accusers to arrive. Finally Paul stood before Felix and listened to the lawyer Tertullus present a false case against him. Now it was time for Paul to speak for himself, so he stood before the courtroom and SHARED HIS TESTIMONY, he TOLD HIS STORY. Not ready to declare Paul guilty of anything, the governor dismissed the courtroom and sent Paul back into custody. But God gave Paul favor with Felix, and Paul’s friends were allowed to visit him and take care of his needs while he was in custody (Acts 24:1-23).

A few days later, Felix sent for Paul to come and SHARE HIS TESTIMONY, to TELL HIS STORY, to Felix’s wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Felix was frightened by all Paul had to say about righteousness and self-control and the coming Day of Judgment. He sent for Paul often so that they could continue their talks. Two years of this confinement went by as Felix kept Paul in prison in order to appease the Jewish leaders, and MAYBE because he liked having Paul to talk to (Acts 24:24-27).

Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus and Paul soon stood before the new governor. With his accusers from Jerusalem making serious accusations against him, Paul stood strong in his faith and SHARED HIS TESTIMONY, he TOLD HIS STORY. It was obvious that the new governor wanted to please the Jews for political reasons, so Paul appealed to Caesar so that Festus could not send him back to Jerusalem to stand trial. Before going to Rome, Paul was given one more opportunity to SHARE HIS TESTIMONY, to TELL HIS STORY, before King Agrippa and the king’s sister, Bernice, as well as Governor Porcius Festus.

“…I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. In fact, that is why the 12 tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope! Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?

“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.

“One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’

“Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’” – Acts 26:6-18

Paul spoke BOLDLY before the King. Agrippa interrupted him, “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”

Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.” – Acts 26:26,28-29

Lord, give me a heart like Paul’s that would still be thinking of the salvation of others, even after spending more than two difficult years in prison. Give me a mouth that would speak boldly for you. Give me the courage to SHARE MY TESTIMONY, to look for opportunities to TELL MY STORY.

Heavenly Father, protect your people from false accusations and unfair treatment. Provide a way out for us when difficulties and hardships come our way. Give us favor with government officials and preserve our religious freedom and rights of conscience, but prepare us for the moments in which our faith is on trial. We love you so much, Father God. Amen.

A Spirit of Sound Judgment

Today’s Reading: Acts 22:22 – 23:11

Paul, the man who had persecuted Christians and pursued them like prey, is now the victim of the same kind of persecution. He had this incredible encounter on the road to Damascus, which became a life-changing experience. He repented of his sins, was baptized and responded to God’s call on his life. And he lived happily ever after…

No, that is not exactly what happened. Paul experienced wonderful times where the message of Jesus Christ was accepted, people were healed, and new believers were baptized. But there were also very difficult times for Paul. More than once he was mobbed, arrested, beaten and imprisoned. The crowd even followed behind him shouting, “Kill him, kill him!” (Acts 21:36)

But God had given Paul a spirit of sound judgment. Paul could assess the situation and consider even the worst of his circumstances and still find hope in the wisdom of his God – his God who sometimes spares His people from difficulties and sometimes holds them through the tragedies of life.

So here is the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people? Paul is an excellent example. If Paul had submitted to the Lordship of Christ and was giving his life to preaching the gospel of Jesus, why was he experiencing such horrible persecution?

I have so many friends fighting cancer right now and many who are struggling to keep their marriage intact. I have friends suffering from MS and my father suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. It seems like there is more bad news every time I look at my newsfeed on Facebookm– infidelity, divorce, disease, heartbreak, persecution, unemployment, financial hardships, suicide, loss and grief. The reality is that we live in an imperfect world. We may serve a perfect God but there is no guarantee that we will never experience a difficult time or struggle. But I am encouraged by how Paul’s story ends in this passage.

Paul had experienced two very difficult days. What started out as a morning trip to the Temple to start the purification ritual, ended up with false accusations and a mobbing, which turned into a full-blown riot. Paul was grabbed and dragged out of the Temple. As the Jews were trying to kill Paul, Roman officers arrived and arrested him, placing him in chains. The crowd was so violent they had to lift Paul over their shoulders to protect him. Paul tried to defend himself against their false accusations but the crowd interrupted him (Acts 21:26-22:23).

That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.” – Acts 23:11

In the midst of the persecution, God made His presence known to Paul.
In the midst of the difficulties, God spoke words of encouragement to him.
Knowing the desire of his heart, God revealed to Paul that he would survive this experience and have the opportunity to preach the Good News in Rome.

Isn’t God wonderful? No, He doesn’t always shelter us from hard times but He never leaves us alone. He brings comfort in the midst of struggles and encouragement to strengthen us for tomorrow. Praise God for the spirit of power, love and sound judgment that He gives us in place of our fears.

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

The truth in this verse we have looked at for the last four days can be found in the words of Pastor Edward Heck as he faced his battle with cancer:

“I am determined to hold tenaciously onto my faith in God at all costs! I’m learning that He is not threatened by our anguished cries or our troubled thoughts. Even in those weak moments when our minds are racing out of control and anxiety fills every single fold of the brain and the heart, He is not going to abandon us! In fact, not only do I believe He hears us and hurts with us, but I believe He is also anxious to heal us with a new, greater faith which will give us the hope we so desperately need to traverse a season of suffering in our lives. This is the glimmer of hope I seek in the harbor of the raging sea! This is the light that beckons me to the tranquil, peaceful place of residing right in the heart of God!” –

A Spirit of Love

Today’s Reading: Acts 21:37 – 22:21

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, LOVE and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

As we continue to review the book of Acts, let’s consider again the story of the demon-possessed slave girl:

One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a demon-possessed slave girl. She was a fortune-teller who earned a lot of money for her masters. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”

This went on day after day until Paul was so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her.
Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace.
– Acts 16:16-19

There are several things that pop out to me from this passage in Acts. My first thought is for this servant girl. She was possessed by a demon and made to behave in a way that was out of her control. Jesus Christ set her free by His POWER and I wonder where the celebration is. Those around her are angry and they are dragging her rescuers to the marketplace to be punished, but who is celebrating her new freedom? I long to believe that someone wrapped their arms around this wounded young woman and celebrated the healing that had just taken place. I long to believe she began a new journey of faith that day.

My thoughts go next to Paul. How many people had just accepted this young woman’s fate and were so used to her plight that they no longer thought much of it? But Paul was “exasperated” with the situation. Other translations describe Paul as annoyed or fed up with her yelling. How often are we so fed up with a situation we see daily that we seek to do something to change the situation? Just like Paul, God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, LOVE and sound judgment. Do we love those around us enough to reach out in love? Do we truly understand the power of Jesus’ name and how He desires to make a difference in the lives of others through us?

A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! – Acts 16:22-26

Doing something good for this young woman did not gain Paul and Silas popularity or praise, just like God moving us to someone else’s rescue does not always gain us points with others. Instead we are sometimes faced with criticism, negative remarks, misunderstandings and consequences. When you stand up to someone else’s bully, you often find yourself the next target of that bully.

Paul and Silas could have felt sorry for themselves. They could have become angry with God for not rescuing them from the physical beating and imprisonment that followed their act of obedience. Instead, they chose to pray and to sing praises to God. The result of their response: other prisoners were listening, the earth moved at God’s command, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The young woman was not the only person who received freedom that day. Lives were changed and chains fell off because Paul and Silas chose to trust God and worship Him, even in the most difficult of situations.

The story goes on – more captives are freed! The jailer woke up and assumed all the prisoners had escaped. In his horror and knowing what his fate would be once the authorities showed up, the jailer drew his sword to kill himself. Paul again spoke boldly and the course of a man’s life was changed, as were the lives of everyone in his house.

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God. – Acts 16:30-34

The chains of every prisoner fell off! The slave girl is set free from the demon tormenting her, chains fell off of those in captivity, and the jailer and his family found faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. None of that would have happened if Paul and Silas had given in to fear. But instead they recognized the power of speaking the name of Jesus Christ, they saw the earth move when they chose prayer and praise over pity and panic, and they forever changed the lives of those around them because of their faith in God.

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

A Spirit of Power

Today’s Reading: Acts 21:15-36

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of POWER, love and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

After Saul received his sight back, he was baptized – not just by water but by the Spirit. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately began to preach about Jesus. This boldness shows again that Paul was not consumed by a spirit of fear, but had been filled with the POWER of the Holy Spirit and lived his life in response to that infilling.


First he went to the Jewish synagogues saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!” It was like this big “aha” moment he wanted everyone to know about. He had persecuted the Christians because he really did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but now he has experienced Jesus first-hand and he wants everyone to know that he was wrong – that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.

Of course, the people recognized him. They didn’t see him for who he had become but could only see him for who he used to be. His reputation of persecuting the believers was well known and they did not want to accept these changes as real.

Oh how guilty we can be of this in the church! How often we continue to define new believers by where they have been instead of looking to see where God is taking them. Oh, how guilty we can be of doing this to ourselves! We continue to define ourselves by our past mistakes and sins, holding on to the guilt instead of letting the Spirit completely fill us and make us into a new creation.

Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful. No matter how hard the Jews in the synagogues tried to prove that Jesus was not the Messiah, they could not argue with the proof that Saul had. They had a choice – join him or kill him. They chose the latter. When they heard the Jews were plotting to kill Saul, watching for him day and night so they could murder him, the believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall so he could escape (Acts 9:20-25).


When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he faced the same kind of opposition. This new life of faith was not coming easily for Saul. The believers were afraid of him and the Greek-speaking Jews tried to kill him. But Barnabas (this was the nickname the apostles had given him because he was a man of encouragement – Acts 4:36) stood in the gap for Saul. He told the believers how Saul had changed and how boldly he had been preaching in Damascus. The believers helped Saul escape to Caesarea and then to his hometown of Tarsus.

(Maybe God is calling us to be a “Barnabas” for someone today. Perhaps He will ask us to stand in the gap or be a source of encouragement before the day is over.)

Does this escape plan mean that Saul was scared? Did he run away from God’s call the first time things got difficult? Did he say – Sorry, God, I tried. I guess you’ll have to find someone else. Maybe this preaching thing was just for a season of my life and it is time to move on. Not at all. Paul’s testimony of this difficult time in his life gives us a little more information:

“After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance. I saw a vision of Jesus saying to me, ‘Hurry! Leave Jerusalem, for the people here won’t accept your testimony about me.’” – Acts 22:17-18


Saul was not running in a spirit of fearfulness. He was doing exactly what Jesus told him to do. God had given him a spirit of power, love and of sound judgment. This decision to leave Jerusalem can probably be placed in the category of sound judgment. God would use this persecution and the need to move from town to town to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ across the region. What could easily be defined as extreme persecution was used for God’s purposes and for God’s glory, just as He uses the difficult times in our lives.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of POWER, love and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Father God, we thank you this morning that we do not have to live in fear of any situation we are facing or any unknown in our future. Thank you for the gift of your Spirit living within us, filling us with a spirit of POWER that allows us to overcome a spirit of fear. Lord, help us to respond in obedience as Paul did regardless of the intensity of the problems we face knowing that your grace is all we need. We ask for a fresh infilling of your Spirit this morning and we place the circumstances of our day in your hands. We are willing to have any conversation, walk through any door you open, and go wherever you lead. Amen.

A Spirit of Fear

Today’s Reading: Acts 21:1-14

As we read on in Acts, we find all of Paul’s new Gentile friends begging him not to go to Jerusalem. They were afraid something was going to happen to him, but Paul responded bravely, “Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart. I am ready not only to be jailed in Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).

Paul is not afraid of what is ahead and he does not want his friends to be afraid either. Remember the fear Paul experienced on the road to Damascus? Now we are seeing in Paul the same kind of courage that Peter and John had. Let’s go back and look at Paul’s journey in the context of a powerful statement he made in his letter to Timothy. Let’s consider Paul’s challenge to overcome fear.

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Perhaps Paul’s brave response was influenced by the courage of Peter and John when they were confronted after healing a crippled beggar outside the temple. An audience formed when the people saw the crippled man walking and heard him praising God. Peter took this opportunity to preach. They were arrested, kept overnight and then commanded to never again speak or teach in the name of Jesus.

Have you ever been afraid? Have you ever experienced extreme fear? It seems safe to believe that the followers of Jesus were experiencing some fear while waiting for Peter and John to be released. When faced with fear and the threats that were being made against them, the believers chose to gather together and pray – not for the threats to end but for boldness in the midst of the persecution:

“…And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant, Jesus.” After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. – Acts 4:29-31


They knew who could take their fear and turn it into boldness. They did not just pray for survival, they prayed for power. They were unsure of the kind of persecution that was ahead of them but willing to be used by God if He wanted. He took their fear of what was ahead, answered their prayer and gave them great boldness through the Holy Spirit.

One of the reasons the believers had to be fearful was a man named Saul. Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them – both men and women – back to Jerusalem in chains (Acts 9:1-2).

But the man causing great fear experienced great fear when a light shone done from heaven and a voice said, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” The voice instructed him to go into Damascus until he was told what to do next. When he opened his eyes, he was blind. For three days he could see nothing – he did not eat or drink for three days.

The scriptures do not say how Saul was feeling during this time but I can only imagine how scared he must have been. He knew how vicious he had been towards those who believed in Jesus and now Jesus had come to him on the road to Damascus and said, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (9:5-6). We do not know how Saul was feeling but we do know that he spent three days praying to God (9:11). Just like the believers, Saul chose to pray when faced with a traumatic situation.

Now imagine the fear of another man – Ananias. The Lord also came and spoke to him, telling him to go to this man who had been pursuing the death and arrest of the believers. The short version of the story:
Ananias – “But Lord…”
God – “Go…”
So Ananias went…

“Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength. Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!” – Acts 9:17-20


A simple statement but one we seem to forget so easily. Paul was blind and scared, so he spent three days praying to God. Ananias was scared to go to Paul, so he talked to God about his fear. God is waiting to fill us with His Spirit and give us strength for what we are facing. All we have to do is ask.

Fear…Prayer…Spirit …Strength. That seems to be the pattern here. When faced with fear, these believers fell on their knees in prayer to the SOURCE of their strength. God filled them with His Spirit and they overcame their fear and became bold in their faith. What a great reminder for us today. No matter what is causing fear in our hearts, God is willing to fill us with the power of His Spirit if only we will ask.

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7