I Told You So

The phrase "I told you so" is probably  one of the most self indulging things we could possibly say.  After all, it explicity tells the person spoken to that we were right and they were wrong.  Doesn't the phrase give you some sort of satisfaction?  Not that it is right.  I would bet that most of you are tracking with me here, even though the feelings aren't necessarily the most mature and are mostly prideful.

As a leader or an "older and wiser" individual it takes discipline of the heart and mind (and mouth to be sure) to gently counsel someone who refused to listen to good advice and is consequently suffering because of their poor decision.  It is hard to say "I told you so" without an attitude. 

We find Paul in a similar situation in Acts 27 on his way to Rome.  Paul, an experienced shipwrecker, warned the crew that sailing was too dangereous at this time and that they would meet with disaster if they tried to press on (v9-12).  The helmsman didn't listen to Paul, but to his crew and lo and behold, they ended up in a storm, off course and fearing for their lives.  So...what did Paul say?

But after long abstinence of food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss." (Acts 27:21 NKJV)

There it is.  The "I told you so".   Paul seized the teachable moment.  However, please take notice here that it doesn't appear that Paul was arrogant (at least I hope he wasn't).  He didn't go on and on and on about his being right.  In fact, in his next sentence, he encouraged them that they would be okay, despite their poor decision. 

"And I now urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.  For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.'  Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me." (Acts 27:22-25 NKJV)

What an example for us to follow.  When we can take the "I told you so" and turn it into a credit to God and a teaching on faith without the pride in our hearts, that is really saying something.  I wonder how much faith was built that day in the hearts of the crew members that Paul's God was real! 

APPLICATION:  The older I get physically and the more spiritually mature I get each day, I will get more and more opportunities to help the "young".  They will not always listen to my advice, and when they don't and fall on their little faces, I should be ready to pick them back up again, dust them off and provide a teachable faith moment ... without the prideful attitude.  Lord, protect me from pride. 

Almost Persuaded

Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian." - Acts 26:28

You almost persuade me...  How many times have you either heard this type of response when approaching someone for a volunteer role at your church?  How many times have you said this response when approached for a volunteer role at your church?   What do you think provokes this type of response?

In our story of Paul as we find him in Acts 26, he has been sitting in jail for probably a couple of years, waiting to present his case to the Roman government.  Knowing Paul and how he loved to persuade people for Christ, I'm sure he was just waiting for an opportunity to witness to a Roman ruler.  He got his chance in this chapter.  Prior to verse 28, we once again see Paul give his testimony, this time to King Agrippa, and apparently as marked by King Agrippa's statement in verse 28, Agrippa realized that Paul was attempting to "sell" him the idea of Christ.

Can we alone persuade people to do the right thing, even if it is for their own good?  Rarely.  When I think of my own life, I believe that most of the time, unless my heart is ready to be "persuaded", no one else can really tell me what to do.  I bet that is the same with most people, and most likely, they are probably not as strong-willed as myself!  (that can be good or bad!)  :)  I believe that only God can change a heart to do His will.   He can change the hearts of kings, I can't.  But what I can do is pray and ask Him to change my heart or to work in the hearts of others so that they will be more conformed to God's will and God's plan.

What are you almost persuaded to do? 

Wolves Among Sheep

How interesting is it when you are talking to a friend about a churchy topic and the same day it comes up in your daily reading.  Whoa.  That happened to me yesterday.  A friend and I were talking about how the more spiritually mature - notice I said "more", has anyone REALLY reached "maturity"? - should make sure that correct doctrine is being taught in our churches because it is too easy for Satan to slip in.   Guess what?  In my reading last night, I came across something similar.

In Acts 20:28-31, Paul charges the elders of the church of Ephesus the following:

Therefore take heed  to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.

Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse thing, to draw away the disciples after themselves.  Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (NKJV)

Paul was seriously burdened with this issue as we should be as well.   Dear Readers, spiritual warfare is real and Satan would like nothing better than to destroy what God is doing.  He will do it by deception from nonbelievers or by pride from believers.   It is all of our duty, leaders especially-but not limited to them, to know what God's word says so that we will not be led astray.   God has entrusted us as leaders with the church that He paid for with His blood.   What a huge responsibility.  Just be aware!

What is the Real Reason?

I am easily entertained by the funny quirks or behavior patterns of people.  Just today, I was having a discussion with a friend regarding the excuses Christians use for not getting involved in or just participating in ministry, not praying or not reading their bibles.  Sometimes the reasons are valid, sometimes they aren't.  The bottom line to consider here is that people can always justify a reason for their actions.

Let's look at Demetrius the silversmith in Acts 19:23-27. Paul was preaching in Ephesus and apparently upset some people. :)  I love understatements.  Paul's preaching incited a riot! (28--35)! (I've probably upset some people before but have never gone this far!)  But why was a riot started?  Because Demetrius stirred up the other silversmiths by telling them that if the people believed Jesus was THE God, then their industry would be shot.  Keep in mind that the city of Ephesus was a big time worshipper of the goddess Diana and that the silversmiths made a lot of money making shrines of the goddess.   Aha.

Can you see my point here?  Demetrius couldn't believe in Jesus because he would have to give up too much to believe.  The thought of losing what he had clouded his mind.  I bet he didn't even give Paul a chance.  What are you holding on to that is hindering your relationship with and service to God?  What would you have to give up to be sold out for God?


Paul planted, Apollos watered and God gave the increase.  (1 Cor 3:6)  But did you know that Priscila and Aquila helped Apollos "water"?  They did.

In Acts 18:24-28, we see our first glimpse of Apollos, a eloquent Jew who was very well-versed in the scriptures.  This guy would probably have rivaled many of today's leading apologists with his scripture knowledge.  However, he was missing one piece - he didn't know Jesus.  Apollos knew the baptism of John, but not the finished work of Jesus Christ.  Not to fear though, Priscilla and Aquila set him straight.

Acts 18:26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue.  When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

I don't know about you, but I praise God for those people in my life who take the time to correct me when I'm heading down the wrong path.  Leaders, please listen to wise counsel (Ecc 7:5) with the spirit in which it was given and set your pride aside!  I know it isn't easy to hear sometimes because we all like to be right, but we will be better off in the long run.  Apollos listened to his wise counselors and changed what he preached, not to mention that he received eternal life.  He was then able to show the Jews in Ephesus from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.   

Questions to think about:

1) When a Christian brother or sister questions me about something, what is my first reaction?

2) Do I listen to constructive criticism with the thought that I can use it to improve or am I offended by the comments?

Spiritual Warfare

Last night my husband and I watched a rented movie, "The Exorcism of Emily Rose".  I don't really know why I like scary movies, but I do.  This one to me, however, because of its spiritual content, was really eery.   I think that it bugged me so because I've been reading through Acts and have seen so many cases of demon possession in the Bible that it was really real to me.

The movie was based on a true story where a priest was being sued for a failed exorcism that cost a young girl's life.  Much of the debate in the courtroom was regarding whether the girl was possessed or crazy.  Folks, demons are real and they do possess people.  The Bible says so. In fact, in my reading just this past week I encountered a woman whose "spirit of divination" was cast out of her by Paul (Acts 16:16-18).  This morning in the book "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire" (see sidebar for details), I read about how the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle cast a demon out of a woman in New York.

Spiritual warfare is real and is going on right now. 

1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

The only way we have to combat it is through prayer because through prayer we can access the power of God who is bigger than anyone or anything. Rest at ease, if we are God's children through accepting Jesus personally as our Lord and Savior, we cannot be possessed by evil spirits.

I John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

However, we still need to be aware of the spiritual warfare that is going on around us and be covering ourselves and loved ones, our country's leaders and our church leaders with prayer.

Lights in This World

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, amoung whom ye shine as lights in the world;

Philippians 2:14-15

It is easy to live without complaining when things are going great.  However, God uses us the most through our hard times.  We have the most impact on the lives of others when they see us going through a difficult time with grace.  Are you in a difficult time in your life right now?  How are you handling it? Would an unbeliever or less mature believer turn to you in amazement at how you were handling yourself and ask for advice?  I think that is the true litmus test for us.

Let's rewind in time back to Paul in Acts 16.  He and Silas had just been a part of the conversion of Lydia (Acts 16:14-15) and had just delivered a damsel from her demon possession (v16).  While this may seem like good news to us, it wasn't to some of the people of Philippi because shortly thereafter, Paul and Silas were captured, beaten and thrown into jail.  I don't know about you, but I think their situation is worthy of some tears and complaining!  Not for Paul and Silas:

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.  And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's bands were loosed. (Acts 16:25-26)

Oh, the power of prayer and praise.  The earth shook and the doors were opened, and the jailor was converted to Christ.  All because two people, albeit Paul and Silas, were so filled with the Holy Spirit that their first instinct was to pray and praise God no matter where they found themselves.  Now that I'm feeling a little convicted and whiney, let's pray.

Dear God,

Please help me and my other brothers and sisters in Christ, to always be able to find a way to praise you for who you are.  Please let us keep Your love for us and plans for us always in the forefront of our minds so that our first reaction is to praise You.  Help us to remember that through You, all things are possible and that You alone can release us from our own "prisons".  Bring people into our lives that we can impact through our pain for Your glory and Your kingdom.  Thank You for your unchanging, unending love and guidance.


When One Door Closes...

...Another opens.

How many of you, dear readers, are excited when a "door" slams in your face?  I'm not sure that my first reaction is always to be happy about it, but I can tell you one thing: If I've been praying about the issue and have been sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading in my life, I do quickly come around to accepting the closed door and looking for the newly opened one.  Can you think of an instance like that in your life?

Paul was experiencing the slammed door syndrome when we see him in Acts 16.  God, through the Holy Spirit, had forbidden the apostles to preach in Asia (16:6) and Bithynia (16:7).  Consequently, Paul ended up in Phillippi and to make a long story short, we are witness to another jailbreak.  I think I'll discuss the jailbreak for tomorrow's post just because it is yet another cool example of the power of prayer.  For now, let me just say that as a result of Paul's following the Holy Spirit, a jailer became a believer under the most unlikely of circumstances.

The moral of our story here, is that we need to remember that God is in control and the more we are able to discern His will for our lives, the more exciting and profitable our lives will be for Him.  The hard/scary part for us is, we can't see the future that God has planned.  We can only look back at the tracks of our lives to see how the different steps of our journey have gotten us to the places and people currently in our lives.

Don't you want your life to be action-packed?  Paul had plans that God didn't agree with, yet Paul was willing to give up his will for God's.  What is God trying to tell you?  For that matter, I need to figure out what He is telling me too!  :)  The only way we can know is by constantly and consistently seeking His face and His voice through our bible reading and through prayer.  We can do it...just be prepared to hang on for the wild but exhilarating ride.


How does it make you feel when you are reading through scripture and you are able to sense the humanity of the characters in the stories?  When you see that no one, even the apostles are perfect?  For me, most of the time, it makes me feel like there is hope for me after all!  :) 

At the end of Acts 15, we see the separation of Paul and Barnabas.  They were good friends and had ministered together for a long time until this point.  So, what was it that finally caused them to split up and go their separate ways?  Let's take a look.

Acts 15:37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphyli, and went with them not to work. 39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; 40 and Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

Whose little ugly head do we see here?  Pride.  (Pr 13:10) A difference of opinion caused the split up.  I for one, don't like to see friendships broken up - I'm not sure who does.  So, a lot of things come to mind when I ponder this passage. I wonder how hard it was for Paul to leave his friend, even though he believed he was doing the right thing.  I wonder why we don't see mention of any other mutual friends here trying to patch things up.   

I guess the lesson to be learned here is that the best any of us on this earth can be is to be human.  We make mistakes, some big and some small, but hopefully we can learn from ours as well as other people.  Thankfully, as some good came out of Paul & Barnabas' split (more people heard the gospel), we can also be confident that God is in control of our lives as well.

Moving On

How many times have you wanted something for someone more than they wanted it for themselves?  If you are like me, probably a lot of times.  What do you do in this situation?  When they refuse to listen do you keep "beating" them or do you walk away and devote your time to someone who wants to change?  In Christian counseling, we are often faced with this dilemma.  It is hard to determine where to draw the line; and when we do walk away, it is sometimes difficult to not take the "rejection" personally.

I think that Paul and Barnabas had plenty of practice on handling rejection.  We find them in Acts 13 boldly preaching the gospel to the Jews.  Let's look in on part of their response to rejection:

Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.  (Acts 13:46)

Praise God that they turned to the Gentiles (aka, Me) ! Okay, back to the story...

Do you think that Paul and Barnabas sulked away when they realized they weren't being listened to?   I think not.   After all, in v 48 we hear of many Gentiles that believed and received eternal life.  If Paul and Barnabas would have gotten their feelings hurt, think of how many people wouldn't have heard the gospel.  Of course, then the Jews wouldn't have gotten mad again and kicked P & B out of "their coasts" (v 50).   

Here's where the application to us comes in.  Think about the following verses and put yourself in Paul's or Barnabas' sandals.  If you were "kicked out" would you have done the same?

But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.  And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.  (Acts 13:51-52)

I bet they kept their heads held high because they did what God asked them to do and rejoiced in the good things that happened instead of dwelling on their misfortunes.  What a lesson.   If we keep our focus in the right place, we will be joyful no matter what happens.