You’re in the Hall

No matter how reserved you are, if you’re alive, you’re being observed.

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Acts 23:35 – I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod’s judgment hall.

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If you are a child of God, you’re in a relationship with the Almighty.  If you’re a human being, your life is exposed to light at least some of the time.  If you shop, use community services, have ever paid taxes, drive, commute, work, attend a school or church, you are in the public eye.  That’s not just for those who hold public office or serve the public.  Somebody sees you; somebody hears you; somebody studies you; somebody uses you.  That, dear friend, is the estate of affairs in life today.  There are cameras everywhere; on the street, in businesses, banks, schools, churches, on private property for security.  And almost everyone has a cell phone, and almost all of them have HD cameras.  There is no way your life is hidden. 

When Paul was brought to Felix, this was a bold move on the part of the chief captain of the Roman guard in Jerusalem.  A plot was fomented against Paul to kill him, and the fomenters took an oath that they would not eat again until Paul was dead.  (It is my estimation that they broke the oath, or died very hungry.)  Paul being a Roman, such actions would not be tolerated.  Therefore, when Paul was brought before Felix in Caesarea, he would not be treated as some rank-and-file prisoner.  So, he was in Herod’s judgment hall, a magnificent group of buildings in which government actions were handled.  This was no ordinary structure, so it is evident that Paul was well-attended. 

My friend, as a child of God, you are of no ordinary culture or heritage.  You don’t belong to some nation’s government; you belong to God.  If you are living in your covenant, according to Deuteronomy, the world should be afraid of you.  The world in which you live, though they may despise you, the fact you belong to God carries influence wherever you go.  There is no need for you to fear.  You are the “head and not the tail.”  You are “above only and not beneath.”  “No weapon formed against you shall prosper.”  But whether you accept it or not, when you became a child of God, you found yourself in a kind of Herod’s judgment of the world in which you live.  You are being constantly observed.  People are watching; some to see now you act, others to see how you react, or respond.  People are watching; some hoping to see you fail, some hoping to see you succeed.  And even among those who want you to fail to make them look good and many who pray you won’t fail.  After all, they will need someone they can call to help them when their way won’t work, and only the way of God will.  So, like it or not, you’re in the hall of judgment.  Live well.

Manna for Today – Acts 23:23-35; Deuteronomy 28:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Isaiah 54:17

Connections

Who you know is important, but one connection trumps them all . . . Jesus!

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Acts 23:27 – This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman.

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I once heard Leonard Ravenhill, great preacher and author, tell a story about his father, also a minister of the Gospel, that occurred, I believe, during World War II.  The story went like this.  Leonard Ravenhill said,

My father was visiting servicemen in a British hospital, praying for them, and ministering to them as the Lord directed him.  He came to one British soldier, and asked him if he would like to have prayer for his injuries.  The soldier responded, “I don’t hold much with prayer.  I’ve never gotten any results.”  Ravenhill, in his very astute manner responded with a question.  “If you would ask King George for 100 pounds sterling, would he give it to you?”  The soldier quickly responded, “No sir.  He has no relation to me at all; in fact, he doesn’t even know me.”  Then Ravenhill asked,  “If the Prince of Wales were to ask King George for 100 pounds sterling, do you think King George would give it to him?”  The soldier immediately responded, “Of course he would.  The Prince is the King’s son.”  At that point, Mr. Ravenhill said, “Precisely, good man.  The relationship makes all the difference.”

In the story surrounding our Text for Today, Paul had identified himself as a Roman.  Being a Roman gave one a distinct advantage in dealings with government and religious systems that were under the control of the Roman Empire.  For a Roman citizen, Roman law held sway over Jewish law.  It superseded Jewish law.  Paul fully realized that and used it for his advantage in the matter.  While we may not think about it, most of us use the same kind of procedure in our daily business.  For instance, if you go into a bank with which you do not conduct business, the likelihood that you can cash a check there is very low.  On the other hand, if you go into the bank where you have your checking account, they will likely cash your personal check without question.  All you have to do is prove your relationship with them.

What do you need from the Lord today?  Is it legitimate?  That is to ask, is it legal, can it be done within the guidelines of the person with whom you are dealing?  In this case, that is Jehovah, and He does indeed have guidelines.  They can be found in the Scriptures.  My friend, I assure you of this.  If you have a personal relationship with our God, and if you are operating according to the standards He has set forth, and if you come to Him in faith and in the Name of Jesus, you can conduct any business you need with Him.  But without that personal relationship, it simply won’t work.  As Mr. Ravenhill said, “The relationship makes all the difference.”

Manna for Today – Acts 23:23-35; John 15:7; Isaiah 54:17; Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Ephesians 2:10

More Than Sufficient

Don’t ever think, even for a moment, that God is insufficient in any way at any time.

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Acts 23:23 – And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night;

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The longer I live and do so in relationship with the Lord Jesus, led by Holy Spirit, and knowing the love of Father, the more I am convinced that there is no way I can turn from the authority of the Word of God.  I have coined a phrase for myself that I hold fast, and believe it with all my heart.  That phrase is this: “If God said it, that settles it.”  I even use it in a number of languages where it has carried a strong impact.  I remember a bumper sticker on a car that read, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.”  It may be cute, but it makes the speaker far too self-important.  You see, the end of the story is this; if God said it, that settles it, whether you believe it or not.

The Scriptures tell us clearly that God does “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that is at work in us.”  We also read that we can “do all things through Christ which strengthens” us.  We can further examine one of the names of Jehovah God in the Old Testament.  It was the name used by Father when He approached Abraham.  He said His name was “Almighty God,” which is also translated “El Shaddai.”  One of the meanings of “El Shaddai” is “the God Who is more than enough.”

A songwriter wrote, “He’s never late, He’s never early…He’s always right on time.”  The truth is that He always is; He’s always right now, and right now is when you believe; when you release your faith.  You see, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” 

In all this, I want to help you create an accurate recognition of our God being at work.  As you study the Word, you begin to see a pattern develop about our changeless God.  Your heavenly Father NEVER does just enough.  He knows the end from the beginning.  He always has a means of escape for you from any and every temptation, test, or trial that comes your way.  And when you consider that Father has made you to be the head and not the tail, above only and not beneath, and more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ, you cannot see yourself as someone who just makes it by in life.  Your must realize that God, Who “works all things together for good to those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose,” never does just enough.  In all He does, He is always more than sufficient.

Manna for Today – Acts 23:12-35; Ephesians 3:20; Luke 1:37; Philippians 4:19; Matthew 18:19-20; Hebrews 11:1; Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 9:8

No Weapon

It truly helps to know you are safe in Jesus as long as you walk in covenant.

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Acts 23:12 – And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.

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I will be as clear as I possibly can concerning covenant protection from the Lord for the believer.  Is it real?  Yes!  Does it come without any qualifying elements?  No!  Anything that has to do with covenant has qualifying elements.  They may be different for different elements of covenant, but that fact that qualifying elements exist is universal.  Allow me to offer you two examples of qualifying elements that can be applied to anything we ask of the Lord.  They are both found in the book of James, one in chapter one and one in chapter four. 

  • James 1 – when we ask God for something, we must ask in faith, nothing wavering.  The wavering man is a double-minded man, and that man should not think that he will receive anything from the Lord.  That is a qualifying element.
  • James 4 – we are told that if we ask “amiss,” that means with the wrong motivation, a motivation that lends itself to our lusts, we will not receive from the Father that which we have asked.  That is a qualifying element.

One additional example I would like to share is from Isaiah 54:17.  There it is declared that “no weapon formed against you (the believer) shall prosper.”  I am convinced that this is one of the greatest elements preventing believers from enjoying far great prosperity in their lives.  They rob themselves by being used as a weapon against other believers.  Even if you are a believer, if you use your words or actions as weapons against fellow believers, you cut off your ability to prosper.  Wake up, saints; use your words and actions to bless, not curse.

Paul was awake, not using his words to curse, but to bless, to speak truth, to edify.  Therefore, he walked in the blessing of Isaiah 54:17.  No weapon formed against him would prosper.  And that is precisely what happened to the group that covenanted together that they would not eat or drink until they had killed Paul.    The outcome here was obviously one of three things: they were killed in their endeavors, or they died of starvation, or they lied and broke their oath.

What about you, my friend.  Do you walk in covenant with the Lord?  Do you keep your tongue in check, allowing it to speak no corrupt communication, especially against another believer?  Do you keep you heart and mind in single focus, holding fast to the integrity of God’s Word about whatever it is on which you have set your faith?  Are you motives pure?  Are you asking God for things with the right motive, with the desire to use your blessings in a manner to be a blessing?  Don’t negate the promises.  Be true to the Word.

Manna for Today – Acts 23:12-22; Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Joshua 1:6-8; Isaiah 54:17; James 1:2-8;   James 4:3

Hold Fast to Your Vision

There are some things one simply cannot afford to lose.

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Acts 23:11 – And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

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Helen Keller was both blind and deaf.  When asked what could be worse than not being able to see, she responded by saying, “Not having any vision.”  She understood a deep truth that so many sighted people never learn.  It is evident from his ministry that Paul understood this principle in a most profound way.  And it is clear from our Text for Today that the Lord didn’t want him to forger it either.  There we see a very strong reminder of that great truth as the Lord reminds Paul, in the midst of a very dangerous situation, what He had called and sent him to do.

While I know the Lord would have you to always be encouraged to pursue your God-given vision, please allow me to partner with Him in that endeavor today.  While I don’t likely know the vision the Lord has given you for your life and ministry, I do know He wants you to be continually encouraged, and I am thoroughly convinced that I am being a pleasing servant to you and Him in writing this to you.  I also want to encourage you to put into practice an art King David understood, and that is self-encouragement.  Today, some people might call it positive self-talk.  Regardless of what you call it, David used it.  When pressures come in an attempt to strip you of your vision or make situations seem hopeless, do as David did.  Ask yourself the question: “Why are you cast down, o my soul?”  And having asked the question, follow through as David did, with your own answer, encouraging yourself to hope in the Lord, for He is faithful.

I can surely attest that anyone who has a God-given vision for his life will surely be tested by the enemy of his soul to give up and cast away your faith and hope in God.  I have faced it, and so has every other man or woman of God that I personally know.  You see, it requires words to paint one’s vision in one’s heart and mind.  When that vision has come from the Lord, the Word of God will most certainly be deeply involved in seeding and painting a clear image of that vision.  That being said, you can be assured that any amount of the Word of God you have in your life, Satan is out to steal it.  And if He can steal the Word, he can surely steal your vision.  But that is only one of his devices.  He will use discouragement in every way possible.  The key thought here is this: HOLD FAST TO YOUR VISION!

Manna for Today – Acts 23:1-11; Habakkuk 2:1-3; Proverbs 29:18; Acts 9:1-18; Psalm 42 & 43;        Mark 4:10-20

No Place to Be

No matter what emotions may say, there are some places you simply do not need to be.

Acts 23:10 – And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.

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One of the most frightening, and I do mean frightening, passages of Scripture one can read is found in 2 Timothy 2:24-26.  It concerns the matter of strife, and the absolute necessity that the servant of the Lord avoids it.  While I am sure that Paul did not intentionally walk into the arena of strife in which he found himself, a close reading of Acts 23 indicates that a place of deep strife is precisely where he was.  I am sure he realized the potential of discord that existed between the Pharisees and Sadducees.  You see, the Pharisees believed in a resurrection, in angels, and in spirits, while the Sadducees believed in none of that, so there was already a great potential for dispute.  Then when Paul identified himself as a Pharisee, it almost seemed as if he incited the discord.  In fact, he may have done so deliberately, expecting the confusion to allow him to escape. 

But that is not what happened.  The contention between the Pharisees and Sadducees was so sharp that it appeared to the chief captain that Paul, a Roman citizen, might be torn apart in the scuffle.  So, he ordered Paul’s removal from the argument.  It appears that Paul did not recognize the potential danger in which he placed himself when strife arose.  You see, the bottom line of this matter is this.  A place of strife is in no way a place for the believer.   I encourage you to take a moment and read our Manna for Today, especially the passage in 2 Timothy. 

In that passage we read that when a servant of God is in strife, he has fallen into the snare of the devil where Satan can take the servant of God captive whenever he desires, and use him in any way he desires.  That, dear reader, is a terrifying place to be.  Can you imagine being a servant of God, a leader of God’s people, having worked many years in serving the kingdom, only to be used by Satan whenever he desires, wherever he desires, and not being able to stop him?  How horrifying!   It defies natural understanding that a man of God, even with years of experience and so much to offer, falling into strife, can become a servant of the devil so easily.  The child of God MUST avoid strife at all costs.  It’s not about winning an argument or being victorious in a debate, making your point.  It’s about living by faith, walking in love, forgiving, and being ruled by the peace of God that passes all understanding.

Manna for Today – Acts 23:1-11; Amos 3:3; 2 Timothy 2:24-26

A Lesson to Learn

It’s always a good thing to remember the commandments of the Lord, even in politics and church.

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Acts 23:5 – Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

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When is the last time you heard someone having “roast pastor,” or perhaps even more noticeable today, “roast president,” or some other national leader?  Having served one church as pastor for twenty-eight years, and in many of those years serving in a leadership role for twenty-one other pastors, I can assure you that “roast pastor” is, sadly, quite a common meal, especially in automobiles traveling between church and some other location. 

However, my purpose is not to talk just about that.  Take a moment and read our Text for Today once more.  Please note the command in the final eleven words of that text.  “Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of they people.”  That command should be given strong consideration in more than one leadership relationship.  We have a “ruler” in the White House.  We have a “ruler” in state government mansions.  We have a “ruler” in many offices of business and industry.  We have a “ruler” in the local church.  I do not speak of them as “rulers” in the sense of having command control over someone, but of someone in a leadership role in which he truly holds authority over other people, and with that authority, carries grave responsibility. 

In our world of comfort seekers, instant gratification, easy beliefism, and loose criticism, “roasting” leaders is an all-too-common occurrence.  It is so easy to be critical of one’s pastor.  It is likewise true of bosses and business leaders.  Any time someone does or says something that we perceive as less than favorable to us, we in America find it so easy to exercise our First Amendment rights, and we use that freedom of speech to verbally slice and dice leadership.  My friend, such attitude and action is completely unbiblical.  In simpler and much clearer terms, it is sin!  I urge you to take these words to heart.  If you engage in such talk, PLEASE, stop it now, repent, confess the sin, and put it out of your life. 

And more than that, guard you ears.  Jesus said that we should take heed what and how we hear.  If you allow such seed as this kind of evil speaking to be sown into your life, it is likely that at some point you will bear fruit of that seed by the words you hear yourself saying.  Guard yourself, protect your hearing, and control your tongue.  In the present political attitude in our nation, and even in international affairs, hearing leaders maligned and cursed is common.  Such speech should NEVER come from the lips of a child of God, regardless of political party or persuasion.  Such things ought not be.  Rather, pray for those who have authority over you.  Be a doer of the Word, and not a foolish refuser.

Manna for Today – Acts 23:1-11; Exodus 22:28; Ephesians 4:29-32; 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15; Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1

Born Free

Oh, how precious it is to be free; truly free.

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Acts 22:28 – And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.

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A person gains true power in one of three ways.  They are born to it, receive it by inheritance, or take it by conquest.  Jesus gained His power in all three ways.  He was born to it as the firstborn Son of God.  He received it by inheritance, as He is the only person ever to die to put a will into effect, and then be raised from the dead to be His Own executor.  And finally, He took it by conquest when He conquered Satan, and all that was controlled by him before the resurrection.  Freedom is power, and it, too, comes in three ways.  Let’s talk about that for a moment

We have freedom in Christ because Jesus gave it to us and made us more than conquerors.  We have received it by inheritance, for we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.  And we have been born to it, because we have been born again.  That is the fullness of the work of redemption in the life of a born again child of God.

When you were born into this earth, you came in the form of sinful flesh.  When you came to a place in your life where you understood the difference in right and wrong, and then obeyed the desires of the flesh, you died spiritually, now become the full possession of the devil.  You were born of the flesh, and you lived after the flesh.  But when you accepted the redemptive work of Jesus, believing your heart that God had raised Him from the dead, and confessing Jesus as your Lord, you were born again.  When you were born in the flesh, you were born captive.  But when you were born again, you were born free. 

Paul used his birthright of freedom, having been born a Roman citizen, to escape the beating and captivity that was about to beset him.  You see, Paul understood the law of Rome.  As a child of God, it is your responsibility to study, learn, and live in the law of God that has declared your freedom.  When you know that law, believe that law, stand on the law, and obey the Lord of that law (the Word of God), you can learn to escape the beatings and captivity that sin has brought upon all mankind.  Just being born again is not enough.  You are to know the Word, obey the Word, put on the whole armor of God, and fight the good fight of faith.  Being born again, you were born free, but you must fight to live free.

Manna for Today – Acts 22:22-30; Galatians 3:13-29; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Romans 10:6-17;     Galatians 3:13-29; Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6; 1 Timothy 6:12

Chosen

Never forget, “The God of our fathers hath chosen thee,” too.  Yes, you!

Acts 22:14 – And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.

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In our Text for Today, there can be no doubt that the Lord was speaking directly to Saul (Paul the Apostle).  It was a rhema word given directly to him from the Father through Ananias.  When such a word is given to someone, it is a powerful thing, indeed.  I am sure many who read this have had a time, if not times in your life, when the Lord has spoken to you such a word.  It may have been given directly to you by Holy Spirit, or it could have come to you as a word of wisdom as it did Saul, that God has called you to a specific purpose, ministry, and calling.  Words that come to you in that manner are rhema words; that is a word directly from the Lord specifically for you.

But we must never forget the logos Word of God.  That is the written Word of God given to us by which we may all profit.  We should also understand, that though the logos is the written word of God to every believer, there are times when that written word of God can indeed become a rhema word into the life of believer.  When Holy Spirit awakens the truth of God’s word to an individual believer for a specific purpose and time, that logos word has, in fact, become a rhema word for that person.  It is to that end that I write this today. 

Paul was indeed chosen by God for a specific purpose.  But I want you to consider the words of Jesus in John 15:16.  Jesus said He has chosen us.  While the word in our Text for Today and in the John passage are different words, the John passage being more general, both speak to the issue of being deliberately chosen.  In the Acts passage, the purpose of the choosing was made quite clear.  In John, the purpose is not.  But every believer has the right, and should fully expect, to be led by Holy Spirit so he can come to a clear understanding of what God has called you to do in this life, and how He has equipped you for the service to which you are called. 

You may not be chosen to become an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher, but you have been chosen.  Regardless of the specific purpose to which the Lord has or will call you, you are chosen, and that broader issue of choosing is out of love for you.  God loves you, and for that reason, He has chosen you to be abundantly fruitful, regardless of your specific work.  I say it again; YOU ARE CHOSEN!

Manna for Today – Acts 22:1-21; John 15:16

Your Past Doesn’t Count

You may not know where you’re going right now, but you’re going somewhere.

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Acts 22:21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.

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Your past doesn’t count in Christ.  His past does.  When Jesus was crucified, we were crucified with Him.  We were buried with Him through water baptism.  We were raised with Him through the new birth.  We were empowered with Him through the baptism in Holy Spirit.  We now live and reign with Him as kings and priests under the Lordship of King of kings and Lord of lords.  It’s not my past or your past that sets us in a position to exercise rights, privileges, and responsibilities of sons of God.  It is His.  He has redeemed us from the curse of the law, and He has authorized us via power of attorney to live and reign in this life through His Name.

Your past doesn’t count in Christ.  When you were born again, your past, as God considers it, vanished.  Old things are passed away and all things have become new.  You were crucified with Christ and the life you now live is by the faith of the Son of God Who was sacrificed for you.  He was your scapegoat, and in Him you live and move and have your being.  He died so you could live.  He suffered so you don’t have to suffer.

Your past doesn’t count.  While you are indeed responsible to live according to the Scriptures, and in so doing live a testimony worthy of the Name of Jesus Christ, your tomorrow is not dependent upon your yesterday.  Rather, your tomorrow is based upon your faith today.  Your faith is based solely upon the Word of God; not your history, emotions, or experience.  If God said you are, then you are.  If God says you can do it, then you can do it.  If God says you have it, you have it.  And if God says you can have it, you can have it.  As I say and write so often, if God said it, that settles it.

Your past doesn’t count.  What does count is your relationship and fellowship in Christ.  Relationship was established when you were born again.  At that moment, you became a child of God, an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ.  What grows and develops and matures is your fellowship with Him.  As you grow in grace, wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, and in fellowship with Him, His trust in you deepens, and His work through you is enhanced and made richer.  Your past doesn’t count, for you are hidden in Him, and remain so as you live by faith and walk in love, pleasing Him.

Manna for Today – Acts 22:21; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21;         Ephesians 2:10; Galatians 2:20