Shouting Doesn’t Make It So

Quacking and waddling like a duck does not make it a duck.  More needs to be known.

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Acts 16:17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.

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Let’s set up the scenario around this encounter.  Paul and Silas had come to Philippi, and remained for a period of time, ministering to the people.  Then a young woman, possessed by a spirit of divination, also known as a spirit of python, came on the scene.  Note closely that she did not come attacking Paul and Silas.  Rather, she came on the scene seeming to herald the coming of two great men of God, showing them the way of salvation.

Now on the surface, it would seem that she was doing Paul and Silas a great favor.  They were getting great volumes of free publicity from her, and no doubt, many people were attracted to their meetings because of it.  But there was something wrong, and by Holy Spirit, Paul knew it.  It was revealed to him that she was operating under the ownership and leadership of demon spirits.  While we rejoice in the outcome, we should also learn a valuable lesson from this event.  It has been said that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.  While probabilities may point to that as true, reality says it is not.  Take another look at our Text for Today.

The young woman in question was demon possessed, and deceiving many people.  Yet she was not attacking or defying Paul and Silas.  Instead, she was pointing them out and signifying that they were “servants of the most high God.”  Wouldn’t it be great if you were recognized by well-known people wherever you go as a servant of “the most high God?”  Think about it.  That could be of awesome benefit to the kingdom of God and your ministry.  But in this case, that was not the ultimate intent.  The intent of this demon possessed soothsayer was to show that she had deep ability to recognize spiritual authority, so that when Paul and Silas had gone their way, she would be recognized as someone of great spiritual prowess.  And that would lead to gross deception throughout the young church of that region.

That same scenario is played out too often in today’s church.  Someone who looks sharp, dresses well, speaks intelligently, and acts kindly towards others, all of which are traits sought out by people, comes into a church.  They are well-received, fit it well, seem to bring great assets to the church, and soon find themselves in a place of influence.  But the question that needs to be answered, that must be answered is, what fruit are they producing?

Manna for Today – Acts 16:6-40; Matthew 24:4; Mark 4:23; Luke 8:18; Luke 11:36; Matthew 7:16-20

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Immediately

Have you ever stopped to consider what the term immediately means?

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Acts 16:10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

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When I was a youngster, I would often hear people use the word directly as a one-word answer to someone’s request.  For instance, someone might ask, “Can you help me move this table?”  Upon hearing that request, the person of whom the request was made would respond, “Directly.”  Now while the term directly is a shortened form of saying “I will get directly to it,” by the mid-20th century, it seems to have meant, “I’ll get to it when I’ve finished what I’m doing.”  Or perhaps, “It will be next on my list.”  My point is this; over time, the meaning of a word often changes from what it originally meant.  When we consider the lapse of almost two millennia, we can understand how we might not think of immediately today as it was intended then.

The word, immediately, as it was rendered in our Text for Today speaks to responding to an order or request without any intervening time or space between the order or request and the attempt to carry it out.  In other words, immediately meant right now.  Thinking with the mindset that immediately means right now, consider with me two other terms from a Biblical perspective; wisdom and love.

Wisdom, from a purely Biblical perspective, is immediate obedience to the Word, or commands, of the Lord.  Jesus said the wise man was the one who heard His Word and did His Word.  Love, from a purely Biblical perspective, is clearly stated as “keeping His commandments.”  In essence, wisdom and love are the same thing.  You see, hearing and doing His Word and keeping His commandments is the same thing.  In both passages, Matthew 7 and 1 John 5, the implication is an immediate response to whatever God says.  To delay the response is to be disobedient, or rebellious, or stubborn, and in any of those responses, death resides.

The church has never needed the power manifestation of the life of God more than it does today.  While I do not claim to have a definitive answer to that need, I am convinced that one of the major elements needful for its manifestation is instant obedience, doing what we hear when we hear it, walking in love, and living in wisdom immediately.  That means right now.  When you consider the definition of faith found in Hebrew 11:1, “Now” becomes a very important term.  Faith is now; that means immediately, with no intervening time or space between the order and carrying it out.  It’s time to get to work being doers of the Word, keeping His commandments immediately.

Manna for Today – Acts 16:6-40; Hebrews 11:1; Mark 11:22-24; Matthew 7:24-27; 1 John 5:3

Come Over…..and Help Us

Do you hear the call?  It’s louder now than ever.

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Acts 16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

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In our Text for Today, the call to “come over…and help us” was as clear as it could be.  It came in a vision from the Lord.  Obviously, Father was intent on getting the message of the Word of God into Macedonia.  And while Jesus had already given His command to go into all the world, the means of communication available to the world at that time was extremely limited, especially if it had to be done within a certain time frame.  At the time Paul had this vision, a written message from one person to another could easily take months, if not longer.  Still, the Great Commission has already been established, and the call to Macedonia was very clear.

I’ve a question for you today.  in our Text for Today, we see that there were people in Macedonia who were calling on the Lord for someone to dome help them to hear, understand, and put to work the Gospel of Jesus.  In this case, God used a vision.  Now here’s the question.  Is the call to “come over…and help us” still being made?  I believe it is.  I believe it also true that it is just as important today as it was in Paul’s day to be obedient to the call of the Lord.  And I likewise believe that today we have so many more ways to be aware of the call of the Lord than Paul had.  Consider these; television and radio news, news-papers, social media, church reports, literary publications, testimony (word of mouth).  I understand Paul could have learned about the need in Macedonia by word of mouth, but how long would it have taken to get to him.  Today, word of mouth can be almost as fast as the speed of light.  A person witnesses a need, takes a photo, posts a Facebook posting, and in moments, it is seen around the world by potentially huge numbers of people.  What I am saying is simple.  Even if a person is not in a position to receive a vision from the Lord, if they’re on social media, they are likely aware of the need people have to receive the ministry of the Word in the power of Holy Spirit in places thousands of miles from their doors.

Allow me to speak to that briefly.  Learn to hear from Holy Spirit for yourself.  There are many means of hearing of needs, but there is still only one way to hear from Holy Spirit; He speaks to your heart.  It’s that simple.  The things we perceive through our senses are not our points of contact for leadership.  Our leadership MUST arise from Holy Spirit.  Is He directing you to go?  If so, GO!  If He is NOT directing you to go personally, HELP someone He is sending.  And in that case, you GO!  People need help, and they are calling out for it.

Manna for Today – Acts 16:6-40; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; 2 Timothy 4:2; Romans 8:14

From Here to There

Sometimes you don’t need the shortest route, but the most productive.

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Acts 16:6 – Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,

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It has been stated through the ages; the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  It’s a simple, yet very accurate statement.  There are times and places in life where the shortest distance between two points isn’t even close to the best distance between two points.  Let me first address that anecdotally.  Do you know your shortest, quickest, most efficient way to work?  Have you ever  been on your way to work, or any place you regularly go, and for some unknown reason, chose to go a different route?  Have you ever done that  and discovered later that had you gone the normal route, you may have been involved in some sort of accident that could have gravely injured or even killed you?  Have you ever been delayed in going somewhere, only to arrive at a given intersection a minute or two later than normal, only to find there had been a major accident at the time you would ordinarily have been there?  And how many stories were told of people, who for whatever the reason, were delayed or detoured in traveling to the World Trade Center on 9/11?

Our Text for Today is an example of the truth that the shortest, or most direct line of travel is not always the best line of travel.  Paul and Silas desired to go to Asia.  Now why would the Lord delay someone from fulfilling the Great Commission, to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature”?  The answer should be obvious.  Father knows the end from the beginning.  That is, from the very beginning of an endeavor, Father knows what the outcome will be.  And He doesn’t just know one outcome.  He knows every conceivable outcome.  And if it will make the harvest greater, if it will keep more souls out of hell, if it will bring greater glory to the Lord, He can, and I believe will, send us through a somewhat circuitous route, giving time for seed that is planted to be ready for a harvest when we arrive.  Could it be that many great moves of God have been thwarted because we moved too quickly to harvest a field, that while seed was already planted, it had not had time to produce fruit ready for harvest?  The point to be taken here is not to disobey the Lord in any way, nor to attempt to slow Him down in His work.  Rather it is that we need to be assured that we are not ahead of Him, but are instead walking in step with Him from here to there.  When we walk in such a manner, there will always be time for fruit to be ready for harvest, so that we can walk into the good works that He has ordained for us.

Manna for Today – Acts 16:6-40; John 4:1-45; Ephesians 2:10

What Will You Allow

What will you go through for the sake of the Lord and His kingdom?

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Acts 16:3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.

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What would you do to save your child?  Your spouse?  I imagine you, like me, would do anything you had to do to save one of them.  Regardless of what it cost you, even to your very life, most parents I know would lay it all down for their child.  And the same can be said to spouses who are truly committed to one another, especially in Christian covenant.

Consider what Jesus allowed.  All that happened to Him was not without His acceptance.  First, He accepted the plan of the redemption which He devised with Father and Holy Ghost before the foundation of the world.  Secondly, He accepted Hi place in that plan, making Himself subject to that plan.  That is why He could say, “No man takes My life from Me.  I lay it down.  I will take it up again.”  Third, as a part of that plan, He accepted the suffering of the cross, and all the related torment, pain, and agony.  Fourth, and I know that many will disagree here, but He accepted for the time necessary to pay the full price of redemption, the torments of hell.  Fifth, He accepted resurrection, enthronement, and the position of Lordship so you and I could live a life of redemption.

Now note that much of what Jesus accepted was painful beyond description.  Another way of saying He accepted it is to say He allowed it.  He could have called for angels to deliver Him, but He did not.  He did not open His mouth to stop all the torment that was being poured upon Him, but He did not.  He could have stopped it all, but He did not.  Instead, He allowed it in His life, being our substitute, so we don’t have to allow it in our lives as His joint-heirs.

But my question today was, “What will you allow?”  In order to be able to walk in the fullness of what God has called you to be and do, what will you allow?  My question does not arise from the teachings of Paul, or any other of the apostles.  My question arises from the yielded action of Timothy.  HE WAS CIRCUM-CISED!  Timothy was a grown man, and allowed himself to be circumcised.  This was not a time of modern medicine, sedatives, anesthesia, lidocaine, and sterile surgical rooms.  Yet he allowed himself to be circumcised so his ministry would not be made ineffective before the Jews.  Do you see it?  I’m not writing about attacks of the enemy, but a man yielded to do what he must to preach the Gospel.  What will you allow?  Just a thought.

Manna for Today – Acts 16:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; 1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Peter 2:13; 1 Peter 3:17

Departure Versus Division

When will we ever learn that sometimes we must depart to prevent division?

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Acts 15:39 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;

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Our Text for Today is part of a scenario around the parting of Paul and Barnabas.  They did not depart from one another over doctrine.  It was a purely human issue of personal perception.  It was not a matter of judging one another or another person.  It was the fact that Barnabas personally perceived that Mark would be beneficial to the ministry, while Paul personally perceived that he would not.  And because they could not come to an agreement on the matter, they departed from one another without causing division.

  • There are some things of note we should consider here.
  • They were not disputing over doctrine.
  • They were not in strife against one another.
  • Their individual ministries were not dependent upon each other.
  • They realized their ministries were dependent upon the Lord and His anointing.
  • They understood that obedience to and compliance with the Word of God was paramount.

And there was one more thing they realized.  If you cannot come into agreement with someone, and the contention about the disagreement becomes sharp, don’t try to confess your way through it, pray your way through it, fast your way through it, counsel your way through it, or compromise your way through it.  if the disagreement becomes sharp, there is one thing that needs to be done.  Separate from one another before disagreement become strife.  When disagreement becomes strife, my friend, everything else goes into destruction mode, and is made prey of the enemy.  Remember, departure does not mean division when departure precedes division.  If departure follows division, it really doesn’t matter.  The strife has already entered in and the damage has been done.

Please note here, I am not writing about avoiding, running from, or living in fear of difference of opinions.  Don’t let choices over what’s for supper break up the home.  Don’t let decisions on church décor become strife in the congregation.  Sadly, there are far too many splits in churches, between friends, in homes, and in business that arise from matters of preference, not matters of principle.  This should not be.  The Word of God should set the course.  The entrance of the Word of God does not shine its light on where you WANT to go, but on the path you SHOULD take.  God knows who you are, your make-up, and your giftings.  Avoid the strife.  Choose to walk in the path God lights for you.  It’s amazing how two different ministry paths can come together when Father has lit both paths.  And He did so with Paul and Barnabas when Paul’s perception changed.  My friend, that will surely happen.  Perceptions change, and if one’s path is well lit, the outcome will be better.

Manna for Today – Acts 15:36-41; Romans 12:18; Amos 3:3; 2 Timothy 2:24-26

Put Away the Yoke

Through Jesus, we are to live a life free from any yoke of bondage, but still bearing one.

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Acts 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

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There are times when I really become aggravated at the thoughtlessness of many Christians.  We see it every day in their general behavior towards people around them, especially when the Christian behaves in a selfish, self-centered, or egotistical way.  But there is a thoughtlessness in the body of Christ that many do not recognize.  Many Christians simply give no thought to who they are, what they say, or how they say it.  One of the key reasons for that is they do not take time to read, study, meditate upon, and rightly divide the Word of truth.  And another is the carelessness that seems to pervade the body of Christ when it comes to accuracy in speech, whether spoken or written.  Take time to listen to Christians as see how often they misquote the Scriptures in a manner that totally changes meaning, points of responsibility, and application.

It is from this thoughtlessness and carelessness that many yokes are laid upon so many in the body of Christ.  While the placement of yokes on believers is fought against in some circles, it is tolerated in others as proving people.  And some even advocate it as an elimination mechanism for those not qualified for ministry.  However, it needs to be put away from believers altogether.  Look at our Text for Today once again.  Peter called the use of these “yokes” tempting the Lord.  Do you see that?  When we try to place yokes on our fellow believers, regardless of our reasoning, we are tempting God.  That, my friend, is not good business in the kingdom.

Allow me to be clear.  The standards for service, position, and certain kinds of authority that are set forth in the Scriptures are NOT yokes.  They are God’s qualifications.  And if God said it, that settles it.  Yokes are formed when we apply our own rules and standards to others; rules and standards that we could not even keep ourselves on our best day when we were at their level of Christian growth.  Peter’s reference in our Text for Today was specifically about using the law of the Old Covenant, laws that even the Jews, on their best days, could not fully keep, to measure new believers in a still, very young church.  To do so is to count the blood and sacrifice of Jesus as ineffective and insufficient.  That, we know, is absolutely wrong.  Yes, there are Biblical standards, and they are to be applied Biblically, according to the New Covenant.  The ONLY yoke for the New Covenant is the yoke of Christ that He said was “light.”  Think on that.

Manna for Today – Acts 15:1-21; Galatians 3:13-29; Romans 8:1-17; Matthew 11:28-30

It’s a Life of Faith

If you think you can live without faith, it’s because someone else’s faith has protected you in the dark.

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Acts 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

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Our Text for Today is one of the most powerful confirming texts about faith in the Scriptures.   It simply lays the foundation for faith deeper, stronger, and more revealing.  What can we say about it?  Here of some of the leading thoughts.

  • So, then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
  • Without faith it is impossible to please God.
  • Faith works by love.
  • Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.’
  • If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can move mountains.
  • By grace we are saved, through faith.
  • The just shall live by faith.

Our God is a faith God.  Our works don’t please Him.  Our righteousness does not please Him.  Our eloquence does not please Him.  Our contacts do not please Him.  Our intelligence does not please Him.  What pleases Him is faith, and the highest level of that faith is faith that will immediately act on whatever the Word of God says.  When a Roman centurion said, “Speak the Word only, and my servant shall be healed,” Jesus said that was the greatest faith He had ever witnessed.

You see, the true works we do are rendered by faith.  We are made righteous by faith.  We speak by faith, calling things that be not as though they are.  It is only faith in God that pleases Father.  It is only the Name of Jesus spoken in faith that pleases Father.  Faith, only faith.  That is how any overcoming believer MUST live.

Faith is the great equalizer.  I have heard it said that everyone stands on the same footing at the foot of the cross.  That may be so, but if you will rise higher, if you will proceed to the upper room life, that is to be filled with Holy Ghost, you MUST do so by faith.  And if you will go yet higher to a life of ministry in which you are a powerful blessing to others, you MUST do so by faith.  And if you will stand victorious in every arena of life, overcoming the enemy in the Name of Jesus, you MUST do so by faith.  There is NO other way.  Faith, only faith.

Manna for Today – Acts 15:1-21; Mark 11:22-24; Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11:1-6; Galatians 5:6

Voice of Reason

When God is in it, there will always be a voice of reason.

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Acts 15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

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In my almost 50 years of ministry, having had the great joy and honor of working with some of the finest saints who have ever walked this earth, and having been privileged to travel to many nations around our world, I can tell you I’ve been in more meetings than I can count.  Most were good meetings, blessed by the Lord and strengthening to the attendees.  A few were total losses, edifying no one, hurting anyone who got in the way, and grieving to Holy Spirit.  I am glad to say that I was able to extricate myself from those meetings by the precious and merciful keeping power of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

But I have also been in meetings that, at some point in that meeting, looked like it was about to erupt in what some might call a major conflagration.  But because those who were present were men (women) of integrity, with a sincere heart for God, Father always used Holy Spirit to raise up, embolden, empower, and use a voice of reason; a voice that when heard became quickly recognized as coming from the Lord.  We see that in our Text for Today.  We also see in in Job (our Manna for Today) when Elihu, a young man who said he should be quiet and learn wisdom from his older compatriots.

The voice of reason is not about age, or title.  It is about that person who has an ear to hear what Holy Spirit is saying to the church.  It is the voice of Peter in a Jerusalem council.  It is about the voice of Jethro, a keeper of sheep, to the deliverer of Israel.  It is about the voice of Elihu when Job and his three friends had exhausted all their pitiful reasonings and self-justifications.  It is about the voice of Jesus when the crowd stood ready to stone an adulteress.  It was the voice of Apostle Paul on Mars Hill when he spoke of the unknown God.  The voices are many, the characters varied, their location sometimes surprising, sometimes amazingly close, and often, unexpected.  But still, they are there.  Keep yourself in the Word, stay before the Lord in prayer, occupy your time in service . . . be one of those voices.  Be a voice of reason and speak forth the reason that would be heard when reasoning together with Father.

Manna for Today – Acts 15:1-21; Job 32-37; Psalm 8:2; Isaiah 1:18

How Much Consideration?

If we truly considered what we say BEFORE we say it, I’m sure many problems could be avoided.

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Acts 15:6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

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The concept arises from the deepest wisdom.  There are many adages the point to it, such as “two heads are better than one.”  That is not a statement concerning “heads” being leaders, but being intelligent minds that have thought through a process.  While everyone in leadership, at times, may think themselves to be on shaky ground, in most cases, when there is a multitude of counsellors, issues of safety in decision can be greatly, of not totally, removed.  It’s about wisdom and true knowledge.  We may have heard all the facts, but how many of those facts can and do change from moment to moment?  On the other hand, real truth does not change with every “wind of doctrine.”

Where would the church of the Lord Jesus be today if at every point where a new denomination arose, or people found themselves in the midst of a church split, the matter had been placed before the apostles and elders of the church for examination and consideration?  Is it possible there might be fewer denominations and greater unity in the body of Christ?  Is it possible that the great numbers of churches we seem to see on every corner would exist because of church growth, and not church splits?  I ask you to consider these questions seriously.

In the present hour of church history, there have never been more baited causes for strife and division in the church. The term, “baited causes,” refers to points of contention that are LIKE the “tares” of which Jesus spoke.  The “tare” has a biological term “lolium timulentum.”  While growing and maturing, they look just like the wheat.  But when fully matured, are empty shells.  That is the basis for most church problems; empty shells with a fancy name.  One of the greatest tools God has given His church for discovering those empty shells and preventing their success in the church.  It is found in our Text for Today.  We need the consideration of “apostles and elders;” the truly mature leaders in the body of Christ.

Guard yourself.  If ideas, plans, and schemes are presented to you, or complaints or grievances are given voice, determine if they have been presented to the truly mature leaders of the church.  If they have not, avoid them until they are.  Take heed what and how you hear.  Keep your shield of faith strong; the fiery darts never cease.  Sometimes they come as an open attack on you, but sometimes they come disguised as a matter that needs your personal attention.  When they come like that, go to counsel, and in that multitude, be safe.

Manna for Today – Acts 15:1-21; Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 24:26; Mark 4:24; Luke 8:10