Power That Gives Us Hope

22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’   Acts 27:22-24

 

If you haven’t made it to worship at 11 am yet, I want to encourage you to attend via facebook or through the website.  The account of Paul prior to the shipwreck of the Alexandrian ship is amazing.  You will find a 6-minute audio version of Acts 27 that I hope will stir you enough to read more!  By the time you read this, I will have read through Acts 23-28.  The text is challenging, amusing, intriguing and exciting.
 
I have read the scriptures my whole life and still when I come across passages like this, I wonder, “How did I miss this ‘good stuff’ before”.  I have determined that with age and experience, the scriptures become more and more alive to me.  I am especially grateful in this tumultuous season of our lives that the scripture and all the reading and studying we can do is at our fingertips.  The talented and bright minds of scholars and archaeologists have taken so many of the questions out of reading the scriptures.  I took a look at Right Now Media (go to casonumc.org and sign up if you haven’t already) and am intrigued by two of the studies in Acts.  Let me know if you would like to have a study in Acts beginning mid-August for several weeks.  For now, I have excerpted a time line from A Calvary Chapel Pastor, Chuck Smith’s Blue Letter Bible blog that I think will be a tease that I hope will cause you to open to Acts 26-27 (Good Stuff!).
 

Pastor Smith begins with this background:

Paul was rescued by Lysias, the captain of the Roman guard from the mob that was attempting to beat him to death in Jerusalem on the temple mount.  He was taken into protective custody by the Roman government and sent under special guard to Caesarea for his protection, where he appeared before the governor Felix who held Paul a prisoner for two years, more or less, as a political pawn.  When Festus became the governor in Felix’s place, who had been replaced by the Roman Empire because of his corruption, Festus served Paul’s case and began to give Paul the run-around saying, “Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and answer these charges?”  Paul said, “I appeal to Caesar.”  Being a Roman citizen, Festus was obliged to send him to Caesar, but he had a problem.  The problem was this: he could not really send him to Caesar without legitimate charges being made against him, and there were no legitimate charges.  And so, he explained his problem to Herod Agrippa who came to pay a courtesy visit, and Herod Agrippa said, “Well, I will hear his case.”  The whole idea now of Herod Agrippa hearing Paul’s case is that there might be made formal charges to send with Paul as he made his appeal unto Caesar.

 

And so, as we get into Chapter 26, we find that Herod Agrippa, who is the great-grandson of Herod the Great, who ordered the murder of the children at the time of the birth of Christ, who was the grand-nephew of Herod Antipas, who had ordered the death of John the Baptist, the son of Herod Agrippa I, who had put James to death and had imprisoned Peter. Herod Agrippa II, and Paul is now standing before him there in Caesarea to declare his cause, and the idea is that they might formulate charges against him to send with him as he goes to Rome.

 

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.”  Then Paul stretched forth his hand and answered for himself.  Now, we usually see portrayed in the Roman court are, “Friends, countrymen,” you know, and you usually see them with a wave of the hand.  And evidently, Paul had probably picked up this Roman custom.  So now, appearing before Agrippa, Paul said, “I count it a privilege, Agrippa.”  So he stretched forth his hand to answer for himself.  He said, I am really happy, King Agrippa, to be able to explain to you today the things that I’m accused of by the Jews: Especially because I know that you are an expert in all of the customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to listen to me patiently.

 

And so it was true that Herod Agrippa had become a real student of Jewish law and of Jewish custom, and he was noted for his vast understanding of the Jewish religion.
 
Friends, the richness of the scriptures will continue to change your life.  My prayer is that you will read and be encouraged by the words of Luke in the Acts of the Apostles.  Let’s plan to begin to study this marvelous book in weeks to come. 
 

Joy, joy from your pastor who loves you and loves serving God at Cason!


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A Kiss From Jesus 2

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.                                                                                                                    Ephesians 4:29-32

 

We don’t have long to live on this earth.  I’m already through nearly two thirds of my life (and am in no hurry!)  While I’m still breathing, I want to respond to God’s love!  For years, Jesus has been giving me kisses…important reminders that He watches me and He adores me.  He’s seen me through flat tires and surprise gifts; rejections and approvals; partings of friends, moves and changes; and, unexpected quiet times where He whispered in my ear encouragements, challenges and love.  These are just some of the ways that I have received kisses from Jesus.  And so, in the time that I have left on this earth, I want to help others feel kisses from Jesus, too.  As Paul says later in Ephesians 4, I want to: build people up according to their needs and showing kindness and compassion and most assuredly forgiveness – to show them GRACE.  One thing that I have learned,  I can’t get Jesus kisses if I have in me what members of the church of Ephesus had in them: unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage and anger; gossip and backbiting; or, a brawling spirit, slander and malice on these lips.  It is impossible to recognize kisses from Jesus when our hearts are ugly with regret, hurt and malice.  I definitely prefer the kisses from Jesus. 
 
To my surprise kisses from Jesus was not only my idea. A Christian artist penned a song about kisses from Jesus.  In 2005 John Mark McMillian, wrote “How He Loves Me.”   The evening he wrote it, he learned that one of his closest friends, Stephen, was killed in a car accident.  He felt so close to God that he began to wonder what it was like for Stephen when he went into Jesus’ arms that night.  The song is a love song…a poem, between God and us: It simply says that Jesus is jealous for us.  How He loves us.  Oh how He loves us oh how He loves.  And then there is the second verse: So we are His portion and He is our prize.  Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.  If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.  –  Don’t you love that?  And then these words…So heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest.  I don’t have time to maintain these regrets.  When I think about the way that He loves us. Take a moment to listen to it: CLICK HERE.
 
Thousands were divided over the verse: “So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss…” Some said it was so weird that in newer versions, that particular line is changed.  But I wasn’t ‘weirded out’ because I had been getting kisses from Jesus for years.  That kind of affection from Jesus shines light in me!  That kind of pure love from my Savior reminds me that this weary, hostile world is not all the life I have to live, that I have eternity with one who adores me. 
 
I’m going to die and you are too!  But we are not dead yet!  So, in the meantime, what would it be like to give Jesus kisses indiscriminately, extravagantly and with total abandon!  This is called GRACE!  Not because they should have it but because you can give it freely!
 
Some time ago, I heard of a missionary returning stateside, who had a two-day layover in Germany during the early years of the Nazi occupation.  It was late December, and while out walking, he happened through a Jewish ghetto.
 
Appalled by the poverty he saw there, he took what funds he had and spent it on chocolates — sort of a Christmas present, if you will, for children who had all but forgotten what it was to laugh, or even smile.  When he telephoned home for more money in order to travel on to America, his superiors frankly found the request incredulous.
 

“You did what?”

“I bought chocolates for the children,” the missionary said. “It’s Christmas after all.”

“But they’re Jewish. They don’t celebrate Christmas!”

“Well, I know that,” he insisted, “but they’re still children, and children like chocolate.”

“For God’s sake, man, they’re not even Christians.”

There was a long pause. And finally the old missionary answered, “Yes, but I am.”
 
You know when you have given the perfect kiss from Jesus?  When you can walk up to, text, call or email the meanest person you know and say, I love you!  Now that’s a great big wet kiss from Jesus!  Not because they deserve it but because you can give it freely!  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the power to be a part of changing a life with Jesus kisses.
 

With more love than you can know…kiss – kiss

 

Pastor Alexis (Oh, and joy, joy too!)


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A Word to the Wise

My son, if you receive my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you seek for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding

Proverbs 2:1-6

 

I wonder if Socrates read Proverbs.  He sure seemed to when this story was penned about his understanding of wisdom. It goes like this:

A proud young man came to Socrates asking for knowledge and his wisdom. He walked up to the muscular philosopher and said, “O great Socrates, I come to you for wisdom.” Socrates recognized a pompous numbskull when he saw one.  He led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into water.  Then he asked, “What do you want?” 

Wisdom, O great Socrates,” said the young man with a smile. 

Socrates put his strong hands on the man’s shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. “What do you want?” he asked again. 

Wisdom,” the young man sputtered, “O great and wise Socrates.” 

Socrates crunched him under again.  Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five.  Forty; Socrates let him up.  The man was gasping. “What do you want, young man?” 

Between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, “Wisdom, O wonderful…” 

Socrates jammed him under again Forty seconds passed.  Fifty; “What do you want?” 

Air!” the young man screeched. “I need air!”

 Socrates responded: “When you want wisdom as you have just wanted air, then you will have wisdom.” 

I don’t know how many times, I have chosen other things (sometimes good things) over the better thing, wisdom.  If I do not monitor myself, I am prone to waste good time doing things that may not be helpful, useful or even kind.  It’s like gasping for air but asking for something more!

Honestly, sometimes I feel like kicking myself because I get caught up in peoples’ messes that I have no influence over.  The time I spend, often trying harder than they, is fruitless and in the end, I end up gasping with no more knowledge and understanding than when I began.  The truth is that I need Proverbs like chapter 2 to keep me turning to God!  The first six verses, especially, are like a prayer that any of us should pray often!  Some who live deeply seeking after God say that in order to be able to live a godly life, we must take these first six verses seriously:  Receive, Ask (listen), Seek!  These are the conditions of wisdom.  I love what Chris Tiegreen says: Modern hearer of the Word often hear so much truth with so little change in our lives.  We hear a sermon…or we read a Christian book, and even through the message may be powerful and true, we’ve often forgotten it within a matter of days or even hours.  Why?  One reason is that we don’t take the time to meditate on what we hear. (Walk with God, July 3)  If we receive into our being the wisdom of God and apply it to our heart we will not only do the things that are right, our character will change and we will live right more supernaturally  (I’m not sure any of us can live right naturally – according to our own abilities).  Paul tells us in Romans 10:10:  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.  To receive, ask, seek and gain knowledge plus understanding gives us the condition for wisdom.  Wisdom is a gift from God, He planted deep within us.   As we uncover the secrets of through our prayers, the scriptures and in study together; the wisdom that God has put in us will spill out of us like sweet honey in our lives and the lives of others! How much do you want wisdom?  Is it as much as you want air?

I sure love being your pastor!

 

Joy, joy

 


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