Sunday, January 30, 2011

Revelation 3 - Lukewarm

Revelation 3:14-22

The word lukewarm is an adjective meaning – tepid, not very warm, unenthusiastic, or half-hearted.
It holds the idea of being indifferent to the task at hand. Now imagine an indifferent church.

We are introduced to the word in Revelation 3:16 as part of Jesus' address to the church at Laodicea. The Lord says to this indifferent church, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.
I could wish that you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,
I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Rev. 3:15-16 NKJV).

This church, essentially, made Jesus sick.

What could cause such apathy and carelessness in a congregation that at one time was healthy (Col. 2:1; 4:13. 15-16)? What was it that cooled their zeal, and calmed their passion for the Lord?

The church at Laodicea was prosperous,; yet it was powerless. They, like many churches and believers alike, were self deluded by the appearance of success. By all outward appearances they looked: righteous, healthy, rich, and clothed with good works; but when the Jesus peeled back their external shell they were: wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.

No commendation was given by Christ, just condemnation, and a call to repent.

We can learn a lot from the Lord's sobering evaluation of the church at Laodicea as found in Revelation 3:14-22.

I. The Dynamic Christ (v.14)

And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,

"These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:". Ultimately, every one of us will stand before the Lord of the church (Jesus Christ) to give an account for our lives. He is the Supreme Judge of all creation and nothing will escape His attention. The Lord Jesus begins by reminding the lavish and lukewarm Laodiceans just Who was judging them. As this introduction seems more detailed than those to the other churches; I think it's a bad sign for a church that the Lord of salvation needs to explain exactly who he is.

A. He is Reliable (14a)

"These things says the Amen"

Amen is an interesting word, as it is not really translated from Hebrew. It is essentially just copied into Greek and finally into English. Translators do this when the word represents a novel concept that is really embodied by the original word, and not easily translated, or would lose some of its meaning in translation. We say "amen" to voice agreement with something that has been said, it is a witness to the firmness and reliability of the statement. In a similar figure of speech we might say "you better believe it". Here Jesus himself is called reliable, the One you had better believe.

B. The Genuine article (14b)

"the Faithful and True Witness"

Faithful means trustworthy, the one who will never let you down. True mean authentic, the implication is that this church had previously received some false witnesses, or false teachers. The best part is the word for witness gives us our word Martyr, one whose message was so crucial they would die to tell it.

C. The first cause (14c)

"the Beginning of the creation of God"

Some have tried to say "Beginning of the creation of God" means Jesus is not God and was himself created. But the word for Beginning tells of the cause or origin of creation, not the thing created. We can be sure of this since the author is John and he gave us a detailed view of Jesus as the creator in his gospel. John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by (or through) Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." Does that leave any doubt that Jesus is the fully divine creator?

II. The Deluded Church (vv.15-17)

15 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—"

A. Its sickening compromise (vv.15-16)

I would call this the "comfortable church" or the "satisfied church". This church would be in a nice area, they would have really comfortable seats, pleasing music, and encouraging sermons. You would not really need your Bible because if they used a Bible verse it would only be for a moment and they would even put it up on the screen for you. They would tell everyone that "God just wants them to be successful and happy". The sermon might be about "How to be a better man or woman" and say things like "get up early, be on time, smile, call people by name when you speak to them". This church had the kind of religion that accepts everyone and changes no one.

In his book "Crazy Love", Francis Chan speaks about this compromising mentality, "We disgust God when we compare Him against the things of this world. It makes Him sick when we actually decide those things are better for us than God Himself. We believe we don't need anything Jesus offers, but we fail to realize that slowly, almost imperceptibly, we are drifting downstream. And in the process we are becoming blind, being stripped naked, and turning into impoverished wretches" (p.97).

Do we value this world and its goods as much as God and His promises? Has the "American Dream" replaced God's plan for your life? Are you living your life in such a way that it simply makes earth a better place to go to hell from? Compromise is a subtle decision that will lead us down the path to complacency.

B. Its sickening complacency (v.17)

"You say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'"

The more a church or an individual believer compromises; the cloudier their discernment gets. They don't recognize their true condition. Compromise and complacency dulls their sensitivity to God's Spirit. Laodicea had everything a worldly church could desire. Influential men probably sat on their board; they would have a large membership (but a much smaller attendance), and a well-oiled administration that boasted every ministry program you could think of BUT… they were powerless.

Their self assessment was fatally flawed because it didn't match the Savior's. In fact, it was just the opposite. They were busying themselves doing the "work of God", but did not know the God of the work!

Jesus warned His disciples, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'
And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV)!'"

The Bible is very clear that we are saved NOT because we try to live by a certain creed or code of conduct. We are NOT saved because we attend a particular church on a regular basis. The only way that a person is saved is by grace, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

This churched loved the things of the world, gloried in the things they owned, and had no idea that they were spiritually bankrupt.

III. The Definite Choice (vv.18-19)

18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.

Will the church choose God's dealings in grace or His dealings in judgment?

A. Broke ("buy from me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich")

Luke 12:15 And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." 16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' 18 So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."' 20 But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' 21 "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

B. Naked ("and white garments, that you may be clothed")

Laodicea was known for producing fine cloth and tapestries made of black wool. For Jesus to describe them as "naked" and offer them "white garments" was a stark contrast of their self assessed condition. Listen to how John describes the true church of Jesus as they enter heaven:

Revelation 7:13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?" 14 And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

The words of a great hymn come to mind, "When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh may I then in Him be found. Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne" (The Solid Rock, by Edward Mote).

C. Blind ("and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see")

Blindness is a constant metaphor for the lost in Bible texts. Listen to Acts 26 as Paul retold his conversion story: 15 So I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'

Jesus healed the physically blind, but to many more he gave spiritual sight to see the light of the gospel.

IV. The Dual Challenge (vv.20-22)

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

I have always heard verse 20 as an open invitation for salvation and it is. But in context we see Jesus is speaking to a church that bears his name. Inside are the church members who are supposed to belong to him, but Jesus is shut out, they have changed the locks on the door. So he is pounding on the door saying "Let me in!". For them, Jesus is too radical, too controversial; preaching repentance would make people uncomfortable; his message is too-hot-to-handle.

Christ makes these promises to those who would open the door of their heart to Him.

"I will come into him" – Christ will never leave the true convert. (Matthew 28:20)

"and dine with him and he with Me" – True converts are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9)

When Jesus says "be zealous and repent", zealous describes someone who burns with passion for God. When the Holy Spirit was given to the church in Acts 2 its described as "tongues, as of fire". Jeremiah said God's word was "in my heart like a burning fire". So with a burning passion for God, the fire of the Holy Spirit, and the fire of God's word burning in our heart; can a true Christian be lukewarm?

Characteristics of the "Luke Warm" by Francis Chan:

1. LUKEWARM PEOPLE attend church fairly regularly. It is what is expected of them, what they believe, "Good Christians" do, so they go (Isa. 29:13).

2. LUKEWARM PEOPLE give money to charity and to the church…as long as it doesn't impinge on their standard of living. If they have a little extra and it is easy and safe to give, they do so. After all, God loves a cheerful giver, right (1 Chron. 21:24; Luke 21:1-4)?

3. LUKEWARM PEOPLE tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They desire to fit in both at church and outside of church; they care more about what people think of their actions (like church attendance and giving) than what God thinks of their hearts and lives.

4. LUKEWARD PEOPLE gauge their morality or "goodness" by comparing themselves to the secular world. They feel satisfied that while they aren't as hard-core for Jesus as so-and-so, they are nowhere as horrible as the guy down the street (Luke 18:11-12).

5. LUKEWARM PEOPLE say they love Jesus, and He is, indeed, a part of their lives; but only a part. They give Him a section of their time, their money, and their thoughts, but He isn't allowed to control their lives (Luke 9:57-62).

6. LUKEWARM PEOPLE love God, but they do not love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength. They would be quick to assure you that they try to love God that much, but that sort of devotion isn't really possible for the average person; it's only for pastors and missionaries and radicals (Matt. 22:37-38).

7. LUKEWARM PEOPLE love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves. Their love for others is typically focused on those who love them in return, like family, friends, and other people who they know and connect with. There is little love left over for those who cannot love them back, much less for those who intentionally slight them, whose kids are better athletes than theirs, or with whom conversations are awkward or uncomfortable. Their love is highly conditional and very selective, and generally comes with strings attached (Matt. 5:43-47; Luke 14:12-14).

8. LUKEWARM PEOPLE will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go or how much time, money, and energy they are willing to give (Luke 18:21-25).

9. LUKEWARM PEOPLE think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven. Daily life is mostly focused on today's to-do list, this week's schedule, and next month's vacation. Rarely, if ever, do they intently consider the life to come (Phil. 3:18-20; Col. 3:2).

10. LUKEWARM PEOPLE are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor. They are quick to point out, "Jesus never said money is the root of all evil, only that the love of money is." Untold numbers of lukewarm people feel "called" to minister to the rich; very few feel "called" to minister to the poor (Matt. 25:34, 40; Is. 58:6-7).

11. LUKEWARM PEOPLE do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty. They want to do the bare minimum, to be "good enough" without it requiring too much of them. They ask, "How far can I go before it's considered a sin?" Instead of "How can I keep myself pure as a temple of the Holy Spirit?" They ask, "How much do I have to give?" Instead of "How much can I give?" They ask, "How much time should I spend praying and reading my Bible?" Instead of "I wish I didn't have to go to work, so I could sit here and read longer" (1 Chron. 29:14; Matt. 13:44-46).

12. LUKEWARM PEOPLE are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God (1 Tim. 6:17-18; Matt. 10:28).

13. LUKEWARM PEOPLE feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized, come from a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in America. Just as the prophets in the Old Testament warned Israel that they were not safe just because they lived in the land of Israel, so we are not safe just because we wear the label Christian or because some people persist in calling us a "Christian nation" (Matt. 7:21; Amos 6:1).

14. LUKEWARM PEOPLE do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don't have to trust God if something unexpected happens – they have their savings account. They don't need God to help them – they have their retirement plan in place. They don't genuinely seek out what life God would have them live – they have life figured and mapped out. They don't depend on God on a daily basis – their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health. The truth is, their lives wouldn't look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God (Luke 12:16-21; Hebrews 11).

15. LUKEWARM PEOPLE probably drink and swear less than average, but besides that, they really aren't very different from your typical unbeliever. They equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness, but they couldn't be more wrong (Matt. 23:25-28; 2 Cor. 13:5).



Monday, January 24, 2011

Romans 5 – The Love of God

God's Love
Romans 5:5-8

I. Divine Love – Initiated by the Father

[For those reading "Crazy Love" who doesn't know it, you are reading a book of Theology. You are studying the character and attributes of God. The first theology book I read was back in college, a friend gave me a book by James P. Boyce (an old Southern Baptist leader) called "Abstract of Systematic Theology". Now I think its good marketing to call the Book "Crazy Love" instead of "Francis Chan's Systematic Theology", because more people would read the first than the second. Last week we saw the glory of God as revealed in creation. Today we look at the love of God.

The first mention I could find of God loving something in scripture is in Deuteronomy 7 speaking of Israel.

6 "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. 7
The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
9 "Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;

So the context given in the Bible for the love of God is in an act of grace. God's love was not extended because it was earned or deserved, but simply because God chose. Once Abraham was chosen, once God had promised, then his love was fully extended to Israel. Not for what they were, but for what God would bring about through them.]

"IN DUE TIME Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom. 5:6)

Romans 5:5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.  6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

God decided when and how to demonstrate His divine love. He was and is the Initiator.
He initiated: creation, Noah's deliverance, Abraham's call, Israel's exodus, Christ's birth, death, and resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the growth and expansion of the church, and our salvation – all of it!

  1. Can we see the love of God in creation?

We exist because God chose to create us ("Let us make man" – Gen.1:26). Now think about this Revelation 13:8 says that the Lamb of God was slain from the foundation of the world. John 1 tells us that all things were made by Christ, the Word, and second person of the trinity. The implication is that God made us knowing, that our creation would lead to the suffering Christ endured for our salvation. Redemption was always Gods plan.

Ephesians 1:3-6 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him IN LOVE,
having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved

"We love Him because HE FIRST LOVED us" (1 John 4:19 NKJV).

When trying to comprehend God's Divine Love it's important to realize that it is INITIATED by Him. He doesn't respond to our expression, we respond to His expression. God's love is ACTIVE not reactive. His love is UNCONDITIONAL, not conditional. It is not only redemptive, it is preemptive! God loves us before we deserve it and even before we discover it!

Man is God's most cherished creation! We were made in His image, fashioned by His hands, brought to life by His breath (Gen. 2:7).


Even our materialistic world understands the value of fine craftsmanship. They recognize that when a product is especially designed and built personally by a master craftsman that it has far greater value that an assembly line product. For example, you can purchase an "assembly line" Stradivarius violin, for about $1,200. But to purchase the original one made by Stradivarius himself, you would need to come up with around $1,500,000!


Ephesians 2:10 tells us that, "WE are HIS WORKMANSHIP, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (NKJV).


The One Who spoke all things into existence, reached down, got His hands dirty, and formed man into His own image! Not only that, but He also breathed into his nostrils the breath of life! God created man to know Him and worship Him. He made us to live in relationship with Himself.


God's divine love is a Creator's love.

It is also …


B. A Friend's Love


God created Adam and Eve, placed them in the garden, then walked and talked with them in perfect fellowship (Gen. 3:8).


This fellowship was broken by mans fall into sin; but Jesus spoke of this "Divine Friendship love" that would soon be displayed at the cross, "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. GREATER LOVE HAS NO ONE THAN THIS, THAN TO LAY ONE'S LIFE DOWN FOR HIS FRIENDS. YOU ARE MY FRIENDS if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; BUT I HAVE CALLED YOU FRIENDS, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you" John 15:12-15 (NKJV).

In Proverbs 18:24 the Spirit of God through Solomon mentions a "friend that sticks closer than any brother." Jesus, is that kind of Friend who has promised, "I will NEVER leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). His "Friendship love" is not fickle and will not falter or fail. God's love will last forever!

The love that you have for your nearest, dearest, and most trusted friend pales in comparison to God's love for you!

Not only is the Divine love that is initiated by the Father a Creator's Love and a Friend's Love, but it is also…


C. A Father's Love


Mark Driscoll, pastor of one of the largest churches in the country says that:

"God is a loving Father. His children start with his affection. They don't earn it. They start with it."

For some, envisioning God as a loving Father is difficult because their earthly father was absent or ambivalent. If this is the case for you, I encourage you to rebuild that fatherly image that has been so carelessly crushed with what the Bible says about God as Father:


He is faithful – Duet. 7:9

He is true – 2 Sam. 7:28

He is strong – 1 Cor. 1:25

He is compassionate – James 5:11
He provides for His own – Matt. 7:11 / Phil. 4:19

He teaches us what we need to know – James 1:5
He is patient – Neh. 9:30
He is just – Psalm 7:11
He disciplines with love – Prov. 3:12
He is merciful – 2 Chron. 30:9

He is gracious – Neh. 9:17


God is the perfect Father and He loves us with a fatherly love! In the areas where your earthly father was deficient, God is all-sufficient. In the areas where your father was strong, God is supreme!

God's love is not only a divine love initiated by the Father, but it is also a…


II. Displayed Love – Demonstrated by the Son

Romans 5:7-8 "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us".

The highest expression of human love is when someone gives his or her life so that another person can continue to live. People are able to understand sacrificial love, even though it is rarely practiced. This kind of sacrificial gesture is almost always dependent on a relationship that already exists between the one sacrificing (parent, sibling, spouse, fellow soldier) and the one benefited. Even so, people do not readily die for others. But God's love stands in stark contrast to even the deepest expression of human love because God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS.

Christ's death is the truest demonstration of God's love for us. While we were rebellious and despicable, Christ died for us so that we could come to God, find peace with him, and become heirs of his promises. Christ did not die so that we could be made lovable; Christ died because God already loved us and wanted to bring us close to himself.


Jesus died for those "without strength", "ungodly" – Rom. 5:6, and even those who are His "enemies" – Ephesians 2:2.


There are only a few individuals that I would gladly die for. I would die for them because I love them, and they love me.


But who would die for an individual, a city, or a country that despised, resisted, and rejected them? Who among you would reach out to people who had spit in your face, wasted your resources, taken credit for all of your hard work, drug your name through the mud, and killed the ones you sent with a message of peace?


It was for these people that God demonstrated His love. "God SO LOVED the world that He gave us His only Son"… to be mocked, criticized, brutalized, whipped, pierced, and crucified "so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life"!


Jesus on the cross displays the unlimited nature of divine love! Yet for some it is still unbelievable.

It is unbelievable because "it is veiled to those who are perishing,
whose minds the god of this age (Satan) has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NKJV).

"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV).

How is it that the believer in Christ can begin to grasp God's great love?
The answer to that question is found in verse 5 of Romans chapter 5, "the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

Here we discover that God's love is not only a divine love – initiated by the Father, and a displayed love – demonstrated by the Son, but also it is a…


III. Delivered Love – Imparted by the Spirit

An amazing thing happens when we (by God's grace) place our faith in Jesus Christ! The Holy Spirit of God takes up residence in us and fills us with His love!

Love is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), it is the call of God (Mark 12:30), and the collective need of the world (Matt. 5:44)! Love is the greatest lasting legacy that we leave from our lives (I Cor. 13:13)!

This supernatural love that is imparted by the Holy Spirit is described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails" (NKJV).

No natural man can manifest this kind of love; it must be delivered by the Spirit of God.

In John 13:34, Jesus commanded his followers to love one another AS HE HAS LOVED US. This would be an impossible request were it not for the fact that the Holy Spirit supplies what we need to obey Jesus' command.

Jesus, then goes on to say in the next verse, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35 NKJV). So, the love that is delivered into our hearts by God's Spirit also designates us as followers of Jesus. Love is the sign to the world that we belong to God!

God's love "poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit": ensures us of our salvation (2 Cor. 1:22), enables our spiritual obedience (John 14:21), and endears us to our Supernatural Father (Rom. 8:15).

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He instructed them to address God as "Our Father" (Luke 11:1). In Romans 8:15 the apostle Paul writes that, as believers, we have "received the Spirit of adoption by Whom we cry out 'Abba, Father'" (NKJV). "Abba" is an informal Aramaic term for father that conveys a sense of intimacy. Like the English terms "Daddy" or "Papa", it connotes tenderness, dependence, and a relationship free of fear and worry.

It's overwhelming to think that when we are saved, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we become a part of the family of God! We now know the Creator and Sustainer of all things as "Dad"! Not because we are irreverent, or uninformed of proper theology but because He wants us to! God wants us to understand that His love for us is like that of a perfect father who cares for His children. Only the Spirit of God in us can help us begin to understand that awesome truth.

Jesus explained God's great Fatherly love in His teaching (though few understood it), "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, HOW MUCH MORE will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him(Matthew 7:7-11 NKJV)!

[Notice that God does not give us every "want", but as a loving Father he gives us that things that are "good" for us. Some things are like medicine in that we as children don't look past the "bad taste" to see these things are good for us. But if we are patient, we will see them as good. (Rom. 8:28)

Remember the words of this hymn?

Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky!

Oh love of God how rich and pure, how measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure, the saints and angels song!

Are you persuaded that nothing you could ever do would make God love you more? Are you convinced that nothing you could ever do would make God love you less? The apostle Paul was.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he wrote in Romans 8:35-39, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors THROUGH HIM WHO LOVED US. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (NKJV).

"BEHOLD WHAT MANNER OF LOVE the Father has bestowed upon us,
that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1). People misuse the idea of a loving God to claim there will be no judgment for the unredeemed. But as part of God's grace, you cannot claim God's love, until you acknowledge we all stand condemned in His judgment. Only in His grace, can we receive the atoning gift of Jesus through faith in him; never as anything we can earn or deserve.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Psalm 19 – How Big is Your God?

Psalm 19:1-6

How Big is Your God?

Arno Penzais was PhD physicist working for Bell Labs in New Jersey in the early 60's with Robert Wilson to make an ultra sensitive microwave antenna for astronomical observations. In 1964 when testing the new device they detected radio "noise" which they could not explain. After eliminating every explanation and fine tuning their antenna to eliminate local radio interference, they concluded that the "noise" was real microwave radiation from the deepest darkest parts of space. This cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR), confirming some of Einstein's theories, was the leftover energy from the Cosmic Creation Event (CCE) more commonly called the Big Bang. This evidence shifted the scientific view from that of a self existent eternal universe, to a temporal one with a definite beginning and a transcendent cause just like the one described in the Bible

The psalmist David was familiar with the sky. Growing up as a shepherd on the Bethlehem hills he had gazed at it often enough. The blazing sun by day and the beautiful stars by night were constant companions of the one who penned the nineteenth Psalm. The circumstances of David's life took him from the fields of Bethlehem, to caves (hiding from Saul); from battlefields, to the roof-top of a palace. When the circumstances and settings of David's life had changed, the stars and sun remained the same. They were (and are) an unmistakable, untiring, and understandable witness of the glory of God!

I. An Unmistakable Witness (v.1)
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork."

The heavens are God's oldest testament. They witnessed the creation and fall of man, Abraham's call, the exodus, the rise and fall of kingdoms, the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ; every human being that has ever existed on planet earth has lived beneath them! They guide our travel and point us beyond to the One Who is the Source and Sustainer of all things.

The "heavens" space, time, matter and energy, were created on the first day of creation (Gen. 1:1). The first celestial bodies that existed in the firmament called the heavens (sun, moon, and stars) were created by God on the fourth day of creation (Gen. 1:14-19). God made them "for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth" (Gen.1:14&15).

It takes only a moment gazing at these "signs in the sky" to realize just how small we are and how big God must be! If you ever find yourself doubting God's sovereign wisdom or immeasurable power, look up!

People have always been fascinated by the stars and many have tried to count them. When God promised Abraham that he would have innumerable descendants, He drew a striking comparison: "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them…so shall your descendents be" (Gen. 15:5 NKJV).

The total number of individual stars that are VISIBLE in both the northern and the southern celestial hemispheres is about 6,000. So, on a clear night one can see at most 3,000 stars at the same time (try and count them sometime).

With the advent of telescopes, a lot of previously unknown stars were discovered. Galileo (1564–1642), using his homemade telescope, saw a ten-fold increase in the number of visible stars, up to 30,000. Today, the local Milky Way galaxy (of which our sun is a part) is thought to contain between and 200 and 400 billion stars. All of the individual stars you can see in the night sky are just from our one galaxy.

Not only does the Milky Way contain an unimaginable number of stars, but the size of it is also astounding. Its diameter is said to be 100,000 light-years! Astronomical distances are too large to be measured in miles, so light-years are used instead. One light-year is the distance that a light ray travels in one year, at a speed of 186,000 miles per second Can we really grasp such an immense size? And this is not the only galaxy. With the naked eye we can see three more, namely the two Clouds of Magellan near the southern celestial pole, and the Andromeda galaxy in the constellation of the same name. The Andromeda galaxy is thought to be 2.25 million light-years from us (R. Humphreys, Starlight and Time)!

Numerous other galaxies have been discovered by means of the prolonged exposure of photographic plates. The total number of galaxies is probably around 100 billion, based on the observable universe, but could be as many as one trillion.

The total number of stars in the observable universe is estimated to be between 100 billion trillion (or Sextillion 1021) and One trillion trillion (or Septillion 1024). The most recent estimate based on the discovery of more red dwarf stars in elliptical galaxies, puts the number at 300 Sextillion.

What does the Bible say about the number of stars? Jeremiah writes: "As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David My servant" (Jer. 33:22 NKJV). Even though he lived before the age of telescopes Jeremiah turned out to be an amazing astronomer and cosmologist. He knew the laws of physics were fixed and unchangeable (Jer. 33:25) and that the universe was ever expanding (Jer. 31:37)

Isaiah also spoke of an expanding universe (Is. 40:22) and wrote that God's thoughts and ways are far higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8–9). Not only are His thoughts higher than ours, His abilities are far superior. He can actually count the stars! And He has done exactly that; He even gave each one a name: '"He counts the number of the stars; He calls them by name" (Psalm 147:4 NKJV). The very next verse emphasizes His greatness: "Great is our Lord, and mighty in power!"

The heavens are an unmistakable witness of the glory of God, yet He is concerned about each and every human being. This is clearly expressed in Psalms 8:3-6, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet" (NKJV).

II. An Untiring Witness (v.2)
"Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge"

As far as man is concerned, the sun and the stars have always been there; and they never get tired declaring by their existence, "We were made by the hand of God!" Man's energy fails and his witness fades but the testimony of the heavens marches unmistakably and untiringly through time!

The sun and the stars are essentially hot and burning fires with massive stores of energy to consume. Our sun, for instance, which is only a star of moderate temperature, brightness, and size, is a giant powerhouse of ceaseless energy, a huge ball of very hot hydrogen fired by an extremely complicated chain of events. Astronomers report that the sun is capable of burning for billions of years without noticeable reduction of heat or mass, in fact the way Hydrogen fusion works stars actually grow in volume and burn hotter the older they get. What that means is that in less than a billion years the sun will expand to the point where its circumference will be larger than the earth's orbit, and it will literally swallow and dissolve our rocky planet, just like it says in 2 Peter 3:11-12

Every morning, the sun shouts the sovereign hand of God; every evening the stars share a glimpse of His glory. In Psalms 113:3 David expressed, "From the rising of the sun to its going down The Lord's name is to be praised" (NKJV). He goes on to say in verses 4-6, "The Lord is high above all nations, His glory is above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and the earth?"

The next time you see a blazing sunrise, that paints the sky will glorious color, realize that God's glory is ABOVE the heavens; so much so that He has to figuratively HUMBLE Himself (stoop down) to behold what leaves us standing in awe! The next time you look at the night sky, with the glowing moon and twinkling stars, remember the One Who cast them into space and named them for His pleasure.

Not only are the heavens an unmistakable and untiring witness of God's glory but they are also…

III. An Understandable Witness (vv.3-6)
"There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world."

Some scholars have had trouble with verses 3&4 of this passage. In the King James Version three words are in italics, signifying that they have been supplied by the translators and are not in the original text. They were inserted to help bridge the gap between the Hebrew and the English languages: "There is
no speech nor language where their voice is not heard." Strip off these three words and you get a different sense of the original Hebrew text. Instead of a positive statement you get three negative statements: "No speech! No language! Their voice is not heard!" What we know as sound is made by energy waves that vibrate the air. That means in the space around stars and even planets which have no atmosphere there is complete silence. Even astronauts on the moon have been struck by the silence where they can only hear what is in the false atmosphere of their own space suit. Of course David has no knowledge of outer space or atmosphere, yet by the Holy Spirit he testifies that the heavens have a "silent witness" testifying to the glory of God, and giving us knowledge about his power and eternity.

The apostle Paul spoke of creation's understandable witness in Romans 1:18-21, "For the wrath of God is REVEALED FROM HEAVEN against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (NKJV).

All of mankind will stand before God "without excuse" because of the unmistakable, untiring, and understandable witness of the heavens!

In Psalm 19:1-6 David is elated by God's revelation of Himself in the sky. But there's an even greater revelation. The stars have their place, but in Genesis 1 God dismissed the creation of all the suns and stars and galaxies of space in five short words, "He made the stars, also." We have an even greater revelation of God's glory – His Word – the Scriptures!

The witness of the stars tells us about God's power, sovereignty, and eternity, but if we are to ever know God Himself – what He is like in nature, person, and personality – then we must discover that through His spoken Word. The stars say, "God is almighty, He is eternal, He is omniscient, He is a God of infinite order and immeasurable power". The Scriptures tell us "God is a Person who loves and feels, Who knows and cares and rules". In verse 7 of Psalm 19 David turns from the skies to the Scriptures; he shifts his focus from what God has wrought to what God has written. God's Word speaks to life's greatest areas of need. It speaks with more authority and with greater insight than any social scientist or behavioral psychologist, the materialistic philosopher or the world's religious systems. It speaks the voice of God!

If you want to see the glory of God look up to the inspiring sky, but don't stop there; look down into His infallible Word! "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul" (Psalm 19:7).

This God, Whose glory is above the heavens, has revealed Himself to us in His Word. The Bible in your lap contains the character and majesty, the composed mystery, of God!

I opened with the story of Arno Penzais and his discovery which won him the Nobel Prize for Science in 1978. Listen to what he says about the origin of the universe. "The best data we have concerning the Big Bang, are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the 5 books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole." Arno Penzais has obviously learned from both of God's books; the book of Nature, and the Holy Scripture. Look at the picture of his discovery . This is the artifact of Genesis 1:1, God's creation, God's fingerprint. If this is God's fingerprint, how big is your God?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Acts 28 – Ministry from Malta to Rome

Acts 28

Paul's Ministry on Malta

Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta. 2 And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold. 3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid
on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live." 5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.

[Supernatural events demonstrate that there is something beyond the natural world. Throughout the Bible God has used supernatural events or Miracles, to get our attention and to signify they He was actively involved in the life of a man or group of men. In the study of nature, you will find God, if you just follow the evidence (Romans 1:20). Because nature is not self existent or eternal it requires an agent outside of itself, which is both of those things; and that outside agent, is God.

Paul meets the residents of Malta along with 275 shipmates. These people shared the common superstition of the day that "bad things happen to bad people". First Paul is shipwrecked then snake bit. To the natives of the island, this is proof of his guilt. They fully expect Paul to fall down dead after he is bitten, but God intervenes. Without the correct theology, they interpret the supernatural event to mean that Paul is a god, rather than a child and minister of the living God! If you look at a map of Malta you will find nearly all the major landmarks named after apostles, which means the apostles had a chance to change the theology on that Island.]

In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. 8 And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. 9 So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed. 10 They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary.

[There is an illness called Malta fever common to those islands, linked to bacteria in the native goats milk, without modern medicine the infection could last months or even years. Publius learns of Paul's abilities through the power of the Holy Spirit, and asks Paul to heal his father which he does through praying and laying hands on the sick father. After that became well known Paul ministered to the sick for the rest of the winter on Malta.


By the time they leave Malta Paul was admired by the Islanders and they provided for Paul and his companions.]

Arrival at Rome

After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. 12 And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. 13 From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, 14 where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome.

[After 3 months on Malta and at the beginning of spring they found anther Alexandrian ship, that had harbored before the winter storms. The "Twin Brothers" – refers to Castor and Pollux the mythological sons of Zeus, this was a good-luck-charm for Roman sailors , represented in astrology as the constellation Gemini and also by St. Elmo's fire, an ionization of the atmosphere sometimes visible at night from storms in the distance.


They sailed the 60 miles to Syracuse on Sicily, then to Rhegium at the tip of Italy, finally to Puteoli which is modern day Possouli near Pompeii. Here they stayed a week with "brethren" or fellow Jewish believers before going to Rome.]


15 And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.

Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.

[We have no record of any apostles being here before Paul, so where did these people hear the gospel? As early as Acts 2 and the day of Pentecost it lists "visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes" among those who heard Peter preach. Also in Acts 18 when Claudius Caesar evicted Jews from Rome, they went to places like Athens, and Macedonia where Paul was preaching. When news of Paul's arrival reached the brethren they traveled to meet Paul on his way to Rome. Finally in Rome Paul was again held under house arrest with just one guard.]

Paul's Ministry at Rome

And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: "Men
brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to let
go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. 19 But when the Jews (rulers or Jewish leaders) spoke against
, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see
and speak with
, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain."

[Paul's desire to see Rome was not for the scenery or the local culture; Paul wanted to witness, to share the gospel with the Jews and Gentiles in Rome.]


Then they said to him, "We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere."

[The Jewish leaders in Rome didn't know much about Paul, but whenever they traveled they would hear from the Pharisees of Jerusalem, that they should stay away from Jesus followers. They thought of "The Way" as a sect of Judaism, but the Jews in Rome wanted to hear about Jesus in more detail, and Paul would happily teach them.]

So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at
lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.

[Paul taught from morning until evening showing from the Law and the Prophets that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah. As usual some would believe, but not all.]

25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: "The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 26 saying,

      ' Go to this people and say:

      " Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
      And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.

      Their ears are hard of hearing,
      And their eyes they have closed,
      Lest they should see with
eyes and hear with
      Lest they should understand with
hearts and turn,
      So that I should heal them."'
(Isaiah 6:9-10)

[Paul quotes from Isaiah his understanding of why there are always those who doubt. Not everyone who hears really listens; not everyone who listens understands; not everyone who understands is willing to repent and believe to turn to Jesus.

In Matthew 7 Jesus said "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (v. 13-14)]

28 "Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!" 29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.
30 Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, 31
preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

[Here for two years Paul did what all of us are supposed to do; share Jesus with all those who come to us. It is probably not possible to overstate the importance of Paul's ministry in Rome, toward sharing the gospel with the whole world.

During his imprisonment here he wrote four "Prison Epistles" Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. It is generally believed that Paul was eventually released by the Romans, and he visited Spain and Crete. There are references to these places in his letters, even though they are not mentioned in Acts (Romans 15:24, Titus 1:5).

In 64 AD much of Rome was burned by an unexplained fire. Contrary to popular legend Nero did not "fiddle" (or play the Lyre) while Rome burned. He did however blame the fire on Christians. The Historian Tacitus wrote that "Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians".

Christian and secular writings from the 1st and 2nd century tell us that during this persecution, Paul was re-arrested, and in 67 AD the Emperor Nero tried to end Christianity by executing both Paul and Peter; Paul was beheaded, and Peter was crucified upside down.

Christians in the Roman Empire faced periods of persecution for the next 246 years until the Edict of Milan made religious tolerance the official policy of the empire, and Constantine would be the first Emperor to personally profess Christianity.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Acts 27 – Paul’s Perilous Journey

Acts 27

[Remember Paul was mobbed and beaten then arrested by Claudius Lysias in Jerusalem, nearly torn apart in the council; then sent to Caesarea because of a murder conspiracy to be judged by Felix, Festus and Herod Agrippa. Appealing to Caesar to avoid being sent back to Jerusalem where assassins waited, Paul is to be transported to Rome.]

The Voyage to Rome Begins

1 And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment. 2 So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us.

[You will notice the "we" in verse 1 means that Luke has joined with Paul for his journey to Rome. Paul also has Aristarchus a Macedonian who had traveled with Paul in Acts 19 and 20 as part of Paul's roving seminary class. This is odd for us to understand, but in a time where prisoners were not well cared for Paul is often allowed to have companions who provide for him. Adramyttium is the Latin name for a port town near Troas in Asia Minor, though they board the ship in Caesarea, its home port is Adramyttium. Since they stay near the shore traveling up the coast; this is probably not a large boat suited for the open water.]

3 And the next day we landed at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care. 4 When we had put to sea from there, we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.

[Sidon is a fishing town along the southern coast of Lebanon. Here again we see Paul's imprisonment is treated like a house arrest; because he is allowed to stay with friends at Sidon, no doubt these are brethren that Paul encountered on his previous travels. We begin to see here that it was not a good time of the year for travel, and the winds turn against them so they try to use the island of Cyprus to stay out of the heavy winds.]

5 And when we had sailed over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy, and he put us on board.

[Myra of Lycia, is a part of modern day Turkey and was also home to a 4th century Bishop named Nicholas of Myra, or later Saint Nicholas, and it is his good works that inspired the legend of Santa Claus. Here they board a larger ship suitable to the trip to Italy.]

7 When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone. 8 Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.

Paul's Warning Ignored

9 Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, "Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives." 11 Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there.

[They try to sail around the isle of Crete but the weather is against them and the make very little progress. Fair Havens is too small a harbor to spend the winter, so the sailors want to try for Phoenix a better port. The "Fast" mentioned in verse 9 is part of the Day of Atonement, so this is late fall or early winter. Most of the wooden sailing ships would not travel much during the winter months because of the bad weather; and Paul feared that it was too dangerous to sail on this late in the year.]

In the Tempest

13 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. 14 But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. 15 So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. 16 And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. 17 When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands , they struck sail and so were driven. 18 And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. 19 On the third day we threw the ship's tackle overboard with our own hands. 20 Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us , all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.

[The Euroclydon is a northeastern storm wind also called a "Gregale"; this wind drove them from the cover of Crete out to sea. They made several attempts to weather the ship by drawing up the skiff, cinching cables around the hull of the ship for strength, and dropping the sail, making it harder for the wind to overturn the ship. The "Syrtis Sands" are shoals and sand bars off the coast of North Africa where many ships wrecked. They lightened the ship by purging all the spare ropes, sails, rigging, and tools. Then in verse 20 we see the wind, darkness, and waves, caused them to lose all hope.]

21 But after long abstinence from 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. 22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.' 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island."

[I often wonder how godless people respond when circumstances are hopeless. Paul uses the gift of prayer to petition God for the lives of his shipmates. Then an Angel appeared to Paul and told him he must see Caesar. If you remember back in Acts 23 when Paul was almost killed at the Sanhedrin Council verse 11 said "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." So the Angel was just confirming what Jesus had already promised; Paul would see Rome, but the ship would be wrecked.]

27 Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea , about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land. 28 And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms. 29 Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved." 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off.

[A fathom varied in length but it's about 2 yards. So they sea was getting more shallow, they were nearing land but without knowing the area it would be hard to land the ship without wrecking it. They drop anchors from the back of the boat to slow it down from being driven on the rocks, and prayed for daylight so they could see the shore. Some of the sailors try to sneak off in the skiff, but the soldiers cut it away.]

33 And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you." 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat. 36 Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves. 37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship. 38 So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea.

[Often people living with despair neglect the necessary things like food. Paul had already encouraged them with his prophecy of survival, now he encourages them to eat and strengthen themselves physically. We get an idea of how large the ship was by seeing that it held 276 people. After eating they lighten the ship more by throwing out the rest of the wheat.]

Shipwrecked on Malta

39 When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible. 40 And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore. 41 But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves.

[They cut the anchor lines, and raised the sails to try and reach the beach within the bay but they hit a sandbar that separated the inner bay from the outer sea. With the ship grounded, the waves start breaking it apart.]

42 And the soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, 44 and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.

[As we saw in Acts chapters 12 and 16 soldiers guarding prisoners would be responsible if they were to escape. These soldiers would protect themselves by killing all the prisoners, but the Centurion Julius vetoed that plan in order to protect Paul. So the proficient swimmers went first followed by those who floated on pieces of the broken ship, and they all make it to shore. Chapter 28 tells us they had found the island of Melita which we know to be the modern island of Malta. On the Northeastern side of the island you find St. Paul's bay the place where the Alexandrian ship is believed to have grounded. Oddly enough Malta is about 60 miles from Sicily, so even being blown around the sea for two weeks did not take them very far from their intended destination.

Compare this to the disciples crossing the sea of Galilee in that little fishing boat when a storm blew them around, and they feared they would perish, before Jesus calmed the storm. Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith, because, much like Paul, the Lord told them where they would go. Even the 12 chosen disciples at that point lacked the faith and maturity to trust the Lord through the storm. This year I hope we stop viewing "Christian" as just an improved version of "me", and realize the spirit filled man is very different in attitude and action especially when the storms of life blow us around.