IMMEDIATELY

IMMEDIATELY

Acts 22:29 “Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realised that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.”

Again Luke uses the word ‘immediately’ which he has used on over 10 other occasions in his book. Though we have to be balanced and realise that life doesn’t always go the way we want it to, I still believe that God can do exceedingly abundantly above all things and do them immediately.

I believe healing can be immediate:

  • Acts 9:18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptised,
  • Acts 9:34 ‘Aeneas,’ Peter said to him, ‘Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.’ ImmediatelyAeneas got up.

 

I believe judgment can be immediate:

 

  • Acts 12:23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
  • Acts 13:11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.’ Immediatelymist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.

 

I believe there are times we should act immediately:

 

  • Acts 10:33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.’
  • Acts 16:33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediatelyhe and all his household were baptised.
  • Acts 17:14 The believers immediatelysent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea.

 

I believe there are times when God commands us to act immediately:

 

  • Acts 22:18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. “Quick!” he said. “Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.”

 

I believe those who are against us can react with immediacy:

 

  • Acts 21:30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediatelythe gates were shut.

 

 

I believe that as immediate as those against us can be then they can also change their actions immediately.

 

  • Acts 22:29 Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realised that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.

 

Often we cannot force the immediately and we spend long seasons in the gradual, but it doesn’t stop us believing that today could be a day of immediate miracles, immediate victory, immediate advancement, immediate obedience, immediate attack but also immediate turnaround!

We do serve a God of the immediate!!

 

Not by bribe, but by birth.

Not by bribe, but by birth.

Acts 22:28 “Then the commander said, ‘I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.’ ‘But I was born a citizen,’ Paul replied.”

Roman citizenship could not be purchased openly for anyone so long as they had the money. So how did the commander purchase his? Presumably by paying a bribe and an expensive one too was how he became a citizen.

The story of Paul’s family is speculative and mostly a mystery. But Paul says he was born a Roman citizen. How a Jewish family had become Roman citizens would be a good read if it was possible. Nevertheless that story meant that Paul was privileged.

Here we have two men side by side, each a Roman citizen:

  • One man through manipulation, deceit and dishonest gain.
  • One man through the life story of his father.

I recall a man who attended my church telling me how he rose to the high levels of his career through lying on his cv. That confession answered so many more questions I had about his character.

Better to be at a low level in your career than obtaining it by deception.

Better to not have any privileges than to have gained them through persuasion.

You cannot buy your birth. You cannot manipulate what colour, culture or even creed you will be born into. It is the work of your parentage.

Remember you are a citizen of heaven, you gained this not by bribe but by birth, it was given to you, a grace gift, all because your Father in heaven loves you.

Our lifestyle should replicate such grace. There should be no bribery, trying to get what we don’t have, this is not our identity or heritage. We are people of birth, new birth, we know who we are and who we belong to. We also know that our birth was free but it cost far more than any bribe. It cost Jesus his life.

 

YES I AM

YES I AM

Acts 22:27 “The commander went to Paul and asked, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?’ ‘Yes, I am,’ he answered.”

The commander needed to hear it from Pauls own lips. Having had Paul bound and ready to be flogged he was told at the last moment that Paul had announced his Roman citizenship, making the flogging illegal.

So he needed to hear Paul declare it for himself.

Who are you? Are you a citizen of heaven? Is God your God?

Throughout the Bible story you have questions like this.

Sometimes they are innocent questions simply in order to ascertain the truth. But others are more malicious in order to cause doubt, especially those questions raised by the father of lies.

“‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?” (Genesis 3) was a question to Eve regarding her identity with the whole aim of stealing it from her.

“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4) though not a question was certainly asked in order to bring doubt to Jesus regarding his identity.

In every circumstance of life that becomes a challenge to you then there will be a question posed about your identity in some roundabout way.

Are you really a Christian? Do you really belong to God? Are you really a citizen of heaven?

We need today in all situations to declare very loudly what Paul proclaimed, “YES I AM!”

 

 

 

The enemy of your life never has the last word!

The enemy of your life never has the last word!

Acts 22:26 “When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. ‘What are you going to do?’ he asked. ‘This man is a Roman citizen.’”

Paul wrote to the Philippians saying, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (3:20)

Paul knew he had a citizenship higher than his Roman one.

Bound and stretched across a pole minutes away from his own torture he reveals his Roman citizenship. It sends the soldiers into disarray. “What are you going to do?” the commander is asked. Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. There are many who are bound and stretched in a variety of ways across the world. This world is smaller today than it has ever been. Every nation reachable within hours and yet those who are pressed down today they can feel like they are the furthest point from earth. All that they have and actually perhaps what has got them into their predicament in the first place is their citizenship in heaven. But this is the most important thing and not just for them but for all of us who are Christ followers.

The powerful truth of our eternal citizenship is effective when we know it and live our lives so the enemy knows it too.

Two years ago I met a rape-survivor of over 60 rapes abducted for 5 weeks from her home within a current African civil war. This lady had everything taken from her and also lost her husband and children. She had nothing. But I will forever remember as she joyfully told me that the one thing the enemy will never take from her life is her eternity.

What can the enemy do when you declare who you are in God and your security in Him? They can take everything but they cannot destroy you. You always live. You always have the last word. You may die but you will live.

 

 

Rights and privileges

Rights and privileges

Acts 22:25 “As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, ‘Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”

Paul had rights and privileges as a Roman citizen.

The right to vote and stand for public office.

The right to make legal contracts.

The right to hold property.

The right to immunity from some taxes.

The right to request Caesar hear their court case.

The right not to be tortured or whipped or receive the death penalty, unless they were guilty of treason.

It is this last right that is important for this verse today.

I am amazed how Paul seems to wait till the last moment to reveal his citizenship. He could have done it when the soldiers had first come down into the city to rescue him from the marauding crowds. “I am a Roman citizen, get me out of here!”

Paul hides his citizenship from the Jews, in fact he says “I am a Jew”, he hides his Roman citizenship because he wants to win them over.

He hides his citizenship until they have stretched him out across a pillar to be whipped and tortured. “Is it legal?” of course he knows it is not, he is giving them information of who he is.

  • Your rights and privileges may become a stumbling block to some, so hide them.
  • Your rights and privileges are there not for luxurious living per se, but to sustain you in the mission and others too.
  • The ultimate price which is what Jesus paid is when you forgo completely your rights and privileges for the cause of love.

 

 

Just because

Just because …

Acts 22: 24 “…the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this.”

‘If it doesn’t rain it pours’, so says the English proverb. The whole crowd are shouting themselves into a frenzied anger and now the commander wants Paul flogged and interrogated.

At first it looks like the commander is protecting Paul by bringing him inside. But it soon materialises that is not the case.

The commander, suspicious that Paul may have been a terrorist and about to lead a rebellion could have simply asked the crowd why they were shouting. But no, he wanted to use his own style of finding out the truth.

Just because you are taken away from trouble doesn’t mean you are safe.

Just because there is an order to harm you doesn’t mean it will take place.

Just because the majority believe and behave in the same way doesn’t mean they are right.

Whatever is before you today, you don’t have to accept it or acknowledge it. Just because it is there doesn’t mean it is the right thing.

Keep on eating Greggs sausage rolls

Keep on eating Greggs sausage rolls

Acts 22:23  “As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air…”

So in the UK we have a bakery called Greggs and they have just caused an outcry from the Church because in order to promote their business they produced a Christmas advert. However, the advert replaces Jesus in the crib with a sausage roll (for my international friends, tasting one of these treats is divine, it is a sausage in a pastry roll, sausage roll).

The UK Evangelical Alliance said it was “not too outraged” about the Greggs nativity scene, but that it does raise issues of companies using the Bible story to sell products.

“Every year some company creates a Christmas controversy for commercial gain. It seems to get earlier each year,” says Daniel Webster, spokesperson for the organisation.

He says Jesus is what should be the focus of Christmas celebrations, not advent calendars and marketing to sell sausage rolls.

“That’s the scandal that should be talked about this Christmas, not processed outrage to sell processed food.”

I am very sure that if Greggs had used another faith festival to throw a sausage roll into a sacred scene there would have been an outrage. So well done UKEA for showing how to object and complain without losing your head.

When was the last time you got angry? I mean really angry. When you threw something to the other side of the room or you hit something or you hurled your arms in the air clenching your fists or you swore, you might be thinking I know too many reactionary responses!

What was it all about? Did it help?

Paul had said God had called him to the Gentiles. The crowd were now convinced that the rumour he had taken a Gentile into the temple was true. They were wrong, but they didn’t know that. Shouting, throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust in the air may not be what your cultural response would be. But we understand the response all too well. It may be an indication of what they were wanting to do to Paul, that they were getting ready to stone him by taking off their outer cloaks. Nevertheless what we do know is that this is an angry frenzied reaction to Paul being called to the Gentiles.

Were they that prejudiced? No. Well, yes, they were, but still, no.

It was because they truly believed that their understanding of Scripture shows that God is on the side of the Jew not the Gentile. The Jews were more pure than the Gentile. In fact the Gentile could not be pure.

Their reaction is a defence of God and righteousness. Anything less is condoning Paul. They respond this way because there is no other way. It is the correct thing to do.

How can someone believe themselves to be so right and justified, but be so wrong?

Only Jesus can respond with anger and be right. When he created chaos in the temple by turning tables and whipping the moneychangers many must have thought he had lost it, but he hadn’t and he was right because he is God.

Only God can respond with anger and be right.

When we get angry and shout, scream and do the things on my list, though we think we are right to do so, we rarely are. We lose the argument and people’s thinking moves from the reason for the season which isn’t a sausage roll after all but the belief in a Saviour-child called Jesus to the campaign by the Church to ban its members from eating Greggs sausage rolls from now on or something worse, though I cannot think of anything worse than that.

Let us love Greggs not hate them. All they wanted to do was sell a few more sausage rolls. They were wrong. But let us stay in the right.

 

 

Trigger points

Trigger points

Acts 22:22 “The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, ‘Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!’”

Let us remind ourselves that the reason why Paul has to defend himself is that he had been accused of taking a Gentile into the Temple. He hadn’t but the crowd believed so.

Until he said the one word the crowd gave him their attention.

The word was of course, “Gentiles”. He was called to the Gentiles! That was the proof they needed, right from his mouth, he had taken a Gentile into the Temple. Now Paul should die!

All quiet, listening, taking in what Paul was saying, the soldiers maybe thinking at last now we have some calm and then … fireworks and frenzy. Paul had touched the raw nerve, the soft spot, their trigger spot.

A trigger spot cannot be seen, it is under the skin. The term ‘trigger point’ was first coined by the America Physician Janet G. Travell.

Trigger points or tender spots are located within or below the skin and when compressed they will usually become more tender or painful, they’re also often associated with areas of pain and discomfort adjacent to or distant from the tender spot. These referred feelings can include a wide range of wonderfully strange sensations from a heavy or dull aching to searing hot pain, pins and needles or numbness to name a few.

In the same way we have trigger points emotionally and mentally as well as physically. For the Jew, their trigger spot were the Gentiles. If you mention any kind of love or compassion to the Gentiles it was likely to get a painful reaction or as in the case of Paul, a reaction to inflict pain on him!

What are your trigger points?

When a name is mentioned do you react?

If so, then you need help.

The treatment for trigger points varies between pressing on the pain firmly for prolonged periods of time to not doing so and focusing more on the nervous system away from the pain applying positive feelings into the body. Basically you go through pain or positive influence in order to remove the painful trigger spot.

My friend, David, had a saying, “Touchy people need touching” meaning those who are always reacting need to be provoked.

If you have such spots then you need to face the pain that is in your own life or you need positive influence coming in to your life that will overwhelm the hidden pain.

But we must be free of these trigger points. We must stop reacting when a name is mentioned. We must walk free from carrying prisoners and the past. Love must occupy and own our hearts.

The surprising GO!

The surprising GO!

Acts 22: 21 “Then the Lord said to me, “Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”’

In verse 18 God had told Paul “Quick, leave ..”

Paul then describes how he put things on hold trying to convince God that he would be okay in Jerusalem because he was one with the Jews. He had been part of their persecution of the Christians even there partaking at the death of Stephen.

God doesn’t need convincing.

He is always right.

“Go, I will send you far away to the Gentiles”

Can you hear the GO again today?

Yes it may be surprising what is opening up to you. The thought of going to the Gentiles wasn’t an obvious one for Paul. But the GO won’t go away. You know you have to do this. It is a choice but it isn’t a choice. If he remains Lord of your life you have to go.

God is shifting Pauls thinking.

When we say YES to God we have to leave and that is where it can be very slow though God wants us to move fast, presumably because He knows the attachments we have can make it so difficult to say goodbye. But when we say YES we also know there is no other way, we have to be sent by HIM and we have to GO forward. Sometimes we don’t have all the details sorted out. We just know it is far away and to another people group, the Gentiles.

Maybe someone today is hearing GO. A change of direction, a new day is on the horizon, you are going to have to GO.

And maybe it is nothing as dramatic as that of Paul. Maybe it is simply leaving your comfort zone to take the gospel to your neighbour. But it is such a big task you might as well be going to the furthest parts of the world.

The sustaining key to your future is knowing that this is not your idea or you are not going because of a career opportunity or promotion. No, you are going because GOD is sending you. When it gets tough, when you have second thoughts, you will be able to counter these because you know He who called you has sent you.

GO!

 

The hidden sin of blasphemy

The hidden sin of blasphemy

Acts 22: 20 “And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.”

Those taking away the life of Stephen were worried their clothes would be taken away by some thief.
So here we have 2 sins being potentially committed, that of murder and stealing, but only one of them is seen as justifiable and only one is being protected against.
Saul protected the clothes and by doing so endorses the killing of Stephen. This was not murder in their eyes. This was a killing, God’s judgment.
But if their clothes were taken then that would be stealing so they protected against this.
Presumably stealing clothes is worse than killing especially if they are the clothes of those handing out Gods judgment.
Thinking you are an agent of God’s judgment in any culture always outweighs everything else. How easy it is for us to focus on the sins of others especially when they could or do hurt us but at the same time lose sight of the blindingly obvious sins we commit against others. When that happens we misrepresent God, something akin to blasphemy.
This is the hidden sin that bypasses most but is mainly found in God defenders not God rejecters.
You see blasphemy is not taking God’s name in vain as much as using Gods name for gain.
It’s the sins that don’t appear sinful that bring the fall.