June 9

Bible Reading: Acts 26

Acts 26:24-25, “And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.’  But Paul said, ‘I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.’”

In an upside-down world, it’s quite possible that anyone might be deemed crazy for siding with God and His truth.  That’s what happened to Paul when he stood before King Agrippa.

Paul’s defense before King Agrippa was notable for its focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Paul had experienced a remarkable transformation traceable exclusively to Christ’s intervention in his life.  He shared his testimony with King Agrippa—how he had done “many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9), and how he “locked up many of the saints in prison” (Acts 26:10), and how he had “cast his vote against them” when they were put to death (Acts 26:10).  He “punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them (he) persecuted them even to foreign cities” (26:11).

Something happened in Paul’s life to bring about a radical change.  What was it?  Jesus met him as he “journeyed to “Damascus,” on his way to persecute Christians (Acts 26:12).”  He saw “a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around (him)” (Acts 26:13).  Jesus met him there—in the place of his sin, depravity, and lostness.  Paul was confronted by the very One he was persecuting.  Jesus saved Paul and set him on a fresh course.  Jesus then commissioned him to go to the Gentiles “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).

The gospel worked that change in Paul.  That message both transformed him and unleashed in him a loving regard and compassion for others.  There is power in the gospel to save (Romans 1:16). Before King Agrippa, Paul both demonstrated and declared that truth (Acts 26:23).

Festus heard Paul’s defense before King Agrippa and said in a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind” (Acts 26:24).  They say such things to this day.  The message of the cross is “folly to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18).  People ignore it, mock it, laugh at it—but for those who believe, it represents “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).  There can be no salvation apart from it.  By its power, sinners are delivered from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to the power of God.  Paul himself had experienced such a deliverance through the powerful-to-save gospel.

These are words of sober truth.  Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  Sin is insanity.  It is insanity to live a life of sin and expect no judgment in condemnation by one’s Creator.  The “let’s eat and drink for tomorrow we die” approach to life is insanity (1 Corinthians 15:32).  Festus was living such a life, King Agrippa and Bernice were, too.  They were blinded to the truth and enslaved to sin and Satan.

Paul addressed King Agrippa directly, asking, “King Agrippa, do you believe in the prophets?  I know that you believe” (Acts 26:27).  And thus, Paul turned the tables on their investigation.  They had met to investigate Paul in his troubles, but Paul made it into an evangelistic endeavor.  “And Agrippa said to Paul, ‘In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian’” (Acts 26:28)?  Paul’s response?  “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains” (Acts 26:32).  They thought Paul to be crazy, but before them stood ample evidence of the power of God to save! Some might deem you crazy for your faith and devotion to Jesus, but He has instead worked to make a beautiful change in you! 

Sin is insanity.  The gospel alone can work to renew our minds and transform our lives.

Once I was lost in sin’s degradation,
Jesus came down to bring me salvation,
Lifted me up from sorrow and shame,
Now I belong to Him


June 8

Bible Reading: Acts 25

Acts 25:23, “So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city.  Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought it.”

The juxtaposition between the two could not be greater.  Agrippa entered the audience hall with “great pomp,” Paul was merely “brought in.”  But no amount of the approval of men can take the place of possessing the approval of God.  Though a man should gain the accolades of the entire world, it will do him no good come judgment day if he does not know Jesus!

Pomp, noun A procession distinguished by ostentation of grandeur and splendor, as the pomp of a Roman triumph.  2. Show of magnificence; parade; splendor (Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language; 1828 Edition).

Soon after Paul’s conversion, the Lord spoke to Ananias regarding the nature of Paul’s future ministry, saying, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).  So, as we read of Paul’s life and ministry, it is good for us to keep in mind what was happening to Paul—his troublesome circumstances did not come upon him by accident.  The Lord providentially worked to use Paul to “carry his name” before Jews, Gentiles, and even kings.  He did that through an array of circumstances, sometimes even using the animosity and contrary decisions of men, but ultimately, he worked to guide Paul’s along in him ministry according to His predetermined plan.  God purposed to use the Apostle Paul to proclaim the truth about Jesus to unforeseen places in unimaginable ways.

So, according to God’s plan, Paul found himself imprisoned under Felix for a period of two years.  Ultimately, Felix was deposed and succeeded by Festus.  In Jerusalem, before Festus, Paul’s opponents laid out their case against Paul.  Festus invited some of them back to Caesarea, where he would hold a tribunal.  Paul’s opponents brought “many and serious charges against (Paul) that they could not prove” (Acts 25:7).  Paul defended himself and ultimately chose, rather than being sent back to Jerusalem, to appeal his case to Caesar (Acts 25:8-12).

King Agrippa and Bernice then arrived in Caesarea.  “Festus laid Paul’s case before the king” (Acts 25:25:14).  “Being at a loss how to investigate” the matter, he spoke to Agrippa about it (Acts 25:13-22).  “Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear the man myself’” (Acts 25:22).  “So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city.  Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought it” (Acts 25:23).

Agrippa was the son of Agrippa I and the great-grandson of Herod the Great.  He had been brought up in Rome and was a favorite of the emperor.  Through a series of empirical promotions, Agrippa came to reign as King over an ever-expanding region.  Years later, he would attempt to squelch the revolt by the Jews against Rome and would side with Rome in the future destruction of Jerusalem.  Bernice was King Agrippa’s sister, one year younger than he was.  She had been engaged to a man named Marcus, but then married her uncle, Herod, king of Chalcis.  At his death, she went to live with her brother, Agrippa.  Rumors of their incestuous relationship flourished in both Rome and Palestine.  To silence the rumors, she married another king, but several years later, she returned to her brother.  Years later, she went to Rome, where her subsequent affair with Titus (the emperor) became a public scandal.

It was these two, Agrippa and Bernice, who “came with great pomp” and entered the audience hall.  They were of the political elite.  They were individuals possessing wealth, power, and connections.  Their entrance was orchestrated to impress.  The military tribunes were there, as were the “prominent men of the city” (Acts 25:23).  They were no doubt dressed to the hilt and were quite a spectacle to behold.  The naïve observer might have supposed them to be of some degree of great importance.  But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and from God’s perspective, the prisoner Paul, not the King, was the most powerful and influential person in that room. 

Paul had no entourage, but transformed lives lay in the wake of his gospel-preaching ministry.  He had no accompanying military tribunes, but Christ Himself stood with him and strengthened him (2 Timothy 4:17).  No prominent men stood by his side, but he was beloved by countless brothers and sisters scattered throughout the region.  His entrance into the audience hall was accompanied by no pomp and circumstance, but in his faithful devotion to his appointed task he left behind a lasting legacy (2 Timothy 4:7-8, 18).  Jesus’ ministry was not accompanied by pomp and circumstance either (Isaiah 53:2), Paul followed “in His steps” (1 Peter2:21-23).

“When we only seek eminence and position, how few avenues are open!  When we seek service, how many!” – Isabella Thoburn

Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.


June 7

Bible Reading: Acts 24

Acts Chapter 24:25, “And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, ‘Go away for the present.”

It is possible for any of us to lose heart in our witnessing efforts. How long should we keep on praying and trusting God to work? Over the course of two years, the Apostle Paul shared the truth with Felix, with no apparent response! But, as a faithful ambassador for Christ, Paul persevered, aware that it was ultimately up to God to open that man’s heart.

The Felix of Acts chapter 24 was the younger brother of a man named Pallas.  The two brothers shrewdly advanced from lowly positions in the Royal household in Rome to gain favored status.  Pallas was the secretary of the treasury during the reign of Emperor Claudius.  Felix became the procurator of Judea by the petition of his brother.  Both men became quite wealthy—Felix was later considered to be one of the richest men in the Roman Empire.

The period of Felix’s rule in Judea was marked by internal feuds and disturbances and an increase in crime throughout Judea.  He dealt with such matters with severity.  Not only was he cruel, but he was also given to licentiousness and bribery (Acts 24:26).  One historian described him to be “a master of cruelty and lust who exercised the powers of a king in the spirit of a slave.” 

Felix was married three times. Drusilla was his second wife, the youngest of three daughters of King Herod Agrippa I—the same Herod who slew James, the brother of John. Her great-grandfather was the Herod who slew the babes in Bethlehem. Her great uncle was Herod Antipas, the Herod who slew John the Baptist. She married for the first time to a petty king in NW Syria. Always looking to climb the social ladder, she divorced him to marry Felix. The marriage itself was something of a scandal, having been deceptively precipitated by Felix. Both were shrewd and wicked, obviously made for each other.

By God’s providence, Paul was brought to Felix’s court.  Felix listened to the charges made by Tertullus and the Jews against Paul (Acts 24:1-9).  Then Paul was given permission to defend himself (Acts 24:10-21).  “But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, ‘When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.’  Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs (Acts 24:22-23).”

After some days Felix and Drusilla sent for Paul and heard him speak about “faith in Christ Jesus” (Acts 24:24).  They were not ignorant of such matters.  Felix had “a rather accurate knowledge of the way” (Acts 24:22).  He had some intellectual grasp of the truths of Christianity.  One would suppose that Drusilla shared in his understanding.  But though they had some cursory understanding, neither of them was saved.

We should note that Paul’s energy while in prison was apparently not devoted to trying to free himself, as his conversations didn’t focus on his own needy situation, but the governor’s more urgent need to trust in Jesus.  He would ultimately spend two years in prison and over the course of that period Felix “sent for (Paul) often and conversed with him” (Acts 24:26), balancing his desire to receive a bribe from him vs. his having to listen to a message from God regarding his need for salvation (Acts 24:26).  Over the course of two years the Apostle Paul shared the gospel message with that man!

“Don’t give up on people who’ve rejected Jesus. Yes, there is a time when you realize it’s not productive to keep talking with a person who seems never to listen to Scripture. Maybe you’ve tried and tried to witness to this friend, and think, ‘I’ll pray for them, but it’s going to take a miracle of grace to break through.’ But it is always a miracle for someone to come to faith in Christ. And God does those miracles, sometimes when we least expect Him to. ‘And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up’ (Galatians 6:9).”

Randy Alcorn

Paul’s message to Felix, the powerful and ruthless governor, was “about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:25).  Spirit-filled Paul was speaking the Spirit’s language (John 16:8).  Paul did not shrink back from being used by the Spirit to convict a wicked man of his wicked ways.  Felix was wealthy, powerful, and knowledgeable, but devoid of righteousness.  He ruthlessly exercised control over the lives of others but had no control of self.  He himself sat as a judge over the affairs of men but was woefully unprepared for the coming judgment of God.  Felix could only listen so long—he had no heart for truth—till, being alarmed, he had to send Paul away (Acts 24:25).  There is no reason to believe that he ever trusted in Jesus.  But he was given ample opportunity to be set free from sin when his prisoner spoke to him about Jesus.

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as I preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound in chains as a criminal.  But the word of God is not bound (2 Timothy 2:8-9)!

Take the name of Jesus with you,
Child of sorrow and of woe.
It will joy and comfort give you,
Take it then where’er you go.


June 6

Bible Reading: Acts 23

Acts 23:12, “When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.”

Wherever Paul went, he found himself in trouble (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).  Not that he himself was a troublemaker, it was the gospel that he proclaimed that worked to stir things up.  It was that message that was at the heart of the difficulties that ensued when he came to Jerusalem. 

Having proclaimed his own testimony, the trouble all started when he spoke of his God-given directive to take the gospel to the Gentiles.  Certain Jews believed but were still zealous for the law (Acts 21:20-22).  These Jews had spread a malicious rumor about Paul, that he was teaching others to not circumcise their children or walk according to the Jewish customs (Acts 21:21).  The leaders of the church in Jerusalem had devised a plan to appease these men, but the plan failed to mollify Paul’s opponents (Acts 21:22-36).  Paul sought to defend himself—in sharing his testimony — before the crowds, but upon mentioning his ministry to the Gentiles, chaos ensued (Acts 22:22-29).

Paul was ultimately brought before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:1-5).  He cleverly worked to divide his opponents by speaking of the resurrection.  A dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees arose (the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, but the Pharisees did) and became violent (Acts 23:6-10).  “The tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks” (Acts 23:10).

With Paul away in the barracks, “the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul” (Acts 23:12).  “There were more than forty who made this conspiracy” (Acts 23:13).  They went to the chief priests and elders and devised a plot whereby they could ambush Paul on his way to a supposed interrogation (Acts 23:14-15).

Note the intensity of the animosity!  It was no small group that formed the conspiracy.  So zealous were they for Paul’s demise that they had oath-bound themselves to a fast till he was dead.  It involved members of the highest levels of the religious establishment.  They were seeking to murder him, not because he had done anything wrong, but because they disagreed with his theology.  There were two main points of disagreement: 1) they were legalists and disdained Paul’s message of salvation by grace; and 2) they were Jews and despised Paul’s outreach efforts to the Gentiles.  Paul’s ministry was an affront to them.  And it is important to note that Paul could have avoided his troubles if he would have simply compromised with these men.  If he would have stopped preaching the gospel of grace.  Or, if he would have stopped reaching out to the Gentiles.

“The son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush” (Acts 23:16).  He went and told Paul.  Paul told one of the centurions to take his nephew to the tribune.  Paul’s nephew related what he had heard to the tribune, and the tribune heeded his warning.  “Then he called to the centurions and said, ‘Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night.  Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.’” (Acts 23-23-24).

They plotted to kill Paul because they didn’t like his message—they had “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2).  But God, who had previously rescued Paul countless times before, sovereignly worked again to orchestrate his deliverance.  Paul was invincible till God’s work in his life—in sharing the gospel of grace—was finished.  Likewise, the safest place for any of us is to be fully centered in doing the will of God!

“The safest place for yourself and your children is in the path of duty” – Jonathan Goforth

Under His wings I am safely abiding;
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him–I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me and I am His child.
Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.


June 5

Bible Reading: Acts 22

Acts 22:1, “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

Possessing a clear testimony of how God has intervened in one’s life is a necessary and useful tool when it comes to witnessing to others.  The Apostle Peter spoke of the need for us to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone” (1 Peter 3:15).  There are certain essential elements to a clear and God-honoring testimony.  Above all else, it should honor the Lord Jesus and speak to the glory of His finished work on the cross (Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:3; 1 Corinthians 2:4).  Beyond that, it should tell of the change He has brought about, by His grace, as a result of one’s salvation.

Paul’s testimony can be found at least five times in Scripture (Acts 9:1-19; 22:1-21; 25:2-23; Galatians 1:11-17; 1 Timothy 1:12-17).  It was used variously by him in his own defense (Acts 22:1-21 and 25:2-23), to articulate how he himself came to receive the truth (Galatians 1:11-17), and to clarify and contrast his message—the gospel of grace–with that of the false teachers (1 Timothy 1:1-17).

While there are certain details that are highlighted in each of these various accounts, the general outline is consistent.  Paul spoke of his life before he was saved, how he was saved, and what happened as a result.  This was his pattern, and it is a good pattern for us to follow. 

Paul made a special effort to establish common ground with his audience.  He identified them to be his “brothers and fathers” (Acts 22:1).  They were Jews. He was as well.  On a previous occasion he established common ground with a Gentile audience by identifying himself with his listeners to be “God’s offspring” (Acts 17:29).  If we go back far enough or dig deep enough, we can find some shared common ground with anybody.  Paul spoke to “them in the Hebrew language” (Acts 22:2).  He loved and prayed for his Jewish brethren (Romans 9:1-3; 10:1).  He spoke to them in their language and when they heard that, they quieted themselves so that they might listen (Acts 22:2).

Paul spoke to them of his life before he came to know Jesus.  He was a Jew.  He had been educated in the law by a well-respected Jewish teacher.  As with his listeners, he had been zealous for the law and was himself involved in the persecution of believers.  The high priest and elders knew all about his efforts.  In fact, he was doing their bidding as he traveled on his way toward Damascus.  Before his salvation, Paul had been in the same place in which his listeners now were.  Religious, but without true salvation.  Paul had been a persecutor of Christians before he was saved.  Most of us don’t identify with him in that, but we do in another way—we’ve all sinned (Romans 3:23).  God graciously intervened when Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus.  What was your own “by grace” experience through which He made known to your need for salvation?

Paul spoke to them about how he came to know Jesus.  It is abundantly clear in Paul’s testimony that salvation did not happen because of anything that Paul himself did or was doing.  Jesus Christ revealed Himself to Paul (Saul) when Paul was seeking to do harm to His church (Acts 22:6-7).  The Risen Christ spoke to Paul.  Paul was blinded by the brightness of the light, so he was sent to Ananias, who healed him (Acts 22:12-13).  Paul’s testimony was unique in some respects, but in any genuine salvation experience there is a point of commonality with Paul — “by grace” Jesus makes Himself known.  In sharing your testimony, speak to how Jesus worked to make that happen.

Paul spoke to them about what happened afterwards.  He was brought into a new relationship with Jesus, experienced His forgiveness, and was called by Him to a new purpose.  Paul didn’t do anything to earn or merit anything he received. It was all by the grace and mercy of Jesus (1 Timothy 1:13-14).  What have you received and experienced because of God’s grace visited upon you in salvation?  A good testimony will speak to such things.

Paul understood his ministry to be to “testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).  It was that message and ministry that had worked to give rise to opposition and resulted in his current predicament. In defending himself, Paul “did not shrink” from declaring the truth before the legalists (Acts 20:27).  Paul spoke of how God saved him by grace.  A good testimony will work not to draw attention to oneself, but to the grace of God and the glory of Jesus and His “by grace” salvation (Ephesians 2:1-3, 8-9).

A good testimony honors Christ and speaks to how He has worked to save and transform one’s life.

I would love to tell you what I think of Jesus,
Since I found in Him a friend so strong and true;
I would tell you how He changed my life completely,
He did something that no other friend could do.

No one ever cared for me like Jesus,
There’s no other friend so kind as He;
No one else could take the sin and darkness from me,
O how much He cared for me.


June 2

Bible Reading: Acts 21

Acts 21:14, “And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, ‘Let the will of the Lord be done.’”

It was F. E. Marsh who once said, “The will of God—nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.”  That quote serves as an apt summary of the events which transpired in the Apostle Paul’s ministry recorded for us in this chapter.

It is sometimes difficult to discern the will of God in a matter.  It is generally a good idea to seek godly counsel, but ultimately it is the person himself who must assure himself as to God’s leading, in a particular direction.  One of the most difficult decisions I ever made was to leave a good-paying salary job at Trojan Nuclear Power Plant to attend Western Seminary.  There were countless reasons not to, and there were plenty of people who advised against it, but in the end I ventured off in the assurance that God was calling me to do what I did.  Unbeknownst to anyone at the time was the fact that Trojan would soon close.  And unbeknownst to me at the time was the fact that God was preparing me for a call to pastor the very church where the first member of my extended family had been saved.  If I had listened to the naysayers or my own doubts, things would have worked out far differently.

The Apostle Paul faced a far more difficult dilemma.  He was headed to Jerusalem and was not naïve to what lay ahead.  He had previously warned the elders in Ephesus, “And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.  But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22-24).  He was going to Jerusalem, constrained to that path by the Spirit, who had enlightened him to the troubles that awaited him there.  He was nonetheless determined, by God’s grace, to fulfill the ministry God had given to him.

Three times along the way, he received warnings from others regarding his plans.  Having landed in Tyre, he stayed there seven days with some disciples.  “And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:4).  Was the Spirit contradicting Himself in what He had earlier instructed Paul to do?  Not possible.  Instead, by the Spirit, these disciples were given insight into what awaited Paul—so they lovingly urged him to detour from his destination.  He prayed with them and then continued on his way (Acts 21:5-6).

Paul and his companions then made their way to Caesarea. While staying there, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea to speak to Paul.  “He took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’” (Acts 21:11).  Another confirmation, by the Spirit, regarding what awaited Paul in Jerusalem. 

Paul’s companions heard what was prophesied and “urged him not to go up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:12).  Paul’s response?  “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?  For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).  “And since he would not be persuaded, (they) ceased and said, ‘Let the will of the Lord be done’” (Acts 21:14).

When he arrived in Jerusalem, he met with the leaders there (Acts 21:17-19).  They were well aware of the animosity of the Judaizers against Paul (Acts 21:20-21).  The leaders devised a plan through which they sought to appease Paul’s opponents (Acts 21:22-24).  Paul acquiesced to their plan, but it failed to mollify his opponents or deter them from their evil plans.  “They stirred up the whole crowd” (Acts 21:27).  “They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple” (Acts 21:30).  They were seeking to kill him, and he was beaten (Acts 21:31-32).   The tribune arrested Paul and “ordered him to be bound with two chains” (Acts 21:33).

Paul had been repeatedly warned of the danger.  He could have chosen another path.  But he was Spirit-constrained to follow in the steps of Jesus, who had Himself “set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).  He approached his ministry with the same “not my will, but as you will” perspective (Matthew 26:39, 6:10; Romans 8:27).  Paul was Spirit-led to fulfill God’s purpose.  In submitting to that purpose, the ministry of the gospel was extended in unexpected and amazing ways (Philippians 1:12).  Other voices and considerations might have led him down a different path, but he had ears to hear what the Spirit was saying and followed no matter the cost (Romans 8:14; Philippians 2:13).

“If God has called you to China or any other place and you are sure in your own heart, let nothing deter you.”–Gladys Aylward

Have thine own way, Lord!
Have thine own way!
Hold o’er my being
absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit
till all shall see
Christ only, always,
living in me!


June 1st, 1990. The date is forever etched in my memory. We had earlier gotten a call from a man named Vic in Astoria, regarding the need for someone to fill the pulpit at his church. In a thick Norwegian accent he filled up two messages on the message machine to relay the details. I called him back and agreed to be there the upcoming Sunday.

So on that Sunday we loaded our three kids in the car and made the two hour trip from Columbia City to Astoria. Upon our arrival I noted that the previous pastor was at the parsonage, packing up his vehicles to move away. I would later learn that he was one of four pastors that had served in the previous decade, and that the church had a reputation for being a “difficult” ministry for pastors.

We made our way into the sanctuary…that huge beautiful sanctuary…and found the place mostly empty. There were a dozen people there. They greeted us. We sang some songs and I preached way too fast from Colossians chapter one on the supremacy of Christ.

A couple of things are stuck in my memory from that day. There was some sadness in the air. Another pastor was leaving the place. A new pastor has come. The people were no doubt thinking, “How long will this one last?”

In addition to that, one couldn’t help but notice that the building wasn’t yet finished-though it had been built in 1974-and that the building and yards looked uncared for. Later we would face the reality of trying to care for that place with a monthly budget of about $1000 per month.

All that being said, I did not doubt as we left on that day that God had called us to serve at Lewis and Clark Bible Church. Two months later we were called by the church to serve. And we stayed there for 27 and 1/2 years.

So what happened? God, the One who is the very best at fixing things, turned things around. Those folks, discouraged as they were on that first Sunday, became so incredibly dear to us. Bickering and strife gave way to unity and cooperation and teamwork. That woefully deficient budget, gave way to God’s plentiful provision. Especially once we began to expend ourselves in service to our good friends in Uganda. God used a big storm, which ultimately cost $900,000 in insurance repairs, to finish and remodel that church building. And when I retired, in 2018, we left behind a wonderful church family, possessing much love for Jesus and for one another.

How did it happen? I could speak to various things like commitment to the Word, or the quality of the leadership, or the servant-mindedness of the people, etc., but the bottom line and the truth of the matter is, it happened by grace, God’s grace. His grace was more than abundant.

Before that June 1st Sunday, two men, Vic Albertsen and Jim Thompson, had met to pray. They feared they would have to close the church, but they didn’t want that to happen. So they prayed that God would somehow intervene. And He did. And that’s the rest of the story. The Bible says “God gives grace to the humble, ” and so He did. And so He does!


June 1

Bible Reading: Acts 20

Acts 20:28, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”

At the conclusion of Paul’s third missionary journey, after spending three years in Ephesus, he addressed the elders of the church (Acts 20:17-38).  His message constituted his final and parting words to them and was filled with exhortations and warnings relevant to their leadership role.  He also spoke of his own attitudes and behavior with respect to ministry.  His parting words to them are of great value to all who have interest in the spiritual nature and behavior of a godly leader.

He served with all humility (Acts 20:19).  In humility, he served in the same spirit as the Lord Jesus Himself did (Philippians 2:1-8; Mark 10:45).  He did not “Lord it over” others, he servant-mindedly put their needs ahead of his own and followed in the self-sacrificing footsteps of the Lord Jesus.

He served with tears (Acts 20:19).  “Jesus wept” as He lovingly sympathized with others (John 11:35).  He wept because he cared.  Paul served with tears because a Spirit-borne love for others had been planted in his heart.  His loving concern was like that of a “nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

He served amidst opposition (Acts 20:19).  God’s work done God’s way will also be met with opposition.  Paul was well aware of the “war the good warfare” nature of life and ministry (1 Timothy 1:18).  He persevered.

He taught the whole counsel of God’s Word (Acts 20:20, 27).  Paul placed infinite value on the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15-17) and affirmed its powerful ability to transform lives (1 Thessalonians 2:13).  He preached and taught not to “please man, but to please God” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).  Nothing from God’s Word—whether it appealed to others or not—was off limits (2 Timothy 4:1-6).

He ministered to all (Acts 20:21).  Paul showed no partiality.  He understood that the “all-inclusive” gospel was no respecter of persons (Galatians 3:28).  He ministered to both Jew and Gentile and understood it to be both powerful enough, in Christ, to both save and unify (Romans 1:16; Ephesians 2:11-22).

He shared the gospel of grace (Acts 20:24).  Paul’s message was the gospel of grace—the gospel of salvation on the basis of grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Ephesians 2:8-9).  The message he received from the Lord Himself was the message that he preached (Acts 20:24; Galatians 1:11-12).

He served sacrificially (Acts 20:22-24).  Paul was willing and glad, in following Christ’s example, to “be spent” for the sake of souls (2 Corinthians 12:15; Philippians 2:15, 1:22).

He valued God’s people (Acts 20:28).  Paul understood the nature of the sacrifice by which Christ had brought the church into being.  He placed infinite value on the church and its members.  He was captivated by the desire to “present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28-29; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).

He cared for God’s people (Acts 20:28, 36).  Paul exhorted the elders in Ephesus to do that which he himself was already doing—that which Christ Himself had exemplified at the cross (Ephesians 5:25; 1 John 3:16). 

He understood dependency on God’s grace (Acts 20:28, 32).  Paul himself was made an apostle by God’s grace (1 Corinthians 15:10).  The elders likewise were made elders by grace (i.e., “by the Holy Spirit”; Acts 20:32).  By grace alone are God’s servants called and equipped to serve.

He led by example (Acts 20:34).  Paul was willing to sacrifice and get “his hands dirty” in his ministry efforts.  He wasn’t off in some “ivory tower” dictating commands he himself was unwilling to do. He served, and in that provided an example worth following (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17).  He worked hard.  He helped the weak.  He followed Jesus’ example (Acts 20:34-36), and in that respect, he has provided for us a wonderful example of the nature of the ministry of a godly leader.

“The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.” John Stott

Let my hands perform his bidding,
let my feet run in his ways;
let my eyes see Jesus only,
let my lips speak forth his praise.


May 31

Bible Reading: Acts 19

Acts 19:23, “About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.”

Like most kids, I once believed in Santa Claus, but there came a time when that myth was exposed. It’s possible for any of us to be duped by a myth. And while belief in a make-believe Santa might prove relatively harmless, the very lives of those in Ephesus revolved around the worship of a make believe goddess—until Paul came to town and unveiled to the people the truth.

Ephesus was home to the temple of Artemis (Diana).  It was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  According to one historian, it took 220 years to build the temple.  It was 425 feet long and 225 feet wide.  The temple was surrounded by 127 Greek columns, each bearing sculpted reliefs up the high of a man’s head.  The building was the largest in the temple history.  But Artemis was not real, she was only a myth.

Artemis herself was a goddess universally worshipped throughout the Greek world.  Her sphere was the uncultivated earth, the forests, and the hills.  Homer gave her the title, “lady of the wild things.”  She was popular amongst women because she was considered to be “the goddess of birth.”  Girls who served in her temple did so in short skirts with one breast bare.  She herself was depicted on coins and images as many-breasted.  She was thought to be a source of fertility.  But she was only a fable.

“The city of Ephesians (was) the temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky” (Acts 19:35).  The people believed in the sacred stone, which must have been a meteor.  Someone likely took the stone and carved it into the likeness of the goddess that they then worshipped.  Every year a huge month-long celebration in honor of Diana took place in Ephesus.  Thousands of worshippers from the ends of the earth came to the celebration.  All businesses were closed, all work ceased, and the people gave themselves to the celebration of the goddess’s birthday.  But the meteor was nothing but a rock, hardly deserving of worship or reproduction by craftsmen.

Life in Ephesus revolved around a mythical, non-existent goddess.  They prayed to her, appealed to her, and did what they could to appease her so that they could be blessed by her.  And some made a profit from her.  There were artisans, like Demetrius, who worked “to make silver shrines of Artemis” (Acts 19:24).  There was money to be made in the selling of little Diana’s, so Demetrius understood what was at stake in Paul’s preaching of the gospel.  Life in the city revolved around the worship of their mythical god, but, as Demetrius presciently realized, this Paul “has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods” (Acts 19:26).  She was not a god.  She had no ears to hear, no hands to bless.  She was a devilish invention of sin that worked to hold the people in bondage to a futile way of life. 

A riot ensued when the people realized the threat to their adored but mythical deity.  Demetrius was concerned lest, “the great goddess Artemis…be counted as nothing, and…may even be deposed from her magnificence, who whom all Asia and the world worship” (Acts 19:27).  The people heeded his concern and were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” (Acts 19:28).  “The city was filled with the confusion” (Acts 19:29).  Most didn’t have any idea what was going on (Acts 19:32).  Alexander, a Jew, was put forward to speak, but when they saw that he was a Jew, “for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” (Acts 19:34).  But she wasn’t great.  She didn’t even exist.

The town clerk eventually came forward and quieted the crowd.  He assured them that the city would do everything necessary to protect the goddess and her sacred stone.  But Demetrius and the Artemis worshippers had a legitimate reason for concern.  Artemis was but a myth, the sacred stone but a rock, and the grandiose temple an edifice to an illusion.  But the deceived tenaciously served her.  Sin and its associated idols are not easily pried from the hearts of lost sinners.  The Apostle Paul would ultimately spend three years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31), preaching the powerful-to-save gospel in the shadow of the great but idolatrous temple (Romans 1:16).  Paul spoke of the true and living God who sent His Son who died for sins and rose from the dead to save lost sinners (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  Some ultimately abandoned Diana to find true salvation in the “living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).  Nothing but ruins remain at the site of the temple of Artemis, but the powerful-to-save gospel is being preached to this day.  Artemis has long since lost her appeal, but the glorious gospel—a true wonder in this world—shines on.

The truth of the gospel is powerful to set hearts free from the worship of all sorts of worthless myths and idols, to worship the true and living God!

All my life was full of sin when Jesus found me,
All my heart was full of misery and woe;
Jesus placed His strong and loving arms about me,
And He led me in the way I ought to go.


May 30

Bible Reading: Acts 18

Acts 18:26, “And they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

There is an old proverb which says: “He who knows not and knows not he knows not: he is a fool – shun him.  He who knows not and knows he knows not: he is simple – teach him.  He who knows and knows not he knows: he is asleep – wake him.  He who knows and knows he knows: he is wise – follow him.”  From a Biblical perspective the quote needs some amending, “He who knows and is teachable inasmuch as he realizes that there is a lot more that he needs to know: he is the truly wise man—listen to him.”  From a spiritual perspective, no matter how much we know, there will always be room to grow (Ephesians 3:14-19; 4:13).

Apollos was a man who knew much.  He was a “native of Alexandria” who had come to Ephesus (Acts 18:24).  Alexandria was founded by and named after Alexander the Great.  It grew to become a great commercial center where East met West and both Jews and Gentiles resided.  The Alexandrian Museum, a university, was founded in 280 BC and became the first great university in the world.  It was in Alexandria, amidst the influence of the Museum and its library that the Jewish scholars worked to produce the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament).  Apollos was from such a place, a place that was also birthed men like Philo (a great Jewish scholar) and Clement and Origen (early church fathers).

Apollos was “an eloquent man” (Acts 18:24).  The term translated “eloquent” means “learned, a man skilled in literature and the arts…He had stores of ‘learning’ and could use it convincingly” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  In contrast to the disciples (Acts 4:13), Apollos had benefited from an education.  He was “competent in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24).  The Greek term translated “competent” means literally “powerful, mighty.” “He had been instructed in the way of the Lord” (Acts 18:25).  We are not given the specifics regarding what he had been taught or by whom, but he was not at all ignorant regarding that which he taught.  He was “fervent in spirit” (Acts 18:25).  He taught with enthusiasm; his heart was in it.  “He spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus” (Acts 18:25).  There was no error in Apollos’ teaching.  All that he said was true, but “he knew only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25).  He was unaware of the baptism Jesus’ had commanded after His resurrection (Matthew 28:19).  Knowing only “the baptism of John,” he was likely unaware of other pertinent and important post-resurrection truths.

Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos’s teaching in the synagogue.  They had spent much time with Paul (Acts 18:1-4, 11) and were, as a result, very knowledgeable of the truth.  They heard Apollos; he was speaking boldly, but they discerned that something was amiss.  That could have been the end of the story—count the man a heretic and work to steer others away.  But that’s not what they did.  They intervened.  They “took him aside” (Acts 18:16).  They did not rebuke him publicly.  They did not embarrass him by speaking out in that way.  They conferred with him privately “and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).  He was obviously receptive to what they had to say, for they sent a letter ahead to where he was going, instructing “the disciples to welcome him” (Acts 18:27).  “When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed” (Acts 18:27).  He went on to serve and minister in other venues.  Priscilla and Aquila were thereby used of God to help him that he might be better equipped to serve.

Paul shared the truth with Priscilla and Aquila, who then imparted what they knew to Apollos who then passed on what he had learned to others still (2 Timothy 2:2).  It ought to be in the heart of every believer to endeavor to know “the way of God more accurately.”  No one fully knows all that there is to know.  We are ultimately dependent upon the Spirit of God to know spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:12-13), and mutually dependent upon the Spirit and one another to know Jesus better (Ephesians 4:15-16).  A teachable spirit is a prerequisite to the process.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17

More about Jesus let me learn,
More of His holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.