VIDEO Sharpening Your Focus

Immediately there fell from [Saul’s] eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. Acts 9:18

A funnel has a wide end and a narrow end. Those two ends can represent how different people find their life’s purpose. Some enter early in life at the narrow end, knowing exactly what they want to be or do. Others enter at the wide end and narrow their focus and activity over time. People are different and progress through life in various ways.

The apostle Paul took a mixed path. He was a tentmaker by trade (Acts 18:3), but that trade was only to support his true passion: understanding and teaching the laws of God. He was on a literal road—the road from Jerusalem to Damascus—in pursuit of that passion when God changed his focus, and thus his life. Instead of living as a teacher of the law, he became a preacher of grace. And it was not an easy transition (Acts 9:1), taking years to realize (Galatians 2:1).

Don’t despair about your life’s focus or purpose. Walk faithfully in the light God has given you today, trusting that more light will be revealed as it is needed.

Man, made in the image of God, has a purpose—to be in relationship to God, who is there.  Francis Schaeffer

Acts 9:1-23 – Skip Heitzig

A Critical Reaction

The one who is patient calms a quarrel. Proverbs 15:18

Tough words hurt. So my friend—an award-winning author—struggled with how to respond to the criticism he received. His new book had earned five-star reviews plus a major award. Then a respected magazine reviewer gave him a backhanded compliment, describing his book as well-written yet still criticizing it harshly. Turning to friends, he asked, “How should I reply?”

One friend advised, “Let it go.” I shared advice from writing magazines, including tips to ignore such criticism or learn from it even while continuing to work and write.

Finally, however, I decided to see what Scripture—which has the best advice of all—has to say about how to react to strong criticism. The book of James advises, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19). The apostle Paul counsels us to “live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16).

An entire chapter of Proverbs, however, offers extended wisdom on reacting to disputes. “A gentle answer turns away wrath,” says Proverbs 15:1. “The one who is patient calms a quarrel” (v. 18). Also, “The one who heeds correction gains understanding” (v. 32). Considering such wisdom, may God help us hold our tongues, as my friend did. More than all, however, wisdom instructs us to “fear the Lord” because “humility comes before honor” (v. 33). 

By:  Patricia Raybon

Reflect & Pray

What’s your typical reaction when you’re criticized? In a dispute, what’s a humble way you can guard your tongue?

Dear God, when criticism strikes or a dispute hurts, guard my tongue in humble honor of You.

Living By Conviction

Daniel 6

Have you ever wondered what you would do if practicing your faith, witnessing to others, or attending church resulted in persecution or death? Worldwide, many Christians are facing just such a scenario but stick to their convictions instead of caving in to pressures around them. And some are suffering tremendously because of their faithfulness to Jesus Christ.

The prophet Daniel faced some tough situations as a result of his convictions, but he never compromised, even when the simple act of praying could have cost him his life. His confidence in the Lord remained firm as He was placed in the lions’ den. In fact, his steadfast faith and God’s deliverance had a powerful impact on the pagan king, who decreed that all the people of his realm should fear Daniel’s God.

Today we have the same choice to either live by our Christian convictions or compromise for the sake of peace and safety. It doesn’t have to be a matter of life or death. Sometimes we simply want to avoid ridicule, evade conflict, or fit in. Although we may gain temporary comfort, we forfeit a godly witness and the opportunity to influence others.

Have You Been Delivered, Translated, Forgiven?

“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

The central message of the gospel lies in Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. There is much more, of course, to our salvation. The immediate result is described in the two short verses of our text.

We have been delivered “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18). We have been delivered “from unreasonable and wicked men” (2 Thessalonians 3:2) and “from every evil work,” and are preserved “unto his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18). Ultimately, we have been delivered “from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

We have also been “translated” into the eternal kingdom of the Lord Jesus. We will “not come into condemnation” but have been turned “from death unto life” (John 5:24). Our life prior to salvation was darkness, but we have been made “light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). No longer are we aliens outside of God’s family, but we have been “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

Furthermore, all of our sins have been forgiven, and we are “justified freely by his grace” (Romans 3:24). That forgiveness and justification seal us “unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). And since this is an eternal transaction brought about by a transcendent Creator, we have been raised “up together, and made [to] sit together in heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6). Already we have the “earnest of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14) and the assurance that we will “obtain a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35).

In this life, we may struggle with human rejection. David’s comment seems appropriate: “I am as a wonder unto many; but thou art my strong refuge” (Psalm 71:7). HMM III

Some Have The Passion for Publicity

For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. —1 Thessalonians 2:5-6

If this is a fairly accurate view of things, what can we say then when Christian men vie with one another for place and position? What can we answer when we see them hungrily seeking for praise and honor? How can we excuse the passion for publicity which is so glaringly evident among Christian leaders? What about political ambition in Church circles? What about the fevered palm that is stretched out for more and bigger “love offerings”? What about the shameless egotism among Christians? How can we explain the gross man-worship that habitually blows up one and another popular leader to the size of a colossus? What about the obsequious hand kissing of moneyed men by those purporting to be sound preachers of the gospel?

There is only one answer to these questions; it is simply that in these manifestations we see the world and nothing but the world. No passionate profession of love for “souls” can change evil into good. These are the very sins that crucified Jesus.   POM126

Deliver me, O God, from this insidious trap. Give me a humble spirit, willing to serve You faithfully, however obscure might be my service. Amen.

How Badly Do You Really Want God?

He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.—John 6:35

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Hunger and thirst are physical sensations which, in their acute stages, may become real pain.

It has been the experience of countless seekers after God that when their desires become a pain they were suddenly and wonderfully filled. The problem is not to persuade God to fill us, but to want God sufficiently to permit Him to do so.

The average Christian is so cold and so contented with his wretched condition that there is no vacuum of desire into which the blessed Spirit can rush in satisfying fullness. BAM008

Child of the kingdom, be filled with the Spirit.

Nothing but fullness thy longing can meet;

‘Tis the enduement for life and for service

Thine is the promise, so certain, so sweet.

“I will pour water on him who is thirsty,

I will pour floods upon the dry ground;

Open your heart for the gift I am bringing.

While ye are seeking me, I will be found.” HCL243

The Music of God

Ephesians 5:19

Where did music start? In the heart of God Himself. The Bible is known and loved throughout the world as a book of laws, a manual of instruction for living, a literary masterpiece, the story of eternal salvation—the very Word of God. But it is also a book of music and song from beginning to end.

Its treasury has been inexhaustible and unsurpassed as a source for the most glorious music written through the ages. Georg Frederick Handel with his 21-day miracle oratorio The Messiah was not the first to be captivated by the music of the divine revelation, nor will he be the last.

When we lift our Sunday voices to sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,” we are joining the mighty river of songs to God that has its head streams in the history of God’s people.

For the people of God, there was party music for meaningful events. So Jacob’s father-in-law scolds him by saying, “Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps?” (Genesis 31:27).

Surrounding and infusing all this life-music was the music of God and His glory. God spoke to His broken but faithful servant Job about the day of creation when the morning stars sang together.

That song would be ever new, for in that great Psalm book that lay at the heart of worship, they and we are urged to “sing to the Lord a new song” (96:1). In that book are recorded songs of trust, despair, penitence and rejoicing. Only in the fullness of God’s time would it become clear that the central theme of all the songs and all the music of God was then and is now the Lord Jesus Christ.

The music continued into the New Testament. Jesus told of the prodigal’s elder brother hearing the music of the welcome-home party. On His last night before Calvary, Christ and the disciples sang a hymn before going to the Garden.

The mark of the new Christian church and the coming of the Holy Spirit was more music, “with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). The joyful heart is an unmistakable sign of those who are born again.

Where does the music of God, which has gone round and round through all ages, come out? Around the throne of God where the redeemed play the harps of God and sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.

Stanley Jaynes, The War Cry