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In a day when ministry seems to be more impersonal through various media, cds, etc, it's refreshing to see how Paul modeled a very intentional, life on life, incarnational approach to ministering to people. He lays his thoughts and feelings right out there for the people to really know him. He was no emotionally distant 'pastor' or leader. I especially like the verse that says, "Remember that for three years I never stopped warning EACH OF YOU night and day with tears.: Acts 20:31. No wonder they wept when he left them. People love someone who takes time to know them personally, and is attentive to THEIR potential, needs and growth. Paul practiced the 'be with' principle of ministry. This is a wonderful theme in his ministry. In 1Thessalonians 2 he says, "We exhorted EACH OF YOU as a father would his children." May we all take a lesson from Paul today and 'practice the presence of people/persons' as we go about our day. There is so much talk in churches about 'the body of Christ', and I believe this is a correct emphasis, but the sum total of the Body is impacted by the individual spiritual health of EACH ONE.

About IDOLS.

2 Kings 17 (NKJV)
10
They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images [Hebrew Asherim, Canaanite deities]
on every high hill and under every green tree.

2 Kings 18 (NKJV)
4
He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image [Hebrew Asherah, a Canaanite goddess]
and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.

[Literally Bronze Thing]

NOTE:
I may have to write a well thought out and well-researched treatise against dualism. I note how much of the idolatry of the northern kings of Israel was a version of dualism. It is still prevalent today. I keep coming back to the clarity of this one certain reality: good and evil are not equal, and good and evil are not eternal. God alone is good, and evil can only exist as it chooses to actively oppose God.

All people—including athiests and dualists—really enjoy and great value freedom of choice. Yet, they very freedom of choice we value is the reason for evil. God is not evil. We have chosen evil.

And how do we know what good is? We can all chose “what is good for us”. But that avoids that real question: How do we know what is good versus bad? If there is no God, there is no true good versus evil.
~~~

All idols are formed in the imagination of the mind. Temptation to sin only becomes sin when a person’s will receives the thought, so the person is carried off by that desire.

So…instead of clear thinking, sober thinking in the Holy Love and Presence of God, man is turned to being carried by emotions. Thus, the spirit and the mind take second place to the emotions and “the senses”.

James 1 (NKJV)
14
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
15
Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

2 Peter 1
(NKJV)
21
for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

(NIV)
21
For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were CARRIED ALONG by the Holy Spirit.

We either give ourselves to the Lord, to be carried by Him—which is our only freedom—or we are give ourselves to something or someone else—which is bondage and harsh servitude to empty emotions.

May we be like the Apostle Paul, in Acts 20 (NKJV)
24
But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

We all have much to praise God for, even if we are in dire circumstances. Why? Again, it goes back to the clear thinking of reality: because God alone is good.

Psalm 148 (NKJV)
13
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven.
14
And He has exalted the horn of His people, the praise of all His saints—of the children of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise the LORD!

Finally, as a meditation the Jesus, consider this excellent song, Words and Music: Jim Gum, Jay LaVergne © 1998, from the Young Life songbook

HE WALKED THAT ROAD

VERSE 1
A long and lonely path,
Up a dusty road
To carry the sin,
That was not his own
He walks that road for all, Who have come before
And for those
Yet to be born

CHORUS:
He walked that road for me,

He took my place

He wiped out my regrets,

And didn’t leave a trace

He walked that road for you, To set you free

He walked that road for you and me

VERSE 2
He stumbled on his way, Just like I’ve done
Yet his gaze was fixed On the great beyond
Beneath a crown of thorns, I saw his bloody face
Beaten by the hands Of this fallen race

CHORUS

VERSE 3
He laid out his hands,
And when the nails went through
He was pierced for me,
He was pierced for you
And then the sky grew dark,
And when he breathed his last
He opened up a way,
So I could pass

CHORUS, END
Vance

Great Pictures!

Preaching the Gospel

Paul was a thorough teacher of the "Word" and shared the "whole counsel of God".

I ran across a sharing of the gospel by the primitive tribe from the movie "End of the Spear". It is too long an article to post, so I will post an excerpt - and provide a link. the article starts 60% down the page and is labeled #4.

Dawa, the Huaorani woman is elequent to in her own way - she is also pretty thorough.


[article by Stephen Saint (son of Nate) in the most recent Christianity Today (March 2, 1998, 42-45).... I remember an encourter I witnessed between some Huaorani Christians and members of a secular North American tour groups who were visiting a Huaorani camp. There were 34 students in this group, all from the University of Washington and Western Washington University.....

....Then they explained to our 34 highly educated young people from the most technologically advanced society in history how they learned from the missionaries that the Man Maker sent his Son to die for people full of hate, fear, and desire for revenge.

"Badly, badly we lived back then," Dawa said. "Now, walking God's trail which he has marked for us on paper [the Bible], we live well. All people still die, but if living you follow God's trail, then dying will lead you to heaven. But only one trail leads there. All other trails lead to where God will never be after death."

Dawa's clear explanation had left her audience spellbound. Now she had a question for her listeners.

"Have you heard me well? Which one of you wants to follow God's trail, living well?"

There was silence again. Then the seed of Dawa's message landed in the fertile soil of at least one heart as a lone hand raised into the night air. Dawa understood the American student's gesture and joyously clapped her hands. "Now I see you well," she said. "Leaving, we will still see each other in God's place some day." Then she looked around at the others. "Dying, I will never see you again if you don't follow God's trail. Think well on what I have spoken, so that dying, we will live happily together in heaven."]

http://www.faithtacoma.org/sermons/Acts/acts37.html

NOTE: To understand why the students were EVEN listening to this women - what led up to her message. You need to read the whole article.


Acts 20

vs. 12
"The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted."

I believe "comforted" refers to the whole evening, not just "comforted" by the boy being alive.

Gk. "parakaleo" is word translated "comfort". In its root words - the idea is of "calling by name" - in a more specific translation:

"to address, speak to, (call to, call upon), which may be done in the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc."

I can see Paul's instruction (preaching) of the Gospel being peppered with people's names (one way to keep their attention over a long sermon :)

In the end - people were personally strengthened and encouraged in the "Word", and their strength was reinforced by the tangible sign of a miracle. The miracle was a testament as to what they heard - that it was true.

Bob says:
"I believe that both Luke and Paul were firmly convinced that while miracles would come and go, but that the Word of God would be eternal. I believe that both were convinced that while miracles will not sustain faith, the Word of God will. This is why Paul and Luke deal briefly with the miracle and deal emphatically with the teaching. Faith is not based upon what is seen (miracles, for example), but on the Word of God (see Hebrews 11). Thus miracles will not sustain our faith, but the Word of God will."

The miracle just deepened the impact of the Word. I felt the same thing when my arm was healed by prayer. My faith is strong, but it was attested to by God's continued interaction in my life.
======================================================

vs. 27
"For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God." NIV

We also must demand that we are being taught the whole counsel of God; not just interesting topics, not just what we want to hear, not just the things that will “grab” people, but what God says to all of our lives. - David Guzik

It seems like "prayer" comes up a lot in Acts. I always feel convicted that I need to "pray" more. If I had one prayer request it would be that my "prayer efforts" be strengthened and more consistent.


2Kings17

Random notes:

God's patience: 204 years after the division into Judah and Israel, God's punishment has come to an Israel thaht has been idolatrous throughout.

"When God brings judgment, He first brings warning – and often many warnings over a long period. It is only after these warnings are rejected that the judgment comes." - David Guzik

i. 200 years and 19 kings after the time of Solomon (the last king over a united Israel), the northern kingdom of Israel fell. It was not because the God of Israel was unable to help them, but because they had so forsaken that God and ignored His guidance and correction that He finally stopped actively protecting them and let them rot and degrade according to their desire.

ii. As they carried Israel away to Assyria, they followed their typical custom. When the Assyrians depopulated and exiled a conquered community, they led the captives away on journeys of hundreds of miles, with the captives naked and attached together with a system of strings and fishhooks pierced through their lower lip. God would make sure they were led in this humiliating manner through the broken walls of their conquered cities (Amos 4:2-3).

iii. This shows another principle of God’s judgment: When it comes, it is often humiliating and degrading.

iv. It seems that Sargon II, the brother and successor of Shalmaneser, finished this siege or at least took credit for it: “The men of Samaria with their king were hostile to me and consorted together not to carry out their vassal obligations and bring tribute to me, so they fought me . . . I clashed with them and took as booty 27,280 people with their chariots and their gods in whom they trusted. I incorporated 200 chariots into my army. The rest of the people I made to dwell within Assyria. I restored the city of Samaria and made it greater than before.” (Inscribed Prisms of Sargon II from Nimrud, cited in Wiseman)

http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/1217.htm

God cast out the Canaanite nations in the days of Joshua because of these sins. Now He had cast out the northern kingdom of Israel for the same sins. God’s judgment was not against the ancient Canaanites because of race or ethnicity; it was because of their conduct. As Israel shared the same conduct, they would share the same judgment.

They followed idols, became idolaters: The NIV translates this, “They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.” The NASB has it, “They followed vanity and became vain.”

i. “The original is more accurate at this point: ‘They worshipped emptiness and became empty.’ The word here is hebel meaning ‘air,’ ‘delusion,’ or ‘vanity.’ The idea is that they became like the gods they worshipped. They bowed down to nothingness and became nothing.” (Dilday)

Yet, it is a mistake to think of these ten northern tribes as lost. Far back in the days of Jeroboam and his original break with the southern kingdom of Judah, the legitimate priests and Levites who lived in the northern ten tribes did not like the Jeroboam’s idolatry. They, along with others who set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel, then moved from the northern kingdom of Israel to the southern kingdom of Judah (2 Chronicles 11:13-16). So actually, the southern kingdom of Judah contained Israelites from all of the ten tribes.

Spiritually speaking, Judah was more faithful to God than the northern kingdom of Israel. Yet they also began to imitate their sinful neighbors to the north.

i. Judah had the lesson right in front of them – the conquered nation of Israel was evidence of what happened when hearts turned from God. Yet they ignored these plain lessons and imitated the sins of Israel.

http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/1217.htm

We see now the background of Samaria and why it was never accepted by the Jews after the return from Babylonian captivity, even until Christ's time.

It seems that God was more lenient with these Samaritans of corrupt belief than He was with disobedient Israel. This teaches us that those with more revelation from God are held to stricter account before Him. - David Guzik

Even to the point that Jesus went and taught in Samaria, as did the apostles in "Acts".

Vance,

I liked your comments on "good and evil". I have never been comfortable with the idea that evil is the "absence of God".

I tend to think of "evil" as choices we make when we are "turned from God". Jesus said in Matt 7:22-23

"Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Even what people consider "good" choices are wrong when they are not rooted in "knowing" Christ. Being turned from God those supposedly good decisions are rooted in "self" and "pride". It may be very subconcious, but self and pride are the source. ex: 'it makes me feel good to do this', I did a good job, acknowledgement of others for an act, etc....

The most important choice people need to make first is "receive Him and Believe IN Jesus". Then the good choices will be reflected in knowing Christ, and the bad ones (of the flesh) are covered by His blood. (and we will make bad choices :(

Note: Still thinking this through so I am "way" open to other viewpoints.

The readings in Kings really get to me. It is difficult to get the "big picture" of this book. I remember studying Kings and Chronicles in a great Bible study a few years ago. What sticks out to me is God's righteous judgment, power, and mercy toward those who believe in him. I also believe we are called to be "idol smashers" of sorts in today's world; however, how we go about doing this is the real difficulty because of appearing too self-righteous. I look forward to gettting involved in the readings for the second half. God Bless

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