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June 2, 2018

The Side Show

by Josh Keller

'Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.’ He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Acts 28:28-31 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=02c8691459&e=82a9a8f891)

This weekend our kids wound down a long sugar fueled Memorial Day at a friend’s house by watching some television. When a commercial played, my kids, who rarely watch any television with commercials, came unglued. “What happened to the show? Bring it back?!” They were frustrated because Netflix and PBS are never interrupted by commercials. The commercial was a sideshow interrupting things, distracting them, and confusing them. They just wanted to get back to main story.

In many ways, that is how the Jews in Rome felt as Paul expounded the gospel to them. The Jesus deal felt like a sideshow, a confusing little sect, an interruption in the main story of God’s dealing with His people. Let’s go back to the regularly scheduled broadcast of a people rescued from slavery in Egypt, saved by the blood of a lamb, baptized in the water of the Red Sea, watching that snake Pharaoh impotent and destroyed in those same waters, getting to feast with God at a mountain, receiving His word at the same mountain, getting miraculous provision on the journey to and finally reaching a promised land. You know, that story! Let’s get back to that one. Forget this commercial interruption.

But of course, this Jesus sideshow is the main show. The story isn’t being interrupted. In fact the plot hasn’t really changed. The fascinating thing about these last two chapters of Acts is how clearly they remind of the Exodus story. Paul begins in captivity. He is then freed from that captivity to journey to God’s promised destination. He leaves after the Day of Atonement to cross a great sea. On the journey, things go bad, but Paul gets a word from God. Paul breaks bread at dawn with them. Everyone is saved through the water and a serpent is found to be impotent and destroyed. And finally they arrive in Rome, the promised city.

Do you see? This is no sideshow. God is writing the same show. It is the story of God redeeming His people from captivity to sin and death. Freeing them to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. Bringing them to a promised land to dwell in peace and joy forever. If you are in Christ, that is your story. It is the story. So go tell the story. Be bold. You are not hindered. You will pass through the waves. You have been freed. The serpent is impotent. You will come to the land that is promised. Jesus is bringing you through. There are those who will listen. There are some desperate to hear this story. Tell it without fear.

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About the Author

Josh Keller
Assistant Pastor
All Saints Presbyterian Church

Joshua Keller, a native Kansan and graduate of Kansas State University, lives in Austin, Texas, where he serves as Youth Pastor to All Saints Presbyterian Church. He graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary during which he spent some time working at PCPC in the Youth Ministry.

He and his wife Erin have three children, Elliotte, Oliver, and Adelaide, and one faithful dog, Ike.

 

May 27, 2018

Every Thought Captive, a weekly devotional from Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA)

EXTENDING THE KINGDOM: A DANGEROUS VOYAGE

by Erin Golangco

"...Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. And on the third day they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss.

Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.' So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island."

Acts 27:18-26 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=da5bd4e0b4&e=82a9a8f891)

My eighteen-month-old daughter Olivia and I read a book each night that is a paraphrase of Psalm 23 called Found. One of our favorite pages says, “even when I walk through the dark, scary, lonely places, I won’t be afraid. My shepherd knows where I am. He is here with me.” Olivia will point to the lamb, and then kiss the shepherd. It’s a lovely picture of childlike trust.

We put our trust in a great number of things. Acts 27 captures one of the most vivid descriptive narratives in the book of Acts, and truly, in much of the New Testament. Luke writes to convey the gravity and peril Paul and the shipmates faced, the astonishing power of God’s sovereign care and deliverance, and nestled in the middle in verses 22-25, a portrait of trust under duress.

It is said that the night is darkest before dawn begins to break. As God’s children, we often can’t see His presence or purposes in the storms of life. This was the case in Acts 27. Days went on without light. The hurricane-grade wind howled mercilessly and the berating waves sapped their strength (27:14-20). But then, God spoke (27:23-24). He spoke into the darkness and despair to give hope: Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am the one who rules over this storm.

We often feel helpless, vulnerable and impotent to deal with the storms of life. And truly we are on our own. But by God’s grace we are not orphans, left to fend for life and livelihood by the scrappiness of our hands. We are beloved children who are always, always, in the strong grip of our good Father and sovereign God, who is our protector, defender, and caretaker in every single trial and trouble we experience.

Paul emulates in this passage what it means to depend on God as a beloved child in crisis. His ultimate trust was not in a certain outcome, but in God’s unfailing love for His children (Psalm 143:8). Thus, he did not assert himself aggressively when the centurion ignored him (27:11-12). He trusted the Lord’s voice when it meant destruction of their physical security, the ship (27:26). By inference, we know that Paul was praying fervently for God’s care and deliverance for himself and those in the ship as well (27:24c). He reminded his shipmates of God’s word (27:34). He praised God with thanksgiving in front of all (27:35).

This passage reminds me of Psalm 20:7: “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.” In the Old Testament, chariots and horses represent means of escape and protection. Today we put our hope in many things that we think will insulate us from discomfort, financial hardship, pain, and trouble. But to boast in the name of the LORD means to have confidence in and trust in the character of God, our God, who promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).

Fellow believers, let us take courage that whatever storm we may encounter, we are not alone. His character is trustworthy. He is always with us, even in the dark, scary, lonely places. He knows where we are. He is here with us, now and forever.

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About the Author

Erin Golangco
Director of Small Groups
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Erin Golangco works at PCPC as the Director of Small Groups. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, and she will soon graduate from Covenant Theological Seminary. She is married to Paul, and they have one daughter, Olivia Maeve.

 

 

May 12, 2018

The Gospel in a Secular Age

by Mark Fulmer

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, "What does this babbler wish to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities"—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean." Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To the unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man.

Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

"'In him we live and move and have our being'

as even some of your own poets have said,

"'For we are indeed his offspring."

Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, "We will hear you again about this." So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Acts 17:16-34 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=a43ea7e045&e=82a9a8f891)

It must be a culinary lesson from some business school or management curriculum. I've certainly been served plenty of them in the hospital world. The famous "bad news sandwich" finds itself on meeting menus of all sorts. You know what I mean—a piece of good news, followed by the weightier, unpopular news, then another slice of good news or affirmation. All the parts are true, but the tough, stringy section in the middle is made easier to swallow.

Remarkably, the Apostle Paul takes exactly that approach as he preaches the Gospel to the intellectual Athenians. They were a curious bunch, those philosophers, with time on their hands and spirituality on their minds. All day long, they feasted on whatever was novel, whatever was the tasty idea of the day. But Paul had the eternal weight of Glory to proclaim. So he served them a fresh, culturally prepared "bad news sandwich!"

"I see that you are religious." Paul begins. His audience was hooked, and probably thought, "Pretty observant chap, this Rabbi fellow. And we're smart too!" Paul agreed with them and pointed out that their city was filled with idols of all sorts. He even complimented them by mentioning their thoroughness. They had an idol to "an unknown God" just in case there were bases they had accidentally left uncovered.

"What you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you." The God of the universe, the one true God, creator of heaven and earth has made Himself known. This God does not dwell in a temple made by man, and does not need anything from man. He has given life and breath to all who live, and He has planted a hunger for worship and a longing for heaven in every human heart. But there will be a day of judgment! Now here's the "bad news" part. Your idols of silver and gold, your lifeless relics will not save you. Your empty worship and worldly philosophy does not bring about the righteousness God Almighty requires.

But God is patient, and He is rich in mercy. He has made a way for the righteousness of one man to stand in for you! You will be declared righteous based on the righteousness of the One whom God appointed. This glorious promise God has punctuated and sealed by the indisputable display of life-giving power. He raised Jesus from the dead! There is life. There is freedom from guilt. There is hope!

Paul preached the resurrection to the Athenians. And that feast of truth is for us as well. We too are called to turn from the idols we worship. We too must repent, and turn in faith to the one true God. And based on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God the Son, we too can receive the assurance that Paul promised to the spiritually starving skeptics on that hilltop in Athens.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

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About the Author

Mark Fulmer
Elder
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Mark Fulmer is an elder at Park Cities Presbyterian Church, and along with Steve Vanderhill, teaches the New Creations Sunday School class.

 

God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Special Messenger

    [Paul wrote,] For by God's grace, I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit. So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God.

    Romans 15:15b-17 NLT

    Key Thought

    There are moments when we recognize that we are in the center of God's will, doing what he would have us do, exactly when and where he wants us to do it. Paul is at that place when he writes today's passage. However, underneath his confidence in what he is doing is an even greater confidence — confidence that the Holy Spirit will take his offering of people and make it holy and acceptable to God. As we live our lives and as our lives interact with and influence other people, let's pray that the Holy Spirit will make our entire lives holy and acceptable offerings to God. Let's also pray that we can live in such a way that our words, actions, and influence invite others to come to Jesus!

    Today's Prayer

    O Father God, thank you for the influence you have given me. Please forgive me for the times I have squandered that influence or used it wrongly. Jesus, help me as I seek to lead people ever closer to you. O Holy Spirit, please present my efforts and the people I influence as holy and acceptable offerings to God. I ask all of this in Jesus' name. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • Spirit-Foretold

    And after [the Jewish leaders in Rome] had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul: "The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet..."

    Acts 28:25 NLT

    Key Thought

    Jewish leaders in Rome come to visit Paul while he is under house arrest. He shares the good news of Jesus with them. Some believe this message, but some reject it. This situation leads to disagreements among the leaders. But it convinces Paul even more of the need to share the good news of Jesus with all people because many will listen, even if most of Jesus' own people won't. The Holy Spirit had been working all along through history, using prophets to tell about God's plan to reach all people. Now, just as Jesus had promised (Acts 1:8), the Spirit has propelled Jesus' followers to share the message with many nations, and many people were responding. When we serve the Lord, we are not working alone or in isolation. We are working as part of a plan going back before the creation of the world to bring God's children back to him (Ephesians 1:4-5; 1 Peter 1:20). Let's ask the Holy Spirit to catch us up in this work of grace as well!

    Today's Prayer

    O Father of all people, move us through your Holy Spirit to carry on the mission of the early disciples — to share the good news of Jesus with all people. Empower us, fill us with passion, give us courage, and please grant us success as we seek to share your good news with people all over the world. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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