Monday, April 11, 2016, 4:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “All Through the Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 14 (Select vv. ESV). Poisoned Minds (vv. 1-7) Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel. The Holy Spirit had set apart Paul and Barnabas for the work to which the Lord had called them. So, the two of them were sent on their way by the Holy Spirit. Wherever they went, they proclaimed the word of God. Nearly everywhere they went there were people who listened to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and there were those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner/master) and Savior of their lives. Yet, nearly everywhere they went they also faced much opposition, and persecution, too. When we follow Jesus Christ with our lives, and we come out from the world and are separate, and we give testimony to God’s saving grace, and we teach the whole counsel of God, there will be those who will be encouraged to believe on Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives, and/or who will be encouraged to return to their Lord in full assurance of faith, if they have wandered off to follow after the gods of men. As well, others will be strengthened and encouraged, in their walks of faith, to persevere and to not give up. Yet, because we are opposing the work of Satan, and we are working against him, and we are exposing his lies, and we are telling the truth, he and his followers will come against us, and they will oppose what we are doing. Satan will do everything within his power to poison the minds of those who might listen to the gospel so that they will turn a deaf ear, and so they will refuse Christ or will adopt a false grace gospel, absent of the cross of Christ in their lives, instead. Yet, we are to be encouraged, and we are to persevere and to not give up. Even in the face of much opposition and severe persecution, we are to keep on sharing the whole counsel of God and to keep on telling people about God’s saving grace. We are not to shrink back out of fear of what humans might do to us, but we are to continue speaking boldly for the Lord. Sometimes the Lord will encourage us to remain right where we are, and to continue sharing the gospel, even in the face of a vast array of threats against us. Other times he will tell us to leave where we are and to go someplace else. Either way, we are to obey him and to do what he says, and we are to never cave in to the pressures put on us by other humans to soften the message or to change the message to “gospel lite.” The Good News (v. 15) “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” In Lystra, Paul was instrumental of God in the healing of a man who had been lame from birth. When the people saw the miracle of healing in this man’s life, they declared Paul and Barnabas to be gods in human form, and they wanted to offer sacrifices to the apostles. Yet, the apostles were greatly troubled by this, and so they explained to the people that they were just humans like them. They also explained to the people that they were there to share the good news with them. What was this “good news” they were telling them? It was that they were to turn from worthless things, like false gods, to the living God, to love and to serve him with their lives. This was the same gospel Paul had been called to by Jesus Christ when he told him that he was sending him to open blinded eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God so that they could receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Ac. 26:16-18). This, which Paul told the people, is the essence of the gospel message, for Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). The “good news” is that Jesus came to set us free from lifestyles of sin and to free us to walk in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, all in the power and working of the Spirit within us. When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Strengthened Disciples (vv. 19-23) But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. One moment the people were calling the apostles gods, and they were wanting to sacrifice to them. The next moment they were swayed in their opinions by Jews from Antioch and Iconium to oppose the apostles and to persecute them severely. And, we may face similar situations, too. People are human, and they sometimes can easily be swayed by the opinions of others and may even change sides several times, depending on the argument presently set before them, and their desire to be accepted by those with whom they are presently in their company or under their persuasion. In other words, even those we think are on our side and those we think are supporting what we do may one day turn against us if they are the types of people who fall easily enough to manipulative tactics and persuasive voices. So, don’t be surprised if even your closest companions end up betraying you. When we are beaten down by the opposition of sinful human beings, and even when those who are closest to us end up betraying, rejecting, hating, abandoning and/or otherwise mistreating us, we must never give up! We need to get back up on our feet, and we must continue in the work to which God has called us, because many people need to hear the gospel message so that they can be saved, or so that they can be revived in their walks of faith. And, we need to do this whether or not we have anyone standing with us and encouraging us, because God is always with us, he is on our side, and he will never leave us or forsake us. We must find our strength in God alone! He must be our all sufficiency, for humans may fail us, but God will never fail us. He is completely faithful in all that he does. Jesus said that if we follow him we will be hated and persecuted as he was. He does not promise us that faith in him means that everything in our lives will go smoothly. Sometimes it does. Sometimes God has everything go like clockwork for us because he has a timetable he wants to meet, and so he orchestrates everything to go according to a particular schedule which just so happens to coincide with our schedule. But, life is not always like that. Many times we face obstacles and hurdles along the way. There are times when we will experience delays. Some doors will be opened for us, but others will be closed. Some people will like us, while others will hate us. But, even all of that is in God’s perfect plan and purposes for our lives, and according to his timetable, although it may not jive with the timetable or the situations we had envisioned for ourselves all the time. Yet, in whatever God brings our way, we must praise him, thank him, and continue in him until the end. All Through the Night / An Original Work / December 7, 2013 Based off Various Scriptures Blessed are you when you’re persecuted Because of your faith in Jesus Christ. Blessed are you when people insult you, And falsely say what leads folks to doubt. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is Great in the heavens. You’re not alone. When you are persecuted in one place, Flee to another. God will be there. You will be hated by all the nations Because you testify of God’s grace. Many will seize you and persecute you, And put to death the foll’wers of Christ. Yet, do not fear what humans may do to you, For I’m with you all through the night. I tell you, love your enemies with my love, And forgive as I forgave you. Pray for those who do evil against you. Rest in my love and grace from above.