Acts 26:14 – “My Way’s Cloudy”

Acts 26:14b, NLT – “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.”

In Acts 26, Paul faces King Herod Agrippa II, Festus (the procurator of Judea), and a host of Roman and Jewish nobility for a trial before he finally defends himself before Caesar’s court. Paul recounts the transformative encounter he had with Jesus on his way to Damascus, Syria, in which Jesus told him, “It is useless for you to fight against my will.”

(First of all, I’m glad for the New Living Translation, because the first time I read this, they were talking about “goads” in the New King James Version).

But also, how can we fight against God’s will when we rarely even know what it is? I know there are levels to this. So a Christian can argue that God’s will for all Christians is to spread the Gospel, and that was God’s will for Paul. It would have been useless for Paul to avoid that. (Though, at the time, Paul was a Pharisee who was pretty much blindsided into Christianity, so, even then, he had no idea what God’s will was until God revealed it to him.)

I think a lot of times, we put too much pressure and focus on God’s will for our lives. If we take this verse and interpret it in a deterministic manner, then, it doesn’t matter what we do; God’s will will come to pass anyway.

Let’s consider this example. I believe that if it is God’s will for me to continue my education, it will happen. In that sense, I can trust God and seek God’s wisdom as I do research, make my decisions, and wait patiently while opportunities open up.

On the other hand, if God’s will is for me to become a preacher, then that is also something against which it would be useless for me to fight. I didn’t like public speaking for a portion of my life and my career path was nowhere near preaching, or even pastoring–God forbid! (Actually, maybe I should take that last part back, you never know…) But God guided me into that. In that sense, it was useless for me to fight.

I love this, because now it brings up the question of, “Do humans have free will?” And I still think there are a plethora of ways to answer that question. For instance, I don’t believe it is “God’s will” that I wear a particular outfit on a particular day or change my hairstyle. Those things are left to chance and free will. But I do believe that God’s will plays a part in our ultimate purpose, whether it is what we do, why we do it, or how we do it. And I think that looking back on our stories and how everything is connected gives us a clue as to where God’s hand was and where we were a little more free to make our own decisions.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.

Proverbs 16:9, New International Version


Heart: reminds me of a person’s desires

“devises (their) way”: to devise means to think, dream, design, concoct, plan, etc.

The LORD: reminds me of authority and wisdom

“directs (their) steps”: basically shows us where to go

Passages like Proverbs 16:9 make so much more sense now. As a child, my heart desired to serve God through music. I dreamed of all the different ways I could accomplish that. Many of the decisions I made were in an attempt to achieve that desire. But the LORD–the wisdom and authority of God–ended up directing me and showing me where to go (literally). It was not a direct, linear path, and I developed other skills and gifts along the way. So my next step is to keep the desire in my heart, but see what steps the Lord leads me to take.

*”My Way’s Cloudy” is a lyric from a song (and the title) by the cast of Langston Hughes’ musical “Black Nativity.” I use this as the title for this post because it reminds me that even if we can’t see our way, we can trust God to guide our steps so that we get where we’re going safely.

Photo by Vidyagauri Jadhav on

Saved by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ – Acts 15

Acts 15:10-11: “So then, why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.”

Peter says this to the Jewish believers who were Pharisees when they got saved. (Remember, there were lots of different sects in Judaism at the time. The Pharisees are the ones who preached about obeying the Torah–the Law of Moses).

These Pharisees wanted the Gentiles to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses. The problem with that, Peter noted, is that we “are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus,” not by our works, or what we do.

I see a theme of inclusion in the Book of Acts. The Holy Spirit levels the field between Jews and Gentiles, so that all are equal before God. Not only that, but it shows that we had nothing to do with this to begin with, so why would we have to do something in order to keep it, or to belong?

God is pleased simply by our faith. On the most basic level, faith is all God requires of us. And I believe that it is our faith in God’s story, the Gospel, that will make everything follow–the hope, the love, the obedience, etc.

Fasting, Prayer, and Discernment: “Seek the Lord for Wisdom”, Pt. 2

Hello readers!

I promise I didn’t mean to make this another series. But fasting, prayer, and discernment seem to be a theme in the book of Acts. Here are some verses:

Acts 13:2-3: “As they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.”

Acts 14:21-23: “After they had preached the gospel in that town (Derbe) and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, ‘It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.’ When they had appointed elders for them in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

This theme of fasting reminds me of the post I wrote about Joshua and the Gibeonites. As leader of the Israelites, Joshua did not seek God before accepting the Gibeonites into his camp, which resulted in their not knowing the Gibeonites’ true identity. In Acts 13, the apostles prayed and fasted–“worshipped” and fasted–to ensure that they were hearing from God before they sent Barnabas and Saul out on a mission. Similarly, in Acts 14, it was after prayer and fasting that the apostles were able to confidently appoint elders to the churches.

Fasting and prayer are essential to the discernment process. This is what I’m learning. Prayer is communication with God. We can’t–or, we shouldn’t–make decisions without discussing them with God first, because God can help us see whether or not we are about to make a good decision, or a decision that is aligned with God’s will for us.

Fasting is the act of denying yourself of the things that you would normally depend on (like food), or, in modern times, be distracted by (like social media). I know that fasting is also supposed to help us hear God more clearly, because there is nothing to take up our time, so we can spend that extra time in prayer.

I can think of a couple things I need to seek the Lord about. What about you?

I wonder if fasting might help.

If you have never fasted before and are interested, here is one resource that I have found useful:

  1. “Fasting Guidelines and Information,” International House of Prayer, Kansas City (IHOP KC),

I know there are many more, but I would only share something that I have actually used or read.

[And, of course, here’s the legal disclaimer that I’m not a doctor and I can’t give any medical advice about fasting.]

Another disclaimer: I’m not the type of person who says “Promotion of X is not a statement of agreement with X.” I’d rather not get entangled with all of that. I will only post and share content from ministries and organizations that I trust theologically and ethically (unless later, self-directed research proves otherwise).


Acts 11/Joel 2: Pouring Out the Spirit

Joel 2:28-29: “Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.”

Acts 11:15-18: “‘And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life’.”

In Acts 11, Peter tells the Jewish believers about how the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentile Cornelius and his family. The Jewish believers were surprised, and said, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18). Later in the chapter, the church in Antioch was formed by persecuted believers who escaped after Stephen was killed. The Gentiles who were with them–“men of Cyprus and Cyrene”–decided to preach the Gospel to the Greeks as well–the “Hellenists” (Acts 11:20). Cyprus is a highly-populated island nation in the Middle East today, located to the south of Turkey, and Cyrene is an ancient Libyan city that was controlled by both Greeks and Romans at different times.

At a time when the Jewish apostles and believers were only spreading the Gospel to other Jews, maybe these Gentile men felt it their responsibility to include the Gentiles in that number. After all, someone converted them; shouldn’t they, too, convert others? Thanks to the work of these men, many Greeks were converted, and the believers in Jerusalem commended their faith. Antioch was also the first place where Jesus-followers were called Christians.

Through this, I see that God intended to reach the whole world. God never intended to save just one people group. After all, in Genesis 22:18, God promised Abraham that through his descendants, the whole world would be blessed. But we never knew the specifications of that blessing until now. It is through the spread of the Gospel and the faith of the Israelites–later “Jews”–that the rest of the world gained access to this blessing. God used the Jews to reach the Gentiles and everyone continued to spread the news about Jesus everywhere. And God continued to pour out the Holy Spirit on all people. That way, everyone had “the repentance that leads to life.” The favor that the Israelites were shown in the very beginning, i.e. Torah times, was for this purpose. Now God has revealed that His favor extends to all without bias–that God is not a “respecter of persons.”

I am glad that this Gospel and the Holy Spirit are available to everyone.

Joshua 9 – Seek the Lord for Wisdom

Joshua 9:14 – “So the leaders partook of their provisions, and did not ask direction from the LORD.”

Just for a little background, my church is doing a study on Joshua and Acts right now, which is why most of the reflections I write will be from either of these two books. I’m just writing what I think about/wherever my brain takes me during my reading.

In Joshua 9, after the Israelites had won the battle at Ai, many of the kings united to fight against the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, but the Gibeonites decided to be deceptive so that the Israelites would not kill them. They made their clothing, shoes, and food appear much older and more worn-out than they really were, pretending to be from a far away country, and asked the Israelites to make a treaty with them. The leaders of Israel, including Joshua, agreed without consulting God first. Later, they found out that the people were actually Gibeonites and that they lived on the land with them as their neighbors. However, because of the treaty, the leaders of Israel had to keep their word to the Gibeonites and not harm them. Instead they allowed the Gibeonites to be their servants in the temple.

The leaders of Israel agreed to the treaty proposed by the Gibeonites (and “partook of their provisions”) without consulting God first.

My first question is, why would the Israelites partake in moldy food? My second question is, did they not notice while eating it that it was actually pretty fresh, and doctored to look moldy? Were they not suspicious?

Okay, but my actual question is, how often do we do the same thing? Rush into making a decision without seeking direction from the Lord? Without praying about it? How can we be sure to make wise decisions when we aren’t consulting the God of wisdom?

If Joshua and the other leaders of Israel had sought God, they would have known that the Gibeonites were being deceptive and not to trust them. This applies to almost everything. How many poor decisions could we have avoided if we had sought God for ourselves? I would even add that in addition to relying on the prayers and advice of other people, we need to seek God for ourselves so we are sure that God is speaking a consistent message. But when we go into these situations without godly counsel, we end up unprepared.

The leaders of Israel couldn’t go back on their word to the Gibeonites; it was too late. It’s so important to seek God so that we don’t make decisions we regret later on. I believe that God can redeem our mistakes and get us back on the right track, but what if we just listened to Him to begin with?

Think About These Things – Part 5

Acts 10:9-16, focus on vv. 11-16: “He (Peter) saw the heavens opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures, reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.’ The voice said to him again, a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken to heaven.”

The background of this passage is that Peter went up on a roof to pray, but then he got hungry. God used the opportunity to show him an image of a banquet feast of animals, many of which were not kosher/clean. Peter thinks God is telling him to eat the unclean animals, and he’s confused, because he knows that God would never contradict anything in God’s word, so why is God telling him that He has made these animals clean, and that Peter should not call them unclean or profane?

We know from past readings/study that this refers to the gentile Cornelius, whom God used to pour out the Holy Spirit on gentiles. But in this moment, Peter did not know that. It was only revealed to him later.

Though it is an interesting image, especially when read next to 1 Corinthians 7:17-20, which states:

“…let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything. Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.”

Circumcision and uncircumcision are usually used as metaphors for Jew and Gentile. Normally, because of the law, Jews are circumcised. Gentiles are not, because they don’t have that law. So what Paul is saying here is that if you are an observant Jew who believes in Jesus, you don’t need to change anything you’ve been doing except to obey God’s commandments, especially as revealed in Christ. (Remember Jesus’s debates with the Pharisees, who were adding to and interpreting God’s laws in ways that God never said). The same goes for Gentiles. They don’t need to become circumcised. Just obey God.

This reminds me of the different Christian groups who believe they have to live exactly like the early Jewish believers in order to be righteous/in order to obey God. That is so not the point. We have the freedom to follow these laws, sure. It’s not going to affect our righteousness, though. God’s commandments in Christ are simple. Love God and love your neighbor. What you eat and drink, whether you are circumcised, ultimately means nothing.

I was born into an observant Jewish family, but since following Jesus (and being old enough to make my own decisions–because I believed in Jesus when I was still really little–it’s a long story), I know that I can continue to follow those extra laws if I wish or I can choose not to. As long as I am following the simple commandment to love God and others, which I also believe is reflected in the distribution of the Ten Commandments, I’m fine.

We are not justified by our works, but by our faith. The extent to which our works justify us is if we are obedient to what God tells us to do. God doesn’t need extra fancy sacrifices, but a pure and obedient heart.

Featured image: “Biblical illustration of Acts of the Apostles Chapter 10.” 1984. Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0. Jim Padgett.

Think About These Things – Pt. 4

You know what? I think I’ll keep this series going until Pentecost Sunday.

We are finally all caught up, and here is this morning’s post:

“Acts 9:4-5: ‘He (Saul) fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” He (Saul) asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply was, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” ‘

Saul is a devout Jew who is persecuting the Jews who believe in Jesus, because they have departed from the true faith. However, on his way to Damascus, a Syrian city with many believers, he has an encounter that Jesus that knocks him off of his bestial mode of transportation and blinds him with a bright light. Jesus asks, ‘Why are you persecuting ME?’

Clearly, Saul isn’t actually persecuting Jesus, but by persecuting those who believe in Him, he is. I believe this is the first allusion to the body of Christ in the Bible–that is, of believers being the body of Christ. This is why by persecuting the believers, Saul can be persecuting Jesus.

On another level, this can also be a continuation of Matthew 23:37 (Luke 13:34), where Jesus says, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.’

What if those early believers were God’s prophetic messengers? They had to be, especially if the Great Commission were to be fulfilled–to go throughout the world and make disciples of all nations. By persecuting the believers, Saul is continuing the tradition of killing those sent to speak God’s truth into the world.”

Think About These Things – Pt. 3

I don’t know how long this series will last, but this is what I wrote yesterday. I didn’t post this to the Facebook page, so hopefully this isn’t redundant:

“Psalm 116:13 – ‘I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord…’

This verse comes from a larger passage, in which King David is thanking God for delivering him from an illness that had him close to death. The first thing I saw once I had read today’s sermon passage a few times–especially this verse–was a COVID-19 patient in bed. They had no one to visit them, and they really wanted communion. So they used what they had: a little piece of bread and a cup of juice from the meal that they were having. Holding the bread in one hand, they recited: ‘On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He took bread, and, breaking it, said, “This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”‘ I didn’t see anything past that, because that’s when I exited the daydream–or vision, if that’s what it was.

I immediately thought of Isa. 53:5 – ‘But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises (wounds or stripes) we are healed.’

I know a lot of people have been talking about pleading the blood of Jesus over this virus, but what about His body? His broken body, His beaten body, which the prophet Isaiah has said holds the key to our healing?

I’m not going to focus on the act of communion as a panacea of healing, but rather the faith behind it. And I know I’m treading on dangerous ground here, because many people have had faith, yet were not healed. However, I believe that in our ‘remembrance’ of Jesus, this is part of what we should remember. We not only remember His death, but we also remember the significance of His broken body.

‘This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In our consumption of the carb of our choice, we remember that it represents–or actually becomes (depending on your tradition)–the body of Christ, of Jesus.

When King David refers to “the cup of salvation” and says that he will “call on the name of the Lord,” while we can’t be 100% sure that the cup of salvation refers to the blood of Jesus, I do believe it is a model of what we can do in our times of suffering and sickness, knowing that these elements are more than just a memorial. What if it also portrays the reality of the nearness of the Kingdom of God? That it is as close as the very bread we eat and wine we drink, and that in those elements are the powers of healing and salvation for all who believe?”

Think About These Things – Pt. 2

This is the second post in my Facebook transfer series. This one is from Saturday, April 24, 2020.

Psalm 46:10 – ‘Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’

Stillness. Letting Go and letting You do what You do. Don’t rush, don’t work, don’t panic. Be still. Trust in You. 

To exalt means to lift up. You don’t say You will be exalted. You say You already are exalted.

‘Be still, for I am exalted. Physically, I am at a great height. I can look down and see everything. You’re not alone or ignored. No one is. Nothing that happens on the earth escapes my notice. Spiritually, My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than yours. You will never understand the whys and the hows in this life. But trust that I know what I am doing. You see through a glass dimly, but soon you will see clearly and you will see as I do (1 Corinthians 13:12). But much must happen before that time comes. Just be still and know that I am God. Ineffable (too great to be described in words), unfathomable (incapable of being fully explored or understood), immeasurable. Do not worry; just be still. Be still and I will work. Be still and you will see me work things out for you. Because I AM and I can.'”

Think About These Things – Pt. 1

Hey…so long no see!

(That looks weird, even though I’ve been hearing it as a greeting all my life…)

I want to share a couple of meditations that I posted on Facebook that should really be recorded here–at least for my own records. So if you’ve read these already, they’re pretty much redundant.

The first (this post) is from Friday, April 24:

“Acts 2:21 – ‘Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (NRSV)

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in (that Son) (that He–Jesus the Christ–died for our sins and was resurrected) would not perish, but will have everlasting life.” — paraphrase

Isn’t that a Reckless Love? To sacrifice your own child? To kill them for the sake of humanity? It’s like saying, ‘I created you, and I love you, and I want to be your Father/Parent, but I can’t tolerate such sin. How can you be made in my image, yet still be so sinful? I’m not like that. 

You know what? Normally, your priests would have to make a sacrifice on behalf of your collective sin, whether a lamb or another creature. I am going to send my Son into the world, clad in human flesh. He’s going to be just like you. He’ll experience hunger, thirst, pain, trauma, betrayal, passion. He will be like you in every way, except with the inability to sin, because He is also divine. He is a part of Me. A part of Myself I am sacrificing for you. 

Therefore, He will be the final sacrifice. Your sacrifices of lambs and turtledoves have to be renewed year after year–in some cases, every time you sin, you have to make atonement. However, this is the final sacrifice. The sacrifice to end all sacrifices. I will send my Son. He will take on all of your sin. He will suffer. He will be alone. I will have to leave Him–to remove Myself from Him–because, like I said, sin is just not in My nature. It’s not a part of who I am. I love My Son, and it grieves Me deeply to do this, yet He must die so that you may live–an abundant, grace-filled, guilt-free life. 

And all you have to do is believe. His death put your sin to death, and His resurrection means that it will never have power over you ever again, So come, receive that grace. That gift. You are no longer estranged or separated from Me. You are My child. Your sin has been replaced by My righteousness. Celebrate that this Easter. And rejoice, for I have sent you My Spirit, so you shall not fear or worry about your salvation. For I am also within you, ever renewing and transforming you to reflect My nature. So do not fear. I am with you. I have called you by name. You are Mine.”