Astounded

I recently posted on the portion of Acts 14 where Paul and Barnabas, following the healing of a crippled man, can barely stop the astounded crowd from worshipping them as gods.

Speaking of astounded, what happened next astounds me:

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.

– Acts 14:19-23 (ESV)

I’m not sure if the chronology and its implications are completely clear on the first reading of this passage, so let me detail it a bit here.

Keep in mind that Paul and Barnabas are still in Lystra, a city that just the other day tried to worship them as gods.

What follows is depressingly familiar. I’m reminded of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the adoration of the crowds for their King, and then . . . the way these same crowds turned on him and killed him a few days later. Paul had a similar experience, with a similar result:



“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city . . .”

One minute the crowd wanted to celebrate Paul as a god. The next they are throwing rocks at him. Neither is the proper or desired response to the gospel, and both are examples of what a person committed to Christ and living the gospel out in front of others can expect.

But here’s what blows me away. Paul is lying outside the city, no doubt bloody and bruised, so much so that the crowd thought him dead. His fellow missionaries gather around him – I believe personally that they were praying fervently for him – and the brother gets up and goes back into the city!

What the . . ! I think if I were Paul I would have set a direct course as far away from Lystra as possible. But Paul went back into the city, and the next day he and Barnabas set out for Derbe (a 60-mile journey, I’m told). One tough hombre, this Paul.

OK, that blew me away. But this next part astounds me!

“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.” – Acts 14:21-22

Juxtapose that passage with one from a little earlier . . .

“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city” – Acts 14:19



Do you see what I see? No? OK, let me hilight the part that’s jumping off the page at me:

But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium

[Paul and Barnabas] returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch



After getting almost killed by rocks in Lystra, Paul goes back into the city (!), then the next day leaves with Barnabas on a 60 mile hike to Derbe. When they are done preaching the gospel there, he goes back to Lystra, the city that tried to kill him (!!). He then journeys back to Icomium and Antioch, which I’m told are over 100 miles away, and are the homes of the people who tried to kill him (!!!).

Incredible faith and determination! What courage! And it’s completely in line with the promises and provisionings of the Lord, who promised through John that ” perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

What astounding love.

And what truth, born out of his own hard-earned experience on this his first missionary journey:

“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.”

Having “tribulated” very little in my own life, I don’t think I’m worthy to wash these guys’ socks.

[Note: I cross-posted this on the HNW GAP Singles Blog]

The 2007 Spring Break Band Party

As some of you know, one of the most rewarding and impacting (on me) ministries I’ve ever been involved in was working with seven year’s worth of student worship bands at our church.

A characteristic of the last band I was involved with (in 2004-2005) was their unity and love for each other. They were all very different, but they developed a sweet friendship and love for each other during the year that was . . . well, it was amazing, and awesome, and wonderful. One thing we did quite a few times during that year was get together for game nights, and Balderdash was usually the game of choice. It’s pretty much the funnest board game ever invented.

The band members are scattered now, working, at college, in Seattle, etc., but now and then we have a chance to get together. Brad was down from Seattle so we organized another Balderdashy band party. It was a blast! And it included a lot of other friends too; about 20 people took part in the festivities throughout the night. We started a bit late (around 10:00pm) and it went until 4:30am. I went to bed very tired, but with a smile on my face.

I went to bed thankful for friends, and for a chance to watch young people who mean so much to me grow up. I’m overwhelmed at God’s grace and so thankful to him! Why do I get to experience such great things?

Sometimes I really miss the days we all had together. It hurts to miss people. But it’s a good hurt.

Some pictures for ya:

Continue reading “The 2007 Spring Break Band Party”

The only one

A long time ago, at a missions conference far away, I heard a man named Cliffe Knechtle give a message. He started this message by quoting God's words from the book of Isaiah:

"I will not give my glory to another" – Isaiah 48:11

That has stuck with me through the years. God's glory is his own, and he is jealous and zealous for it. And we are told over and over in Scripture to glorify God alone. We have these repeated commands because, unfortunately, our natural, fallen tendency is to grab up as much glory as we can, for ourselves. What's worse, this tendency really thrives in the spiritual lives and spiritual service of some of us. Have you ever been around a Christian who keeps marring your sight of God because they are constantly leaping in front of him? Have you ever been that person? I'm afraid I have.

There is a second tendency that we humans have that is even more widespread than self-glorification; it is our (completely unhinged and scary) tendency to worship, immediately, almost everything and everyone that strikes our fancy.

So, in reading along in Acts 14 I'm reminded once again of why Paul and Barnabas so completely rock.


Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “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 past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. [emphasis mine]

– Acts 14:8-18 (ESV)

I love that. Paul and Barnabas suddenly found themselves to be celebrities in Lystra, engulfed in their fifteen minutes of (unwanted) fame and worshipped as gods. But they understood two things: First, they knew that they were not gods, and – indeed – but for the grace of God they were still dead in their sins and, secondly, they knew that allowing these people to worship them would not only break God's command and steal his glory, it would also cause the people of Lystra to miss the best news of all.

". . . 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."

Turn to the living God! He is a God who will not give his glory to another, because his glory is only true, only worthy of awe, and only beneficial to the people he loves so much, when it is ascribed to him, because he is the only one who deserves it.

[This is cross posted over at the Houston Northwest GAP Singles blog]

“What has God wrought!”

. . . now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,

‘What has God wrought!’

Behold, a people!

From Numbers 24:23-24

These are the words of the prophet Balaam, when he refused to curse Israel at the request of Balak, king of Moab.

Behold, a people!

That’s what Balaam saw; this was . . .

The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,

the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,

the oracle of him who hears the words of God,

who sees the vision of the Almighty,

falling down with his eyes uncovered . . .
– Numbers 24:3-4

He saw a people, created by God, blessed by God, and ultimately to be used for God’s purposes and glory. And he couldn’t curse that people, no matter how easy it would have been to appease Balak by cursing them.

How can you curse the people God has blessed?

““They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.” – Malachi 3:17

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

Swallowing up the bad

I’m in a coffee shop studying for tomorrow’s lesson (we’re doing the life of Paul in the GAP class). Gene Getz, the author of the study Becoming a Catalyst; Insights into the Life of Paul, said this near the beginning of this lesson, when speaking of our natural, sinful prejudices:

For instance, in school the “jocks” hate the “geeks” (after all, their going to work for them all their adult lives . . .

Heh, heh. That joke’s been said numerous times and in many different ways, but for some reason that cracked me up.

And it also offers a deep insight into a truth that I’m probably too tired and busy to meditate much on right now, which is this: the course of your life today doesn’t necessarily dictate the course of your life tomorrow. I’ve known and observed so many students (and my own children) going through hard times that just consume them. While saying the words “oh, it will get better, you’ll see” often doesn’t really do the trick, it is so often true. And, in the life of a Christian, it is a rock solid truth, a guarantee. It will get better; maybe soon, maybe later, maybe upon your entrance into eternity. But the better, and the best, will swallow up the bad that is now. Be patient, and wait on the salvation of the Lord.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;

you have loosed my sackcloth

and clothed me with gladness,

that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.

O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

– Psalm 30:11-12