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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Day 92: What are the BIG Lessons We Can Learn the Book of Acts?

Today's Reading: Acts 1:1-8 & 28:30-31; Proverbs 29:19-27

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." - Acts 1:8, ESV

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 28:30-31, ESV

What are the BIG Lessons We Can Learn the Book of Acts?

We have now come to end of the book of Acts. Before we begin Romans together, let's take a break to think about what we have learned from Acts:

1. The Priority of the Gospel: Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples for one main reason, so they could be His witnesses. The purpose of the church is to worship and testify to the world of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Who Jesus is, what He has done and what difference that makes for the church and the world are the heart of the Gospel and the Gospel is the heart of the church. When we get distracted by lesser things, we fail to keep the main thing the main thing.

2. The Power of the Gospel: As we saw Peter and Philip and then Paul taking the Gospel to Jerusalem and Judea, then to Samaria and to the Gentiles, we saw the power of the Gospel every step of the way. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation, for the thousands who came to Christ in Jerusalem, for the Ethiopian eunuch, for Cornelius and his household, for the Philippian jailer and his household, and for thousands upon thousands of others, too. It's not about programs, building, music or clever messages; the power of God to save is delivered through the preached Gospel.

3. The Persecution of the Gospel: Just as surely as we saw the Gospel bring people to salvation, so we also saw the good news about Jesus bring division and opposition. Sometimes we're afraid of division and opposition, as though we have failed if 100% of the people don't agree with our message. But Jesus told us to expect opposition, and the Gospel never entered a new town or a new area in Acts without opposition.

Interestingly, the Gospel is not only persecuted from outside the church. People within the church persecute the Gospel, too. Judaizers and other legalists attacked the Gospel in Acts and they continue to do so today. The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 had to defend and clarify the Gospel and its implications, and church leaders still have that responsibility today.    

4. Perseverance in the Gospel: Finally, we have seen the the most important thing for Christians to do in the face of opposition is to persevere. This perseverance must be in the Gospel, as Paul shows from Acts 23-28. We must press on in the Gospel, holding forth Jesus and holding onto Jesus, no matter what.

From these four Gospel P's, we get a prescription for the health of the church and the vitality of Christian witness in our culture, a culture that looks more and more like the ancient Roman empire day by day. We must make the Gospel our priority, proclaiming and living out its life-changing power and persevering in the face of persecution by the power of God alone.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the Gospel of our salvation, the good news of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Thank You for saving us, for loving us, for adopting us, for enlisting us in Your kingdom service as ambassadors, for sending us to a world in need, and for equipping us with the only power to save, the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May Your church always keep Your Gospel our priority. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Prayer Based on Proverbs 29:19-27:

By mere words a servant is not disciplined,
    for though he understands, he will not respond.
Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?
    There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Father, so often we think we're accomplishing something with our words,
    but too often we are merely being hasty or vain.
Make our words measured, wise, faithful and effective for Your purposes.

Whoever pampers his servant from childhood
    will in the end find him his heir.
A man of wrath stirs up strife,
    and one given to anger causes much transgression.
Father. keep us from the sins of over-indulgence and of over-harshness,
    and let us neither spoil nor oppress, but truly love others.

One's pride will bring him low,
    but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.
The partner of a thief hates his own life;
    he hears the curse, but discloses nothing.
The fear of man lays a snare,
    but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.
Many seek the face of a ruler,
    but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.
An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous,
    but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked.
Lord, nothing is more poisonous to our souls and our relationships than pride,
    so we need Your grace to keep us humble and trusting in You.
Let us never partner with wicked people in doing wicked deeds,
    nor let us be driven and controlled by the fear of man,
        but let us always and only look to You for justice and our every need.
You alone establish us in righteousness and give us all we need in Christ.
    In His name we pray, Amen.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Day 91: Acts 28:23-31 & Prov. 29:10-18 - Why Does the Book of Acts End the Way It Does?

Today's Reading: Acts 28:23-31 & Prov. 29:10-18

"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 28:29-31, ESV

Why Does the Book of Acts End the Way It Does?

The book of Acts ends in a way that leaves many people scratching their heads. The ending seems abrupt and somewhat unresolved. Paul is under house arrest in Rome. He is neither set free nor is he executed, although both would happen to Paul after the ending of Acts, So, why end the book with such an apparently unresolved and un-final ending?

1. Once he arrives safely in Rome, Paul's apostolic mission is complete. "All roads lead to Rome." He has taken the Gospel to the capital of the empire, and from here it can reach the ends of the earth. This is the fulfillment of the charge Jesus gave His disciples before He ascended: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, ESV)

2. Luke is emphasizing the fact that the Gospel remains always unhindered. Though Paul is in chains, kept under house arrest and chained to a guard, he is able to preach the Gospel "with all boldness and without hindrance."

3. The Gospel kingdom of Jesus is passing from the Jewish people to the Gentiles. We have seen the Jewish people reject Jesus again and again throughout Acts. The book thus ends with one more, final rejection. Paul's final words in Acts are " . . . that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

4. The open-ended nature of the book is an indication that the story of the Gospel's unhindered advance continues. It is an invitation to see the Gospel continue to advance, unhindered, to all the nations.

So, upon closer consideration, we can see that the ending of Acts is not abrupt or incomplete, but it is perfectly crafted to bring this marvelous book to an open close, an intentionally unresolved resolution.

Heavenly Father, we thank You for the Gospel and for the blessings of the kingdom of Your Son. May we be as bold as Paul and proclaim the Gospel unhindered by whatever opposition we may face in this world. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Prayer Based on Proverbs 29:10-18:

Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless
    and seek the life of the upright.
A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
    but a wise man quietly holds it back.
If a ruler listens to falsehood,
    all his officials will be wicked.
The poor man and the oppressor meet together;
    the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.
If a king faithfully judges the poor,
    his throne will be established forever.
The rod and reproof give wisdom,
    but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
When the wicked increase, transgression increases,
    but the righteous will look upon their downfall.
Discipline your son, and he will give you rest;
    he will give delight to your heart.
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
    but blessed is he who keeps the law.

Father, we live in a world of violence and foolishness. Lord, give our leaders wisdom and good counsel. May they be guided by truth and not by lies. Give our leaders and commitment to faithfully judge the poor. We know that our King Jesus always judges justly and always does what is right. Give us more of the wisdom of Christ in our land, in our homes and in our lives. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Day 90: Acts 28:11-22 & Prov. 29:1-9 - What Does It Look Like to Be Wholeheartedly Committed to the Gospel?

Today's Reading: Acts 28:11-22 & Prov. 29:1-9

"But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” - Acts 28:22, ESV

What Does It Look Like to Be Wholeheartedly Committed to the Gospel?

Have you ever known someone who was relentlessly committed to something? I recently saw the movie Hacksaw Ridge, a graphically violent World War 2 movie directed by Mel Gibson. The movie tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a pacifist who volunteered to be a medic. Early in the movie, Doss is absolutely committed to his pacifist convictions, enduring torment in basic training because of his refusal to fire a weapon and his equally strong commitment to serving as an unarmed combat medic. The last part of the movie shows Doss indescribably determined commitment to save the lives of his comrades by getting them off of Hacksaw Ridge, Okinawa, under intense enemy fire. In the end. Doss saved 75 men and was the first American to be awarded the Medal of Honor without ever firing a shot.

Today's passage in Acts 28 shows us the Desmond Doss-like determination of the Apostle Paul to take the Gospel to the Jewish people. Paul has spent nearly three years of his life in prison, unjustly accused by Jewish leaders of attacking and undermining the Jewish nation and traditions. Prior to being imprisoned, Paul had been mocked, beaten, harassed, stoned, whipped and utterly rejected again and again by Jewish-led mobs across Asia Minor and Greece. Yet here we see him, after so many years of such intense mistreatment, seeking out the Jewish leaders in Rome. Why? He wants to have an opportunity to tell them about Jesus.

Paul's determination and relentless commitment was heroic, even awe-inspiring. Yet he is not the only one in today's passage who shows a wholehearted commitment to the Gospel. Christians in Puteoli hosted Paul and his companions for seven days. After Paul made his way to Rome itself, the Christians from all over Rome traveled to see Paul. These believers practiced hospitality and risked public ridicule or worse to identify with the Gospel and support Paul. You don't need to be a world-traveling apostle in order to be wholly committed to the Gospel.

This kind of wholehearted commitment to the Gospel doesn't come from our own human efforts. At the beginning of the book of Acts, Jesus told His disciples, "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8, ESV) As we have walked from chapter 1 to chapter 28, we have seen the Holy Spirit empower His people to take this Gospel from Jerusalem to Rome. The real hero is not Paul or the Christians who hosted him, but the Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, You alone save us and empower us and use us for Your glory. You alone can give us, by Your Holy Spirit, a wholehearted commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank You for all that You have done for us, are doing in us and will do through us. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Prayer Based on Proverbs 29:1-9:

He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck,
    will suddenly be broken beyond healing.
When the righteous increase, the people rejoice,
    but when the wicked rule, the people groan.
He who loves wisdom makes his father glad,
    but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.
By justice a king builds up the land,
    but he who exacts gifts tears it down.
A man who flatters his neighbor
    spreads a net for his feet.
An evil man is ensnared in his transgression,
    but a righteous man sings and rejoices.
A righteous man knows the rights of the poor;
    a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.
Scoffers set a city aflame,
    but the wise turn away wrath.
If a wise man has an argument with a fool,
    the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.   

Heavenly  Father, make us teachable and responsive to your reproof. Let us love wisdom and act in justice. Lord, keep us from flattery and from evil. Guard us by Your grace, that we may walk in righteousness before You. We need Your wisdom to guide us and to guard us. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Day 89: Acts 28:1-10 & Prov. 28:19-28 - How Do the Blessings of Common Grace Prepare the Way for the Gospel?

Today's Reading: Acts 28:1-10 & Prov. 28:19-28

The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” - Acts 28:2-4, ESV

How Do the Blessings of Common Grace Prepare the Way for the Gospel?

As soon as Paul and his shipmates are shipwrecked on Malta, they are greeted by a pleasant surprise: The natives on Malta, who are non-Greek-speaking primitives, greet them with great hospitality. They welcome the shipwrecked men with kindness and kindle a fire for them to help dry them and keep them warm. Then, after the viper grips onto Paul's hand, the natives show a basic understanding of divine justice. How did these non-Christian, pagan people get these virtues?

Sometimes Christians can distort our concepts of sin and righteousness in a way that denies the operation of common grace. Common grace refers to the grace of God which operates among all people, believers and unbelievers. This common grace is responsible for all kinds of good things which believers and unbelievers enjoy. Jesus called us as believers to imitate God's common grace when He said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:44-45, ESV)

Common grace certainly includes all general blessings of good weather, health, food, water, etc., but it also includes measures of civic righteousness. Paul told believers to submit to human governments in Romans 13, describing non-Christians Roman government in these terms: "For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." (Rom. 13:1-2, ESV)   How can secular governments provide justice? Only by God's common grace.

In today's passage, we see another aspect of common grace. These Maltan natives had hospitality and a sense of justice that prompted them to welcome these shipwrecked men and also to recognize that Paul must be someone special if he was able to shake off a viper that had bitten his hand without being hurt. Their decency and sense of justice prepared them to be able to receive Paul and to be touched by God's hand through Paul's ministry among them. So common grace not only provides material blessings and civic justice but also prepares people to receive Gospel ministry.

Heavenly Father, we thank You for all of Your grace, for saving grace and for common grace. Thank You for blessing people who do not deserve it. Thank You most of all for preparing us to hear Your Gospel and to receive and rest upon Your Son for salvation. We thank You in His name, Amen.

Prayer Based on Proverbs 28:19-28:

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
    but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.
A faithful man will abound with blessings,
    but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
Heavenly Father, by Your goodness, we enjoy great blessings in this life.
    Give us diligence in our work and good fruit from our labor.

To show partiality is not good,
    but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.
A stingy man hastens after wealth
    and does not know that poverty will come upon him.
Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor
    than he who flatters with his tongue.
Father, keep us from the sins of greed, favoritism and flattery.
    May we treat people with kindness and never with disdain or with self-serving flattery,
        and may we never love material possessions more than people.

Whoever robs his father or his mother
    and says, “That is no transgression,”
    is a companion to a man who destroys.
A greedy man stirs up strife,
    but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.
Lord, may our hearts never be captured by money or possessions,
    and may we trust in You alone for our security.

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,
    but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
Whoever gives to the poor will not want,
    but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
When the wicked rise, people hide themselves,
    but when they perish, the righteous increase.
Father, give us humility and wisdom,
    keeping us from self-reliance and foolishness.
May we be generous and caring toward the poor,
    and may we be a blessing to our neighbors as we serve them in Your name. Amen.

Day 88: Acts 27:39-44 & Prov. 28:10-18 - Why Do We Doubt God's Sovereign Care for His People?

Today's Reading: Acts 27:39-44 & Prov. 28:10-18

And so it was that all were brought safely to land. - Acts 27:44

Why Do We Doubt God's Sovereign Care for His People? 

Sometimes I find it helpful to ask probing questions of Scripture. For example, in today's passage:

  • Why did God rescue these people in this way?
  • What if God didn't save them and the ship sank?
  • Why save all the prisoners and not just Paul? 

Sometimes Scripture does not answer all of our probing questions. At these times, we need to be content with accepting Deuteronomy 29:29: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." (ESV)

Probing questions can be helpful, as long as we always turn to Scripture for the answers. If we are committed to consulting the context and to interpreting Scripture by Scripture, we will have safe guides for our questions. So with these guides in place, we can go back to those probing questions:
  • Why did God rescue these people in this way? He did so because it best glorified Himself and revealed His power to preserve and save His people. He not only wanted to get Paul to Rome, but He wanted to show Himself to Paul's shipmates along the way as the true God who rescues.
  • What if God didn't save them and the ship sank? God would only have done that if it had been better for His glory and for the good of His people. Thus, He would only have allowed the ship to sink and the people to be lost if He had a greater good in view.
  • Why save all the prisoners and not just Paul? God clearly shows in His word that the blessings He gives His people overflow to the unbelievers around them.   
These probing questions, as we ask them, begin to expose some of our own hidden assumptions and fears, don't they? The second question especially gets to the heart of what we wonder often: Why doesn't God always rescue from harm? One person is wondrously protected and cured from cancer while another person dies from the same cancer. Both are believers. Why? In the end, we cannot answer that question for certain, but we do have to trust that God knows that He is doing, has not fallen asleep at the wheel, and that He continues to always do what is ultimately best for His glory and the good of His people.

Sometimes our ship is stuck against the reef and is breaking apart and we wonder where God is and what He is doing. Sometimes we feel so desperate that we think we're going to die, and it is often at those times that God is most present and active, preserving life and displaying His sovereign goodness. When the soldiers were in full panic, God was saving their lives. We need to remember that.

Heavenly Father, You are Lord of all and You are good. Let us never forget that, no matter what our circumstances may look like to us. May we always rest in peace, knowing that we are always in Your loving hands, no matter what. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Prayer Based on Proverbs 28:10-18:

Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way
    will fall into his own pit,
    but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance.
A rich man is wise in his own eyes,
    but a poor man who has understanding will find him out.
Lord, may we never be the cause of misleading Your people,
    but may we be those who have and display understanding,
        never wise in our own eyes, but only in Your grace.

When the righteous triumph, there is great glory,
    but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
    but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always,
    but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
Father, we confess that we sin often,
    for we are weak and prone to wander.
Forgive us and make us a blessing to others.
May we never harden our hearts in our sin,
    but may we fear You and walk in humility before You always.

Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
    is a wicked ruler over a poor people.
A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor,
    but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.
If one is burdened with the blood of another,
    he will be a fugitive until death;
    let no one help him.
Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered,
    but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.
Lord, we live in an unjust society, 
    where the blood of the innocent is spilled daily.
How do we think we will escape Your judgment?
    Have mercy on the unborn and their mothers,
        and save our land from crooked ways.
In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Day 87: Acts 27:13-28 & Prov. 28:1-9 - Why Does God Often Wait Until the Last Minute to Rescue?

Today's Reading: Acts 27:13-28 & Prov. 28:1-9

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. - Acts 27:20, ESV

Why Does God Often Wait Until the Last Minute to Rescue?

Storm-Tossed Frigate by Thomas Chambers
Can you imagine being tossed by a storm on the open sea for 14 days with no food? Yesterday, we were forewarned of dire consequences to come from the centurion's decision to ignore wise, godly counsel and instead listen to the self-interested "expert" advice coming from the ship's owner and pilot. Well, today we see the very real and very dire consequences of this poor decision.

Once the storm starts blowing, we might wonder how long God is going to let it go before He intervenes. After all, I'm sure they learned their lesson and were very sorry. God isn't really going to let His faithful apostle go down in a storm in the Mediterranean Sea, is He?

How often do we suffer consequences from our own very poor decision-making? Then, how often do we cry out to God and get impatient when He's a little slow in rescuing us from our own foolishness? The truth is that God repeatedly saves us from ourselves, even though we don't deserve it. Another less comfortable truth is that God sometimes does not save His children from the consequences of their foolish decisions or from the reckless decisions of others around them. Of course, our eternal salvation is not in jeopardy, but real-life consequences from choices happen to believers all the time!

Still, when reading today's passage or living our lives, we may ask: Why does God so often wait until the last minute to rescue? Most of the time, we don't really know, do we? Trying to understand and explain all the reasons behind God's providence is beyond the ability of mere human beings. But if we look at today's passage carefully, we can see some patterns of God's wisdom emerge:

1. God wanted to draw attention to the wisdom of Paul's advice and warning, which the centurion ignored.
2. God wanted the sailors to come to the end of their own resources, so they would not steal the credit for the rescue or attribute it to one of their false gods.
3. God wanted to clearly show His saving power, at work in and through Paul's life and ministry.
4. God probably also wanted to clearly demonstrate Paul's innocence.

Why would God desire to do all of these things? First of all, to demonstrate His own power and glory. Secondly, to provide validation for the Gospel that Paul preached, so the Romans might hear the word and come to faith. Thus, we see God working for His own glory and for the furtherance of the Gospel. As God works for His glory and the Gospel's advance, we also see Him working to rescue and vindicate His people.

Heavenly Father, we need patience when You providence does not move in the way we would expect or desire. We need faith to trust You when we do not understand Your ways, which is so often. We need confidence in Christ of our acceptance before You and of Your loving care for us. Teach us well, that we may learn from our poor decision, and save us from ourselves. We need You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Prayer Based on Proverbs 28:1-9:

The wicked flee when no one pursues,
    but the righteous are bold as a lion.
When a land transgresses, it has many rulers,
    but with a man of understanding and knowledge,
    its stability will long continue.
A poor man who oppresses the poor
    is a beating rain that leaves no food.
Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
    but those who keep the law strive against them.
Evil men do not understand justice,
    but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.
Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
    than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding,
    but a companion of gluttons shames his father.
Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit
    gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law,
    even his prayer is an abomination.  

Heavenly Father, You call us to pursue righteousness and justice, empowered by Your Spirit. We can see all around us the devastating effects of wickedness and injustice. Strengthen us by Your Spirit to walk in the righteousness of Christ. Let us understand justice completely as we seek You. Let us walk in integrity rather than compromise our character for shameful gain. Let us attend to Your Law, that we may show forth Your light in our lives. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Day 86: Acts 27:1-12 & Proverbs 27:23-27 - What is the Danger of Ignoring Godly Counsel?

Today's Reading: Acts 27:1-12 & Proverbs 27:23-27

Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there. - Acts 27:9-12, ESV

What is the Danger of Ignoring Godly Counsel?

We live in a culture that worships the "expert" and the specialist. I can't even remember all the times I've seen people neglect wise, godly counsel in order to comply with the advice of "experts." I've seen it in every area of life: Wise, godly, Biblical advice on dating, marriage, college selection, ethics, politics, career choices, financial planning, parenting, etc. are discarded in exchange for the latest theories from the experts featured on cable news, magazine covers or prominent web sites.

In today's passage, we have some heavy foreshadowing of impending disaster for Paul's trip across the Mediterranean Sea to Rome. Paul has been in Roman custody since he was arrested two years earlier in Jerusalem. Paul's reputation as a faithful man of God earned him the respect of his military guards. However, even though they respect his character, they were unwilling to take his advice on sailing. Clearly, Paul was no expert on seamanship. Still, he had wise counsel and level-headed concerns, which were ignored.

One thing we might miss in this passage and in life is that many experts have ulterior motives. In this case, the centurion who took custody of Paul listened to the advice of the pilot and the owner of the ship. Both of these men has a strong financial interest in taking the risk and sailing, as they would be losing money every week the ship sat in harbor. Today, many experts are paid to advocate a certain position, while others are seriously biased by their worldview against God and the Bible.

When we choose to turn our backs on wise and godly counsel, and instead listen to the expert voices of unbelievers, we are taking a real risk. Our decisions may lead us into danger or cause us to be unfaithful to Christ. How many Christian parents send their children off to secular colleges hostile to Christ, paying large tuition payments just to have their son or daughter indoctrinated in anti-Christian thinking? How many Christian men and women have dated and then married unbelievers, because they believed they were "compatible" or "in love"? The regret comes quickly in some cases and more slowly in others, but it almost always comes.

Why would we turn away from the voices God has given us to the voices that oppose Him? Often we do so out of fear, thinking that we're being left out or left behind. At other times, we think things look better than they really are, because the world does a great job marketing its allurements. We need the faith to turn to the Lord and seek His wisdom, often extended through His people.

Heavenly Father, the world is always calling to us, offering us advice that looks like wisdom and enticements that look like treasure. We need You to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Keep us from following ungodly and deceptive advice that would lead us astray from Your truth. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Prayer Based on Proverbs 27:23-27:

Know well the condition of your flocks,
    and give attention to your herds,
for riches do not last forever;
    and does a crown endure to all generations?
When the grass is gone and the new growth appears
    and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered,
the lambs will provide your clothing,
    and the goats the price of a field.
There will be enough goats' milk for your food,
    for the food of your household
    and maintenance for your girls.

Heavenly Father, You are the One who gives us every good thing we have in life. You provide our bodies, minds, health, abilities and opportunity, and You are the One who brings a fruitful financial return for our labor. Thank You for Your generosity and faithfulness. Keep us humble and mindful of what is truly valuable. Let us take care of the things You have entrusted to us, and let us honor You with our labor and our resources. In Jesus' name, Amen.