Nothing Bad to Say

It is not living that matters, but living rightly. ~Socrates

Governor Festus had taken over Felix’s office, and he was confounded about what to do with the prisoner, Paul. King Agrippa and his wife Bernice stopped for a visit and the king offered to hear Paul’s defense.

Festus brought Paul before the royals and explained that the Jews were ready to tear Paul limb from limb, but he, Festus, had been unable to find anything wrong with the man. He had committed no crime, said nothing deserving of death. In fact, if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar he could have been released.

That had to have been music to Paul’s ears.

Paul and Peter were brothers in Christ, apostles sent to different communities but with one purpose. They met on several occasions. I imagine they compared notes, prayed together; we’re told that they confronted and instructed each other.

Their camaraderie must have at one time included a conversation like this:

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority:whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 1 Peter 2:12-15 NIV

Paul had lived his life doing good. He submitted to the authorities, and he received commendations to the king.

How are you living?

Have you given your money to the poor, fed the hungry, and been condemned by brothers and sisters as ‘holier-than-thou’?

Do you tell your children no, screen their emails and chat rooms, and refuse to have cable in the house only to have your children slander you, your friends question your integrity as a parent?

Do you care for your elderly parents, putting off cruises with your own friends, to make sure Mom walks every day and Dad gets to have coffee with his buddies? It’s the right thing to do, but you cringe under the half-concealed anger your friends display.

Paul would understand. He went on to Rome and experienced several years of imprisonment all for doing the right thing.

Take heart; you’re in good company.

Stay strong and do what’s right.

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 1 Peter 2:19 NIV

Convenience

We willingly share personal information with companies for the convenience of using their products. ~Rebecca MacKinnon

I admit I like things to be convenient. I live on a farmette- three acres just outside of town – but I can be to the grocery, cinema, and Chinese take-out in five minutes. My church is less than fifteen minutes away as is the park where we like to walk among the trees.

But some things don’t happen conveniently. Neither of my children were conceived nor born when planned. Sicknesses don’t wait until my schedule is free for the weekend. Car accidents don’t consider that there are only six more payments left on the truck.

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Wolves, Snakes, and Doves

In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit. ~Anne Frank

Paul may never have met Jesus in person, but he knew Jesus’s mandates and advice. He knew what to do when things got intense.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. Matthew 10:16-17 NIV

Paul’s wool was dripping sweat and the wolves were circling. Instead of running straight into their mouths, he swerved, struck, and hid under a rock while the wolves went after each other.

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Who’s Your Source

Researching a quotation can be fun, but it’s not always easy and many times may require some serious digging. ~Sharon Rickson, New York Public Library

Fake news. It’s all over the headlines. Kind of ironic, don’t you think?

You go to the news to find out whether the news is really “news.”

English teachers and Media Resource Center directors stress to their students to check the facts. Don’t use the first website that pops up on Google. Make sure your source is reputable.

Paul had a reputable source. His teacher was Gamaliel.

Gamaliel came from a line of Torah scholars, namely his famous grandfather, Hillel. Gamaliel lived in the first century AD and held a position of authority and leadership in the Sandhedrin- the ruling council. To study under him was to attend Harvard or Oxford.

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Self-Control and Self-Defense

Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it. ~Lao Tzu

In high school my older son was part of a police PSA video about drunk driving. As an actor, my boy was “arrested” in a night scene. Someone on set took a picture and sent it to him.

Graduation came and went. We had a family party and then they all headed back home. Our family went on a picnic at a local island.

And then I received a phone call from my cousin.

“Where’s Jonathan?”

“In the car behind me. Why?”

Then the sordid details fell into place. My naive son had posted on social media the picture of being arrested as a joke with the caption, “It was a quite a night.”

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Contemplation

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. ~Henry David Thoreau

I can still see my grandfather walking across the hillside, hands clasped behind his back. He strolled down the lane, across Cherry Tree Hill, and then whistled for the dog to fall in line as they neared the house.

It was his daily constitutional. Gather the mail at the end of the lane, bring it to our house, then walk back to his. The entire trip was about a half-mile of slow, steady thought.

Walking just seems to open the mind and the ears.

Paul and his buddies were in Troas. The last year or more was spent running from one city to another trying to stay alive and yet preaching certain death. Now he gave all the last directions he could before heading off again.

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What was I doing?

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. ~Bryant H. McGill

Why did the music teacher look inside her piano?

She had lost her keys!

We all forget where we put things at times, but do you ever forget why you came into a room? You stride into the kitchen and then stop in front of the counter. “Now what was I looking for?”

Paul found himself in the middle of a very hot kitchen, and he was the one being hunted.

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There’s always something to learn

Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow. ~Anthony J. D’Angelo

I’m reading a book that I find error-prone. Yet, I also believe it contains some truth and probably a lot of opinions that others in my sphere hold. So I keep reading it and try not to set my jaw too tightly.

Exposing our minds to differing beliefs and teachings helps us understand our own beliefs. Sometimes we feel justified in our beliefs, and sometimes we might find that we were wrong.

A Jew named Apollos was living in Alexandria. He was a smart guy, well-educated and an eloquent speaker. But he didn’t have all the facts.

Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos the way of Jesus and suddenly Apollos’s eyes were opened to the truth. His willingness to study further, to listen to others, and to accept that he may have been incorrect led Apollos to be a missionary to Achaia and to lead many more people to the truth of Jesus Christ as the Savior.

But Apollos didn’t just spout off his opinions. No, he used the Jews’ own scriptures to show that Jesus was the expected Messiah. He studied, prepared, and listened to the Spirit.

How do I know when I come across error-filled teaching? Because I know the scriptures. I read God’s word daily. I pray. I listen. I talk to others and process their conclusions. I surround myself with others who do the same.

Are you making sure that you know the truth and are being set free on the right path?

Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come. John 8:19-20 NIV

When am I finished?

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. ~Newt Gingrich

Do you know Frank Sinatra’s famous song ‘High Hopes’ from the 1959 movie, A Hole in the Head? Sinatra encouraged his young co-star, Eddie Hodges, to keep his chin up and keep plugging on through bad times just like the hardworking ant.

Can an ant move a rubber tree plant? Not by itself, but maybe if it has some buddies. One scientist took a photo of an ant lifting 100 times its own weight!

Plugging away through troubles and disappointments is an admirable trait. Keeping your head above water in a storm is what we hope for. But it’s all easier sung than done.

Paul and Silas made it to Thessalonica and started teaching in the local synagogue. All went well, converts were made, and then the Jews got jealous and ran them out of town.

No problem. They headed off to Berea and had great success there teaching about Jesus. But those Thessalonians heard about it and made trouble in Berea as well.

Not to be deterred, Paul headed to Athens and began teaching in the public places there. Paul was quite an ant.

Because Paul knew that it wasn’t about moving the plant.

It was only about working as long as he had life.

Are you still breathing? Then pick up your plant and start moving. There’s work to do.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

Expectations or expectant?

Let your dreams outgrow the shoes of your expectations. ~Ryunosuke Satoro

“Was there a woman with a white hat?”

Matt and I had just moved from Texas to Pennsylvania. I had been told by an angel that our new family would be in Philadelphia. I was also given a vision of a woman in a white dress and white hat.

“Yes, there was.” Matt replied, and the decision was sealed.

I don’t always get voices or visions. Sometimes dreams are just dreams.

But I’ve learned to listen expectantly, not with expectations.

You see, sometimes the woman with a white dress and hat is actually something else. This past year my dreams have been about babies, and I know it isn’t a physical baby that God is growing inside of me.

Paul wanted terribly to go to Asia to tell the good news of Jesus, but for some reason the Holy Spirit didn’t think it was the right time. He kept deterring Paul. Then one night, Paul had a vision of a man calling him to Macedonia.

Paul obeyed the vision and headed straight away to Macedonia where he met . . . women.

But Paul wasn’t alarmed. He didn’t need to find the man that had called in his vision. He was called to Macedonia and he went.

Maybe God has given you a vision of missionary work. It might not be in Europe to teach at a school but the other side of town to help someone very different from yourself.

Or perhaps God has sent you a message to preach the Word. Your pulpit might be a couch in your neighbor’s living room or a short chair in the church preschool.

Has God given you a desire to open a medical clinic for the destitute? It might not be in a third-world country. It could be in the economically-deprived areas of Appalachia.

Whatever God is calling you to, don’t limit him to the vision.

Expect to be amazed.

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Acts 2:17 NIV