The hardest person in the world to manage is you, and you are the only one who can do it. You are the only one who can manage your emotions, spiritual life, and relationships. Nobody else can do it for you. Just like no one else can’t work out for you or eat for you; you can’t have someone else manage you. You can hire a coach, ask for help, or find a mentor, but ultimately only you can manage you.
Here is a little formula that works:
Intention + Action = Outcome.
You can have all the good intentions in the world but unless you act on those intentions nothing is going to happen. Last fall I intended to lose 10 pounds but didn’t change my eating habits. So, now I weight the same.
That formula applies to most things and it certainly applies to your spiritual life. Spiritual growth happens by intention. If you intend to grow spiritually, you need to take action. You can’t outsource or delegate your own spiritual growth. Only you can commit to spiritual growth.
If you don’t commit to it, you won’t grow. We become what we are committed to. Jesus says: “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” Matthew 4:19.
Spiritual growth is a gradual process that takes place over time. The key is to stay connected to Christ. In John 15, Jesus uses a fruit tree as an example of how to grow. He says, “stay connected to me”.
“5I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
The biblical term for spiritual growth is sanctification. Sanctification is the process of continually giving your fleshly desires over to God so that the Holy Spirit will be able to make you more Christ like.
For example, as you give your anger to God, there is room for God’s peace to fill that space that anger used to occupy. God cannot fill what he cannot have. Give that space of anger over to God so he can fill it with peace and love.
If you struggle with lust, fill that space with prayer. Pray that your husband or wife will meet your needs, and you theirs. If you are single, pray that God will provide you the right person if you desire to get married or remarried.
The Japanese use the word kaison which means “a little bit better every day”. If you get just a little better every day you will be continually improving. They applied the concept of kaison to car making and that is why Japan makes some of the best cars in the world. Back in the late 60’s nobody would buy a Japanese car because their quality was so poor. Then they started practicing kaison. By the 80’s, while American made cars were only going 100,000 miles, Japanese cars started lasting over 200,000. Now we expect cars to last well over 200,000 miles all because the Japanese committed to building better cars.
The same principle applies to spiritual growth, but instead of kaison the bible calls it sanctification. Growing closer to Christ day by day, as you choose to stay connect to Him day by day.
It takes time for your life to change, and it will if you are intentional and committed. If your spiritual life is the same now as it was two years ago, you need to ask yourself: “Am I growing spiritually?” If not, you need to figure out why not. Only you can manage you. There is no better time than right now to start strengthening your spiritual life. It will help you in every other area of your life.
I have decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to me. Jesus tells believers to love their neighbors, and this is just one small way I can do that. There are dozens of theories out there that debunk the vaccine or depict it as some form of governmental control. A few blogs I have read even declare that the vaccine will change your DNA. In my opinion, there will always be conspiracy theories. You may not agree with me, you have the right to your own opinion, but I also have the right to mine. I am not for forcing the vaccine on anyone, but I do plan on being vaccinated.
Back in the 1950’s polio was ripping through the country. In 1952 the US saw the worst polio outbreak. The disease affected some 58,000 people, killing more than 3,000 and paralyzing 21,000, most of whom were children. Parents were concerned about their children fearing their kids would wind up in an “iron lung,” a device that enabled a person to breath but literally robbed them of living. Thousands of people ended up in wheelchairs, hospitals, and even died. People stopped using public pools and were afraid to spend much time in public. When Dr. Salk’s vaccine was proven effective in 1954 the biggest fear people had was that there would not be enough vaccine for their kids. By 1962 the number of new polio cases in the U.S. had dropped to less than 1,000. By the year 2000 polio was virtually extinct in the U.S. and rare worldwide. I am sure that even in the 1950’s there were conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccine, yet it worked and society is better because of it.
The reason I will be getting the vaccine is simple, I don’t want to get COVID-19 again and I don’t want to potentially unwittingly infect others. I also despise wearing a mask and am irritated by all the social distancing stuff. We were made to be connected in community and social distancing has profound psychological affects on people, especially the elderly, children, and young adults. By getting the vaccine I am hoping to help society move forward faster. I enjoy going out to eat, hugging people, and shaking hands. Nothing warms my heart more than seeing someone smile. Wearing masks ruins all that. So, I want to put the whole mask mandate in the rearview mirror.
I fully anticipate the naysayers and fearmongers to push wearing masks in public all the time, even when we are past COVID-19. I adamantly disagree with their baseless rationale. I reject fear in Jesus’ name and want to help people - getting the vaccine is one simple way of doing that.
Back when the plagues struck Europe, it was the Christians who cared for the sick and the dead. When everyone else ran from the plague, Christians stayed to serve. In the same way, I will continue to minister to people, pray with people, and care for people as I have always tried to do. And if I get COVID-19 again before I get the vaccine, so be it. That is a risk I am willing to take to minister to people in need. When the vaccine becomes available to me, I do plan on getting it. I want to love my neighbor like Jesus tells me to do. Getting the vaccine isn’t compromising my faith or theology, it’s the right thing to do for me and everyone I am trying to disciple and share the gospel with.
The hardest person on the planet to manage is you. That’s right you. Many people can manage great companies while failing miserably at managing their own life. You are the only one who can manage your life, so you need to manage it well.
In my conversations with people, especially during COVID, I have often heard certain words repeated over and over. Words like: exhausted, stressed, anxiety, tired, anxious, isolated, and depressed. The people who use these words are from all ages and stages of life.
Surveys show a major increase in the number of U.S. adults who report symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression during the pandemic, compared with surveys before the pandemic. Some people have increased their use of alcohol or drugs, thinking that can help them cope with their fears about the pandemic.
(https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/mental-health-covid-19/art-20482731, accessed 21 December 2020)
The Mental Health Association reported that in May and June of 2020 anxiety screenings were 406% greater than in January of the same year, while screenings for depression were 457% greater. A six-fold increase was noted for those considering suicide or “self-harm.”
(https://journals.lww.com/ajnonline/Fulltext/2020/11000/Mental_Health_Effects_of_COVID_19.5.aspx, accessed 21 December 2020)
I understand what it feels like to have stress. At one point in my life, I was so stressed that I had to wear a mouth guard because I was grinding teeth at night.
In my experience, there are a handful of key practices that will help you manage your emotional health during these difficult times.
First, remember that this is a season and it will pass. King Solomon was incredibly wise. He writes: “1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There are two types of time, Chronos time and Kairos time. Chronos time refers to clock and calendar time. There are 24 hours in every day and seven days in every week. That is clock and calendar time. Kairos time refers to seasons. Think of it like seasons of the year or seasons of life. For example, there is a time to be single and a time to be married (if you choose). There is a season when you may have young children and a season when you parent adult children. COVID is a season and this season will pass. You will be the happiest and most fulfilled in life when you learn how to embrace both types of time.
Second, stay connected to God because it will help you stay emotionally grounded. When I feel connected to God, the rest of my life feels manageable. When I feel God’s love and open to the Holy Spirit’s gentle promptings, my quality of life goes up. This shouldn’t be a surprise since Jesus says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Third, invest in life-giving relationships. If you feel loved and like you are able to give love, you are more likely to feel emotionally healthy. Not every family relationship is healthy to maintain. Sometimes it is healthier to end or pause a relationship, even with a family member, rather than to try to fix it.
Everyone needs a refrigerator friend. This is the friend who is so comfortable around you that when they are in your house, they go in your fridge to get what they want. If you don’t have someone in your life like this, ask God to bring the right person into your life, He will.
And finally, take time to have some fun. What do you like to do for fun? Do you like to watch movies, bike, or cook? Find something to do that fills your fun-bucket in this season of life and do it.
God wants you to be emotionally healthy. Getting emotionally healthy isn’t just a one-time decision, it’s a lifestyle. Right now, your emotional health is more important than ever and only you can manage it, so manage it well.
I have a long list of complaints. I don’t like this social distanced way of living even a single bit. I hate wearing a mask, don’t like seeing businesses close, wish I could go see a new movie, don’t like seeing people get sick, struggle with my kids “distance learning” efforts, can’t stand all the political division, and the list goes on and on. It’s easy to get caught up in all the problems because they keep popping up faster than one can count. I have even limited the amount of time I spend watching the news because it’s depressing. It’s not that I am pretending that everything is good, I’m just choosing to catch the highlights and not get bogged down in the mud.
You probably have a list of complaints just like I do. This past year has been a dismal mess for many. The question is “Who can we share our list of complaints with?” Sure, you could fire off emails, pound out nasty texts, and make scathing phone calls, but the truth is that the schools dislike distance learning as much as you do. Restaurant owners are just as frustrated with limited capacity as you. Sick people don’t like being sick and healthy people don’t like wearing masks. So, complaining to everyone doesn’t help anyone.
There is one person who is willing to listen to your litany of complaints. He is the one who knows exactly how you feel. He was lonely, let down, betrayed, gossiped about, and beaten by people who hated him. He felt the sting of a whip, the agony of death, and by the grace of His heavenly Father, the joy of being resurrected from the grave. He is interested in your life and wants to be present with you in it.
I encourage you to bring your complaints to Jesus. Maybe you have never done this or are afraid that he doesn’t want to hear about your problems. Nothing is further from the truth. King David wrote many of the Psalms recorded in the bible. He complained to God about his enemies, his lack of food at times, and his frustration that God seemed silent just when needed the most. Another book in the Old Testament was written by a man of God named Jeremiah. If you read the book that bears his name, it can be depressing. Jeremiah was not known for his humor, he is remembered for his depression. Yet God inspired them to write their feelings and emotions down for you and I to see. God wants you to know that he is with you in victory or defeat. He cares about you and understands your situation. God is big enough to handle our complaint lists - he handled David’s and Jeremiah’s just to name two.
When you share your complaints with God, He will fill you with His peace. It’s a supernatural thing that is hard to explain, but awesome to experience. In the past month I have had more intense conversations with God over my frustrations than I can remember. Every time I bared my heart God filled me with His presence. Just knowing that God is in control calms me. Talking to Him in prayer centers me on what matters most, my relationship with Jesus Christ. When you talk to God in prayer it will center you as well. God will fill your tank, calm your storm, and give you peace regardless of how many complaints you have. So in this season, trust God and take comfort in knowing that he cares about you and loves you. Talk to Him about everything that is near and dear to you even if it’s your list of complaints. By the grace of God, you will get through this if you lean into your faith. God is with you.
Are you a good neighbor or a bad neighbor? I’ll be honest and say that I have not always been the best neighbor. My kids have ridden their bikes on other people’s lawns and my dogs have done their business without me carrying a dodo bag to clean up after them.
Part of the reason our country is so torn apart right now is that people have never learned how to be good neighbors. Instead of building bridges they have built walls. Instead of showing love they have harbored hate. Instead of intentionally listening and learning they have hung out “no trespassing” signs. If you want to build a better community it starts with your heart.
Jesus gave two clear commandments that Mark recorded: “30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-32
Jesus spoke this to his Jewish followers who were really good at neighboring with their fellow Jews who looked like them and talked like them and acted like them but terrible when it came to neighboring anyone who wasn’t Jewish.
The Jews did not like the Samaritans because they were half Jewish and half Gentile. They didn’t like the Romans because they worshiped their emperor. They didn’t like the Greeks because they had their own Greek gods. So when Jesus commanded them to love their neighbors he was referring to loving everyone regardless of their skin tone or ethnicity or socioeconomic status. This was a radical statement back then and it still is now.
You are capable of loving where you live if you choose to see your neighbor as a child of God. Your neighbor was created in the image of God just like you. God designed everyone and every color of human being there is.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
When you choose to see other people as God’s creation it changes your perception of them. You will begin to feel compassion for them, love for them, and forgiveness because God tells us to forgive those who have hurt us. You might not every become best friends, but you can do your part and see them as a human being created in the image of God.
There was a long standing show on T.V. called Mister Rogers Neighborhood. In the late 1960’s segregation had been abolished, but black citizens were still not embraced as equal participants in public life everywhere. Martin Luther King had been assassinated in 1968 and many community pools across the country still refused to let blacks swim with whites. It was in this tense atmosphere that Fred Rogers performed a simple but meaningful act which aired on May 9, 1969.
Rogers invited Officer Clemmons, a black actor who played a police officer on the show, to join him and cool his feet in a small plastic wading pool. When Clemmons sat down and placed his feet in the water, right next to Rogers’, the two men broke a well-known color barrier. When Clemmons took his feet out of the pool, he used Mister Rogers towel to dry his feet and then Mister Rogers used the same towel to dry his. It was a powerful statement. He was teaching the world how to be a good neighbor.
Loving where you live includes loving your neighbors. Do something to build bridges with them. Here are a few examples of bridge building:
Mow the neighbor’s lawn
Watch their kids
Watch their dog
Care about them as a person
Pray for your neighbors by name every day.
Bring the love of Christ to a world that desperately needs to see it.
Maybe it’s that time of year or maybe I am just a little more sensitive nowadays, but in the past few weeks I have heard or seen social media posts from people informing their online friends that they love Jesus but hate the church. I find that statement fascinating and worth digging into. Is it even possible for someone to love Jesus and hate the church? I guess it is possible, but is it right? Sometimes people have a bad experience with a church. Unfortunately, that is a reality for many people. Maybe they had a pastor who didn’t show up when they needed a pastor and this soured them. Or maybe they were victimized by a clergy as a child. Clergy abuse is abhorred and unacceptable and the abuser should be held accountable for their actions no matter how long ago it happened. Sometimes people get into disagreements with others and leave the church. Some people don’t like being asked to give money so they leave the church. Instead of finding a new church where they can practice biblical tithing, they stop giving altogether and blame their last church as the reason why they stopped. There are literally thousands of reasons why people get angry with the church, but does that mean they cause to hate the church in general?
Jesus started the church. He gave birth to it. It’s His baby and he is the chief shepherd of it. Jesus never told his disciples to build a specific kind of church or style of church, he just told them to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Some churches are huge and others are tiny. Some have traditional worship services or sing acapella. Other churches use a full band and an array of singers. Some churches have steeples and others meet in schools. Where a church meets, what worship style it holds sacred or whether it has benches or stadium seating is irrelevant. What matters is that believers get together for fellowship, prayer, teaching, worship, evangelism, and serving are what’s important. Believers are told to get together as the body of Christ which constitutes a church. And on top of that Jesus told his followers to love each other. This is paramount.
So for a person to say that they love Jesus but hate the church is unbiblical. It’s the same as telling Jesus you love him but think his church is ugly and you want no part of it. This breaks Jesus heart and limits the witness of his disciples. The church isn’t perfect because it is run by normal people, forgiven people, but imperfect people none the less. Just because you left one church for one reason or another it doesn’t mean that you should quit going to church altogether. You should find a new church where you can tithe and contribute to the body of believers. You should be a part of a fellowship that exults the name of Jesus and is committed to making disciples like Jesus commanded his followers to do.
Jesus started the church and he will come back for it. Believers are accountable to be a part of the church body and help it to fulfill its mission to make disciples no matter the style of church, age of its members, where it meets, or size in weekend numbers. The next time you hear someone say they love Jesus but hate the church, remind them that it’s Jesus’ church. So by saying they hate the church they are saying they think Jesus was wrong to start it.
I want to encourage you to be a part of a Spirit-filled, bible believing church. You may have had a bad church experience in the past, but that doesn’t change the fact that God still wants you to be a part of His church with other believers. So find a church that fits you and where you can contribute. When believers unite for the cause of Christ, it’s marvelous and powerful and you have the honor of being part of it.
Every time I go to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis I cry. I didn’t use to cry when I went there. To be honest, the first few times I visited people whose children had been admitted I didn’t cry. Since I was a young pastor without any children of my own at the time, I thought that I needed to show strength and I did it by caring without becoming too emotional. And everything worked fine until I had children of my own. Kids do something to your emotions. They tend to rub off the rough edges and unwittingly teach you the depths of love. New parents will do anything for their babies because they are so innocent and precious. My children have certainly helped expose my emotions in ways that often take me by surprise.
The reason I cry whenever I visit Children’s Hospital is because I have spent a significant amount of time there with my kids. When Josh was just over three years old he was diagnosed with leukemia, which flipped my world upside down. Sara was two and Kathi was pregnant with Katie. I cannot even remember how many times we drove back and forth to Children’s, how many scares we had and nights we spent under close supervision while he was receiving chemotherapy. The time I spent in the hospital opened my eyes to a whole new level of people experiencing pain and suffering. My eyes were opened because I was experiencing intense pain and suffering along with Josh and Kathi. Even though Sara was only two she knew something was not right and was able to recall many details of Josh’s battle with surprising clarity. Many family members and friends felt the sting of cancer along with us.
So this week when I visited Children’s to see our close friends and their daughter I cried as I drove through the parking garage looking for a spot. After parking, I wiped away the tears taking a few deep breaths. After checking in at the front desk I took the elevator to the sixth floor. The sixth floor doesn’t mean anything to most people, but to me, it was two floors down from where Josh spent so much time. The same emotional pain that I experienced when Josh was hospitalized flooded my soul and came pouring out my eyes as I walked down the long hallway towards my friend’s room. Before entering their room I had to collect myself again. As I entered their room to see their precious child my heart was overflowing with authentic love and compassion for one of God’s precious children and two loving parents who would do anything to help their child who was in such underserved pain.
In my personal opinion, kids shouldn’t get sick. I could tolerate a cold or tummy ache now and then but when a kid has to fight for their life every day, it just doesn’t seem fair. But life is very unfair when you think about it. Why some people are handed so much and others are handed so little will always be a mystery.
I am sure I will visit someone at Children’s Hospital again. And when I do, I expect to cry and relive our pain and suffering all over again, for just a few moments. That is what makes me human. It also reminds me that I can hurt with those who are hurting and being present means more than saying a thousand words over the phone. You can never replace a real hug with a Teddy Bear or flowers delivered from the hospital store.
Pain and suffering has taught me that it’s OK to be real when you are hurting. It’s also important to comfort others who need you. The greater the pain, the greater the support system you need. You need to share your feelings with one or two close friends. This is true for both men and women. And if you know someone who is hurting, call them or stop by. Chances are, they won’t tell you they need anything, but the fact that you called or stopped by shows them you do care. The author of Hebrews writes: “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). It pleases God when you cry with those who are mourning and celebrate with those who are victorious. So don’t avoid someone who needs you, make time to care for them because it pleases God and will bring you joy knowing you did what you could.
As a leader, I am often under the microscope. People have opinions and feel free to share them whether helpful or hurtful. Some people don’t only share their opinions, they actually intend to hurt and harm with their words and actions. Lately, I have been living under the scrutiny of others whether real or perceived. This scrutiny has impacted how I view myself and my calling. I have elevated my critics to the point that they have enough space in my head to impact how I live my life. This has resulted in my feeling ashamed, embarrassed, and even depressed. Their negative influence has impacted my thinking and the lens through which I view myself. I started to view myself through my critic's eyes instead of God’s eyes. This is not only wrong, but it has also led me down a path of darkness and deceit.
The truth is you have critics just like I do. It could be a parent, a coworker, neighbor, or even a person who lashed out on social media. Your critics impact the way you perceive yourself just like me. The good news is that you don’t have to view yourself as your critics do. You can start to view yourself as God views you. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are a child of God and as a child of God you are loved, cared for, and have a purpose to live out. But that’s hard to grasp if you keep listening to the negativity your critics keep pouring out on you even if they only made a few comments and you let them echo in your head.
In order to silence those critics and their voices in your head, you can write up a series of declarations to recite daily. These declarations will help you to claim the promises of God about who you are in His eyes, and that’s all that really matters. Paul writes: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Understanding that I need to take captive every thought, I came up with these declarations. Each one specifically pertains to a truth that I need to cling to. Here are my ten declarations that I say out loud to myself every day:
1. I am a child of God. I am loved, filled with the Holy Spirit, and wanted by God.
2. I serve a valuable purpose in advancing the kingdom of God helping to make disciples locally and abroad.
3. God has called me to help others grow closer to Christ.
4. I will be transparent and authentic as a husband, father, and leader sharing highs and lows.
5. I will accept the fact that God will continue to bless me and use me for His glory because I honor Him.
6. I will surround myself with quality people and great leaders that will help me to grow.
7. I will forgive others as God has forgiven me.
8. I will seek to follow the will of God every day so that I can be the best leader I can be.
9. I will be the husband, father, friend, and leader that God has called me to be.
10. I will give my best for the glory of God every day.
I encourage you to come up with a list of declarations that you say every day. Your list will look different than mine, but each declaration should be anchored in biblical truth. So, take a few minutes to write out your declarations. Pray over them and rewrite or revise as needed. You will be glad you did. After all, you are a child of God, created with intention, purpose, and grace. You are loved by God and will be used for His glory and His glory alone. May the LORD bless you as you declare God’s truth over your life.
There have been amazing inventions and discoveries throughout history that changed everything, yet all pale in comparison to the amazing discovery that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead after he was beaten, crucified, and buried. His body was even placed under guard to make sure nobody stole it.
After being dead for 3 days Jesus amazed everyone by coming back to life claiming victory over death offering everyone who believes in him a new life. This is what Easter is all about. Easter changes everything. According to Scripture, the resurrection of Christ is the centerpiece of the Christian faith.
Paul wrote First Corinthians to deal with those who were questioning if Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Paul writes:
“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep [died]. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Without a risen Christ, we have no gospel at all. But because he was raised from the dead, we will also be raised to eternal life and that’s amazing and impacts how we live today. Paul gave three compelling reasons why they should believe that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
The first compelling reason is the faith of the believers, who were so convinced that Jesus did rise from the dead that they would rather die for what they believed to be true than deny it.
The second compelling reason to believe in the resurrection is the Old Testament Scriptures foretold that the resurrection would take place. Isaiah writes: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5-6
These two verses foretell that fact that Jesus had to die so that all who believe in him may live. There are literally hundreds of prophecies that point to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Some were written thousands of years before he walked the earth.
Jesus told his disciples and subsequently you and I: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That is written in John 3:16.
The third compelling reason to believe in the resurrection is found in the witnesses who saw him after his crucifixion. After the resurrection Jesus was seen by many of the same eyewitnesses that watched him die. Peter saw him and so did the disciples collectively. James was Jesus half-brother and he put his faith in him only after he saw Jesus risen. There were 500 plus other people who saw Jesus alive at the same time. There were eyewitnesses and they shared that Jesus was alive.
Paul tells the Corinthians that unless they believe in the resurrection their faith is a waste of time. “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-14
Jesus is as real as life itself. And he wants you to put your faith in him by believing that he died on the cross and was raised into life on your behalf. That is why Easter is so amazing.
Angry crowds bring out the worst in people. A riot is a crowd with a mob mentality and it is unpredictable. That is exactly what the Apostle Paul faced in Jerusalem after he had fulfilled his purification vow to show the Jews that he was not demanding that they stop all of their Jewish customs and traditions. While he was fulfilling his vow by ritually purifying himself in a Mikvah [ritual purification tank] someone from Ephesus recognized him and stirred up the whole crowd.
Since Paul was in a very public place and the Jews were adamant to protect their way of life and customs, it didn’t take much provoking to convince people that Paul opposed them even though he did not. The Gospel opponents used three triggers they knew would fire off the Jewish crowd - exaggerations, lies and sensationalism – as seen in Acts 21:27-30: “27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.) 30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut.”
“31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.”
The Roman soldiers chained Paul to themselves to take him away. As they were about to go into barracks Paul asked for and was given permission to speak. Continuing in Acts 22 Paul says,“1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.” 2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.”
Paul goes on to tell them his conversion story and they actually listen to the point when he tells them that God told him to go witness to the gentiles. This was another trigger for the rioters and they tried to get at him again, forcing the Romans to bring him into the barracks.
In this section of text, Paul shows us three ways to respond to gospel opponents. First, pray for wisdom. Second, be bold with the truth of the gospel. And, third, share your story.
You don’t have to be eloquent or super educated, just tell others what God has done in your life. Your faith story has three parts to it. Describe your life before Christ, your conversion experience, and your present hopes.
Sharing your faith will encourage you because it will drive you back to the heart of your relationship with Jesus. I think that is why even when Paul faced the angry crowd he could still speak to them with boldness and clarity, because he knew God had him there for a reason.
And, finally, trust God with the results. God never wastes pain and he never wastes a story. God will never waste your story because your story is important. You matter to God and what God has done for you he wants you to share with others.