“40” Days

God opened a door this morning and sent me this simple message: “40 days.”  So, I explored the Bible for hardships endured based on the number forty. It astonished me to discover that in biblical history, forty is found 159 times across both the Old and New Testaments. It appears to be a set time for testing and trials in times of vulnerability and trouble.

Here are just a few of the examples where the number “40” played out in the Bible:

The ultimate test of faith occurred with Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. They fasted for forty days and gained new insight into God’s plans. Moses received the Ten Commandments, Elijah was told how to lead the people of Israel, and Jesus denied Satan’s temptations in the desert.

Three Hebrew kings – Saul, David, and Solomon each ruled for forty years, of which twenty of those years were prosperous. The other twenty years their lives were in ruin because the kings took more from their people than they ever returned – a test of dedication and prosperity.

Remember the story of David and Goliath? Goliath and the Philistines humiliated and fought the Israelites for forty days. Then God sent the shepherd, David, to defeat them and solidify Israel. This was a test of the Philistine’s humility.

Noah built an ark under God’s instruction. Because man’s sins were too great, He flooded the earth for forty days and nights, destroying every living thing on earth. It was a test of Noah’s faithfulness.

Image attributed to John Paul Stanley/YoPlace.com. Courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org

Days before they crucified Jesus, He prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem. Forty years later, the Roman Empire burned the city to the ground.

Jesus spent forty days on earth after His resurrection

Today, as you are reading this message, we are in Lent, the “40 days” before Easter. The Lenten season is a time to reflect on Jesus Christ and the meaning of His life – the most significant sacrificial event in the world for Christians. It also includes self-examination and fasting.

Though the Bible does not mention the custom of Lent, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in a few scriptures:

“So I turned to the LORD God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.”  Daniel 9:3

“Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.”  2 Samuel 13:19

The Lord does not call us to search for secret meanings in the Bible, but interestingly, this figure plays a huge part in scriptures. Pagans trust numerology, but I have great faith that God used “40” for specific reasons. One such cause is that the word month was unknown, so “40 days” was just a general time period of about a month in biblical times.

So, I ponder this question: Are our prayers answered in about 40 days of a trial and testing? It’s a refreshing thought the Holy Spirit could replenish our spirits and faith every forty days. What an inspiring idea of hope! Our God is awesome!

To those who believe He does not answer prayers, begin practicing your faith on a deeper level. It just might take you “40 days,” but rest assured – God is waiting!


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Entitlement

Today’s society is bombarded with many slogans that portray us to be “deserving” of something. Such self-focused messages are:

            “You deserve a break today…” used by McDonald’s

            “You owe it to yourself…” used by cruise lines

            “Treat yourself to take the break you deserve” used by Hilton HHonors

In the dynamics of families and relationships, how many times have you graciously gave a gift and never received a “thank you” of any kind? How often have you heard the stories of parents passing away, and the children fought over the estate and money? If a sibling or parent is near their deathbed, do they deserve to be treated with respect if they never reciprocated love to family members in a state of healthiness? What if a husband and wife purchase a home with their hard-earned money – should their children feel entitled to the parent’s assets?

Within the business world, employees arrive late and perform their duties with little ambition. They demand pay raises and better benefits. Are they really deserving of it? Or, a parent scrapes and works hard to grow a business, and their grown children now believe they’re entitled to run it when the parent is deceased.

Churches also run into the same dilemmas when the congregation feels entitled to receive answers from their pastors or to hold positions within the house of worship. And, while I walk down the path of religious connotations, many believers feel deserving of God’s blessings. Speaking of this, do you know why much of humanity walks away from God and stops believing in Him? They prayed for an answer they wanted to hear and didn’t receive it. He was a means to get what they felt entitled to in life! Ironically, I believe our church leaders are responsible for this incorrect train of thought. They stand on the pulpit and preach God will meet all our needs and give them their desires if they pledge their soul to Jesus. The fact is our sin separates us from the Lord.

Entitlement is a dangerous walk in life – it’s Godlessness. Let me be frank here – God, parents, and employers owe us nothing. God blesses us with things because He wants to – an unconditional love of grace. A selfish demand for His generosity will reap no benefits. It’s that simple!

Jesus’ ministry spoke of loving others with a grateful heart. This includes treating each other with respect, even amidst our differences. The well-being of gratitude promotes healthy relationships, both in our walk with the Lord and relationships with others.

In the subject of parenting, fewer children today respect their elders. They ignore the recognition parents deserve for years of hard work and dedication to their families because they live in the “gimme, gimme” world. These generations are gifted with their heart’s desires, and they expect it from the parents. Thus, the slogans I mentioned at the beginning of the message above, come into play. As the children grow older, they feel entitled to life. Little do we know, it promotes laziness, ungratefulness, and the subject of this blog – entitlement. What are we teaching our children and others?

So, how can we live a life feeling less entitled to things and people?

•          Humbly give thanks to God for all we receive. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

•          Remember the grace of God, for Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We do not deserve to be treated with graciousness for our sinful attitudes, but the Lord’s love and grace reaches out to us, anyway. “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Titus 3:3-5

•          Set your mind on eternity with the Lord and not on this world. Money and physical possessions mean nothing, for they cannot be taken with you to heaven. “But, as it is written, what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him…” 1 Corinthians 2:9

•          Continuously pray for discernment of entitlement. Why do I feel entitled, and how can I change this train of thought?

In summary of today’s message, expect little, receive with a grateful heart, and always give thanks. Give God the glory for your unexpected blessings!

Written by Anne Bicks, Editor and Marketing of Bicks Books LLC


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HAPPY GREGORIAN NEW YEAR!

With the changing of the calendar there are disagreements about if it is really a new decade.

What a silly disagreement.

Humans feel they control time. They can catagozie and contain it. However, as diverse as Humanity is, there are as many ways to contain time as there are civilazations.

I Celebrate three New Year’s. My actually new year is aligned with my pagan beliefs with the start of the year on Samhein, Halloween.

Then I recognize the Gregorian New Year, which most of the world, particularly the Western World, follow. Then, finally, I celebrate Chinese New Year. This is out of appreciation for Asian culture.

I once owned a Tibetan Buddhist Calendar. It being based on the moon as opposed to the sun. It was definitely different.

My friend in South Korea has two ages. One which is “western,” one which is based on her culture.

Not only are there calendar and time controls within different cultures, there are different views of time in various religions.

Growing up in the United Methodist Church we followed the Christian calendar (hint we are still in the Christmas Season until Epiphany). There are specific traditions and practices associated with certain times of the year in every religious practice.

And don’t even get me started on the different political calendars across the globe.

Sometimes this societal agree on the meaning of time is to our detriment. More and more people are having sleep problems and health issues because they are no longer in tune with their own physical, internal clock, their circadian rhythm.

It is worth remembering for all of the different views and beliefs on time, it is all fabricated by our brains. It is simply a way for our brains to catagozie and barely begin to understand our place in the Universe.

This Gregorian Year of 2020 I suggest we all take a step back and allow the Universe to speak to us, to reset our clocks to its time, instead of the chaos of societal time.

Goodbye 2019

Last night I told my mom. when she said she was grateful 2019 was almost over, there were good things which happened in 2019.

Be grateful for the good things in 2019 and leave behind the rest.

I say again: BE GRATEFUL FOR THE GOOD THINGS IN 2019 AND LEAVE THE REST BEHIND.

Going further, be grateful for the lessons learned from the bad things that happened in 2019.

Overall, move in 2020 with a grateful heart. Forgive the events, people, and perhaps most importantly, yourself. Gratitude for the what was and gratitude for what will be. This is the best way to progress into the next decade.

I end with my favorite Scripture. Philippians 4:4-9:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

New ways

There is no end to education;
Hence, no end to learning;
Learning will only end,
If the world ends;
Which may be billions
Of years away;
Leaning is like a river
That flows nonstop;
The more you learn,
The more you know;
The more you need to learn.
It is by learning
That we acquire new knowledge;
Which means knowing new things;
New ways of living,
New ways of acting;
New ways of cultivation;
New ways of planting;
New ways of harvesting;
New ways of preserving
What we have harvested.
New ways of enjoying
The fruits of our labour.

The 8 Most Powerful Women in the Bible: Part Three

What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible. Now two thousand years later, everyone may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a guiding tool in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.


Did you miss the first two parts of this series? Click HERE for Part One. Click HERE for Part Two.


Joanna the Apostle (also known as Junia)

Joanna does not have a specific story as some other women in this series. In fact, her life is pieced together by many scriptures throughout the Bible, but what an influential person! She was an upper-class Jewish woman in 1st century Palestine. Her grandfather was Theophilus, the High Priest in the Second Temple, in Jerusalem.

The earliest mention of Joanna was in Luke 8:3, where she is referred to as the wife of Chuza, a steward to Herod Antipas. They were married when she was very young, and they both maintained jobs in Herod’s royal household. I’m sure this placed Joanna in a very unpopular category with ordinary Jews. One of her husband’s duties was to make sure everyone paid their taxes to Herod.

Like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, too, had demons in her body. She was often curious about Jesus and His miracles. Would He cleanse her as well? On the days she traveled away from the royal household, she would sit as a bystander and listen to His sermons of parables. One day, Jesus directed his attention to her and spoke with conviction. As the healing miracles of Jesus’ power tell, He knew she was possessed, too, with infirmities…and so He healed her.

Joanna gave a lot of money to Jesus and His disciples. She was wealthy, well-connected, and influential, so she was able to protect Him in subtle ways. She became instrumental in the success of His mission. In this biblical age, it was scandalous for a woman to be financially supportive of a man, much less a female who came from King Herod’s house. But, she took the risk, even though she witnessed her employer, King Herod, behead John the Baptist.

Ruins of King Herod’s palace

At some point in Joanna’s marriage, she becomes single again. One can only imagine the reasons why this happened – perhaps Chuza divorced her, or was he murdered for his position in the royal home? The Bible does not state a specific cause. But, Joanna was in the ranks of the Galilean poor with no social standing or financial security, but she held her head high, turning her life to serve Jesus.

She memorized the Lord’s parables and joined Jesus in storytelling among the poor villages along with a few other women. Many of their listeners were rejected for their conversion to Christianity, so Joanna could sympathize with their feelings. Indeed she was inspired by Jesus’ teachings. She traveled as far as Rome, being a witness to the Lord. She was eventually named an Apostle.

It is spoken in scripture Joanna and Mary Magdalene prepared the cloths to wrap Jesus’ body after His crucifixion. She was also a witness to the empty tomb after His resurrection. Her love for Jesus was deep, and she served Him faithfully until the end of His life.


What made Joanna a powerful woman?

Joanna was brave and proud. She faced public condemnation by becoming single and leaving a royal household, but she held her head high amidst the turmoil and confusion. I’m sure her conversion to Christianity was a radical change too.

When she lived among the elite and wealthy, she gave her money to Jesus and the disciples. She was generous to a fault. Her high values didn’t place wealth on personal belongings, but rather to God.

Joanna was inspiring because she transitioned from an aristocratic woman to a humble servant during her life. She didn’t mourn the loss of possessions but became a witness to the strength of the Lord. Money was a means-to-an-end to serve others.

Jesus healed her ailments because he recognized the self-power she had inside her to change.

Her stewardship to Jesus and the Gospel was uncompromising, and in return, He blessed her with grace.

After Jesus’ death, Joanna became a traveling missionary. It is implied that if she died outside the Holy Land, they brought her body back to Jerusalem. In the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, they adorned Joanna a saint.


EVE

Imagine if suddenly your body just appeared as an adult. You are facing another human who looks different, and his name is Man. Everything around is magically beautiful. Objects called trees stand taller than yourself, and the ground is green with grass and shrubs.

God spoke to them saying they could eat from any fruit of the trees except for the tree of good and evil in the middle of the garden. God warned them if they ate from the tree, they would die. This scenario is precisely the one Eve faced on her creation day. I wonder what her thoughts were at this exact moment?

As she walked through the shrubbery, she saw a slithering serpent who spoke to her. (Genesis 3:1-6, NIV)

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Eve responded, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”

“You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” the serpent retorted.

The fruit on the tree looked delicious, so she picked it off the stem and took a nibble. Then she handed it to the Man who also took a bite of the irresistible fruit. Their eyes opened wide when they realized they were naked. Ashamed and embarrassed, Adam and Eve pulled fig leaves off of the trees, sewed them together, and covered the most intimate parts of their body.

Suddenly, they heard footsteps walking in the garden, so they hid, in fear, among the trees. The Lord God approached them and asked why they were hiding. Adam spoke first… “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” Adam and Eve hung their heads down.

Adam answered, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then Eve responded to God, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:11-13 NIV)

God sternly faced Eve and said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 NIV)

Then the Lord God said to Adam, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 NIV)

The Lord made garments of skin for them to wear and moved Adam to the east side of the Garden of Eden, where he would work the land for food. Adam and Eve procreated, and a son, named Cain, was born. Later, another son, Abel, was born. As they grew older, their children learned to struggle, working in the fields.

Eve realized the curse God placed upon them, for life was a battle. Childbirth was unbearable, and then she endured the death of her son, Abel. The Lord punished Cain for killing Abel and placed him in the land of Nod, east of Eden, to become a wanderer. We must do what is right before God or reap the consequences.


Many misunderstandings about Eve swirl throughout the generations and since the beginning of mankind. She is held responsible for the sin of humanity by eating the forbidden fruit. Some believe she ‘enticed’ Adam to eat it, too. However, there isn’t biblical truth to this statement. The fact is, Adam did not have to take the fruit and eat it, but he did, knowingly aware of the consequences.

Eve is mislabeled with names such as “the devil’s gateway,” “temptress,“ and “wicked persuasion.” My response to any of those unwarranted titles come from this standpoint – Eve did not know of evil, nor Satan and his lies. How can she be singly be held accountable for the fall of mankind?


What made Eve a powerful woman?

Eve was the first woman, no other before her.

She is “the mother of all living,” for she is the beginning of humanity. Eve represents the maternal potential of adult women. She proclaimed the sons she gave childbirth to were created by man and God.

Eve was created with a pure heart, and her only knowledge of life came from Adam and God.

Created in God’s image, Eve carries the feminine qualities of the character of God. Her power of being a woman teaches us mankind cannot exist without ‘womankind.’


Eve’s powerful story wasn’t so much about her good qualities, but what she taught us about life and a relationship with God:

Disobedience to God leads us to follow our own will, thus unfortunate consequences. She believed Satan rather than God. How many of us, today, act on impulse versus praying to God for the correct answer to problems?

When we compromise God’s Word by blocking out or changing the parts we refuse to hear, it becomes a means to continue sinning.

If we do not resist sin when it presents itself, we will eventually give in to the temptation.


Next Sunday will be the final two women in this series. Be sure to join us!


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The 8 Most Powerful Women in the Bible: Part Two

What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible. Everyone today, now two thousand years later, may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a guiding tool in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.

The last point I want to express is “behind every successful man is a strong and wise woman.” So true of these most powerful women in the Bible! I hope you enjoy my review of this week’s next two women.


Did you miss Part One? Click HERE.


ESTHER

This biblical story begins in the time of King Xerexes, who ruled from India to Ethiopia in 486 BC to 465 BC. In the third year of his reign, he gave a luxurious banquet for all his officials and ministers in the garden courtyard. His wife, Queen Vashti, threw a separate party for women in the royal palace. As he became drunk, he ordered his personal servants to bring his wife to him. She was gorgeous, and he wanted to show her off to his proteges. Queen Vashti refused to show off her beauty, and the king lost his temper at her disrespect of his orders. He wanted to avoid his embarrassment, so he ruled her to leave his premises. “Every man is master of his own house; whatever he says, goes.”

King Xerexes’ young royal attendants suggested he search the kingdom for beautiful young virgins to replace Vashti. Soon, a woman named Hadassah, otherwise known as Esther, was brought to the palace and given over to the overseer of the women in the harem. She stayed twelve months for beauty treatments and for visits with the king in the evenings. Esther soon won the admiration of everyone, including the king. He placed a crown on her head and proclaimed a holiday for all the provinces. But she had a dark secret…

Her older cousin, Mordecai, raised Esther after her parent’s death. He was a member of the Jewish community who had an ancestor captured and taken away from Jerusalem. Her rearing was in exile, and Mordecai begged her never to tell a soul.

Mordecai often walked in front of the palace, hoping to glimpse Esther. He still felt responsible for her welfare. One afternoon, he made his usual trek to the palace gates. He overheard two guards plotting the death of King Xerexes, so he quickly sent word to Esther, who told her husband. In the king’s investigation of the incident, she told her husband that Mordecai, “her cousin,” heard the conversation, but this was all the details she gave him.

Sometime later, King Xerexes promoted a man named Haman to the highest-ranking official in the government. He required everyone at the palace gates to kneel before Haman, but Mordecai refused repeatedly. Haman learned Esther’s cousin was a Jew, so he devised a plan to kill all Jews throughout the kingdom.

Esther’s maids told her of Haman’s plan, and she was shocked and scared for her relatives. So she sent a servant to find Mordecai and find out the whole story. She also handed the servant clothes for her cousin to wear, which would hide his Jewish roots. But, Mordecai refused to wear it and relayed a message to her, “Do not imagine that because you are in the king’s palace you alone will escape the fate of all the Jews.…” He encouraged her to talk to her husband.

Esther sent a strong message back to Mordecai.

“Go and get all the Jews living in Susa together. Fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, either day or night. I and my maids will fast with you. If you will do this, I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die.” Mordecai followed her instructions.

Three days later, Esther dressed in her royal robe, visited the king on his throne. She asked him to arrange a dinner with Haman, of which he obliged her request. Meanwhile, Haman was building seventy-five foot high gallows. He would soon hang Mordecai.

The day of the dinner party arrived, and King Xerexes, Esther, and Haman gathered for the feast. The king asked Esther, “What would you like? Half of my kingdom? Just ask and it’s yours.” Her charm beguiled him. She broke into tears and revealed the horror of her people’s fate at the hands of their dinner guest. Haman was now terror-stricken. The king raged with fury and stalked out into the palace garden. He saw the gallows structure and came storming back into the banquet room when he noticed Haman on the floor in front of his wife. Haman was pleading for his life at Esther’s feet, and the king exploded with anger. King Xerexes ordered him hanged at the very gallows meant for Mordecai… and so it was done.

Later in the day, the king presented Queen Esther the estate of Haman, archenemy of the Jews. She admitted her background to him and the story of her cousin. Mordecai came before the king who took off his signet ring and handed it to him in a loving gesture. Esther appointed Mordecai over Haman’s estate. Then, she pleaded with her husband to please revoke the plan plotted against the Jews. “How can I stand to see this catastrophe wipe out my people? How can I bear to stand by and watch the massacre of my relatives?”

King Xerexes allowed Esther and Mordecai to write whatever she deemed necessary to stop the massacre on an order, and he signed it. Their city exploded with joy for Esther saved their lives. Celebration, cheering, and feasting took to the streets. Many non-Jews became Jews on this day. Mordecai also became a mighty name in the palace. The king, with love on his face, turned to Esther and said, “What else would you like? Name it and it’s yours. Your wish is my command.”

Mordecai soon released a notice calling for an annual celebration of the Jew’s freedom, and it became a tradition. He soon ranked second in command to King Xerexes for the peace and prosperity he brought to his race.


I found it interesting God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther, however, the protection of His chosen people is implied. The Jewish religion was an ethnic choice rather than a religious practice in the era of Esther. When the Bible was interpreted, many rabbis were troubled by Esther’s failure to live as a Jew, so her story suffered in its religious connotation.

Why was Esther a powerful woman?

Esther was a female hero, for women in Persia were a low species in society. Whatever power she did have was earned through manipulation of higher forces (such as her husband). Esther used her beauty, charm, and political intelligence to save the Jews. She fought for her objectives.

Queen Esther was a positive role model for Jewish women during her lifetime. She was courageous to approach the king about the death plot of her race. Her life was on the line and it was risky but Esther stood up for what she believed in, even though it was dangerous.

Though God was not mentioned in the Book of Esther, Esther used fasting and prayer for clarity. It placed her in the path of humility.

Esther is a powerful example that our background does not determine God’s plan for us, only faith. She was an orphan and lived in exile, but God brought her to redemption and freedom.

Not many details are known about Esther after the story written in the Bible. However, Jewish scholars claim she had a son named Darius who became a king. He lifted the ban against the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, which led to the building of the Second Temple.

According to Wikipedia, Esther is commemorated as a matriarch in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. She is also recognized as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox Churches. It is believed Esther’s son buried her, with Mordecai, in a mausoleum in Hamadan, Iran. In 2009, Iran added it as a Jewish holy site on their National Heritage List.


ABIGAIL

Image of Abigail courtesy of Pinterest

Abigail’s short, but compelling story, is in 1 Samuel 25, and written about 960 BC. It occurs in the town of Maon, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

Nabal was a very wealthy, yet obstinate and harsh man, who owned three thousand sheep and one thousand goats. His wife, Abigail, was an intelligent and beautiful woman. One afternoon, Nabal was shearing his sheep in the wilderness. A young warrior named David was hiding in a nearby town, and he heard of Nabal’s huge undertaking. He sent ten of his men to visit Nabal; after all, he guarded Nabal’s sheep on more than one occasion.

“Go and approach Nabal. Greet him in my name, ‘Peace! Life and peace to you! When your shepherds were camped near us we didn’t take advantage of them. I’m asking you to be generous with my men – share the feast! Give whatever your heart tells you to your servants and to David, your son.”

Nabal was furious and began insulting the men while demanding to know the identity of David. He yelled, “Who is this David? The country is full of runaway servants these days. Do you think I’m going to take good bread and wine and meat freshly butchered for my sheepshearers and give it to men I’ve never laid eyes on? Who knows where they’ve come from?”

David’s men ran back to tell him of Napal’s arrogance. “Strap on your swords!” he called out to four hundred of his men. “What a slap in the face! May God do his worst to me if Nabal and every cur in his misbegotten brood isn’t dead by morning!”

Meanwhile, a young shepherd ran back to Abigail and told her of the confrontation in the fields. He begged Abigail to do something before they killed everyone. She immediately took action by gathering two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep ready for cooking, a bushel of roasted grain, a hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes. She loaded all the food on the donkeys and had her servants lead the way to David. No one could say a word to her husband.

Image courtesy of timothylutheranbiblestudy.com

As Abigail was riding her donkey into a large ravine, David and his men were descending from the other end. They all met in the middle where Abigail quickly climbed off the donkey and fell on her knees before David. With humility, honor, and respect, she humbly spoke to him of her husband’s faults.

“My lord should not pay attention to this wicked man Nabal. He simply lives up to his name! His name means ‘fool,’ and he is indeed foolish!” David immediately recognized Abigail was sent by God. He apologized and thanked her for stopping him from murdering all of them. He accepted the food she brought him and said, “Return home in peace.”

Abigail arrived home, and Nabal was eating a huge spread of food and was very drunk. She left him be… until the next morning when she told him what she gave David. Nabal’s raging face turned red, and he grabbed his heart and fell onto the ground. For ten days, he laid in a coma until God took his life.

When David heard Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be God who has stood up for me against Nabal’s insults, kept me from an evil act, and let his evil boomerang back on him.” He sent for Abigail to propose marriage to her, and she didn’t linger. She climbed onto her donkey and rode to David.

Abigail was David’s second wife, as he was also married to Ahinoam of Jezreel. Both women accompanied him while they sought refuge in a Philistine territory, and their life wasn’t easy. But, soon after settling in Hebron, Abigail gave birth to their only child, who was named Chileab (also called Daniel).


In case you did not make the connection in Abigail’s story, the man who she married was none other than a young King David, one of the most well-known figures in Jewish history. He was promised by God that his children would rule Israel forever. If we delve into Bible scriptures, Abigail was one of eight wives to David.

She suffered the consequences of an arranged marriage to Nabal. She could not blame or fight their choice. But, her story reveals why women should follow God’s guidelines for a partner. Though he was an abusive husband, she remained dedicated to him until God’s perfect timing played out.


Why was Abigail a powerful woman?

Abigail was a very humble woman. Though she was wealthy, she did not let her riches interfere with the welfare of her family. Not only did she save her family, but she saved David from committing murders.

She was fearless as she rode to find David and give him her offerings. It was perilous for her to face a man with an army of four hundred men.

Abigail had an attitude of humility, honor, and respect as she approached the man who would one day rule Israel. I think David knew Abigail was the kind of comrade he needed to be a successful king.

She always acted in wisdom, for God was building character in her heart. Living with an abusive man, she still grew into a respectful woman, even amid adversity.

Please join us again next Sunday for two more powerful women in the Bible. God bless!



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The 8 Most Powerful Women in the Bible: Part One

What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible, and I will review two a week for the next four Sundays. Our ladies, now two thousand years later, may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a guiding tool in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.

The last point I want to express is “behind every successful man is a strong and wise woman.” So true of these most powerful women in the Bible! I hope you enjoy my review.


MARY MAGDALENE

Mary of Magdala lived in a comfortable village of many Greeks in Galilee. They depicted her as a prostitute in town. According to scriptures, the single Mary Magdalene had a serious sickness caused by ‘seven demons,’ so many people assumed she was a fallen woman. But, in biblical times, certain illnesses such as schizophrenia, blindness, heart disease, and epilepsy were thought to be demonic. The Bible is unclear what her specific situation was, but bible scholars agree she was not a prostitute.

At some point in her life, Mary met Jesus in one of the many villages He ministered to, and He healed her afflictions. She became an immediate follower and a leader of a group of women who traveled with Jesus and helped to support His ministry. Only a strong, self-confident woman would be so brave to spread the Gospel in biblical days.

Jesus had two groups of people who accompanied Him – a group of men led by Peter the Apostle, and a group of women led by Mary Magdalene. However, according to religious tradition, females were meant to be seen and not heard, but Mary, in controversy, was very close to Jesus. Just as I wrote in the past, God chooses people to be His disciples that we least expect to reach this broken world. Mary was one such example. Her great faith earned special attention from Jesus.

On the day they crucified Jesus, Mary Magdalene, along with two others, stood at the base of His cross and watched Him breathe His last breath. Her heartbreak must have been unimaginable!  In the Bible passages of Luke 23 and Matthew 27, Mary prepared Jesus’ body for burial by making a spice anointment for the linens. She observed from afar as they placed His body in the rock tomb. Mary visited His burial site every day as if waiting… did she know something?

Image of Mary Magdalene courtesy of James Tissot Collection at Brooklyn Museum freebibleimages.org

In the early morning light, the following week, Mary visited the tomb. As she sat and prayed an earthquake erupted and forced the rock away from the entrance of the grave. Mary jumped up to look inside, and it was empty! Suddenly, God’s angel appeared before her.

“Woman, why are you weeping?”

With tears streaming down her face, Mary replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

Suddenly a voice from behind her spoke, “Mary! Why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”

Not recognizing the face, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” He responded with, “Mary!” It was Jesus standing before her.

She dropped to her knees, grabbed His hands, and said in Hebrew “Rabbouni!” Jesus told her not to hold on to Him because He had not ascended to the Father yet. Instead, He ordered her to go tell the disciples he was resurrected.

Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ resurrection courtesy of freebibleimages.org

Mary ran to them and announced, “I have seen the Lord.”

It is interesting that in a society where women were held in low regard, Christ showed Himself first to a woman. Mary loved her Lord, and she was His truest, faithful follower.

What made Mary Magdalene a powerful woman?

  • She taught us to live courageously and faithfully for Christ. Jesus set her free by eliminating her ‘demons,’ and instead of going about her own life, Mary worked for Him. Even when she faced difficult times, and people called her hopeless, she allowed Jesus to work through her.
  • Mary was more loyal to Jesus than His own disciples. They hid as Jesus was led to His crucifixion, but Mary stayed with Him. She also anointed His linen with spices.
  • Mary was given the honor of being the first person to see Jesus after His resurrection. She was very important to Christ, or He would not have revealed Himself to her before the other disciples. It may be safe to comment Jesus changed the way women were viewed in society.
  • Mary teaches us that even if our lives are in terrible disarray, it is never too late to find hope in God.
  • Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends and His apostle, ostracized her work as a disciple. In the Gospel of Thomas, he said, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of the Life,” but her strength of character and love of God gave her the courage to move forward. Today, she is often called the first woman evangelist.

What happened to Mary Magdalene after Jesus’ resurrection? Much controversy exists about this topic. One theory suggests fourteen years after the crucifixion, she was put into a boat by Jews and set adrift without sails or oars. The boat landed in southern France where she lived in solitude in a cave.

Another theory claims she accompanied John to Ephesus, where she died and was buried. Some say she evangelized Provence, France during her last thirty years.

A recent book titled The Lost Gospel even claims Mary and Jesus were secretly married and had two children, but someone’s imagination was a little overextended.

Today, in the Russian Orthodox church, they know her as the patroness of sinners and penitent women. One of the world’s best-known monuments is the Church of Mary Magdalene in East Jerusalem.


HANNAH

Image of Hannah courtesy of Moody Publishers and freebibleimages.org

Hannah is an inspiring and wonderful story of humanity and all its flaws. No one is the leading character in the story of their own life.

Elkanah lived in the Ephraim hills of a small town thirteen miles to the northeast of Jerusalem. He practiced polygamy through his Levite religion. Hannah was his first wife, and he adored and loved her, doting on her every need. But, she was infertile, and his family name needed to be honored with children, so he married another woman. Peninnah was envious of the love Elkanah had for Hannah. She cruelly taunted Hannah to tears each time she gave birth to their ten sons, and Hannah lost her sense of appetite.

One day, Hannah traveled to the sanctuary, and she spoke to the priest about her inability to have children. Her soul was crushed as the tears flowed down her lovely face. She dropped to her knees before the altar and prayed.

“Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, if you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, if you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me by giving me a son, I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.”

Before the year was out, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son named Samuel. She told Elkanah she asked God for this son. Hannah also explained when the child was weaned, she would present him before God, where he would remain forever. He agreed with her plans.

Image courtesy of freebibleimages.org

The day arrived when Samuel was no longer dependent on Hannah for nutrition. She took him to Shiloh along with a butchered bull, flour, and wine and presented him to the priest, Eli. “I prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for. And now I have dedicated him to God. He’s dedicated to God for life.”

Hannah and Elkanah dedicated their lives to God as they watched their son grow up among the priests. Hannah made Samuel little white robes cut to his size, and they took them to him. Eli often said a prayer over her on those visits, “God give you children to replace this child you have dedicated to God.” His blessings and prayers were heard as Hannah and Elkanah had three more sons and a daughter.

Today, we acknowledge Samuel as a prophet by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, an equal to Moses. He wrote the story of his life, including his mother, Hannah, in the Book of Samuel.

What made Hannah a powerful woman?

  • Hannah’s main attribute was perseverance. She prayed for many years for God to give her a child. She had faith in the power of the Lord and never doubted He would answer her prayers. Hannah teaches us never to give up, even when we think something is impossible. Her faithfulness to the Lord bled into her son, who became a great man.
  • Her boldness, strength, and devotion were like no other for she was a mother who gave up her first-born to the Lord. I’m sure most parents would rethink this decision. But, Hannah recognized all things are God’s possessions, even our children. He honors parents with children as merely a gift, a temporary gift. We are to mold them in the ways of the Lord as a blessing to all nations. In Hannah’s case, because she fulfilled her promise to God, He blessed her with a legacy of five more children.
  • Hannah’s power is also demonstrated through a promise which she kept to God. Her integrity is in the commitment of handing her child over to God. She never went back on her word, for if she did, she might never have conceived any more children. God rewards us for loyalty.

Thank you, Hannah, for teaching us we must trust in the Lord in everything in our lives. Life is not always a bowl of cherries, but with persistent prayer, miracles can and will happen. Dedication to the Master who created us, along with integrity, will reap you blessings beyond your wildest imagination.

Hannah is buried in the Tomb of Samuel in the West bank, beside her son Samuel, on top of a steep hill just north of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot.

We hope you enjoyed Part One and will return next Sunday for two more powerful women in the Bible.


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Familiar Signs of the Antichrist

I recently reread the Book of Revelations to digest the word “Antichrist,” a beast who will rise to power during the end times. If we study Apostle John’s writing (called the “Beast from the Abyss”), he claims there will be many antichrists (false teachers) between the time of Christ’s first and Second Coming, but only one great Antichrist. Paul the Apostle even painted a great picture of this character. Though the Antichrist is considered an entity, it will be led by one person. So, let’s review this person’s attributes according to the Bible.

ATTRIBUTES OF THE ANTICHRIST

1 – He speaks blasphemies against God (Revelation 13:5) and changes the words of Jesus. The Antichrist also claims priests can forgive sins (but only God can do this). (Luke 5:21) He will also deny Christ lived as a human being. (1 John 4:3)

2 – He has the authority to rule over every tribe, people, language, and nation. The Bible considers those who follow him as the names not written in the Book of Life before God made the world.

3 – He has great political power as he rises to power as a very influential, charismatic, political, or religious diplomat. The Antichrist won’t appear to be evil at first.

4 – This person will be an economic and foreign policy genius.

5 – He will institute lawlessness across the nation.

6 – The Antichrist will emerge from one of ten countries in Europe as a Gentile. (Daniel 7:7-8) This constitutes the revival of the Roman Empire. (Daniel 7:16-24)

7 – He will be a liar and deceiver whose natural abilities Satan enhances with a counterfeit supernatural power to confuse people.

8 – He will claim himself to be God. (2 Thessalonians 2:4)

9 – He will represent a world religion, not predominately Jewish. (Revelation 13:11-18)

ANTICHRIST MOVEMENTS ARE EVERYWHERE

Today, there is a movement called the AntiChrist Warriors. They are on a rampage to destroy Christianity, a sign of the end times. Some of their names include anti-Christian, anti-Christ, and atheism. They cause upheavals such as the use of “Happy Holidays,” not “Merry Christmas.” They petitioned for the US Capitol Christmas tree to be called the “Capitol Holiday Tree.”

The AntiChrist Warriors also fought for the removal of prayers in schools. We can witness their lobbying at abortion clinics, Hobby Lobby, Family Planning clinics, florists, and wedding venues. As you can tell, they are the leaders of Christian persecution.

Events predicted in the Bible which precede the Antichrist include a substantial increase in Christian persecution. Random attacks of Christians will come from hundreds of thousands of Antichrist minions around the world. These individuals, organizations, and events were foretold thousands of years ago, so Christian friends, be on high alert.

IS THE ANTICHRIST AMONGST US TODAY?

Many people today are trying to figure out who the Antichrist is in the world today. My opinion is we have not seen him surface yet. This Gentile will be a staunch non-believer of Christ, and he will hail from Europe, Greece, or the Middle East. It’s unfathomable a great leader will convince the world that no god exists, but Revelations predicts the event. In the meantime, his followers are in place around the world.

HOW CAN CHRISTIANS AVOID THE ANTICHRIST?

Is there any place to hide from the power of the coming Antichrist and his followers which live amongst us? As Christians, we cannot hide from the world’s corruption – it’s in our backyard. But, instead of hiding in the pages of the Bible, we should continue to live by the Lord’s Word.

Be selective of your friends and acquaintances. I have a personal example to share with you. I knew a woman who attended my church and was part of the choir. She sang the praises of the Lord. Her demonic behavior soon surfaced when it was revealed she was labeled a “black widow.” She married seven times, just long enough to steal the money and possessions of each husband. In the 90s, she and her parents began a mission church. But, God halted that when she was arrested for extortion. The lawlessness of the Antichrist’s believers, which Paul the Apostle warned us about, are everywhere.

From one Christian to another, stand up for God! Do not crouch behind your TV screen and silently watch the Antichrist protests and destruction. Fight for your beliefs by voicing your opinion. Disconnect yourself from the media, which gives glory to the Antichrist movement. Do not be misled by clergy with ulterior motives – money and fame.

Be an avid reader of the Bible so you will be familiar with the signs of the Antichrist and false prophets. Follow God’s word for your eternal salvation. God bless.


BEGINNING NEXT SUNDAY!


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The Dynamic Story of Paul the Apostle: Part 4, The Conclusion

Paul needed much rest at home in Syria after his second missionary trip, so he spent his time with the Antioch Christians and other apostles. He preached and taught at the Antioch schools. But, after a couple of years, he felt it was time to revisit his established churches and friends across Asia Minor.

* SPECIAL NOTE: Bible scripture does not specify if Timothy traveled with Paul on this trip. It was rare for missionaries to travel alone in biblical days, but it appears Paul did just this on his journey.

Paul’s Third Missionary Trip map courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org

GALATIA and PHYRYGIA (Acts 18)

Approximately 53 A.D., Paul headed northwest to check in with his first established churches in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. He put a fresh heart into their leaders and congregations. As he traveled from town to town, his old friends, Aquila and Priscilla, sent him news of a powerful speaker who arrived in Ephesus. Apollos was an enthusiastic Jew, born in Alexandria, Egypt, who was highly recommended to preach by their Ephesian friends. But, there was one problem – Apollos’ knowledge of Jesus stopped at John’s baptism. So, Priscilla and Aquila (the first Christian missionary team) taught him of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Then Apollos left for Corinth, and Paul headed down the mountains for Ephesus.


EPHESUS (Acts 19)

Soon after Paul’s arrival in Ephesus, he met twelve disciples, and a conversation began with questions and answers. He discovered they only knew of John’s baptism and had not been born again by faith in Christ. They were, for sure, Apollo’s students. Paul taught them the complete gospel. He baptized them in the name of Jesus, and they praised God in tongues.

The next three months, Paul spoke to the Jews in their synagogue. He tried to convince them of the realness of God’s kingdom. A resistance formed as evil rumors swirled about the Christian way of life. The Jews rejected the reason for Jesus’ crucifixion and especially the resurrection. So, Paul stopped teaching in the synagogue. The twelve disciples and Paul set up a new worship place in the school of Tyrannus for the next two years. Paul taught there in the afternoons when Ephesians took their siesta – it was less risky than mornings. Many Jews and Greeks from Asia attended his daily lessons. Paul also wrote letters to the church in Corinth (known as 1 Corinthians), as they were struggling with moral issues.

School of Tyrannus image courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org

God worked powerful miracles through Paul, which spread quickly around the area. Soon people started taking pieces of his clothing and began touching the sick with them. They believed his items healed others. A Jewish exorcist tried his hand at this when an evil spirit spoke back to him, asking who he was – he wasn’t Paul. This ended in a bloody brawl, and the news of the incident led Jews and Gentiles to believe only God was behind the voice. It led to witches and warlocks burning their books of spells and incantations and sovereignty for Paul ruled the land.

It wasn’t long before another large ruckus in Ephesus occurred over Paul’s presence. (Acts 19: 21-34) Demetrius was a silversmith for shrines of the goddess, Artemis, and he employed many artisans in the city. His business was failing because Paul discredited his statutes as being a real god. So, he gathered all his workers, and they rioted. After several hours of ranting and screaming, the town clerk settled everyone down and sent them home.

Paul called the disciples together and gave them lots of encouragement. He said his goodbyes and left town quietly on a ship headed to Macedonia.


MACEDONIA (Acts 20)

The apostle stayed a short three months in Greece. While Paul was there, he revisited his churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea and encouraged the ministry. He also wrote another letter to the church in Corinth (known as 2 Corinthians in the Bible) as some false disciples attacked his reputation.

Paul’s initial plan was to return to Syria via Jerusalem. However, he learned of his death plot by some Jews who would attack him on the ship. So Paul returned to Macedonia by land and gathered some apostles who would meet him in Troas – Timothy, Sopater from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, and Tychicus and Trophimus from western Asia.

Paul stayed for Passover Week in Philippi and set sail for Troas.


TROAS (northwest Turkey) (Acts 20:7-8)

All the disciples gathered to meet Paul when he arrived in Troas. On Sunday, they met the church congregation, and Paul preached long into the night. As Paul talked, a young man named Eutychus went to sleep sitting on a windowsill of the third-story room. He toppled out the window and was declared dead. Everyone began crying and gasping at the horrible sight. Paul ran down the steps and stretched himself over Eutychus. Squeezing him tightly, Paul said, “No more crying. There’s life in him yet.” The boy was alive so Paul continued telling stories of faith until dawn.

A short week later, Paul wanted to get back to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. The disciples met him in Assos and then watched him board the ship for Miletus (southwestern Turkey).


MILETUS

Paul sent messengers to Ephesus for the elders in the church to join him. After three years of working closely with the church, it was necessary to have a final conversation with the bishops. He owed it to them.

When everyone arrived, he began the speech with his qualities, characteristic of his servitude. He talked of being a humble yet persecuted servant of God, but through it all, he still encouraged them to continue spreading the word of God. Now it was time for his sad news… (Acts 20:17-35)

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 22-28) NIV

Paul gained a reputation for being against the Law, and he knew he would be killed when he returned to Jerusalem. Through tearful goodbyes and prayers, he encouraged the elders, and they walked him to the ship.  He could see the fear in their eyes, so they knelt on the beach and prayed together one last time.

Ruins of Ephusus

CAESAREA (Acts 21:7-16)

Paul stayed with Philip the Evangelist for several days. On the fourth day, Agabus, a prophet from Judea, came to visit Paul. Dramatically, he prophesied Paul getting mobbed and imprisoned if he went to Jerusalem. Paul didn’t budge nor show fear.

He responded to Agabus, “You’re looking at this backwards. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what God does through my obedience.”

A couple of days later, a group of friends escorted Paul to Jerusalem where everyone stayed at the home of Mnason, a disciple.


JERUSALEM (Acts 21:27-36)

Paul was in Jerusalem for a week when some Jews from Ephesus spotted him in the synagogue. At once they ran and grabbed him. They screamed he was the man who was telling lies against the Jews. Soon the whole city came to get in on the upheaval. They dragged Paul outside the synagogue and beat him until soldiers arrived and arrested him. As they took him to the holding cell, Paul requested to speak to the crowd. He told the Jews he was Saul of Tarsus and gave them some background of his history.

Paul goes to jail.

People began shaking their fists and cursing, so the police dragged him inside the jail. The Roman centurions wanted to interrogate Paul under torture to find out what he did wrong, but when they realized he was a Roman citizen, they took him before the high priests.

Paul gazed at Chief Priest Ananias and said, “Friends, I’ve lived with a clear conscience before God all my life.”

The priest’s aides slapped Paul across the face for being disrespectful to the Chief Priest. He apologized and explained he didn’t know he was a high priest. Paul knew the council consisted of both Pharisees and Sadducees so as he spoke who he was, their decision to keep him split in half. A violent council caused the centurions to take him back to jail, for his safety.

That night, as Paul slept behind bars, Jesus spoke to him. “Have courage! For as you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

The following morning, Paul’s nephew arrived at the jail, and he was allowed to speak to Paul. He informed him of a plot to murder his uncle by some Jews in Jerusalem. His nephew also talked to the captain of the jail. An ambush was set to occur if he removed Paul from the jail. The captain immediately placed a plan in action.

About 9 PM that evening, two hundred soldiers, seventy cavalrymen, and two hundred light infantry were placed in Caesarea.  Paul was transported safely and placed on house arrest in King Herod’s official quarters.


CAESAREA: PAUL ON TRIAL (Acts 24:1-21)

Within five days, the Chief Priest Ananias arrived with a trial lawyer, and they presented the governor with their case against Paul. They charged him with disturbing the peace, stirring up riots against Jews all over the world, and being the ringleader of the Nazarenes.

Paul defended his innocence. “It’s because I believe in the resurrection that I’ve been hauled into this court. Does that sound to you like grounds for a criminal case?” They dismissed Paul until the captain decided a resolution. Meanwhile, he remained at King Herod’s home where he was allowed freedom in the house and visitors who could help him.

Paul was heartbroken the church never came to his defense as he maintained house arrest status for the next two years. During this time, a Jewish couple, Felix and Drusilla, listened to Paul talk about Jesus Christ, moral discipline, and the coming Judgment. One day, Felix was replaced by the new governor, Porcius Festus. For sure, his agenda was not a good one.

Festus went to Jerusalem to see the high priests and top leaders, and he renewed their vendetta against Paul. They wanted him sentenced to death. Ten days later, Paul was led into the courtroom with jeering Jews. He asked for an appeal to Caesar in Rome, and it was awarded because it was a religious argument. Paul had the right to defend his innocence.

Several days later, King Agrippa and his wife, Bernice, asked to meet Paul as they wanted to hear his story. Paul was led into the Great Hall. Festus began by saying all the charges made by the Jews were lies and nothing else. Paul took the stand and told of his background and history. (Acts 26)

It was too much for Festus! “You are out of your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane.”

Paul appealed to their sense of religion. King Agrippa, the governor, Bernice, and their advisors stood up and left the room. They quickly agreed on Paul’s innocence. Agrippa faced Festus and said, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”


SAILING FOR ROME (Acts 27:27-28:5)

Under the supervision of a centurion named Julius, Paul and a few other prisoners boarded a ship headed for Rome. They sailed close to the shoreline because the strong winds were blowing against them. Then they transferred onto another ship at the port of Myra. The weather was horrific until they reached the island of Crete at the start the winter. Paul saw disaster ahead if they set sail any further, but the centurion ignored him and headed for Phoenix, a few miles further ahead.

No sooner was the ship out to sea when the gale-force winds struck and they lost control. With lifeboats readied, they drifted near some rocky shoals of an island, but it was impossible to get ashore. The ship’s drift anchors stopped them for crashing into the rocks from the whipping wind.

For two weeks the ship drifted on the Adriatic Sea until they realized they were approaching land. Paul gathered everyone together and asked them to eat some bread for strength. By daybreak, the centurion could see a beach so he decided to run the ship upon the sand. They hit a reef, and the boat began to break into pieces. Everyone swam to the shore.

The passengers soon learned they were on the island of Malta as natives came to their rescue. The head man of the island, Publius, took them into his home. He fed them and left them stay for three days, but the crew spent three months on Malta, waiting for another ship.


ROME

House arrest was imminent for Paul again as he entered Rome in 60 A.D. He stayed in his own private quarters with a soldier assigned to watch over him for two years. Many visitors came to see him, and he presented all matters of the Bible to them. He continued to preach God’s word as a prisoner of Jesus Christ.


CONCLUSION

What a cliffhanger! As I researched what happened to Paul after his Rome arrest, I found a lot of articles written by biblical scholars relishing in their own opinion. The Bible, though, does not speak of how, where, or why Paul died. We may assume Nero’s military beheaded him or he passed away as a martyr, after the Great Fire of Rome in July 64 A.D. Persecution of Christians was at an all-time high during this period in history. Are we to understand, then, Paul was released after his trial in Rome? There is no clear indication to confirm this question.

Paul’s entire story is written in the Book of Acts. However, it is believed many of the passages are not entirely accurate because they are missing Paul’s letters which revealed his deepest thoughts.

The apostle wrote four books of the New Testament during this last segment of his life:

            Acts 18:22-38:  Paul’s detailed his final meeting with the elders of the church in Ephesus in Miletus.

            1 Corinthians: This is the letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth addressing immorality and divisions which had arisen among its members. He covered issues such as sexual immorality, marriage problems, and lawsuits with other believers. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (6:9). He also corrected the doctrines which spoke of women in worship, the use of spiritual gifts, and observing the Lord’s Supper. Finally, he talked about the topic of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

            2 Corinthians: Written in Macedonia about 56 A.D., it is another letter to the church of Corinth defending and protecting his apostleship. Paul detailed the characteristics of an apostle so members could recognize a false prophet. He also spoke of the persecution of Christians, but he also instilled hope in Jesus Christ. Paul used the theology of his suffering as an example. The last thing he wrote in this Book was how to know if you are a real Christian. He said it was necessary to test yourself by examining the scriptures. (13:5)

            Romans: Paul wrote to the Romans from Corinth in 57 or 58 A.D. beginning the letter with “to all God’s beloved in Rome.” Addressing the Christian church of Rome, it is the most profound coverage of the Christian faith. He spoke that a believer’s relationship with God couldn’t be repaired by just good deeds, but by faith and serving the Lord. Paul also teaches about the sinful nature of man and how to gain freedom from the evilness of sin. Finally, he explained how to obtain a holy lifestyle; many makes the mistake of conforming their lives to the world, instead of to God.

Paul the Apostle was a real study in Christian character. The description of himself was so accurate -“a slave to Jesus Christ.” He served God first, man second, and himself last. His devotion to the Lord was like none other. I think he contributed more to the growth of Christianity than any other apostle.

This apostle is an exemplary example of working for God, be it as a missionary or in the ministry. In fact, Paul’s life parallels the missionaries who serve around the world today. These servants of God remain devoted regardless of the cost to their life. The courage to go into uncharted territories and preach Christianity can only be done through God’s anointment, and God bless them for this dedication.

Though Paul suffered many tribulations and felt deserted by everyone, he found strength in God through his weakness. I hope, one day, to meet Paul and find out the many stories he did not write about in the Bible. God gave him more than any person could handle, but God delivered the apostle by the grace of prayer. I encourage you to read Paul’s books in the Bible and learn to apply the scriptures to your own life. Absorb it, live it, and teach it… it’s Christianity. Thank you, friends, for reading this series – we hope you enjoyed it!


Did you miss any parts of The Dynamic Story of Paul the Apostle? You may read them here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


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