JONAH #2

11/24/2020

The Lord let Jonah run away to Joppa.  He let Jonah buy a ticket and get on the ship.  But….

Jonah 1:4     “Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.”

Storms and trials are great attention getters, aren’t they?  The Lord knows what will bring us to our knees and get us to start thinking seriously about Him, doesn’t He?  

Jonah 1:5a   “All the sailors were afraid and they each cried out to their own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship”  

“They each cried out to their own god.”  I’m pretty sure their gods can’t hear or talk.  This was supposed to be a safe, peaceful, routine voyage for the captain, the crew and the passengers of that ship; “a three  hour cruise.”  And that’s exactly what it would have been if Jonah hadn’t gotten on board.  He didn’t belong on that ship. 

We create a lot of panic and confusion for ourselves and for others every time we go where the Lord doesn’t want us to be.  Saying “No” to  the Lord causes turbulence in our lives and a lot of innocent people get caught up in it.  Running away from the Lord and His will puts us on a collision course with destructive forces that can’t be avoided or ignored. 

What’s Jonah’s way of dealing with those destructive forces that have collided with his life?  

Jonah 1:5b    “But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.”

Jonah’s way of handling it was to escape it.  Denial in the midst of turmoil.  He put himself in a “I-don’t-want-to-deal-with-it” kind of deep sleep.  I’m not the one with the problem, you are.  “They” are.  Somebody else is.  You’re the one who needs help.  I’m fine.  Things are great between God and me.  Jonah’s asleep in his own private dream world.  But he’s about to get a wake-up call.  

Jonah 1:6  “The captain went to him and said, ‘How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe He will take notice of us and we will not perish.’”

You can’t keep acting like this, Jonah.  We’ve got a problem and as long as you’re on this ship; as long as you’re a member of this family and living in this house, as long you’re working here, as long as you’re a part of this church, it’s your problem too.  So wake up and help us find a way to solve it.   

Jonah 1:7    “Then the sailors said to each other, ‘Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.’ They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.”

It’s a rather unorthodox way of handling it but when you deal with something long enough and think about it hard enough, wondering what else you could possibly do about it, you eventually come up with the answer.  No matter how you got there or how you look at it, everything points to Jonah.  

Jonah 1: 8-10    “So they asked him, ‘Tell us who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country?’ He answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.’ This terrified them and they asked, ‘What have you done?’ (They knew he was running from the Lord because he had already told them so.)”

Jonah refused to see any connection between the storm they were battling and his running away from the Lord.  Even non-believers could see what was causing the problem.  When are you going to face it Jonah?  

Jonah 1:11    “The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, ‘What should we do for you to make the sea calm down for us?’”

Jonah is being held accountable for his foolish and rebellious behavior.  It took a combination of a disastrous situation like that storm and a hefty dose of tough love.  It took someone who was willing to say what had to be said, to get Jonah to wake up.  

Jonah 1:12  ‘”Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied. ‘and it will become calm. I know it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’”  

Jonah is finally accepting responsibility for his choices and his behavior.  He’s finally willing to admit he’s got a problem that he can’t solve by himself.  “Throw me into the sea.”  I’m too afraid to jump so I’m crying out for help.  

Yes, it is your fault and you deserve to be thrown into the sea, but this is not about you, Jonah. This about the Lord wanting the Ninevites to hear His word and repent. And, for some unimaginable reason, you’re the one He’s chosen to do that.

Jonah 1:13   “Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not for the sea grew even wilder than before.

Instead, they tried to row back to land.   They were strong enough to say what had to be said, but not strong enough to actually do what had to be done.  So they continued to be enablers and the situation continued to get worse.  

Jonah 1:14   “Then they cried to the Lord, (to the God who could actually hear them) ‘O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you ,O Lord, have done as you pleased.’”  

It’s important to acknowledge a problem; to be aware of the problem; to admit a problem exists.  It’s important to analyze a problem; to understand what’s causing the problem and what we have to do to solve it.  It’s important to be held accountable and to accept personal responsibility for the problem and to understand why our behavior is causing such a problem.

But the problem won’t go away.  The storm won’t end.  The problem will continually get worse until we DO something about the problem; until we do what has to be done to correct it.  We may feel very guilty about it, but we cry out to God and just do it. 

Jonah 1:15   “Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.”

“They… threw him overboard.  We have a very hard time doing something like that, especially to someone we love and care about deeply.  But they couldn’t keep bailing him out and paying his bills.  They couldn’t keep sheltering him or making excuses for him, trying to protect him.  They couldn’t let it go on any longer or they all would have drowned in that storm.  They had to let him go. 

For their sake; for Jonah’s sake; for God’s sake they had to throw him overboard.   “Throw me into the sea.”  That’s the first step toward recovery.  That’s the first step to a second chance, a new life.  Give up and surrender your life to Jesus.  Let the Lord have His way in your life.

Lord willing, we’ll all be here next week before Jonah hits the water. Come on back and invite some friends to get into  God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

JONAH #1

11/17/2020

Jonah 1: 1-2     “The word of the Lord came to Jonah…’Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’”

If you ever find yourself talking to someone who believes that all gods are the same, ask them if their god can talk? Our God can talk.  The God we pray to, the Lord we worship, can talk.  The God of the Bible, the Savior who redeemed us, Emmanuel who is God with us, can talk.  He’s not just sitting up in heaven somewhere watching everything we do and listening to everything we say, He a God who gets up close and personal with His children.  He’s a God who still talks to His children today.  

Can your God talk?  Does He talk to you?  Has the word of the Lord ever come to you like it came to Jonah?  The Lord can speak to us as we read and study His word.  He can speak to us through a preacher or teacher, through our spouse or through a friend.  He may be talking to you right now and like Jonah, it makes you a little defensive and uncomfortable just to be thinking about it. 

The Lord may be speaking to us about our priorities or about accepting responsibility for our lives and our eternal futures.  He may be talking to us about loving our spouses and our families or about forgiving our spouses and our families.  He may be talking to us about loving our enemies or about forgiving our enemies. 

Regardless of how God is talking to us or what He may be saying to us, the Lord knows how to talk to us in ways that will get us to listen and, after the word of the Lord has come to us, things will never be the same for us again.  Our lives will never be the way they were before the Lord’s word came to us. 

We don’t have to believe it.  We can pretend we didn’t hear it.  But the fact still remains that, once the Word of the Lord comes to us, once His word is spoken, things will never be the same for us again.  Each time the Lord’s word is spoken, we’ll either be drawn toward it, drawn by the Holy Spirit to accept it and live by it or, we’ll be pushed away from it, driven by our proud, selfish, sinful natures to reject it and ignore it. 

But whether we accept it or reject it, believe it or deny it, our lives are going to change and whatever we decide to do after the word of the Lord has come to us will affect, not only our own lives, it will also affect the lives of many other people around us; people we don’t even know, as well as the people we care about and love very deeply. 

Our God talks and His word is active and powerful.  It is never spoken in vain.  Whenever the word of the Lord is spoken, something happens.  His word always does something.  It always creates something.  It always reveals or revives something and we can’t do anything to prevent it or escape it. 

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah” telling him to “Go to…Nineveh and preach against it” and whatever Jonah decides to do about it is going to affect the lives of many other people as well as his own. 

The Book of Jonah is a very short book.  There’s only four chapters.  But it could even be shorter.  In fact, it should be shorter, a lot shorter. 

There are three possible ways to tell this story. 

(1)  The story of Jonah’s life could have been told the way the Lord wanted to tell it.  If this Book had been written the way the Lord wanted it written, there would only be one chapter with five verses.  The story would be:

Jonah 3: 1-3a  “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah…’Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.”

Jonah 3:The Nivevites believed God. The declared a fast, and all of them…put on sackcloth.”  

Jonah 3:10 –  “When God saw what they did and how they turned away from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened,” 

God said, “Go!”  Jonah went.  The Ninevites believed and repented.  God saw what they did and forgave them; end of story the way the Lord wanted to tell it. 

(2)  If the story had been told the way Jonah wanted to tell it, it would have been even shorter; one chapter with three verses.  

Jonah 1:1-3    “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah…’Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it’…But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”

The Lord said, “Go to Nineveh!”  Jonah sailed for Tarshish and lived happily ever after, living his own life and doing whatever he wanted to do.  That’s the story the way Jonah thought he could tell it. 

But what we actually ended up with are four chapters with a total of 48 verses.

(3) the story the way it had to be told because Jonah has a mind of his own but the Lord refuses to give up. Jonah’s choices and decisions are making a short story long. 

Which way is your life’s story being told today; the way the Lord wants to tell it, the way you want it to tell it or the way it has to be told because of the choices and decisions you’ve made?  The story of Jonah, told the way it had to be told, is the story or what happens to us and to everyone around us every time we say, “No” to something the Lord is telling us to do. 

Jonah wanted to be left alone so he could live his life the way he wanted to live it.  There was no room in his life for God, especially a God who could talk.  That’s the last thing Jonah wanted was a God who said things that disagreed with what Jonah believed or interfered with what Jonah wanted to do. 

But the Lord loved Jonah and had better and a more complete plan for his life.  The Lord is extremely patient and understanding and He loves us with an everlasting, unconditional love, but He’ll only let us go so far.  He’ll only wait so long and then He’ll hold us accountable for our selfish choices and behavior.

Are you intrigued so far? Stay with this to see how the Lord gets through to Jonah. Lord willing, we’ll be back in God’s word with Pastor Buj next Tuesday.

THE APOSTLE PAUL #22

11/10/2020

Paul is on a ship headed for Italy where he will be standing trial before Caesar. For two weeks, they’ve been caught in a violent storm and the crew has been desperately trying everything they could think of to save the ship but everyone had given up hope.

Acts 27:38  “When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.”

They’ve already thrown the ship’s tackle and the cargo overboard.  Now they’re throwing the grain into the sea.  Why not?  It’s no good to us anymore.  If this storm doesn’t end and we don’t find land pretty soon, we’re all going to die in this sea. 

Either God saves us or we die, either way, we’re not eating another meal on this ship.  I want to live.  I’m expecting to live.  But I’m ready to die if that’s what it comes to.  So, throw the grain into the sea because it can’t or it won’t stay like this much longer.  

Finally, they got what they prayed for.  Out of sheer desperation, they dropped four anchors and prayed for daylight. (Acts 27:29)  Well, their prayers were answered because “daylight came.”

Acts 27:39  “When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could”

The storm was over, the sky cleared and the sea grew calm.  It seemed like it would never end.  It seemed like the storm would BE the end but “daylight came.” It always does because God promises it will if we continue to trust in Him.  Jesus doesn’t cause the storms. He calms them.   

Acts 27:40a   “Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea.”

We all have anchors in our lives we have to deal with, things that hold us back and slow us down and prevent us from doing what the Lord is calling us to do. 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with patience the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Anchors are the limitations in our lives.  Anchors are the reasons we can’t do something.  

Anchors determine how far the ship can go.  Anchors allow us to move and function in a very comfortable, but limited, area.  The more anchors we take on, the more restricted our lives become.  Whenever we try to move out beyond that narrow area, the anchors stop us cold.

It may be necessary for some of those anchors to stay in place for a while, at least for right now anyway.  Anchors do serve a purpose.  They provide stability and prevent us from drifting aimlessly through life so we have to sure of what the Lord is asking of us before we start cutting those anchors loose.  

Acts 27:40b  “and at the same time, untied the ropes that held the rudders

The rudder determines the direction of the ship.  The rudder determines which way the ship will go.  If a rudder is tied, the ship can only go in one direction.

The rudder represents our will; the way we’ve chosen to be.  A stubborn will is like a rudder tied with ropes.  It represents a mind that’s made up, ears that won’t hear, a heart that’s unreachable and a spirit that’s unteachable.

In order to be saved, they had to cut loose the anchors and untie the rudders “at the same time.” When we’re asking the Lord to help us cut loose our anchors, we also have to ask Him to help us untie our rudders at the same time.  I want to serve you Lord, but I have a bad attitude.  I’m unreachable and unteachable and I always think I’m right.  “Create a clean heart in me and put a new and a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)  Untie my rudders Lord and make me more like you.  

Acts 27:40c   “Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.”

The anchor determines the distance.  The rudder determines the direction, but the foresail or the mainsail determines the speed. It determines how fast the ship will go.  The sail gets its power from the wind. If you try to hoist up the mainsail without cutting loose the anchors and untying the rudders, the ship will tear itself apart and never go anywhere. 

Sometimes believers have a tendency to be anchored to the past. They keep holding on to things they just can’t let go of.  They may be praying for the wind of the Holy Spirit to move them forward.  But every time the wind begins to blow and they start to move forward, the anchors kick in and say, “That’s far enough.  You can’t go any farther.” 

A church with its rudder tied is resistant to change.  It tries to ride out the storm saying. ”This us what we want. This is who we are and who we always will be.”  The Lord is asking us to trust Him for the future.  The wind is starting to pick up.  Cutting loose the anchors and untying the rudders allows the Holy Spirit take us where the Lord wants us to go. 

Acts 27:41-44   “But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the Centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety.”

The old, the young, the weak and the strong; “everyone reached land in safety” exactly as God said they would.  As soon as they stopped trying to save the ship, they ended up where the Lord wanted them to be.  We have no future if we’re spending all of our time, all of our energy and all of our money trying to keep the ship afloat, trying to maintain and save the ship.

  The Lord’s not interested in saving the ship.  He’s only interested in saving all the people on the ship.  He wants the congregation alive, preaching the Gospel and making disciples. They ended up where they were trying to go but the Lord brought them there a different way.

  They’re trying to get to Rome.  They’re not in Rome yet but when finally they get there, it will be on a brand new ship, a ship that doesn’t look anything like the old ship. There are plenty more storms ahead for Paul before his race is completed, but the Lord will always be with him as he crosses the finish line.

Lord willing, next week we’ll be looking at Jonah. I’m scheduled to have hip surgery next Tuesday, so the blog will probably be posted on Monday. Plan to stay in God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

THE APOSTLE PAUL #21

11/03/2020

The Apostle Paul has been arrested for starting a riot in Jerusalem and he’s on a ship headed for Rome where he plans to appeal his case to Caesar. Their ship has been violently battered by a severe storm for the past 2 weeks because the commander in charge refused to believe the warning Paul was trying to give him and the majority was anxious to get started.  The captain and crew have done everything they could think of trying to save the ship, but nothing worked.  The storm just kept getting worse.  It’s all in God’s hands now.  

27:33a – “Just before dawn…”  

Isn’t that when things are supposed to be the darkest?  They haven’t seen the sun or the moon for two weeks.  While the storm was still fully raging, before there was any sign that things were even starting to get better; before they saw any evidence that God was keeping His promises, that the Lord was answering prayer; during the worst, most unbearable moment in the storm, when they were at their absolute breaking point and they couldn’t take it any longer,

Acts 27:33 – “Paul urged them all to eat.”   Instead of sitting here waiting to die, let’s get up and start living again.  

Acts 27:33b    “’For the last fourteen days,’ he said, ‘you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food – You haven’t eaten anything.’”

“You have been in constant suspense.”  Your body is tense, your mind is racing and your spirit has been crushed. You’re just sitting here waiting to die.  You’re actually looking forward to death so this whole terrible ordeal can finally be over.  

Acts 27:34 “’Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.”   

“You need it to survive.” We’ll not only make it through this storm we’re going to overcome and conquer it.  I don’t know how much longer this is going to go on.  I don’t know why the Lord is letting it go on this long.  But I do know that the Lord has promised that we’re all going to live and, somehow, He’ll find a way to make it happen. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m putting on my shorts.  I’m going up on deck.  I’m setting up my chair.  I’m firing up the grill and I’m thawing out some steaks because I know the sun is going to shine on us again. 

Right now, this storm is worse than ever, but I know it’s coming to an end.  I’m thanking God for the victory.  I’m thanking God for my salvation.  I’m thanking God for my deliverance right now, before the dawn, before I can see it, before it happens.  I’m going to start praising Him right now because I know He will not fail. 

Acts 27:35  “After he said this, he took some bread in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.”    

“Be joyful always; pray constantly; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s Will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

“Give thanks in all circumstances,” regardless of the circumstances; CEV “Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ.  This is what God wants you to do.”  Paul wasn’t thanking God for the storm.  He was thanking Him for bringing them safely out of the storm.

Not thanking Him for the circumstances but thanking Him and trusting Him while we’re going through those circumstances is really what God wants us to do.  During the most stressful and distressful times, during the most discouraging times, we can keep thanking God because we know He keeps His promises and He will not fail. 

It doesn’t take any faith to thank God when the trial is over.  Even non-believers can do that. Faith is always praising God before the storm is over. Faith begins praising God “just before dawn” because it knows the dawn is coming. 

Faith knows that daylight is coming.  Faith will always be praising God for the victory before the battle is over because, in its darkest hours, faith knows the victory is guaranteed.  We praise God in every painful and overwhelming situation because we know that He is always in that painful, overwhelming situation working for our good.  Paul gave thanks to God “in front of them all.”  He set the example.  He led the way.

Acts 27:36-37  “They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board.”     

A little while ago, they had given up “all hope of being saved,” but now “they were all encouraged and ate some food.”  They were no longer discouraged.  All 275 of them were encouraged because of what Paul said and did in front of them during the darkest hours of the storm.  He ate and then they began to eat.  When he stood up and started living again, the rest of them started coming alive. 

Instead of acting like everyone else on that ship, the demonstration of his faith, his unwavering trust in God’s word made everyone else on that ship start to act like him.  Paul’s testimony, his godly example made a difference on that ship. 

When we’re going through difficult and unpleasant times, when we’re struggling through an overwhelming trial, when we’re fighting one battle after another and we’re with our family and friends who don’t share our faith in Jesus, we need to stop and ask ourselves, “Are they starting to act like us or are we starting to act like them?  Are we encouraging them in this storm or are they discouraging us?” 

Are they starting to sound as hopeful and positive as we are or are we starting to sound as negative and cynical as they are?  Are we getting to them with the good news, with the hope and the assurance of the gospel or are they getting to us with their bad news, with their pessimism and despair?  Are we lifting them up or are they pulling us down? Lord willing, let’s pick it up from here next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s Word with Pasto Buj. Spread the word and encourage others to get on board.

THE APOSTLE PAUL #20

10/27/2020

The Apostle Paul and his friends are on a ship headed for Italy where he is going to stand trial before Caesar. They’ve encountered a violent storm that is threatening to destroy them. The crew is desperately trying to save the ship.

Acts 27:29 – “Fearing they would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.”

Out of intense fear they dropped 4 anchors and prayed for daylight.  In football, that’s known as a “Hail Mary pass.”  It’s amazing how many so-called “enlightened” and otherwise intelligent people are doing the same thing today.  We all do something like that when we’re afraid. We drop 4 anchors and pray for daylight.

It’s an act of desperation, the last resort.  It’s what we do when we don’t know what else to do but we believe we have to do something.  It never does any good, but the ridiculous seems so reasonable when we’re desperate.

Praying for daylight isn’t going to help much.  We can drown just as easily in the daylight as we can in the dark.  Who are people praying to?  What’s the name of that higher power people are so passionately trying to get hold of?  Turning to religion can’t save us, regardless of which religion it is.  Religion can’t save us.  Going to church can’t save us, but the ridiculous sounds so reasonable when we’re desperate.    

Acts 27:30a “In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea.”  

 Sadly, hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing their homeland desperately trying to escape the violence and persecution they are forced to endure.

In this country there’s a different kind of escaping going on.  People are heading for their lifeboats.  Some bury themselves in their work.  Some immerse themselves in social and political causes.  Some look for escape through food, drugs or alcohol.  Some indulge themselves in sexual gratification or perversion.  Others dabble in the occult.   Many are hoping the New Age philosophies will bring them some relief.  They’re searching for inner peace, but they can’t seem to make that peace last.  They never seem to have any peace when the really need it. 

Acts 27:30b – “…pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow.”

The sailors were pretending to lower some anchors.  People without hope are great pretenders.  They pretend to be happy.  They pretend to be confident and secure about themselves and the future; confident about eternity and their own mortality.  You’d never guess from the outside that they’re running away on the inside.  People without hope are great pretenders.  

Acts 27:31 “Then Paul said to the Centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”  

There’s only ONE way out of this.  There is only one hope for salvation.  Salvation is on God’s terms, not ours.  There are many ways that seem right to us, but they all come to a dead end.  They all end in death.  We do not all come to the same God by walking different paths.  Trusting in Jesus alone is the only way to reach Him.  There is only one God and He is not called by many names. 

The name of Jesus is the only name that can save us.  There is only one God and we are not all His children.  To become a child of God we must be born again.  The right to become a child of God and to be adopted into His family is given to everyone who invites Jesus into their hearts.  There is no God within us until we invite Him in and accept His free gift of everlasting life. 

They saw the signs, 120 feet, 90 feet, (Vs. 28). The water level continued to drop.  They knew they were going to crash against the rocks and there was nothing they could do to stop it.  They heard the word of God.  They all knew what they had to do to be saved.  The only questions that hadn’t been answered yet were, “How long are you going to wait before you do something about it?  How much more time do you think you still have?  What will it take to make you turn your life over to Christ and accept what He’s offering you?  Who or what are you trusting in to save you?”  

Acts 27:32 “”So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away.” 

They may not have been totally convinced.  They may still have had some serious questions and doubts, but they did it anyway.  They cut the ropes that held the lifeboats and let them fall into the sea.  They had to make a decision.  By faith they let go of, they turned away from everything they had trusted in before to save them.  Now, their only hope was – that the word of God was true.  If the Bible is not the truth, truth does not exist.  If the Bible’s not the truth, it’s all over.  There’s no hope for anyone anymore. 

Repentant believers are on the ship, repentant believers are in this world to speak the word of God even when no one seems to be interested in hearing it.  We’re in this world to speak the word for God, the word that warns the world about the things that will cause its destruction. 

Repentant believers speak God’s word of mercy and grace to an arrogant, self-indulgent, self-absorbed, hostile world that has chosen to ignore God’s warning.  Repentant believers are in this world to present God’s plan of salvation to a world that is fearful and insecure, a world that is desperately clinging to leaky lifeboats that will never be able to save them. 

Do you recognize the signs of the times that the Bible is talking about?  What’s your explanation for the way things are happening in the world right now?  The level is 90 feet and dropping rapidly.  There’s no time for compromise; no time to indulge ourselves in other religious points of view; no time to be doing something ridiculous just because we’re desperate.

If we’re clinging to anything else except complete trust in Jesus, it’s time to cut it loose and let it fall away.  This world can’t sink much lower before it crashes into the rocks.  Let Jesus bring you safely on to higher ground today.             Lord willing, we’ll be back for more next Tuesday. Thanks for following and being in God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

THA APOSTLE PAUL #19

10/20/2020

            The Apostle Paul and some of his companions are on a ship headed for Italy where Paul will be standing trial before Caesar. The ship encountered a violent storm and, despite the best efforts of the captain and the crew, they were unable to keep the ship together. Everyone, including Paul’s friends, had given up hope of eve r being saved.

            When we stopped last time, Paul stood up and spoke words of encouragement. He spoke the Word of God. “God has said that this ship will be destroyed”, but we’ll all make it through this alive if we’ll just keep trusting Him and do what He says.

Acts 27:23 “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me.”

“The God whose I am and whom I serve;” my life is completely in God’s hands. When that gentle south wind is blowing and you try to tell someone an angel of God stood beside you, they just laugh at you and treat you like you’re crazy.  But when you’re talking to someone who’s just lost everything and given up hope; when you tell them an angel of God stood beside you and spoke to you, they envy you.  They hang on your every word. 

Christians stand in the middle of a storm among those who have lost all hope and testify to a God who is real; a God who is here; a God who is able to deliver them from all evil.      

Acts 27:24     “and said, ’Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’”

Don’t worry!  Don’t be afraid!  Don’t give up.  God is with us and He will not fail.  “God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”  When we’ve ignored His word of warning, God sends us a message of mercy and grace.  We “shouldah” listened to Him, but we didn’t.  We all deserve to die in this storm, but if we’ll listen to Him now, we’ll live.

He is a God of mercy and grace. God loves us and doesn’t want any of us to perish in this storm.  He wants us to admit that we’ve sinned and turn away from that sin.  He wants us to live with Him in heaven forever.   

Acts 27:25   “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.”

Do you know what people are looking for today?  People who are facing death, or whose loved ones are facing death; people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol; or whose children/grandchildren are addicted to drugs or alcohol; people whose marriages are falling apart; people with no sense of purpose or direction for their lives; people who don’t even know if they want to keep on living; people who have started to wish they had never been born; people who have given up hope; do you know what they’re looking for?  They’re looking for; they’re seeking out; they want to get close to anyone who can stand up and say, “I have faith.”   “I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.”

That’s what makes a Christian different from the rest of the world.  That’s the difference a Christian makes in this world.  That’s the difference the world is looking for.  We’re all facing the same storms, but we have a message; a message of hope; real hope; guaranteed hope.  We have a positive vision of the future.  In the middle of the worst of life’s storms, we have confidence and joy.  We are trusting in a God who never fails; a God who keeps His promises. 

Acts 27:26  “Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

“Nevertheless;” life is not going to be easy and it won’t always seem fair.  There may still be rough sailing ahead but we’ve got to be willing to endure to the end and not give up.  Our troubles aren’t all over just because we’ve asked Jesus into our hearts.  But all of our troubles have a brand new ending.  When it’s finally over, we’ll be saved.  We’re going to make it.  The Lord is with us and He’ll bring us victoriously through it.

We’ll be back next Tuesday to continue Paul’s journey. Thanks for being in God’s Word with Pastor Buj. If you haven’t done so already, why not sign up to be a regular follower of this blog?

THE APOSTLE PAUL #18

19/13/2020

Paul and some of his friends are on a ship traveling to Italy where he is going to stand trial before Caesar. He tried to warn everyone that they should not sail until next spring, but the captain decided to ignore Paul’s advice. As a result, they now find themselves caught in a violent storm that is threatening to destroy the ship and their lives.

Now, picking up from last week…  Acts 27:20a   “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging…”

The troubles kept piling on. The trial just wouldn’t let up. It was just one thing after another  After a while, we become numb.  The days all seem to run together as the storm just keeps on raging.  Pretty soon we can’t tell if it’s day or night and it doesn’t really matter.  We don’t even care anymore.    

Acts 27:20b  “we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” 

The world’s hope is an empty hope, an uncertain and insecure hope. It doesn’t take much to give it up. But Luke doesn’t say “They gave up all hope.” He says, “We finally gave up all hope.” A believer’s hope is guaranteed. Our hope is a sure and steadfast hope. Our hope is built on the promises of God that will never fail.

But there is only one superman. There’s only one who is brave and confident all the time, and that’s Jesus. The rest of us are human. The rest of us are weak and imperfect. We’re just dust. Sooner or later, even the strongest believer reaches the point of giving up hope.

The good news is that even when our faith is gone, the Lord will still be faithful to us. (2 Timothy 2:13)  We may give up hope but HOPE WILL NEVER GIVE UP ON US. Jesus will never leave us. He will always keep His promises.

Acts 27:21 “After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said, ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourself this damage and loss.’”    

No one wanted to hear what Paul was saying when they were getting ready to sail.  Then, who in their right mind would listen to him when the south wind was blowing so gently?  When the storm came up and the ship started falling apart, no one had time to listen to what Paul was saying.  They were all too busy trying to save themselves because they still thought they could fix it.

Are you ready to listen now; now that everything you’ve tried has failed; now that you’ve run out of bright ideas and you can’t come up with the answers; now that everything you’ve been trusting in and counting on has let you down? Are you ready to listen to what God has to say NOW?

This is not what God wants for you. You’ve brought this on yourselves. But it does no good to regret the past. We can’t go back and undo the past. But we can decide to let the Lord determine our future. It’s what we do from this point on that will determine the ending of our life’s story

Acts 27:22a “But now I urge you to keep up your courage.”     

Our God is a God of the now.  He’s the Lord of today.  He’s a God who’s present to help us get through the troubles we’re facing right now.  He’ll begin putting the pieces of our life back together again right now; if we’ll let Him; if we’ll surrender our lives over to Him; if we’ll begin to listen to Him; begin to trust Him, right now. 

We’ve gone a long time without food.  We’ve been fasting for quite a while.  When the flesh is weak enough; when the mind is desperate enough; when the spirit is hungry enough; when the fight has gone out of us, it finally becomes obvious to us that our lives and our eternal futures depend on God’s word. If Jesus doesn’t save us, we will never be saved.

Acts 27:22b   “Not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.”

 “Not one of you will be lost.  The ship will be destroyed.”  What are you; some kind of psychic?  How do you know what will be?  I’m not psychic.  I’m just someone who’s trusting in Jesus and I know what will be because it’s promised in God’s Word.  The world is lost and afraid of the future, but a Christian is confident and secure about the things that “will be.” 

This global ship will be destroyed someday.  In spite of all our so-called advances in science and technology; regardless of how progressive and enlightened we like to think we’ve become; in spite of all the laws were passing and all the money we’re spending trying to save it, this temporary, earthly, physical world will someday be destroyed.  Jesus is coming back to earth again and that changes everything.  This global ship will be destroyed, but those of us who believe in Jesus; those of us who are trusting in what He did for our sin on the cross will be saved.    We will not perish.  We’ll have everlasting life.  When we’re absent from this earthly body, we’ll be present with the Lord.  We will not be going down with the ship.    

   Lord willing, we’ll continue from here next week. I hope you’ll stay with us to finish Paul’s journey. Thanks for being in God’s word with Pastor Buj.

THE APOSTLE PAUL #17

10/06/2020

The Apostle Paul has been arrested for causing a riot in Jerusalem.  He’s on a ship headed to Rome to have his case tried by Caesar.  Last week, Paul tried to warn the Roman Commander that if they tried to sail now, it would be disastrous, not only for the ship and the cargo, but also for the lives of everyone on board.  The Commander ignored Paul’s warning and followed the advice of the captain and the crew.  The majority decided that they should sail on.     

Acts 27:13   “When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete.”  

The most dangerous thing about rejecting what the Bible says is, when we first get started, a gentle south wind begins blowing and it looks like we were right and the people who were trying to stop us were wrong.  Nothing bad is happening to us and it looks like everything’s going to be OK.  When that gentle south wind is blowing, we think we’ve obtained what we wanted.  We think God approves of what we’re doing.   

Acts 27: 14-15a  “Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called ‘the northeaster’ swept down from the Island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind”  

“Before very long…” those soft gentle winds from the south became hurricane force winds blowing from the northeast.  Living our own lives; making our own rules; designing our own spirituality can be enjoyable at the beginning.  It’s a lot of fun when we first get started.  But it doesn’t last.  “Before very long” it all turns against us and the consequences of our selfish, stubborn behavior come back at us with hurricane force winds. 

Acts 27:15b – “So we gave way to it and were driven along.”

We may start off thinking we’re in charge; but “before very long” we lose control.  We become slaves of whatever we’ve opened ourselves up to.  All we can do is give way to it and be driven along by it. There’s nothing we can do to stop it or to change it; nothing we can do to help ourselves or save ourselves.  We become forced to go where sin wants to take us.      

Acts 27:16  “As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboats secure.”

 The lifeboats had always been able to save them before. When we’re facing a crisis, we try to cope with it by turning to the things that have always worked for us in the past.  These are the pills you take.  These are the books you read.  These are the exercises you do.  These are the foods you eat; the counselors you talk to.  But as the storm keeps building and the winds keep getting stronger and stronger, those old life-boats become less and less secure and it keeps getting harder and harder for us to hold it all together

Acts 27:17a  “When the men hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together.”

Science and technology are desperately trying to come up with solutions to hold this planet together.

Acts 27:17b – “Fearing that they would be run aground on the sandbar of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along.”

“They lowered the sea anchor.” If we can’t stop it, maybe we can slow it down a little. Everything is changing rapidly and spinning out of control. There’s nothing we can count on. Have you noticed a lack of stability in the world right now?

Acts 27:18a  “We took such a violent beating from the storm

We took such a violent battering from the storm.”  That includes  Paul’s friends and Luke who wrote those words.  He’s letting us know that the believers on that ship were suffering from the storm too.  They were not exempt from all the danger just because they were Christians.  They realized the storm could have been avoided.  They knew that ignoring God’s Word put everyone’s lives at risk. They were caught in that storm just like everybody else.  They were on that ship so God could use them to save the other people on that ship.  Christians are in this world to make a difference.   

Acts 27:18b “The next day they began to throw the cargo overboard.”   

They threw the cargo overboard.  They threw all their stuff overboard; their things; their possessions; their means of income; those items they were bringing with them to sell or trade when they got to Rome.  They tossed it all into the sea. 

We start out pursuing “the American Dream” of making a lot of money so we can have a lot of things.  But when we’re facing a crisis; when we lose our jobs or when someone we love becomes seriously ill; when we’re injured in an accident; we begin to re-think our priorities. 

We start to look and think differently about what is truly valuable; what is most important to us.  Those things we always thought we wanted; those things we worked so hard to get; those things we didn’t think we could live without are usually the first things we let go of.  The cargo, all those seemingly important things, can be replaced.  There’s nothing like an overwhelming crisis to help us put material things in their proper perspective.   

Acts 27:19  “On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.”

Now they’re throwing the ship’s tackle overboard; all the equipment they were using to sail with.  It’s what they’ve always depended on to get them were they wanted to go and move them safely through the storms.  But none of these state-or-the-art, high-tech gadgets seem to be working anymore.  None of the world’s latest advances, improvements or discoveries are making life any easier.  They aren’t providing the answers.  They can’t help us when we need it the most.  We might as well toss it all into the sea.  

Lord willing, we’ll pick up from here next Tuesday. Hope you’ll be back and invite some friends to get in God’s Word with Pastor Buj

THE APOSTLE PAUL #16

09/29/2020

Paul is on a ship that is sailing for Italy where he will stand trial before Caesar. The trip is turning out to be a lot more stressful and dangerous than anyone had expected.

Acts 27: 9-10 ”Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous… so Paul warned them, ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also’.”      

“Men, I can see.” When people are searching for answers and the world seems to be spinning out of control, the responsibility of the Church is to tell the world what we can see from God’s Word.  By faith, we see past the surface.   We can look beyond the obvious.  Because we have our eyes focused on Jesus, we have a confidence about the things that can’t be seen.  We know that the things we see are temporary.   They don’t last.  What can be seen is deceptive.  It’s all an illusion and it can’t be trusted.

When our trust is placed in Jesus, we always know what’s real even though we can’t see it.  When we’ve become filled with God’s Holy Spirit, we have an obligation to tell the world what we can see; we have an obligation to speak the Word of God; the Word of Truth; the word of Life that will stop the world from destroying itself.

 God has called us and commissioned us to keep pointing out the difference between right and wrong; good and evil; truth and deception; the real and the counterfeit. Speak clearly about the difference between righteousness and sin.  Faith allows us to see a little of what God can see. 

Christians have the ability; in fact, we have the response-ability to challenge and to question the wisdom, the methods, the ethics and the values of this world; to say, “I can see that it will be disastrous if you keep going this way.   You will experience great loss.  It will enslave and destroy you.  Choose Jesus.  Choose life.”

 Christians have the ability.  We have the response-ability to warn our unsaved friends and family members; to warn the world about the inevitable outcome; the disastrous consequences that come from ignoring God’s Word; deadly consequences that result from allowing,  accepting and tolerating sin.    

Acts 27:11 – “But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and the owner of the ship.”   

 “Instead of listening to what Paul said….”  Paul was speaking with God’s wisdom and a heavenly vision, but no one paid attention to what Paul could see.  They didn’t want to hear it.  Don’t listen to him.  He’s one of the prisoners.  He has to face Caesar in Rome.  Can you blame him for not wanting to sail?

  It’s heart-breaking, isn’t it; when we speak and they don’t see; when we try to warn them; when we speak out of love and a genuine concern; when we speak God’s Word of life and truth and they choose to ignore it?  The Commander trusted the advice of the pilot and the owner of the ship.  The Bible is not taken seriously by people who believe they’re in charge of their own lives; who believe no one else controls their futures.  We have no wisdom if we have no fear of God.     

Acts 27:12a – “Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on…”   

Paul told them that it would be disastrous to try it, but “the majority decided” that we should sail on.”  They were sailing on because everybody else thought was the right thing to do.  If my friends think it’s OK; if the rest of the world thinks it’s OK, why should I listen to the preacher?   

 Acts 27:12b – “hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there.”     

 Hoping to reach Phoenix and spend the winter there.  The world is desperate for hope.  The world is losing its hope.  Promising to give hope will get you elected to office.  People today, especially young people are becoming increasing disappointed and disillusioned with the emptiness they’re finding in the world.  People are frightened and they’re giving up.  Why bother?  What’s the use?  Forget the future.  Just live in the moment. 

The only hope an unbelieving world knows about is an empty hope; an unsure and uncertain kind of hope.  The world’s hope comes with no guarantee.  Is there a heaven and will I be going there?  I hope so, but who knows?  Will I ever find out what to do with my life?  Will my marriage last?  I hope so, but I can’t be sure. 

The hope we receive from trusting in Jesus is guaranteed.  God’s hope is based on His promises in His Word.  The Biblical definition of hope is to wait.  To wait for what?  To wait for the promises of God to be fulfilled.   

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8: 24-25)  

That’s our hope.  That’s real hope.  That’s our only hope; waiting for the promises of God to be fulfilled.  God has never broken any of His promises. 

“…It is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…”  (Hebrews 6 18-19)

  “…a firm and secure” anchor for our souls; for our minds.  I know it’s going to happen because God has promised it in His Word.  Our faith makes us sure of what we hope for; sure of what we’re waiting for.  We’re waiting for God to do it in His time.  All the riches in this world can’t buy that kind of hope.  Religious rituals; new age candles, cards, chants, smoke and mirrors, bells and whistles can’t give anyone that kind of hope.  That firm, secure hope only comes from inviting Jesus into your heart as your Savior and Lord.

 Who makes the decisions in your life?  How firm; how certain; how secure is your hope?  Are you sure you’re going to heaven?  Are you basing your future on the truth in God’s Word or are you going where everybody else wants to go; doing what the majority has decided is right? 

Christian, is there someone in your life right now who keeps ignoring the warnings you’ve been lovingly trying to give them? They don’t hear what you can see.   Keep warning them anyway.

 Is there someone you love who just can’t see what you’re saying about the disastrous choices and decisions they’re making with their life?  Keep showing them anyway. 

Are you praying for them to open their hearts to Jesus, but they seem to be closing them tighter and tighter?  Keep praying for them anyway.  The Bible promises us it will pay off some day.  We’ll see amazing results if we don’t get discouraged and give up. 

Keep hoping.  Keep telling.  Keep praying.  They’ll be back.  They know what you believe.  They know you love them.  They know where they can find you when they need you.  

That’s a lot for now. If you stayed to the end, thank you. Lord willing, we’ll take this up again next Tuesday.

THE APOSTLE PAUL #15

09/22/2020

For several weeks we’ve been watching the Apostle Paul demonstrate the love of God and represent the presence of God in front of a humanistic, materialistic, hostile, unbelieving world.  Paul was taken into protective custody when a riot broke out around him in Jerusalem.  The Roman Governor, Felix wanted to let him go, but Paul kept appealing his case.  This morning, Paul is being sent to Rome to be tried by Caesar.   

Acts 27:1 – “When it was decided that we should sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a Centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment.”

“When it was decided that we should sail for Italy…”  As far as Paul was concerned, all the events and circumstances of his life had already been “decided” a long time ago.  Back when he was known as “Saul,” he was travelling to Damascus to arrest the followers of Jesus.  A bright light from heaven knocked him to the ground.  That’s the day Paul found out that God wasn’t who he thought He was. 

That’s the day Paul discovered that God knew his name and He had a purpose for his life.  It was there; it was then; while he was lying blind on that road, that Paul made what turned out to be the last, the greatest and most important decision of his life.  He decided to open his heart and surrender his life to Jesus.  While he was lying there blinded on the ground, he cried out, “Lord, what shall I do?” (Acts 22:10) and he gave his life over to Christ. 

From that moment on, his present and his future were completely in God’s hands and it was the Lord who decided; it was the Lord who directed the outcome of every event and circumstance in Paul’s life.  God had decided that Paul should go to Jerusalem.  

Paul told the Elders of the Church in Ephesus that he was “compelled by the (Holy) Spirit” to go to Jerusalem; “Not knowing what will happen to me there.”  It doesn’t matter what will happen to me there, God is calling me to Jerusalem.  Then, when an angry mob was trying to tear him to pieces in Jerusalem, it had already been “decided” that he was going to Rome.   

Acts 23:11 “…The Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’”

That’s really when it had been decided that they should sail for Italy. That’s why, regardless of what was happening to him; regardless of what people were trying to do to him; regardless of what his future looked like, Paul was always able to be say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)

Since the day he first met Jesus, Paul was always content.  He always had peace.  He was never afraid because he knew his God caused all things to work together for his good and God’s purpose and glory. 

Acts 27: 2 –  “We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.”

There’s quite a diverse mixture of people on board that little ship.  In addition to Paul, there’s the captain and the crew.  They’re the professionals, the experts; the problem solvers; the ones you put your trust in to get you safely where you want to go. 

Then there were the Roman Soldiers; the authorities, the ones in charge; the ones making the rules; the ones with all the power.  Then there were the other prisoners; the real criminals, murderers, thieves; truly dangerous people. 

Several of Paul’s friends, other believers were on that ship with him; friends like Aristarchus the Macedonian and Luke who was writing all this down.  That ship was pretty typical of the kind of world we’re living in today; a world where Christians are in the minority and non-Christians make the rules. 

We have our professionals, our experts; the ones we elect or hire to solve all the world’s problems.  There are people in power making decisions that shape the direction and the future of this planet.  We have our share of “bad people,” dangerous criminals.

 But most people in the world today believe that because they’re not dangerous criminals, they’re not bad people.  And since they’re not bad people, they must be good people and they’d just like to be left alone.  You live your life and let me live mine.  We all live in the same little world and whatever happens to one of us affects all of us.    

 Acts 27:3 “The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs.”

How strange is that?  Julius, the Roman Commander, “in kindness,” releases one of his prisoners to let him spend some time with his friends so they could “provide for his needs.”  He was taking a big risk doing something like that.  If Paul had escaped, it would have cost Julius his life.  Sometimes non-Christians can be kinder and more compassionate than some of us who call ourselves “Christians.”

 But Paul was no ordinary prisoner.  The Commander could see he was different.  For some reason, Julius believed he could trust Paul.  He was so sure Paul wouldn’t try to escape, he released him to see his friends.   

Acts 27: 4-8 – “From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us….we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind would not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete…We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens.”  

 This trip is quickly turning out to be a lot more difficult and a lot more stressful than anyone expected it to be because of the surprisingly rough seas with its high waves and strong winds.  There was a growing sense of uneasiness on that ship, but no one seemed worried because the experts were in charge.  They’d been through this many times before.  They’ve got everything under control.  They know what they’re doing.  Everybody managed to live in ignorant bliss until things went from difficult to dangerous.   

Acts 29:9a –  “Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Feast.” (Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. September) 

These might be problems the problem-solvers can’t solve  Maybe the experts don’t know what they’re doing this time.   Lord willing, we’ll pick this up from here next time.

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