Receive All – 3-21-22

“Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” Acts 28:30-31 NKJV

Receive ALL who came, preaching the Kingdom of God, as Jesus did, as I have said many times before, make sure it furthers the kingdom, be kingdom minded. But let us think about the word: ALL (who came). If children came, he had a children’s ministry, if elderly came he had the over 60’s group meeting in his home, and if Jews and enough of them, he could hold a synagogue meeting.  
Growing up in the church, we were often asked what ministry we were called to help with and we took fun personality quizzes to help find what gifts we were naturally good at. Some assumingly well-meaning adults might even declare to one of us: you were called for children’s ministry or you were called for teen ministry. After I had my son, his father left me and I became a single mother – I was told I was called to the single mothers (something I never had a passion for, nor did I feel a calling for, nor was it ever confirmed). This is a corruption of the truth of the great commission. It was to go, ye, therefore to ALL. Although paraphrased here, the word ALL does appear in Matthew 28:19.
In other words, do not pass by the elderly man sitting on the edge of the curb, at the corner of the convenience store, with his head in his hands because you are a women called to speak to single women. You minister to ALL – look around and see the opportunity God has divinely placed before you. I had a young man once beg me for money, I had no cash to give him. But I prayed with him, led him to the Lord and told him where the closest (full gospel) church was. I saw a man who was dirty and hitchhiking on the side of the road as I was going home with groceries. I stopped and made him a sandwich and shared. If I only waited for single mothers I would miss others who needed Jesus. NOT to mention, most single mothers do not respect my methods of being a single parent. (I was single since my son was born. So I had no opportunity to miss what it was like with help. Help was never an option. And for any single parent, the option of help is off the table – suck it up, stop whining and let’s move on to real things we can do something about. See, most women want more sensitivity that I can muster.)
I have always written down my bible studies in the form of sermons but I never had a sense of who the audience was. I mean it was first of all, God (I wanted him to be honored by it) and second of all me. But I did not ever try to figure out the audience, but who would see the piles of notebooks with my slopping handwriting. When God moved me to put them online, with no marketing, some word of mouth encouragement, I did not think I would have an audience. I remember the days of 1 or 2 hits a day to the site and I was surprised and glorified God. I still did not think or plan an audience – I still write for God then me then you all, whoever you all are.  And to my continued surprise – more and more come, read and stay. Slowly growing, more.
And recently I realized who my target group is – who is it I am called to minister to: ALL. I am to go, ye, therefore to ALL – everyone who has a heart ready to hear and learn and grow. All who come here. Just like on the streets in my daily life – looking around for who I should minister to. Who needs Jesus? But I do not go out much, since I work from home. That makes it difficult to minister to people in my town, although I do find ways, like financially giving to the local church, bringing food to the homeless shelter, and making blankets for the animal shelter. (Yes, caring for animals does contribute to ministering to people. Those animal get adopted and bring love to people – like the way my little Dog Lilli is a blessing to me.)
The point is: ALL. Do not box God in and do not box yourself in. God set you free and did not put you in a box – so go ye therefore to ALL. Or in Paul’s case and the case of this blog, minister to all who come. It is about people, souls, and relationships.

RELATIONSHIP:

Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.

Do you want to know truth? Be able to discern lies? Know how to figure it all out in these confusing times and have peace? The Bible says Jesus is the truth. I have experienced it and it has changed my life. I was once a hot mess of sin, promiscuity, drug and alcohol use and so much more. But I was lost and when I could not find my way, or find a truth, I numbed it with bad choses. When I found Jesus, and truth – I found peace and deliverance from those things.

If you want a relationship with God without truth you will get the counterfeit, hypocritical Christianity that has kept some of you away for too long. You need truth and relationship. You need to be honest with yourself and God (including honest repentance) and God will reveal truth to you. It becomes the two way, interaction that your relationship with God is built on. This is why Jesus is called the truth, because he is our only way to the Father.  

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen

BIBLE READING:

Dear Heavenly Father – Please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of who you are, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Open the eyes of our understanding, please, so we may know the hope of our calling and the vast sovereignty and power of the grace of the cross. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word and our sound mind. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Today’s reading is the Book of Acts chapter 28 (embedded below for your convenience in the NKJV). 

Paul’s Ministry on Malta

28 Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta. And the natives[a] showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.

In that region there was an estate of the [b]leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed. 10 They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary.

Arrival at Rome

11 After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the [c]Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. 12 And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. 13 From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, 14 where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. 15 And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.

16 Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.

Paul’s Ministry at Rome

17 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. 19 But when the [d]Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”

21 Then they said to him, “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”

23 So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. 25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to [e]our fathers, 26 saying,

‘Go to this people and say:
“Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.” ’

28 “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” 29 [f]And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.

30 Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

Footnotes

  1. Acts 28:2 Lit. barbarians
  2. Acts 28:7 Magistrate
  3. Acts 28:11 Gr. Dioskouroi, Zeus’s sons Castor and Pollux
  4. Acts 28:19 The ruling authorities
  5. Acts 28:25 NU your
  6. Acts 28:29 NU omits v. 29.

MEMORY VERSE CHALLENGE:

Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

STUDY/DEVOTIONAL:

To ensure I did not miss anything important – I pulled out my notes and things from classes I sat in about the book of Acts, as well as sermon notes from sermons I listened to on the matter. I keep sermon notes tucked in my Bible but I use a digital Bible when preparing these – so I am not using anyone else’s material as my own. The sum of what I have on these last chapters of Acts is Paul was arrested, made it to Rome – was released, captured again, because Rome burned down the killed him by beheading. (And some of that isn’t even in the Bible and is all loosely connected.) But that is the sum of my notes.
I know many have struggled with the repetition of the defenses of Paul in court after court – I think Luke was so thorough about each event, individually, because of the theory that he was writing to Paul’s lawyer and the lawyer would need to know all those details. The other reason could be that a style of Greek writing repeats important concepts like a form of building suspense (maybe Luke was trying to get the ready to feel suspense, like what happens next and does Paul get through this?)! Honestly, it is hard to put down during this section, but that might also be because of where the later church added chapters and verses. Some of it doesn’t seem like logical stopping points.

Let’s dig back into today’s passage:
Malta and the snake – Luke wrote about this situation and not all the other perils they must have encountered. How did Luke pick and choose which to include and which to exclude?
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Luke 10:19 KJV
Maybe he included it as an example of what was meant back in his Gospel (which we believe he wrote first).
And today the word justice stuck out. But I heard a sermon speaking of social justice warriors – and how it excludes God in most cases (a story for another time maybe) but that is never what I think of when I hear the word justice. I think of a lion and a deer in an African safari – both innocent and hungry and just out there living the best they can, relying on our creator to provide. And the sweet deer with big eyes and a mouth full of greens, suddenly feels his ear twitch and looks around with attention – but all too late he begins to run. The deer ate some greens and the lion ate the deer. And God is sovereign, choosing which lies and which dies, when neither is better than the other – this is justice.
I also think of raw truth, judgment and vindication at the same moment when I hear justice. It is the great truth. And truth shall set you free (John 8:32). There is not always a right and wrong, a black and white, or a good vs evil. There is not always judgment. There is not always vindication. There is always justice.
In Malta they had a narrow view of justice – forgetting bad things do happen to good people. The snake may have meant justice, but justice did not mean judgment and punishment. Justice was their hearts enlightened to a real and powerful God and salvation from eternal damnation.

God used it to open a door and plant a church and heal and save many. Who then supplied them for their journey to Rome. God provided – starting with a snakebite to provide justice the kind of pure justice that balanced the situation so many souls entered into a relationship with him in truth.

From that point on the body of believers met Paul at every stop and crossroad along the last leg of the journey and helped and Paul was able to minister along the way. In Rome, the centurion delivered Paul and the rest of the prisoners to the captain of the guard.  It doesn’t say – but I do wonder, how many of the prisoners became believers? Did the centurion?
We know the centurion had a soft spot for Paul – after Malts letting Paul see Christians along the way and convincing the captain of the guard to let Paul be under house arrest. Basically instead of an ankle monitor he had an armed guard with him and he couldn’t really go places. But Paul lived in a rented place and was able to have visitors and write more books of the Bible and minister to ALL the guest who came to him.

It is also nice to note (since Jesus came for the Jews first and then the gentiles) when Paul arrived in Rome, the Jews came to him first. When they, as in the global majority, rejected Jesus – the gentiles and believing Jews came to him. Even when he could not go – God granted Paul the proper order.

The book of Acts ends here – two previous times in the book Luke summed things up and it seemed like the book was ending. Both times saying the church flourished and all was well. This time, no summary or conclusion. This has lead to many schools of thought as to why: maybe Paul died so Luke did not finish – maybe Luke did finish but it was lost – maybe this was the intended finish, so that the church could continue the story, because we are to continue the acts of the believers… and so on. No other book alludes to why.

It just ends right here with Paul still ministering to ALL. Which seems appropriate – everywhere he went the ministry was based on who received. Like Lydia, the purple lady – Paul had a dream of a man, but arrived and found a woman and build the church there and the ministry around those who received.

***

Thank you for reading in 2022 – a Year of Wisdom and Salvation
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

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