Acts 21:12-14 Let the will of the Lord be done.

I didn’t plan on writing on this today, but I simply cannot let its beauty go unnoticed. Go read this section (really Acts 21:10-14 for context). What a beautiful scene this is to my heart. A prophet named Agabus had just come from Judea, most likely from Jerusalem and he comes to Paul, took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'” Essentially, this man had just come from Jerusalem (Luke uses “Judea” and “Jerusalem” interchangeably throughout Luke and Acts) and God had given him prophetic insight as to what would happen to Paul if he chose to enter its gates. God allowed Paul the unique opportunity to be fully informed before he chose to fulfill God’s plan for his life. He gave Paul foreknowledge of his own demise, should he do as God asked and return one last time to Jerusalem.

Has this ever happened to you? Has God given you insight into something bad that will happen if you did as He asked? Did you do it anyway? What do you think God’s purpose is in giving you this knowledge and did it help or hurt you to receive it? I have never personally experienced this, but I would love to hear your testimonies!

We move on to v12 when the Christians around Paul hear this terrifying possibility and beg him not to go. I love that Luke includes himself in this – he doesn’t hide his plea for Paul to avoid Jerusalem. There is such beauty in this, the love of a friend. Even though it was God’s will for Paul to go and they knew this, it is so hard to accept it when a loved one will face unspeakable pain and trials. I am reminded of Matthew 16:21-23 when Jesus predicts his own death and Peter says, “Far be it from you, Lord! This will never happen to you!” Jesus rebukes him, saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” See, Peter did not understand Jesus’ role in God’s plan for the world. All Peter saw, like us, is a beloved friend being hurt and taken from his life. Luke and the others were so like Peter; they did not see God’s plan but only the pain both they and Paul would endure before it was over. Like Jesus, Paul was quick to respond, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus (v13).”  Can’t you just imagine this scene? Can’t you see the pressure they are putting on Paul to leave God’s path and avoid imprisonment and death? I love his words, “Why are you breaking my heart?!” Can’t you hear his distress at their pleas? Sometimes the call of God is hard enough that it doesn’t take much for us to be tempted to leave his path for our lives. Thank God that Paul was so focused on God’s will that even his friends’ pleas couldn’t force him to stray. It is so important to keep our eyes on God, not looking to the right or the left.

V14 says, “And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, ‘Let the will of the Lord be done.'” Sometimes it takes an exhaustion of all other options before we are ready to accede to God’s will. Can you imagine the New Testament without Paul’s writings? The majority of them were written after this event in Acts 21, after he was in custody. How we are blessed in so many ways because of Paul’s faithfulness – his courage!

Sometimes God’s plans for our lives are so frightening, but He gives in our exact moment of need. Just Google “scripture about courage” and see how many verses come up. It’s crazy! See, God knows that He asks us to do some nutso things – things that simply don’t make sense or are just inconceivable to our small brains – so He provided us with so many words of encouragement, that we may know of His faithfulness and our victory in Him. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged – for the LORD, your God, will be with you wherever you go” Joshua 1:9-11.

It is not often that God calls us to imprisonment for His sake – though it does happen – but God often calls us into the unknown, into frightening circumstances beyond our control. Let’s resolve to stand firm in God’s will like Paul and take the courage of the Spirit and face the future with strength and commitment; we know that God is with us through all things and He is working them for our good according to His good purpose (Romans 8:28). Take courage from Paul’s example, and follow likewise. ❤

Daniel 3:16-18 “But if not, O King…”

I have been waiting on God to show me a passage to write about when finally, at 10:30 at night, He finally brings me to this incredible passage out of Daniel. So many of you are probably familiar with this story in Daniel 3, but go read it again anyways! This passage picks up smack-dab in the middle of the story about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace, right after King Nebuchadnezzar (henceforth “King Neb”) had them brought forth for refusing to bow to the golden statue he had set up. In verse 15 King Neb tells them, “But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Oh how I love this question! “And WHO is the god who will deliver you?!” How we humans have such arrogance to believe that we control our little (or even big) worlds. See, Ol King Nebby had yet to meet the God of Daniel; he had no clue the might and power of the One who held their lives in His Glorious hands. But he will – in numerous and sometimes painful ways. Do you run up against people who laugh in disdain at your faith? I am sad but also amused when I hear non-Christian people make excuses for someone’s faith: they or a loved one is sick, they aren’t educated, or whatever it may be. It is so hard for those not of the faith to understand why someone would cling to a god they cannot see, physically hear, or touch. Like King Neb, they have not yet experienced the power and might of the El Shaddai. Pray for them, Beloved, because God has a plan for them and your prayers are instrumental in their lives, though you may not see it; pray for them unceasingly.

We pick back up in v16 and I just LOVE their response to King Neb’s demand:

O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom

we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out

of your hand, O king. BUT IF NOT, be it known to you, O king, that we WILL NOT serve

your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

Can I get an AMEN?! What strong words! These words make my heart shout for joy, and yet yearn for COURAGE like these men. We in America are not faced with death or torture because of our faith. We here are both blessed and cursed with religious freedom. Let me explain: what an incredible blessing it is to be able to exercise our faith and speak freely of our love for God and His love for others. However, we as a culture (not all – just speaking in generalities here) have become Christians in name only, without the fiery furnace to test our perseverance and conviction of our love for God. Those in other countries, in Africa, in Europe, where we see as the “mission field” because of the pagan religions and poverty – they see US as the mission field because of our lack of conviction in Christ. I grew up in the Bible belt where the culture was to go to church Sunday morning with your family, walk out the door, and never remember God until the next Sunday came around. I lived like this until my mid-20s when God allowed things in my life to show me that I had a DESPERATE NEED for him all day, every day. I moved to DC where the culture was the opposite – and what I saw astounded me. I saw people who filled the church that were on fire for Christ; I believe it is because Christianity in this part of the US is counter-cultural. It is absolutely not the culture to go to church – Christianity is something you keep to yourself here in fear of offending all the other religions that surround you. Even though that type of society is not even close to what others in the world are facing, even that small amount of pressure against Christianity has lit a fire for Christ in those who have accepted him. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, there is a fire that tests the depth of your conviction for Christ and forces you to take a stand on your beliefs. No matter where you live – Bible belt or in the most anti-Christian place you can think of, God will allow tests and trials in your life for two reasons: 1. to test your conviction, your faith in him and 2. to give you an opportunity to see what your God is made of. Hallelujah! Like the three men in Daniel 3, we can choose to break under the pressure, or we can choose to stand firm and let God go to work. No matter what, in a fiery trial God will do one of three things (Moore, Daniel):

1. He will save you from the fire: you will miss the trial completely. He will save you from that car crash, from the bad test results, from an affair in your marriage, from an unplanned pregnancy. He will perform a miracle on your behalf and you will know His might and power!

2. He will save you through the fire: like the men in Daniel, God will allow you to be thrown into the fire. You might have that terrible crash, cancer, an affair in your marriage, an unplanned pregnancy. BUT. Glory be to Him; He will carry you through it. He will strengthen you to heal from the wreckage, he will teach you to lean on him during your chemo treatments and the aftermath, he will REDEEM your marriage, and he will use that pregnancy to teach you to rely all your days upon Him. This, Beloved, This is where God changes you into the person He has designed you to be; this is where He strengthens your faith and your rest in Him. This is where God shows you his faithfulness.

3. God will use this fire to bring you into his ever-loving arms. Sometimes God saves us by bringing us home. Our time here is finished and God just can’t wait one moment longer to have us home. Praise Him who loves us enough to want us home ❤

One thing is clear: like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago, your faithfulness to God does not go unnoticed. When you are placed in the fire, you have a remarkable chance to show others God’s faithfulness to you and the love He has for each of His children. How you react in the moments of testing speaks volumes to those who have yet to meet their Creator. You are a beacon that draws them to their heavenly Father. Join with me in praying that we may be filled with conviction and courage in our fiery trials, and that others may see the One who delivers us!

(Source used: Daniel Bible study by Beth Moore)