“Take Courage!” ( Acts 23: 11, NIV ) by Carley Evans

Ananias orders Paul to be struck in the mouth. Paul says, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!” (Acts 23:3) Some overhear Paul’s angry remark, and say, “You dare to insult God’s high priest?” Paul responds, “Brothers, I did not realize that he is the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.'” (Acts 23:4-5)

Paul “stands on trial because of [his] hope in the resurrection of the dead.” (Acts 23:6) The Sadducees and Pharisees, who disagree as to whether or not there is a resurrection of the dead, argue in “a great uproar.” (Acts 23:9) The commander is “afraid Paul will be torn to pieces by them. He orders the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.” (Acts 23:10)

Jesus, on the following night, “stands near Paul and says, ‘Take courage!'” (Acts 23:11) Jesus tells Paul that he is to “also testify in Rome” about Him.

The very next morning, a conspiracy develops among some Jews who swear to kill Paul. Paul’s nephew hears of this plot, goes to the barracks and warns his uncle. Paul sends his nephew to the commander, who arranges for Paul to “be taken safely to Governor Felix.” (Acts 23:24)

Governor Felix keeps Paul in prison for two years, calling for him frequently, hoping Paul will bribe him. The Jews attempt again to plot their murder of Paul, but fail when the new governor, Festus declines to transfer Paul to Jerusalem. While in Caesarea, Paul appeals to Caesar. King Agrippa arrives. Festus explains that the Jews’ accusations against Paul are surprising and unexpected. He tells the king that “they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claims is alive.” (Acts 25:19)

Paul makes his case to King Agrippa. “Now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:6-8) King Agrippa knows Paul should be set free, except he has appealed to Caesar.

Paul along with other prisoners sail to Italy, but “the ship is caught by the storm” and “takes such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they begin to throw the cargo overboard.” (Acts 27:15,18) They “finally give up all hope of being saved.” (Acts 27:20)

An angel of the Lord stands beside Paul that night and says, “Do not be afraid, Paul.” The angel reminds him of Jesus’ words spoken several years earlier –“As you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” (Acts 23:11)

Paul says to his fellow prisoners, “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.” (Acts 27:25) “Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” (Acts 27:34)

Finally Paul reaches Rome; he calls the leaders of the Jews together to discover that no negative reports have come to them from Judea. Paul is free to preach the gospel, to testify about Jesus for two years “boldly and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:31)

“Perfect Love : A Binding Contract” ( 1 John 4: 11-12, NEB ) by Carley Evans

“If God thus loves us, dear friends, we in turn are bound to love one another. Though God has never been seen by any man, God Himself dwells in us if we love one another; His love is brought to perfection within us.”


And how do we love as God loves us? “This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given assurance to us from His Spirit. And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent His Son as the world’s Savior. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God — God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.” (1 John 4:13-16, HCSB)


We love as God loves by “confessing that Jesus is the Son of God.” Through His Holy Spirit, we “are bound to love one another.” A binding contract exists forever among God and us and our brothers in Christ. The contract calls for love — selfless, giving, understanding, tolerant, helpful, generous, caring, kind, heartfelt, committed.


“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, for fear has to do with punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:18-19, HCSB)

“The Forces Of The Universe” ( Romans 8: 38-39, NEB ) by Carley Evans

“For I am convinced that there is nothing in death or life, in the realm of spirits or superhuman powers, in the world as it is or the world as it shall be, in the forces of the universe, in heights or depths — nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


I love to imagine “the forces of the universe” attempting and failing to “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Satan has been attempting this feat from the very beginning. Even then, in the garden of Eden, the serpent was aware of his ultimate failure, knowing his defeat would come with Jesus’ death and resurrection. Nevertheless, the serpent continues his assault against us to no avail.


Ultimately we belong to God for we are bought at a price — an immeasurable cost to God Himself. Since He paid for us, He does not allow anything “in all creation” to “separate us” from Him. “Nothing in death or life” is capable of destroying the finished work of Jesus Christ crucified in hell and resurrected to heaven.


Through His great love for us, we know we will “be shaped to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the eldest among a large family of brothers; and it is these, so fore-ordained, whom He has also called. And those whom He called He has justified, and to those whom He justified He has also given His splendour.” (Romans 8:29-30)

“In God’s Hand” ( Job 12: 10, NEB ) by Carley Evans

Job argues, “In God’s hand are the souls of all that live, the spirits of all human kind. Wisdom and might are His, with Him are firmness and understanding. If He pulls down, there is no rebuilding; if He imprisons, there is no release.” (Job 12:10-14) “Deceived and deceiver are His to use.” (Job 12:16) “Will you quibble with Him as you quibble with a man?” (Job 13:9)


Job warns his friends that God “is not a man as I am, that I can answer Him or that we can confront one another in court. If only there were one to arbitrate between us and impose his authority on us both, so that God might take His rod from my back, and terror of Him might not come on me suddenly. I would then speak without fear of Him; for I know I am not what I am thought to be.” (Job 9:32-35)


Job laments that “man born of woman is short-lived and full of disquiet. He blossoms like a flower and then he withers; he slips away like a shadow and does not stay; he is like a wine-skin that perishes or a garment that moths have eaten.” (Job 14:1-2)


Job pleads, “I tell you, God Himself has put me in the wrong, He has drawn the net round me. He has walled in my path so that I cannot break away, and He has hedged in the road before me.” (Job 19:6,8) “Pity me, pity me, you that are my friends; for the hand of God has touched me. Why do you pursue me as God pursues me? Have you not had your teeth in me long enough?” (Job 19:21-22)


That Job is in deep despair is evident; he knows he is essentially innocent of wrongdoing and yet has lost all  for no good reason he can fathom. He only knows God has set him as His target. He is weary of the disloyalty of his friends; and longs not to have been born. Nevertheless, Job hopes for “one to arbitrate between” himself and God; someone who can “impose His authority on us both, so that God might take His rod from my back.”


Job says, God “decides, and who can turn Him from His purpose? He does what He determines, that He carries out; His mind is full of plans like these. Therefore I am fearful of meeting Him; when I think about Him, I am afraid; it is God who makes me faint-hearted and the Almighty who fills me with fear.” (Job 23:13-16)


Yet, Job maintains his innocence. He says to his friends,”God forbid that I should allow you to be right; till death I will not abandon my claim to innocence. I will maintain the rightness of my cause, I will never give up; so long as I live, I will not change.” (Job 27:5-6)


Then, surprisingly, God Himself speaks to Job. God asks, “Is it for a man who disputes with the Almighty to be stubborn? Should he that argues with God answer back? (Job 40:2) “Dare you deny that I Am just or put Me in the wrong that you may be right?” (Job 40:8)


Job finally understands. He answers God, “I know that Thou canst do all things and that no purpose is beyond Thee. But I spoke of great things which I do not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. I knew of Thee then only by report, but now I see Thee with my own eyes. Therefore I melt away; I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6)

“No New Command; Yet Again New” ( 1 John 2: 6 – 8, NEB ) by Carley Evans

The author of the letter 1 John offers us a test — a test of whether “we are in Him,” who is Christ the Lord. If we “claim to be dwelling in Him” then we “bind [ourselves] to live as Christ Himself lived.” And, in living as Christ lived, we will follow what the author refers to as “no new command. It is the old command you always had before you; the old command is the message which you heard at the beginning. And yet again it is a new command that I am giving you — new in the sense that the darkness is passing and the real light already shines. Christ has made this true.”


“Only the man who loves his brother dwells in the light; there is nothing to make him stumble.” (1 John 2: 10-11)


The darkness which is passing is hatred — hatred of God, of self, of neighbor, of brother and sister, of strangers, of the world God has created. If we hate, then we necessarily dwell in darkness. “The one who hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in the dark and has no idea where he is going, because the darkness has made him blind.” (1 John 2:11)


The darkness which is passing is blinding — hatred of God, of self, of neighbor, of brother and sister, of strangers, of the world God has created makes us sightless, wandering about directionless and literally lost.


“Do not set your hearts on the godless world or anything in it.” (1 John 2:18) Instead, set your hearts on “the real light [which] alr

“Not That We Love God” ( 1 John 4: 10, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

“Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”


Think of love this way. God — as the Three Person Godhead — creates mankind despite knowing that Adam and Eve are to fall into disobedience and sin, fundamentally changing the nature of all humanity. God the Son knows that one day, He will leave His glory behind to enter time and space to become an infant, grow into a man, minister for a brief three years, then die an agonizing death on a cross. God the Father knows He will — for a time — forsake His Son as Jesus becomes sin for us. God the Holy Spirit knows that He will one day dwell in each individual Christian as coach, comforter, helper, healer, mentor, best friend.


Despite His foreknowledge of our ruin and His sacrifices, rather than say, “Why should I create these people?” God continues His plan to populate the earth with human beings. Because God loves us this much, “we also must love one another.” (1 John 4:11)

“Ruined By Your Knowledge” ( 1 Corinthians 8: 1-3, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

Paul says, “knowledge inflates the pride.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) Paul also warns that “the weak brother, the brother for whom Christ died, [can be] ruined by your knowledge.” (1 Corinthians 8:11)


The knowledge of which Paul speaks is the understanding that idols are nothing; therefore, food that is offered to them is perfectly acceptable fare for one’s table. Unless, Paul explains, another brother in Christ does not have this knowledge. Then your knowledge that it is acceptable and “this right of yours [to eat food offered to idols] becomes a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9) And, at this point, if you allow your knowledge to harm your brother, you are no longer acting in love.


Paul says, “Love builds up.” He warns, “Now when you sin like this against the brothers and wound their weak consciences, you are sinning against Christ.” (1 Corinthians 8:12) If that which I know to be acceptable, nevertheless harms my brother in Christ, “I will never again” do that. “so that I won’t cause my brother to fall.” (1 Corinthians 8:13)


Paul writes to the church at Corinth, “If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know as he ought to know it. But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.”

“Picking Up Snakes” ( Jeremiah 10: 2, NEB ) by Carley Evans

“Do not be awed by signs in the heavens; it is the nations who go in awe of these. For the carved images of the nations are a sham, they are nothing but timber cut from the forest, worked with his chisel by a craftsman; he adorns it with silver and gold, fastening them on with hammer and nails so that they do not fall apart. They can no more speak than a scarecrow in a plot of cucumbers; they must be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them: they can do no harm, and they have no power to do good.” (Jeremiah 10:2-5)


People are always looking up, searching the skies for some sign. People are always wanting some spectacular event to validate their faith in whatever they have chosen to believe. People want to see healings; they want to see miracles; they want to get knocked down by preachers claiming to have some special degree of the Holy Spirit’s powers. People want to pick up snakes and not be poisoned by their bites.


I, for one, don’t worship “a scarecrow in a plot of cucumbers” or a carved piece of “timber cut from the forest.” I am not “awed by signs in the heavens” or by “silver and gold.” I don’t follow any object that “must be carried, for [it] cannot walk.” And I am not afraid of that which “can do no harm.” And I do not stand amazed at that which “[has] no power to do good.”


The Lord our God is One. “Where can one be found like thee, O Lord? Great Thou art and great is the might of Thy Name. Who shall not fear Thee, King of the nations? for fear is Thy fitting tribute. Where among the wisest of the nations and all their royalty can one be found like Thee? They are fools and blockheads one and all, learning their nonsense from a log of wood.” (Jeremiah 10:6-8)


“But the Lord is God in truth.” (Jeremiah 10:10)

“If I Have No Love” ( 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3, NEB ) by Carley Evans

Friday, February 11, 2011 at 8:31pm

Paul tells us emphatically with beautiful language that “if [we] have no love, [we] are none the better.” Other translations render Paul’s statement as “[we] are nothing” if we “do not have love.”

We may have the ability to “speak human or angelic languages;” we may have “the gift of prophecy;” we may “understand all mysteries and all knowledge;” we may “have all faith so that [we] can move mountains;” but without love, none of these abilities are worth much. We are nothing and we gain nothing when we act without love.

Paul even speaks of charity as empty if it is done without love.

“Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offence. Love keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over other men’s sins, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NEB)

How many of us can say that we “keep no score of wrongs?” How many of us can say we are “never boastful, nor conceited?” How many of us are slow “to take offence?” How many of us are capable of facing anything with no limit to faith, hope, endurance? If this were so, no one would divorce; no one would strike a child in anger; no one would lie to get ahead or hide a wrongdoing to keep from appearing less capable. No one would do good in order to appear good.

“Love will never come to an end.” (1 Corinthians 13:8)

“Love Without Limit” ( 1 Corinthians 13: 6-7, NEB ) by Carley Evans

“Love keeps no score of wrongs,” writes Paul to the church at Corinth. Love “does not gloat over other men’s sins, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance.”

How do we love without limit? The father of the prodigal son is a great example of loving without limit. His son demands his inheritance early, then when his father lovingly complies with this request, the son squanders the entire amount of his father’s hard-earned money. Later, during a famine which comes across the entire land, he finds himself wallowing in the mud along with pigs; alone and desperately hungry. No one is willing to help him. He thinks, I’ll go back to my father, the man I’ve disrespected and essentially cheated. Perhaps he’ll let me be as “one of [his] paid servants.” (Luke 15:20) When he returns, his father sees him coming from far off. This man goes out to his son. He takes the first step towards forgiveness, keeping “no score of wrongs.” This father’s love has “no limit to its faith, its hope, [or] its endurance.”

Jesus is, of course, the ultimate example of loving without limit. On the cross, as He is suffering, He looks out at His enemies, at those who have put Him there, and says, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” This is love that has “no limit to its faith, its hope, [or] its endurance.”

Let’s love without limit. How do we accomplish this kind of love? Loving without limit requires the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. He loves through us. Only He is capable of not keeping “a score of wrongs,” of not losing hope, of enduring betrayal, lies, pain, wrongdoings of all sorts from those around us. Only God is capable of loving without limit.