Tag Archives: wholeness

God’s People, part 249: Agabus

Read Acts 11:27-30

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”  (John 13:34, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 249: Agabus. There’s not much to be said about Agabus, as there are only several verses in the entire New Testament, all with in Acts, that are in reference to him. In today’s Scripture, we learn that prophets from Jerusalem were coming to the city of Antioch in Syria and prophesying to the people there. Before we talk about Agabus himself, we must first understand a little bit about Antioch.

Though there were other cities named Antioch in the ancient world, the one described in Acts 11 is the city was located in what is now the modern city of Antakya, Turkey. Syrian Antioch, as it is known by historians and scholars, was the seat of the governor of the Roman Province of Syria. This city was a major center of early Chrisitanity and it was traditionally first evangelized by Peter and, later, by Barnabas and Paul. It was a beneficial to be located because it existed along the silk road, the spice trade, and the Royal Road, making it a major travel hub.

Christianity utilized such routes and major hubs to spread from city to city throughout the Roman empire; thus, it is not shocking that the first major center of Christianity outside of Jerusalem would be Syrian Antioch. It also makes sense why Jewish prophets from Jerusalem would travel to Antioch, which was the region’s example of Hellenistic culture and Roman rule. Again, we don’t know much about these prophets, but every indication is that they were Jewish Christians.

Agabus was one of these prophets and he came to the city of Syrian Antioch in order to warn the citizens there that a great famine would be falling upon the entire Roman Empire. While, I am sure that many in Antioch laughed at Agabus and his prophecy, and Luke shares that it wasn’t fulfilled until sometime during the reign of Claudius (41-54 AD), the Christians in Antioch from taking him and his prophecy seriously.

The early Christians had plenty in Antioch and, out of concern for their mother church, they sent supplies to Jerusalem to ensure that they had enough to survive the famine. What an amazing act of faith and self-sacrifice. They didn’t horde what they had in order to make sure they were safe and sound; rather, they shared their resources with those they knew were less fortunate than them.

First, what a blessing that Agabus answered his call to warn people of the coming famine. Second, how amazing is it that the earliest Christians heeded that warning, even if others didn’t, and shared their resources with their sisters and brothers in Jerusalem. We should be challenged by this. We who are the church, we who are followers of Christ, should be willing to share what we have with other Christians who are in need. If we are to take care of those who do not currently belong to our divine family, we must first be willing to take care of fellow family members.

What a witness to the world we would be if we, as Christians, made such hospitality and mutual love a part of our identity. Such a church would attract people like a magnet, just like the church in Antioch attracted many to it. Imagine a world where we care for each other and, together, we care for the least of these regardless of who they are or what creed they do or don’t follow. Such a church would certainly begin to usher in the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Let us be such Christians who make up such a church.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
LOVE is the order of the day, every day, for all days.

PRAYER
Lord, humble me and create in me a loving, generous and hospitable heart. Amen.

God’s People, part 248: Christians

Read Acts 11:1-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.”  (Galatians 2:11, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 248: Christians. The suggested Scripture above continues on with the account of the beginning of Gentile inclusion in the early church. While Luke didn’t have the time or space to fully recount the difficutlies in that debate of whether or not to include them, and the concessions that would need to be made to do so, it goes without saying that it was more difficult than the text lets on.

Peter’s reporting to the church leadership, of which he was a part, is a literary way of saying that eventually the church came on board, which is true; however, it would be more accurate to say that they did not come on board easily or right away. In fact, more than changed minds and hearts, circumstances are what led to the eventual acceptance of Gentile Christians.

The Apostle Paul’s own writings paint that picture all too clear. In Galatians 2, we learn that while Peter was eating with Gentiles when he was not in the presence of James, Jesus’ brother, and the other leaders, he kowtowed to them when they were around. According to Paul, he angrily scolded Peter and called him out publicly in Antioch. He basically called Peter a hypocrite and then argued the case that Gentiles should be included and that Peter was in the wrong. What’s more remarkable than what Paul wrote was what he did not write. Paul stated his case and then abruptly ends without sharing the conclusion to the big debate. The truth is that is probably indicative of the probability that the debate did NOT end there.

Peter and the rest of the Apostles, no doubt, continued to wrestle with this issue and Paul continued…FOR YEARS…to advocate for Gentile inclusion. In fact, his letter to the church in Rome shows us that his advocacy of Gentile inclusion led him to his eventual arrest, trip to Rome and, eventually, death.

This brings us to an important fact, the earliest church was distinctly Jewish and did not so easily want to blur the lines around that identity! The earliest Jesus followers were not known as “Christians”; rather, they were known as The Way. Make no mistake about it, they saw themselves as the The Jewish Way, meaning that they saw themselves as the fulfillment of Judaism as followers of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

The term “Christian”, which means Christ Followers, was only later attributed to them by outsiders in Antioch. Like other great movements, such as Methodism, the Jesus followers did not choose their name; rather, it was given to them and it eventually stuck. These Christians would eventually go on include Gentiles, thanks largely to people like Paul, Luke, Timothy, Silas and probably Peter in the end; however, Christianity would eventually grow into a predominantly Gentile religion thanks the Great Jewish Revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple. Western Christianity’s center, from that point forward, slowly (or quickly in the grand scheme of things) moved from Jerusalem to Rome. Eastern Christianty moved to Syria, Egypt, India, and even as far east as China.

We should be challenged by these facts. We should, first and foremost, reflect on the fact that Christianity has never been a homogeneous group and that there was never that “old-time religion” where everyone agreed on everything in perfect harmony. That may be idyllic, but it certainly is not a realistic view of Christian history.

Whe should also be challenged by another fact: despite it’s bumpy history, Christians became known by outsiders as those who followed Christ and became like “little Christs”. In other words, despite human bickering and differences of opinion, God’s glory and self-revelation in Jesus Christ was still made known to the world through those Christians, which set Christianity on a historic and baffling rise to prominence and power. We can argue the pros and cons to such an assent, but there can be no doubt that Christians throughout the past two millennia have sough to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to a broken world still very much in need of Salvation. For that, we should all praise God and be thankful.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Jesus. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is. Jesus Christ is LORD.

PRAYER
Jesus, you are our Lord, and I submit to you and your authority. Amen.

God’s People, part 247: Cornelius

Read Acts 10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, ‘Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?”’  (Galatians 2:14, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Centurion_Le_Centurion_-_James_Tissot-Wikimedia-CC2Part 247: Cornelius. As Luke wrote, Cornelius was the captain of a Roman cohort called, “The Italian.” While, that may sound like the name of a sandwich to us, Roman cohorts were no joke. They were made up of 480 men and were roughly the equivalent of a modern military battalion. Thus, Cornelius was someone who had worked himself up the ranks in the Roman military.

While we don’t know much more about Cornelius than that, we can certainly ascertain that he was not a person to be trifled with. He, no doubt, would have been much like the centurion that Jesus engaged with. That centurion said the following to Jesus, “…I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.’”  (Matthew 8:9, NLT)

There’s something else we know about Cornelius: he and his entire household were God-fearing people. Perhaps you are questioning what it actually means to be a “God-fearing” person. In the ancient word, a God-fearer was a Gentile who was supportive of Hellenistic Judaism. He or she would observe certain Jewish religious traditions and rituals; however, they were not fully converted to Judaism. To traditional, non-Hellenistic Jews, they were still unclean and not a part fo God’s people because they didn’t follow all of the Jewish laws, including Kosher dietary laws.

Cornelius, despite being a Gentile, was someone who lived according to the heart of the law. It is quite clear that he loved God with his whole being and he was clearing loving his neighbor as he loved himself. Luke attested to the fact that Cornelius was very generous and compassionate toward the poor; however, that clearly didn’t seem to initially change the Apostles’ opinion of him.

That is why God gave Peter the vision prior to sending him to Caesarea to visit with Cornelius. In the vision, God told Peter to kill and eat an unclean animal and Peter objected. Was this some sort of gotcha test? After all, Peter had been a devout Jew is whole life. Still, God commanded him to kill the unclean animal and eat it. In fact, God scolded Peter for his reluctance and said, “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean” (Acts 10:15, NLT).

It took Peter having this vision 3 times in a row for him to budge and agree. Sadly, the debate did not end there. Even after Peter did go in and eat in the household of Cornelius, the leaders in Jerusalem were not okay with it. Their reluctance caused Peter to live a double life, eating with Gentiles while James and the Jerusalem church leaders weren’t around, but avoiding such foods and table company when they were around. Eventually Paul called him out on his hypocrisy and Peter testified that God had declared the act of eating with Gentiles to be a clean and holy act.

Of course, while Peter’s reluctance to follow God did not end with his time with Cornelius, much good did come out of Peter’s engagement with Cornelius. He and his family were baptized, and they went from God-fearing people to being followers of Christ. What’s more, it wasn’t just Cornelius’ family that converted, but the Holy Spirit fell on many Gentiles during Peter’s time there.

This should challenge us. How do our ideas of God’s law keep us from seeing the working of the Holy Spirit in others? We look at different people as being “unclean” because of how we read Scripture and interpret God’s opinion. For instance, we look at people who are scantily dressed, or people who have tattoos all over them, or people who listen to certain music, or who have certain professions as being lost and foreign to God; however, today’s Scripture cautions us on our judgments and calls us to stop telling God what is unclean. That is for God to determine, not for us. Besides, even is something is unclean that does not mean it is outside of God’s ability to cleanse. Remember, we are not called to be judges but witnesses of God’s amazing Grace through Jesus Christ our Lord.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.” – John Newton

PRAYER
Lord, help me to see people through your eyes rather than through my own. Amen.

God’s People, part 246: Dorcas

Read Acts 9:36-43

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”  (Romans 12:1, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Dorcas_TabithaPart 246: Dorcas. According to Luke, Tabitha (or Dorcas as she was known in Greek) was a Christian believer and someone that was kind, compassionate, and always serving others, especially the poor. She was a woman who lived by the very example of her Lord Jesus Christ and was, clearly, filled with the Holy Spirit. What a powerful witness she must have been to our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, it must come as a shock to learn that this sweet, kind, loving, compassionate and thoughtful woman found herself succumbing to a serious illness. How could a such a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus Christ die? How could God allow that to happen? Such questions lead us into a realm of theology known as theodicy: why does God allow sin, evil, pain, and suffering to happen to good people. Why do those things exist at all?

Before we progress anymore into Luke’s account, I want us to pause here. First, there is no answer that will satisfy why evil, sin, pain, and suffering exist. The search for solving the dilemma of theodicy has led people in different directions. Some form some pretty horrifying theologies to explain why God either causes or “allows bad things to happen.” Such theology has done much physical, spiritual, psychological and emotional damage to people. While some have found a safe haven in such theology as it seems to give their suffering a purpose, others have been further lost in their suffering as a result of a theology that locks them within it.

What’s more, that theology has lead people to develop and opposite and equally damning theology. “If I am forced to believe in a God who causes or allows evil to happen,” such a people say, “then I would rather just not believe in God. Thank you very much! Have a nice day.” It’s what leads people like outspoken anti-theist Dr. Richard Dawkins to proclaim, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully”[1]

What’s important to understand is that much of this comes from a misunderstanding. Most people think that, because God is good, then only good things will ever happen to those who follow God. Yet, as can be seen in Acts, Scripture never promises that. Yes, God is good and wants the very best for us; however, we live in a broken world where people use their free will to turn away from God and follow their own selfish desires. That is sin, which in turn can lead to evil, pain, and suffering for self and for others.

If God were to simply end all sin and evil, what would be left of this world? I think we have a story in the Old Testament that points to what would exactly happen were God to do that: NOAH and the flood. Dawkins, and those like him, fail to realize that the story of Noah was written to provide an explanation as to why God is so patient with the evil and sin that we perpetuate out in the world.

Again, that may not exhaustively satisfy one’s thirst to discover an answer to Theodicy; however, it is also important to not miss the forest for the trees when it comes to stuff that is beyond our understanding. The presence of evil, sin, suffering and pain do not cancel out the possibility of God’s existence any more than they prove any sort of divine reason or purpose for them existing.

Back to Dorcas. Yes, she was a faithful servant who got ill and died. Like countless faithful people before and after her, she fell ill from a virus and died. Had people not been greedy to the point of their being impoverished people, might she had avoided getting ill? We’ll never know as we don’t know how she got ill. Beyond that, even if she hadn’t gotten ill and died then, she would have died eventually. That is a fact of life.

The truth is, unlike Dorcas, most people don’t get resurrected back to life immediately after dying. As with any miracle, her resurrection brought honor and glory to God and caused many people to believe in Dorcas’ Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This miracle, as with all miracles, was performed to glorify and bring others to Christ.

Let us remember what miracles are for and let us also learn to not only look to aggrandized signs as miracles. Miracles happen every day and they come in all shapes and sizes. Anything that brings people into a relationship with Jesus Christ is a miracle.

Dorcas, herself, was a miracle because her loving, compassionate, kind spirit brought people to Christ in life, just as much as in death. Nurses and other frontline workers are miracles as they selflessly risk their lives to save the lives of others and you better believe people are coming to know the glory of God as a result of it. So, instead of waiting around for miracles and signs, and instead of us wondering why God doesn’t do anything to eliminate sin and evil, let us be the miracles that God created us to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
How quickly we forget God’s great deliverances in our lives. How easily we take for granted the miracles he performed in our past.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to see the miracles in my life that have brought glory to you, and help me to be a miracle in the lives of others so that they may see your glory as well. Amen.

[1] Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008), 51.

God’s People, part 245: Aeneas

Read Acts 9:32-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“’Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!’ And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before!’” (Mark 2:11-12, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

WomanOnBeach-MiraclesPart 245: Aeneas. Here again we come across a person who was named, but not much else is known about him. In the Bible there are three basic categories for people. First, there are the main characters where chapters, books, or multiple books are dedicated to describing who they were, what they taught or did, and why they are noteworthy. The second category are those who are merely mentioned by name, but not much else is said about them. The third category are those who remain nameless. There are plenty of those people, for instance, “the man born blind”, “the Samaritan woman at the well”, etc.).

With Aeneas, we have the second category.He is named; however, all that we really know about him is that hey had been a paralytic for eight years prior to being brought to Peter. With that said, that tidbit of information helps us enough to figure out what was going on in the passage. Once, we have a deeper understanding of the passage we can the see how it fits into the bigger picture.

So, let us look at the passage itself. Peter had been traveling place to place and decided, along the way, to visit the believers in Lydda. Today, that city is known by it’s Hebrew name, Lod; however, Lydda was the Greco-Roman name for it. It is located a little over 9 miles southeast of Tel Aviv. It was there, in Lydda, that Peter ran into a paralytic man who had been bedridden for eight years.

Peter told the man, upon meeting him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up and roll up your sleeping mat.” Following those words, Aeneas was instantly healed! What an amazing miracle for him and others to witness! One can imagine the kind of amazement that must have been filling those witnessing that miracle. In fact, Luke tells us that the entire city, upon seeing Aeneas walking around, turned to the Lord.

From this account we see a couple of things happening. First, we’ve seen this miracle before. This miracle parallels Jesus’ healing of the paralytic man. Instead of forgiving this man’s sins, however, Peter simply points the man to Jesus who, clearly, forgives his sins. “Jesus Christ heals you,” Peter proclaimed.

The second thing to note is this, we see the beginning of the fulfillment that the disciples would not only do what Jesus had done in the past, but they would surpass him. In this account, Peter not only did what Christ did in healing the paralytic man; however, he pointed people to Jesus and watched them believe en masse! Wow!

Finally, we see exactly the model for discipleship. We are called to follow Jesus, to learn from him, to imitate him and to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us! When we do, when we genuinely put our faith in Christ to work through us, it is amazing the sorts of miracles that come about. With that said, let’s pause here. What’s the point of a miracle? That question is answered in this passage as well. Miracles lead people to recognize and turn to the Lord. They are not magic tricks, they’re not brought about by our own power or will; rather, they signal to those who witness them that God is near and real!

This should challenge us. We should not set out looking to be miracles workers, otherwise, we will fall into the trap of Simon magus. Rather, we should set out looking to be faithful in our service to Christ. Once we seek out faithfulness, we will find ourselves stepping up and out in ways we never knew possible. That alone, my friends, is miraculous! Just imagine what God can do in and through your faithfulness! Let us be challenged to be like Peter who was faithful to Christ and never saw someone as being too insignificant for his time and presence.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.” – Augustine of Hippo

PRAYER
Lord, work through me in a way that witnesses to others your glory and your coming Kingdom. Amen.

God’s People, part 244: Discrepancies

Read Acts 9:19-31

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus.”  (Galatians 1:17, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

applesOrangesPart 244: Discrepancies. One of the things that atheists and anti-theists (there is a difference between the two) like to point out is that the Bible is “full of contradictions”. For instance, in the Synoptic Gospels, the writers tell us that Jesus’ was in and around Galilee for the majority of his ministry. It wasn’t until the end of his ministry that he went to Jerusalem and, as a result of going there and cleansing of the Temple, he was betrayed, arrested, and crucified; however, the Gospel of John has Jesus in Jerusalem at the beginning of his ministry. What’s more, According to John he “cleansed the Temple” at the very beginning of his ministry and went back and forth to Jerusalem frequently.

The question for many is how can those two things be simultaneously true? If they are not simultaneously true, then doesn’t that mean that one must be true while the other account is false? Furthermore, if that is the case, doesn’t that mean the Bible is unreliable at best? I am sure one can easily see how these questions cascade down a slippery slope from there.

Another great example of a supposed “contradiction” is in Acts regarding Saul of Tarsus. In our suggested reading today, Luke recounts what happened to Saul (aka Paul the Apostle) following his transformative experience with Christ on the road to Damascus. According to Luke, Paul was healed of his blindness, was baptized and began preaching and teaching about Jesus. This, of course, rubbed the city officials the wrong way and Paul narrowly escaped from Damascus by being lowered down the city walls in a basket.

From there, according to Luke, Paul went to see the Jerusalem to meet the believers there, many of whom would not meet with him for obvious reasons. Luke tells us that Barnabas then brought him to meet the Apostles as a way of proving Paul’s conversion to be real. In other words, he got their blessing to preach in and around Jerusalem. Their seal of approval obviously had weight with the other believers.

There’s just a slight problem, so it seems, with Luke’s account. What is that problem, you might be asking? The problem is that Paul seems to completely contradict this account in his own letter to the Galatians. In that letter he wrote:

“But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus. Then three years later I went to Jerusalem to get to know Peter, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother. I declare before God that what I am writing to you is not a lie.”  (Galatians 1:15-20, NLT)

So, which was it? Did Paul go straight from Damascus to meet the Apostles, or did he go first to Arabia for three years before visiting with the Apostles? Obviously, we should put more weight into Paul’s account of it, since he recounting his own story; however, does that mean we should completely write off Luke as an unreliable witness? Does Luke’s account completely contradict Paul’s?

The answer to this may be surprising to fact-loving Westerners, but the answer is no. While there may be discrepancies between Luke’s and Paul’s accounts, they do not contradict each other. These essential facts remain true in both accounts, Saul became a Jesus follower and preacher. Paul did make his way to Jerusalem and met hesitant believers due to his former penchant for persecuting the church. Paul did, in fact, end up meeting with Peter, John and James and they did seemingly recognize his authority as a Christian preacher and apostle to the Gentiles.

The discrepancies are more to do with timing than they are to do with the essential facts. What’s more, Luke did not say Paul went “immediately” to see the apostles. He simply transitioned from the escape from Damascus to Paul’s visit to Jerusalem. It could be that Luke was aware of Arabia, but chose to leave that out due to relevance in what he was writing. Why waste any space recounting three years of reflection and training time in Arabia, when one can cut to the chase?

So, one can easily see that the discrepancies are really not as big as some might like. In this account of Paul, actually, they are rather insignificant. This should challenge us. Will we miss forest for the trees when it comes to reading the Bible? Will we get hung up on the small, insignificant details, only to miss the larger picture? Or will we approach Scripture with an open mind and heart? The former will cause us to abandon the Bible, while the latter is the way we ought to go for it will lead us closer to Biblical truth!  The path of wisdom leads us to not miss the forest for the trees.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
There are more perspectives to an account than just one.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be open to truth amid discrepancies, for while facts are absolutely dependent upon truth, truth is not merely dependent on facts. Amen.