by Shaun Caudill
It only takes one person who is obedient and has faith in Christ to change things. In Acts 27, things were bleak. Paul was traveling as a prisoner on a ship headed to Italy. The centurion, the owner of the ship and the captain had set sail against Paul’s dire warnings that everything and everyone might be lost in the storms at sea. The storm was horrendous and it seemed that all might be lost, but then Paul spoke. Starting in verse 21, Paul states that he had heard from an angel of the Lord that no one would perish, but the ship would be lost. Paul was not commanded by God to share this message with the whole ship, but he did so in order to do two things: 1) proclaim his God as the one true God and 2) to give comfort to those on the ship. When the time was coming closer for the ship to crash, Paul encouraged everyone to eat because they would need the strength, and that is exactly what the group did. They ate and were encouraged. There are times when we will be in bleak circumstances and we will encounter people who have no hope. As Christians, what are we to do? We should not give people false hope that sounds good in the beginning, but later reveals itself to be empty. We should not lie, telling others God has told us something, if in fact He has not. We should, however, be quick to give people the truth of the Bible and speak that which gives hope. Because Paul spoke up in that dark moment, the entire crew’s attitude changed, and they began to live in hope. It only takes one person. Will you choose to be that person?
by Shaun Caudill
There are times when we are so fearful of dying that we forget to live! Life is such a beautiful gift, but we must remember that a long life is not the goal in and of itself–but a life well-lived by faith to the glory of God. The Bible also tells us that there are some things worth dying for in order to find life. Jesus’ own words in Luke confirm this, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Paul was prepared to die, but that doesn’t mean he was recklessly seeking after danger. There were times when his mission meant he wisely escaped threats to his life, just like it is wise for us to avoid unnecessary danger during this pandemic. After having received salvation on the road to Damascus by placing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul had been given a ministry to proclaim this same message to others. For years, he had been faithful in this endeavor and then in Acts 21, as Paul and those accompanying him arrived in Caesarea, a prophet came to reveal to him that if he went to Jerusalem, he would be bound and turned over to the Gentiles. It would seem from this warning that suffering and possibly death was implied. You would expect for Paul to receive the warning with gratitude and make plans to travel away from the danger, but that is not what Paul did. God had already revealed to Paul (Acts 20) that in Jerusalem he would experience affliction and possibly worse, yet Paul stated, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Paul was confident in what the Lord had revealed to him and wanted nothing more than to please God.
The Bible makes this clear when Paul states, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21) Are you living a life that is pleasing to the Lord in all areas? Do you need to stop today and repent of attitudes, actions, or thoughts that are in rebellion to God? Are there things God has called you to be obedient about but you have resisted out of fear? Is there someone that God has placed on your heart to share the Gospel with, but you have been too scared? The Bible encourages us to seek after God and be about living a life that is pleasing to Him. Remember, it’s never too late to start living!
by Shaun Caudill
As important as it is to know what you believe, it is just as important to know why you believe it. Asking others the question, “Why do you believe what you believe?” is part of the ministry that God has given us to help others recognize their need for Christ.
In Acts 17, we see Paul reasoning with his audience. Twice in this chapter, the Bible uses the word “reason.” When we reason with others, we discuss two opposing views and respectfully show how one is a better foundation than the other to build one’s life upon. Acts 17:17 says “So he reasoned…with [them].” It is not a verbal argument to prove one person is better or superior than another but a discussion of which idea is more truthful. This is what Paul does as he talks with others in this chapter. In fact, when Paul is in Athens, he is so moved in his spirit by the idol worship that he begins to preach. He finds ways to reason with others about why Christ is the true God. The Bible shows us that Paul used what was familiar to his audience, as well as Scripture, to help people see if their worldview lined up with God’s truth. Notice that some scoff and walk away, but others think about what Paul states. They admit that it makes sense and want to know more. When you talk with others, do you reason with them, or do you argue with them? Can you let someone make up their own mind, or are you frustrated when people don’t believe what you want them to?
In the same way that Jesus used parables to get people to think, Paul reasoned with others to make them come face to face with their own beliefs so as to create a crisis of decision. I’ve come to realize that I have not walked in other people’s shoes and sometimes don’t understand the reason a person holds a particular belief. It could be because of a personal hurt or painful situation they have experienced. If I argue and make them feel stupid, I may being doing greater damage–even if I am right. If I share God’s truth and then ask questions, causing them to think about what they believe and why, they will have to wrestle between themselves and the Holy Spirit to come to the truth. Would you ask God to help you become a minister of helping people ask “Why?”
by Shaun Caudill
Peter was in an impossible situation. In Acts 12, the Bible tells us that Herod had killed James, and there were particular Jews who had loved that decision. Because of their accolades, Herod decided to wreak more havoc on the Christians. So, he arrested Peter and threw him in prison. Peter now found himself surrounded by four squads of soldiers and chained, with two chains, in between two soldiers. In the near future, Herod planned to present Peter to the masses and let them decide what they wanted to do with him (spoiler: the crowds would have demanded his death). What could Peter do? What could the church do? They did not have the strength to stand against such overwhelming odds. In verse five, we have our answer. The church began to pray. They began praying for Peter, but not just praying…praying earnestly.
The word earnest means to have a passionate desire in pursuit of an object. The church was passionate in seeing God work on Peter’s behalf because they knew that God was their only hope. The Bible does not say exactly what they prayed for on Peter’s behalf. They might have been praying he be freed from prison, or they could have been praying that he preach the Gospel boldly. Maybe they were praying for strength for him to be strong and not deny Jesus as he was surely going to be executed, but whatever they were praying for, they were praying earnestly to God. And what happened next? Peter was supernaturally freed from prison! It was such a miraculous event that even when he showed up to the house where they were still praying for him, they didn’t even believe it was him
There are times when we pray that we seemingly don’t see as dramatic results as what happened to Peter with our prayers, but the Bible reveals the truth to us. Prayers may not always have as dramatic results as we would like, but they are always powerful and effective if we come to God with earnest prayer. James 5:16b says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Prayer is not an obligation we are required to do. It is a conversation of intimacy that we are privileged to engage with our God who has redeemed us. We must remember that God will not listen to our prayers if we pray yet are still nurturing sin in our heart (Psalms 66:18). Prayer must be repentant (Psalms 139:23-24) but also earnest. What would happen if our prayers individually and together with Christian brothers and sisters were earnest about the current worldwide crisis? What if we prayed for God to start working to reconcile Democrats and Republicans to sincerely work together for what is best for our country? What if we had earnest prayer for countries that were slaughtering and persecuting our brothers and sisters in Christ? Would it make a difference? You might say, “Shaun, all that sounds good, but somethings are just the way they are. It won’t change. It’s not possible.” Matthew 19:26 says, “…’With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” Take a moment to meditate on this truth and think about Peter showing up at the front door of the Christians who were praying earnestly for him. Do you believe that your prayers truly have impact? That they are powerful and actually affect the world around us as God’s Word states? What does your prayer life reveal about praying earnestly, and what will you do about it?
by Shaun Caudill
I was having a discussion with someone when they bluntly told me that Christians needed to stop trying to convert people of other religions to Christianity, especially the Jews. They emphatically implied that if people have sincere religious beliefs then they were on their way to heaven. How does the Bible answer this statement?
In Acts chapter 10, the Bible introduces us to Cornelius. Cornelius is a God-fearer, which means he is a follower of the Jewish faith even though he is not a Jew by birth. He has made a choice to leave whatever Gentile beliefs he has and to follow God through the Jewish faith. And how does he practice his faith? He faithfully prays, gives alms, and fears God. Not only that, but the Bible even states that God communicates a vision of an angel giving him a message. By most standards, we would state that Cornelius was Christian…and we would be wrong. Even though Cornelius was seeking after God, he did not have the complete revelation. The vision of the angel told him that he needed to hear a message from the apostle Peter. Why? We must remember that giving of our money to causes, praying faithfully, or having a fear of God is not what saves us from our sins. In addition, I can have a vision from God, but even that doesn’t give me salvation. In fact, there are several stories from current missionaries that reveal that people are having visions of Jesus Christ, but in all those testimonies the people having the vision are led to someone who shares the Gospel message with them in order to receive Christ for salvation. This is exactly what happens here in Acts 10. When Cornelius and his household hear Peter state, ‘To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him (Jesus) receives forgiveness of sins through his name’ (Acts 10:43), the Holy Spirit comes, and then they are baptized in the name of Jesus. It is faith in Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection that saves us. There are times when we will encounter others who tell us they pray, give generously, and even go to church, but we don’t need to make assumptions. Let’s find ways to talk with others about Christ because regardless how we think or feel about a person’s religious conviction, the Bible reminds us in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
by Shaun Caudill
God’s display of power during Pentecost got the Jews’ attention. Many of the Jews had traveled from distant lands to come and celebrate this feast when something shocking took place. A bunch of uneducated men started to speak in every language for every Jew represented there. How was this possible? Though some tried to explain it away as just a drunken episode they were having, Peter proclaimed to them that this was the power of God! He began preaching to them about who Jesus was and how the Jewish people as a whole had crucified and killed Him. Peter then stated that God had raised Jesus from the dead, confirming that Jesus was the Lord and Messiah the Scriptures had foretold. Many were convicted of their sins and became followers of the risen Jesus right then and there. In fact, the Bible tells us that 3,000 Jews became Christians that day!
Was the power of salvation only working through the apostles though? Absolutely not! It was amazing that Peter and the other apostles could speak and do such powerful works, however, we know from the Scriptures that they were just common men with no special education or training beforehand. During their time with Jesus, they had learned over and over that it was through faith in Him that these powerful works were done. Even at times when they seemed to fail, Jesus would rebuke or encourage them that it was all about faith in who He was and what He had taught them.
In Acts 1, Jesus told the apostles they would receive power from the Holy Spirit. This power became evident as they all spoke to the crowd as Peter preached. So why would it be wrong for us to think that Christians only came to faith through the power displayed through the apostles? The end of Acts 2 gives us some insight. It states that the new Christians “. . . devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” New Christians were living out their new faith and were showing great love and compassion to one another by providing for needs and taking care of one another. Do you know what happened as these “common Christians” lived out their faith? The Bible tells us that “the Lord added daily to the number of those being saved.” Outsiders watched how Christians loved and took care of one another as they were introduced to the gospel and were convicted by the Holy Spirit. That is the truth we each need to grasp a hold of. It is God who saves, not any person. It is not the talented or special that God uses but those who join with God in His mission and live out their faith in Christ to this lost world. It is not our power that changes lives, but His power living through us. Are you trusting Christ and living out your faith in Him to see others come to Christ? He wants to use even you!
by Shaun Caudill
Read the instructions first. I have been told that my whole life, but I don’t always practice it. I just want to get the project finished. I look at the pictures or read a couple of the main paragraphs and I feel like it is going to be a simple breeze to accomplish. It can be a very unpleasant experience when you think you know what you are doing only later to find that the project has become a total mess. If only I would have read the instructions first and followed them!
This is exactly what happened on the first Easter. Jesus had risen from the tomb, the women had seen and talked to Jesus, the disciples saw the empty tomb, however none of that seemed to sink in with the rest of Jesus’ followers. What should have been an exuberant celebration was instead marked with dismay and sadness. On the road to Emmaus, two men were walking and lamenting that their hope in Jesus had failed. On their way, Jesus Himself appears, but they do not recognize Him. When Jesus asked them what they were discussing, they launched into their discussion of despair with Him. After Jesus listened to them, He rebuked them. In Luke 24 it states, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Notice Jesus interpreted ALL the Scriptures concerning Himself. Not just the victorious passages, but also the ones where He would have to suffer. There are times that you and I just like to take the passages that make us feel hopeful. Notice I said feel. Every Scripture in the Bible is meant to increase our faith and draw us closer to Him in love and dependence, but we have a tendency to just look at a few and then proclaim that we truly understand God. This is a recipe for a total mess! It is the beginning of a complete letdown of your faith when things are not going the way you believe they are supposed to go. What would happen if you read the Bible (all the Bible) and began to let God show you His entire plan for the world and for you? What if you began to pray to God and ask for understanding over difficult passages instead of just skipping them altogether? What I am suggesting is more time consuming and difficult and may not always give the immediate gratification that you are looking for, but in the end you are on solid ground and full of more hope, joy, and peace because God has told you who He is and not vice-versa.
At the end of this story, Jesus has explained everything and then sat down to eat with them. When He breaks the bread their eyes are opened and they recognize who Jesus is. At that moment, everything changes. “They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed…!”” Let’s make a choice and start today to read all the instructions.
by Shaun Caudill
“I wish I were not having to go through this moment in my life.” I think most of us have felt this way at some time in our life when things just seemed very overwhelming. We find ourselves living in a moment of our life that we hate and wish we could get out of. In Luke 22, when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was experiencing great emotional strife over what he knew was coming next and prayed the prayer, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me…” Jesus knew what was coming. Physical pain, people mocking and rejecting Him, almost all of His disciples abandoning Him, His mother watching Him suffer, and on top of all that, God the Father forsaking Him. He did not want to be in that moment, and He prayed if possible that that moment be replaced by another moment that was…easier.
We do not like difficult moments because, well…they are difficult. We hate pain and suffering and really feel that we could do so much more good for our life and for others if we could just control our circumstances and do what we want to do, when we want to do it. But that is not reality or truth. There is also no trust or reliance upon God in that scenario. We forget that we live in a fallen world where sin still has somewhat of a grasp. Sometimes we have a choice to get out of difficult moments, but there are other times that, no matter how hard we try, we are staring at this difficult moment face to face. In those moments, where it seems I do not have a choice in the matter, I need to change my mindset. Instead of thinking about how to get out of the moment, I should try to find where God is with me in that moment. That is why Jesus finished His prayer by saying, “nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” By accepting His moment, Jesus brought about the ultimate glory for the Father and Himself. He also secured eternal salvation for us and an everlasting intimate relationship with us. God is at work in the world and in our lives. The suffering that we are trying to avoid, God is using to bring about His hope in the world and our perfection, by causing us to draw close to Him and rely upon Him more. Jesus did not want His moment but trusted the Father that if it had to happen, then it would bring about the ultimate good. Will you choose to take your difficult moments to God and walk in faith with Him? Will you trust Him to work in them to bring about His glory and your good?
by Shaun Caudill
As a child, I loved getting as much attention drawn to me as possible (as an adult too sometimes!). My mother would encourage me to not be loud or exuberant, but I couldn’t help myself…well, I didn’t really want to. I wanted the attention! Now, as an adult, I sometimes embarrass myself because of this need. I now also have my own kids who want attention, too (sometimes embarrassing me because of the attention they draw to themselves…sorry Mom). I finally get it. My mother wasn’t just giving me her preferences about how she wanted me to live life. She was taking this truth from Scripture. Proverbs 27:2 states, “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” Anyone who draws attention to themselves for the sake of being recognized, validated, or thought of as worthy is putting themselves on a throne that is not meant for them.
However, when Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, people cry out “Hosanna!” believing that He is the king that will save them from the Romans, heralding Him as the coming Messiah… and Jesus receives it all unflinchingly. When the Pharisees tell Jesus that He should quiet His disciples down and make them quit this spectacle, Jesus tells them that even if His disciples were quiet, the rocks would burst into praise right behind their quieted voices (Luke 19:40)! Why does Jesus do what the Proverbs tell us not to do? Because JESUS IS GOD! If He is lifted up, He will draw all people to Himself (John 12:32). Jesus will draw attention to Himself because He is the greatest good, the fulfillment of our greatest need, and the ONLY one who deserves all the attention. I have this desire to be recognized. Christ has already recognized me as His (through my faith in Him), and He accepts me completely and whole-heartedly. What more do I really need? What would happen in this world if I drew more attention to Christ than to myself? What would happen if I cared more about people acknowledging Christ instead of acknowledging me? What would happen if I cared more about Christ being known than trying to make myself known? Am I sitting on a throne meant for Christ and need to step down? Am I lifting Him up? I don’t want the rocks to take my place! Hosanna! He is worthy!!
by Shaun Caudill
“Are we living in the end times?” That is a question that seems to be asked rather often in the time we are living but even more so when we are experiencing a crisis in our world. In Luke 17, the Pharisees were wanting to know from Jesus when the kingdom of God would appear. Jesus doesn’t answer the Pharisees’ question by answering the “when” of the end times but the “who” of the end times. The Pharisees were so preoccupied with seeking the signs of when the kingdom was coming that they couldn’t even see the answer they were looking for right in front of them! Not when, but Who! Jesus was standing right in front of them stating that if they would look to Him they would experience the kingdom they were so were desperately seeking. Living in the presence of God through faith in Jesus IS the kingdom!
Understanding and studying what the Bible says about the end times is an important topic but not for the reason many think. We do not study so that we can say which event or events will lead up to His second coming but so that we can draw closer to Him in faith. By studying Scripture, we know certain things are going to take place because God is in complete control and tells us beforehand! John 15:15 tells us that we are His friends and He desires that we live in confidence and faith with Him. Because I know that everything is under His control, I can be at peace. Guess what? Jesus told us that things can get uncomfortably crazy but that we don’t have to be scared or fearful because through Him everything is under control. Are we living in the end times? Let’s ask a better question…Do I have a relationship with Christ and trust Him? If I am in Christ then I can be at peace regardless of how difficult things get. He is with me and has promised that He will see me through as I seek Him. Are you living as if Christ is in control of these times we are living in?