A Leader’s Sincere Apology

…I’m sorry, brothers… (Acts 23:5). 

It started off innocently enough. Paul was addressing the Jewish high counsel and simply said, “Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!” 

That doesn’t seem too controversial nor insensitive, but the next move does—Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. What?! That seems like a bit of an over-reaction on the part of the high priest, or maybe a bit of show of force to let Paul know who was really in charge here. 

If you were Paul and got slapped in the face for a pretty simple and true statement, how would you respond? Paul responded like I think I may have, with a little verbal “slap” of his own: “God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?” 

Yeah, take that, you big meanie! 

Those standing closest to Paul must have gasped in horror as they said, “Do you realize who you’re talking to?” 

Paul is an old man by this time. He’s been through shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonments, without food, traveled more miles than he can count, preached more sermons than he can remember. His body was giving out on him, and his eyesight was especially weak. Clearly, Paul didn’t realize to whom we was addressing his remarks. 

But Paul immediately owned up to his mistake. “I’m sorry, brothers. I didn’t realize he was the high priest, for the Scriptures say, ‘You must not speak evil of any of your rulers.’” 

A mark of a godly leader is one who is quick to apologize.

Paul could have made excuses. He could have justified what he said by explaining, “He deserved it because of how he spoke to me!” or “He started it!” 

But Paul offered no excuses or justifications, just a quick, simple, sincere apology. 

Oh, that all Christian leaders were as sensitive as Paul and as quick to apologize!

This is part 26 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 16

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 16

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 16.]     

     “All things are lawful… but all things are not expedient,” says Paul, i.e., all things are lawful to me as a natural man, but not expedient to me as a spiritual man because I am under a superior command. … 

     How many of us have begun to realize our privilege of not doing things? The liberty to waive our rights is the great privilege of Christian sanctity. One of the meanest things is to say, “I don’t do certain things because it will damage me.” Paul’s argument is—“I don’t do certain things because it will damage someone else” (see 1 Corinthians 8:9-13). … 

     In the days before you knew God you did any number of things which God overlooked, but try and do them now, and if you persist you will realize what is written in Psalm 106:15—“And He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” 

From Notes On Jeremiah

A Christian should be able to say a guilt-free, excuse-free “No” to anything that would be inexpedient for themselves OR for others around them. 

5 Quotes From “Light And Truth—The Old Testament”

I like to think of Horatius Bonar as a tour guide as I read through the Bible, pointing out themes and insights I might have otherwise missed. Check out my full review of Light and Truth—Old Testament by clicking here. 

The elders [1 Chronicles 21:16]. They acknowledge the stroke and the sin: ‘It is the Lord.’ They clothe themselves in sackcloth, they fall upon their faces. So far as we know, they had not shared David’s sin, yet they at once place themselves by his side in confession and humiliation. David had sinned (v. 8), Israel had sinned (2 Samuel 24:1). They identify themselves with both. It is thus that we should take up a ruler’s sin, or a brother’s sin, or a nation’s sin; not blazoning it abroad in private gossip, or in the newspapers, but taking it on ourselves, and carrying it to God.” 

“We do great injustice to the Old Testament saints and to their privileges, and no less so to the God who made them what they were, when we conceive of them as possessing an imperfect justification, or an imperfect and uncertain knowledge of their justification. Paul’s declaration was explicit on this point: ‘I know Whom I have believed’; and yet it was not a jot more explicit than that of Job: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives.’ When Paul said, ‘It is God that justifies, who is he that condemns?’ he was only speaking what Job had spoken in ages before: ‘I know that I shall be justified. Who is he that will plead with me?’” [Job 13:18-19]

“Everything in God’s character, has by the Cross of Christ been turned into a reason for trusting Him. The more man knows of Him the more he trusts. Trust is the natural and inseparable response of the soul to the divine revelation of the character of God. It is not what man sees in himself, of his good deeds or good feelings, of his graces, or his repentance, or his regeneration, or his faith; but what he sees in God, that calls out confidence.” 

“It is with no distant, unheeding God that we have to do; but with that God who fixes the bounds of our habitation, who counts our hairs, who feeds the ravens, notes a sparrow’s death, clothes the lilies of the field. He is nearer to us than the nearest earthly object or being; more closely in contact with us than we are with one another.” 

“We disjoined God from creation, and so see nothing in it of divine life and power. … The separation of God from His works is one of the awful features of human unbelief. How much more of Him should we know, were we to interpret His works aright. … These skies of His are not bent over us in beauty without a meaning. These seas of His do not roll for nothing. These flowers of His are not fragrant and fair for nothing. They do not say to us, ‘God is your enemy, He hates you’; but ‘God is your friend, He pities you, yearns over you, wishes to make you happy.’ How full a gospel does creation to preach to us, according to its kind and measure!”

A.L.I.V.E.—The “E” Is For Engagement Of Christ’s Followers

Let’s get some insight into the Greco-Roman and Jewish mindsets of the first century AD. Specifically, the mindset of men. 

There is a well-known letter written June 17, 1 BC, from a man named Hilarion, who was gone off to Alexandria, to his wife Alis, whom he has left at home. He writes to her: “If—good luck to you—you bear a child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, throw it out.” This letter captures the male-dominated mindset in the Roman world concerning women and children. In a word: inferior or even disposable. 

This mindset wasn’t limited to the world the Jews called “pagan,” but it was prevalent in Judaism too. Every day Jewish men began their morning prayer time with, “God, I thank You that You did not make me a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.” 

With this background, it makes it startling that a Jewish man (who prayed that prayer thousands of times) writing to people in Rome (who undoubtedly had the same mindset as Hilarion), begins his list of thank you notes with gratitude to two women! Paul goes on to list no less than 8 women, even giving preferential treatment to a wife (Priscilla) over her husband (Aquila) when he mentions her name first! (see Romans 16:1-4, 6, 12).

William Barclay wrote, “Anyone who asks the question: ‘What has Christianity done for the world?’ has delivered himself into a Christian debater’s hands. There is nothing in history so unanswerably demonstrable as the transforming power of Christianity and of Christ on the individual life and on the life of society.”

Indeed Christians changed the lives of at least four groups:

  1. Women (especially in the role of marriage)—divorce was so common that it was neither unusual nor particularly blameworthy for a woman to have a new husband every year. Yet Christians taught men to esteem their wives and for marriage to be honored by everyone (Ephesians 5:28; Hebrews 13:4). 
  2. Children—who weren’t even considered a part of the family until they had grown up and proven their worth to the father. Yet Christians taught fathers to nurture their children (Ephesians 6:4).
  3. Senior citizens—the pragmatic Romans had little to do with those they considered less valuable. But the first blind asylum was founded by Thalasius, a Christian monk; the first free medical dispensary was founded by Apollonius, a Christian merchant; the first hospital of which there is any record was founded by Fabiola, a Christian lady.
  4. The weak and sick—when a plague hit Rome, all the young, healthy people left the sick and elderly behind. They ran away, but the Christians stayed to help. The Christians taught that everyone (regardless of age, sex, or wealth) was valuable (1 Timothy 5:1-2). 

That was just the start of Christianity. Men like William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln were Christians who opposed slavery; Clara Barton was nicknamed “the angel of the battlefield” and founded the Red Cross; Paul Brand was a doctor who ran to leprosy patients when everyone else shunned them; Mother Teresa loved those poor, dying souls whom others ignored. 

So what’s your conclusion? Throughout history Christians have been martyred for their faith, but not only are they willing to die for their belief that Jesus is alive, but they continue to do good to those who persecute them. Would people do this to perpetrate a hoax? Or does this sound more like the real deal?

Please check out the other evidence I have presented for the resurrection of Jesus:

A.L.I.V.E.—The “L” Is For Lives Changed

A man named Paul was visiting Athens. While he was in the marketplace, he began to talk with people about Jesus Christ, specifically how Jesus had been crucified and then raised back to life.

His comments caught the attention of two groups of philosophers: the Epicureans who thought all religions were made up and were simply a crutch for the weak-minded and superstitious, and the Stoics who said that a divine power was in everything but wasn’t a Person that could be personally known. These groups said to Paul, “You are presenting some new teachings and strange ideas that we have never heard before! Would you come and address our next meeting?”

In 2004, renowned atheist Anthony Flew announced something that was a “strange idea” to the ears of his followers. Flew presented one of his first papers on atheism at the Socratic Club at Magdalen College, where the Christian literary giant C.S. Lewis served as the chairman. Over the years Flew had sharpened his rhetoric to become one of the best known and most outspoken atheists on the worldwide stage.

Yet in 2004, an 81-year-old Anthony Flew remarked, “I simply had to go where the evidence led,” as Flew announced to the world: there IS a God.

“My discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith,” wrote Flew in his book There Is A God, which is why last week I shared the first way we can know Jesus is alive in “A” is for apologetics. Today I submit to you the second way one can know that Jesus is A.L.I.V.E.: Lives changed.

Paul, who was asked to speak to the philosophers in Athens about his “strange ideas,” had been given the name Saul by his parents. When it came to religion, Saul took a backseat to no one! He was a purebred Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin (which gave Israel its very first king, who was also named Saul). Saul called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews” because he kept the Law of Moses and the strict rules of the Pharisees absolutely faultlessly.

When he heard about Jesus (who claimed to be God), and about the followers of Jesus who claimed He had been resurrected from the dead, Saul persecuted these Christians so vehemently that he not only had many of them thrown into prison, but he had many of them killed as well.

That all came to a complete stop when Saul met Jesus for himself! You can read how Saul retold this story in Acts 22:1-16. After this encounter, Saul’s life was 180-degrees different! He even changed his name to Paul to signify his new outlook. Now he was just as adamant to tell people about Jesus as he was previously to harass and persecute Christians.

Paul’s conversion came at a steep price. The Jews with whom he used to associate now turned violently against him. Numerous times they attempted to kill him. In addition, Paul’s newfound faith in Jesus caused him to be persecuted by the Romans as well. The Roman Emperors wanted people to say, “Caesar is lord” but Paul and the other Christians were declaring, “Jesus is Lord.” Paul ended up being executed under Emperor Nero.

Paul had numerous opportunities to recant, but he never came close to doing so. His life was one that was under constant duress and distress and danger preciously because he refused to back down from his claim that Jesus was alive!

Paul isn’t alone. Millions of people around the globe have come to know Jesus as their personal Savior. Many, like Paul, have been harassed for their faith and some even violently persecuted and martyred, and yet they so firmly believed that Jesus is alive that they were willing to go to their early grave with “Jesus is my Lord” still on their lips!

What about you? Have you met Jesus for yourself?

Check out this video where my friend Scott tells his personal story of how an encounter with Jesus has completely changed the trajectory of his life.

Join me next Sunday as we continue with our 5-part series I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of… where we will be looking at the letter “I.” You can join me either in person or on Facebook Live. If you missed the previous lesson, check out “A” is for apologetics by clicking here.

Thursdays With Oswald—Don’t Argue!

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Don’t Argue!

     The reason Paul tells Timothy not to argue [1 Timothy 4:7], and the reason he tells me not to argue, and the reason he tells you not to argue, is that we argue from our own point of view. We argue not for the truth’s sake, we argue to prove we are right. God grant that we may learn to take heed lest we get switched off on arguing. … 

     “Oh, the unmitigated curse of controversy! Oh, the detestable passions that corrections and contradictions kindle up to fury in the proud heart of man! Eschew controversy, my brethren, as you would eschew the entrance to hell itself. Let them have it their way; let them talk; let them write; let them correct to you; let them traduce you; let them judge and condemn you; let them slay you. Rather let the truth of God suffer itself, than that love suffer. You have not enough of the divine nature in you to be a controversialist.” —Dr. Alexander Whyte … 

     For example… “sanctification” is not a man’s term; it is God’s: “the baptism with the Holy Ghost” is not man’s conception, it is God’s, and when a soul begins to argue on these matters, remember, worker for God, it is the Holy Spirit they are arguing with, the Word of God they are haggling about. God grant we may not hinder those who are battling their way slowly into the light. …  

     “Heal me of this lust of mine of always vindicating myself.” —Augustine … 

     If we are living rightly with God, living holy lives in secret and in public, God puts a wall of fire round about us.

From Workmen Of God

How true it is that we argue not because we’re standing up for the truth, but because we want to prove that we are right! This is a tactic of the devil which keeps us focused on less important matters.

Our only line of defense needs to be something Oswald Chambers said earlier: “the Word of God, the Word of God, the Word of God, first second and last.” If we stick to the Word, people who want to argue aren’t arguing with us, but with God. That is an argument in which we never have to participate!

How Should Christians Handle Objections?

It’s no secret that when a Christian says, “This is what I believe,” or “This is what the Bible says,” or even something as simple as, “I believe in God,” that there will be people who disagree. Sometimes their disagreement may even become an outright attack.

How are Christians to respond?

Here are five ways I’ve found to be effective and Christ-honoring—

1. Don’t argue. Arguments tend to create an “I don’t want to lose” feeling in the other person, which makes them unable to truly hear what you’re saying. Solomon wrote, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself” (Proverbs 26:4).

2. Ask questions. Jesus was a master at this. Look through the Gospels and you will see Jesus asking questions to clarify others’ positions. Questions stimulate further conversation, while statements tend to shut down the conversation. Questions develop a relationship, while definitive statements make you seem superior to the other person.

3. Don’t argue. Yes, this is good enough to repeat! Paul’s advice to Timothy was, “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales” (1 Timothy 4:7).

4. Pray for mercy. Remember that if you are really speaking truths from the Bible, the person arguing against those truths is arguing with God, not with you.

5. Pray for light. Paul said that the “god of this age” has blinded people (see 2 Corinthians 4:2-4), so we should pray that the Holy Spirit would grant them light to see the truth.

“Oh, the unmitigated curse of controversy! Oh, the detestable passions that corrections and contradictions kindle up to fury in the proud heart of man! Eschew controversy, my brethren, as you would eschew the entrance to hell itself. Let them have it their way; let them talk; let them write; let them correct to you; let them traduce you; let them judge and condemn you; let them slay you. Rather let the truth of God suffer itself, than that love suffer. You have not enough of the divine nature in you to be a controversialist.” —Dr. Alexander Whyte

Let’s be passionate for people, not passionate to win an argument!

I go into more detail in this video…

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