Saturday, 28 February 2015
God Moves the World and Controls Events
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God told Abraham that He would let his descendants be enslaved so that He could later liberate them at a pre-planned time (Genesis 15:13-14).  How did He bring about this enslavement in Egypt (Genesis 45:16-18, 46:1-4)?

Genesis 15:13-14

13 Then the Lord said to Abram, "Know this for certain: Your offspring will be strangers in a land that does not belong to them; they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years. 14 However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterwards they will go out with many possessions.

Genesis 45:16-18

16 When the news reached Pharaoh's house, "Joseph's brothers have come," Pharaoh and his servants were pleased. 17 Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Tell your brothers, 'Do this: Load your animals and go on back to the land of Canaan. 18 Get your father and your households, and come back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you can eat from the richness of the land.'

Genesis 46:1-4

1 Israel set out with all that he had and came to Beer-sheba, and he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2 That night God spoke to Israel in a vision: "Jacob, Jacob!" He said. And Jacob replied, "Here I am." 3 God said, "I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. 4 I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you back. Joseph will put his hands on your eyes."

He arranges events, i.e. a famine, to bring Jacob and his family out of Canaan to Egypt, a land that was not their own.  However, God had also arranged that Egypt would be the only place that would have food to last throughout the famine.

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Posted on 02/28/2015 7:37 AM by Larry G
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Saturday, 28 February 2015
How to Fulfill the Law
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In your judgment, did the request for Paul to pay for the Nazirites undermine the agreement mentioned in 21:25?  Why or why not?

Acts 21:25

"We have already given written directions to the believers who are not Jews. They must not eat food that has been offered to statues of gods. They must not drink blood. They must not eat the meat of animals that have been choked to death. And they must not commit sexual sins."

I don't think that the request made of Paul undermined this agreement.  The religion Paul preached, did not destroy the law, but fulfilled it. He preached Christ, the end of the law for righteousness, and repentance and faith, in which we are to make great use of the law. (Matthew Henry)  

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Posted on 02/28/2015 5:56 PM by Larry G
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Friday, 27 February 2015
God Promises to Protect Israel
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God also promised to protect Jacob and his family (Genesis 28:13-15).  How did He keep that promise in this Generation (Genesis 45:5-7)?

Genesis 28:13-15

13 The Lord was standing there beside him, saying, "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land that you are now sleeping on. 14 Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

Genesis 45:5-7

And now don't be worried or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there will be five more years without plowing or harvesting. 7 God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.

Jacob's family would have starved to death in Canaan; they had no chance of surviving the famine.  God sent Joseph to Egypt to prepare a place where Jacob and his family could survive and ultimately grow to become the nation of Israel.

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Posted on 02/27/2015 7:32 AM by Larry G
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Friday, 27 February 2015
Paul's Arrest in Jerusalem -- Acts 21:17-23:11
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Just as Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, knowing He would die there (Luke 9:21-22, 44, 51), so Paul went resolutely to the Holy City, prepared for the same fate (Acts 21:13).  A new generation of Jews and Romans controlled the land since Jesus' death, but Paul knew that the passions which moved him to approve the stoning of Stephen still burned in his countrymen.  He had so much in common with his Jewish brethren that his heart ached to draw them across the gulf which now separated them (Romans 9:1-5, 10:1, 11:13-16).  As you read Acts 21:17-23:11, try to feel what Paul felt when he faced his people.  

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Posted on 02/27/2015 4:54 PM by Larry G
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Thursday, 26 February 2015
How God Shaped Joseph
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God had several purposes in shaping Joseph's life as He did.

First, He promised to bless the nations through Abraham's offspring (Genesis 12:3).  How did He use Joseph to give a foretaste of that blessing (Genesis 41:56-57)?

Genesis 12:3

I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Genesis 41:56-57

56 Because the famine had spread across the whole country, Joseph opened up [all the storehouses] and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 The whole world came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, for the famine was severe all over the earth.

What Joseph did, not only saved his family (Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob) but also all of the nations in the area, i.e. Canaan and Egypt.

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Posted on 02/26/2015 7:30 AM by Larry G
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Thursday, 26 February 2015
Trusting in the Lord
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What insight from 20:1-21:16 would you like to concentrate on for application this week?  How do you want to grow or obey in this area? 

The big issue for me and probably for a lot of people now is TRUST.  These are powerful times for everybody.  God has told us what is going to happen.  He has told us to remain focused.  The question is how do we trust God during these recall elections, during the economic upheavals going on, the violence we see everywhere.  As a practical matter, what does it mean to trust?   Psalms 46:10 comes to mind:  "Be still and know that I am God" or "Cease Striving and know that I am God."  As we obey, as I obey, I will grow.  But the issue remains….obey how, obey what?  The message, remain focused on the message and the task at hand.  

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Posted on 02/26/2015 4:51 PM by Larry G
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Wednesday, 25 February 2015
Knowing God's Will
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What does Acts 20:1-21:16 reveal about God, especially the Holy Spirit?

Acts 20:1-21:16

In this passage Paul is compelled by the Holy Spirit onward.  He is constant.  Paul says that in every place he went the Holy Spirit testified to him about what was going to happen.  God wants us to know His plan; He wants us to know His will.  That message remains the same---repentance toward God and trust in the Lord Jesus the Messiah.  This is the most important thing to God.  He wants us to know that.  Trusting Him is paramount in our relationship.  He leads us, guides us and gives us what we need, when we need it.  He's in charge and His plan and its timing is being worked out.  The details are His. 

 

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Posted on 02/25/2015 4:48 PM by Larry G
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Tuesday, 24 February 2015
God in Control
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Why do you think the Holy Spirit warned Paul repeatedly of his destiny in Jerusalem?  (For instance, did He want Paul not to go?  Why do you think so or not?)

He wanted Paul to know what was going to happen.  Paul was a man, a flesh and blood man.  Earlier in the passages, he mentions that he had been severely tested by what had happened to him.  All of these events and experiences had a toll on him.  God did not want Paul to be surprised.  It's like Jesus telling His disciples, "I have told you so before it happens."  I think the Holy Spirit wanted Paul to see that He controlled events.  He was making it easier for Paul to trust Him throughout the events that were to come.  He definitely wanted Paul to go; and He prepared him for the task ahead.

In your judgment was Paul right or wrong to go to Jerusalem?  Why?

Yes, I think he was right to go.   Apparently, God wanted him there as evidenced by the prophecy of Agabus; he confirmed Paul's decision and that the Holy Spirit wanted him to go.  All of God's leadings didn't reveal it would be an easy task; just that God wanted Paul to go.  

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Posted on 02/24/2015 4:43 PM by Larry G
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Monday, 23 February 2015
Paul's Attitude in the face of future danger
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The Holy Spirit repeatedly warned Paul both internally and through prophets that danger waited in Jerusalem (20:22-25: 21:4, 10-13).  With what attitude did Paul respond to these warnings (20:24, 21:13)?

Acts 20:24

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

Acts 21:13

Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."

He focuses on the task; he focuses on what is important and he remains committed.

 

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Posted on 02/23/2015 4:40 PM by Larry G
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Sunday, 22 February 2015
Paul goes to Jerusalem
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Why was Paul going to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22, 24:17)?

Acts 20:22

"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.

Acts 24:17

"After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.

First, Paul was going there to deliver the money that other believers in Europe and Asia had collected to help the poor believers in Jerusalem.  But other than that Paul had not idea regarding what was going to happen.

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Posted on 02/22/2015 4:38 PM by Larry G
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Friday, 6 February 2015
Not Everyone is at the Same Place
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Paul and the other believers agreed that the Holy Spirit promised suffering if Paul went to Jerusalem, but they differed as to what the Spirit wanted Paul to do in light of the warning (20:20-25; 21:4, 10-13).  Why do we often interpret the Spirit's guidance differently?  What should we do in such situations?  (In your opinion, what should Paul and the others have done in 21:12-14?)

Acts 20:20-25

20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. 25 "Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.

Acts 21:4, 10-14

4 Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.' " 12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, "The Lord's will be done."

I guess we are all at different stages of our growth in the Lord.  Funny at one time, I would have thought that phrase was church-talk.  But now, I know that unless we are and remain connected to the Vine, to the Lord, to God, we shrivel and die.  Being connected to Him gives us knowledge, insight and discernment.  We are all not at the same place.  Maybe sometimes not having a firm view of the overall picture is part of God's plan.  Paul was determined and maybe that determination obstructed his view of God's plan and timing.  The disciples also saw the suffering and trials ahead for Paul and they were grieved by it to the point that they didn't want him to go to Jerusalem.  Once again, their apprehension and grief initially obstructed their view of God's plan.  But it's all going to work out.  This reminds me of two passages.  One is in Romans and in it Paul says that all things work out for good for those that love the Lord, who are called according to His purposes.  In the same passage he also tells us that through it all, whatever happens nothing will separate us from the Love of Christ, of God.  Then in Revelation, John says that God will wipe away every tear.  I have to believe; I have to think that when we see the entirety of what God is doing and will complete, we will no longer shed tears or grieve over what has happened.  We will be glad.  What should we do in these situations?  Psalms 46 comes to mind-Be still and know that I am God, (Cease striving and know that I am God.)  I don't know what this means.  I'm sure it's not it's not fatalistic.  No, God is for us, He's working things out for the good, for the best.  He's not being arbitrary or capricious in doing what He's doing.  In the end it means trusting Him.  Now what that means is dependent on the moment.

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Posted on 02/06/2015 8:50 AM by Larry G
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Thursday, 5 February 2015
What to Expect in the Future
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What warning and command did Paul repeat (20:28-31)?

Acts 20:28-31

28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

First, he tells them to pay attention to what is happening to them personally.  Be careful about what you, as a leader, are doing, thinking, saying, etc.  Then he reminds them that they have been given responsibility for their congregations to watch over them and protect them.  He warns them about individuals who are coming to destroy their congregations and that they will distort the truth to do this.

What would protect the elders in the face of this danger (20:32)?

Acts 20:32

 "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

God and His Word.  They must continue to trust in the Lord and what He has said.

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Posted on 02/05/2015 8:47 AM by Larry G
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Wednesday, 4 February 2015
Joseph's 20 year long training program
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Twenty years passed before Joseph's dreams came true (Genesis 37:2; 41:46, 53-54).  How did God prepare him to govern Egypt (Genesis 39:1-23)?

Genesis 37:2; 41:46, 53-54

2 These are the family records of Jacob. At 17 years of age, Joseph tended sheep with his brothers. The young man [was working] with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives, and he brought a bad report about them to their father…(chapter 41) 46 Joseph was 30 years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Joseph left Pharaoh's presence and traveled throughout the land of Egypt. â€¦ 53 Then the seven years of abundance in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in every country, but throughout the land of Egypt there was food. 

Genesis 39:1-23

1 Now Joseph had been taken to Egypt. An Egyptian [named] Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, serving in the household of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he did successful, 4 Joseph found favor in his master's sight and became his personal attendant. Potiphar also put him in charge of his household and placed all that he owned under his authority.5 From the time that he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house because of Joseph. The Lord's blessing was on all that he owned, in his house and in his fields. 6 He left all that he owned under Joseph's authority; he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome.7 After some time his master's wife looked longingly at Joseph and said, "Sleep with me." 8 But he refused and said to his master's wife, "Look, my master does not concern himself with anything in his house, and he has put all that he owns under my authority. 9 No one in this house is greater than I am. He has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. So how could I do such a great evil and sin against God?" 10 Although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her. 11 Now one day he went into the house to do his work, and none of the household servants was there. 12 She grabbed him by his garment and said, "Sleep with me!" But leaving his garment in her hand, he escaped and ran outside. 13 When she realized that he had left his garment with her and had run outside, 14 she called the household servants. "Look," she said to them, "my husband brought a Hebrew man to us to make fun of us. He came to me so he could sleep with me, and I screamed as loud as I could. 15 When he heard me screaming for help, he left his garment with me and ran outside." 16 She put Joseph's garment beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him the same story: "The Hebrew slave you brought to us came to me to make fun of me, 18 but when I screamed for help, he left his garment with me and ran outside." 19 When his master heard the story his wife told him-"These are the things your slave did to me"-he was furious 20 and had him thrown into prison, where the king's prisoners were confined. So Joseph was there in prison.

Joseph in Prison

21 But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. He granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 The warden put all the prisoners who were in the prison under Joseph's authority, and he was responsible for everything that was done there. 23 The warden did not bother with anything under Joseph's authority, because the Lord was with him, and the Lord made everything that he did successful.

God uses the next 13 years to humble Joseph.  He allows him to become a slave and eventually to be imprisoned.  However, through all of this, he protects and prospers Joseph.  While prospering Joseph, God also prospers others around Joseph, like Potiphar, the chief jailer, the pharaoh's cupbearer and ultimately Pharaoh and Egypt.  Joseph learns that being a "good servant" is a good thing.  He also learns that following God, even if the immediate circumstances are hard, is worth it in the end.

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Posted on 02/04/2015 8:43 AM by Larry G
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Tuesday, 3 February 2015
Joseph: An unlikely candidate to serve God
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Consider what the teenage Joseph does in Genesis 37:2, 5-11; he tattles on his older brothers and tells self-exalting dreams to them and even to his father.  What does his behavior show about his personality?  Does he seem a likely candidate for doing great things in God's service?

Genesis 37:2, 5-11

 2 These are the family records of Jacob. At 17 years of age, Joseph tended sheep with his brothers. The young man [was working] with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives, and he brought a bad report about them to their father….5 Then Joseph had a dream. When he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: 7 There we were, binding sheaves of grain in the field. Suddenly my sheaf stood up, and your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf." 8 "Are you really going to reign over us?" his brothers asked him. "Are you really going to rule us?" So they hated him even more because of his dream and what he had said. 9 Then he had another dream and told it to his brothers. "Look," he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sun, moon, and 11 stars were bowing down to me." 10 He told his father and brothers, but his father rebuked him. "What kind of dream is this that you have had?" he said. "Are your mother and brothers and I going to bow down to the ground before you?" 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter [in mind].

It's interesting that the passage starts out by telling us that he is with the sons of Jacob who were born to concubines.  We will later see in Genesis that Jacob, apparently, didn't really see them as real sons.  He did not love his first wife Leah and this also carried over to how he felt toward the sons that she bore him.  Joseph is Jacob's son from Rachel, who was the love of his life.  Joseph is clearly Jacob's favorite, hands down, no contest.   Consequently, Joseph is cocky, he throws his weight around and thinks and acts like he is superior to his brothers, which he is in the eyes of his father Jacob.  Joseph doesn't care about what his brothers think.  He displays a huge ego and a sense of self-importance.  He's definitely not a likeable fellow, someone who could lead others-nope don't think so-boss people around-yes, definitely---inspire others-that's a big NO. 

Imagine yourself as one of Joseph's brothers.  How would you have felt when he announced his dreams?

Maybe we might have said something in our minds like: "It's bad enough that the little jerk rats us out all the time, sucking up to the old man, and now we have to listen to this."  Might we also imagine ourselves thinking: "I hope he drops dead"? Now you may think that this is harsh.  But remember, were not dealing with "holy" or spirit-led folks at this point; this is reality folks.

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Posted on 02/03/2015 8:37 AM by Larry G
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Monday, 2 February 2015
Paul's Example as a Leader
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What actions and attitudes had Paul practiced as a model for Christian leaders (20:17-27, 33-35)?

  • It was important how he lived and he knew that he was an example to others.
  • He served with humility.
  • He did not hesitate to do anything that would be helpful to those around him.
  • He taught in public and in private as the situation called for.
  • His focus was to declare to all their need to repent and trust in the Lord Jesus.
  • His primary and I guess you could say only task was testifying to the grace of God's Gospel and he was committed to completing that task.
  • He was also committed to ensuring that he communicated all of God's will.
  • He was not greedy or jealous and HE WORKED HARD!
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Posted on 02/02/2015 9:54 PM by Larry G
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Sunday, 1 February 2015
How a Leader should think and Act
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What can Acts 20:18-37 teach us about how Christian leaders should think and act?  How can you help the leaders in your church to practice this example?

Acts 20:18-38

18 When they arrived, he said to them: "You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. 25 "Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 32 "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " 36 When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

The way they live is the most important thing.  Leaders must have a servant's attitude.  They must be hard workers.  They must be willing to do whatever would be helpful to other believers and in so doing, they must be willing to travel or go wherever the work leads.  In other words, they must be willing to go into the home of their flock.  They cannot be greedy or covetous.  The focus of their task must be proclaiming the Gospel.  They must declare to all the need to repent and have faith in the Lord Jesus.  This is the task that they must complete.  They are to be examples to others and they must be willing to be led by God and to trust in God to provide for those they are responsible for.

I guess that to help them, we definitely must pray for them.  I think it's important that we are attuned to the needs within the congregation that need to be met and we need to communicate that to our leaders.  We also need to help him with the work at hand.  Now what that means will probably become clear day by day.  I think it's dependent on the direction that the congregation is moving in and what becomes apparent as being necessary to be done.  

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Posted on 02/01/2015 9:48 PM by Larry G
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