Following Jesus Like Paul

Not everyone was thrilled when I decided to follow Jesus Christ.  My co-workers thought that I had cracked under the pressure.  They were amused that I had, “Got religion real bad.”  I have always been an outspoken person and that did not change when I was born again.  What was altered were my character and words.  Although they still poked fun at my new-found “halo”, they saw a new man; a better person, transformed by the grace of God.  Family members were also skeptical.  But over time, they became gratified living with the new me, imperfect but much better.  It was the same problem with the Apostle Paul.  His former colleagues were angry to the point of murder.  There is nothing in the Scripture about how the family of Paul reacted.  The silence indicates that there was trouble at home.  Whatever happened on the domestic side, Paul was hounded by his new-found enemies.  Paul never backed off his testimony or diluted his message to assuage his adversaries.  It has been this way for Christians ever since Jesus began preaching the good news in Galilee two thousand years ago.

One time, Jesus brought sight to a blind man.  The Authorities, who hated Jesus, were angry about the miraculous change that come about in the man.  They were furious that the man gave the glory to Jesus for supernatural healing.  Their hatred of Jesus was transferred to a blind man who could now see by the grace of God.  The Scripture is found in John 9.

“So…they (the Authorities) called the man who had been blind, and said to him, ‘Give glory to God; we know that this man (Jesus) is a sinner.’

He then answered, ‘Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see…’

…They reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from…You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?’  So, they put him out (of the synagogue).”  Excerpts John 9:24-34 (NASB)

The formerly blind man was kicked out of the social order.  The synagogue was his “safety net” for survival.  He lost just about everything.  So it would be for most of the followers of Jesus.  The Apostle  Paul was constantly harassed by those who hated Jesus.  There is joy with people who truly understand what is going on within us when Jesus brings a new birth.  But with most, there is trouble for following Jesus.  This is what we know: when we confessed our sins to God; when we came to Jesus in real faith, something happened to us that we cannot deny.  We were transferred from blindness to sight; from darkness to light.  Our testimony endures even through the opposition, ill-will, and slander of the world.

The Apostle Paul was a man who endured such things with joy.  He was thankful for the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.  It meant more to him than any career; any possession; any goodwill the world could offer.  He was astounded about what God had done in his life.  Paul’s testimony gives us his attitude from his own pen, “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”  Philippians 3:8 (NASB)

A prayer…“Father in heaven, thank you for Your transforming grace in Jesus Christ.  I pray that you would help me be a witness for Jesus.  I am astounded by what you have done in my life!  Help me, today, to speak gracefully to those who really do not understand what happened.  Support me now, O Lord, to speak with kindness to them, no matter what they may say against You, or do to me.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

George Cargill



From the Heart

All the people of the world are being subjected to unspeakable acts of violence.  On every continent, there are people who murder, rape, and oppress others who do not share their religion, politics, world view, or whatever else that drives men mad.  We pass laws, increase the numbers of police, debate the issue, and elect new leaders.  But still, with all our laws, the problem persists.  Laws exist because of law-breakers, who by definition, scoff at laws.  Something is wrong with humanity.  All we have to do to understand this is to open our eyes and ears to what is happening in the world around us.  We have just emerged from a century that was the bloodiest in history.   People, wondering about the causes of mass murder, scratch their heads with foreboding at the coming century.  Jesus told us where the problem exists.  It is in the hearts of people.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” Matthew 15:19 (NASB)

The story is as old as humanity.  The problem resides in the heart of every individual who comes into the world.  Each one of us must admit that we have a sin problem.  We must do our part to stop the violence.  Each one must repent and surrender to Jesus to be born anew and be filled with Holy Spirit.  When the love of Christ motivates us, there is no room for hate.  Any person, who receives Jesus in true repentance and faith, ceases to be a part of the problem.  Receive Jesus today, surrender all anger, malice, and hatred to Him.  Hatred will be replaced by love.  The human condition will be improved by one heart changed by Christ.

Pastor George

The Boldness of An Apostle


A preacher said something recently that shook me.  I was visiting at a very large church with over a thousand members.  The service was carefully crafted to be winsome to believer and seeker alike.  The Pastor spoke in his shirtsleeves and had no pulpit to stand behind.  Everything was done to make the gospel message palatable to the modern contemporary person.  The sermon was about boldness in telling others about the hope that people can have in Jesus Christ.  He looked out into the congregation and said, “If you are visiting with us today, I want to apologize to you for our church.  In all probability, no one will share with you their testimony about Jesus Christ, either in this building, or any other place they may meet you.”  My heart was in my throat speaking in agreement with the preacher.  I knew that his statement was true.

The Apostle Paul had no such problem.  He would speak to anyone at any time about Jesus Christ.  He was an apostle.  He had been sent by Jesus into the world with the message of the gospel.  Paul, and all the Apostles of Jesus had a common trait infused into them.  They spoke boldly about Jesus and His message of hope for the world. There is a New Testament word used frequently about their preaching, parresia.   It means to have “boldness”, or “confidence” in speaking publicly.  Peter and John spoke boldly before the religious authorities, even though they did not have formal theological training or credentials.  In the face of threats and efforts to suppress their bold speech, the Apostles prayed for more parresia.  Their prayers were answered with an infilling of the Holy Spirit so that they could speak with even more boldness. Acts 4:29-31

The world cannot defeat the reckless boldness that was displayed by Paul.  Whether he was speaking to governors, philosophers, nobility, or rubbing shoulders with the people in the marketplace, Paul spoke plainly and directly to everyone.  He knew that he had the solution to the problem that has plagued the entire human race since Eden.  He thought of himself as the ambassador of Christ, fully authorized to administer to the entire world the message of grace, faith, and obedience.  Paul knew how to risk his life at just the right time to accomplish the mission that he had been given.

Paul is the perfect kind of person on which to base the main character of a novel.  He was a man of weaknesses who knew where his strength lay.  He was fully convinced of the rightness of his cause, being totally committed to the completion of his mission.  Paul pushed back forcefully at those who lied and spread slander about him.  He defended the flock as fiercely as any sheepdog, but led them gently as a loving shepherd.  He had enemies, but they were all the right ones.  When Paul asked the Saints to pray for him, he displayed the qualities that recommended him to me as the main character In the Grip of God.  From prison, he asked the church in Ephesus to pray that he might have more boldness.

“…pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:19-20 (NASB)

George Cargill