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April 26, 2021 9:00 pm
Hey if you brought a Bible today. How about opening with me to ask chapter 23 we are going to a continuing were coming down the home stretch in the study of the life of a great man. The apostle Paul Hill back in January 1975 I was finishing up my last year of seminary training over capital Bible seminary, Atlanta, Maryland, and one day the Dean of the seminary walked up and asked me if I was willing to be with a local pastor who might be interested in giving me a job and so I said well short okay and actually the pastor was from a small church in northern Virginia name McLean Bible church and after meeting with him.
I agreed to work for six months on a trial basis as the assistant pastor McLean Bible Church from January 1975 till June 1975 during that time I taught adult Sunday school I did little preaching I did hospital visiting.
I did some counseling and at the end of those six months. In June 1975 I moved all it wasn't that anything was wrong is just I really felt the Lord was taking the want to go do doctoral work and so I left here I taught for the next five years of capital seminary where I graduated and I went and did my doctoral work at the Johns Hopkins in Baltimore in Old Testament but in the fall of 1979 God really begin to do something in my heart you know I finished my doctoral class work in the and I started getting bored teaching seminary. Now let me make it clear there's nothing capital Bible seminary is wonderful place and I'm all for theological education. But you know honestly I just wanted to be where the bullets were whizzing you understand what I'm saying once I have.
I want to be where the action wasn't in my mind.
This meant being the pastor of the local church where I could preach and where I could teach and where I could challenge people to make an impact on their community and so I began praying about. I didn't really tell anybody a distorted praying about it and said, well, Lord, if you want me to go be, you know, the pastor of a church somewhere than you.
You open that door. Well, in the spring of 1980, the pastor here at McLean Bible church resigned and all the pulpit committee. The got together to start looking for the new pastor over your McLean will my name came up. Now, honestly, at that point I had never been a senior pastor before I did and I did not put in for the job unknown milk open committee in their right mind would've looked at me because of my lack of experience. The only reason they were even interested is because I've been here for six months, five years before that and they kinda knew who I was, so they sent over and wanted to know do you have any interest at all in becoming a pastor McLean Bible church and the rest as they say is a history and here I am is a long while won an amazing coincidence. It was that you were here for those six months. Well folks, I don't believe it was a coincidence at all. Actually I believe that God put me here for those six months in 1975, because he already was planning to bring me here in 1980 as the senior pastor and he knew that the only way that was going to happen was for me to of been here for those six months in 1975. I don't believe it was a coincidence at all that that's what we want to talk about today we want to talk about your life and whether there are really any coincidences in your life or whether everything going on in your life is something different and has a different explanation really use Paul's life is our classroom so let's look at what happened to Paul and they will come back and talk about you and me little bit of background.
Remember, the apostle Paul is in Jerusalem here in acts 23 it's the end of his third missionary journey is the summer of 57 A.D. Remember, Paul was in the temple when some Jews from Ephesus started a false rumor that he brought a Gentile into the temple, he is not a mob ensued and they were beating Paul to death when the Roman army came along and rescued wanting to know as we saw last week when all the hubbub was about the Roman army commander asked the Jewish high council we get together. He brought falling in front of them and chaos resulted verse 10 of this chapter says the dissension there at the Council became so violent that the Tribune was afraid Paul would be torn in pieces so he ordered his troops to go down and take Paul back to the barracks. That's what we've been so let's see what happens next. Verse 11 and that night the Lord stood near Paul and said, take courage, Paul, as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify about me in wrong and of course reading the rest of the book of acts we know this happened exactly the way God predicted it would happen. Paul went to Rome, and even got the chance to share Christ in front of Emperor Nero, but here in chapter 23 we start seeing the coincidences that happen. That led to the fulfillment of God's promise watch verse 12 the next morning.
Some Jews formed a plot and bound themselves via note saying they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul more than 40 men were involved in this plot so they went to the chief priest and said we have taken an oath not to eat or drink anything until we've killed Paul now therefore asked the Tribune to bring Paul before you as though you wanted to conduct a more thorough investigation of Paul's case, we will lie in wait and we will kill Paul before he arrives here. Now you understand what's happening here right they were to set an ambush for Paul. They wanted the high council to say to the Tribune ascending back. We want to we want to talk to them one more time, and while Paul was on the way they were going to ambush human killing. So verse 16 and the son of Paul's sister. That is Paul's nephew heard of their ambush and went into the barracks and told Paul about the friends. This verse raises a lot of interesting questions. For example, number one does this verse mean the Paul's sister was living in Jerusalem. Along with this boy.
Paul's nephew will the answer is probably not.
She was probably back home in Tarsus and had simply sent her son to Jerusalem for his Jewish education much like years before Paul's parents had sent him to Jerusalem for his Jewish education. The second question this raises is was Paul's nephew, a follower of Christ was then sympathetic to Paul's faith.
I don't think so.
I find it very hard to believe that if someone this close to Paul of been a follower of Christ that Paul would never have mentioned him anywhere in the Bible so no I don't think this young man was a follower of Christ is that within law that raises another question why would this young man put loyalty for his uncle ahead of his Jewish roots and his Jewish loyalty will the answer to that question is I don't know. You have no idea why he would do that.
And that leads us to the fourth question and really the biggest and most important question and that is how in the world did this nephew find out about the plot against his uncle Paul. I mean, this plot must've been one of the most closely guarded secrets in all of Jerusalem. Somehow in the world just to find out about well maybe I don't know I'm just guessing maybe he was clerking for one of the rabbis on the high Council and he overheard it in the hallway.
Or maybe he was in the bar one night and some of the assassins came in and started drinking too much and before was over they had let something slip or maybe there was some first century Linda Tripp that invited him to lunch and told him I don't know how we found out about it, but somehow he found out about this plot in an amazing turn of events, and he went to Paul and told him what was going on. Well, verse 17 then Paul called one of the century as one of the junior Roman officers and said take this young man. My nephew to the Tribune three has something important to tell and so the centurion took the young man to the Tribune and the Tribune took Paul's nephew by the hand drew him aside and asked him privately what is it you wish to tell me then the young man said the Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down tomorrow to the Council has, though they were going to examine him more thoroughly. Do not listen to them for more than 40 of them will be waiting in ambush for Paul. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they kill Paul.
They are ready now just waiting for you to consent to the request, so the Tribune dismissed the young man and instructed him to tell no one that he reported this many call to centurions and order them to get 200 soldiers ready by 9 PM with 70 horsemen and 200 Spearman in order to take Paul to Caesarea that very night. Now stop her second may I remind you that the entire garrison in Jerusalem that this Tribune command. It was only a thousand true and what we see here is that he takes 470 men almost 50% of his entire garrison and sends 470 men to guard one man. The apostle Paul. This Tribune was serious friends about the fact that no Roman citizen was going to get assassinated on his watch, because he knew what the repercussions would be for him if that happened well he also commanded them to provide amount to put Paul on so that he could be brought quickly to Felix, the Roman governor now I just want to remind you hear the total time that Paul had been in Jerusalem that show your map, they took Paul from Jerusalem Northwest 70 miles to Caesarea, which is I've told you before, was the real seat of Roman government here, not Jerusalem.
The total time Paul was in Jerusalem for max. 21 when he arrived to ask 23 when he gets sent to Caesarea is seven days using the long Paul calls all that trouble in seven days seven days. That's all it took him to make that much trouble in Jerusalem.
Solly was there. Well, the Tribune wrote a letter to the governor that accompanied Paul and here's what the letter said verse 25 Claudius Lizzie is.
That's the name of the Tribune to his Excellency Gov. Felix greetings this man was seized talking about Paul by the Jews and they were about to kill him. When I came along with my troops and rescued him. I did this because I have learned that he was a Roman citizen. They went went well. Women women that is not true is not true that Tribune when he rescue Paul had no idea who Paul was even find out he was a Roman citizen told later on when he had ordered Paul to be flogged, which all by the way, he doesn't even mention in his letter to the governor, you're right.
This is a classic example of political myth speak.
In fact, if you live in Washington DC a letter like this on to make you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside like opening up the Washington Post and reading it over coffee in the morning. Yeah that's right, you know, we understand these letter now verse 28 in the morning and though the charges for which they were accusing Paul.
I brought him before their counsel. I found that the charges had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserve death or imprisonment.
And when I was informed of a plot to kill this man. I sending to you. It wants so the soldiers care.
I also ordered to give me that his accusers bring charges against him before you saw the soldiers carrying out the orders took Paul by night, and they brought him to Caesarea and when he had read the letter. Felix said I will give you a hearing after your accusers arrived. Then he ordered Paul to be kept under guard in Herod's palace that we know from archaeology that Felix was the governor of Judea from 52 A.D. the 60 A.D. exactly the.
When the Bible says that Paul would've been sent to him once again. When we look at history and archaeology confirms the historical accuracy of the Bible, just like we would expect it to. And since Paul was a Roman citizen.
Felix had the right to judge his case because Felix was the Roman governor of the province that present summarize what's happened.
Remember, if the apostle Paul's nephew would not heard about this plot it is almost certain that the Paul that this Tribune would've consented to send Paul back to the Jewish Council if that it happened. It is almost certain that Paul would've been lightly guarded by Roman soldiers on the way and it is almost certain, then he would have been killed in a bloodied ambush on some backstreet in Jerusalem, but instead look what happened.
All because of the coincidence that his nephew heard about this instead Paul is now in Roman custody as a protective Roman citizen. He's going to get the opportunity to share Jesus Christ.
Two years in Caesarea with every Roman dignitary in the ancient near East at the time, then the Roman government at their expense is going to send enrolled no charge to Paul where he's going to get the opportunity to share Christ with the elite in the Roman Empire, including Emperor Nero himself. None of that would happen. Had it not been for this crazy coincidence where his nephew found out about this plot. Now that's as far as we want to go in the passage today because it's time for us to ask the most important question you know what our question is are you ready their regards ready down overflow are it would go ready 123 right you say someone is a lot as far as I'm concerned, the apostle Paul was one lucky puppy. That's all I gotta say think about it now to have his nephew here about this just at the right time to be adjusted the right place. Not a day late.
Not a day before and hear about this plot. He was one lucky puppy. I mean, that was a pretty amazing coincidence will was it really a coincidence, let's define what is a coincidence the body. A dictionary says and I quote it is the chance occurrence of things at such a time and in such a way as to seem a remarkable coincidence.
It means that if you didn't know any better, you'd swear somebody had actually designed the events to go the way that they did. But since we know that there's no guiding hand running this world.
Therefore, no matter how remarkable it looks.
It's gonna just be well looked coincidence. It's just lock it was just an accident, that it went that way we open the pages of the Bible. However, my friends, we find a completely different worldview. We find a completely different explanation for the things that go on in life.
The Bible's worldview was all based on the existence of a sovereign God who is in total control of every detail of the universe who intervenes in the affairs of people's everyday lives on a regular basis worldview of the Bible tells us that this God causes the details of our lives as followers of crop price to quicken the place with exact precision, so that his will and his purpose for our life gets worked out. Now that's the worldview of the Bible. I'm sure most of you guys are aware that in every professional sport. There's a draft of new talents and in virtually all the professional sports draft works the same way and that is the team with the Crimea's record gives the first.
We all know that however in the NBA, the National basketball Association.
They have a completely different system, by the way, before I go on, did you guys do you guys know that here in Washington we actually have an NBA franchise don't know that you we do know they used to be called the Washington bullets. But then they conducted a you know a huge contest to rename them and I have a suggestion that I said in my suggestion was that they stop calling them the Washington bullets and because of their performance over so many years they called in the Washington blank.
That was my suggestion well, they stink their terrible Michael Jordan could even help these people.
So the blank seem to make sense to me. Well, they didn't like my idea and so they chose the wizards. Now the wizards have been in this system for the first graphic for many many years in a row and here's how it works. I think a bunch of these little ping-pong balls and they put him in his little glass. Do hit the thing and they swirled all around like the lottery and then you need a PhD in mathematics to figure out the exact formula they use, but somehow by popping these ping-pong balls up and thinking about a year they decide which team gets a first for the Washington wizards in spite of the fact they did in the ping-pong ball lottery for many many years have never gotten the first for.
In fact, they just in the ping-pong ball thing last week. Here's how USA Today reported the results and I quote the Orlando Magic for the first time since coming into the NBA as an expansion team for the 1989, 90 season one the draft lottery and will have the first pick in next month's draft that was lock." But was really listen to what Proverbs 16 says, verse 33 it says the lots is cast in the lab or we might say the ping-pong balls are all put in the little glass do with anything but every decision is from the Lord. I don't care how random it looks.
God is in control of where those ping-pong balls go and who gets the first pick know what this means is obviously God is not a Washington wizards fan. That's one of the things that in the but the other thing it means what this verse means is that there are no such thing as accident. There are no such things as random events. The verse says God controls at all, and folks as followers of Christ.
We need to understand that in our life. There is no lock, there is no fate. There is no karma there are no accidents.
There are no coincidences. Everything that enters our life. God is simply working out his perfect plan for you and for me that is the worldview of the Bible, not pure here today and you've never trusted Jesus in a real and personal way.
Let me say to you that when I came to Christ. This was one of the things I most wanted, maybe even more than heaven and eternal life. I spent 21 years running my own life and made a complete disaster out of it and I often thought if I could scroll it back to the beginning and do it all over. I wouldn't do any better.
I didn't know how to run my life I knew I couldn't run my own life and I knew that I knew that I needed somebody else to do it.
Let me say for the last 33 years. Jesus Christ on a great job running my life and maybe you're out there saying hey, I've been running my life for X number years and made a complete mess out of it, friends, let me tell you something. You can trade in running your own life or let Jesus run it and you'll be glad every day the rest of your life. You did and it comes as part of the package deal.
When you give your life to Jesus Christ severe in that condition. I hope you'll think about that is that yellow on the way to minute, you don't really believe. Do you that the God of the universe that keeps you know Neptune from bumping into Pluto you know out there. You don't really believe that God calms down and gets involved in the every day little dinky details of my life do you do really believe that). I believe that I believe that I believe yes I do that you're sitting in living proof that God does that.
Let me tell you story in 1995 we got a phone call from a fellow named Stuart Mendelson. I never heard of him.
He was a little-known politician here in Northern Virginia on the school board and he was running for the Board of Supervisors from the drains. Bill district and our old church weekly Bible church.
The old building was in the district we have hundreds of people who lived in his district and he called to find out will show you a picture of him. He called to find out if we would be willing to let them come over knowing were going to endorse him we were going to hand out promotional material. He does want to come over state of the lobby and shake hands and introducing so I said well I don't know Stuart, I need to meet with you first and get to know you and find out where you coming from and so we met and I learned some things about Stuart. I learned he was a Jewish believer just exactly like I was alerting given his life to Christ in the chapel at the Naval Academy were my son was going and I learned that on every position.
It really was important to us. Stuart stood where we stood in was so we said okay you can come over and shake hands in the lobby and he did well, here's an amazing thing. He won by couple of percentage points.
This guy one and after the one I took enough to launch to congratulating and he said it once we all want to really thank you. I'm not sure I would've one without the support.
I'm sure I got from people there weekly Bible church thank you message are welcome and assist you. I just want you to know you owe me one.
You don't know me to and you don't owe me 17 favors. You owe me one favor and if some boy I'm going to call you and I'm gonna call that favor in and then we had a nice lunch. We finished lunch ever in Iceland. Well, about two years later we learned that the National wildlife Federation property where you're sitting.
Today might be coming for sale so I called Stu up and I said hey can we have lunch over McLean Hilton. I'll never forget. We met for lunch and I said to him, they still do you remember couple years ago that I said that you will be one favor and he liked the I remember that I said okay Juan here to collect the National wildlife Federation is going up for sale and we want to take that property and turn it into a church and I thought Stu was going to choke on his clover salad that he believed there. McLean Hilton is like you are. Do what and I said that's a favor and he said I don't know if I can do that in a civil Stu wanted you don't get the right to decide what favor you get back.
Sorry. That's the favor and that's where we need your help will you know that I began a 14 month fight here in Fairfax County to get permission to turn this property into a church the neighbors were against us. The McLean citizens Association was against the all the local papers were against us. In fact, even some other churches came out against us, but we we had one person who was for us and that was to Mendelson and you know what this property we found out was in Stu's district by one quarter of a mile.
Stu's district ends at the tollroad and we were in his district by quarter of a mile and when it was all over the smoke cleared, we had wanted the Board of Supervisors 10 to 0 was the vote. Then in 2003. We want another 10 to 0 vote to put our special needs center on the 5 acres next to his and then after that Stu decided not to run for reelection again. Now I don't think those events are connected in any way.
But isn't it interesting that the eight years we needed Stu Mendelson to be our supervisor with eight years God gave him. And I want to state categorically. There is no way in the world. We would've ever gotten permission to build a church on the site.
Anybody else had been our supervisor, but Stuart Mendelson is a wow that is an amazing coincidence, will you believe whatever you want but I don't believe it was a coincidence and let me tell you Stu himself doesn't believe it was a coincidence he said it. Our men's retreat, and I quote, it wasn't a coincidence, I believe the Lord put me in office for this very purpose. In fact, I would often say to him, Stu.
How's it feel to be like Esther Zola as a member. Mordecai said to Esther, he said, who knows, but that the Lord put you in your position for just such a time as this. And I said, Stu.
That's how I feel about you every time I walk by you. You look like Esther to me, well that's how I feel about now you say lawn. What are you trying to say friends. I'm trying to say there are no such thing as coincidences.
When Stu Mendelson won that election in 1995 when God even put it in his heart to try and run in 1995 God already saw this property for us.
God already saw that special needs center for us. God already was working.
This was not a coincidence, friend. There are no coincidences.
There are no accidents, everything is just incidents of God working out his perfect plan for those of us were followers of Christ. They said we don't want. That's wonderful, blending any nincompoop can stand up there and talk about stuff like that when everything goes right. Everything goes good and you have these wonderful victories, but what about when bad stuff comes in the ally.
Funny what about when we stuff you want comes in your life you suggesting that I should still see those as God's wonderful working his plan for me absolutely, absolutely. I believe that we should be like Job, remember what Job said he said and I quote, shall we accept good from the hand of the Lord and never accept diversity.
The Lord gives and sometimes the Lord takes away. But either way. Blessed is the name of the Lord because he's got a plan and in all this Job did not sin and what he said. By charging God with wrongdoing. I believe that's how we got a B and folks in the process of getting this we had to go through them. You know, we looked at all the properties that didn't work out before we ever heard about this property. We look at an old CIA building, you wouldn't believe what was in the walls of that building that we were going to have to tear out of that building. So we said not now. We don't want to do that then we looked at the Evans farming property. I actually have lunch with Mr. Evans and some other folks and we were talking about purchasing the property 25 acres in the middle of McLean, and I thought this is perfect God. This is perfect.
I was so excited about that and I will tell you all the details, but that fell apart as they had to feel about that. I was pretty disappointed, I gotta tell you I was pretty disappointed. I remember saying God. That's the only 25 acre parcel anywhere in McLean. How could you not let that workout is pretty disappointed. Say what you do well, I did would Job do said Lord sometimes given sometimes take away and I don't know what you're doing maybe want to give us 30 acres somewhere. I'm just going to trust you. Well you know what God didn't give us 30 acres you can give us 35 or 40 or 45 you gave us 52 acres right a Tysons corner, he more than doubled Evans farm in and gave us a 230,000 square-foot building with it and we paid last and we were going to pay for Evans farming essay. What a coincidence. Come on, come on, aren't you listening I had to do what you have to do, which is Romans 828.
I have to trust God that God works all things together for good. Even the things I can understand even the things that I don't have an answer for. He works all things together for good for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ and friends. I want to say to you here today enclosing that maybe you got in your life. Some coincidences some situations that are confusing to you or that you don't have answers for, or that are painful. I want to challenge you to be like Joe, I want to challenge not to sin with your mouth by accusing God of let you down. I want you to trust God and say, you know, there are no coincidences. This is in my life because God wants us to my life because one day I'm going to look back and say, just like Evans farm in all yeah I understand now why God did it that way because he had something better for me in friends if you got an Evans farming in your life. Let me just tell you one day you going to look back and you can say God I didn't understand it then, but I can see now you have total control folks, don't you ever believe there's a coincidence in your life.
There isn't there only incidents in God working out his perfect plan for your number. What Jeremiah said, for I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope you take those things in your life you don't understand, and you see them as God's working and God will give you peace and God will prove to you that he knows what he's doing. I hope you can do this predicate.
Heavenly father, thanks for talking to us today about real life.
Write down where we live. Every one of us has stuff that happens in our lives.
Curveballs that get thrown at us that make seem to make no sense father. It's a great comfort to know when we have a curve ball thrown at us. It's a great comfort to know who the real picture is that it's you it's not random Feder senseless padlock you with a picture in father, thanks for reminding us today that the purpose of those curveballs not to strike a cell but is to work your perfect plan for our lives in father my prayer is that you would help us to trust you. Help us take those circumstances that we don't understand right now. Give us peace that we can lay them at your feet, just like Evans farm in we can know that you got something else better for us if you're not giving us something now that you got some of the plan for us. If you're not letting our plan worked out. Lord help was simply to trust you and walk with you, even as the apostle Paul did. Thanks for talking to us today change the way we react to life because we were here today and study the word of God and we pray this in Jesus name. And God's people said Amen