CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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TROUBLES AT SEA

When storms come into our lives that knock us off our feet, drenching our hopes while leaving us dazed for a bit we wonder how we will make it to a safe harbor where all is well again.  Then God suddenly steps in, takes us through the storm before calming the seas, teaches us humility, trust, with profound faith in Him as we watch Him work in the middle of it all. 

I don’t know what you are going through or how what you are going through is going to be resolved but I know the One who does know.  I know the One who speaks to those who love Him and listens for His voice.  Before the storm rose up, He was there.  In the middle of the storm, He is there.  When the storm passes over us, He is there.  The old hymn, “A Shelter in the Time of Storm” is the melody I hear as I read about Paul’s adventure as a prisoner now in the middle of a storm on his way to see Caesar for a hearing.

The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Refrain:
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

The raging storms may round us beat,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
We’ll never leave our safe Retreat,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Friends, are you wondering, why the storm?  Why couldn’t the passage to Rome, which was in God’s will, be safe without storms?  Why did Paul and his associates, the ship’s crew, and the Roman soldiers have to go through this terrible, life-threatening experience to get to the place God was sending them?

ACTS—God’s Actions through His Disciples

Acts 27, The Message

A Storm at Sea

1-2 As soon as arrangements were complete for our sailing to Italy, Paul and a few other prisoners were placed under the supervision of a centurion named Julius, a member of an elite guard. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium that was bound for Ephesus and ports west. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, went with us.

The next day we put in at Sidon. Julius treated Paul most decently—let him get off the ship and enjoy the hospitality of his friends there.

4-8 Out to sea again, we sailed north under the protection of the northeast shore of Cyprus because winds out of the west were against us, and then along the coast westward to the port of Myra. There the centurion found an Egyptian ship headed for Italy and transferred us on board. We ran into bad weather and found it impossible to stay on course. After much difficulty, we finally made it to the southern coast of the island of Crete and docked at Good Harbor (appropriate name!).

9-10 By this time we had lost a lot of time. We had passed the autumn equinox, so it would be stormy weather from now on through the winter, too dangerous for sailing. Paul warned, “I see only disaster ahead for cargo and ship—to say nothing of our lives!—if we put out to sea now.”

12,11 But it was not the best harbor for staying the winter. Phoenix, a few miles further on, was more suitable. The centurion set Paul’s warning aside and let the ship captain and the shipowner talk him into trying for the next harbor.

13-15 When a gentle southerly breeze came up, they weighed anchor, thinking it would be smooth sailing. But they were no sooner out to sea than a gale-force wind, the infamous nor’easter, struck. They lost all control of the ship. It was a cork in the storm.

16-17 We came under the lee of the small island named Clauda, and managed to get a lifeboat ready and reef the sails. But rocky shoals prevented us from getting close. We only managed to avoid them by throwing out drift anchors.

18-20 Next day, out on the high seas again and badly damaged now by the storm, we dumped the cargo overboard. The third day the sailors lightened the ship further by throwing off all the tackle and provisions. It had been many days since we had seen either sun or stars. Wind and waves were battering us unmercifully, and we lost all hope of rescue.

21-22 With our appetite for both food and life long gone, Paul took his place in our midst and said, “Friends, you really should have listened to me back in Crete. We could have avoided all this trouble and trial. But there’s no need to dwell on that now. From now on, things are looking up! I can assure you that there’ll not be a single drowning among us, although I can’t say as much for the ship—the ship itself is doomed.

23-26 “Last night God’s angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve, saying to me, ‘Don’t give up, Paul. You’re going to stand before Caesar yet—and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.’ So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what he told me. But we’re going to shipwreck on some island or other.”

27-29 On the fourteenth night, adrift somewhere on the Adriatic Sea, at about midnight the sailors sensed that we were approaching land. Sounding, they measured a depth of 120 feet, and shortly after that ninety feet. Afraid that we were about to run aground, they threw out four anchors and prayed for daylight.

30-32 Some of the sailors tried to jump ship. They let down the lifeboat, pretending they were going to set out more anchors from the bow. Paul saw through their guise and told the centurion and his soldiers, “If these sailors don’t stay with the ship, we’re all going down.” So the soldiers cut the lines to the lifeboat and let it drift off.

33-34 With dawn about to break, Paul called everyone together and proposed breakfast: “This is the fourteenth day we’ve gone without food. None of us has felt like eating! But I urge you to eat something now. You’ll need strength for the rescue ahead. You’re going to come out of this without even a scratch!”

35-38 He broke the bread, gave thanks to God, passed it around, and they all ate heartily—276 of us, all told! With the meal finished and everyone full, the ship was further lightened by dumping the grain overboard.

39-41 At daybreak, no one recognized the land—but then they did notice a bay with a nice beach. They decided to try to run the ship up on the beach. They cut the anchors, loosed the tiller, raised the sail, and ran before the wind toward the beach. But we didn’t make it. Still far from shore, we hit a reef and the ship began to break up.

42-44 The soldiers decided to kill the prisoners so none could escape by swimming, but the centurion, determined to save Paul, stopped them. He gave orders for anyone who could swim to dive in and go for it, and for the rest to grab a plank. Everyone made it to shore safely.

WHAT DO WE LEARN?

First of all, Paul warned them it was not the right time of year to navigate a ship from Good Harbor to the next safe harbor.  “I see only disaster ahead for cargo and ship—to say nothing of our lives!—if we put out to sea now.”  But the ship’s captain, the owner and the centurion put Paul’s warning aside and decided to embark onward, risking the lives of all who were on board.

How have we put aside sound advice along with promptings from God’s Holy Spirit to get to where we want to be?

The fierce, unexpected high winds, (but expected for that time of year), came against them!  The storm is rising.  The anchors they depended on did not hold in this storm. 

When storms come, who are what are the anchors we depend on most to hold us in place and to keep us safe? 

Do we have a reserve, life boat at the ready? 

Who is our anchor in the time of storm?  

In times our times like these with covid challenges, job loss, loss of loved ones, loss of relationships, who is our anchor?  My mind drifts to another old hymn…

In times like these you need a Savior,
In times like these you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One,
This Rock is Jesus, the only One;
Be very sure, be very sure,                                                                                            Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

Paul’s anchor was Jesus.  He was in constant communication with His Anchor in the storm.  When everyone else lost all hope.  Paul trusted Jesus.  Jesus affirmed Paul’s trust in a dream which he told to the crew battling the storm.  “Last night God’s angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve, saying to me, ‘Don’t give up, Paul. You’re going to stand before Caesar yet—and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.’ So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what he told me. But we’re going to shipwreck on some island or other.”

Truth Bomb:  Paul didn’t know exactly how Jesus would save them, He only knew He would save them.  Shipwreck will happen but we will all be saved, that’s all he knew.  That’s all he needed to know. 

Why do we need to know all the details before our trust in God is secure?  God is God.  We are not.  We do not need to know the details of how He will take us through our storms that battle us, we just need to trust that He will.  If God told us everything about how He will do it with how it will all turn out for us it might overwhelm us!  (Smiling, I am one who likes details.) 

Paul became wisdom and affirmation for a weary crew.  Paul could have panicked like the rest, but Paul knew the Master of the Seas and relied on Him.  Paul’s wisdom became a testimony to the power and awesomeness of God.  By Paul’s words, the crew ate, rested then dealt with the ship going down as predicted and planned by God. 

Shipwrecked but not destroyed!  Paul prayed, trusted, and delivered God’s message of Hope of survival.  And God intervened.  All were saved. Every single person!  Read that again.  Rest in His promises, trust in God’s provisions, go with His plan. 

“Believe and be saved…”.  (Acts 16:31)

Lord,

You teach us so much from the “acts” you did in and through your faithful apostles, disciples and other followers, as well as those who didn’t know you yet until testimonies were given.  From one man, Paul, fully devoted to You, all the travelers on the ship were saved…in more ways than one.  Yes, you are God and we are not.  Why do you allow storms to rise up?  To teach us how powerful you are, how much you care and how you can be trusted as the navigator in this sinful world.  If that were not enough, you use each storm as a wonderful way to testify to others how you are the extreme shelter and the anchor that holds in their storms, too.  Thank you, Lord. 

In Jesus Name, Amen

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“I COULDN’T JUST WALK AWAY”

Jesus changes everything in our lives once Jesus is the reason for living life.  Jesus changes our thought life which in turn changes what we do.  Jesus surprises us with wisdom beyond ourselves, knowing just what we need for any given situation.  Jesus gives us words to explain His redemptive truth in us when opportunities are given to proclaim Who He and can be to all people who believe.  Once we hear Jesus speak to us, offering life forever, while filling us with joy and peace that is unexplainable, we cannot just walk away.  I couldn’t walk away!

Paul’s story of what God did in him is one of the most tremendous examples of life change we will ever read. We love to read when Paul tells his transformation story to those who either want to kill him, those who are curious and are amused by him, or those who are really seeking Jesus and want what Paul has.  He just can’t walk away from telling people, all people, about Jesus.

Isn’t that similar for us today?  As believers, we are continually challenged by the curious, the judgmental, the hateful and those really seeking Jesus.  We know that in all types, Jesus is with us.  He gave us His promised Holy Spirit to guide our words and actions for every situation.  We lean on Jesus for He is our confidence, courage, constant peace, and power because of His and unending love, mercy and grace.  Jesus speaks through us.  We just can’t walk away from Him.

Read and meditate on what Jesus did for Paul as he presented Truth to King Agrippa…

ACTS—God’s Actions through His Disciples

Acts 26-27, The Message

13-17 A few days later King Agrippa and his wife, Bernice, visited Caesarea to welcome Festus to his new post. After several days, Festus brought up Paul’s case to the king. “I have a man on my hands here, a prisoner left by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem, the high priests and Jewish leaders brought a bunch of accusations against him and wanted me to sentence him to death. I told them that wasn’t the way we Romans did things. Just because a man is accused, we don’t throw him out to the dogs. We make sure the accused has a chance to face his accusers and defend himself of the charges. So when they came down here I got right on the case. I took my place in the courtroom and put the man on the stand.

18-21 “The accusers came at him from all sides, but their accusations turned out to be nothing more than arguments about their religion and a dead man named Jesus, who the prisoner claimed was alive. Since I’m a newcomer here and don’t understand everything involved in cases like this, I asked if he’d be willing to go to Jerusalem and be tried there. Paul refused and demanded a hearing before His Majesty in our highest court. So I ordered him returned to custody until I could send him to Caesar in Rome.”

22 Agrippa said, “I’d like to see this man and hear his story.”

“Good,” said Festus. “We’ll bring him in first thing in the morning and you’ll hear it for yourself.”

23 The next day everybody who was anybody in Caesarea found his way to the Great Hall, along with the top military brass. Agrippa and Bernice made a flourishing grand entrance and took their places. Festus then ordered Paul brought in.

24-26 Festus said, “King Agrippa and distinguished guests, take a good look at this man. A bunch of Jews petitioned me first in Jerusalem, and later here, to do away with him. They have been most vehement in demanding his execution. I looked into it and decided that he had committed no crime. He requested a trial before Caesar and I agreed to send him to Rome. But what am I going to write to my master, Caesar? All the charges made by the Jews were fabrications, and I’ve uncovered nothing else.

26-27 “That’s why I’ve brought him before this company, and especially you, King Agrippa: so we can come up with something in the nature of a charge that will hold water. For it seems to me silly to send a prisoner all that way for a trial and not be able to document what he did wrong.”

“I Couldn’t Just Walk Away”

26 1-3 Agrippa spoke directly to Paul: “Go ahead—tell us about yourself.”

Paul took the stand and told his story. “I can’t think of anyone, King Agrippa, before whom I’d rather be answering all these Jewish accusations than you, knowing how well you are acquainted with Jewish ways and all our family quarrels.

4-8 “From the time of my youth, my life has been lived among my own people in Jerusalem. Practically every Jew in town who watched me grow up—and if they were willing to stick their necks out, they’d tell you in person—knows that I lived as a strict Pharisee, the most demanding branch of our religion. It’s because I believed it and took it seriously, committed myself heart and soul to what God promised my ancestors—the identical hope, mind you, that the twelve tribes have lived for night and day all these centuries—it’s because I have held on to this tested and tried hope that I’m being called on the carpet by the Jews. They should be the ones standing trial here, not me! For the life of me, I can’t see why it’s a criminal offense to believe that God raises the dead.

9-11 “I admit that I didn’t always hold to this position. For a time I thought it was my duty to oppose this Jesus of Nazareth with all my might. Backed with the full authority of the high priests, I threw these believers—I had no idea they were God’s people!—into the Jerusalem jail right and left, and whenever it came to a vote, I voted for their execution. I stormed through their meeting places, bullying them into cursing Jesus, a one-man terror obsessed with obliterating these people. And then I started on the towns outside Jerusalem.

12-14 “One day on my way to Damascus, armed as always with papers from the high priests authorizing my action, right in the middle of the day a blaze of light, light outshining the sun, poured out of the sky on me and my companions. Oh, King, it was so bright! We fell flat on our faces. Then I heard a voice in Hebrew: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me? Why do you insist on going against the grain?’

15-16 “I said, ‘Who are you, Master?’

“The voice answered, ‘I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down like an animal. But now, up on your feet—I have a job for you. I’ve handpicked you to be a servant and witness to what’s happened today, and to what I am going to show you.

17-18 “‘I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.’

19-20 “What could I do, King Agrippa? I couldn’t just walk away from a vision like that! I became an obedient believer on the spot. I started preaching this life-change—this radical turn to God and everything it meant in everyday life—right there in Damascus, went on to Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside, and from there to the whole world.

21-23 “It’s because of this ‘whole world’ dimension that the Jews grabbed me in the Temple that day and tried to kill me. They want to keep God for themselves. But God has stood by me, just as he promised, and I’m standing here saying what I’ve been saying to anyone, whether king or child, who will listen. And everything I’m saying is completely in line with what the prophets and Moses said would happen: One, the Messiah must die; two, raised from the dead, he would be the first rays of God’s daylight shining on people far and near, people both godless and God-fearing.”

24 That was too much for Festus. He interrupted with a shout: “Paul, you’re crazy! You’ve read too many books, spent too much time staring off into space! Get a grip on yourself, get back in the real world!”

25-27 But Paul stood his ground. “With all respect, Festus, Your Honor, I’m not crazy. I’m both accurate and sane in what I’m saying. The king knows what I’m talking about. I’m sure that nothing of what I’ve said sounds crazy to him. He’s known all about it for a long time. You must realize that this wasn’t done behind the scenes. You believe the prophets, don’t you, King Agrippa? Don’t answer that—I know you believe.”

28 But Agrippa did answer: “Keep this up much longer and you’ll make a Christian out of me!”

29 Paul, still in chains, said, “That’s what I’m praying for, whether now or later, and not only you but everyone listening today, to become like me—except, of course, for this prison jewelry!”

30-31 The king and the governor, along with Bernice and their advisors, got up and went into the next room to talk over what they had heard. They quickly agreed on Paul’s innocence, saying, “There’s nothing in this man deserving prison, let alone death.”

32 Agrippa told Festus, “He could be set free right now if he hadn’t requested the hearing before Caesar.”

THERE’S MORE TO THE STORY…BUT WHAT DO WE LEARN TODAY?

Paul does not let down or give up.  He testified of Jesus in this way: “I just couldn’t walk away…I now preach life-change through Jesus Christ!  “I started preaching this life-change—this radical turn to God and everything it meant in everyday life—right there in Damascus, went on to Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside, and from there to the whole world.”  Ah, but this is the problem.  The devout Jewish leaders who had Jesus killed do not believe God is for everyone.  Therein lies the controversy.

Jesus will bring change in our thoughts, plans, purposes and subsequent actions.  When God acts through us, as He did with His disciples, it is usually not as we planned.  The road it hard but His plan for us is far better than we imagined.  Paul, who knows Jesus very well, who is now a prisoner because He preaches Jesus as Truth, writes clearly of God’s purpose followed by a powerful prayer for the church in Ephesus.  This is who Paul is, “a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the benefit of Gentiles”, speaking to King Agrippa about the King of kinds and Lord of lords who changed His life and spiritual address for eternity.

Paul’s Prayer for Spiritual Growth-Ephesians 3:14-21

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

So, we see dear friends, Paul isn’t about to walk away from Jesus who changed His life forever. 

Do we?  Will we?  Have we been tempted to walk away?

Is it time to come back to the One and Only who changes everything about us because of His love for us?

Pray and reflect. 

Lord,

How amazing you are!  May Paul’s prayer be my prayer today.  I believe.  I cannot walk away.  I won’t walk away.  Why would I?  I’m yours, Lord, heart, mind and soul.

In Jesus Name, For His glory, Amen.

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NEW LEADER, ANOTHER HEARING!

When you stand firm for Jesus in the work God has given you to do, there will always be those who oppose you.  We must always remember where the root of opposition begins to grow.  Satan’s tireless tricks of his trade worked in the minds of those he wanted to take for his own, use them for his purposed then destroy them.  He still does that today.  Satan is a liar and speaks through those against Paul with unfounded accusations…just like he did at Jesus’ trial.

Those who oppose the basic tenants of faith that come from the words of Jesus, generally do not know have a personal relationship with Jesus and will oppose anything we have to say about Him.  Pressing on, standing firm, not giving up will require the strength, wisdom, and power of God’s Holy Spirit living in us.  Paul knew and loved Jesus deeply, as deeply as Jesus loved him.  Paul had developed a strong, unbreakable bond with Jesus, so he was not giving in to the politics of religiosity that had nothing to do with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. 

The continuing sage of the Witnessing Prisoner goes on…

ACTS—God’s Actions through His Disciples

Acts 25, The Message

An Appeal to Caesar

1-3 Three days after Festus arrived in Caesarea to take up his duties as governor, he went up to Jerusalem. The high priests and top leaders renewed their vendetta against Paul. They asked Festus if he wouldn’t please do them a favor by sending Paul to Jerusalem to respond to their charges. A lie, of course—they had revived their old plot to set an ambush and kill him along the way.

4-5 Festus answered that Caesarea was the proper jurisdiction for Paul, and that he himself was going back there in a few days. “You’re perfectly welcome,” he said, “to go back with me then and accuse him of whatever you think he’s done wrong.”

6-7 About eight or ten days later, Festus returned to Caesarea. The next morning he took his place in the courtroom and had Paul brought in. The minute he walked in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem were all over him, hurling the most extreme accusations, none of which they could prove.

Then Paul took the stand and said simply, “I’ve done nothing wrong against the Jewish religion, or the Temple, or Caesar. Period.”

Festus, though, wanted to get on the good side of the Jews and so said, “How would you like to go up to Jerusalem, and let me conduct your trial there?”

10-11 Paul answered, “I’m standing at this moment before Caesar’s bar of justice, where I have a perfect right to stand. And I’m going to keep standing here. I’ve done nothing wrong to the Jews, and you know it as well as I do. If I’ve committed a crime and deserve death, name the day. I can face it. But if there’s nothing to their accusations—and you know there isn’t—nobody can force me to go along with their nonsense. We’ve fooled around here long enough. I appeal to Caesar.”

12 Festus huddled with his advisors briefly and then gave his verdict: “You’ve appealed to Caesar; you’ll go to Caesar!”

THINK ABOUT IT…

What led Paul to make that wise decision? For one thing, he knew that his destination was Rome, not Jerusalem, and the fastest way to get there was to appeal to Caesar. Paul also knew that the Jews had not given up their hopes of killing him, so he was wise to stay under the protection of Rome.

By appealing to Caesar, Paul forced the Romans to guard him and take him to Rome. Finally, Paul realized that he could never have a fair trial in Jerusalem anyway, so why go?

It must have infuriated the Jewish leaders when Paul, by one statement, took the case completely out of their hands. He made it clear that he was willing to die if he could be proved guilty of a capital crime, but first they had to find him guilty. Festus met with his official council, and they agreed to send Paul to Nero for trial. No doubt the new governor was somewhat embarrassed that he had handled one of his first cases so badly that the prisoner was forced to appeal to Caesar, and to Caesar he must go!

Tomorrow we see what happens next…stay tuned!

Lord,

You are amazing always.  You were with Paul and led him so wisely in responses to false accusations.  You are amazing still as you lead us through false accusations, slander and gossip meant to harm and stop us from doing your work.  You are life and you are the reason we join you in YOUR work.  It is not our work; Paul is the great example of portraying this principle.  Jesus’ example was greater still in hearing you, then doing what you say.  Lord, keep me so close to you that I hear the slightest whisper of your voice of direction and then help me follow with the tenacity of Paul, the Witness Prisoner, of You and Your story of the redeemed.

In Jesus Name, Amen.  I believe.

Still waiting to respond to Jesus as Savior?  Consider this story…

Dr. Clarence Macartney told a story about a meeting in hell. Satan called his four leading demons together and commanded them to think up a new lie that would trap more souls.

“I have it!” one demon said. “I’ll go to earth and tell people there is no God.” “It will never work,” said Satan. “People can look around them and see that there is a God.”

“I’ll go and tell them there is no heaven!” suggested a second demon, but Satan rejected that idea. “Everybody knows there is life after death and they want to go to heaven.”

“Let’s tell them there is no hell!” said a third demon. “No, conscience tells them their sins will be judged,” said the devil. “We need a better lie than that.”

Quietly, the fourth demon spoke. “I think I’ve solved your problem,” he said. “I’ll go to earth and tell everybody there is no hurry.”

The best time to trust Jesus Christ is—now! And the best time to tell others the good news of the gospel is—now!  He IS coming back, you know.  In the meantime, turn to all in life that is good, right, the best, not the worst.  Turn to Jesus.  Give him all you have for all He has for you.

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TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

“The secret of Roman government was the principle of indirect rule,” wrote Arnold Toynbee. This meant that the real burden of administration was left pretty much on the shoulders of the local authorities. Imperial Rome got involved only if there was danger from without or if the local governing units were at odds with one another. In this chapter we see the Roman legal system at work and three men each making his contribution.

Who will win?  

Tertullus, the Accuser;

Paul, the Witness to Truth;

Felix, The Foolish

Tertullus began with the customary flattery, a normal part of the judicial routine. After all, before you can win your case, you must win over your judge.  He brought three charges: a personal charge (“he is a pestilent fellow”), a political charge (sedition and leading an illegal religion), and a doctrinal charge (profaning the temple).  This first accusation reminds us of the charges brought against the Lord Jesus at His trial (Luke 23:1–2, 5).  Of course, his statement was an exaggeration, but how many court cases have been won by somebody stretching the truth?

For the most part, Roman officials like Felix did not want anything to do with cases involving Jewish law (John 18:28–31; Acts 16:35–40; 18:12–17). The fewer Jews who ended up in Roman courts, the better it would be for the empire. Tertullus had to present this third charge in a way that made the Jews look good without making the Romans look too bad, and he did a good job.

Paul did not flatter Felix (see 1 Thess. 2:1–6); he merely acknowledged that the governor was a man of experience and therefore a man of knowledge. After this brief but honest introduction, Paul then proceeded to answer the charges of Tertullus. 

Even though the high priest was a Sadducee, there were certainly Pharisees in the official Jewish delegation, so Paul appealed once again to their religious roots in the Scriptures. The fact that Paul was a Christian did not mean that he worshipped a different God from the God of his fathers. It only meant he worshipped the God of his fathers in a new and living way, for the only acceptable way to worship the Father is through Jesus Christ (John 5:23). His faith was still founded on the Old Testament Scriptures, and they bore witness to Jesus Christ

Paul and the early Christians did not see themselves as “former Jews” but as “fulfilled Jews.” The Old Testament was a new book to them because they had found their Messiah. They knew that they no longer needed the rituals of the Jewish law in order to please God, but they saw in these ceremonies and ordinances a revelation of the Savior. Both as a Pharisee and a Christian, Paul had “taken pains” always to have a good conscience and to seek to please the Lord.

Paul closed his defense by replying to the members of the Jewish council (Acts 24:20–21). Instead of giving him a fair hearing, the high priest and the Sanhedrin had abused him and refused to hear him out. Ananias was no doubt grateful that Paul said nothing about his slap in the face, for it was not legal for a Roman citizen to be treated that way.

Do we detect a bit of holy sarcasm in Paul’s closing statement? We might paraphrase it, “If I have done anything evil, it is probably this: I reminded the Jewish council of our great Jewish doctrine of the resurrection.” Remember, the book of Acts is a record of the early church’s witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:22).

Felix was full of foolish attitudes.  If ever a man failed both personally and officially, that man was Felix, procurator of Judea. He certainly could not plead ignorance of the facts, because he was “well acquainted with the Way” (Acts 24:22 niv). His wife, Drusilla, was a Jewess and perhaps kept him informed of the activities among her people, and as a Roman official, he would carefully (if privately) investigate these things. He saw the light, but he preferred to live in the darkness.

Felix saw to it that Paul was comfortably cared for while at the same time safely guarded. “Liberty” in Acts 24:23 means that he was not put in the common jail or kept in close confinement. He had limited freedom in the palace, chained to a soldier.

(Thanks to commentary of Warren Wiersby for background information of this chapter.)

ACTS—God’s Actions through His Disciples

Acts 24, The Message

Paul States His Defense

1-4 Within five days, the Chief Priest Ananias arrived with a contingent of leaders, along with Tertullus, a trial lawyer. They presented the governor with their case against Paul. When Paul was called before the court, Tertullus spoke for the prosecution: “Most Honorable Felix, we are most grateful in all times and places for your wise and gentle rule. We are much aware that it is because of you and you alone that we enjoy all this peace and gain daily profit from your reforms. I’m not going to tire you out with a long speech. I beg your kind indulgence in listening to me. I’ll be quite brief.

5-8 “We’ve found this man time and again disturbing the peace, stirring up riots against Jews all over the world, the ringleader of a seditious sect called Nazarenes. He’s a real bad apple, I must say. We caught him trying to defile our holy Temple and arrested him. You’ll be able to verify all these accusations when you examine him yourself.”

The Jews joined in: “Hear, hear! That’s right!”

10-13 The governor motioned to Paul that it was now his turn. Paul said, “I count myself fortunate to be defending myself before you, Governor, knowing how fair-minded you’ve been in judging us all these years. I’ve been back in the country only twelve days—you can check out these dates easily enough. I came with the express purpose of worshiping in Jerusalem on Pentecost, and I’ve been minding my own business the whole time. Nobody can say they saw me arguing in the Temple or working up a crowd in the streets. Not one of their charges can be backed up with evidence or witnesses.

14-15 “But I do freely admit this: In regard to the Way, which they malign as a dead-end street, I serve and worship the very same God served and worshiped by all our ancestors and embrace everything written in all our Scriptures. And I admit to living in hopeful anticipation that God will raise the dead, both the good and the bad. If that’s my crime, my accusers are just as guilty as I am.

16-19 “Believe me, I do my level best to keep a clear conscience before God and my neighbors in everything I do. I’ve been out of the country for a number of years and now I’m back. While I was away, I took up a collection for the poor and brought that with me, along with offerings for the Temple. It was while making those offerings that they found me quietly at my prayers in the Temple. There was no crowd, there was no disturbance. It was some Jews from around Ephesus who started all this trouble. And you’ll notice they’re not here today. They’re cowards, too cowardly to accuse me in front of you.

20-21 “So ask these others what crime they’ve caught me in. Don’t let them hide behind this smooth-talking Tertullus. The only thing they have on me is that one sentence I shouted out in the council: ‘It’s because I believe in the resurrection that I’ve been hauled into this court!’ Does that sound to you like grounds for a criminal case?”

22-23 Felix waffled. He knew far more about the Way than he let on, and could have settled the case then and there. But uncertain of his best move politically, he played for time. “When Captain Lysias comes down, I’ll decide your case.” He gave orders to the centurion to keep Paul in custody, but to more or less give him the run of the place and not prevent his friends from helping him.

24-26 A few days later Felix and his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish, sent for Paul and listened to him talk about a life of believing in Jesus Christ. As Paul continued to insist on right relations with God and his people, about a life of moral discipline and the coming Judgment, Felix felt things getting a little too close for comfort and dismissed him. “That’s enough for today. I’ll call you back when it’s convenient.” At the same time he was secretly hoping that Paul would offer him a substantial bribe. These conversations were repeated frequently.

27 After two years of this, Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus. Still playing up to the Jews and ignoring justice, Felix left Paul in prison.

THINK ABOUT IT…

Too close for comfort is the example of the world today.  We come close enough to be impressed by Jesus but not committed enough to believe and follow Him as Lord of our lives.  We fit Jesus into our “already scheduled programming”!  Paul definitely had an impact on Felix and his wife through his witness of Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Not only was Felix’s mind informed, but his heart was moved by fear, and yet he would not obey the truth. It is not enough for a person to know the facts about Christ, or to have an emotional response to a message. He or she must willingly repent of sin and trust the Savior.

Felix left Paul in prison for his own selfish reasons.  He wanted to hear Paul speak Truth until Paul came too close for his own comfort. Maybe Felix and his wife thought that they were closer to God if they kept Paul in their pocket to be pulled out and used to soothe their own guilty conscious from time to time.  But as far as we know, Felix never converted to The Way, The Truth and The Life of Jesus.

Friends, isn’t that like many in the world today?  Is it like us?  We seek a Savior but when Jesus asks us to come closer, to feel the beat of His heart, the sound of His voice, to lean on Him through troubles and to walk with Him daily, we shy away, shrug our shoulders and think, “some other time”.  We think we have time.  But the Truth is we miss out on all the wonderful moments we could experience with Jesus.

Lord and Savior,

Thank you for saving my soul, making me whole, pointing out how to live life to the full while correcting my course for your best in me.  This is momentous work to be done in me and in all of us who really believe that you are really real.  Please continue your work of salvation in me for I have not arrived yet.  But you know that, and you are lovingly patient with me.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do in my life.  I am forever grateful.

In Jesus Name, Amen.  I believe.

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THE WITNESS OF THE PRISONER

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28 (NIV) The Living Bible translation words it this way: “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.” 

No one knows this Truth better than Paul, who penned these inspired words.  We believers quote this verse often while walking through a personal battle with challenging troubles that are not understood while we are going through them.  Let’s backtrack a bit.  Paul, led by God’s Holy Spirit, but warned of the dangers, has come to Jerusalem.  He brough offerings to the poor.  He went to the Temple to pray.  As soon as he is spotted by the religious leaders, a riot occurs.  They want blood.  He is hated by the Jewish zealots who do not believe in Jesus.  He knows that full well and enters Jerusalem anyway.  He is shouted down by those who want to kill him.  However, because he is a Roman citizen, he is protected! 

Friends, think about it…God is so amazing!  By transforming Saul, a former zealot enemy of God’s new believers to Paul the now completely devoted follower of Jesus, Paul’s witness is all the more powerful!  Paul is an “insider” citizen of Rome, protected from being murdered, who can tell God’s story, even in prison!  What a plan!  “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.”  Paul “gets it” and gratefully continues in the work God gave him to do.  Paul makes the most of EVERY opportunity and teaches others to do the same.  (See Colossians 4:2-6) Paul, describes himself in his letters to the churches, as a “prisoner for the Lord”.  Now we understand why.  All is done in Jesus Name for the glory of God!  ALL things work together for the good of those who love God and called by God to finish what God gave them to be and do—His purpose for us.

“Paul the prisoner” (Acts 23:18) was the name the Roman soldiers used for the apostle, a designation he himself often used (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 2 Tim. 1:8; Philem. 1, 9). Paul was under “military custody,” which meant he was bound to a Roman soldier who was responsible for him. Prisoners under “public custody” were put in the common jail, a horrible place for any human being to suffer (Acts 16:19–24). Paul’s friends could visit him and help meet his personal needs. It is sad that we don’t read, “And prayer was made fervently by the church for Paul” (see Acts 12:5). There is no record that the Jerusalem church took any steps to assist him, either in Jerusalem or during his two years in Caesarea. This is an exciting chapter…read, led by God’s Spirit.

ACTS—God’s Actions through His Disciples

Acts 23, The Message

Before the High Council

23 1-3 Paul surveyed the members of the council with a steady gaze, and then said his piece: “Friends, I’ve lived with a clear conscience before God all my life, up to this very moment.” That set the Chief Priest Ananias off. He ordered his aides to slap Paul in the face. Paul shot back, “God will slap you down! What a fake you are! You sit there and judge me by the Law and then break the Law by ordering me slapped around!”

The aides were scandalized: “How dare you talk to God’s Chief Priest like that!”

Paul acted surprised. “How was I to know he was Chief Priest? He doesn’t act like a Chief Priest. You’re right, the Scripture does say, ‘Don’t speak abusively to a ruler of the people.’ Sorry.”

Paul, knowing some of the council was made up of Sadducees and others of Pharisees and how they hated each other, decided to exploit their antagonism: “Friends, I am a stalwart Pharisee from a long line of Pharisees. It’s because of my Pharisee convictions—the hope and resurrection of the dead—that I’ve been hauled into this court.”

7-9 The moment he said this, the council split right down the middle, Pharisees and Sadducees going at each other in heated argument. Sadducees have nothing to do with a resurrection or angels or even a spirit. If they can’t see it, they don’t believe it. Pharisees believe it all. And so a huge and noisy quarrel broke out. Then some of the religion scholars on the Pharisee side shouted down the others: “We don’t find anything wrong with this man! And what if a spirit has spoken to him? Or maybe an angel? What if it turns out we’re fighting against God?”

10 That was fuel on the fire. The quarrel flamed up and became so violent the captain was afraid they would tear Paul apart, limb from limb. He ordered the soldiers to get him out of there and escort him back to the safety of the barracks.

A Plot Against Paul

11 That night the Master appeared to Paul: “It’s going to be all right. Everything is going to turn out for the best. You’ve been a good witness for me here in Jerusalem. Now you’re going to be my witness in Rome!”

12-15 Next day the Jews worked up a plot against Paul. They took a solemn oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed him. Over forty of them ritually bound themselves to this murder pact and presented themselves to the high priests and religious leaders. “We’ve bound ourselves by a solemn oath to eat nothing until we have killed Paul. But we need your help. Send a request from the council to the captain to bring Paul back so that you can investigate the charges in more detail. We’ll do the rest. Before he gets anywhere near you, we’ll have killed him. You won’t be involved.”

16-17 Paul’s nephew, his sister’s son, overheard them plotting the ambush. He went immediately to the barracks and told Paul. Paul called over one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the captain. He has something important to tell him.”

18 The centurion brought him to the captain and said, “The prisoner Paul asked me to bring this young man to you. He said he has something urgent to tell you.”

19 The captain took him by the arm and led him aside privately. “What is it? What do you have to tell me?”

20-21 Paul’s nephew said, “The Jews have worked up a plot against Paul. They’re going to ask you to bring Paul to the council first thing in the morning on the pretext that they want to investigate the charges against him in more detail. But it’s a trick to get him out of your safekeeping so they can murder him. Right now there are more than forty men lying in ambush for him. They’ve all taken a vow to neither eat nor drink until they’ve killed him. The ambush is set—all they’re waiting for is for you to send him over.”

22 The captain dismissed the nephew with a warning: “Don’t breathe a word of this to a soul.”

23-24 The captain called up two centurions. “Get two hundred soldiers ready to go immediately to Caesarea. Also seventy cavalry and two hundred light infantry. I want them ready to march by nine o’clock tonight. And you’ll need a couple of mules for Paul and his gear. We’re going to present this man safe and sound to Governor Felix.”

25-30 Then he wrote this letter:

From Claudius Lysias, to the Most Honorable Governor Felix:

Greetings!

I rescued this man from a Jewish mob. They had seized him and were about to kill him when I learned that he was a Roman citizen. So I sent in my soldiers. Wanting to know what he had done wrong, I had him brought before their council. It turned out to be a squabble turned vicious over some of their religious differences, but nothing remotely criminal.

The next thing I knew, they had cooked up a plot to murder him. I decided that for his own safety I’d better get him out of here in a hurry. So I’m sending him to you. I’m informing his accusers that he’s now under your jurisdiction.

31-33 The soldiers, following orders, took Paul that same night to safety in Antipatris. In the morning the soldiers returned to their barracks in Jerusalem, sending Paul on to Caesarea under guard of the cavalry. The cavalry entered Caesarea and handed Paul and the letter over to the governor.

34-35 After reading the letter, the governor asked Paul what province he came from and was told “Cilicia.” Then he said, “I’ll take up your case when your accusers show up.” He ordered him locked up for the meantime in King Herod’s official quarters.

WHAT DO WE LEARN?

Paul, the Prisoner, is encouraged by Jesus.  “That night the Master appeared to Paul: “It’s going to be all right. Everything is going to turn out for the best. You’ve been a good witness for me here in Jerusalem. Now you’re going to be my witness in Rome!” 

Warren Wiersbe, Commentator, relates, “A few years after Paul’s conversion, when Paul’s life was in danger in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to him in the temple and told him what to do (Acts 22:17–21). When Paul was discouraged in Corinth and contemplated going elsewhere, Jesus appeared to him and encouraged him to stay (Acts 18:9–10). Now, when Paul was certainly at “low ebb” in his ministry, Jesus appeared once again to encourage and instruct him. Paul would later receive encouragement during the storm (Acts 27:22–25) and during his trial in Rome (2 Tim. 4:16–17). “Lo, I am with you always” is a great assurance for every situation (Matt. 28:20).”

The Lord’s message to Paul was one of courage. “Be of good cheer!” simply means “Take courage!” Jesus often spoke these words during His earthly ministry. He spoke them to the palsied man (Matt. 9:2) and to the woman who suffered with the hemorrhage (Matt. 9:22). He shouted them to the disciples in the storm (Matt. 14:27) and repeated them in the Upper Room (John 16:33). As God’s people, we can always take courage in times of difficulty because the Lord is with us and will see us through.

Paul the Prisoner isn’t perfect, but is perfectly forgiven.  Paul lives, speaks and acts as a repentant, fully devoted follower of Jesus.  When we read the account of Paul’s days in Jerusalem, we get the impression that everything Paul did failed miserably. His attempt to win over the legalistic Jews only helped cause a riot in the temple, and his witness before the Sanhedrin left the council in confusion. But the Lord was pleased with Paul’s testimony, and that’s what really counts.

Paul’s confidence comes from Jesus, His Lord and Savior.  Paul would go to Rome! This had been Paul’s desire for months (Acts 19:21; Rom. 15:22–29), but events in Jerusalem had made it look as though that desire would not be fulfilled. What encouragement this promise gave to Paul in the weeks that followed, difficult weeks when leaders lied about him, when fanatics tried to kill him, and when government officials ignored him. In all of this, the Lord was with him and fulfilling His perfect plan to get His faithful servant to Rome.

And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.”  Romans 8:28

“Lo, I am with you always” –Jesus  Matthew 28:20

I don’t know what you are going through right now, but for me, I’m clinging to this truth and Paul’s witness as a prisoner.  God knows who we are, knows our name, what we have or have not done, and loves us completely.  He will not fail us.  He will see us through it all.  And somehow, all will work for good as we love, trust and obey.  We plan, but God decides what is best.  Because of His unending love for us, He is with us, always. 

In Jesus Name, For God’s Glory, Amen

Thank you, Lord.

And I’m singing…(Resurrecting by Elevation worship)

By Your spirit I will rise
From the ashes of defeat
The resurrected King, is resurrecting me
In Your name I come alive
To declare Your victory
The resurrected King, is resurrecting me…

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GOD’S STORY—PAUL’S STORY—OUR STORY

We are either with and for God or against God.  There is no middle ground.  We have been taught this Truth way of Life in Jesus through God’s Word.  God is a jealous God, not the way we think of jealousy in our human way.  God is the One who wants us for His own so He can give us His best.  It breaks the heart of God when we seek after all that is not God. 

Saul/Paul was a learned, traditional Jewish man who was zealous for God’s Law but had no real relationship with God, much like his accusers in the passage we are about to read.  He was the one who dragged new believers in Jesus out into the streets, ordered them to be beaten and then put them in jail.  His zealousness led him to seek permission to go to surrounding communities to torment more new believers with an evil thirst for blood.

Then Jesus came and changed everything about Saul.  Jesus blinded his eyes so Saul could hear what He was about to say to him. (Haven’t you ever turned down the radio so you could find which road to turn on when driving?  This makes perfect sense to me!)  Jesus stopped Saul cold in his tracks, spoke to his heart of hearts, and ask, “Saul, what do you persecute Me”.  After three days, sight returned to Saul’s blinded eyes through a Jesus’ disciples and life would never be the same.

That’s how it is with Jesus.  When we fully commit with the decision to believe and follow Jesus with all that is in us, Life is never the same as it was before, it is gloriously better!  We will still have problems and earthly troubles to deal with but we have the Victor over death and sin, Jesus Christ, to take our hand and lead us through it all.  Jesus changes everything.

Imagine Paul rising up to his full short stature, in chains, to tell his testimony of what Jesus did in His life.  Paul put his life on the line, as Jesus did for him, knowing that “to die is gain”. To live with Jesus, forever, is Paul’s new life goal. 

ACTS—God’s Actions through His Disciples

Acts 22

1-2 “My dear brothers and fathers, listen carefully to what I have to say before you jump to conclusions about me.” When they heard him speaking Hebrew, they grew even quieter. No one wanted to miss a word of this.

2-3 He continued, “I am a good Jew, born in Tarsus in the province of Cilicia, but educated here in Jerusalem under the exacting eye of Rabbi Gamaliel, thoroughly instructed in our religious traditions. And I’ve always been passionately on God’s side, just as you are right now.

4-5 “I went after anyone connected with this ‘Way,’ went at them with all my might, ready to kill for God. I rounded up men and women right and left and had them thrown in prison. You can ask the Chief Priest or anyone in the High Council to verify this; they all knew me well. Then I went off to our brothers in Damascus, armed with official documents authorizing me to hunt down the followers of Jesus there, arrest them, and bring them back to Jerusalem for sentencing.

6-7 “As I arrived on the outskirts of Damascus about noon, a blinding light blazed out of the skies and I fell to the ground, dazed. I heard a voice: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?’

8-9 “‘Who are you, Master?’ I asked.

“He said, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the One you’re hunting down.’ My companions saw the light, but they didn’t hear the conversation.

10-11 “Then I said, ‘What do I do now, Master?’

“He said, ‘Get to your feet and enter Damascus. There you’ll be told everything that’s been set out for you to do.’ And so we entered Damascus, but nothing like the entrance I had planned—I was blind as a bat and my companions had to lead me in by the hand.

12-13 “And that’s when I met Ananias, a man with a sterling reputation in observing our laws—the Jewish community in Damascus is unanimous on that score. He came and put his arm on my shoulder. ‘Look up,’ he said. I looked, and found myself looking right into his eyes—I could see again!

14-16 “Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has handpicked you to be briefed on his plan of action. You’ve actually seen the Righteous Innocent and heard him speak. You are to be a key witness to everyone you meet of what you’ve seen and heard. So what are you waiting for? Get up and get yourself baptized, scrubbed clean of those sins and personally acquainted with God.’

17-18 “Well, it happened just as Ananias said. After I was back in Jerusalem and praying one day in the Temple, lost in the presence of God, I saw him, saw God’s Righteous Innocent, and heard him say to me, ‘Hurry up! Get out of here as quickly as you can. None of the Jews here in Jerusalem are going to accept what you say about me.’

19-20 “At first I objected: ‘Who has better credentials? They all know how obsessed I was with hunting out those who believed in you, beating them up in the meeting places and throwing them in jail. And when your witness Stephen was murdered, I was right there, holding the coats of the murderers and cheering them on. And now they see me totally converted. What better qualification could I have?’

21 “But he said, ‘Don’t argue. Go. I’m sending you on a long journey to outsider non-Jews.’”

A Roman Citizen

22-25 The people in the crowd had listened attentively up to this point, but now they broke loose, shouting out, “Kill him! He’s an insect! Stomp on him!” They shook their fists. They filled the air with curses. That’s when the captain intervened and ordered Paul taken into the barracks. By now the captain was thoroughly exasperated. He decided to interrogate Paul under torture in order to get to the bottom of this, to find out what he had done that provoked this outraged violence. As they spread-eagled him with strips of leather, getting him ready for the whip, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is this legal: torturing a Roman citizen without a fair trial?”

26 When the centurion heard that, he went directly to the captain. “Do you realize what you’ve done? This man is a Roman citizen!”

27 The captain came back and took charge. “Is what I hear right? You’re a Roman citizen?”

Paul said, “I certainly am.”

28 The captain was impressed. “I paid a huge sum for my citizenship. How much did it cost you?”

“Nothing,” said Paul. “It cost me nothing. I was free from the day of my birth.”

29 That put a stop to the interrogation. And it put the fear of God into the captain. He had put a Roman citizen in chains and come within a whisker of putting him under torture!

30 The next day, determined to get to the root of the trouble and know for sure what was behind the Jewish accusation, the captain released Paul and ordered a meeting of the high priests and the High Council to see what they could make of it. Paul was led in and took his place before them.

Whew, Paul narrowly escapes torture!  Tomorrow we will read the continuing the true story after the story of testimony of what Jesus did in Saul who is now named Paul.  Paul stood firm on his salvation through Jesus Christ.  For Paul, he was “all in” for Jesus, no matter what.

Are we all in for Jesus?  Take a moment to think, reflect and wonder if we were pushed into proclaiming who we believe, would we be found guilty of following the King of kings and Lord of lords?  Would our lives reflect what we say we believe?  Take all the time you need, I am.

Lord,

I repent of passiveness, avoiding conversations that declare my allegiance to you, for that is no allegiance at all.  Help me stand like Paul when push comes shove, to lift up Your Name above all Names and declare You as my Redeemer!  You are God.  You are my Savior and Lord of my Life.  Help me to live it out loud in respective, persuasive, peaceful ways like you have taught us today.  Help us to make the most of every opportunity to testify about how You changed our lives.

In Jesus Name, Amen 

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MOB MENTALITY:  ASSUMPTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS WITHOUT EVIDENCE

The unbelieving world, who essentially stand for nothing but themselves and daily survival, will fall for anything or anyone who comes along with something else that will break up the boredom of their meaningless lives.  When they gather in one place, these purposeless humans become a mob that excel in the high jump:  They jump to assumptions and conclusions driven by hate, doubt, fear, prejudice and divisiveness in their hearts, minds and souls. 

These high jumpers are being easily led by the evil one whose only goal is to use them for his purposes and then throw them away.  Divisiveness is the only trick Satan has but he uses it well.  He used it in the life of Paul, Peter, John, James and all the other apostles, disciples and followers who were spreading the Good News of Jesus.  Jesus, who saved the world of all sins by paying our debt on the cross, taking our punishment, all because of the amazing love God has for His created.  Jesus is Truth. 

The fallen angel, Satan, forms mob mentality to try to overcome God’s work of spreading the Truth.  Satan didn’t win and doesn’t win.  He still tries today with skirmishes on the battlefield for our souls, but ultimately Jesus has already won this war.  Once we realize the Victor and the Victory, it is much easier to avoid the skirmishes for our souls set before us by the limited power of Satan.  Don’t fall for his schemes.  Stand for Jesus. 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

In the temple, separating the court of the Gentiles from the other courts, stood a wall beyond which no Gentile was allowed to go (note Eph. 2:14). On the wall was this solemn inscription: “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught so doing will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”

The Romans had granted the Jewish religious leaders authority to deal with anybody who broke this law, and this included the right of execution. This law plays an important role in what happened to Paul a week after he and the four Nazarites began their purification ceremonies.

Some Jews from Asia saw Paul in the temple and jumped to the conclusion that he had polluted their sacred building by bringing Gentiles past the barricade. It is likely that these Jews came from Ephesus, because they recognized Paul’s friend Trophimus, who came from Ephesus. With their emotions running at full speed, and their brains in neutral, these men argued:

(1) wherever Paul went, his Gentile friends went;

(2) Paul was seen in the temple; therefore, his friends had been in the temple too!

Such is the logic of prejudice. They seized Paul and would have killed him had the Roman guards not intervened in the nick of time. (At least one thousand soldiers were stationed in the Antonia Fortress at the northwest corner of the temple area.) The temple crowd was in an uproar, completely ignorant of what was going on.

Mobs miss the Message.

Friends, have you ever been caught up in mob mentality, assuming the worse while avoiding listening to truth?

ACTS—God’s Actions through His Disciples

Acts 21:27-40, The Message

Paul Under Arrest

27-29 When the seven days of their purification were nearly up, some Jews from around Ephesus spotted him in the Temple. At once they turned the place upside-down. They grabbed Paul and started yelling at the top of their lungs, “Help! You Israelites, help! This is the man who is going all over the world telling lies against us and our religion and this place. He’s even brought Greeks in here and defiled this holy place.” (What had happened was that they had seen Paul and Trophimus, the Ephesian Greek, walking together in the city and had just assumed that he had also taken him to the Temple and shown him around.)

30 Soon the whole city was in an uproar, people running from everywhere to the Temple to get in on the action. They grabbed Paul, dragged him outside, and locked the Temple gates so he couldn’t get back in and gain sanctuary.

31-32 As they were trying to kill him, word came to the captain of the guard, “A riot! The whole city’s boiling over!” He acted swiftly. His soldiers and centurions ran to the scene at once. As soon as the mob saw the captain and his soldiers, they quit beating Paul.

33-36 The captain came up and put Paul under arrest. He first ordered him handcuffed, and then asked who he was and what he had done. All he got from the crowd were shouts, one yelling this, another that. It was impossible to tell one word from another in the mob hysteria, so the captain ordered Paul taken to the military barracks. But when they got to the Temple steps, the mob became so violent that the soldiers had to carry Paul. As they carried him away, the crowd followed, shouting, “Kill him! Kill him!”

37-38 When they got to the barracks and were about to go in, Paul said to the captain, “Can I say something to you?”

He answered, “Oh, I didn’t know you spoke Greek. I thought you were the Egyptian who not long ago started a riot here, and then hid out in the desert with his four thousand thugs.”

39 Paul said, “No, I’m a Jew, born in Tarsus. And I’m a citizen still of that influential city. I have a simple request: Let me speak to the crowd.”

Paul Tells His Story

40 Standing on the barracks steps, Paul turned and held his arms up. A hush fell over the crowd as Paul began to speak. He spoke in Hebrew.

THINK ABOUT IT…

God intervened and saved Paul so He could tell the Truth by telling His Story. 

God will still intervene in our lives.  He is on our side.

God seeks those whose hearts are completely His, who know Truth and are willing to tell His story.

God’s Holy Spirit will give us exactly the right words to say, when to say it and how to say it to those willing to make the most of every opportunity.

Are we willing?

Lord,

You are amazing in all ways.  There is no one like you, none at all.  Why would I listen to anyone else but you?  You are God, Creator of all, who desires to love us beyond our wildest dreams, who cares about us and is willing to stoop low to hear us when we pray.  Lord, how beautiful this thought alone is to me in a world who rarely listens. 

Thank you for saving my soul, lifting my Spirit, guiding my thought life, growing your character in me with loving forgiveness, mercy and grace.  There are not enough words of gratitude that I can give you.  But one thing is for sure.  I will run from the mobs of assumptions and always seek Truth.  You are Truth.  Help me to make the most of every opportunity to tell The Truth of You.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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TRUST JESUS

When we walk with the Lord, in the Light of His Word,                                   What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

I am hearing and singing this old hymn as it plays in the background of my mind today.  In our previous passage, Paul had been woefully warned of the impending dangers that he would experience if he went to Jerusalem, a large city with mixed, diverse religious views.  Thousands were believing in Jesus which angered zealous religious leaders and those who still followed tradition.  Those who were instrumental in setting the stage for the killing of Jesus are now pulling out all the stops of religious tradition to stop the spread of believers who follow Jesus.

The leaders know their religion well and have even added their detailed laws to clarify who is in power over the people who do not comply.  They have no relationship with God, only in tradition and religion.  Jesus did not come to destroy God’s Law but to fulfil it and provide a way back to a relationship with God who made us in His image.  But traditionalist have lived this life too long to change their hearts.  They prefer religion over relationship—at all costs.

PAUL WALKS IN WITH TRUST AND OBEDIENCE IN JESUS

Remember, Paul’s dear friends misunderstood his plans (21:1–17) to go to Jerusalem knowing that it would be dangerous. Paul had to tear himself away from the Ephesian elders, so great was his love for them.  Now, the Jerusalem church misunderstood his message.  The first meeting was devoted primarily to fellowship and personal matters, because the second meeting was given over to Paul’s personal report of his ministry to the Gentiles. The Jerusalem leaders had agreed years before that Paul should minister to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7–10), and the elders rejoiced at what they heard. Paul gave a full and accurate account, not of what he had done, but of what the Lord had done through his ministry.

You get the impression that the legalists had been working behind the scenes. No sooner had Paul finished his report than the elders brought up the rumors that were then being circulated about Paul among the Jewish Christians. What were his enemies saying about Paul? Almost the same things they said about Jesus and Stephen: he was teaching the Jews to forsake the laws and customs given by Moses and the fathers. They were not worried about what Paul taught the Gentile believers, because the relationship of the Gentiles to the law had been settled at the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15). In fact, the elders carefully rehearsed the matter (Acts 21:25), probably for the sake of Paul’s Gentile companions.

SEASON OF CHANGE – THE BAD NEWS FOR LEGALISTIC TRADITIONALISTS

Old customs are difficult to change. In fact, one day God would have to send a special letter to the Jews, the epistle to the Hebrews, to explain the relationship between the old and new covenants. As Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse used to say, “The book of Hebrews was written to the Hebrews to tell them to stop being Hebrews!” It was not until the city and the temple were destroyed in AD 70 that traditional Jewish worship ceased.

Warren Wiersbe, Commentator, explains:

“Paul did warn the Gentiles not to get involved in the old Jewish religion (Gal. 4:1–11), but he nowhere told the Jews that it was wrong for them to practice their customs, so long as they did not trust in ceremony or make their customs a test of fellowship (Rom. 14:1— 15:7). There was freedom to observe special days and diets, and believers were not to judge or condemn one another. The same grace that gave the Gentiles freedom to abstain also gave the Jews freedom to observe. All God asked was that they receive one another and not create problems or divisions.”

Wait a second, friends.  How do we cope with change?  I must stop and ask myself this question while judging the awful actions of the hard-hearted legalists of Paul’s day.  Am I a legalist in my traditions?  Am I wholeheartedly following Jesus, not matter what He asks of me to do?  Or following a list of manmade rules that keep people out instead of inviting them into a relationship with God?

We have to learn to trust God with changeThere is a tension that happens when we are in the midst of change. Living in the middle of what was and the hope of what is yet to come is challenging. We have to LEARN that we can trust God with change, even when we don’t see the end. We are told in Psalm 37:34“Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act! Keep traveling steadily along his pathway and in due season he will honor you with every blessing.” (TLB) As we navigate the tumultuous waters of learning to trust God with change, we have to decide where we are going to place our trust or anchor our soul. We can look at Saul who changed to Paul to see how he navigated change from legalism to relationship with God through Jesus who is now Lord of his life after Savior from his sins!  Heroes of the Bible like Paul made it through trials as they put their trust in God, while others got lost on the path to their destination.

Now I realize why Paul often warned believer to fix their eyes on Jesus! We must, like Paul, keep our eyes fixed on the author and finisher of our faith. Change is simply God’s means for bringing us closer to our destiny, but in order to stay the course, it is important to know the beauty of destiny:

  • We have a destiny of becoming more of a reflection of Him. (2 Cor. 2:18)
  • We have a destiny of bringing His Kingdom here on earth. (Matt. 6:10)
  • We have a destiny of producing GOOD FRUIT that represents His character. (John 15:5)
  • We have a destiny of beauty coming from ashes. (Isaiah 61)

The Word of God is FULL of promises for our destiny in Christ Jesus.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

ACTS—God’s actions through His Disciples

Acts 21:17-26, The Message

 Jerusalem

17-19 In Jerusalem, our friends, glad to see us, received us with open arms. The first thing next morning, we took Paul to see James. All the church leaders were there. After a time of greeting and small talk, Paul told the story, detail by detail, of what God had done among the non-Jewish people through his ministry. They listened with delight and gave God the glory.

20-21 They had a story to tell, too: “And just look at what’s been happening here—thousands upon thousands of God-fearing Jews have become believers in Jesus! But there’s also a problem because they are more zealous than ever in observing the laws of Moses. They’ve been told that you advise believing Jews who live surrounded by unbelieving outsiders to go light on Moses, telling them that they don’t need to circumcise their children or keep up the old traditions. This isn’t sitting at all well with them.

22-24 “We’re worried about what will happen when they discover you’re in town. There’s bound to be trouble. So here is what we want you to do: There are four men from our company who have taken a vow involving ritual purification, but have no money to pay the expenses. Join these men in their vows and pay their expenses. Then it will become obvious to everyone that there is nothing to the rumors going around about you and that you are in fact scrupulous in your reverence for the laws of Moses.

25 “In asking you to do this, we’re not going back on our agreement regarding non-Jews who have become believers. We continue to hold fast to what we wrote in that letter, namely, to be careful not to get involved in activities connected with idols; to avoid serving food offensive to Jewish Christians; to guard the morality of sex and marriage.”

26 So Paul did it—took the men, joined them in their vows, and paid their way. The next day he went to the Temple to make it official and stay there until the proper sacrifices had been offered and completed for each of them.

GOD’S STORY DOES NOT END HERE…

Paul’s actions did not appease the legalists who refuse change.  It seems incredible that Paul’s enemies would accuse him of these things, for all the evidence was against them.  However, rumors are not usually based on fact, but thrive on half-truths, prejudices, and outright lies.  The whole plan appeared to be safe and wise, but it did not work. Instead of bringing peace, it caused an uproar, and Paul ended up a prisoner.

The Jews misunderstood Paul’s ministry in riotous proportions.  We will explore this tomorrow.

Lord,

Change is hard but inevitable.  Change happens whether we “approve” or not.  We must fix our eyes on you for the Way, Truth and real Life to follow.  You have already won!  You are the Victor!  We must consider what does not change—Your love, mercy and grace!  So, help us to remember to trust in You, Our Redeemer, Savior and Lord, always and forevermore!

In Jesus Name, Amen

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

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MASTER, YOU HANDLE IT!

There will be many times in our lives when we will hear the Holy Spirit’s caution but still be led to continually move in the direction of known danger and challenge.  Those who know God and the teaching and actions of His Son, Jesus, know that every led direction in life is filled with possible challenges.  When we live for God, expect it.  But also expect God to be with us.

Paul is warned of the dangers of his determined trip to Jerusalem.  Jerusalem, the city of God, filled with His people, but also filled with people who no longer know God.  The Romans hate God and His people.  Factions of Jewish leaders are no longer led of God but by selfish motives of promotion and still fight the teachings of our Master, Jesus.  They do not believe in Jesus as Savior or Lord.  They want to stop the new believers, growing in numbers, spreading the Good News of salvation for all.  This is where Paul is traveling to in hopes of changing their minds.

Visions and dreams of others who love Paul warn Him of the danger.  Some “see” what will happen if he goes.  Paul knows the danger.  But his mind is determined to go to Jerusalem.  Can we stop for a minute and recall the words of Luke (who also penned the inspired by God book of Acts) as he tells of Jesus resolute, determination to go to Jerusalem?  Jesus knows exactly what will happen but “his eyes were fixed on Jerusalem.”  (Luke 9:51-56)

“When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” To set his face towards Jerusalem meant something very different for Jesus than it did for the disciples. You can see the visions of greatness that danced in their heads in verse 46: “An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.” Jerusalem and glory were just around the corner. O what it would mean when Jesus took the throne!

But Jesus had another vision in his head. One wonders how he carried it all alone and so long. Here’s what Jerusalem meant for Jesus: “I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem”(Luke 13:33). Jerusalem meant one thing for Jesus: certain death. Nor was he under any illusions of a quick and heroic death. He predicted in Luke 18:31, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him.” When Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, he set his face to die, so that we who believe could live!

Paul, devoted to his Master, Jesus Christ, also “sees” what others do not.  He tries to explain to those worried about him, “Why all this hysteria? Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me? You’re looking at this backward. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience. Can’t you see that?”

ACTS—God’s Action through His Disciples

Acts 21:1-16, The Message

Tyre and Caesarea

1-4 And so, with the tearful good-byes behind us, we were on our way. We made a straight run to Cos, the next day reached Rhodes, and then Patara. There we found a ship going direct to Phoenicia, got on board, and set sail. Cyprus came into view on our left, but was soon out of sight as we kept on course for Syria, and eventually docked in the port of Tyre. While the cargo was being unloaded, we looked up the local disciples and stayed with them seven days. Their message to Paul, from insight given by the Spirit, was “Don’t go to Jerusalem.”

5-6 When our time was up, they escorted us out of the city to the docks. Everyone came along—men, women, children. They made a farewell party of the occasion! We all kneeled together on the beach and prayed. Then, after another round of saying good-bye, we climbed on board the ship while they drifted back to their homes.

7-9 A short run from Tyre to Ptolemais completed the voyage. We greeted our Christian friends there and stayed with them a day. In the morning we went on to Caesarea and stayed with Philip the Evangelist, one of “the Seven.” Philip had four virgin daughters who prophesied.

10-11 After several days of visiting, a prophet from Judea by the name of Agabus came down to see us. He went right up to Paul, took Paul’s belt, and, in a dramatic gesture, tied himself up, hands and feet. He said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: The Jews in Jerusalem are going to tie up the man who owns this belt just like this and hand him over to godless unbelievers.”

12-13 When we heard that, we and everyone there that day begged Paul not to be stubborn and persist in going to Jerusalem. But Paul wouldn’t budge: “Why all this hysteria? Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me? You’re looking at this backward. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience. Can’t you see that?”

14 We saw that we weren’t making even a dent in his resolve, and gave up. “It’s in God’s hands now,” we said. “Master, you handle it.”

15-16 It wasn’t long before we had our luggage together and were on our way to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and took us to the home of Mnason, who received us warmly as his guests. A native of Cyprus, he had been among the earliest disciples.

THINK ABOUT IT…

When we don’t understand—Leave it in God’s hands. 

We don’t always need to know the mission motivation and vision of each other.  But we can always trust God to direct, guide and provide for those He leads.  “We saw that we weren’t making even a dent in his resolve, and gave up. It’s in God’s hands now, we said. Master, you handle it. 

Great friends, supportive family members who love, trust and obey God, do exactly what those who loved Paul did.  They prayed, “Master, you handle it”, believing that He will.  He is God and we are not.  We pray.  God works.  God calls.  We obey. 

Following Jesus is not a rose garden without thorns.  “In this world, you will have troubles…”, Jesus promised, with thorns of danger and opposition from the enemy they will tear at our flesh but will not destroy our soul!  Jesus has overcome!  We are overcomers with Him!

When Randy and I answered God’s call to leave our home state and travel a thousand miles away, our friends and family warned us of all kinds of pitfalls in this decision.  Looking back, I understood their concerns but knew that obedience to God was the only option for us.  It’s still the only option for us.  We have no regrets in following where God leads.  The lessons God wanted to teach us through good, hard, challenging times will live in us forever.  Teaching others what God does in us and His people who really believe He is really real comes from the lessons God taught us in responding to His call with trusting, loving obedience. 

To whom do you “set your eyes” and “fixed your gaze” upon? 

This is the question we must answer daily.  See Romans 12:1-2.

Lord,

You have been with us through good times and challenging times, teaching us that we are always under your protective care.  You have provided faithfully, teaching us to have even stronger faith from within our souls.  We decided to follow you as children, we are not turning back now.  Our relationship is too deep and intimate.  Our love for you has gone to depths of resolve of knowing there is no love like the love you have for us.  There is no one like you.  There is no one we can fully trust and be assured of continual love and care.  Thank for guiding us in marriage, in parenting, in grandparenting and in ministry of helping others find and follow you.  Continue to teach us for I’m sure you are not finished with our education yet.  School us, Lord.  We are yours.  Our eyes are fixed on you.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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WHAT MATTERS MOST

Goodbyes to people you love and love to be with in good times and through bad times are hard.  Tears come and flow freely with long hugs.  Loving words are whispered in ears.  What matters most is what is said.

This next passage is all about what matters most in loving God and loving His people.  Paul is leaving Asia and is Spirit-led to go on to Jerusalem.  We can learn much from Paul’s affirming and encouraging words at his departure.  The love of God, the love and devotion to Jesus in Paul drenches every word with care through the tears for the people he leaves behind.  Spirit-led, passionate words encourages leaders he developed over the past three years to now carry on the work God began through Paul and his associates.  These are God’s actions through His apostles and disciples, followers and leaders.

God still acts through us today as believing followers, shepherds, leaders, servers–passionate lovers of Jesus for what He has done in and for us.  Our obedience to God reflects the depth of our love for God.

ACTS—God’s Actions through His Disciples

Acts 20:17-38, The Message

On to Jerusalem

17-21 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus for the leaders of the congregation. When they arrived, he said, “You know that from day one of my arrival in Asia I was with you totally—laying my life on the line, serving the Master no matter what, putting up with no end of scheming by Jews who wanted to do me in. I didn’t skimp or trim in any way. Every truth and encouragement that could have made a difference to you, you got. I taught you out in public and I taught you in your homes, urging Jews and Greeks alike to a radical life-change before God and an equally radical trust in our Master Jesus.

22-24 “But there is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I’m completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. I do know that it won’t be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.

25-27 “And so this is good-bye. You’re not going to see me again, nor I you, you whom I have gone among for so long proclaiming the news of God’s inaugurated kingdom. I’ve done my best for you, given you my all, held back nothing of God’s will for you.

28 “Now it’s up to you. Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God’s people they are—to guard and protect them. God himself thought they were worth dying for.

29-31 “I know that as soon as I’m gone, vicious wolves are going to show up and rip into this flock, men from your very own ranks twisting words so as to seduce disciples into following them instead of Jesus. So stay awake and keep up your guard. Remember those three years I kept at it with you, never letting up, pouring my heart out with you, one after another.

32 “Now I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.

33-35 “I’ve never, as you so well know, had any taste for wealth or fashion. With these bare hands I took care of my own basic needs and those who worked with me. In everything I’ve done, I have demonstrated to you how necessary it is to work on behalf of the weak and not exploit them. You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.’”

36-38 Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go. They knew they would never see him again—he had told them quite plainly. The pain cut deep. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship.

WHAT WE LEARN…

Paul reminds servant leaders what matters most:

  • Jesus saves us.  God leads us through His Holy Spirit. We love, trust and obey.
  • No matter what—Preach the Truth of Jesus Christ.
  • Laying our lives on the line, as Jesus did for us, is the cost of discipleship and our blessed privilege.
  • Radical life-change before God with an equally radical trust in our Master Jesus is living with eternal purpose in the Kingdom of God.
  • “What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.”
  • Give your best to the Master Jesus, holding nothing back of God’s will.
  • Leaders, “Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God’s people they are—to guard and protect them. God himself thought they were worth dying for.
  • Vicious wolves of evil will come to draw the sheep away.  “So, stay awake and keep up your guard.”
  • Life is ALL about God!  “God, whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.”
  • “Work on behalf of the weak and do not exploit them.” 
  • Don’t worry about wealth or fashion, God will take care of our basic needs. “You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.’”
  • PRAY – Pray to God for each other.  Pray when life hurts.  Pray in goodbyes and hellos.  Pray for God’s leading.  Pray through the tears. 
  • Pray for God’s will for this is who matters most in life.

Lord,

Goodbyes are hard when you send us to other places to share your Truth.  Paul’s example of passionate serving leadership is not only inspiring but necessary for our own maturing in your work of grace and mercy in us.  Thank you, Jesus for being the Perfect example.  Thank you for teaching Paul how to be fully devoted to You and the Truth of salvation with eternal life.  May we always remember Who and What matters most in this life as we prepare for eternity with you.  May we live passionately and truthfully.  May our authenticity, because of You in us, speak volumes to those seeking what is real and what matters most to them.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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