Category Archives: Acts

Boldly Standing on Faith ~ Acts 24:1-26:32

But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen–that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” ~ Acts 26:22-23

These three chapters cover a span of just over two years, during which Paul was imprisoned in Caesaria. Governor Felix held him for two years because he didn’t know what to do with Paul, and he was hoping Paul would offer a bribe in exchange for his freedom. Felix was replaced by Festus, who promptly summoned the Jewish leaders to Caesaria to present their charges against Paul. After hearing the charges and Paul’s defense, Festus realizes that there is no merit to the charges, but wanting to appease the Jews he asks Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and be tried there. Paul, probably knowing he would never survive the trip, appeals to Caesar.

Festus recognizes that the charges against Paul have no merit, yet because of Paul’s Roman citizenship he must honor Paul’s request. King Agrippa pays a visit to Festus, so Festus discusses Paul’s case with the king. The king summons Paul, who presents his case and the Gospel. Festus and Agrippa agree that Paul has done nothing to deserve imprisonment or death. They would have released him then and there, but since Paul has appealed to Caesar, he would be sent to Caesar.

Cross Quilt at San Rafael's

Cross Quilt at San Rafael’s (Photo credit: lars hammar)

“And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today,” (Acts 26:6). Faith is one of God’s most precious gifts. Through faith we stand firmly on God’s Word in any place under any circumstance knowing that God will honor that. Through faith we share the Gospel with those around us – even if they happen to be senior executives or top government officials like Caesar. If we surrender our life to Him, God will work through us to advance the Gospel just as He worked through Paul. Our modern world sorely needs to hear the Gospel; honestly, fully, and completely. Think about that for a moment. If we simply live out our lives in silence, blending in with the world, we are of little use. Instead, let us stand boldly for Christ in faith. Let us be available to serve the Lord according to His good and perfect will.

Ponder this: In what places and under which circumstances might I serve the Lord?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, Thank you for gifting me with saving faith in your Son, Jesus Christ. Let my life, in both words and actions, be a walking witness to Him. Show me, Lord, how you would have me serve You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Remaining Steadfast ~ Acts 22:30-23:35

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” ~ Acts 23:11

The Roman government takes some rather extraordinary measures to protect Paul, a Roman citizen. Seeking an understanding of the charges of the Jews, the commander brings Paul before the Sanhedrin so they can explain the charges and question Paul. But before they ask their very first question, Paul declares, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” (23:1) The chief priest orders another to slap Paul in the mouth, and Paul rebukes the chief priest. Paul then artfully turns the group on itself, Pharisee versus Sadducee, declaring, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” (23:6) The session erupts into a “great uproar” with Pharisees declaring they find nothing wrong with Paul as a group of 40 form a conspiracy and take an oath not to eat or drink until they kill Paul.

Paul’s nephew learns of the conspiracy, reports it to Paul, and then at Paul’s request to the Roman commander. The commander sends Paul to Caesarea under cover of night with military protection to be tried by Governor Felix. The journey to Caesarea is successful, and Governor Felix places Paul in protective custody until his accusers arrive to present their case against him.

I continue to be struck by Paul’s steadfast faith. Standing before the Sanhedrin, he does not waiver. In the face of a conspiracy against his life, he does not waiver. Paul knows that God is with him, and he knows that the Gospel is worth dying for, should that be God’s will.

Christians today face pressure from a different source. Our society scorns the Gospel. Believers are expected to mute the message of Scripture in order to fit into a secular system of norms and values. Those who resist or refuse face persecution, sometimes intense persecution. There are Christian churches that have given in to this pressure to various degrees. Others, like Paul, remain steadfastly faithful to God and His good and perfect will as revealed through Scripture. The divisions within the Church on these matters concern me deeply. False and watered-down doctrine gives the enemy a foothold as many believers and would-be believers are led down a dangerous road of deceitful false teaching. Jesus warned about this when He said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)

Christians, we must faithfully pray for the Church, for fellow Christians who have been led astray by false or watered-down doctrine, and for our nation. As we pray, we must seize opportunities to share God’s Truth – the Gospel – as the Lord presents such opportunities to us.

Ponder this: Although the battle is ongoing, Jesus Christ has already won the war. How is God calling me to serve?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I lift up Your church and those in leadership within it. I pray that Your Word would be the sole authority for preaching and teaching, and that false teaching would be exposed and removed. I pray specifically for my pastor, our staff, and our teachers. Guide, direct, and bless them so that the Gospel is always at the forefront of our teachings. Help us, Lord, to stand steadfast on Your Word when persecution comes our way. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Answering the Call ~ Acts 21:37-22:29

“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ” ~ Acts 22:21

As the commander is about to lead Paul into the barracks, Paul asks if he may address the crowd. The commander grants his request, and Paul addresses the crowd in Aramaic, which immediately silences them.

Conversion of St Paul on the Road to Damascus

Conversion of St Paul on the Road to Damascus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paul offers his personal background as a citizen and as a Jew, describing his persecution of the earliest Christians before his conversion. He describes the stoning of Stephen as he stood aside and guarded the cloaks of those who stoned him. He then describes his conversion on the road to Damascus and God’s subsequent instruction that Paul leave Jerusalem: “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go, I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” (22:21).

The crowd listened intently until Paul said this. The riot begins again, and Paul is taken into the barracks where a centurion prepares to flog him. Paul cites his Roman citizenship, and is thereby spared of the beating.

It appears that Paul’s ministry is drawing to a close, and he knows it. But, is it really? Centuries later, God speaks to us today through Paul’s letters to the churches he founded. Countless people have come to know Christ via the “Roman Road”, a series of passages from Paul’s letter to the Romans that walk the sinner through our sinful nature and resulting death to sanctification through Jesus’ act of mercy and grace and eternal life through Him. God continues to speak through Paul today, and He will continue until the end of the age.

God chose Paul to be a messenger of the Gospel to the Gentiles. We believers are to share the Gospel in our world. For some of us, it’s an office and for others a warehouse. For some, it’s a schoolhouse and for others an airport. It really makes no difference; we are called to witness where we are. Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Our light is our very life; our words and actions always witness to something. Let us speak and behave as witnesses for the Gospel knowing that God can and will work through us.

Ponder this: Do my words and actions point to the Gospel? How can I live as God’s witness in my world?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I know that if I walk through life according to Your will, I will impact the world as You intend for me to do. Help me to fully trust You so that I may be an effective witness. Help me to live my life for You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

God’s Will be Done ~ Acts 21:1-36

Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” ~ Acts 21:13-14

When I consider the concept of placing God’s will above my own, it is not in the context of dying for Him, for I am not facing that threat. In Caesarea, the prophet Agabus predicts Paul’s arrest and demise in Jerusalem. The believers beg Paul not to go there, and he offers the response above. Knowing what is to come, Paul presses on.

Upon arrival in Jerusalem, the disciples tell Paul that word has spread among the Jews that Paul is converting Gentiles, and teaching the Jews that live among the Gentiles to “turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs” (verse 22). The disciples introduce four men who have taken a vow to follow Judaism. They ask Paul to participate with these men in their rites of cleansing believing that this would demonstrate to the Jews that Paul had not abandoned Jewish law. Paul agrees.

As the period of cleansing draws to its end, some Jews from Asia publicly accuse Paul, claiming he “brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place” (verse 28). An uproar ensues, and Paul is arrested with the crowd shouting, “Get rid of him!” (verse 36). Here in Jerusalem, the Jews who have been hounding Paul all along the way finally succeed in having him arrested.  Although he knows his demise is imminent, Paul presses on; he continues to preach the Gospel.

Satan uses all sorts of things to distract our attention away from Christ. For me, in this place in my life, it’s a question of priorities. These past few days have been very busy and I’ve neglected to read God’s word as a result. It’s not the fault of my “busy-ness”; it’s a case of misaligned priorities. Satan sometimes wins small battles; thank God that through Jesus the war is already won! Today I pray that God would give me that same degree of focus on Him.

Ponder this: What distracts me from God’s will for my life? Are my priorities distracting me from opportunities to serve Him?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending faithful servants like Paul to share Your Gospel and inspire us with their dedication to You. Thank you for modern-day believers who unwaveringly preach, teach, and live Your Truth. Help me, Lord, to continuously seek and follow Your will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Fully Committed ~ Acts 20:1-38

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.~ Acts 20:24

The Farewell

The Farewell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the uproar in Ephesus, Paul and several companions depart. Paul’s ultimate destination is Jerusalem, but he makes several stops along the way. During a stopover in Miletus, Paul sent word to Ephesus for the elders of the church to meet him in Miletus. When they arrive, Paul recounts his witness to them, warns them of opposition that will arise both from outside and from within the church, and tells them they will never see him again.

I am struck by the wisdom from God that Paul displays. Paul’s unwavering dedication to God’s service and those who believe, his insight into how his trials and tribulations are worth suffering for God’s good purposes, and his love for those with whom he served are all noteworthy. The degree to which Paul lives these traits is not of his own accord – we see here the power and influence that God can have over a life that is fully committed to Him and we see how God can use such a committed servant to win many for the Gospel.

We also see throughout Paul’s ministry the constant attacks Satan levies against the Gospel and those who believe. Paul’s warning here to the elders must be heeded today as well:

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. (verses 28-30)

My heart breaks when I consider the thousands who have been misled through false, incomplete, or watered-down teaching and preaching. The savage wolves about which Paul warned the elders from Ephesus are active in the church today, and many have unwittingly succumbed to their false teachings. Christians, we must be in the Word. We must be in prayer. And if we hear false teaching in the church, we must speak out as God leads us. Stand firmly and boldly upon the foundation of the Gospel and be richly blessed.

Ponder this: God doesn’t call all of us to a missionary ministry as He called Paul; to what is He calling me? Am I willing?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for faithful servants like Paul and the apostles. Let me learn from them and be inspired by them, but more than that, fill me with your Holy Spirit and guide my footsteps that I might be fully committed to doing Your will in my life. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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