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Acts 28:23-31 // Boldness & Authority

“23 After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and witnessed about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. 24 Some were persuaded by what he said, but others did not believe.

25 Disagreeing among themselves, they began to leave after Paul made one statement: ‘The Holy Spirit correctly spoke through the prophet Isaiah to your ancestors 26 when He said,

‘Go to these people and say:

You will listen and listen,

yet never understand;

and you will look and look,

yet never perceive.

27 For the hearts of these people

have grown callous,

their ears are hard of hearing,

and they have shut their eyes;

otherwise they might see with their eyes

and hear with their ears,

understand with their heart,

and be converted,

and I would heal them.’

28 Therefore, let it be known to you that this saving work of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen!’ [29 After he said these things, the Jews departed, while engaging in a prolonged debate among themselves.]

30 Then he stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance.”

Acts 28:23-31

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When it comes down to it, there is only one choice to make: follow God or follow yourself. 

Paul spoke with boldness, unhindered, because he had discovered the joy that comes from walking in the freedom of God. He spoke with authority, because God was the one with authority, & Paul understoof his role within God’s kingdom. As an emmisary for Christ, he had been sent with the authority of Christ, and so he spoke with it, minstered with it and laid things out there that others might be timid to say. But truth is truth, facts are facts, and Paul knew that the authority of God that went with him as he spoke was only meant for being used in this way. God’s authority does not hem and haw, riding a fence, walking a line bewteen two topics, trying to please everyone. It is authoritative. It is final. It is bold. 

Paul cared for his people, he wanted to honor the heart and promises of God, so he always went to them first, to give them first priority, the first opportunity to hear about what God had done. It was the right thing to do as he traveled from town to town. But he also knew that so many of his own people had traded God’s authority out for their own. They wanted their own way, to do things for their own human ‘rightousness’ rather than resting in the promises of God. They had become consumers instead of producers, honoring self over God.  

And so, out of love, and in the authority of God, he told them so openly. He was not being mean or cruel. Instead, he was offering correction and trying to open their eyes one last time. He was showing mercy by quoting the Prophet’s words one more time, because it was something they just might hear. And we see that it did resonate with them to a degree, because they left engaged in debate. 

But here’s the thing, Paul knew his people and he knew his mission. He knew this would likely be the outcome, but he still had to try. His mission was for the Gentiles (the rest of us) and so he pressed forward with the mission of God in the authority that God has given His messengers to deliver the good news of the Gospel, and so he was able to do it with all boldness. Unhindered preaching, open-hearted witnessing, comes from this boldness and it continues when we step aside and leth His Holy Spirit move us. This type of boldness comes from the efforts of the human heart that has surrendered and submitted to Jesus Christ, coming under His authority. Living in petty, human ‘power’ produces weak preaching, a timid witness and a limited reach. Boldness comes from getting out of the way and letting God do His thing through us, wherever we are…

To GoLove people effectively, we need to set out pride and desires aside and trade them in for the authority and power that comes with bearing witness for Jesus Christ in His Name. The book of Acts ends on a ‘high note’ that is only a high note for the Christian. He has been rejected by his people, he sits imprisoned thousands of miles away from home, but Paul is joyful about finally arriving in Rome, and he is ready to preach the Gospel through whatever doors God opens for him. 

Paul is not magical, mystical or some kind of   better-than-the-rest-of-us super human. He is simply a man who surrendered his life to Christ Jesus to be used by Him to GoLove the world in His Name. You Go and do likewise. Be bold. See what God will do.

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Acts 28:17-22 // Seeking Receptive Hearts

“17 After three days he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had gathered he said to them: ‘Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 After they examined me, they wanted to release me, since I had not committed a capital offense. 19 Because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar; it was not as though I had any accusation against my nation. 20 For this reason I’ve asked to see you and speak to you. In fact, it is for the hope of Israel that I’m wearing this chain.’

21 Then they said to him, ‘We haven’t received any letters about you from Judea. None of the brothers has come and reported or spoken anything evil about you. 22 But we would like to hear from you what you think. For concerning this sect, we are aware that it is spoken against everywhere.'”

Acts 28:17-22

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There really isn’t anything new under the sun. From the beginning of the Church, people have been speaking against it. This last exchange by the Jews in Rome could have been said just today. So many people speak against the Church even today. When we stand firm in the truth, people are offended, uncomfortable and often respond with ugliness. Rumors and untrue stereotypes abound, and the world lashes out at us through their misguided understanding of what we believe. They want us on the defensive, they try their hardest to throw us off balance.

Paul seeks out those people who should know better, who should be at least -familiar- with the Scriptures. He always went to the synagogues first, even if that meant a difficult exchange was coming. And while the Jews in Rome hadn’t heard anything about what had been going on with Paul, they had heard about the Church and they had heard people speaking against it. But that will not deter Paul, he was always faithful to try speaking and sharing and witnessing to those who should have a base to help them understand the Gospel message, the people of Israel, the children of promise. 

As we GoLove people in Jesus’ Name, we will find individuals who already ahev some basic knowledge of the Sciptures, maybe they were raised in church and fell away, maybe they are the spiritually ‘curious’ person who has actually taken time to read portions of the Bible. These people are going to have a sensitivity to what we have to say, but just like Paul found, that also means that you will probabaly find yourself battling misconceptions and wrong ideas that have been painted to look like they belong. 

Paul’s strategy also included the opportunity to walk away from the Jews & those gathered in the synagogues after he had made a legitimate attempt to share Christ with them. After they had heard the Gospel, and after they had some time with him to ask questions and have some conversation with him, he would move on. Those who had accepted, accepted and those who would not were left behind.  Paul then moved on to the slightly more difficult task of sharing the gospel with the pseudo-religious or irreligious crowds & pagans. 

Sometimes the hardest thing we must do is step away from trying to share Jesus with someone that we want to see come to Christ, but has no desire to actually make a move toward Him. We must also remember that God simetimes uses one person to plant a seed, another person waters it and still another gets to take part in the harvest. When we step away from someone, it’s not giving up on them, it’s giving control of the situation over to God. You keep praying for them, but you also allow some time and space to see them come to Christ by the power of God and the witness of another person. 

Paul had to exhibit a lot of trust in the hand of God in these trying times, and we must learn to do likewise. We must also remember to be good stewards of our time and to make an effort to reach out to others that may have been off our radar. Don’t beat yourself up because someone won’t respond. It just might be that the best thing you can do is let someone else have a chance & give the situation over to God. Paul is going to find this out in the next few verses of this last chapter of Acts, pray and ask God to see when those occasions come up for you & when to move forward elsewhere. Pray to be sensitive to the leading of His Holy Spirit. 

Acts 28:11-16 // Friendly Faces, Hospitality & Humility

“11 After three months we set sail in an Alexandrian ship that had wintered at the island, with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed three days. 13 From there, after making a circuit along the coast, we reached Rhegium. After one day a south wind sprang up, and the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found believers and were invited to stay with them for seven days.

And so we came to Rome. 15 Now the believers from there had heard the news about us and had come to meet us as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. 16 When we entered Rome, Paul was permitted to stay by himself with the soldier who guarded him.”

Acts 28:11-16

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What a relief to be done with sailing! Enough difficulties had happened, enough hardship had been experienced that the prospect of going to Rome, even under arrest, must have felt like a God-send. But on top of the relief of finally being on Italian soil was the fact that these small, precious groups of people were driven by love and hospitality to come meet up with Luke & Paul, not even knowing them personally, but ready to greet them and care for them as if they were long-returning family members. What a comfort to the heart, what a joy for their spirits!

As Christians, we don’t need to have a blood connection with someone in order for them to be family. We don’t have to have a history with someone in order for them to be our friends. If we share Christ in common, then we have everything we need to pick up and begin our relationships. Every first time meeting can be like a family reunion, thanks to what we share in Christ. 

To the world, that’s going to sound far-fetched, but it is reality for a Christ-follower. 

We should be the first to exhibit hospitality, the first to help those who suffer. We should be first on the mark when the time comes to walk through something difficult with someone. What we share in Christ gives us more than enough reason to rally around each other, to share burdens and joys alike, and to be a support for absolutely anyone that has been washed in the blood of the Lamb. 

Paul’s previous reputation (as Saul) did not matter here. The fact that he was under arrest did not deter them. They simply saw him as a brother in Christ who needed to be loved, and so they answered the call to GoLove him in Jesus’ Name. Luke, as his doctor, friend & as a fellow believer in Christ, was also treated with equal love, care and concern. The lack of aprevious relationship on anyone’s part simply did not matter. Within the church, it isn’t a matter of ‘What can you do for me?’ but rather a matter of ‘What has Christ Jesus already done & how can I imitate Him?’ 

We don’t serve looking to be served in return. We serve because He first served us. We love for the same reason, and we simply don’t look for how we benefit from the exchange. To live as Christ means to put others first, and to receive them as we would receive Christ. There shouldn’t be such a thing as an unfriendly church, there shouldn’t be such a thing as animosity between belivers. We love because Christ first loved us, and His brand of love is joyfully & sacrificially given. 

Acts 28:1-10 // Ministry of Opportunity, Even in Suffering

“1 Once ashore, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The local people showed us extraordinary kindness, for they lit a fire and took us all in, since it was raining and cold. 3 As Paul gathered a bundle of brushwood and put it on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself to his hand. 4 When the local people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, ‘This man is probably a murderer, and though he has escaped the sea, Justice does not allow him to live!’ 5 However, he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They expected that he would swell up or suddenly drop dead. But after they waited a long time and saw nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

7 Now in the area around that place was an estate belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 Publiuss father was in bed suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went to him, and praying and laying his hands on him, he healed him. 9 After this, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 So they heaped many honors on us, and when we sailed, they gave us what we needed.”

Acts 28:1-10

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Whether or not we seek this out, every moment we live can be used as an opportunity for ministry. When we go through stressful times, serving other people can often be the release valve that we need in order to process what we’ve been through and to keep things in perspective. Serving others is a marvelous way to focus on what really matters, and it keeps us from having a ‘pity party’ and focusing on our own apparent misfortune. 

Paul had every right to feel sullen, worn out and dejected. Shipwrecks will do that to a person. But instead, we find Paul behaving confidently before and after this event. He puts his hands to work (maybe by the orders of the guards, maybe not) he chooses not to make a big deal out of the snake bite situation, and then once the essential work is done, he goes right back to working his call. 

It is very easy to get hung up in the tasks of the day and, in turn, leave ministry aside. Maybe a busy schedule gives us an excuse that we buy into. Maybe a difficult situation presents itself, and we use that as our reasoning for not pouring into others as Christ’s Holy Spirit has gifted us. Whatever the reason, human beings tend to use whatever excuses our flesh will offer in order to shirk off the more essential things, as it suits us. But to follow the example of Christ, we find that, even in the middle of a situation where we may be suffering or dealing with hardship, those moments even are primed and ready to minister to others. Jesus ministered to Mary, His mother, as He hung on the cross. 

John 19:25-27 – “25 Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mothers sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ 27 Then He said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”

Serving others is our release from distress, sorrow and disappointment. This is how we GoLove in Jesus’ Name, following His example, even in suffering. Ministry heals both the minister and the one being minsitered to, and rather htan withdraw in difficult times, we should embrace ministry as a part of our healing. In serving others, we are ministered to as well. 

Acts 27:39-44 // A Tedious Trip in Dangerous Waters

“39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land but sighted a bay with a beach. They planned to run the ship ashore if they could. 40 After casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and headed for the beach. 41 But they struck a sandbar and ran the ship aground. The bow jammed fast and remained immovable, while the stern began to break up by the pounding of the waves.

42 The soldiers plan was to kill the prisoners so that no one could swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion kept them from carrying out their plan because he wanted to save Paul, so he ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to follow, some on planks and some on debris from the ship. In this way, everyone safely reached the shore.”

Acts 27:39-44

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All of Acts chapter 27 is devoted to the sailing between Judea & Italy. So much time is covered, so many days of tedium are passed by in just a few verses. It is clear that this is an unpleasant journey, and that God has given Paul a kind guardian to watch over him as he completes this dangerous trip. The circumstances were unfortunate, the timing of the trip was poor, the conditions were less than ideal and this could have definitely been a cause for complaining. But listening to Luke recount what happened, including the shipwreck, we don’t hear any tones of discontent, there is no frustration or anger. 

We all have seasons of life where we experience difficulty, wheer situations are less than ideal. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, we all know that life isn’t a series of cupcakes and roses. Life is difficult. But even in the midst of difficulty, we have the opportunity to live out the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. because of the goodness of God, we have a Comforter in His Holy Spirit that serves as aour guard and guide through these rough patches, nom atter how difficult or long lasting they might be. Paul & Luke knew that God as with them as they waited out those long days at sea. They knew that God was with them as they bounced from ship to ship at the discretion of another man. They knew that Jesus’ promise to be with them always was still good as the weather turned and the ship was buffetted by the waves. They were able to rest in the goodness & mercy of God as they swam to shore, having just been spared from death twice in the same occasion. 

We cannot get hung up in pity parties. We cannot look at only ourselves or our own strength in the midst of difficult days. God has given us a great blessing. He has promised us His peace. He is faithful, He is compassionate & He will carry us through these difficult stretches of life. We simply need to trust Him and lay our pain, sorrow, worries and frustrations at His feet. He is more than capable of carrying whatever we find ourselves too weak to manage.  

I am immediately reminded of this passage from Paul’s 2nd letter to the church in Corinth: 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When we are in the midst of difficulty, God’s strength shines through. It is obvious what we struggle with and how difficult things are, and it is doubly noticeable when God is glorified by getting us through those times. Those are the occasions where people come and ask where or how we had the strength to move forward in the midst of such extreme difficulties. Give God glory & step out of His way. Let Him be glorified in your weaknesses. Seek Him out & then rest in Him as He guides your steps, moment by moment, day by day through the darkest valleys and into His marvelous light. In this example, we can still GoLove others, mirroring the heart of Christ who was strong for us as we lay dead in our sins. 

Have faith. God is good.

Acts 26:24-32 // Paul’s Defense, pt 3 // Strength in Difficulty

“24 As he was making his defense this way, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice, ‘You’re out of your mind, Paul! Too much study is driving you mad!’

25 But Paul replied, ‘I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I’m speaking words of truth and good judgment. 26 For the king knows about these matters. It is to him I am actually speaking boldly. For I am convinced that none of these things escapes his notice, since this was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.’

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?’

29 ‘I wish before God,’ replied Paul, ‘that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am — except for these chains.’

30 So the king, the governor, Bernice, and those sitting with them got up, 31 and when they had left they talked with each other and said, ‘This man is doing nothing that deserves death or chains.’

32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.'”

Acts 26:24-32

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Read verse 29 again:

‘I wish before God,’ replied Paul, ‘that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am — except for these chains.’

The chains, being jailed…that was secondary to what was happening for Paul. He had audience with people who did not know Jesus, and so he was going to do whatever he could to share the Good News of the Gospel with them. He wanted them to see and understand the hope that he had in Christ. His heart was going out for them, he was concerned for their salvation, and his personal situation did not play into consideration. 

Personal ease, an easy walk? These are not guaranteed. Jesus has promised to help us through every hardship, but we must keep our focus on Him. It’s not about making everything comfortable for us, but having us in a place where we are needed to do the Gospel work. Ease and comfort are not factors that determine whether or not we do what is required of us. If they were, there would never even be one permenant gathering of belivers. We would get upset with each other and scatter to the wind. Instead, we focus on Christ, not seeking excuses, and we do the work together, the work laid out for us in the Gospel.

If Paul was a consumer, he would be dissatisfied, but as a disciple he was simply doing what his Master asked of him. It could have been easier, yes. He could have settled down in Ephesus and had a fulfilling ministry, sure, but that wasn’t what God wanted of him. And so he did what was required, he pressed on through the difficulty, God giving him strength to do so. 

As we do the work of Christ, answering the call to GoLove others, we have to remember that the work laid out before us is so much more important than our ‘feeling’ comfortable. We must seek our joy in Him, not in situations. We must find our joy in Him, not seeking out what the flesh calls ‘happiness.’ Ministry, our walk as Christians, is not about what is easiest, it is about what is required of us as disciples of Jesus. So, stick with it, power through in His Name and be faithful as Christ has been faithful for you, God getting the glory and giving you the strength to do so through His Holy Spirit. 

Acts 26:12-23 // Paul’s Defense, pt 2

12 “‘I was traveling to Damascus under these circumstances with authority and a commission from the chief priests. 13 King Agrippa, while on the road at midday, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 

15 Then I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ 

And the Lord replied: ‘I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and of what I will reveal to you. 17 I will rescue you from the people and from the Gentiles. I now send you to them 18 to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified.’ 

19 Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. 20 Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple complex and were trying to kill me. 22 To this very day, I have obtained help that comes from God, and I stand and testify to both small and great, saying nothing else than what the prophets and Moses said would take place — 23 that the Messiah must suffer, and that as the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles.'”

Acts 26:12-23

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 There is a layer of humility, mirroring the humility of Jesus, that Paul has as he tells his story for the last time in the book of Acts. I’m sure he told it to other people more time between this moment and when he was martyred, but this is the final recorded time it is shared. This conversion account is Paul’s badge of honor and simultaneously points toward his greatest shame. He was not called to this work for Jesus because he was doing such a good job following God. Instead, he was fighting against the people who were being obedient, and walking with Christ. He was so hung up in his works-righteousness religion that he could not see or hear grace. Again, that is not to his credit, and he knows it. 

He preached repentance as one who needed to repent, one who knew what it meant to need grace. His humility was birthed in that shame, in that conviction of sin. Paul elsewhere calls himself the ‘chief of all sinners,’ and this helps us see that he understood the degree of his spiritual blindness before he met Jesus on that road to Damascus. 

Jesus spoke directly to Paul’s pride and anger in verse 14 when He told him it was ‘hard to kick against the goads.’ Paul had been struggling against God leading up to this moment (everything was all about what Paul could do, not what God was capable of) and now Jesus is confronting him directly and telling him that he needed to stop struggling with the divine instruction he was receiving. 

I wonder how much I kick against the goads. 

How often do I fight and struggle against the Spirit’s leading in order to accomplish what I want to do, to work my own plan? How much does my pride keep me from seeing the path of rightousness laid out before me? How much hardship do I suffer needlessly because I am too focused on what I want to do rather than on following where God wants me? Doing what He wants? 

This requires a daily examination and, like Paul, a healthy dose of humility. If I am going to GoLove others like I should, then I should be doing that from the righteousness that God provides, not from something I try to manufacture on my own. Repentance and humility work hand in hand here to see this accomplished. It is to God’s credit and His glory when Paul’s life changed, and when mine does as well. Pride wants me to keep kicking against the goads, the Spirit encourages me to die to self. The latter is the only option that brings peace and joy, and the Lord knows my heart well enough to know how much I need Him to see me through. 

Acts 26:1-11 // Paul’s Defense, pt1

“1 Agrippa said to Paul, ‘It is permitted for you to speak for yourself.’

Then Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense: 2 ‘I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that today I am going to make a defense before you about everything I am accused of by the Jews, 3 especially since you are an expert in all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.’

4 ‘All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem. 5 They had previously known me for quite some time, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I lived as a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand on trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 the promise our 12 tribes hope to attain as they earnestly serve Him night and day.’ 

‘King Agrippa, I am being accused by the Jews because of this hope. 8 Why is it considered incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? 9 In fact, I myself supposed it was necessary to do many things in opposition to the name of Jesus the Nazarene. 10 I actually did this in Jerusalem, and I locked up many of the saints in prison, since I had received authority for that from the chief priests. When they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 In all the synagogues I often tried to make them blaspheme by punishing them. I even pursued them to foreign cities since I was greatly enraged at them.'”

Acts 26:1-11

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When we stand accused by someone, when they are frustrated with us, angry or let down, there is a proper way to address their concerns & frustrations. Typically, our gut reaction is to lash out, to express frustration in return. Looking at the example of Christ, who stood silent before His accusers, and who only answered briefly to Pilate, and to the example then of His servant Paul, we see that we are given the right to answer for ourselves and that there is a proper way to handle those situations. 

Like Jesus, Paul clarely states the facts of what is going on and where he stands. In this first part of his defense, he is laying out his past and his understanding of how his accusers think. He is not being irrational, he is not yelling or angry. Instead, he is focused on the issue at hand. He isn’t speaking from his frustration at being held for two years as a prisoner. He is simply stating fact, and he is being respectful as he does so.

So often, that is more difficult than anything, to express ourselves factually, in the midst of our frustration and to do so in a way that honors God. What this requires is a humility that is Holy Spirit powered. We must let go of the situation, and give it over to God before it even begins. I guarantee you that Paul had been praying about this day and this opportunity. It did not sneak up on him unaware, he was not taken by surprise. Instead, he anticipated it (as any prisoner would awiting a trial) and he had his heart ready before God when the moment came. He trusted God wholeheartedly with his life and in his defense. This internal preparation went a very long way to see him give a defense that was coherent, well planned and given in a way that did not attempt to lash out at or insult his accusers. There was no attempt to demean them or to give them a hard time. 

And in this, we see one of our greatest needs, the need for prayer and God-honoring counsel. Whenever we ffind ourselves struggling with an issue, we need to seek out God first in prayer, not run from the seat of our pants. We need to express our concerns to Him, and ask Him for wisdom & patience. We need to seek out His glory in the situation, not seek to simply correct a perceived wrong. It is still about Him, after all, and not about us. We do need to point toward the truth, and we do need to make an honest defense, as Paul begins to here, but we must take charge of our own attuitude in the process and hold it in check, taking every thought captive and examining it in the light of Christ. And when we are angry or frustrated, this is going to be very difficult and probably will not be what we want to do in the midst of the situation. But again, we must remember, this is not about us, this is about the Name of Christ and His reputation. If we are to GoLove anyone and everyone, then this also includes our accusers. 

1 Peter 2:11-17 – “11 Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.

13 Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority 14 or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. 15 For it is Gods will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. 16 As Gods slaves, live as free people, but dont use your freedom as a way to conceal evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.”

1 Peter 3:13-17 – 13 – “And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, 15 but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be Gods will, than for doing evil.”

Acts 25:23-27 // Things Even Pagans Know

“23 So the next day, Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the auditorium with the commanders and prominent men of the city. When Festus gave the command, Paul was brought in. 24 Then Festus said: ‘King Agrippa and all men present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish community has appealed to me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he should not live any longer. 25 Now I realized that he had not done anything deserving of death, but when he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. 26 I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore, I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after this examination is over, I may have something to write. 27 For it seems unreasonable to me to send a prisoner and not to indicate the charges against him.'”

Acts 25:23-27

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“13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14 and said to them, You have brought me this man as one who subverts the people. But in fact, after examining Him in your presence, I have found no grounds to charge this man with those things you accuse Him of. 15 Neither has Herod, because he sent Him back to us. Clearly, He has done nothing to deserve death.” Luke 23:13-15

“11 Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:11-12

Paul’s circumstances are nothing out of the ordinary for a follower of Christ. He was not the first jailed, nor would he be the last. Instead, he finds himself in a position that will become common to many who follow Christ. This life we lead then, continues to be remarkably important as it stands in testimony for us. If we truly are walking as Jesus walked, then our conduct should reflect that same life, His. ANd when we live as Christ, any honest examination, any unpolluted scrutiny, will point toward the fact that we have lived according to the truth. The Holy Spirit reminds us, through Peter, that this life lived in holiness will be so apparent that even pagans wil recognize it as being honorable. This is the declaration of Pilate ater examining Jesus, Felix & Festus after examining Paul, and Agrippa will come to the same conclusion shortly. 

Our Christian character matters. That our walk is open and honest and matches up with the walk of Christ stands as witness to His handiwork. Anything else simply mirrors the flesh and does nothing to build the Kingdom or our testimony. So, again we see that it’s not enough to simply claim Christ, we must also walk as He walked, living out a life of faith in Him. Our walk must match up with our talk, and it must all come back and point past us and to the work of the cross in our hearts, minds and lives. A life of belief is more than a life that just ‘knows,’ it is a life that lives what it claims to stand for…in every way imaginable. 

We cannot pick and choose what we want of Christ, trying to make friends with the world as much as we want. Instead, we walk with Christ, fully expecting the world to disagree with us like it disagreed with Him. This is how we GoLove others, by serving as faithful ambassadors for Christ. 

“18 If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you: A slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they dont know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates Me also hates My Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this happened so that the statement written in their scripture might be fulfilled: They hated Me for no reason.” John 15:18-25

You are blessed when people hate you,

when they exclude you, insult you,

and slander your name as evil

because of the Son of Man.

23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! Take note — your reward is great in heaven, for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the prophets.” Luke 6:22-23

Acts 25:13-22 // Something to think about

“13 After some days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid a courtesy call on Festus. 14 Since they stayed there many days, Festus presented Pauls case to the king, saying, ‘There’s a man who was left as a prisoner by Felix. 15 When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews presented their case and asked for a judgment against him. 16 I answered them that it’s not the Roman’s custom to give any man up before the accused confronts the accusers face to face and has an opportunity to give a defense concerning the charges. 17 Therefore, when they had assembled here, I did not delay. The next day I sat at the judge’s bench and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 Concerning him, the accusers stood up and brought no charge of the sort I was expecting. 19 Instead they had some disagreements with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, a dead man Paul claimed to be alive. 20 Since I was at a loss in a dispute over such things, I asked him if he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there concerning these matters. 21 But when Paul appealed to be held for trial by the Emperor, I ordered him to be kept in custody until I could send him to Caesar.’

22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear the man myself.’

‘Tomorrow you will hear him,’ he replied.”

Acts 25:13-22

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What type of influence is the Holy Spirit exerting through Paul’s imprisonment? Even these officials know more about what he stands for than any other aspect of his life. There is no question in relation to Paul’s main allegiance in life or what he has determined is worth fighting for. They may not understand it, but that is to be expected. The main point here is that the Name of Jesus is being talked about by those outside the faith & their first impression is that of a man who thinks that Jesus is worth getting locked up over, worth laying his life down for & that alone is huge. Paul left them with something to think about before he even met them. So, what does that mean for us? 

The take-away is fairly obvious. A life well lived for Jesus is going to make an impression on people whether we are there to make that impression in person or not. Our life in Christ is meant to be different, to stand out and in that separation from the rest of the world, there will be questions and people who feel compelled to find out more. “Why is that guy doing that?” seems to be a pretty common question surrounding Paul’s life, and the answer keeps pointing back to Jesus. It’s not about Paul, you can see that even here as two irreligious men discuss him. As they talk about Paul, the conversation hinges on his belief in Jesus Christ. 

When we seek to live an impression making life like this, we aren’t doing it for our own benefit or fame. We don’t do it so seek out glory for ourselves. Instead, we do it for the glory of Christ Jesus, our Messiah. Our desire is that more people see Him ay work in us and are drawn to Him. As we spend our lives to lift Him up, people find their eyes drawn past us and to the cross. In living to intentionally point people toward Jesus, we give them something to think about, and our lives are spent in service to Him for the benefit of others. As we follow His mandate to GoLove others in His Name, those rhythms of grace we live out every day through worship, service, study, prayer, giving & fellowship will make an impression on them that lets them see that our life is about something far greater than ourselves. Our lives point toward Jesus. Why would we give up vacation time to go on a mission trip? Why would we devote our finances to being given away? Whay would we spend so much time with our church family every week? Why are we always reading the Bible? Because we realize that our life is meant for more than selfish desire. We see that life is mission & that we have been called to ‘Go’ and live something very, very different than the rest of the world around us. It is a beautifully simple life to live. 

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