Posted in Devotions

Acts 23 Part 2–God’s Plan Preserved

Paul was not winning friends or influencing people for the Jewish Leaders.  In fact, they decided to form a death squad to kill Paul at his hearing.  As God is always in control, he had Paul’s nephew at the meeting that immediately reported to Paul and to the Roman Commander.  The commander saw the problem was not going to subside, so he prepared to send Paul to the Governor under well-armed escort.  The poor killers were thwarted.

God does have our interest at heart.  As discussed, many times, God prepares, provides, and protects His beloved.  We are His beloved.  We must learn to trust and follow him, even when there seems to be no way out of our circumstance.  We must also be ready to be God’s solution to a problem.  Paul’s nephew probably had no idea he would be a person instrumental in getting Paul to Rome.

Trust in the Lord and He will work His plan in our lives.

God Bless You

The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”

16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.

17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him to the commander.

The centurion said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”

19 The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”

20 He said: “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. 21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.”

22 The commander dismissed the young man with this warning: “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.”

Paul Transferred to Caesarea

23 Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, “Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen[b] to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. 24 Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.”

Posted in Devotions

Acts 23 Part 1–I know the Plans I Have For You

Once again, Paul is placed before the Jewish leadership.  They were prepared to pass judgement and have Paul killed just as the Jewish leaders judged Jesus some years before.  Like the trial of Jesus, Paul simply stood before them for speaking the truth.  Paul quickly used his knowledge of the Jewish leaders to divide and conquer them. He did it so successfully, that it caused a riot between the leadership. The Roman guard had to take Paul away.

God had a plan for Paul. The plan included Paul standing before leaders of Rome up to and including the Emperor. In the process Paul would go through many trials and struggles, but he would never lose focus on the mission.  Paul would pen letters to the leading churches across Asia.  Those Letters would not only impact those churches, but they would also make up half the New Testament. 

God’s plan for each of our lives is often full of twists and turns.  We can never quite know what the impact of our faith might be.  We need only seek and follow Christ; then He can shape our lives and ministry to complete His plan.  God promises that if we will simply trust and follow Him, He will make our path straight.  It may not seem mapped out, but God always executes His plan in a perfect way and in a perfect time.

Paul knew he was to trust and follow the Lord, in doing so, Paul helped to change the world.  We need to pray and trust God, and watch the Lord use us to do the same.

God Bless You

Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!”

Those who were standing near Paul said, “How dare you insult God’s high priest!”

Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’[a]

Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.)

There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.

11 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.”

Posted in Devotions

Acts 22 Part 2–When a Roman, Do What Romans Do

We are uniquely prepared for our mission.  Paul was very outgoing about his mission.  He was uniquely placed by God to minister to the Gentiles and to change the paradigm of the Jewish community.  So, as he ventured across Asia and Greece, he had amazing success in building churches in cities that would change the world.  Well, when Paul returned, He was destined to be persecuted; and persecuted Paul was.

The Roman Legion in Jerusalem did not like the Jewish community.  They were quirky, rebellious, and hard to deal with.  Paul was causing a riot in the square and from the soldiers’ perspective, he was a rabble rouser himself.  Paul was dragged off to jail and was about to be beaten–when he told his accusers he was a naturalized Roman citizen.  That changed everything.  It was one thing to beat the nameless, faceless people of the empire’s occupied lands. It was another story to treat a Roman citizen shabbily–even when they were criminals.  Paul was uniquely Roman and Jewish giving him access to all things Roman–even the Emperor.  So, when Paul announced his citizenship, it began a set of events that would ultimately change the course of an empire.

We never quite know how God is going to use us.  The circles we run in, the jobs we do all impact certain people and communities that need Jesus and a person to introduce them.  Paul was such a person.  We are also such people.  If we would be willing to share our faith with those whom we encounter each day, Paul told us that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all Who would believe–both Jew and Gentile. 

We simply need to share Christ with those we meet and do life with.  We trust God to use His Spirit to change lives, all we can do is make the message known. Once we do, the world will take all its best shots to stop us.  But God promises that the Lord who calls us is faithful, and he will do it–prepare, protect, and provide what we need to complete the mission God has set for us.  Paul was a citizen of Rome, of Israel, and mostly of Heaven–So are we!!!

God Bless You

The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”

23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”

26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”

27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”

“Yes, I am,” he answered.

28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.”

“But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.

29 Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.

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Acts 22 Part 1–Paul Explains His Calling

As Paul was being led away to jail, He simply wanted his accusers to hear his story.  It was no secret mission; he had shared the testimony many times.  But it was important for Paul’s Jewish brothers to understand that he was sent to be a missionary for the gentiles.  God’s plan had always been to share the Gospel to all nations.  God knew that Paul would be a great choice to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  He was uniquely qualified as a Pharisee to know the law and as a sinner to know one cannot be redeemed by that law.  It simply did not matter how good one did, they could never be perfect.  Paul knew and grieved that point more than most.

So, Paul explained, his mission was to do what God told him to do.  He loved his heritage but followed his calling to be the apostle to the gentiles.  That was simply not a popular message.  Jesus told the disciples at the beginning of Luke’s account that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.  So, Paul was simply following that call.  While it angered the local Jewish community, it changed the world.

We are called to do the same.  As we are going, we are to make disciples.  Jesus’ Great commission told us to do that.  We are not the screeners; we do not get to tell God which folks are worthy of His Gospel.  No, we are the messengers.  We simply share the Gospel with those willing to listen.  Others may think they know better than us whom God should choose, but, the Bible reminds us that God uses murderers, (Moses, David), Prostitutes, (Rahab) and scoundrels from all walks of life (Mike Smith) to spread his message of Love and forgiveness.  Others may think they know better, but rest assured, they do not. 

God Bless you

“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”

When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.

Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.

10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’

19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr[a] Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’

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

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Acts 21 Part 2 Facing the Music

It must have been difficult for Paul to land in Jerusalem.  Much like Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, Paul was walking into a storm,  knowing that nothing pleasant lie ahead.  Still, Paul met the brethren, and in their discussions tried ardently to end any misconceptions.  He continued to follow Jewish Law related to purification and certainly did not criticize his fellow Messianic Jews for continuing to follow Jewish Law.  The fix was in, however, and within the week, the Jewish elite had Paul attacked and ultimately arrested by the Roman guard.  He was beaten and taunted. Finally, the Roman Commander had to arrest Paul to keep him alive.

 I am sure Paul was not claiming surprise, nor was he feigning disappointment that this was a part of the journey.  Paul was clearly warned His return would end this way, but felt compelled to face the trial as part of the mission.  Interestingly, we too were warned.  Jesus said in this life there would be troubles,  we hear that message and rationally believe it to be truth.  But, when application to our personal circumstances sets in, we cry, moan and scream “unfair” at our Heavenly Father.  We want to use our spiritual armor, our biblical literacy and our spiritual savvy to face the trials set before us.  Though, when trials and temptation happens, we want to blame God and rationalize our responses, no matter how bad.

Face it friends, this life is tough.  Being a grown up is difficult at best.  We must cling to the truth that God prepares us, provides for us, and protects us from the destruction of the enemy. It often hurts, there are many sad chapters, but in the end–God is glorified, and we are elevated to His side for eternity.  what happens during the journey only prepares us more for the glory and blessing that we will receive when we join the Lord in eternity. Never give up, never give in.  Like Paul, walk into the adventure with confidence that Jesus will bring you through.

God Bless You

 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.

Paul Arrested

27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)

30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!”

Posted in Devotions

Acts 21 Part 1–The Tough Journey Ahead

Paul , Luke, and the gang were on their way back to Jerusalem.  It became apparent that the circumstances that awaited Paul were not going to be good.  Each person that Paul encountered warned Paul of the fate that awaited him.  Paul went anyway.  Paul was drawn to complete a mission for which he had been called. God appointed Paul to be the voice to spread the Gospel to the Gentile people.  This had put Paul at odds with the Jewish leadership and they were not going to sit idly by and not try to stop him.

It is a difficult question, if you know God’s call on your life includes danger and possible death, should you proceed? Many martyrs have faced that question and answered gleefully, “Absolutely!”  This is such a short part of eternity.  We can never fear what circumstances might bring into our lives here.  Paul said in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” 

We have so much for which we can be grateful.  God never promised it would be easy.  He never promised an absence of suffering.  He only promised a full and meaningful life on earth and eternity with Him.  Jim Elliot, the martyred Missionary said it best, “He is no fool that will trade what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose!

God Bless You

After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.

We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”

12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 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.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

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Acts 20 Part 2–Paul’s Farewell Address at Ephesus

Paul was preparing for the inevitable.  One can almost sense the urgency in Paul’s tone as he addresses the Elders at the Church in Ephesus.  Ephesus seemed to be the anchor church for missionary work that God accomplished through Paul.  History seems to confirm that as the church was later pastored by John the beloved disciple.

Paul reaffirms his commitment to the elders and only promises them one thing–he would never see them again.  What a blow that must have been.  Still during that, Paul warns the men to be ready, their success would inevitably mean the enemy would attack and try to disrupt and destroy them. They needed to cling to the truth that they learned, prepare for battle, and stand firm when that battle commenced.

In our current world, we should live as though we were sitting in on Paul’s farewell address.  Rest assured, the enemy is coming at the church and God’s chosen with guns a blazing.  Israel is under attack from its enemies, and its only friend is standing in the wings doing nothing. Congress continues to chip away at our ability to worship freely and defend ourselves.  These are reminders to us that we need not get comfortable in our freedom and prosperity.  Instead, we need to wake each day, put on our spiritual armor, and stand ready for battle.

Such preparation for the inevitable is not a sign of fear, it is a sign of wisdom and faith that God, not men, will dictate the outcome.  We can never grow tired of prayer, nor fearful of trials and temptations. Like Paul, we need only walk forward and trust the Lord to execute His plan perfectly in His timeframe!

God Bless You

 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

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Acts 20 Part 1–Walking with the Brothers

The Gospel had caused such an uproar, that Paul knew it was time to move on and start back to Jerusalem.  It is interesting that Luke spent a great deal of time recounting the group that traveled with Paul.  It is an important issue.  We often forget that these great men did not spread the Gospel on their own.  Sure, the Spirit led them, empowered them, and equipped them; but God also shows us the importance of community in this journey. 

Paul had Luke, but he also had men like Timothy, Erastus, Epaphroditus and others at various points to aid and encourage Him as he spread the Gospel.  In other parts of the Bible, we know that David Had his mighty men, Moses had His brother and Joshua to walk beside him and lift his tired arms in battle.

In our lives, we need to build and be community for our other brothers and sisters in Christ.  We do rely on God and His power, but it is better when we face those days with brothers and sisters that know us and walk with us through the battles.  We can never think it is an imposition to seek fellowship and support from the body of Christ.  That is how God planned it and what He enjoys watching in our daily lives.

God Bless You

When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

Eutychus Raised From the Dead at Troas

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

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Acts 19 Part 3–Its Always About the Money

Not since Philippi had there been a needless uproar.  In Philippi, Paul and Silas were arrested and beaten because Paul cast the demons out of the fortune telling slave.  It cost Her owners big money.  Now, In Ephesus, The Church was growing, maturing, and drawing people in daily.  Since People were following the Lord, the IDOL business was dropping, and silversmiths were in an uproar–especially those that represented Artemus.  While there might have been some allegiance for Artemus, the main allegiance was to the mighty Drachma!!!

We need to remember in our personal ministries and lives that the Love of money often overtakes the love of God and family.  So many lives are ruined because of the pressure money brings.  It is always a struggle to release the grip we have on money and stuff.  But, if we can come to the place where we can lay all we have on the alter before the Lord, it will free us from the pressure and most likely allow God to bless us mightily!

God Bless You

bout that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”

28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.

32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

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Acts 19 Part 2–I know Jesus and I Know Paul, BUT, Who are You???

As people, we cannot help but be a little curious and a little jealous of things we cannot control.  As Paul was thriving in Ephesus, God was getting the glory.  People were being healed, experiencing freedom from demonic possession, finding faith in the true Lord and Savior Jesus.

  Some in the Jewish community were livid. They made it difficult for Paul to teach in the Synagogue.  So, Paul left and started teaching the truth down the Street.  Paul had no ego in the outcome, he simply was completing the mission.  God honored that, and did amazing miracles through Paul and his ministry. 

Other Jews decided that if Paul could do it, by gum, so could they.  So, they started casting out demons.  Well, that was until the demons beat the crud out of them! These imposters were beaten bloody and sent home naked and ashamed.  The demon was very artful in response–I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who the heck are you?

The point was once again affirmed, it is God that is in charge.  All our pride, hubris, and self-righteousness will never provide power, or glory to us–especially when we are trying to replicate the things God is accomplishing. If we will humble ourselves, seek the Lord first and follow Him closely, there is no limit to what He can accomplish in and through us.

In contrast, if our efforts are expended with the notion that we will gain notoriety or better standing with God–then sadly, we have wasted our time and energy.  We are completely loved and forgiven at the moment we receive Christ.  Our accomplishments done in His name are expressions of that love for Him and for His glory.  That is reward in and of itself. 

 He simply cannot love us with any more fervor than He did at the cross.  More importantly, He can give us no greater reward than he did at the cross.  Romans 5:8 says it best, “God demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!” 

We neither deserve our standing as His adopted, chosen ones; nor, do we become entitled to some other great or extra prize than we have already received at His death, burial, and resurrection.  Personal pride and gain will always run counter to the transformative power of God and His Spirit.

 In practical sense, like those Jewish exorcists, if we try to compete in our own power and for our own pride and glory–the enemy will kick our bums the same way he did the sons of Sceva. We are not righteous on our own; nor, are we spiritually empowered by our works or our knowledge. Let us walk humbly; trusting God to work in and through us to accomplish what He chooses and when He chooses to do so.

God Bless You

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.[c] 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.