Acts 26–Pressing on toward the Mark

Paul continued upon his journey toward Rome. This day Paul stood before regional leadership of Festus and Agrippa.  He was to defend his behavior transforming from being the former Jewish enforcer to becoming the proponent of changing the world for Christ.  Agrippa had listened to Paul before but, now the Roman leader Festus heard Paul speak of his transformation.  At the end of the day, not much was different.  

Remembering that Paul had a single purpose is critical.  He was not out to win his freedom.  He was out to reach Rome and change the World for Christ.  Festus called Him crazy.  Why would such a gifted scholar waste his time giving a simple testimony of how Christ changed his Life? Paul was clear–I am not crazy, I am simply telling How God changed me.  Festus responded by asking if He thought he could so quickly convert him.  Paul smiled and replied he was not concerned about when he was converted–JUST THAT he was converted. 

Then Festus made the golden statement–If he had not asked to see Caesar, He would be free to go! Point was that he did ask, and as such, to Caesar Paul would go.  God’s plan executed with precision.  Paul said in Philippians that the Philippians did not need to be worried about his imprisonment in Rome.  Because Paul was in chains it had become clear throughout the entire Praetorian guard and everyone else that he was in chains for Christ.  One can only imagine the number of instances that Paul gave the testimony he spoke to Festus.

In the charge of the light brigade, Tennyson writes, “Ours is not to reason why, ours is just to do or die!” As warriors for Christ, We, like Paul, must charge forward and face the enemy no matter the cost.  If we will, he will lose, and we will make a difference in the lives of our family and our community.  We made be called crazy, fanatical, or even criminal; but truth is we cannot help but to share the difference Christ has made in our lives.

God Bless You

“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests, I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.

12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,[a] ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so, I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”

32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

Acts 25–If it is Caesar you want…

Paul knew the entire effort was a political game.  Neither Festus, Agrippa, nor any other judge really cared about Paul’s behavior.  They were simply trying to appease the Jewish leadership.  Israel was a stubborn group and were a headache to all the roman leadership.  So, Paul kept leveling his arguments both carefully and clearly.  The bottom line–Paul was headed to Rome.

Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, not to be anxious but pray.  He said learn to be content in all circumstance because we can do and overcome all things through Christ that protects and provides.  Paul knew what lie ahead.  He knew it was predetermined.  He, like the Lord, simply had to trust and follow God to the end.

We are called to do the same.  We are to pray rather than worry.  We are to be content rather than long for what we do not have.  We are to trust even when it is scary, and we are to love even when it does not get returned.  That is the calling, and if we will honor God, then that will lead us to a great end just like Paul.

God Bless You

Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul[a] that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.”

After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” 10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

Acts 24 Part 1–Paul and Governor Felix

In short, Paul, the Roman citizen, was imprisoned in Cesarea by the Jewish Governor, Felix, for being a troublemaker.  He worshipped the Lord. He told others across the globe about Jesus and followed Him.  There was nothing more.  Paul was sidelined and as a result given opportunity to preach the Gospel to the “Head of State.”  He was able to share the message frequently for the 2 years to guards, soldiers, the Governor, and his wife. 

Still, it seems as though the enemy had won the battle.  Paul was imprisoned and could not continue to share the Gospel across the world. Truth is, Paul continued to impact the world then and now.  The letters from Paul to the various churches have blessed the lives of believers for nearly 2000 years. Those letters were penned while Paul was imprisoned.  Further, as Paul was in captivity, others within the body of Christ stepped up and carried on in the work of spreading the Gospel. It was never the “Paul Show” it was and is always about our Lord.

The critical point of trusting God to complete the mission for which we are called, is realizing that the long-term victories are the result of short-term battles.  Paul was probably very frustrated as he languished in prison, but he remained faithful in sharing the Gospel with all whom would listen.

Like Paul, we must also remain faithful even when there seems to be overwhelming opposition to moving forward.  In the Great Commission, Jesus said, “As you are going, make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Teaching them to do all I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always.” Matthew 28:19-20.  

Paul was completing that commission; both in his missionary journeys and in prison.  Like Paul, we are to complete that same mission no matter what we are doing. We simply do not have time to worry or fret.  We need only to speak of Christ while we are going. Never giving up, never giving in, and never trying to outguess God in the path set before us.

God Bless You

Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.

“We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so, we seized him. [7] [a] By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”

The other Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.

10 When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense. 11 You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.’ ”

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!”

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.”

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.