Trials and Overcoming

“Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.” Acts 24:13-16

Early church history / trivia – back in Acts chapter 11, we saw that the church was first called Christians in Antioch. But it did not instantly catch on – all over the globe. From the death of Christ until chapter 11 everyone, including the early church themselves called believers: followers of The Way. As the earliest church were Jews – the Pharisees called them the Nazarene sect (literally meaning a section of people who followed the Nazarene). Jesus called us The Body and Paul expounded upon it, it is strange to me that we did not end up permanently associated with any of these terms. Instead the term Christian is what stuck and followed us.

In our modern world I think the term Christian is too broad and ‘nice’ – it encompasses far too many people who are NOT part of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is hard to save Christians – their self-righteousness is virtually impermeable.  Their hearts are the hardest substance on earth having sat through message after message with the Holy Spirit working on chiseling down the rock and soften it to no avail.

It is interesting that after reading a book on self-examination, with some serious introspection, we find ourselves here – confronted by those who have not and will not soften their hearts.

Dear Heavenly Father – As always, please open eye to see and our ears to hear what you are saying! Lord – open our understanding that we may know you and give us wisdom. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Today’s reading is from the book of Acts chapters 24 through 26 (embedded below the image below for your convenience).

It was a difficult weekend in our world and I wanted to interject a thought on all the happenings – but then, I took it to God instead. The “Quad-State Tornado” that destroyed so much and lives lost is still heavy on my mind. I am also heavy in spirit hearing of an old friend and man of God who has stepped down from ministry. When I heard, last week, that he had stepped down – I thought of these chapters of Acts (as well as a few more we haven’t reached yet). And all my heaviness comes together nicely with today’s reading – not for a release or resolution. It ties together like traveling by ship with Paul! (He was ship wrecked 4 times that are recorded in the Bible and unknown if more times.)

Let’s start with reviewing what us in today’s reading. Paul is captured and accused. But no one can really figure out what he is accused of or why he is a prisoner. Around here, maybe a little later, is when Luke began writing His Gospel as a letter to Paul’s attorney to fill him in on the whole story, and followed it up with writing this book of Acts. During today’s reading we see the Romans (who already were familiar with the whole story) listening to Paul defend himself. They are a little frustrated as they would have freed Paul, if Paul did not already appeal to a higher court (Cesare himself).

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:11 NKJV

And Paul did.

Except for the part about them not being able to free him even though they found him innocent. And all the shipwrecks. It’s not fair.  In our modern world a shipwreck (due to weather) would be called an act of God. But God only give goodness.

The enemy come to steal, kill and destroy:

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 NKJV

So bad things happen to good people who trust the Lord and keep his commands and seek His heart and are on the right track. It’s not God’s wrath and judgment if their car breaks down, if an appliance breaks, if a tornado tears up their church (like so many ministries and churches suffered huge property damage this weekend). But these are NOT acts of God. 

Yes, God is sovereign. Yes, God permitted it. Yes I a way that can be misunderstood as God doing it – but it is NOT GOD. Maybe we need to look at the book of Job again?

My friend who left the ministry, actually suffered at the hands of the people in his congregation, and that church eventually conceded to its fleshly desires. So my friend and his family left the ministry to lick their wounds. I suppose he somehow graduated from seminary never learning about Paul’s suffering. And definitely not Job. (sorry – I get sarcastic when I am frustrated! I am frustrated and angry that the thief stole his ministry, killed his joy and destroyed the plan of the Lord!!! Lives were lost, precious to our Father!)

Tornados are bad – yes. Death from them are bad. And I am not being sarcastic, but getting to a point. Your church rebelling is bad. Friends hurting you is bad. The state of the world right now is bad and getting worse…. However!!!!!

However, we are soft and need to toughen up a little – I say in love, knowing firsthand the feels of multiple church splits and of natural disasters and of loss of people I care for and the enemy stole my childhood, stole the promises of the Lord, stole too many things to name from me. He killed my dreams, my person, an so many thing. AND he destroyed.  So in love, knowing the sufferings. Yet, not knowing the shipwrecks and snake bites and thorn in the flesh.  And unlike Job, I do not know the death of all my children (just one). The lost of all my property, belongings, and occupation I do know. So it is with deep understanding I say – we must toughen up!

We are to be a righteous people tried by fire if we are to stand in the coming days. There is only one way to be tried by fire and that is going through the fire. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Like the disciples gathered together on the day of Pentecost with rushing mighty wind and fire. Like Elijah calling fire down from heaven. Like Jeremiah with a fire shut up in his bones! The fire that takes us from the trial to the authority and ability to be used by god with HIS HOLY FIRE moving through us! GLORY!

Press in – do not listen to what others say. Cuddle in under God’s wing, spending time in the secret place and that is the ONLY way to survive this crazy time we live in. Grow in your relationship with Him.

RELATIONSHIP:
Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen

MEMORY WORK: This month we have another powerful verse – this one will give you peace that passes understanding as the world around us spins out of control we know our sovereign God still has a plan! We may not be able to comprehend, but hang in there His way is better!!   

Isaiah 55:8

NIV – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.”
NLT – “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”
ESV – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”
KJV – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.”
NKJV – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.”
NAS – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.”
AMP – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.”

Thank you for reading.
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

BIBLE READING: Acts 24-26 NKJV

Accused of Sedition

24 Now after five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. These gave evidence to the governor against Paul.

And when he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusation, saying: “Seeing that through you we enjoy great peace, and [a]prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight, we accept it always and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your [b]courtesy, a few words from us. For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him, [c]and wanted to judge him according to our law. But the commander Lysias came by and with great violence took him out of our hands, commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him.” And the Jews also [d]assented, maintaining that these things were so.

The Defense Before Felix

10 Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: “Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, 11 because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection [e]of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. 16 This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.

17 “Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, 18 in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult. 19 They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. 20 Or else let those who are here themselves say [f]if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, 21 unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.’ ”

Felix Procrastinates

22 But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.” 23 So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him.

24 And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” 26 Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, [g]that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him.

27 But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.

Paul Appeals to Caesar

25 Now when Festus had come to the province, after three days he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. Then the [h]high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they petitioned him, asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem—while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him. But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly. “Therefore,” he said, “let those who have authority among you go down with me and accuse this man, to see if there is any fault in him.”

And when he had remained among them more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day, sitting on the judgment seat, he commanded Paul to be brought. When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove, while he answered for himself, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all.”

But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?”

10 So Paul said, “I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. 11 For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, “You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!”

Paul Before Agrippa

13 And after some days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus. 14 When they had been there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying: “There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix, 15 about whom the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, when I was in Jerusalem, asking for a judgment against him. 16 To them I answered, ‘It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man [i]to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.’ 17 Therefore when they had come together, without any delay, the next day I sat on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I [j]supposed, 19 but had some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. 20 And because I was uncertain of such questions, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters. 21 But when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Caesar.”

22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I also would like to hear the man myself.”

“Tomorrow,” he said, “you shall hear him.”

23 So the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great [k]pomp, and had entered the auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at Festus’ command Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said: “King Agrippa and all the men who are here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that he was not fit to live any longer. 25 But when I found that he had committed nothing deserving of death, and that he himself had appealed to Augustus, I decided to send him. 26 I have nothing certain to write to my lord concerning him. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the examination has taken place I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him.”

Paul’s Early Life

26 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.”

So Paul stretched out his hand and answered for himself: “I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently.

“My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?

“Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things [l]contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

Paul Recounts His Conversion

12 “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will [m]deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I [n]now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified[o] by faith in Me.’

Paul’s Post-Conversion Life

19 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. 21 For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

Agrippa Parries Paul’s Challenge

24 Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!”

25 But he said, “I am not [p]mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. 26 For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

29 And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”

30 When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them; 31 and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, “This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains.”

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

Footnotes

  1. Acts 24:2 Or reforms are
  2. Acts 24:4 graciousness
  3. Acts 24:6 NU ends the sentence here and omits the rest of v. 6, all of v. 7, and the first clause of v. 8.
  4. Acts 24:9 NU, M joined the attack
  5. Acts 24:15 NU omits of the dead
  6. Acts 24:20 NU, M what wrongdoing they found
  7. Acts 24:26 NU omits that he might release him
  8. Acts 25:2 NU chief priests
  9. Acts 25:16 NU omits to destruction, although it is implied
  10. Acts 25:18 suspected
  11. Acts 25:23 pageantry
  12. Acts 26:9 against
  13. Acts 26:17 rescue
  14. Acts 26:17 NU, M omit now
  15. Acts 26:18 set apart
  16. Acts 26:25 out of my mind

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