Acts 27:21-26 Video Devotional

“Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27:21-26)

The die has been cast; Paul is off to Rome. Yet, even though God had made it clear to Paul that we was to speak before Caesar, the journey was still treacherous, difficult, and long. The ship’s captain, ignoring Paul’s advice, chose to set sail early and push ahead despite the coming winter months (storm season). That lead to them getting caught in a big storm and being driven by the storm across the Adriatic Sea. They were in the middle of a catastrophe that would result in a major shipwreck.

In the middle of all that, Paul informs the men on the ship that no one will die; they will only lose the ship. God is protecting their lives and their journey. Paul will get to Rome. His comment in verse 25 sums it up perfectly – he has faith that God will keep His promise and Paul will make it to Rome. We know what Paul made it, but even though Paul knew what God wanted him to do, Paul still had to trust God on the journey – he hadn’t made it YET.

And that is the key: Paul still had to walk the journey, and even with the communication from God, the path was still dangerous. A favorite line that both Nita and I repeat to each other is that we are invincible until God calls us home. That is true and a helpful reminder to stay confident in God’s promises. Yet it does not relieve us from walking a difficult or dangerous journey. And we don’t have a guarantee that we will make it to a certain point, as we don’t know when God will call us home.

That, my friends, is faith. Walking the dangerous road with confidence that God will see us through – however long that journey may be – and be there to greet us on the other side. Whatever the difficulties are, whether it be health, relationships, finances, oppression, etc… we need to know (and remember) that God is walking that road with us and is always fully in control of the situation. That way, when you face the shipwreck, you can keep the faith like Paul and be the steady rock for everyone around you.

And that is when people see Jesus in you – when the road is at its worst and you are steadfast in your trust in God. When times are at their worst, God is preparing us to be at our best. He’s got this!

Acts 26:24-32 Video Devotional

“And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (Acts 26:24-32)

I love this story! It amazes me that Agrippa seems to be so close to becoming a believer. It’s obvious he has an understanding, but it is so cool how bold Paul gets with him, with Agrippa almost joking about how long it will take for him to come to faith. Then to have Paul’s reply cut straight to the heart like it did – wow! We don’t know how Agrippa ultimately responded, but I like to think that Paul’s genuine love and boldness had a life-altering impact on him. 

Agrippa’s immediate reply was to confirm with Festus that Paul should be set free. Again, had he not appealed to Caesar, Paul would have – but we know that Paul’s goal was to get to Caesar. That’s the plan. Paul was willing to face whatever he must to reach Rome. What amazes me most, though, in all of this, is that in the middle of everything, with all the craziness going on, Paul focuses in on each person he meets with and offers them genuine love and spiritual care. They are not pawns in the way of him getting to Caesar – they are real people with souls and even though some of them are in an antagonistic role with Paul, he still finds deep love and care for them.

Real love to his enemies… where have we heard that before? it is so easy to develop contempt for those we don’t like; so easy to let hatred burn in our hearts. Especially in a political season like this, the insults are flying, “Democrats are murderers and no true believer could be one!” or “Republicans are evil tyrants that want to kill everyone!” Statements like these are absolute rubbish! Don’t look at your enemies (or people that you don’t like or that aren’t like you) with hate – pray for them to have Christ’s love – then let them have that love from you. As Paul prayed for them to be like him (save those chains), we need to be like him as well with those people in our lives.

Acts 25:13-22 Video Devotional

“Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus. And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix, and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. So when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.” Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you will hear him.” (Acts 25:13-22)

I find it very interesting that in these verses we get a unique conversation between Festus and Agrippa, which offers some insight into how the Romans view this conflict. King Agrippa was the “king” of Judea, but since the Jews were under Roman rule, he was more of a Roman client in place in that territory for the benefit of the emperor. As such, he had a place and some authority, but was ultimately another stop for Paul on the way to Rome.

He was introduced to Paul and Paul again took his chance to share his story – which means he shared the gospel with them. This “defense” Paul made gave the Roman officials enough evidence to actually render their verdict (at least among themselves) – Paul did nothing that deserved death. They couldn’t even properly lay out the charges against him.

It seems like Paul was going through all this craziness for nothing! Right? It’s clear to the Romans that there is no need to send him on to Caesar, as there is no reason to hold him. Yet, to Caesar he goes. Why? Because this journey is not about getting cleared of the charges. This journey is about reaching Rome and sharing the gospel to Caesar, along with anyone else who will listen. 

There are many things that we get lost in. Maybe it’s an unplanned job change or cross-country move, maybe an unexpected death or loss of a home; whatever the circumstances, it can be easy to get lost in the drama of the situation and seek only the end of the situation. But often there is more – if we are willing to take the journey to its full conclusion and allow ourselves to travail the difficult path, we can find incredible rewards in the fullness of His path and presence. Don’t run from the bad situation. Journey through it and seek God in, allowing yourself to find the plan God has for you in that pain. 

Acts 25:1-12 Video Devotional

“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 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?” 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. 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.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”” (Acts 25:1-12)

Today we reach one of my favorite lines in Paul’s story. “I appeal to Caesar!” How did we get to this? And what does it mean? Paul contentedly spent a couple of years in “jail” under Felix, taking advantage of every opportunity to share the gospel and connect with whomever he could meet with. Though he was technically a prisoner, he was more of a protected visitor in practice, though was certainly stuck in his situation (thanks to Felix wanting a bribe). Once Festus took over, the trail reconvened with the Jewish council asking to get the trial moved to Jerusalem (they were still hoping to ambush him and kill him).

Festus would have none of that. Though he did want to do the Jews a favor, so he gave Paul the option of choosing to go to Jerusalem to complete the trial (even though everyone was already in Caesarea). Paul would have none of that. He knows that if he is given up to the Jewish council, death would be on the menu. He also has a goal, and Jerusalem is NOT on the way. And that’s why we get the appeal. As a Roman citizen, Paul has the right as the defendant to appeal to Caesar. And if he appeals, he MUST go. That means going to Rome. On the government’s dollar. Brilliant! Acts 1:8 is on its way to being fulfilled in the pages of this book – and yet is a mission in which we are still participating!

It is fun to watch God work out these situations into incredible adventures and salvation for many people. Paul’s understanding of Roman law and Jewish doctrine make him the perfect person to be in this place, but it is his willingness to be used that makes this story so powerful. We are not reading this because of Paul’s brilliance, but because of his obedience and God’s power. That makes me think what could be done through my life if I was completely obedient to God. His power is here and ready – are you? Consider Matthew 24:14 – “Then the Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” The job isn’t complete. What role will you take as a kingdom builder?

Acts 24:22-27 Video Devotional

“But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs. After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.” (Acts 24:22-27)

Chapter 24 plays out like a humorous (in my opinion) version of a courtroom trial. Tertullus, the spokesman for the Jewish council started off by going for the flattery play and never actually told Felix about the doctrinal disagreement or cultural clash that was truly at the center of the conflict. Instead, they accused Paul of starting riots and profaning the temple. So, basically they went with lies.

Paul, on the other hand, defended himself, but took a chance to share the gospel (whenever he has the opportunity, remember?) and used that to bring the conflict down to the actual truth – the doctrinal disagreement. And then the politics set in – Felix wants to do the Jews a favor, but has a prior understanding of Christianity and chooses to delay. So, the Jews at least get Paul in prison, though Felix gives him liberty and the ability to have visitors. Felix also had Paul come to meet with him and his wife to talk about Jesus. Wanting a bribe, Felix kept him around.

Paul’s goal is to get to Rome, not just to Felix the governor, so this work out beautifully for Paul. He gets to share the gospel with lots of people, he gets protection, and he gets to continue on his mission. All about serving God. God had that go on for two years until Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus.

This could be looked at as a terrible situation with Paul in jail for two years over a disagreement. However, this is not the case. Paul is quite content, as this is his pathway to Rome and he knows it. This is a challenge to us and our comfort-filled lifestyles today. How quickly would you take on obvious hardship and toil for the gospel? Even though he trusted he would survive to see Rome, it will end up being a very difficult journey. Who’s in?

The rewards will certainly be worth it.

Acts 23:23-35 Video Devotional

“Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” And he wrote a letter to this effect: “Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.” So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.” (Acts 23:23-35)

The Jewish council responded to Paul’s argument by getting angry and violent. They wanted him dead so badly that they vowed not to eat or dink until Paul was killed. I am guessing they got pretty hungry (and lost some weight), as thankfully their efforts and plotting were unsuccessful. Paul’s nephew was warned of the ambush and set off to save Paul’s life, leading the tribune to pass Paul off to the governor Felix. With Paul went 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, 200 spearmen! That might have been a bit much, but it is incredible to see how overtly God protected His witness.

This was the first step in Paul’s movement up the chain of the Roman command. It began with a tribune and a murderous plot by the Jewish council. It ended with the Emperor in Rome. God is amazing in how He sets everything up so perfectly!

While it was perfect planning and timing by God, that didn’t mean it was an easy road for Paul. Once they got to Caesarea and to Felix the Governor, they were told to hurry up and wait. Paul would spend a lot of time waiting – for Felix, Festus and even the emperor himself. But what did Paul do with all that time? What would you do with all that time?

Paul used every chance he got to share the gospel of Jesus. More often than not, I feel I would end up getting impatient and let too many of those small moments pass. Waiting is never fun. But, we can be joyful and trust in God during any situation. I pray that is how I would act in that situation. I will pray the same for you.

Acts 23:1-11 Video Devotional

“And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks. The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” (Acts 23:1-11)

It almost appears here in this passage that Paul may have been playing sides a bit. He was certainly strategic in his wording as he faced off against the high priest. While the nature of Jesus’ resurrection was certainly a point of contention with the Jews, Paul played that up (as opposed to the bringing near of the Gentiles) in this context so that he could get the crowd arguing against itself. It can look like Paul manipulated the crowd, but what he said was true about the resurrection and we don’t know what else he may have mentioned (and not recorded) or what he didn’t get the chance to say. The Jews in the high court were more than happy to get violent on that one point alone.

Remember, this is happening under the supervision of the Roman tribune, meaning that Rome was watching. Paul’s goal was to get to Rome, and as this passage makes clear, that was also God’s plan. Psalm 37:4 says that when we “delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart.” This doesn’t mean if we seek God, we will get what we want, it means that when we are in tune with God, our wants become His wants. This is the case with Paul. Paul was so focused on God that his mind was in tune to what God was doing and his goals became the same as God’s goals.

This, just like Paul, is an opportunity for each one of us. Our ability to participate and even see His plan unfold is open to us if we are fully focused on Him. Set your eyes on nothing or no one else and you will begin to see things from God’s perspective a bit (at least as much as He is willing to show you). What would it take for you to put your mind that much on God? You interested in some great adventures?

Acts 22:22-29 Video Devotional

“Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.” (Acts 22:22-29)
*I said chapter 21 in the video, but it is chapter 22. Sorry!

After getting their attention with the help of the tribune, Paul actually had them listening for a few moments. He recounted his original position as a persecutor of the faith, his experience on the Damascus road with Jesus, the blindness episode and even began to call them out directly by referencing what God told him about getting out of Jerusalem quickly. He was even able to reference the martyrdom of Stephen.

All was going along well enough, but then he had to go and mention the Gentiles. It is hard to explain the anger Jews had during that time period against the Gentiles. It was fierce, it was requited and it was complete. The Gentiles were everything that the Jews stood against (and that held true for the Gentiles as well) culturally, politically and morally. Of all the nations that had been enveloped inside the Roman Empire, the Jews were the ones who held strongest to their beliefs, fought the hardest and was the least affable. The dislike between cultures was obvious and palpable.

Only in Jesus was there ever any hope of reconciliation and peace. Paul found it; so did Peter and the other apostles; and there were lots of Gentiles who found that peace when they found Jesus. Some Jews were able to let go of their hate, but for a large number of them, accepting the Gentile believers was just a step too far. We think it is rough in our country today dealing with the rift between the Republicans and Democrats. We ain’t seen nothing yet!

Paul’s statement on the Gentiles incited a new level of hatred for him and the crowd immediately started shouting for his execution, so much so that the tribune was now ready to flog him (if for no other reason than making him deal with this mess). But Paul had a trump card – as a Roman citizen, he had rights. Those rights would protect him that day and lead to the very opportunity that the Jews were so against. If Paul was allowed to continue his preaching, the gospel would soon be available to the whole world, allowing everyone in. This was a major problem to the Jews. Seeing that the original promise to Abraham was that God would make through them a blessing that would bless the whole world, it is sad how far off track that nation had become. And all that over hate for those different than them. Let’s hope people today don’t repeat that same history.

Acts 21:27-39 Video Devotional

“When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd were shouting one thing, some another. And as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, for the mob of the people followed, crying out, “Away with him!” As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” (Acts 21:27-39)

A nasty conflict is brewing. The Jewish leaders (which include believers in Christ) are becoming furious about two main things in Paul’s message. 1) Gentiles were allowed in and being made right with God, and 2) Paul was putting Jesus on the same level as God and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. While there were many in the Jewish traditions that were open to Jesus and even were beginning to see Him for who He is, the public audacity Paul had to proclaim it the way he did (especially with his push to bring Gentiles into the inner-circle) was completely unacceptable and they had to figure out a way to “handle” it.

So, as he was preparing to celebrate Pentecost with his Jewish brothers, the leadership sprang into action. They had Paul arrested for the above mentioned “crimes” and got violent with him, leading to his arrest at the hands of the famed/feared Romans. They had done this before. Jesus intended to give His life as a ransom for many. Paul’s plan (in concordance with the Holy Spirit) was a bit different.

When the tribune had him and was leading him away, his questioning led to Paul telling him where he was from, which give the tribune a hint that Paul may be a Roman citizen. Upon that, the tribune was immediately much gentler and allowed Paul a chance to speak to the crowd. This was Paul’s plan; speaking to whatever audience would grant him a moment, and with the help of the Roman tribune, Paul had a captive audience.

Paul’s end goal never changed. His plan, efforts, and desires were always to speak the gospel to whomever would listen. He didn’t care if he was doing it in a coffee house, church, or in chains. And his willingness to preach Jesus no matter the situation led to some interesting locations. We all tend to find opportunities to do more of what we truly care for. What is your strongest desires? Does it have to do with sharing your faith? Or is that more of an “if I have to and the opportunity presents itself” kind of deal? God tends to open up more opportunities to those who truly desire it.

Acts 21:17-26 Video Devotional

“When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.” (Acts 21:17-26)

If the book of Acts were a movie or screenplay, this is where Act III would begin. The stakes are ramping up and getting serious. Paul, on his way to Jerusalem, arrives and connects with James and the elders in Jerusalem. All of Paul’s adventures are recounted and God is glorified. It doesn’t seem (at least from our vantage point) however, that they fully got the message that the Gentiles are a part of this too – or at least that Paul wasn’t trying to destroy everything that had been built thus far.

The elders respond by asking Paul to walk through the purification rituals with some others that had been in a vow, the thought behind this being that it will calm the Jews down as they learn about his ministry to the Gentiles. Culturally, we know that what Paul did was a huge affront to the Jewish culture and this is where the conflict begins to take shape. Even with the elders making sure to dot all their “I’s” and cross every “T” with the letter they sent, there was only hope that the Jewish majority would accept this and therefore accept Paul.

What Paul then did was to go along with the elders and purified himself along with the others. Was this an appeasement like what he criticized Peter doing in Galatians? It can look that way, but I don’t think so. I think this is more of Paul working so that the heart of his message is received by his brethren. An “all things to all people so that by all means” type of effort. Paul purifies himself to show respect to the Jewish traditions and get them to the point to where they may be willing to accept him and even accept the Gentiles that were now their siblings in the faith.

The purification was a step of love towards his own people, even though he knew they were going to have to swallow the hard truth that Gentiles were receiving the Holy Spirit as well. Would you be able to lovingly confront like Paul? Or would you avoid that conflict? Or forget the love part? Paul was in an impossible position, but he did everything he could with love. That’s a pretty amazing witness to the power of the gospel – especially considering what we know about Paul’s personality.

Acts 20:7-12 Video Devotional

“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.” (Acts 20:7-12)

Paul was making his way back to Jerusalem, hoping to get there in order to celebrate Pentecost. Haste was fully his intention, as he wanted to sail past Asia (specifically Ephesus) to get to Jerusalem faster. Obviously travel back then was different than it is now, so it’s not like it was a few hours drive, but time certainly was of the essence.

I find that a peculiar detail when reading about sermon Paul gave that went on and on and on (and, by the way, those of you who think we are long winded preachers, we’ve got nothing on Paul!) leading to someone falling asleep and then falling out the window! Granted, he was sitting in a precarious position, but that was a long message! You can guess that message was going into at least its twelfth hour, and poor Eutychus fell asleep sitting at the window.

There are plenty of laughs that can be had at this story, but it shows us a deep and valuable lesson in regards to the Holy Spirit and His movements. 1) Paul was in a hurry to get back to Jerusalem, but his plan was upended by an longer than expected stay in Troas; 2) Paul was sensitive to the Spirit and prolonged his message even though he was the one in the hurry to get moving; 3) even after the sermon and reviving of Eutychus, Paul stayed around to fellowship; and 4) no one hurried out the door after it was over.

This tells me that we, as the church today, may be a little too wrapped up in being “timely”. We can’t start too early, but we have to be done with church by kickoff (I have seen people walk out of a church in order to watch a football game – on TV). If the preacher goes too long, then people make jokes about falling asleep (and many do fall asleep) and call them long-winded.

At our church, we work hard to respect the time demands on everyone’s schedule and practice our preaching craft to be efficient and succinct (if you can’t say it clearly in 30 minutes, you won’t be able to say it clearly in 45), while still leaving room for the Spirit to work and get what He wants out. But maybe we (the church universal) are a bit too rigid with our time allotments and expectations. Maybe we should open ourselves a bit more to the working of the Spirit on the timetable He chooses – maybe then we will be more likely to see His amazing work such as Eutychus experienced firsthand. Thoughts?

Acts 19:23-28 Video Devotional

“About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”” (Acts 19:23-28)

As if the seven sons of Sceva weren’t enough craziness to happen during Paul’s time in Ephesus, he gets into a situation that caused great confusion and commotion when he pitted up against the craftsmen who designed and created statues of Artemis for the city. I think this story is part of the reason Paul wrote the letter he did to the church in Ephesus later on.

One of the major themes that is repeated in the book of Ephesians is the idea of identity – who we are in Christ and how that fits into the world. Part of the reason Paul focused on this theme is because the city of Ephesus was deeply steeped into the worship of the goddess Artemis. With the city being a major cosmopolitan type of city, the Ephesians took strongly to their worship of Artemis. This caused struggles in the Ephesian church, as people were struggling to understand who they were in Christ, as opposed to Artemis.

This story in Acts 19 highlights this struggle and shows how tightly the people of Ephesus held to their false god. Thankfully, this conflict didn’t turn violent, but it certainly could have gone that way. Stories like this show us how far people can get pulled into false idols and worship of dead gods. The sons of Sceva thought they could play around in that territory with “power” and learned quickly there is only 1 with power. Here, we see the entire city trapped in worship of this false god.

The enemy is real and fighting with all his might for souls to destroy. This struggle is most certainly against the powers of darkness in the heavenly realms and they are still pulling out all the stops. People today may or may not be devoted to a specific false god (some certainly are), but everyone is trapped in idol worship – if not worshiping someone else, then certainly themselves. We cannot sit idly by without proclaiming the truth that can set them free. Share Jesus’ freedom and know it is their only hope!