Daniel 1:1-7 Video Devotional

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. – Daniel 1:1-7

Albeit quick, this introduction sets up the entire story of Daniel very well. We see the destruction of the southern kingdom of Israel with the deportation of the Israelites as exiles to Babylon. We then learn that Nebuchadnezzar has intention with the exiles, as he schemes to bring in leaders of the exiles to groom and turn them into people that will help him assimilate the rest of the exiles. To do that, he chooses leaders from the tribe of Judah, most likely members of the royal family. Who he picks for this is key: they have to be prominent members of the kingdom to be recognizable to everyone else, but it can’t be the royal family, as they are “examples” Nebuchadnezzar uses as a fear and control tactic.

Basically, these are important people form the southern kingdom, but (and here is the key) they are NOT the ones responsible for the downfall of Judah. These chosen were not the ones who led Israel’s southern kingdom astray. They are innocent—as much as they can be, at least. Why does this matter? Well, things do not go well for them. And it sets up an important premise for the book: these main characters that we are following through the story are good. Though sinful as human beings, in as much as we know about them, live a righteous lifestyle and we see that consistently through the book of Daniel. Everything that happens to them in this book happens because they are living well – a life lived in devotion to God and they stay faithful throughout.

It is easy to look at our lives from rose-colored glasses and see ourselves as righteous individuals, thus making the trials we face NOT our fault (no one ever wants to blame themselves). However, more often than not, if we are honest with ourselves, a lot of our trials (or suffering) can be drawn from consequences of our own actions. Whether directly or indirectly, its our fault. This is not the case with Daniel and his friends. What happens to them in this book is not their fault and it is key we keep that in mind. Their trials are going to come because they are living rightly.

That means a few things for us today; 1) trials are inevitable (regardless of how righteous you live), 2) the reasons for our trials are many, and 3) what God uses those trials in our lives for is important to understand. Consider some recent trials you have faced. Were they because of your actions? What was God doing either in or through your life? Was there spiritual fruit born from that trial?

As we continue, we are going to learn more about these trials and the reasons they happen. Stay tuned!

Daniel Overview Video Devotional

In his days, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him. And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by his servants the prophets. Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the Lord, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed. For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord would not pardon. – 2 Kings 24:1-7

Many might skim past this book and see it as confusing futuristic prophecy, there is a rich meaning to Daniel’s writing that is much more than foresight into the end times. The message of the book speaks much more to daily life.

The book begins in the time of King Jehoiakim, when Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, laid siege to Jerusalem and began the process of exiling the Israelites. The southern kingdom of Judah was destroyed and the kingdom sent off to a faraway land. Daniel and his three friends as we will get to know them in the book, are from the tribe of Judah (possibly part of the royal family) and will have to learn how to live faithful to God while in exile.

There are a few interesting notes that may help us gain a better understanding of the book as we delve into it together. The layout of the book seemingly divides into to two simple sections: 1-6 (stories about Daniel and his friends) and 7-12 (visions of Daniel). But there is an interesting twist in that Daniel wrote the book in two languages: Hebrews (Chs 1, 8-12) and Aramaic (Chs 2-7). This suggests that the layout of the book is not as simple as we thought. While there are two main sections to the book, Ch 1 stands out more on its own as an introduction, presenting through its example the main idea of the book. Chs 2-7 then serve as symmetrical story-telling to reinforce those themes (2&7, 3&6, 4&5), then finishes off with Chs 8-12 using Daniel’s visions to give us a Heaven’s eye view of what we the readers need to understand.

As the main character in this book, it is also interesting to note that Daniel is one of the only biblical characters (other than Jesus) where they don’t show us any glaring character flaws. This helps to show the idea that righteous suffering is what is important here (not suffering for our own sins). Peter discusses this idea of suffering for good (as opposed to evil) and its importance in growing the Kingdom of God in 1 Peter 3.

As we go through the devotional series, we will go into much more detail, but simply by learning about the layout and basic characteristics of the book, we can be challenged to live a more righteous life and prepare ourselves to face suffering as a result; and that is all for God’s glory.

Acts Wrap-Up Video Devotional

This brings us to the end of the book of Acts. Jesus proclaimed in Acts 1:8, you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth, and here we are at the “partial” fulfillment of that. By partial fulfillment, we see that this is more of a now and not yet statement; it is applicable in the “now” because we watched through the book the gospel travel from Jerusalem at the point of Jesus’ ascension through Judea and Samaria and across the world, ending up in Rome. While Rome is not the end of the world, it is the explosion at the end of the wick, the catalyst point. Church history shows us that once the gospel takes seed in Rome, the movement explodes and takes root across the known world – this we can follow through well-researched church history. The “not yet” refers to the fact that the gospel has not yet reached every tribe, tongue, nation, and language. There is still more work to do.

This is where we come in. Jesus’ proclamation was not only meant for the disciples at the time, but His charge to the church as it moves and grows throughout history; a legacy that we today are a part of. This mission is currently ours, and it is our responsibility to handle that calling with serious effort. Matthew 24:14 tells us that Jesus won’t come back until every tribe and nation has had the chance to accept Him. Thus, our action (or inaction) today connect us to the legacy of people like Peter, Paul and Augustine (among many others) who gave all they had to this movement of Christianity.

What will you do? How can you be a part of such a legacy? Simple, by 1) connecting with people in your local community (whether or not they are similar to you) and loving them in the way Jesus did, and 2) putting your prayers and your dollars to work by supporting international workers reaching the unreached people groups. In all we do, we need to be looking for ways to make disciples. It’s a good thing we can trust that Jesus will be with us forever through the person of the Holy Spirit, leading the way as we follow in faith! I’ll see you on the front lines!

Acts 28:23-31 Video Devotional

When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

“‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (Acts 28:23-31)

Paul settled into Rome and enjoyed a mostly free lifestyle. He had his own place and was able to take in anyone who would listen to his message. Unfortunately for his Jewish brothers, they (for the most part) were not willing to accept the truth of Jesus and left after he quoted to them from Isaiah. That quote is a sad realization that they would not be turning towards Jesus.

It does, however, signal the turn to the Gentiles, opening up in the catalyst city of Rome and opportunity for all people to come near to Jesus and accept His free gift. Paul continued to preach boldly about Jesus – I see it in my mind like an assembly line standing outside Paul’s home for people going in, one-by-one and coming out saved. And with each one of them, as they head to different homes, neighborhoods, cities, regions, and nations being carried out by a person now filled with the Holy Spirit was the gospel of Jesus.

The message turned into a movement. That same movement is alive and well today, being carried on by people filled with the Holy Spirit and willing to take the Name of Jesus anywhere He will lead. Are you one of those carriers?

Acts 28:11-22 Video Devotional

“After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him. After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” (Acts 28:11-22)

Paul finally makes it to Rome – the purpose of the book. God uses Paul’s time in Rome as a catalyst to begin spreading the gospel across the world to the ends of the earth. Side note: can you imagine the spiritual warfare going on as Paul’s sandals crossed into the city? What a major milestone in the plan of God for the world!

Once there, as was his usual mode of operation, he connects with the local Jewish contingent and let’s them know what happened and what to expect as he moves forward with his appeal. And then something really interesting happens; the local Roman Jews share that they never heard any of this from the Judean brethren. Thus, after all the miles traveled, the death threats, the arguments in court, his accusers didn’t come to Rome! We don’t know if at some point they showed up, but they hadn’t yet and they did send word. That is incredible! As far as we know, Paul would go into his appeal to Caesar with no accuser and no competition as he shares the gospel! Only God could set this up.

There is no question that Paul faced a difficult journey, but if you ever want confirmation that God was behind the whole thing, then this is it. Once he gets to Rome, he has clear sailing to share the gospel with everyone with no opposition. Spiritual battle won by the Holy Spirit. And what’s more, not only have they not heard from the Judean cohort, but they are curious to learn more about Jesus! God set it up perfectly for Paul.

What can we learn from this? The journey may be difficult, but as He shows up with Paul’s journey, God is setting up our journeys just as perfectly – we just have to be patient as the masterpiece He does in our life unfolds.

Acts 28:1-10 Video Devotional

“After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. They also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.” (Acts 28:1-10) 

Paul’s visit on Malta was a strange one indeed. That visit, along with a verse in Mark, started its own offshoot of Christianity. It’s stories like this that show why it is so important to get a solid handle on our biblical exegesis (or interpretation). By looking at these statements alone, we can Jesus and Paul both championing this activity. But looking at single verses and statements alone will only lead us to errors. We must study and understand what the scriptures say in context with the verses around it, the book as a whole, along with the entirety of scripture before we can focus in on a meaning. 

In Mark, this statement is included as part of the Great Commission – Jesus final words to the disciples as he ascended in to Heaven. It was connected to a purpose – being His witnesses – and went along with other acts only accomplishable by the work of the Holy Spirit. In Acts, that’s exactly how the situation happened. Paul was looking for an inroad to share his faith with the people of Malta, and God brought this about in a way that would speak to those people. It’s all part of the purpose and included people getting healed and coming to faith in Christ. 

It’s important to know that Paul was not looking to show off here, or create a crazy situation that would show people what God was like. It was something the Holy Spirit brought to pass to use to encourage people to listen to Paul. In our mission, there are no gimmicks or tricks that the Holy Spirit uses (regularly or occasionally); there is no magic program or formula that will make the church grow or be successful in its purpose of winning the lost. The only thing the church can be sure of is that when they focus on Jesus alone and live their lives as His ambassadors, fully and genuinely, chances are good that He will bring others to a church like that.

What can we learn from this? Don’t try to grow or try to be successful. Be purposeful, focused on Jesus and the mission, and see whom He brings to your door. 

Acts 27:39-44 Video Devotional

“Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.” (Acts 27:39-44)

One the things we discussed at the beginning of our study on Acts was who really was the main character(s) in the book. The proper title is Acts of the Apostles, but arguments have been made that it should be Acts of the Holy Spirit. In almost every passage we’ve read together, it has been clear the Holy Spirit is the One making everything fit together and work out for the good of everyone. It is His movement, His power, His unity that has tied this entire book together. And today’s passage is another solid piece of evidence in His favor.

Now, who really cares what the title of the book is? That’s not the point. The point is that we understand the power the Apostles have is not because of who they are or a power that they hold themselves, but God’s. It is God, through the Holy Spirit that empowers, enlightens, and engages throughout this gospel movement from Jerusalem to Rome. God is healing people through the Apostles (it’s not the Apostles healing people), and so on.

In surviving this shipwreck, we come to learn that this ship (unsurprisingly) is a group of prisoners. The soldiers, not wanting to let prisoners go free and wreak havoc, decide to kill them (including Paul). This time, it is not Paul so saves everyone, but an unknown centurion that was led (by the Holy Spirit) to save Paul and the others. Everyone was brought safely to land and the journey could continue (once the got a new ship, of course).

Without the power of God, none of this would have happened. Without the power of God, the earth wouldn’t be tilted at the exact perfect angle and the gravitational pull at the exact strength to keep everything in perfect line with the sun. Humanism misses on that point. We humans can do all kinds of crazy things, but we are forgetting the the very foundation of our power comes from God – without Him as our source, there is nothing we can do. It all comes from Him and we owe all to Him. Praise God!

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.