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!

Acts 19:11-20 Video Devotional

“And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” (Acts 19:11-20)

I am continually amazed at the power of the Holy Spirit at work, and seeing how effective and incredible it was working through Paul is the kind of stuff that makes you want to leap out of your seat and yell, “Go Team!” To bad they didn’t have those phone apps back then that allowed you to cheer through your phone so they could hear you. Think about it – the Holy Spirit made it so that all a person had to do was touch a towel that had been in contact with Paul’s skin to be made well! Wow! Clearly this power is not Paul’s (that seems a little far fetched to assume it came from him), as the power transferred through Paul into a piece of cloth. Very clearly the work and sense of humor of God.

To me, this is actually a pretty funny passage of scripture. The hubris and audacity of these 7 guys to speak to demons in their own power is almost laughable, if it weren’t so sad. They saw Paul’s actions and thought they could get in on this party under their own strength. Good luck, buddies! Obviously it was a complete failure and they put themselves seriously in harm’s way. Unfortunately, too many people in this day and age play around with demons and put themselves and others at risk. Without the power of Jesus (they HAVE to listen to Him), we have no weapons to fight the enemy. With Jesus, we have all we need.

Jesus is enough. His grace is enough. His power is enough. His love is enough. Are you willing to let it all in and let yourself go?

Acts 18:1-11 Video Devotional

“After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” (Acts 18:1-11)

To me, it is fascinating to connect Biblical dots, so to speak. It’s fun to see Paul’s time in Corinth told through the book of Acts and then see Paul’s heart come through the letters to that church. He put a lot of effort into those people! He even took on a bi-vocational role to spend the time in Corinth that he did – the trade of tentmaking. Speaking from personal experience, bi-vocational ministry is difficult! Putting that much time and effort into something, especially something that can’t pay the bills, shows the importance and value he placed on his ministry role in Corinth. That’s saying a lot, and when the Jews had enough of him and reviled him for his work, even that didn’t stop him from his ministry.

He just turned and put his focus on the Greeks. Following the leadership of the Holy Spirit, Paul planted an amazing church through bi-vocational efforts and relentless dedication. And yet he wasn’t alone. I love what God told him in the vision – I have many in this city who are my people – as this quickly became a community and family project. Both Jews and Greeks, men and women; people from all aspects of life came together, worked together, played together, and argued together in building up this church family.

This story puts real skin on what Paul says in 1 Corinthians – he planted, Apollos watered, but it was God who caused the growth. And He used regular people just like us working together. I hope this encourages you as much as it does me.

Acts 17:22-28 Video Devotional

“So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” (Acts 17:22-28)

This sermon is incredible in so many ways. What Paul does in reaching out to the Greek people is brilliant in both its efficacy as well as its poetry. What I love most about it is the introduction. Quickly and powerfully, Paul connects to his listeners with softness and respect. He acknowledges their different beliefs and doesn’t chide them for it, but honors them instead, recognizing their tomb to the unknown God and turning that into a positive strategy by offering to introduce them to that unknown God.

He spoke to them in their interests, culture and ways. So much today we tell people how they are wrong. We speak in memes, highlighting our point-of-view at the expense of others. We criticize and tear down so that we can build our argument. Paul brought peace instead of challenge, consideration instead of criticism and love instead of hate. This is a perfect example of being a peacemaker. Though some mocked him, others believed, but it was overall accepted by the Athenians. They listened and respected.

Amazing how this came from a man known for being a wrecking ball! It goes to show the value of being a peacemaker.

Acts 17:10-15 Video Devotional

“The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.” (Acts 17:10-15)

The church in Berea does not get much “screen time” in the Bible, yet their value to all churches and individual Christians should be crystal clear. As much confidence as we have in our training and experience, no pastor has ALL the right answers. In fact, we should be acknowledging with humility every day that we may not be right in our exposition. That’s a much better position to put oneself in when trying to exposit and teach a Biblical interpretation – remember, the only one with the completely correct interpretation is the One.

That said, good pastors work through the scriptures daily, seeking to go deep and discover God’s truth for themselves as part of their own journey, and many of us come up with solid, faithful teaching as a result. Yet, that is not enough for any particular church or individual believer. Each and every one of us believers need to be searching the scriptures on our own and praying for understanding through the Spirit and learning as much as we can. Do not just be a listener or spectator, jump into the game and learn on your own. Grow discernment and desire knowledge that leads to wisdom.

Just like the Jews that came to Berea to try and mess everyone up, that strategy is employed by the enemy today (think health and wealth gospel) over and over again. The ones who stay true and learn for themselves are the churches/individuals who will be best equipped to endure to the end and combat against the lies. So, in short, pick up your Bible and study! Have a great afternoon 🙂

Acts 16:25-34 Video Devotional

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” (Acts 16:25-34)

Definitely not the first jail rescue performed by the Holy Spirit, but a very interesting one, to say the least. Paul and Silas were in prison in Philippi after removing an evil spirit from a slave girl. They were beaten and thrown in prison; jailed in stocks. And then the two men prayed and sang hymns. Talk about an attitude of obedience!

The Holy Spirit breaks them out with an earthquake, but then a curious thing happens. Before the guys get out of the jail, they see the guard prepare to kill himself over his “failure”. Instead of running (the seemingly wise choice), they stayed provided a physical and spiritual rescue for the jailer. He then leads them to his house where his whole family gets saved.

Think about a situation you were in that you couldn’t wait to get out of. And then you had your chance to get out. Would you have stayed in for the benefit of the one who was holding you there? Paul and Silas nearly sacrificed themselves for the salvation of this man and his family. Talk about confidence in God! Paul was so confident in God’s plan that he didn’t think for one minute about himself or his safety, but about bringing peace to the enemy.

Would you be willing to risk your freedom (or your life) for someone who could be considered an enemy? That should be a difficult question to answer. But Paul showed us the way – not by our might, not by our power, but by His Spirit. Trusting in Christ is our only way to live with that kind of confidence in God and His plan.