Acts 23-25 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He enables us to fulfill our calling

Even though lawyers are often the target of jokes and ridicule, we evidently enjoy observing them work.  At any time of the day, we can watch them wax eloquent in the courts of justice on the ever popular Law and Order, Matlock or the original defender of the accused, Perry Mason.  With so many injustices in the world, apparently seeing justice reign supreme for an hour does our hearts good.

The Apostle Paul was accused of several crimes by the Jewish leaders and spent some time in court himself, but he didn’t hire a high profile overpaid attorney to defend him.  It seems he offered his own defense, and the case moved along in just the direction he wanted it to move.  From scripture we know that Paul was a great defender, not only of himself, but of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

@ Acts 23
“Gazing intently at the high council, Paul began: ‘Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!’ Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. But Paul said to him, ‘God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite!  What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?’” (1-3)  I’m not very savvy about courtroom etiquette, but I’m fairly certain that calling the judge a corrupt hypocrite was not proper protocol. Even though the judge was out of line in his command, Paul did not defend his words to him but quickly apologized, “I’m sorry, brothers. I didn’t realize he was the high priest,’ Paul replied, ‘for the Scriptures say, “You must not speak evil of any of your rulers.’” (5)  For Paul, it was prudent to move to the matter at hand.

“Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!” (6)  With this the courtroom became volatile – Pharisees who believed in the resurrection against Sadducees who did not and everyone calling for the death of Paul.  Paul had a knack for stirring the pot.  I can imagine the judge’s gravel demanded a call to order but with little effect.  Fearing for Paul’s life, the Commander in charge whisked him away to safety to stand before the court in Caesarea and Governor Felix. 

@ Acts 24
Regardless of the plans of the Jewish leaders and the Roman government, Paul was on a mission to present the gospel.  His defense was not for his own life, but for the sake of the mission that Jesus confirmed to him in the lonely jail as he awaited trial, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.” (11)  The high priest, Felix, Festus and the angry mob were all witnesses, pawns of God, in the case against Paul.  The Roman jail was his destiny and preaching the gospel to the Romans was his heartbeat.  When Paul appealed to Caesar, the courtroom moved to none other than Rome.

In the meantime, his case held him in Palestine for over two years, and Paul used every opportunity to share about the very One who was the cause for the charges against him.  The ruling governors, the Jewish leaders and finally King Agrippa heard the message of Jesus Christ.  At the end of the day, Paul was not guilty of any of the trumped up charges by the Jewish leaders except one and he boldly admitted to it, “These men cannot prove the things they accuse me of doing. But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors.” (13-14)

I, too, boldly admit that I follow the Way, the gospel of Jesus, and I pray that the evidence is strong enough to convict me.  As in Paul’s day, some may not like it and may bring distractions and accusations my way. However, as a believer in Jesus, I am commissioned with a message of hope to our world just as Paul was.  And let the chips fall where they may. 

Moving Forward:  Today if someone accuses me of being a Christian, I’ll declare, “I follow the Way!”  And just like Paul, I’ll take the opportunity to tell that someone all about it. 

Tomorrow @ 3 John

Acts 5-6 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He will protect His own in ways we can’t imagine

Most of us remember individuals who have impacted our walk with the Lord, either introducing us to Him or guiding us along in our growth.  I am still able to visualize the precious woman who led the Children’s Church when I was five and six years old and also the dear sisters, Margie and Harriet, who directed Junior Children’s Church Sunday after Sunday.  Their Bible stories and commitment to the Lord spoke loudly to my young heart about what was really important in life.  No one has impacted my spiritual life more than my own mom who lived out the gospel that she testified about so boldly every day of her life.  I’m so thankful for this rich heritage of my faith, but I’m also thankful for a man I’ve never met whose words have indirectly impacted all of our lives today. 

@ Acts 5
As we read last week, the High Council of Jews did not know what to do with Peter and John and their bold witness for Christ.  The apostles continued to preach even though they were told not to do so and were arrested once again.  Then, they somehow escaped from jail and were once again on the streets preaching, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” (29)  There are religious zealots today with this same tenacity, unfortunately their goal is to destroy lives rather than save them.  I’ve wondered if I would have the same determination as the apostles to share Jesus with others if I faced the threat of death.  I pray that I would.

The High Council determined to kill the apostles until one of their own, the Pharisee Gamaliel, gave them cause to pause, “So my advice is, leave these men alone.  Let them go.  If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them.  You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” (38-39)

Way to go Gamaliel!  He more than likely thought this insurrection would die out, but I appreciate that he considered the possibility that it was from God.  He seemed to be the only voice of reason present that day and because of it, the apostles lived and went on to establish a strong church in Jerusalem.  When this church was persecuted, it scattered and eventually the gospel reached all the way through the ages to me.

Since that time, many false prophets have threatened the church and caused us to be skeptical of any move of God that is different than what we have experienced; but at the same time, many true revivals have blessed and enriched the church.  When we are confronted with a new move or revival, we would do well to be cautious in our criticism and skepticism of it, but instead it would be wise to measure its message and its messengers by the Word of God rather than its style. If it is true and valid, we would not want to find ourselves “fighting against God!” 

Moving Forward:  Anything from you, Lord, I want it!  I don’t care how different it may seem to me, because if it’s from you, no man can overthrow it.

Tomorrow @ Hebrews 11-13