Category Archives: Devotional

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Acts 28: Paul Arrives In Rome

I can’t believe that it’s been about 2 months since I’ve last blogged. Now that I’m all settled and back to a (somewhat) decent level of normalcy, I figured I’d go ahead and pick right on up where I left off.

In Acts 28, Paul lands on an island known as Malta. The islanders greet Paul and all who accompanied with him. The islanders gave them food, water, and shelter. A viper appears and fastens itself onto Paul’s hand. At first, the islanders thing that Paul is a murderer, but then he shakes the snake off of him and then the islanders are praising him because they think he is a God. Paul also did his fair share of healing.

Once Paul actually arrives in Rome, he is placed on house arrest. Acts 28:16 says, “When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.” 

Now let’s back track here for a second. Remember in Acts 25, Paul went before Festus before he went before Agrippa? In Acts 25:11 Paul says, “If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the chares brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Ceaser.”

Then, in Acts 26, he goes in front of Agrippa. Agrippa finds him not guilty, so because of what Paul said in Acts 25, he is appealing to Ceaser. In Rome.

When in Rome, even though Paul is being watched by a guard, he still finds a way to preach about Jesus and God to the local Jewish leaders. Before he started, he basically told them that he had meant no harm, and that Agrippa wanted to release him however, the Jews objected.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how God uses negative situations to turn them into positive ones. That’s just one of many ways that God works. Even though Paul was facing trial, he still found a way to bring glory to God. To share the gospel and the good news. How incredible is that?

What we as Christians need to do, is to strive to make the most out of a bad situation-just like Paul did. Yeah, I bet it was horrible being on house arrest but he still managed to find ways to be content and be at peace with the help of God. He even used that time to speak to numerous churches (which we will talk about at a later time).

I believed I blogged about how when I was moving from my Dads to my Moms I got a flat in Ohio, with no cell phone. It was scary and it was horrible. After I made contact with the semi truck driver, I just started laughing. I was laughing because I realized that I’ve already been through the worst. The worst of it was being stranded. The best of it was finding help. God placed the right people in my life at the right time. We can do two things in a situation: we can mope, complain, blame God for why our lives are being so horrible or we can keep glorifying HIM and doing what HE wants us to do for HIS glory. That’s exactly what Paul did. He may not have understood what he was going through, but he didn’t let it stop him from glorifying the Lord.

Photo by Willian West on Unsplash

Fear is the Opposite of Faith

Today, I tried something new. Something I should be doing on a regular basis. I started looking through other blogs, reading them, commenting on the ones I really enjoyed. I came across one that talked about fear, and it really resonated with me.

Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and Courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The opposite of faith is fear.

It’s starting to make sense to me now. I am afraid of love and trust, because I have been hurt by others. However, I’ve been told that God’s love is unconditional and I’m starting to believe it. God is so much more than we even realize, than even I realize. So what am I going to do? Am I going to sit in my fear and let it muster?

The only way I am going to have a relationship with God, with people, with anybody is through love and trust. Without love and trust, there is no relationship. I learn how to do this by continuing to read His word, which I’m not always good at most of the time.

In Jeremiah 1, it is revealed that the Lord had plans for Jeremiah. “The word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb i knew you, before you were born i set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’ ” (Jeremiah 1:4-5).

What would you do if the Lord came to you and told you that? A prophet to the nations?

Jeremiah responds by saying, “Alas, Soverign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” (Jeremiah 1:6)

By verse 7, the Lord tells Jeremiah not to be afraid. The Lord tells Jeremiah that He is with him, and He will rescue him.

As long as I have God, I have no reason to be afraid. If I am afraid, then I don’t have God. Remember, Fear is the opposite of Faith. With fear, I have no faith.

I pray that I will no longer be afraid. That I can love and trust again. God is love and trust. Jesus is love and trust.

 

Photo by Jacob Ufkes on Unsplash

How Paul Listened and Trusted God

So, we left off when Paul stood in front of King Agrippa and shared his story. Now, Paul is setting sail for Rome to go in front of Nero. Since that is what he appealed for.

On his journey to Rome, they had come across a storm. Paul even predicted the storm in Acts 27:10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” However, nobody wanted to listen to Paul and they set sail directly into the storm.

However, what happens next is pretty awesome.

Paul tells them that they should have listened to him, but lives would be spared. “But now I urge you to keep your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I serve stood beside me and said Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.” (Acts 27:22-25).

The ship does wreck, but everyone does reach land safely. Only because Paul trusted the Lord, and he listened.

He trusted. 

I want to take a moment to acknowledge that trusting in God is a lot easier said than done. As humans, we want proof that something exists. We want immediate answers, and some of us (myself included) wants direct communication with God like the angel coming to Paul.

Prayer is communication, but we don’t always get an immediate response. It’s like playing phone tag with someone for about a week before you actually get a hold of that person.

However, prayer is essential. Trusting in God is essential. Without faith, we are nothing. Trusting in the unseen is basically what defines faith. I’ve made this argument before, and I’ll make it again.

We can’t see the wind, but we can feel it. We can see the effects wind has on the trees, us, the leaves.

We can’t see our internal organs, but we know they’re there. We know that they are functioning to keep us alive and breathing.

Just because we can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not there and that we shouldn’t trust in it.

Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

2 Corinthians 5:7 says “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

 

Paul and his crew were in a crisis. But Paul knew what to do like it was second nature, because he trusted in God. Paul was walking by faith. I can honestly say that with prayer, and reading the word, knowing what to do when life gets you down will become second nature.

God doesn’t create our downfalls, he uses them for the better. He uses them so that we can know Him and trust Him. In the midst of tragedy, there is always something beautiful that can be taken from it. However, our eyes have to be open and we have to be awake if we want to take that beauty from the tragedy.

Are your eyes open? Do you trust in Him?

Photo by Nathan Pirkle on Unsplash

 

What Paul Can Teach Us About Reflections

I finally bought a planner yesterday and have my week planned out until Sunday. How refreshing it is to have something that helps me to stay on task.

Today, we are going to be looking at Acts 26 where Paul is standing in front of King Agrippa over some charges in which Paul was innocent. The charge basically boils down to spreading the news of Jesus and the Gospel.

Acts 26:9-11 is probably one of my favorite verses.

“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.”

Reading this passage almost makes me think of a bounty hunter. Except with a bounty hunter, they are hunting for people that haven’t paid off their bail bonds. Not their faith.

However, one of the many reasons why I love Paul is that he’s not afraid to admit what kind of person he was before his conversation with Jesus. It’s almost like he’s not ashamed. He admits that this was the kind of person that he was. However, if you read on, Paul tells King Agrippa about his encounter with Jesus. What happened, and the person that he became after his encounter with Jesus.

I think it’s important that we reflect on who we were before coming to Christ every once in awhile. It’s a reminder of who we were before and what we don’t want to be like. I think it’s important that we compare who we were to who we are now as a way to see how much we’ve grown.

People say we should forget our old selves because that’s not who we are anymore, but if we do that, we won’t know what we don’t want to be.

I’m still early in recovery, and I get these thoughts daily. “You’re not an alcoholic. You’re just fine.” If I want to keep my sobriety, then I have to analyze how I drank in the past.

Not only that, but constantly remembering who we were and comparing it to who we are now helps make for a great testimony. We can record what we were like, and what we are like now.

It’s like we made a copy of ourselves. Same features. Same eyes. Same hair. We’re looking at the copy of ourselves, and they look back at us. We look at our old self and see the suffering on their face. It’s a reminder of what led us to the suffering and what brought us out. What led is to God.

“After they left the room, they began saying to one another: This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment. Agrippa said to Festus, This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Ceaser.” Acts 26:31-32

I’m not sure why Paul could have been set free if he had not appealed to Ceaser, but one thing I do know. Paul wasn’t imprisoned at that moment. Paul didn’t die. Paul was doing the same thing other people were doing when Paul was persecuting them.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 

Paul wanted to appeal to Ceaser. Paul used to work for Ceaser, persecuting people in Ceaser’s name. Do you see how this could have gone so wrong?

Instead, he was sentenced back to Rome, which I guess is more like a parole/house arrest type thing. I’m not 100% sure but we will get more into that next time.

Photo by Brandon Wong on Unsplash

In the Midst of Persecution, God Was Still There

There are many events that have occurred in history where people were persecuted for their faith, skin color, and even culture.

Jewish people were killed during the holocaust because of the fact they were jewish. People who tried to save them from Hitler’s concentration camps could get severely punished if they were caught.

Back when slavery was (unfortunately) a thing, the Underground Railroad had developed. The brave men and women who escaped their “owners” could get persecuted if they were caught, and those involved with the Underground Railroad and helping to free these men and women could get persecuted just by helping them.

Note: I am not trying to undermine these events, or the people who had to endure the tremendous suffering they had to go through. I am not trying to undermine their feelings when I talk about those horrific events. 

Even today in some countries, people can get persecuted just for reading this blog post. It’s a sad thing that happens.

Those are just a few examples. It’s sad that both events happened because NOBODY should be punished for their faith, skin color, culture, etc.

When Paul was preaching, Caeser was king. What Caeser said, went. There were no ways around it and if Caeser wasn’t pleased, you were punished. This is what happened when Paul went to Thessolonica.

Paul started preaching about Jesus and His resurrection. Some people believed him, others didn’t. Others got mad because Paul was defying Caeser.

Paul and his friends found refuge in a man named Jason. Jason opened his doors to Paul, Timothy, and Silas. Knowing that Jason could get in huge trouble for harboring Christians in the name of Caeser.

When authorities found out about this from those who were angry at Paul for preaching the Gospel, they were irritated. “But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have no come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caeser’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” Acts 17:6-7.

They were arrested. Bond was posted, and other believers helped Paul, Silas, and Timothy to flee to Berea to continue to share the Gospel.

They were persecuted for sharing the truth!

Jason risked persecution just by helping a fellow Christian.

However, God never left Paul and his friends. God provided a way out through Jason. They were released on bond, and they fled.

Even though you may be feeling alone right now, know that God doesn’t leave you, forsake you, or abandon you. In the times when I feel like I can’t feel him, I pray. He WILL make Himself known, if you open your eyes and your ears and LISTEN.

Photo by Claudia Soraya on Unsplash

Breaking Free

Ever wonder how a bird is so free? Think about it. They can fly anywhere, they can practically do whatever they want, and they know exactly what to do. They know how to survive, they know what their needs are, and they just know what to do.

I feel like this is how Paul felt in Acts 16. He was so free, he knew what to do, and he was incarcerated. I know what’s probably running through you’re mind if you’ve never read the story. Paul? Incarcerated? I thought he was a man of faith?!

He is. Just listen.

I guess you could consider Paul a missionary. I mean he travelled, he spread the news of Jesus, and teaching about God. After not being able to enter different countries through the spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7) he had a dream about Macedonia. He soon realized that his dream about Macedonia was a message from God saying that he had to go there to preach. So he obeyed.

Along the road, they met a woman. She was a slave but claimed that she could predict the future thanks to a spirit. Somewhat like your modern day psychic. She followed them, constantly announcing what Paul and his friends were up to. The way I read it, she was like a monkey that Paul couldn’t get off his back.

He knew what was going on. He knew it was a spirit, and he commanded the spirit out of her.

Remember she was a slave, and slaves had owners. The owners were using her to make a quick buck with her psychic predictions, and when Paul summoned the spirit out of her, they lost all chances of becoming rich and wealthy. The owners brought Paul to the officials, and to make a long story short the crowd went with it and Paul was arrested.

This is where the story gets interesting.

Paul and Silas were flogged then thrown into jail. In the midst of their problem, they still celebrated God. They used their experience to lean into him. They were no longer afraid. They sang, they rejoiced, and they prayed. The next thing they knew, their chains were literally broken free. The jailer fell to his knees acknowledging that God did exist, and the magistrates set them free.

Paul was a servant of God. He had no idea that him summoning a spirit out of a woman would get him arrested He had no idea what God’s plan was for him, yet he still followed.

What Paul has to say later on when he’s speaking to the Corinthians is really amazing. He says “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?” (1 Corinthians 9:11-12).

He goes on…

“Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14)

What Paul is saying is that if you serve the Lord faithfully and whole heartedly, the Lord will help you break free.

Paul became a man of faith and that’s what happened. Literally. Paul’s chains broke, and he was a free man.

The thing is, we can be free if we allow ourselves to be free. . We have to allow ourselves to acknowledge and recognize that. The Israelites broke free from Egypt, Jesus broke free from the chains of death, and Paul broke free from incarceration.

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7)

This doesn’t mean that you have to literally die to be freed from sin. Quite the opposite. Sins are the chains that hold us, that bind us. When Jesus died, he broke those chains. When Jesus died, our sins were set free. We were broken free.

Amen to that!

 

Photo by Aishath Naj on Unsplash