When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees”. Acts 23:6
What do we humans do when put into a stressful situation? Most of the time when I have been there, I notice that my anxiety came because my attention was focused on me, my fears, the disruption to my life. Being able to think clearly, to observe what is around me is sometimes difficult because it requires an inner calmness that can be elusive in those moments.
Paul found himself in just such a situation when he was surrounded by the Pharisees and Sadducees. In that tense time, with people challenging and threatening him, he was able to ‘notice’ that there were people who had conflicting beliefs about matters of the spirit and heart and use that difference to his advantage. Where did that “aha” moment come from?
Because of Paul’s unwavering trust in Jesus and his total commitment to telling his story, there must have been great calmness that could only come from God while in the midst of the uproar. I’m reminded that one of the fruits of the spirit is peace. Available to each one of us, it is true power to remain anchored and able to hear God’s promptings when we face the stressful challenges of life.
May each one of us cultivate a centeredness on God and his son Jesus, so that no matter what comes, we are able to experience the “aha” moments of the still, small voice within.
We see in this story what Paul has already endured time and time again. This time, Paul is brought before the chief priests and the entire council to be examined. This is no doubt a hopeless situation but what Paul does is remarkable. He stays calm and confident. He knows to whom he belongs and he is prepared in knowing what his mission could cost him. Because of his calmness, he thinks clearly. He reminds those who have been given the power to uphold the law that the treatment he has received is in violation of the laws they are supposed to uphold. Because of God’s peace in the situation, Paul allows himself to be brought low and in turn God gives him the words to overcome. There has been many times in my life that if I had halted my speech or my actions, the outcome could have been very different. But instead my pride gets in the way of God’s ability to take a bad situation and redeem it. The truth is that Paul could not do it alone either. Paul was in constant prayer that God might do great things through him, and encouraged others to do likewise.
In a world that is so divided with social media bringing these divisions ever closer into our view, what could God do with us if we trusted God with our thoughts, words, and deeds?
Dear God, thank you for the witness of Paul. Help me surrender to my weaknesses, that I may be made strong in and through You. Amen
Bert K. Johnson
Paul is before the Roman Tribune and about to be beaten once again for his recent activities – spreading the good news of Christ’s love and establishing the early church. As Paul recalls his actions prior to his blinding conversion on the road to Damascus – prosecuting Christ’s followers and throwing them in prisons – the crowd goes into a rage!
“Up to this point they listened to him, but then they shouted, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.’” Acts 22:22
As I ponder the crowd’s intense and perhaps understandable reaction, I am reminded that they have forgotten or do not know one great truth which Paul knew. Knowing Christ can transform a person into a new creation. The old can pass away, and Christ can “make all things new.” Revelation 21:5
Today, will you look for the work of Christ in those you encounter? Are you open to “new things” in yourself or in others?
Suzan N. Meyer
Faith is not always about having the answers. At times it’s about asking questions … key questions.
The Scripture today is about the Conversion of Paul. It recounts how he went from being a persecutor of Christians to a proclaimer of Christ. During his conversion two questions emerge: “Who are you, Lord?” and “What do you want me to do, Lord?”
“Who are you, Lord?” invites us to get to know Jesus better and better every day. Just as we have to continually seek out and be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of those closest to us to come to know the depths and intricacies of their personalities, “Who are you, Lord?” invites us to understand that Jesus would reveal something more about who he is, about the depths of his grace, to us everyday.
Out of that deeper knowledge of Jesus will often emerge an “action step”. “What am I to do, Lord?” invites us into deeper discipleship of following him more fully.
As Paul found, Conversion involves Key Questions. May these same questions lead us into knowing and following Jesus more fully today!
Prayer: Lord, teach me something new about you today. And even as you do guide me one more step in following your ways. In your name I pray. Amen.
Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” Acts 21:37
Even in prison, Paul continued to be bold in his sharing of the story of Jesus, and how his (Paul’s) life had been turned upside down on that road to Damascus. Gripped by a faith in Christ that was so strong, so real, he could not help but share the thing that gave him life itself.
It might be tempting to think that it was so much easier to believe back then, when the times were different, when there were direct eyewitnesses to the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. Now, two thousand years later, we’re left with only the dusty pages of a book with stories in it.
Those stories, brought alive through the Holy Spirit, can be the prelude to a similar experience for us too. There‘s a mission for each of us too, there are people with true hunger for love in their lives. There is power available to us too, when we find ourselves in awkward or difficult situations, to share our faith, our life in Jesus Christ!
When I went to the dictionary to look up the word “radical”, I found that it can be uses as an adjective or a noun. The first definition as an adjective was as follows, “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something”. If that does not perfectly describe what Paul was doing during his ministry. For thousands of years the Jewish people had been threw the ringers but all the while knowing that they were the chosen people of God. Now someone was preaching and teaching in the name of that same God that the full extent of God’s love had come for ALL! We here the word “radical” in so many ways that it disturbs us to our core. I don’t need to go into the litany of ways it is used in our modern lexicon. To you and me the message of the Gospel is not radical. It may be all we have ever known or grown up with, but there is a whole world at our doorstep that may know the church probably heard of Jesus but does not understand the unconditional love of God. They don’t know it because they have never experienced that kind of love. They don’t know it because their upbringing or life circumstances that have left them on the outside.
What would happen if we were radical in the way we practiced the love that is demonstrated in the Gospel, the kind of love that was poured out on those that did not deserve it, the kind of love that expected nothing in return?
God, help me to love radically. Amen
“After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard it, they praised God.” Acts 21:19-20a
Paul ministered primarily to the Gentiles along the Mediterranean coast; James ministered to Jews in Jerusalem. Both men were working in different places with different people, and both men had stories to share with one another. Stories about how God was changing people’s lives…
As we take the time to first observe God at work, and then relate our stories to one another, we encourage one another. These personal stories not only help grow our faith, but they remind us, as a community of faith, to give thanks to God.
Will you take the time to ask for and listen to someone’s story today? Will you share about a time that you felt God working in your life? And as you relate or hear these stories, will you pause to praise God?
Suzan N. Meyer
It’s hard to say “Good-bye”.
In the scripture today we see the Apostle Paul on his last missionary journey as a free man. As he makes his final stops and stays with fellow believers there is a poignancy in their short visits and a tenderness in their parting.
This scene shows the whole church coming to the shore to see Paul off. There they kneel in the sand, waves washing in, wind blowing through their hair and join hands and they pray. They pray so that as Paul goes forward to Jerusalem and they all go home, they all know that wherever they go, they go with God.
It is a blessing to spend time with people who are dear to us. It is tender when we part. The Scripture invites us to surround that parting in prayer, either in our own private time or in shared last moments together. Pray so that we would be assured that as we all go our ways, we all go with God.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the blessing of those who are dear to me. Thank you for time shared. Thank you for your Presence in those relationships, even in the midst of our parting, that we can share in moments of prayer.
There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. Acts 20:37-38
I’m reminded of another scripture that says “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” when I read the final verses in this passage. After spending much time in Ephesus sharing the gospel news, working alongside and living life with them, it was time for Paul to give a final goodbye, knowing they would not see each other again. There is something so sweet about the relationships we make with other Christians, sharing the kind of love that can only come from the presence of Christ in our lives.
To this day, I remember many people from the church I attended from childhood to age 18, their foundational impact still so strong in me. What memories for the beauty of the gospel are you creating in other people’s lives? Don’t miss out on chances to touch lives you come in contact with. Perhaps a children’s Sunday School class could benefit from your time and service, or maybe being a sponsor on a mission trip. How beautiful it is for all of us when our feet take us to places where we can make a difference in this world, on whatever part of God’s mission we have been commissioned for!
Paul was about to leave town, and having much left to say to his fellow believers, he continued talking with them until midnight. Eutychus, perched on a window ledge, fell “into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer,” and the next thing we know – he has fallen out of the third story window. Imagine the alarm of his friends as they rushed to his side only to find him apparently dead.
When Paul got to him, he bent down, took him in his arms, and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” Acts 20:10
I’m sitting in my office contemplating these words less than 48 hours after the mass shooting in Las Vegas – and Paul’s words struck me in a way they never have before. It is awfully easy and understandable to not only be alarmed, but frightened and discouraged, on days such as this. And yet there is a sense in which I am alive in Christ in a way that the evil and darkness of this world cannot touch. Isaiah proclaimed the coming of Christ with these words, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2.
And so, it seems that is the challenge for you and for me…remember the light which we have seen!
Do not be alarmed. Our life is within us… His light has shined on us…
Blessings and hope,
Suzan N. Meyer