Today’s Priority Time isn’t a super-encouraging devotional; it’s more of an honest, behind-the-scenes look at the roller coaster of emotions that often accompany our Priority Time.
I began the day reading Acts 20, but decided it was too painful to journey through because it was about Paul saying goodbye to the church at Ephesus. I prayed through some of the truths and feelings but decided it would be best to move on to Acts 21.
As I read through Acts 21, Paul went to Jerusalem to meet with James and was arrested in the Temple. Nothing jumped out at me that was worth journaling… plus the story of Paul’s arrest is just beginning to unfold in Acts 21, so I moved on to Acts 22.
In Acts 22, Paul begins his defense by sharing the testimony of his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. After this encounter, Paul tells how he is back in the temple in Jerusalem and falls into a trance where Jesus says, “Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me” (22:18). Paul responded, but Jesus said, “Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles” (22:21).
They listened to Paul up until this point, but they took offence at his words and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live” (22:22). Think about the intensity of those words. More attention needs to be given to the root of offence throughout history, but especially in this culture. Right now, at this moment in time, everyone is so easily offended that it’s created a “cancel” culture.
If you do something wrong, we cancel you. If we don’t agree with one another, we cancel you. What good comes from offense? What are the consequences of offence? The ripple effect is dangerous on every level, especially compared to the alternative. What if we simply forgave one another?
- Who does a cancel culture represent?
- Who does a mercy and grace culture represent?
- Who does a forgiveness and freedom culture represent?
- Who does a redemption and restoration culture represent?
Paul was crossing over from being the best of the best in the cancel culture to becoming the best of the best in the reconciliation culture.
In Acts 23, the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (23:11).
God protects Paul from a plot to kill him and sends Paul to Felix the Governor. Watch what happens next and think about the magnitude of the company sent to protect Paul and, therefore, the seriousness of the threat. They sent 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen (23:23). That’s big-time protection!
(By the way, can you imagine what would be missing today if God had not protected Paul?)
It’s important to note that I’m locked into the story now and can’t stop until I see it through to completion. In light of that, here’s a quick but thought-provoking summary of the next four chapters…
In Acts 24, Paul stands before Felix, the Governor, and says, “It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day” (24:21). Ultimately, everything rises or falls based upon Jesus’ resurrection.
As I write this Priority Time, it’s Good Friday. This day would never be called Good Friday without the resurrection. It would probably be Forgotten Friday because without the resurrection, there’s absolutely nothing good about this day. It’s simply a group of offended people seeking their revenge.
Paul spoke with Felix multiple times over a two-year period; eventually, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus and left Paul in prison as a favor to the Jews.
In Acts 25, Paul appeals to Caesar, but King Agrippa and Bernice want to hear from Paul first.
In Acts 26, Paul makes his defense and repeats his Damascus Road testimony.
Paul concludes by saying, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” And Agrippa replied, “In a short time would you persuade me to be Christian?” 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” (26:27-29).
- Who needs to hear your testimony?
- Who in your circle of influence needs to be persuaded?
In Acts 27, Paul sails for Rome. They encounter a storm at sea that threatens their lives, but an angel of God appears to Paul and says, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those sail with you” (27:24).
Paul tells the crew on the ship, “Take heart, for I have faith [confident trust] in God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (27:25).
- When is the last time you heard God speak in a specific way? (By the way, from my experience, God rarely speaks in general terms.)
- What did God say to you?
- Did your actions reveal your belief or unbelief?
In Acts 28, Paul arrives in Rome. It says in verses 23-24, “When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in great 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.”
This is a simple but profound statement: “some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved.”
It’s our privilege and purpose to present the message in the most compelling way possible so that more people might choose to believe instead of disbelieve.
As we near the end of this particular study, notice how Paul closes Acts 28 and the book of Acts with this word from Isaiah the prophet (28:26-28):
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.”
- Are you listening?
- Is the Coronavirus causing you to listen more closely?
- What are you hearing?
- How should you respond?
As we close out our time in Acts today, please make one specific commitment that you will focus on trusting and obeying over the next 30 days.