The trial

Acts 26

Paul’s trial before King Agrippa.

We hear more of what happened on the road to Damascus. We get more of the conversation.

“12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,[a] ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’”

Paul loved God. He grew up

Loving God and learning about him. During his days persecuting the church he was defending the God he loved from attack, or so he thought.

It seems as though Judaism was a vehicle to bring us Jesus who is the fulfillment of all the promises of the past. Kind of like the ark of Noah binging mankind from one place to another. We don’t still live in the ark but we still live because of the ark.

As Paul said, “22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”’

“29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”’

So I invite you to receive Jesus gift of forgiveness for your sins. Today. I did it by just admitting that I needed forgiveness and then acknowledging that Jesus gift was for me too.

Thank you Jesus for your ongoing work in my life. I fail you so often yet you are always faithful to forgive.

On to Rome

Acts 25

Paul has now been under arrest for 2 years in the palace at Cesarea. Once again the high priest and the leaders want to ambush and murder him and they see an opportunity when the roman leadership changes from Felix to Festus. God foils the first attempt to get Paul by having Festus invite the Jewish entourage to Cesarea.

“If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”’

Acts 25:11-12

A new trial is arranged. The Jewish folks don’t have a case. Paul stays focused on the issue and then appeals his case to Caesar. Rome, here we come.

The case and the person of Paul and this new sect called the way, and the followers called little christs ( Christians) has gained some celebrity status and Paul is brought out to share his story with King Agrippa and Bernice who were the grandchildren of Herod the Great.

Tomorrow in Acts 26 we will look at what he has to say. Today we will marvel at how God, amidst threats of death arranged an audience with the Rulers of Judea so Paul will be able to be witness of The life changing power of Jesus. These are the grandchildren of the King that tried to kill Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem.

Sometimes I have felt like I’ve lost my way, like I’m I am isolated and shuttered away but God is always there even if I don’t feel him or see him. Even if I’ve failed him. What I get from this passage is though Paul is in jail God is still using him. It may have seemed to Paul that life was off course but he shared Jesus wherever he was. That’s what I want too. We are where we are, Gods knows it and can use us.

Good news!

His business

I have this idea in my head about how the bible is divided in two parts. The Old Testament in my head is all about the law judgement and Gods wrath, the New Testament is about Jesus and grace and mercy.

This morning I read psalm 103.

Maybe mercy love and forgiveness permeate both halves.

“1 Praise the Lord, my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the Lord, my soul,

and forget not all his benefits—

3 who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit

and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works righteousness

and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,

his deeds to the people of Israel:

8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse,

nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

15 The life of mortals is like grass,

they flourish like a flower of the field;

16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,

and its place remembers it no more.

17 But from everlasting to everlasting

the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,

and his righteousness with their children’s children—

18 with those who keep his covenant

and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,

and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,

you mighty ones who do his bidding,

who obey his word.

21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,

you his servants who do his will.

22 Praise the Lord, all his works

everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, my soul.”

Our sin is no surprise to God. He has always been in the forgiveness business.

As high as the heavens, that’s how much he loves us. As far as the east is from the west, that’s how far away he puts our repented sin. He heals us, he redeems us, crowns us with love, satisfies our desires, and renews our strength.

The message that flows through the bible is this; God is in love with us.

What will we do today in response to this great love?

Good news

I’ve got some good news.

I opened my bible this morning intending to continue reading in Psalms but opened to Isaiah 61. Isaiah 61 is the Gospel ministry spelled out in the Old Testament.

“61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,

because the Lord has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]

2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

a planting of the Lord

for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins

and restore the places long devastated;

they will renew the ruined cities

that have been devastated for generations.”

This is good news.

I am spiritually poor. My debt has been paid in Jesus.

I am broken-hearted. For my own situation and for the people of my world. There is help and healing and comfort in Jesus.

I am captive to sin. And sometimes held chained in darkness. Jesus can set me free. Jesus brings light into my world. Light shows me my depravity and also shows me the way out.

I’m not sure what the year of the Lords favor is. I think it might be the year of jubilee. That is where all debt is wiped clean. Anything mortgaged or pawned is returned. I would love a day of that. Can you imagine a year of that? No debt unpaid. Everyone reset to zero. Financially it would be incredible, spiritually it is life changing.

I mourn the loss of family. I mourn the loss of innocence and purity. I mourn for those lost and and alone. I mourn for those enslaved by addiction of any kind. I mourn the victims of abuse, the breakup of homes and families. I mourn. Jesus brings comfort to me.

Beauty for ashes. This part is special to me. I am ashes. I was burned as a child, my dad said my nose was a black cinder. He feared it would be gone. When my bandages came off my nose was there. All of it. I feared that I would never find a woman to love me but then one day while I was still a youth I met Mary and she has been the beauty that I traded my ashes for. Jesus provided love through my loss.

I have a family history. It’s not all good. There is abuse and alcoholism and pornography and fights and divorce and pain and base humanness. Jesus has come to restore brokenness that is generational. Walls broken down for decades, for centuries can be restored. Family sins, family patterns of abuse and pain can end now in Jesus.

“delight greatly in the Lord;

my soul rejoices in my God.

For he has clothed me with garments of salvation

and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,

as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,

and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up

and a garden causes seeds to grow,

so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness

and praise spring up before all nations.”

Jesus has come to bring good news. That’s what the word gospel means, good news. We are forgiven and free in the covering Jesus provides us.

God loves us and longs for a relationship with us. The one who built everything we see and know, who created us , has also redeemed us. He has bought us out of slavery. That’s good news.

Rotation angle

How do I get back?

Part of my job is to design operator interfaces. It’s a screen that symbolizes our factory process. I build it from pre drawn pieces and parts. Last week I was drawing a pipe and I needed a tee. There was a tee on the page already but it was pointed I the wrong direction. I clicked on it, went to the properties window and I adjusted the rotation angle. I punched in 180 and suddenly a tee that was useless became useful.

Sometimes in life we need to have our rotation angle adjusted. We are pointing the wrong way. Jesus gives us an example in Luke’s Gospel.

“11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

I sometimes stumble and fall. I rely on Gods grace to forgive me one more time. I get turned around or turned away. I need have my rotation angle adjusted.

I read psalm 100 and it reminded me of this sweet reunion when the prodigal son returns.

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

2 Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the Lord is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his[a];

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

We have father who loves us and his son who died for us to pay for all our mistakes. Let us go home to the father and celebrate together. We may have to get turned around first (repent), but God is waiting and watching for us to come home.

The sect

Acts 24

In jail for two years and no end in sight.

I kind of wonder what happened to the 40 men who vowed not to eat until they killed Paul? (Chapter 23). Two years without food can make a person hungry. And dead.

The high priest Ananias was there to accuse Paul. This is the same guy who had Jesus crucified. It was personal. The “sect” just wouldn’t go away. This group of people who believe that a man named Jesus was actually God in the flesh. And they believe that his death holds some spiritual significance. That it pays for sin. Only sacrifices pay for sin. Only a perfect sacrifice will actually wash away, forgive, sin. They said Jesus’ death was that, the perfect sacrifice. They also say that he didn’t stay dead. You just can’t keep a good man down and you just can’t keep a God-man dead. That’s what they say. That’s what they believe.

“However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”

Acts 24:14-15

Ananias couldn’t crush the sect. No one has been able to. WE are still here. This sect that believes in a God-man who died for our sins and now lives forever.

He loves us enough to die for us. He loves you. Join us.

Heading to Rome

Acts 23

Paul has a meeting with the boss.

The boss takes this time to encourage Paul. We don’t have a record of very many encounters with Jesus after he was taken into heaven. This makes this significant.

“11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”’

Not a lot of detail in the message but the journey is laid out. Paul will end up in Rome. Paul will tell his story at every step and at every stop. Soldiers, governors, Sanhedrin, rulers and servants will all hear about Jesus through Paul.

Us too. We get to hear his story because Luke wrote it down.

Thanks Luke. Thanks Paul. Thank you Jesus.