Acts 28

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“The brothers there had heard that we were coming and they traveled … to meet us.  At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged.” (v 15)

After a long treacherous trip and a bit of refreshing along the way, Paul was more than ready to see kindred souls.  It’s the sense of family that comes among us, Your children, Lord, when we encounter one another.  Thanks for the times when You’ve allowed my life to connect with others who know You — whether I’ve hardly known them or known them well.

ASSURED

“It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” (v 20)

The “hope of Israel” was Your Son, Lord.  It’s like what Paul wrote to the Philippians, “…it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ” (Php 1:13 NIV).  No matter what state in which he found himself, Paul knew where his hope was.  Since the word “hope” most often denotes “assurance” when used in Your Word, here Paul expressed the assurance he had in knowing that even his chains were part of Your sovereign will … I have that same assurance available to me, don’t I? … Would You help me to relish it as much or more than Paul did, Father?

CONVICTED

“Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” (v 28)

Paul knew exactly what You had called him to do and he knew that You had been carrying him along to do it.  He was seeing evidence of Your handiwork all around him, even in the one who guarded him.  He was convicted to carry out Your plan for his life right up to his death.

Father, what is that “one thing” You have for me to do in Your kingdom?  Have I been doing it and not recognizing it fully?  Have I been doing my own thing and not following You completely?  So many lives around me who need to know Your Son or know Him better … show me the niche You have for me and pump in that conviction like Paul had.

EMPOWERED

“Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (v 31).

Paul’s life was Yours; doing Your will was his life.  More and more, with each new dawn of Your mercy, may my will conform to Your will … May I know the reality each day of Your empowering presence within me as You keep on making me just like Jesus.  Amen.

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Acts 27

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the ‘northeasterner,’ swept down from the island.  The ship was caught in the storm … When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved …

“After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: … I urge you to you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed … God has graciously given [me] the lives of all who sail with [me].  So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.  Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” (v 14, 20-26 NIV)

One of the interesting things here, Lord, is that these people most likely wouldn’t have been IN this storm at all if they had listened to Paul’s advice about finding a safe harbor (v 9-12, 21).  Yet, the centurion chose not to listen to someone he could’ve thought to be a “nobody” and listened to some who were “somebodies” in his eyes (v 11).

Even after he wasn’t listened to the first time, Paul didn’t give up on the people.  The storm grew heavy and the outlook bleak, and then You stepped in to bolster up Paul’s strength.  You strengthened him, so he could strengthen others.

How many storms have You taken me through, Lord?  How many did I end up in the path of because I kept writing off the nudgings of others to stay near to You, to stay in Your Word, and to acknowledge You?

When I have been in those storms, You’ve sent Your very own messengers to point me to You, to remind me that You alone are the One who can ensure that “not one of you will be lost.”  Continue to instill in me the kind of faith that Paul had to be able to confidently say, “I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me” (v 26).  Make my faith strong, so that I can be an encourager to others caught up in the storm.  Amen.

Acts 25-26

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“…I have appeared to you to APPOINT you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of Me and what I will show you.  I will RESCUE you from your own people and from the Gentiles.  I am SENDING you to them 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.” (v 16-18 NIV)

APPOINTED (v 16)

You stopped Saul in his tracks, Lord (Acts 9), and set into motion Your plan to APPOINT him to a particular role in Your kingdom.  He had been operating under what he believed to be the way to please You; yet, You awakened him to Your Truth.

You personally chose and set Paul (the name by which he was later known) into the position of being Your SERVANT and Your WITNESS.  You sent him to serve the Gentiles and to be a witness to them of what You can do in a life that surrenders to You.

You’ve told me in Your Word that You also have called and appointed me to be Your SERVANT and Your WITNESS.  You’ve set an example for me in Your own life on this earth.  You promise to walk with me always in the position in Your kingdom to which You’ve appointed me.

RESCUED (v 17)

When his own people didn’t understand Paul’s change or his fervor in following Your truth, they became a mob from whom You had to rescue him.  As in Paul’s life, Father, You’ve shown Your power over and over again over anything that attacks Your children.  You are my Shield, my Protector, and my Deliverer.

SENT (v 17-18)

Your appointment for Paul included sending him to a people different from his own, so that You could use him to “OPEN their eyes and to TURN them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.”  Then, You anticipated the result to be “that they may receive FORGIVENESS of sins and a PLACE among those who are sanctified by faith” in Jesus.

You open the eyes of people who need You, but don’t yet acknowledge You.  You help them to see You clearly, to see the reality of You.  In their realization they have the opportunity to turn away from the darkness and power of Satan.  You stretch out Your arms and welcome them toward the light of Your presence!  When they run to You, You forgive and sanctifying them, freeing them from sin and beginning to mold them to be just like Jesus.

THAT’s my story too, isn’t it, Father? …the parts about “opening” and “turning,” and the “forgiving” and “sanctifying”?  YOU appointed someone whom You had rescued and sent them to me, so that this latter part could be MY story.  And then, You appoint, rescue, and send ME out to keep the process going.  It’s all because of Your immense love for the people You’ve created!  Here am I, Lord; mold me, send me, use me.  Amen.

Acts 23-24

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess.  He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.  As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now!  You may leave.  WHEN I FIND IT CONVENIENT, I will send for you.’  At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.”  (v 24-26 NIV)

An interesting account this is, Lord.  Here’s a ruler showing some interest in this man who speaks about following You.  And yet, the message doesn’t penetrate his heart.  It just goes into his ears as words that he’s wading through in hopes of a bribe.  However, something was said that did spook him and get him to perk up a little.  At least, Paul kept on talking with every chance he got to speak to Felix, at Felix’s convenience, of course.

You’ve placed a few people like this in my life, Lord–the ones who only call when they find it convenient or when their lives meet a crisis.  As long as they call and express a willingness to listen, keep me talking, Lord.  I trust You to provide the words, the timing, the setting for each encounter, so that those who listen might at least have the opportunity to hear about You and all that You offer through Jesus.

Keep me alert to the opportunities You lay before me to share You with others.  Keep on making me like Jesus, so that HE is who they meet when they see me.  Amen.

Acts 22

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has CHOSEN you to KNOW His will and to SEE the Righteous One and to HEAR words from His mouth.  You will BE HIS WITNESS to all men of what you have seen and heard.  And now what are you waiting for?  Get up be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name.'” (v 14-16 NIV)

You let Paul know through Ananias’ words that You had chosen him for a particular purpose in Your kingdom.  Not until later did You reveal more of Your will for Paul’s life in You, but he could know that You’d had him on Your mind and had woven him into Your purposes.

Through Your Word, You’ve let me know much the same affirmations as You did to Paul.  You even used his pen to write them out so long ago so that I could read them: “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight … In Him we were also chosen … in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory.” (Eph 1:4, 11-12 NIV).

Thank You for choosing me, Lord.  Thank You for making it possible for me to know Your will.  Thank You for allowing me to see You — in Your Word, in Your people, in Your creation.  Thank You for allowing me to hear Your words by reading the Bible and listening to Your Spirit.  You just keep right on shaping me to be more like Jesus.  Amen.

Acts 21

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“…I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (v 13)

This statement of Paul’s reminds me of what Luke recorded of You, Lord, in Luke 9:51, “As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”  You KNEW exactly what was ahead of You on that route and yet You let nothing alter Your journey’s destination. (See other posting at Leading Toward Easter: The Determination of Jesus)

Paul later wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1 NIV).  Here, in this passage in Acts, it’s evident that he’s following in Your footsteps and completely committed to following You to death (knowing what awaits him beyond this life).

Someone who was acquainted with Paul, and may have been part of the ones trying to help him not get caught in this account (Ac 21:17-26), was Peter.  Later on, You moved him to write, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps” (1 Pet 2:21 NIV).

At any given time, the tide could turn in this nation toward the persecution of Your followers, as in other countries.  YOU are my life, Jesus.  May I never hold too tightly to the things and people of this world that it would keep me from remaining true, bold and firm in my devotion to YOU.  May I truly, from the depths of my being, be able to say with Paul, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus.”  YOU were willing to be bound, beaten, and to die for ME, Lord Jesus.  Keep on making me just like You.  Amen.

Acts 19-20

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I my finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (v 24 NIV)

Father, thanks for Paul’s example of devotion to You:

his abandon — “I consider my life worth nothing to me”

his determination — “if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me”

his loyalty — “the task the LORD JESUS has given me”

his mission — “the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace”

Move me in a way that I’ve never seen before.  Draw me to the utter abandon of my will in order that I might completely seek, accept and live out Your will.  Instill in me a determination that just can’t be squelched as I go about serving You, Lord Jesus, with genuine loyalty and devotion.  Guide me in carrying out YOUR mission here in this world, in the corner of Your kingdom You’ve ordained as my mission field.

Help me to recognize Your work in and around me.  Make me vitally aware of Your presence, strength and other blessings as You continue Your work in me to make me just like Jesus.  Amen.