February 16, 2019

Today you should read: Acts 28:1-31

The last chapter of the book of Acts closes a long journey for Paul and Luke and ends rather abruptly as Paul stayed in prison for two years after they reached Rome. While he was imprisoned, he wrote letters that now make-up one-third of the New Testament.

There are a lot of things we could talk about in this chapter, but the verse that stood out to me most may be one that others gloss over. It is verse 12, the following:

“Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days.”

Now, this is just Luke being his detailed self, but in the ESV Study Bible, it also says that it was in these three days that Paul started a church in Syracuse, Sicily. Wait a second, let’s read that again. He started a church, bringing Christianity to Sicily, in three days? That’s one weekend. Also, at this time he was a prisoner, though one that seemed to have a lot of freedom.

This truly encompasses the life of Paul. No matter the circumstance, he was continually preaching and pointing people towards Jesus Christ. He had one of the most dramatic conversions in recorded history, and he had a God-given burden for those who were lost. He made no excuses, even when he knew he would be in a location for a short time.

It’s all summed up well in the last two verses of the book of Acts:

“He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”

Paul’s example should inspire us to dedicate ourselves to sharing the good news of the Gospel with anyone who will listen.

So my only question is this: what are you doing this weekend?

By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor

February 15, 2019

Today you should read: Acts 27:1-44

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.”

Acts 1:8 outlines the entirety of the book of Acts. The movement of the Holy Spirit began in Jerusalem but spread quickly. At the conversion of Saul, we have a man uniquely qualified to fulfill Acts 1:8.

Its initial fulfillment of spreading the Gospel outside Jerusalem kicked into high gear with the stoning of Stephen and the persecution of Greek Christians. Then the great persecutor of the Church came face to face with the resurrected Lord on the Damascus Road. Saul/Paul was a learned Jewish scholar yet understood Gentile culture hailing from Tarsus. Not only that, but he was a Roman citizen. His citizenship is what allowed him to appeal to Caesar, such that the Gospel spread from this little backwater city, Jerusalem, to the global hub of world power, Rome. Yet, as we see in Acts 27, the journey wasn’t easy.

Paul was an experienced traveler. As such, Paul warned them in verse 10, “Men, I can see the voyage is going to end in disaster and great loss not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” Verse 9 says that the “fast was already over.” The Fast referred to here was probably the Day of Atonement which occurred in late September to early October. After that time of year, the unsettled weather patterns over the Mediterranean Sea made sailing hazardous. In those days sea traffic ceased by early November. (Bible Knowledge Commentary)

Paul’s prediction was, of course, correct. The Mediterranean is known for sudden fierce storms, and the one Paul and the others experienced didn’t disappoint. After days of storms, Dr. Luke records in verse 20, “We finally abandoned all hope of being saved.” However, Acts 1:8 had not yet been fulfilled.

In the night, an angel appeared to Paul saying, “Do not be afraid, Paul! You must stand before Caesar, and God has graciously granted you the safety of all who are sailing with you” (v. 24). For two weeks, the ship was tossed around, but they knew at that point, they were close to landfall. They took depth readings and decided to anchor. Running a ship aground was dangerous and must happen on purpose. They didn’t want to get smashed on the rocks.  

There are a few interesting things that happen that give us insight into Paul’s character and his ‘way’ with people. First, some sailors attempt to escape on a life-boat. Paul tells the Roman soldiers their plans and the disastrous consequences of their escape. The soldiers heeded Paul’s words, “the soldiers cut the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it drift away” (v. 32). That’s incredible! Secondly, Paul advised everyone to eat and they ate. Lastly, when the soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners, fearing they would escape, the centurion stopped it “wanting to save Paul’s life” (v. 43).

Paul was a man uniquely qualified to fulfill God’s mission. How has God qualified you? What skills and abilities do you possess? What relationships and influence do you have that you might accomplish His plans?

The fact that people heeded Paul’s words, even as a prisoner, illustrates Paul’s winsomeness while fulfilling God’s mission. It’s not just what you do for the Lord, but how you do it. God has a mission and you have a part in it. You may be highly qualified, but you might also be a jerk. Don’t be a jerk. By His Spirit, let the love, mercy, and grace of God flow through you to others, such that your efforts might win people to the Lord.    

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

February 14, 2019

Today you should read: Acts 26:1-32

Last week, we looked at Acts 22 and saw what Paul included in his testimony. You can read the Jumpstart from that day here.

In our reading today, Paul again shares his testimony of what God had done in his life – this time in his defense in front of King Agrippa. Paul shares of his life before Christ, his encounter with Jesus, and how God was at work within him after his conversion. We read of Paul’s persecution of Christians, Jesus’s appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus, and Paul’s ministry to Jews and Gentiles.

As Paul is brought before Agrippa, he makes clear his purpose for his defense:

“…God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest.” Acts 26:22

Paul took advantage of the opportunity in front of him to share the Gospel with Festus, Bernice, and Agrippa. Paul used his only time to defend himself from the charges brought against him to evangelize. His intention was clear. Agrippa even interrupts him saying, “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?” (v.28). This is one of the few times that the word, “Christian,” is mentioned in Scripture.

Just as Paul took advantage of the opportunity in front of him to share the Gospel, we should look for the opportunities God is giving us to share our faith. Notice how Paul did it! He shared his testimony, which includes a clear presentation of the Gospel. Your story is one of the best ways for you to share how sinners can be saved by a holy God!

Who is God giving you an opportunity to share the Gospel with?

By: Lucas Taylor — West Campus Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

February 13, 2019

Today you should read: Acts 25:1-27

The Life of a Disciple

Chapter 25 is a page in the journal of a disciple – a man who was committed to following Jesus no matter what it cost him. He has been faithfully sharing the Gospel message of Jesus – how Jesus came and lived and died for our sins; how a person can have a personal encounter with Him by receiving Him into their lives.

The Jewish leaders didn’t like this. They accused Paul of crimes against the Temple and asked the Roman authorities to execute him (just like they did Jesus). Paul was sent to Caesarea (Maritima) – a Roman city built to mirror Rome on the Mediterranean Sea.

L: Current Picture of Caesarea Maritima; R: Cistern where Paul was kept as a prisoner

There Paul was formally accused of the crimes against him and stood before Festus to be tried. Paul, being wrongfully accused, demanded a hearing before the highest Roman authority – Caesar. This, of course, would be what takes Paul to Rome where he would share the message of Jesus and then be executed.

This brings me to a very important question today: when should you stand your ground? Often, the right thing to do is to humbly submit to others around you – to turn the other cheek – but when is it right to fight? To stand up for your cause?

1.  When lead by God’s Spirit to do so

2. When the reputation of God is at stake

3. When doing so will further the Gospel

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16

4.  When you’re sure it’s not about you or your fame

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

What are your thoughts about this? Comment about a time you stood your ground for the right reasons.

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor