1) Every day will be a new devotional. I have enough devotionals for every day for three years
2) Also as I can, I'll be posting on my new political blog (see bottom of page).
Some other housecleaning:
A) If you'd like to just get new postings sent to your email, just submit your address in the box on the left just below. There's just one possible downside, though. Occasionally I'll add a music video at the end that's relevant to the devotional, and you won't get them in the email sent to you. If I add a video though, I'll make sure to mention in the posting, so you'll know to come to the site to see it if you'd like.
B) I actually finished writing new blog posting for the TAWG at the end of 2016. So what I'm doing now is at the beginning of every month, I'll move the earliest month from 3 years ago ahead so that a "new" posting appears every day. That's why you won't find any postings for January 2014, for example.
C) When I started this Blog, I was using the 1984 edition of the NIV, and that’s what I linked to on the Biblegateway site. However, in 2011 Zondervan updated its edition and thus reworded a lot of the NIV translation. Therefore, all the links which went to the 1984 edition now redirect to the 2011 edition, which often has slightly different wording. Thus, part of my editing process has been to update my Scripture quotes in my postings. But I might have missed some, in which case you might see my quote in the posting as a little different from what comes up when you click on my citation link, since that redirects to the 2011 edition on the Biblegateway site. It's a good thing that we realize that the work of translation never ends, but it can be a kind of a pain on a site like this. If you see any difference in verbiage between my quote and what shows up as a link on the Biblegateway site, or if you hover over a link and it has "NIV1984" at the end of it, please notify me and I'll correct it.
D) I can't believe I have to say this, but here goes. At the end of every posting is a suggested short prayer that has to do with what we discussed. This is actually what I've prayed when I finished writing it. In no way am I asking you to pray the exact verbiage of my suggested prayer. It's just a springboard for your own prayer, nothing more. Quite frankly, I've never been a fan of praying rote prayers written by someone else. As with everything else I do here, to the degree it helps, great; to the degree it doesn't, chunk it.
As always, thank you so much for reading, even if it's to read one post. God bless.
Festus had a problem. His prisoner Paul had appealed to Rome. The Jews were demanding Paul be sent to Jerusalem, and it looks like he was well aware of how that would conclude. So he had to send Paul to Rome to face his charges. Undoubtedly he was relieved to have this monkey off his back and to be able to pass the buck onto someone else. If the Jews complained, he could just point out that he was legally obligated by Roman law to do what he did.
But there was just one wrinkle. All of the accusations which the Jews leveled against Paul were in one of two categories: 1) Not credible. Their allegation that he was inciting sedition had no evidence to back it. 2) Not interesting. Rome didn’t really care about religious disputes. As long as the tax money came in and the streets were quiet, they had no interest in questions about theology. He had to give something in his report that could explain why Paul was being sent.
But Festus was lucky in that he could bring in a consultant. King Herod Agrippa (not the same Herod which you’ve read about in Scripture) was nearby, and he was part Jewish. He had some familiarity with Jewish law and tradition and culture, so he could provide some input into Paul’s case and could possibly help Festus in how to word the report.
That’s where we come to chapter 26 where Paul meets King Agrippa. This is not an official trial by any means, just an informal hearing to listen to what Paul had to say for himself. A lot of this we’ve already heard before: Paul’s fanatical devotion to stamping out the sect known as followers of Jesus, his encounter with that same Jesus on the way to Damascus, and his special calling and special mission. I’d like to focus for a little bit on how Paul describes his mission in vss. 17-18. These verses are so packed with truth. Each little point is a sermon in itself:
• Who was doing the sending. Not any man nor a group of men. This was the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the Son of God. If any missionary or any pastor or any evangelist has been called by anyone else besides the Lord himself, then that “called” person needs to quit and do something productive. If you aren’t sent by the Lord, you’re not going to end up any place that’s pleasant.
• To open their eyes. Every person outside of Christ is utterly blind to spiritual truth. It’s not an issue of ignorance that just needs the proper information. The Holy Spirit—using a human witness—opens spiritual eyes which were just as blind as Paul was on that road.
• Turn them from darkness to light. What an image! Every person outside of Christ is bound forever in the Kingdom of Darkness. They don’t know what’s going on, and outside of God’s intervention through his children they never will. But once we come in and share the Good News, they’re carried out of that darkness into his glorious Light!
• And from the power of Satan to God. Another way of saying the last phrase, really. All of Adam’s children are under Satan’s power. How sadly ironic that we’re all born in slavery to the one who hates us the most! Most of us spend our entire lives serving the Enemy of our souls! But then the Light of the Good News comes and we switch kingdoms and sides. And we’re now Under New Management.
• That they may receive forgiveness of sins. In case you didn’t know it already, that’s the only obstacle to everything else we’ve mentioned. You can’t be transferred from Satan’s Kingdom to God’s until your sins are forgiven. And there’s only place where that can take place.
• And a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. Remember what the word “sanctified” means? I actually wish we could just substitute the phrase “set apart,” since that’s a lot clearer to most folks. When you become a believer, you’re set apart not only from the rest of humanity but even from the rest of the Church. There’s a place in the Body which only you can fill. You were made for that place, and that place was made for you. You’re as unique as a snowflake, as unique as a fingerprint.
This was what Paul was called to. Even when he met Jesus and the details concerning salvation were being straightened out, the Lord made it clear to him what this was all about. Hopefully we’re clear about that as well, both in our lives and in our message.
Today, go over each phrase which I pointed out. Take a moment to thank the Lord for the truth contained in that little group of words. Ask him to set that truth on display in your daily life. For example, you might say Thank you Lord for opening my eyes to the truth about you.
Have you ever been in the grip of real hatred? I don’t mean dislike or anger or even rage. No, I’m referring to the type of hatred that’s cold and calculating and is willing to wait as long as it takes. I’m talking about Khan in Star Trek II waiting for sixteen years to get his revenge on Kirk. When one of Khan's underlings points out that they have a starship and weaponry and really don’t have to risk going after his old adversary, his reply still sends chills up my spine:
That’s the type of hate Paul’s enemies had for him. Paul had been languishing under house arrest for two years. He'd never been credibly accused of any crime, much less found guilty of anything. But because the last governor to handle his case (Felix) wanted to be on good terms with the Jews, he refused to release Paul.
By the way, it didn’t work. The Jews managed to appeal to Rome about his conduct in other areas, and he was recalled in disgrace. His replacement was Festus. We actually don’t have a lot of information about him, but what we do know seems to indicate that he was slightly better and more fair-minded than his predecessor.
So the new governor came to power, and the Jews are waiting for him in order to make an accusation against Paul and demand that he be remanded into their custody. These guys had been waiting for two years. As soon as the new official steps in, Paul’s case is apparently the first thing they bring up. Now that’s hatred.
They urge him to allow Paul to be tried in Jerusalem, but of course this was only a ruse to get him where they could assassinate him.
Festus knew quite well why his predecessor had been replaced, so with the same motivation as Felix (wanting to get on the Jews’ good side), he seemed inclined to grant their request.
Paul wasn’t a fool, so he knew what awaited him in Jerusalem: An assassin’s knife in his gut. He knew he would never get real justice in Caesarea, so he took the only course which looked best suited to keep him alive. He was a Roman citizen, so he officially appealed to Caesar, as was his right. And of course Festus had no choice but to grant his request and send him on to Rome. And thus was taken the first step in keeping God’s promise to Paul. The Lord had promised him that he would testify in Rome, and Heaven and Earth will rip apart at the seams before a promise of God fails.
I’d like to take just a moment to focus today to focus on Paul’s defense before Festus in vs. 8: "I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar." This goes along nicely with his testimony before Felix: “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” This was his defense. His enemies brought lots of charges and accusations and insinuations and allegations but no evidence. They knew they had no case, Festus knew they had no case, and Paul knew they had no case. The only reason Paul wasn’t a free man was because of gutless Roman governors who were sucking up to Jewish religious leaders who had it in for him.
Now, obviously this doesn’t mean that Paul was sinless. He knew he wasn’t. But he knew that as far as the legal accusations went, he was innocent. He wasn’t instigating sedition against Rome. He wasn’t blaspheming the Temple or turning people away from the Law or the Prophets. He was a godly man who was trying to do what God told him to do.
Now here’s a piercing question for you and me. If someone tried to build a case against me like they did against Paul, could they do it? Would they have to make stuff up? Could they find someone with a legitimate gripe against me? Could I honestly say “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man”? Really?
Lord Jesus, I know I have a long way to go before I can make the claim in 24:16. Please forgive me where I fall short and change me into the likeness of you my Savior.