Acts, #81. Acts 23 and 24 Five-year-old Alyssa knows her priorities. Mama will be here to get her soon, but until then, she is off to the backyard. Her three brothers, mind you, head to pick up a ball. But after a quick ‘Hi, Mimi!’ she heads for the objects of her affection. These little black silkies are her happy place - just the right size for her to hold both, gentle and happy to be cuddled. [see the picture] After she picked these two little girls up, she smiled at me and proclaimed: First I love God, then I love my blankie, then I love these chickens. Priorities. It made me smile. I’m sure it made God smile too.
Paul was on trial for his very life . . . charges have been trumped up from lies. But reading and rereading writer Luke’s rendering of the events first in Jerusalem and then in Caesarea [Acts 23-24] - I see so clearly why Paul never wavered in his faith, did not crumble under pressure. In the last briefing, I discussed why a Christian worldview is so critical--today as never before. Paul’s worldview shaped his priorities and kept him centered, resolute and strong. Check it out: Paul knew who he was - Paul knew whose he was, and because of that, Paul knew his purpose and was relentless in fulfilling it. Paul knew where he was heading - this world was not his home, and God alone was his king. One more thing, Paul never stopped dreaming, no matter what he was going through… He started his defense in Jerusalem by saying: Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!1 Paul knew who he was - a child of God. So keeping a clear conscience was a priority for him. But he also knew who he was--created by God, born in a Roman province - upbringing and religious training as a righteous Pharisee was pertinent to what was happening to him. He was one of them after all - Jew! But also set apart as a Roman citizen which guaranteed several things for him--no flogging and no condemnation without a proper trial. Paul knew his rights. I am taken by his opening remark: Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience! O that I would always have lived before God with a clear conscience! Paul was not saying he never did anything wrong; why, in his very last public statements he talked about how vicious he had been with followers of Christ, seeking to wipe them out - but rather that he thought he was doing the right thing before God. And when he transgressed, he got right with God. Paul knew whose he was - After Jesus intercepted his journey to Damascus, (Acts 9), he was totally convinced that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, his Savior and the fulfillment of Hebrew scripture/prophecy….that changed everything in his life. Paul knew who he was and whose he was. A righteous Jew, raised as a Pharisee, schooled under Rabbi Gamaliel in Jerusalem, changed by his encounter with the living Lord on the road to Damascus.
Paul knew his purpose which came out of his relationship with Jesus Christ. God called Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles, (a hot button for the hostile Jewish crowd), but I never forget what he told the Corinthians, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”2 This verse really resonates with me as that is what I have endeavored to do as doors opened that I could walk through. What a strange thought- me doing street ministry in Long Beach, California, by myself. Equally as strange I think, leading Fellowship of Christian Athletes at San Clemente High School (the toughest thing I have ever done to serve God) … I just did the best I could ‘to save some’. Everything Paul did was to point people to the Way: freedom from the tyranny of the Law, of guilt and shame, to true freedom found only in Jesus Christ. I love how he expressed it to the Romans: There is now no condemnation to those who belong to Christ Jesus.3 Paul knew that heaven was his home - The Jews could execute him, but then he would be with the Lord. As he said ‘if absent from the body, present with the Lord’.4 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.5 Paul never stopped dreaming…. Though warned about danger in Jerusalem, he would not be deterred. Paul had always wanted to go to Rome. Check it--"And after that [Jerusalem],” he said, “I must go on to Rome!”’6 I cannot wait to meet this man in Heaven. Courageous, humble, intelligent, confident, well spoken, totally sold out for Jesus and living out his purpose. All traits that I pray God will develop in me. Amen! Daily. Confident. A song? Oh yes. Build my Life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZW4_8_zCBE Christine 1 - Acts 23.1 2 - 1 Corinthians 9.22b 3 - Romans 8.1 4 - 2 Corinthians 5.8 5 - Romans 6.23 6 - Acts 19.21