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Verses 10-11: “And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'””

Larry Trask was the son of Bolivar Trask, the man who created the mutant-hunting robots known as Sentinels. His guardian, Judge Chalmers, had sought to shield the boy from the nightmarish legacy his father had created. However, in an Avengers storyline which culminated in issue #104, the mutant speedster Quicksilver compelled Larry’s help in trying to rescue his sister Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, from a band of Sentinels that had returned from orbit around the sun. As we find out in the storyline, Larry himself is a mutant, with the ability to see snatches of the future: and his visions showed the Avengers suffering defeat in combat with the Sentinels, the Sentinels launching a solar flare to wipe out the human race, and finally darkness, which Larry assumed to be the end of Earth.

During the final fight, it was revealed that the Sentinel leader, Number 2, had evolved into a mutant being himself. It was his plan to sterilize the human race with the solar flare, thus eventually wiping them out. As the other Sentinels attacked Number 2 (for their programming was to capture or to destroy mutants), it resulted in the mutual destruction of all the Sentinels. In falling like giant tenpins, one of them fell on Trask, thus killing him. Thus, Larry’s last vision was not of Earth’s destruction, but the blackness of his own death.

Agabus was delivering a vision shown to him by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s friends were anxious for his safety, for he still was determined to go to Jerusalem. This prophetic declaration must have alarmed the crowd even more. Yet, Paul was undeterred. He told them, “look, I’m not only ready to be bound, but to die for Jesus if necessary.” His friends were genuinely concerned for them, but they knew this was the Lord’s will.

How would you feel if you knew your future? How would you feel if you saw danger for yourself? Do you face a test today which challenges your safety or your future? If the test and mission is from God, have no fear for He is with you. If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then you need not fear, though fear is a natural feeling…Jesus knows what the future holds…He’s been there…and He’s waiting to lead you through it!

Something to think about.

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Verses 4-5: “And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed.”

Our previous pastor had been at our church for about 17 years; he was much beloved and respected. Once, he thought he felt God’s call to take a pastor position at another church way out of town. He wasn’t sure, so he coveted our prayers and he put some “fleeces” before God to answer. We didn’t want him to go, but we didn’t want him acting contrary to God’s will either. He was a man of God who wouldn’t ignore God’s calling. I personally wrote him a letter to read on the trip up that I tried to encourage him through. I also humorously asked in the letter “what side of the road do you want the burning bushes on, to tell you to come back?” 🙂 As it turned out, that wasn’t the move God wanted him to make, and he stayed with us a while longer. God eventually did call him back near his childhood home in north Georgia, and this time, there was no denying God’s signs. He is there now, leading that church in following the Lord.

Paul knew where he had to go; his road lead to Jerusalem. His friends and fellow believers didn’t want him to go; they feared for his life. As already mentioned previously, Paul would not be dissuaded. He answered God’s call, knowing whether he lived or died, he would be serving the cause of Jesus. He was a man of God who wouldn’t ignore God’s calling.

How about you, fellow believer? Are you listening for God’s call in your life today…no matter where it may lead?

Something to think about.

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Verse 35: “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

The Lone Ranger.
Robin Hood.
Zorro.
The Lorax.

Now, at first glance, you might look at this list and think “one of these things is not like the other.” Not true. The first 3 literary heroes did defend the weak, the poor, and the defenseless. The Lorax did, too: remember what he always told the Once-ler? “I speak for the trees!” He was their vocal defender to a guy who was only determined to make a fast buck off the luxurious Truffula trees. The Lorax spoke for those who couldn’t speak for themselves. (Thank you, Dr. Seuss!)

In early church times, it was supposed to be the church that supported the weak. It was supposed to the be the church’s duty to care for those that society forgets. Nowadays, everyone would argue it should be some form of governmental department or independent charity that should do it. This is incorrect; the church should be the ones to do it. Large buildings to hold Sunday worship services are nice, but that’s not the church’s main priority. Besides spreading the Gospel, it was to help and to minister…and it still is the church’s mission to do that. Paul was reminding the church elders of this.

For those who grew up watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol, I always smiled knowingly when Scrooge tells Bob Cratchit “what’s this world coming to, Cratchit? You work all your life to get money! And people want you to give it away!” How much fun it is after the visits of the 3 spirits and Scrooge’s change to see the old miser happily stuffing the pockets of the charity seekers whom he chased out of his office before! Jesus said it best in the verse: “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.

Everyone has something to give.

Something to think about.

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Verses 29-31: “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”

“The concept behind Airwolf was a supersonic armed helicopter that could be disguised as a civilian vehicle — “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Andrew Probert designed the Airwolf uniform insignia patch worn by the flight crew members, a snarling bat-winged wolf’s head wearing a sheepskin.” This statement is taken from the Wikipedia page on the TV series Airwolf (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airwolf). On the TV show, the Airwolf super-copter looked like civilian aircraft, but it was nothing of the sort. Armed with offensive and defensive weaponry, incredible speed and maneuverability, Airwolf was more than a match for anything in the air. Part of its attack capability was the look of it; it didn’t look threatening (well, not with its weapons systems housed), thus it could blend in and attack with devastating effectiveness.

Paul spoke of equal ferocity of attack against the church, both within and without. He spoke of those who would attack the church like “savage wolves” trying to tear down what the Lord had built up through the apostle. He also spoke of men from within “will rise up, speaking perverse things”. You would have to be an isolated hermit not to see how pervasive perversion has infiltrated our media and communications nowadays in this century. You can’t even turn on any telecommunications device without being almost bombarded by it.

The apostle gave two commands: watch and remember. The church’s work on earth is not done; I’d almost scarce say it’s only begun, and time grows short.

Something to think about.

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Verse 24: “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

In the summer of 1980, a young man went abroad to Europe and to England as part of a 100 piece student ambassador orchestra. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and he thoroughly enjoyed the 3 week trip. However, the route home had some bumps in it; you see, that was about the time that the air traffic controllers union in the United States went on strike. This impacted air travel all across America, and for connecting flights coming to America. The student orchestra’s plane was delayed 8 hours returning from Europe. While in the skies over the Atlantic, he heard rumors of what flights were still on, and which ones were cancelled. He was nervous, because this trip had been his first time flying ever! Arriving back in New York, he and his travelling companions found their return flight to Atlanta cancelled, but made it on standby at a rival carrier. All the while, the young man prayed that they could make it back to the South, because he knew his parents could come get him, if he was stuck in Atlanta. To add to this drama, he literally had to race across Atlanta airport; he arrived within 5 minutes of his connecting flight being on-time to leave to Birmingham! Never was anyone so glad to finish this race to get home as this young man.

Well, that’s the best earthly analogy I can think of when reading Paul’s words here. The apostle is talking to the Ephesian church elders, possibly for last time, and is giving them instruction and teaching. Though the Holy Spirit has told Paul in stop after stop along his missionary journey that he will suffer earthly conflict and inflictions, Paul still strives in his mission to the Lord. He wants to be a good finisher in God’s eyes, striving to minister in Jesus’s name, even up to the point of death. Now, that’s commitment!

Fellow Christian, strive to finish strong today in your race for God.

Have a blessed day in the Lord!

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Verse 7: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.”

A good many years back, I received word from my old college friends that our beloved campus minister, who I befriended during my time with the Baptist Student Union, was dying of cancer. His wife and kids put together a “reunion” of sorts, so that all the kids whom Clete had mentored and ministered to, could come and visit with him…probably for the last time. My wife and I came and were one of the first in line to speak with Clete. This man had helped guide me a lot when I was in college, and it was bittersweet to see him, and yet see him in pain. He still smiled and listened as I proudly introduced my wife to him and told him about our family and life since college. I could’ve spent hours talking to him…however, there was a mile-long line of old friends wanting to have the same time with Clete! He touched a lot of students’ lives in college. Sheepishly, we stepped back to let the next folks visit with him, as we took time to talk to Nelda and their kids. He went on to Heaven not too long after that visit.

Acts is starting to draw to a close here. Paul is spending time with the disciples. Whether they asked him to preach long, or he chose to, or both, Paul taught and spoke with the gathered disciples well into the night (and to think, we complain nowadays when the pastor goes past noon in his preaching!) Later on in this chapter, we’ll see where he gathers the Ephesian elders to speak with them in person one last time…knowing that he may not see them again. He knows he must go to Rome, and is unafraid that his life may be forfeit in this endeavor.

The memory of campus minister Clete and the parallel to Paul speaking with some folks for the last time struck a chord in my head to make me stop and think. Don’t assume that you are guaranteed tomorrow. Get to work today in the work of Jesus Christ in your life. Reach out to others: family, friends, those you see every day, or those you haven’t seen in a while. God may use you to deliver a timely message to someone who needs to hear it…and might not hear it tomorrow.

Have a blessed day in the Lord!

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Verses 37-40: “For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess. Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly. For we are in danger of being called in question for today’s uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering.””

I heard the story told of an elderly Christian woman who lived alone. She didn’t have much money; she lived humbly. Every day she would go out on her front porch and thank God for what she had, thank Him for His provision, and give her prayer requests to Him. This annoyed her next-door neighbor, an atheist, who always vocally jeered her prayers and her faith. One day, the atheist sought to “teach a lesson” to the old Christian lady. He overheard her asking God for food to eat for the week, so the atheist went to the grocery store, bought 2 big sacks’ worth of groceries, hurried home, and placed them at her front door on the porch. Then he hid in the bushes and waited. Sure enough, when she opened the door and saw the groceries, she raised her hands and thanked God. Jumping out from his hiding place, he shouted, “Aha, old woman! Your God didn’t provide those groceries; I bought them myself and delivered them. What do you say to that?” Once the old woman realized what the atheist had said, she smiled, raised her hands to Heaven and said, “Thank you Lord! Not only did you provide me the groceries, you had the devil deliver them to me, as well!”

God is in control. The city clerk of Ephesus, probably a high-ranking official in the city, finally calmed down the crowd. He matter-of-factly informed them that Paul and his fellow Christians had broken no laws; if they had, take them to court! That’s what the courts and proconsuls do! He further warned the crowd that if they wanted to pursue any charges or inquiry against Paul, do so in the legal assembly. Why? Because the near-riot was sure to attract the attention of the Roman Empire for violating Roman law! (And the city of Ephesus didn’t want that kind of attention!) At which point, everyone went home.

Two things jump out at me here; the city clerk probably wasn’t defending Paul and the Christians; he just wanted civil order to be restored. Also, it proves again that God can work for good in all situations. The unlikely hero here was an administrative official. The world might say, “coincidence”. I like to say “God-incidence”!

Have a blessed day in the Lord!

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