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Acts 25: 9-12

Verse 11: “For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

Enough is enough.

In 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated as President of the United States of America. After many years of white politicians being elected to the country’s highest office, Mr. Obama became the first African-American elected to serve as our country’s leader. Many voters had decided that enough was enough and that change was due.

In 2017, in response to an undercurrent of “politics and deadlock as usual”, Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States of America. After many years of politicians serving in our nation’s highest office, many voters had decided to elect a businessman, a political “outsider”, in the form of Mr. Trump to bring in a fresh perspective. Many voters had decided that enough was enough and that change was due.

Enough is enough.

Paul had seen this song and dance in the court before. Here was Governor Festus, asking if he would be willing to face his accusers in court, but back in Jerusalem. Paul knew full well the Jewish mob would be waiting in ambush if he were transported back to Jerusalem. Paul knew that God wanted him in Rome. Invoking his right as a Roman citizen, Paul made his appeal to be judged by Caesar! This effectively was an “end run” around Festus, and thus the governor had no choice but to send Paul to Rome. Paul had had enough of the merry-go-round of local politics. Enough was enough.

How about you? Have you had enough of the consequences of sin in your life; have you had enough of not having hope? Have you had enough, and desire a change for the better? Then say, “enough is enough”, and give your life to Jesus Christ today. If you have already done so, you know that no matter what the devil throws at you today, you can remind Satan that “enough is enough”. Jesus already paid it all, so get underway to living for Him!

Have a blessed day in the Lord!

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Acts 25: 1-8

Verse 1: “Now when Festus had come to the province, after three days he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem.”

As a young boy who grew up watching TV Westerns, I knew of only one man named Festus: that was the deputy Festus Haggen, played wonderfully by Ken Curtis, on the TV series Gunsmoke. Though illiterate and sometimes ornery, Festus was always a loyal deputy to Marshall Matt Dillon (James Arness). Many times, we enjoyed the “friendly arguments” between Festus and Doc Adams; you could consider them the Old West version of Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy of Star Trek. Riding a mule instead of a horse, Festus always was a memorable character on that show. (I actually got to meet Ken Curtis once at a rodeo years ago and had my picture taken with him; he was a friendly Christian man who also sang Gospel and country-western songs very well. He was just as personable in real life as he was on TV).

The Festus we encounter here didn’t ride in on a mule, but rode in as the new governor of the region, replacing Felix. Like any new politician, he attempts to get to know the local authorities, so the Jews take it upon themselves to cajole Festus to send Paul back to Jerusalem for trial. Of course, we know they will try to set up the ambush again to kill Paul. Once again, Paul answers the charges against him with “not guilty”, and the Jews’ complaints, “which they could not prove”, turn this circle of events back on itself.

So what happens next? “Second verse, like the first”? Not in this case…you might say, Paul has had enough!

More to come.

Acts 24: 24-27

Verse 27: “But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.”

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe the horse was lost,
for want of a horse the knight was lost,
for want of a knight the battle was lost.
So it was a kingdom was lost – all for want of a nail.
JLA: The Nail

In the DC comic book special, JLA: The Nail, an alternate tale of the beginning of the Justice League is told. Most everyone who has ever heard of Superman knows his origin: rocketed from the dying planet, Krypton, his spaceship nearly crashes into the travelling truck of Jonathan and Martha Kent. The Kents adopt the baby, and their parenting guidance paves the way for Superman’s moral code. In this story, (the background of which can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JLA:_The_Nail_series ), a nail causes Jonathan Kent to have a flat tire, delaying their fated rendezvous with Kal-El’s spaceship. Instead, an Amish couple find and raise Kal-El in the isolation of their community, thus altering the familiar storyline of Superman and the Justice League.

In the passage today, it would seem Paul has hit a nail. Even though he has conversations with Governor Felix several times, reasoning and witnessing to him, Felix is afraid and keeps sending Paul away. The passage evens states that he hopes Paul would bribe him to let him go. So after all the trial and testimony, trying to do the Jews a political favor on his way out the door…Felix leaves Paul in custody.

Some might see this as a nail altering the story and mission of Paul; here he is, stalled in house arrest at Caesarea. Not so; remember, God had promised Paul he would see Rome as His missionary. What may seem like a delay, simply was God’s plan for Paul to tell the Good News to even more officials. Enter the new Governor Festus and later King Agrippa. The Kingdom here is not lost for want of a nail…it is held in place by divine direction of Jesus Christ.

Something to think about.

Acts 24: 10-23

Verse 10: “Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: “Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself,””

When I attended college, I would pass through the main concourse of campus and frequently see two “sidewalk pastors” who used to deliver the “fire-and-brimstone” style of evangelism. Most times, even if the pair were speaking the Truth, it was lost amidst the circus-like barking and yelling that they did. I feared that most students who gathered around them (some to taunt and some to egg them on) didn’t hear the real message, because it was lost in all the noise. I guess you could call them “sideshow pastors” instead of “sidewalk pastors”!

In contrast, I had a friend from the Baptist Student Union, who also would take up a perch elsewhere along the concourse. He was a devout Christian and a good preacher himself, but he simply chose to read out loud (but not scream out loud) passages from the Word to the students as they walked by. I don’t ever recall him drawing much of a crowd, but he didn’t do what he did for show. Occasionally, I stopped just to say hey and I’d pray for him. I like to think, in his quiet way, that Bruce was able to preach the Word and reach folks just because he wasn’t “in your face”.

Paul here acted much like my friend Bruce. Both parties in this legal proceeding opened their arguments with a customary captatio benevolentiae (I found this in a footnote of my Holman Bible, it is Latin for “winning of goodwill”); it was meant to curry favor with the presiding judge. Tertullus, in my humble opinion, went way overboard in his opening, as shared previously. Paul, though, was courteous without being fawning, and acknowledged Felix’s experience as a judge to hear his defense. Paul calmly put forth “just the facts” (to paraphrase Sgt. Joe Friday of Dragnet), and gave his defense, pointing out that he had not broken any Roman laws, that his accusers had no evidence of their charges, and that the only squabble they had was of a religious nature, not political.

I have no doubt that God had His hand on Paul’s delivery. Even Felix could see through the “smoke and mirrors” approach that Tertullus and company were presenting. We need to remember Paul’s example today more than ever, especially in the rancorous climate we live in where each side of arguments clamor to be the loudest. The Truth is still the Truth, no matter how loud the lies are proclaimed.

Something to think about.

Acts 23: 22-35

Verses 22-24: “So the commander let the young man depart, and commanded him, “Tell no one that you have revealed these things to me.” And he called for two centurions, saying, “Prepare two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at the third hour of the night; and provide mounts to set Paul on, and bring him safely to Felix the governor.””

The official last regular episode of the TV show Little House on the Prairie was subtitled The Last Farewell. To sum up the plot (to the best of my recollection…this was some years ago!), a land/railroad baron had obtained legal ownership of the land of Walnut Grove. The townsfolk were distraught to find out that all they had worked for and built up would soon belong to this land/railroad baron. Though some were ready to fight, most didn’t want to see bloodshed, but the baron was bringing the local cavalry to evict them. In a meeting on Easter weekend, the townsfolk fought back the only way they knew. One of the recent new citizens had a wagonload of dynamite, and they all decided to blow up the buildings, which they still owned. In a bitter ending to the episode, you saw the residents blow up their buildings, from Laura and Almanzo’s house to the Olesens’ mercantile store. Only the Little House and the school/church still stood, because Reverend Alden couldn’t bring himself to destroy God’s house (and the townsfolk understood). When the weekend ended, the cavalry, the baron, and leaders from other communities (that the baron was in the process of trying to get their land too) rode back into town to see it demolished. The baron was furious, demanding the commander to arrest them, but Charles Ingalls was quick to point out that the baron owned the land, not the buildings…he was free to rebuild. Of course, the baron was upset that he would have to fork over a lot of cost to use the land with wrecked buildings on it. More so, the leaders from the other towns threatened that he would find their towns in the same shape if he bought their land with his schemes. Reverend Alden tearfully prayed that “thank the Lord, Walnut Grove’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain”. The show ended with all the citizens travelling out of the destroyed town, filing past the Little House on their way.

Somehow this scene came to mind when reading how Claudius Lysias, the Roman commander, decided to deal with the murder-minded Jews. He had had enough, so after dismissing Paul’s nephew cordially, he had two centurions assemble one huge military force to handle any battle…all to make sure that Paul was escorted to the Roman governor Felix. He knew that the Jews wouldn’t be foolish enough to try any shenanigans on the governor’s grounds. Plus, Felix could hear for himself what the charges were by having Paul AND his accusers lay out their cases. Finally, it also relieved him of the headache of having to deal with this dilemma, I believe. This was how Lysias “fought back” in the only way he could; he ensured the Roman law was followed but steered clear of Jewish politics. Amazing how God works, isn’t it?

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the “gray areas” in our society. Lots of folks on both sides argue back and forth, stating their cases and making their schemes. What we should do as Christians is do as Jesus instructs us. God’s Word has all the answers; we use them and calling on our “governor”, or should I say our High Priest, Jesus Christ, for His power and His wisdom in navigating murky waters.

Something to think about.

Acts 23: 10-21

Verses 10-11, 16: “Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks. But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”…so when Paul’s sister’s son heard of their ambush, he went and entered the barracks and told Paul.”

The following is a fictitious conversation:

Soldier: Sir?
Commander: What is it, soldier?
Soldier: Sir, there’s another disturbance amongst the Jews.
Commander: (sigh) Now what? Let their ruling council handle it.
Soldier: Sir, that is the problem; the disturbance is coming from within their council’s chambers.
Commander: I simply do not understand these Jews! I sent Paul down there this morning for clarification…
Soldier: Sir, that’s just it…their fighting over Paul, and he’s in danger!
Commander: Not a prisoner on my watch, he won’t be! Take soldiers and get him out of there, by force if necessary!
Soldier: At once, sir!
Commander: (to himself) I just don’t see what the uproar is about. Who IS this man?

I often remember that line being used by Major Hochstetter of the SS on the TV comedy, Hogan’s Heroes. He was one of the antagonists that Colonel Hogan would have to outwit. Often, Hogan would just waltz right into Colonel Klink’s office, with Hochstetter stridently demanding “WHO IS THIS MAN?”

Once again, God uses the Romans to rescue Paul. I did some background reading in the Holman New Testament Commentary on Acts (pg. 388-389); now, of course, the conversation probably didn’t occur like I typed it, but it was indicative of what the Romans thought of the Jews. They detested them. And yet, the commander, Claudius Lysias, found nothing against the law that Paul had done. He couldn’t see what the fuss was about; but it was his job to keep the peace and the law (and protect his Roman prisoner!) So, when word of the plot by the forty Jews to kill Paul came to the attention of Paul’s nephew, he came to Paul. Paul sent him straight to the commander. This leads to a most interesting turn of events.

You or I would probably worry about what’s next. But when God Himself “stood by [Paul]” and guaranteed that he would live to witness in Rome…well, what better reassurance can you have?

More to come!