Trusted

Trusted

Acts 23:18  “So he took him to the commander. The centurion said, ‘Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”

Paul’s nephew had come to tell him about the plot to assassinate him. Then Paul calls one of the centurions to take him to the commander with the report without telling the centurion what the report is.

The centurion does just that.

I have a lot of admiration for that centurion.

He didn’t quiz the boy along the way, “What do you want to tell the Commander?” “What do you know about Paul?” He just did what he was asked to do.

He did not try and weave out of the young man. He didn’t manipulate a conversation so he could have the latest gossip. He kept himself to himself. He didn’t meddle into other people’s lives. He carried out the request of Paul to the letter.

This centurion could be trusted. May we all be like this man.

 

Use less words

Use less words

Acts 23:17 “Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, ‘Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.”

He didn’t announce the young man was his nephew. If he had done then maybe the young man would have just been kicked out of the barracks for causing more trouble.

Neither did he tell the centurion the information of the plot that his nephew had brought. Paul cut out the middle man as much as possible.

Wisdom is being careful with what you say and who you say it to.

Paul’s nephew

Paul’s nephew

Acts 23: 16 “But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.”

Suddenly we have a small but interesting detail of Paul’s personal life. He has a sister. He has a nephew. They have been kept informed of what has been happening to Paul. When the family heard of the danger to Paul they couldn’t sit around and not do anything, they had to intervene. That’s what families do.

They listen out to all that people say.

They can decipher a plot from an opinion.

Without hesitation they will forewarn.

They are prepared to go into the deep end

Thank God for your family today and make sure you behave like Paul’s nephew.

Pretext

Pretext

Acts 13:15 “Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.’

The pretext = a reason given in justification of a course of action that is not the real reason.

It happens all the time.

‘God has told me’ is often used to get our own way.

These kind of pretexts are displayed before all. The truth is hidden even from ourselves. We convince ourselves and then convince others.

The truth of wanting to take a course of action or of simple opinion and maybe even of revenge is hidden behind the pretext of the Almighty. Is that not taking his name in vain?

‘I’d like to talk to you about …’ may not mean that is the reason for the meeting.

Not every enquiry into your situation is genuine. Just ask Paul!

 

False fasting

False fasting

Acts 23:14 “They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, ‘We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul.”

False fasting doesn’t lack submission to a higher authority (the Sanhedrin).

False fasting can be a united front. (We have taken …)

False fasting doesn’t lack commitment. (…not to eat anything …)

False fasting can look godly. (…solemn oath …)

False fasting wants change. (…killed…)

False fasting is not what Isaiah (58:4) calls for: Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

The reasons for fasting can appear to be spiritual but in fact it can all be false.

MORE THAN the more than.

MORE THAN the more than.

Acts 23:13 “More than forty men were involved in this plot.”

We have established how though Paul was not where he wanted to be and even though the situation seemed to be going from bad to worse, the Lord was near. He was not away from the gaze of God. Even more importantly is that God would fulfil His purpose in Paul’s life.

Pain is not bigger than purpose.

Men had conspired and hatched a plot but God had planned the purpose for Paul a long time ago.

Man’s best plot is not bigger than purpose.

Luke writes there were more than 40 men involved.

Forty men:

Moses had 40 years in Egypt and then 40 years in the desert before God began to use him.

Jonah warned Nineveh for 40 days of the destruction that would come for their sin.

Ezekiel laid on his side for 40 days to demonstrate Judah’s sins.

Elijah fasted 40 days.

Jesus fasted 40 days during the desert trial and temptation.

The number 40 can represent a whole generation who died in the wilderness before reaching Canaan.

 

Whatever you may be going through today could be described as a desert, a trial and even it may feel like a lifetime. It can even be ‘more than’ that.

The enemy is doing his worst. You have lost count after 40. It is more than a trial. It is more than a wilderness experience.

How does this encourage?

The truth is the truth even when you have reached your very end.

God has purposed for your life even when the circumstance doesn’t get better it gets worse.

God is near you even when the enemy seems large around you.

God is always MORE THAN the more than of your situation.

The next morning

The next morning

Acts 23:12 “The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul.”

A lot can happen in 24 hours. In that time everything can change. We will forever remember 11th September 2001 and the destruction of New York’s Twin Towers. We remember where we were on that day. We know it changed everything.

For Paul, the night before was a time of the visitation of Jesus. He was near Paul. He was comforting, encouraging and showing him the way and what to do. We long for the visitations of God. When they come we want them to remain. But the next morning comes and for Paul he saw the enemy flex their muscles even further, determined more than ever that Paul would not make it to Rome but that he would die as soon as possible.

On one certain day the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel and then this happened …”So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded.” (24:18)

Today may be very important for your tomorrow. Today maybe a day when you get encouraged, when you do your best work, a day perhaps to plan, to see something fresh in the Bible, to commit to God and resolve to do His will. Tomorrow you will be tested.

Today maybe the day of testing. You will need to remind yourself of yesterday. Perhaps you cannot see tomorrow and today is too dark to make any sense at all and all you have left is the yesterday of promise and commitment. It is important sometimes to not let go of the yesterday revelation and command.

Paul would need to rely on the Lord’s promise for his future that came yesterday because the next morning it all became worse.

 

 

The LORD is near

The LORD is near

Acts 23:11 “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

 

A small plane was flying near Cleveland, Ohio.

“Cleveland Centre, this is 346 Alpha Charley. I’m at 10,500. I’m in the clouds … not instrument rated. Would like radar vectors. Out.”

“Six Alpha Charley, Cleveland. Roger. Understand you are not instrument rated. Set transponder code 4582 for radar identification. What is your heading now, sir?”

“Six Alpha Charley is heading 250 degrees. Say again code. It’s rough. I’m getting disorientated … I can’t see the ground!”

“Six Alpha Charley, Cleveland. Set code 4582. Concentrate on your altitude indicator, sir. Keep wings level and reduce power to start slow descent. Will have you on radar contact.”

“I’m losing control … losing it … turning … I’m going to spin! … I’m spinning! … which way!! Help! Help!”

“Six Alpha Charley, release your controls, sir! Look at your altitude indicator. Opposite rudder, opposite rudder …”

“Help! Help! I can’t stop …”

“Six Alpha Charley, Six Alpha Charley, do you read?” (Silence)

“Radar contact is lost.”

The above was based on a recorded conversation between a control tower and a small plane which crashed killing the pilot. The investigation of this crash revealed that nothing was wrong with the flight instruments on N346 Alpha Charley.

 

Many will wake today feeling they have been ripped apart. They will feel like this pilot must have felt, spinning to the ground, out of control, not able to ‘pull himself together’.

They will not realise that it actually is not as bad as they feel. To suggest anything else is an offence. But that is the truth, why? The Lord is near!

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is near to the broken-hearted AND saves those who are crushed in spirit.

That night Paul locked in his prison cell not knowing what will happen next is visited by the Lord. Was this another vision or a dream? What is most important is Paul received words of encouragement.  He is still within the purposes of His God. He was not out of control. God was in charge. He was on track.

It really doesn’t matter what has happened to those who love the Lord, knowing they are still in His purpose, that He is still in control encourages like nothing else.

It may be night-time. You are waiting whilst everyone is sleeping. You are reflecting whilst everyone is dreaming. You are looking back on yesterday and not focusing on your tomorrow. He is the Lord of the night-time. Psalm 139:11-12 “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

Be encouraged. Be strengthened. Not on your own strength. But in the knowledge that He has not left you. But He is right here. Now. In your NOW moment. What you need to hear is this? “I am near you. You will go forward, you will accomplish MY purposes for your life. This is not the end for you. There is more.”

Get in there!

Get in there!

Acts 23: 10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.

We cannot make light of this verse and nor would we want to.

It became so violent that it looked like Paul could be torn to pieces, meaning they were trying to grab a part of him.

This life can become very brutal for some.

The abused and rejected, the hurting and the bleeding bodies and hearts are all around us today. Beaten by this life, torn by many enemies, this life dishes out dirt at times and even the threats are real.

A friend told me yesterday of how one of their friends suddenly woke up to an attack of their mind recently and they have subsequently entered a very dark season of their life.

You may be with people today and actually not know that inside their lives are being torn apart. I pray that these people will find a Church today that loves them through the hurt.

For Paul, he didn’t have the Church though no doubt they were praying for him. But he did have the commander who did what at times still needs to be done today. The commander had Paul taken away from the situation. The force was not because of Pauls reluctance but because the people had hold of him intending to pull him apart. Maybe today we need to forcefully remove people from the claws of their enemy to a peaceful place. Maybe some need a holiday, a rest, help, counsel, prayer, healing. Nothing in their world will allow them to do this voluntarily. But you care enough for them to do this. So go in, send the troops in and bring them out whilst you still can.

What if …?

What if …?

Acts 23:9 There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. ‘We find nothing wrong with this man,’ they said. ‘What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?’

When those who oppose you divide then some of them can begin to defend you. This is what happened with Paul that day. The Pharisees believed in the supernatural, they believed it possible that the Spirit and angels communicate with us. They were not defending Paul’s stance that it was Jesus who appeared to him on the Damascus Road, but they were interpreting this vision as coming from an angel or the Spirit, something that the Sadducees would not accept.

What if …?

It is a shame that when they asked that question they shaped it to fit their theology. If they had asked, “What if Paul is right and he did see Jesus on the Damascus Road?” Can you imagine what possibly could have happened?

What if …?

The problem with this is that we can never think of the things that are impossible to ask.

We can think of miracles because they fit into our theology.

But we cannot think of the ‘what if’ questions outside of that.

Questions related to other religions, sexuality and human rights, what if …?

What we can do is when presented with something or someone, no matter how weird and wonderful the story or they may be, we can ask ourselves, what if they are right?

What if I am wrong?

This question at least keeps us humble or has the potential to do so.