Archive for May 2011

Acts 24: The Patience of Paul

“When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.” Acts 24:27

Things seemed to be looking up.

It appeared as if Felix’s heart was warming.

Paul was given an opportunity to present his case before Felix the Governor and things were going rather well. Imagine a job interview or giving a report before a packed classroom. One waits, wonders, and well…prays, hoping for a seamless presentation and favorable results.

It appeared as if the situation was moving forward quite nicely, in that Felix informed Paul that his case would be decided soon (vs. 22). He then graciously allowed Paul to remain in “loose custody” and be granted various liberties, including unabated permission for visitation (vs. 23).

All lights were green when Felix, accompanied by his wife Drusilla, came to hear Paul speak further about faith in Jesus (vs. 24). But this is where the signals began to change. Doors started to close in succession and Paul was again being marginalized by the Governor. For nearly two years a ‘cat and mouse’ game was afoot, with Paul being the mouse (vs. 26). This season culminated with a changing of the governmental guard.

Felix was no longer in charge. Paul was stuck in prison.

How is patience produced? The answer, unfortunately, is not what we like. We tend to want things to happen quickly and without incident. But patience is only produced over time and with testing. There would be no need for patience if every aspect of our lives instantly and flawlessly converged.

We often joke about “asking for patience” because we know that that prayer if often like flipping a switch on problems. What if this is how God does his best work in us? Romans 5 affirms this:

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that sufferings produce endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”


Do you want to grow in patience?  How it is developed in your life?  Let me know.

Acts 10: God’s General Contractors

Recently my wife and I were driving past a construction zone where a new middle school was being built near our home. We were amazed at how fast the structure was going up and the degree of expertise it would require to pull off such a feat. The foundation was huge and the steel beams rose to intersect in ways that boggled my mind. Inwardly, I was wondering if I could ever figure out how to do that kind of work if I wasn’t pastoring a church. I concluded it was…well…doubtful.

When I look at construction sites I see so many little details that all come together to form a wonderfully completed project. It is similar to what I discovered in Acts 10. All throughout this chapter there are multiple details, big and small, that are interwoven to form a beautiful end result. The end of Acts 10 describes the culmination of the Holy Spirit falling upon the Gentiles.

Gentiles.

This was a big deal because up to this point the Gospel had been focused upon the Jewish people and folks had very little interest in taking it beyond that particular group. But God was the architect of a massive and masterful plan: His Church was being built and it would include male, female, slave, free, Jew AND Gentile.

How was this huge project going to happen?

In Acts 10 we have two General Contractors, Cornelius and Peter. One may think that having TWO general contractors would be chaotic, divided and ultimately unproductive, unless both of them did the two important things that Cornelius and Peter did.

They prayed.

And they listened.

Both of these men were instrumental in the newly-opened door to the Gentiles, because both of these men knew how to pray and listen.

In verse 4, Cornelius prayed, and the Lord, in a vision, told this Gentile man to summon a Jew named Peter.

In verse 10, Peter was in prayer when he had a vision in which the Lord said some very specific, and noteably, difficult things.

Pray. Listen.

It’s these small details that bring massive and masterful plans of the Lord into fruition.

Acts 9: Saul the Terrorist

In Acts 9 the spotlight undoubtedly shines brightly upon Saul. His conversion on the road to Damascus is one of the highlights in the Book of Acts and, certainly, a formative event in the genesis of the New Testament church.

The “Persecutor” Saul became the “Apostle” Paul by the power of God. It’s a simply amazing testimony with the classic “before and after” elements, the “I saw the light” moment (in this case, it was literal), and deep heart change.

This conversion, however, didn’t happen in a vacuum. The scripture tells us in verse 10, “Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias…”

Ananias. Who is this guy?

The only other reference to him beyond chapter 9 is in Acts 22:12 – “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.”

Ananias was prompted of the Lord to be the first person to go to the Man of Tarsus. Please don’t overlook the implications of this bold move. Imagine the Lord asking you alone to make a house-call to a terrorist. Then imagine prayerfully laying hands upon that terrorist. Continue imagining being the first person to endorse that terrorist as a “changed man.”

Bold.

Ananias could have cried foul. He could have demanded his moment in the sun. After all, HE (not Saul) was devote and highly respected. He could have asserted that Saul had not been tested, nor could be trusted. Let’s be honest, would many of us feel it was our duty to “alert the public?” But instead, Ananias was obedient to the voice of the Lord and he was open to those that God had saved by his grace.

Obedient and Open.

Who will be the Ananias’ today? Who will defy conventional wisdom and listen to the direction of the Lord instead? Who will discover where God is working and join him there? Who will set aside fear (Saul) in order to gain clear perspective on the future (Paul)?