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“As a result we were showered with honors, and when the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip” (Acts 28:10 NLT).

July 12, 2018

Paul spent three months on the island of Malta after being shipwrecked there. He healed people from all over the island, including the chief official’s father, in the name of Jesus. What should’ve been a disaster turned out to be a divine opportunity. Paul had been rejected in Jerusalem, but he was honored in Malta. The gospel was going out to the Gentiles.

“The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn’t swim ashore and escape. But the commanding officer wanted to spare Paul, so he didn’t let them carry out their plan” (Acts 27:42-43 NLT).

July 10, 2018

When it appeared that Paul and the 276 people aboard the ship would survive the storm, he and his fellow prisoners were threatened by the soldiers. Yet, even in this, God protected Paul, giving him favor with the commanding officer. The storm, the sailors and the soldiers, all at different times, threatened Paul’s life, but God intervened every time. Not only did Paul survive, but all 276 passengers did as well. Many a ship and all aboard have lost their lives in lesser storms on the Mediterranean Sea, but God had called Paul to go to Rome, and to Rome he would go. The miracle on the Med gave Paul a platform to preach the gospel to every passenger with great credibility.

“But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship’s captain and the owner than to Paul” (Acts 27:11 NLT).

July 9, 2018

The Roman officer in charge of getting Paul and the other prisoners to Rome showed great favor to Paul, allowing him to travel with his friends, Luke and Aristarchus, and permitting him to go ashore at Sidon to visit friends and get personal supplies. However, his kindness didn’t extend to taking advice from Paul on maritime matters. Ignoring Paul’s warning not to sail, the Roman officer chose to follow the advice of the ship’s captain and owner, who preferred a more comfortable winter’s anchorage in nearby Phoenix. Yet, as soon as they set out on what should’ve been a short journey along the Southern coast of Crete, a “Northeaster” of typhoon force blew them far out to sea. As their condition grew more desperate, Paul’s prior warning must have continued to ring in the Roman officer’s ears.

Paul’s influence began to grow with the Romans and the sailors from that day. As their situation in the storm worsened, Paul’s voice would became the only voice of hope in their midst. The Lord gave a Paul a platform of influence everywhere he went, that he might share the gospel with everyone.

‘Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”’ (Acts 26:29 NLT).

July 8, 2018

After Paul gave his defense before Festus, King Agrippa, Bernice and a crowd of Roman military officers and Jewish dignitaries, Agrippa realized Paul’s purpose. It wasn’t only a defense of his innocence, but a testimony of his salvation through the resurrected Jesus Christ. Paul wanted to persuade his audience to join him in believing and trusting in Jesus. This is why Agrippa interrupted Paul, saying, “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”

Agrippa got the point. Paul’s purpose and prayer was that they believe the gospel and follow Jesus. Agrippa had used the name “Christian,” a name first used in Antioch to describe disciples of Jesus (See Acts 11:26). It was a new name, more respectful than that which Paul’s accusers had used, calling him a “ringleader of the cult known as the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5).

The “Nazarene” is what they had called Jesus. And it is the name that ISIS recently used to label Christians in the Middle East, forcing them to wear the Arabic letter “N” on their clothes and painting it on their houses.

Paul was proud to wear either name, as long as they identified him with Christ. His purpose and prayer was that others would join him.

“So the next day Agrippa and Bernice arrived at the auditorium with great pomp, accompanied by military officers and prominent men of the city. Festus ordered that Paul be brought in” (Acts 25:23 NLT).

July 7, 2018

Porcius Festus was the new Roman governor over Judea. He replaced Felix who had been recalled to Rome by Nero. As a result, Festus inherited the case against the apostle Paul, which Felix had delayed, hoping for a bribe. Historians agree, that overall, Festus was a better governor than Felix, who was actually recalled because of his poor administration. Yet, even Festus was easily wooed by the Jewish leaders who wanted Paul’s trial moved to Jerusalem, so they could kill him along the way. Festus was ready to move the trial from Caesarea to Jerusalem as a favor to the Jewish leaders, but Paul appealed to Caesar. Festus had to honor Paul’s request because of his Roman citizenship.

The next day after the trial, Festus received King Agrippa II and his sister, Bernice, who came to pay their respects to the new governor. Agrippa II, whose birth name was Marcus Julius Agrippa, was raised and educated in Rome, while his father, King Herod Agrippa I, reigned in Judea. It was his father who had beheaded the apostle James. Coincidently, Agrippa’s sister, Drusilla, was the wife of the previous governor, Felix. So, when Festus began to talk about the unusual case concerning a man named Paul that Felix had left to him, Agrippa was, no doubt, fully aware. When Agrippa asked to hear Paul for himself, Festus happily agreed.

Can you visualize the scene where the auditorium is arrayed in the banners of Rome as trumpets sound announcing the arrival of King Agrippa and his sister, Bernice? Can you see all the Roman military officers decked out in their dress uniforms, gathered there at the order of Governor Felix, along with the prominent Jewish leaders of the region who had received his invitation? Can you see the apostle Paul being led in to face this illustrious crowd, dressed in a plain robe with chains on his wrists?

The apostle Paul was given this amazing opportunity to give his testimony and preach about the resurrected Jesus to all the pomp and prominence of the region. And preach he did.

“After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison” (Acts 24:27 NLT).

July 6, 2018

Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and delivered to Marcus Antonius Felix, the Roman Governor of Judea, at Caesarea Maritima (“By the Sea”). He was imprisoned there for two years, but was allowed the freedom to be visited by friends and receive help from them. Although it was the unscrupulous Felix who kept Paul there, hoping for a bribe and seeking favor with the Jewish leaders, surely it was God’s will for Paul to stay there for a while. For Paul had the freedom to regularly preach to Felix and his wife, Drusilla, the daughter of Herod Agrippa I. Paul also had the freedom to reach out to his Christian brothers and sisters in Israel, while being protected by mighty Rome from his Jewish enemies.

Caesarea Marítima was the major seaport for the Judean Province. It was a beautiful place. Herod’s summer palace was there. And so was the home of the Roman Governor. Paul was able to expand his ministry influence, while living in a Roman prison at this important crossroads. Soon Porcius Festus, the new governor, would hear Paul’s testimony and ultimately send him on to Rome to appeal to Caesar.

“When they arrived in Caesarea, they presented Paul and the letter to Governor Felix” (Acts 23:33 NLT).

July 5, 2018

After being arrested by the Roman authorities in Jerusalem for being at the center of a riot, Paul was taken to Governor Felix at Caesarea. He was transported on horseback at night to avoid the conspiracy threatening his life by certain Jewish zealots. As a Roman citizen he was afforded better treatment and protection than he otherwise would have received. He had shared the gospel with both the Jews and Romans at Jerusalem. Now, he would be able to proclaim the gospel to the Roman governor, Felix, and even to King Herod, who had a summer home at Caesarea. This was the beginning of Paul’s all-expenses paid (By the Romans), 4th missionary journey, which would ultimately take him to Rome and to bringing his appeal before Caesar. The Lord had told Paul he would appear before kings on the Lord’s behalf, and now this very thing was taking place.

“After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance” (Acts 22:17 NLT).

July 4, 2018

In Paul’s testimony to the angry crowd in Jerusalem, he told of an earlier time when he saw a vision of Jesus while praying in the Temple. The time may have been his first return to Jerusalem “three years” (Gal. 1:18) after his conversion in Damascus and time spent in Arabia. This is the only mention in Scripture of Paul’s “trance” and vision in the Temple. Although it may be the same vision he spoke of in his letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:1-4), the specific instruction from Jesus telling him to leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles, was not mentioned elsewhere.

At any rate, Paul described a state of “ecstasy” (Greek: ἐκστάσει, ekstasei – “trance”) while praying in the Temple of Jerusalem, where Jesus appeared to him with instructions to take the gospel to the Gentiles. The crowd had listened quietly to Paul’s testimony up until this point, but when he spoke of going to the Gentiles, they erupted in anger.

Of all the apostles, Paul’s call from Jesus was unique. Unique, not so much in content, as occasion. The other apostles had seen the resurrected Jesus in the flesh and were sent out to tell others. But the occasion(s) of Paul’s conversion and commissioning was from Jesus making special appearances after His ascension. As Paul once wrote, “Then last of all He [Jesus] was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:8-9).

“Brothers and esteemed fathers,” Paul said, “listen to me as I offer my defense.” When they heard him speaking in their own language, the silence was even greater” (Acts 22:1-2 NLT).

July 3, 2018

When a riot broke out in Jerusalem concerning Paul’s presence there, many in the crowd tried to kill Paul. However, the Roman guard was alerted and intervened, putting Paul in chains and taking him away. Paul considered the great crowd still following and asked the Roman Commander for permission to speak to them. This was an unusual request. Yet even more unusual was that after Paul spoke to the commander in fluent Greek, which clearly impressed him, the commander gave Paul permission. At this, Paul began to give his Damascus road testimony in Aramaic, calling those that sought to murder him, “brothers and esteemed fathers.” When the crowd heard Paul speaking in their own language they stopped yelling and shouting and grew silent as Paul gave his testimony.

When most would be concerned about defending their own life, Paul was focused on defending the faith. He saw the great crowd gathered to persecute him as a platform, an opportunity, to share the gospel with them

“After greeting them, Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry” (Acts 21:19 NLT).

July 2, 2018

This was a wonderful day in the history of the early church. Paul returned from his third and longest missionary journey to give “a detailed account” to James and the elders in Jerusalem. After hearing the report of how the Gentiles all over Asia Minor and Greece had received the gospel, the elders rejoiced and praised God.

The modern practice of giving a missions report back to the home church is really not modern at all. I suppose the first missions team to report back was the “Seventy-two” sent out by Jesus who “returned with joy” (Luke 10:17). Yet, Paul and his team certainly solidified the practice of bringing back a detailed report to the sending church.

In only a few weeks, we’ll be sending out our Guatemala Missions Team. And we look forward with hope to rejoicing and praising God at their missions report when they return.