15 November 2019

Hello, I’m James and it has been fantastic to share these podcasts with you this week. Today we are jumping to the last chapters in the book of Acts – Paul in Rome, under house arrest, doing the same things he has done all the way through the book of Acts – the things of Jesus, proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching people about Jesus. Next week, the wonderful Alan Ward will be starting the book of Ephesians from Monday, so stay tuned.

If this podcast is helpful to you – why not share it with someone new – especially from next week as we can start a new book of the Bible together and see it as a bit of an advent challenge – using the podcast to connect with God in the build up to Christmas. Is there someone who could hold you accountable to this?

REFLECTION:

Lets start with today’s Bible reading. As mentioned at the start of this podcast, we have come to the end of the book of Acts. If you have been listening since September, you will have come to understand that the last couple of weeks have been about Paul boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching people about Jesus – all people. And remarkable things have happened.

However, towards the end of this book, everything goes wrong for Paul. He is falsely accused of doing wrong and almost assassinated. He is imprisoned put on trial infant of Festus and Felix (the officials of the area) and appeals to Rome in order to get a fair trial… on the way to Rome he’s shipwrecked. Everything is going wrong for this guy.I don’t know if you have ever had one of those days. Where you wake up optimistic thinking – today I am going to be a glass half-full kind of guy or girl. I’m going to have heavens perspective on my job/life – I’m going to join in with what God is doing without murmuring or complaining. And then the whole day precedes to feel like one big shipwreck. Well let’s see what happens to Paul. If we take our time – there is a lesson to learn here about ending well.

Since we have been following Paul, we don’t know in the end if he gets a fair trial and if he gets freed. That is purposefully left out. Let me read the last two verses of todays reading – the very last words in the book of Acts.

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

We know from earlier that he was arrested but we now know he was not put in a dungeon. As before with the story we looked at on Tuesday with the Phillippian jailor. He was under house arrest. He was able to have guests and people come and go. In some way, he was free to still do the things God had asked him to do – namely tell people about Jesus. It just probably didn’t look anything like what he thought it was going to look like.

Let me just pause for a moment and let that sink in.

Paul’s life probably didn’t look anything like what he thought it was going to look like.

Sometimes that happens to us. I don’t know if you are much of a planner. When I was 16/17 I thought I wanted to be an accountant. Look at me now. I remember the day when I told my Mother that I wanted to change my degree at Sheffield University from maths and financial management to Biblical studies. She freaked out. She told me I was throwing away my career. She was right. I’m convinced I would have made a great accountant. I’m better doing this job though. I feel close to Gods purpose for my life. Now you don’t have to do what I do to do Gods purposes. I might not be able to do what you do and you might not be able to do what I do. But there is nothing quite like being in the place that God has destined for you… even if that place looks nothing like what you once imagined. My Mother is thankful for my decision now. I guess becoming a Christian helped.

We can read quite clearly, that Paul in our story today, is making the most of the opportunities afforded to him. Even if his movement is restricted. But what can we learn about how Paul end his ministry? Well the answer is this, he finished well. He ran the race he was asked to run and it was a strong ending.

How do we know? Well let me read an ending from one of Paul’s letters to another apprentice of Jesus’. Someone Paul was investing in. This is brilliant. We will hear this read and then I will leave us with a question to think about as we go into or end our days reflection. This is 2 Timothy 4 verse 6-8 and verses 16-18

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.  The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

There is so much that could be said about how Paul finished his race. In how he played his part in the God story advancing here on earth. But here is what I want to leave us with today, where are we up to in our race? How are we doing? That is something I am going to think about today.

PRAYER:

God, Thank you for this opportunity to look at Acts together. Would you coach us today through your Holy Spirit to run our race well. To not try and run someone else’s race but to stay in our lane. To focus on the thing you have asked us to do and to make you known. I pray these things in Jesus name. Amen.

BIBLE READING:Acts 28:23-31

They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: ‘The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

‘“Go to this people and say,
‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.”

‘Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!’

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!