Category Archives: Devotional

A LOOK BACK – God’s People, part 138: Joseph

Read Matthew 1:18-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.”  (Luke 2:4-5 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

JosephFatherofJesusPart 138: Joseph. One of my favorite Christmas films, a must watch annually on Christmas Eve, is The Nativity Story. Starring Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary and Oscar Isaac as Joseph, the story chronicle Mary’s betrothal (aka engagement) to Joseph, her becoming pregnant through the Holy Spirit, Joseph’s initial reaction and final acceptance of her. It follows them as they make the difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and concludes with what everyone is there to watch: the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.

This is my favorite portrayal of the Nativity because the actors really pull off their roles convincingly. The vulnerability that both of the actors bring out of their characters helps the audience to connect with them on a most personal level. This is especially true for Joseph. Oscar Isaac takes us on an emotional roller coaster ride as he falls in love with Mary, is broken by her seeming betrayal when she comes home pregnant, to accepting her story as truth, to supportive husband caring for Mary on the journey to Bethlehem (even to the point of short changing himself.”

Of course, Joseph was a flawed individual, just as we all are. It would be easy for us see the final result of Jospeh, rendering him to a two-dimensional character. It would be easy for us rush to the Joseph who was by Mary’s side in the manger. Yet, the reality is that Joseph almost broke off his engagement to Mary because he could not believe that she had conceived of a child through the Holy Spirit.

Honestly, which one of us would actually believe that if someone came to us and said that they got pregnant by God without having sex with anyone. Most of us would have a hard time believing that. So, we cannot judge Joseph for his disbelief; however, he did struggle to believe Mary.

That left him with two options, to keep Mary as his wife and take her shame upon himself. If he stayed with Mary, people would think the two were sexually active, which would put both of them in a bad light socially speaking. The other option would be to break off the engagement and distance himself from Mary. That would keep the shame from falling on him; however, it would put Mary in a dangerous situation. If that became public she could have been stoned to death for adultery. This was serious business.

Scripture tells us that Joseph was a just (aka righteous) man and did not wish to disgrace her publicly. So he was going to quietly break the engagement off. How he would have pulled that off without others knowing, only one can guess; however, he came very close to ending the relationship with Mary for fear that her “shame” would fall upon him and his “good name”. In other words, he was putting his own “name” and reputation in society before the woman, the human being, he was engaged to.

It took an angel in a dream to tell Joseph that he need not fear taking Mary as his wife, for all that Mary had told him was true. Thankfully, Joseph listened to the voice in that dream. The question for us is this, how do we let fear take control of our lives? Do we allow fear to dictate our actions and do we allow fear to make our decisions for us? The challenge for us is to listen to God’s voice over the many voices of fear. Let us seek God’s voice out in all things and allow God, not fear, guide us in our lives and in our decisions.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

PRAYER
Lord, keep me from allowing fear to take control. I put my trust in you. Guide me in your love. Amen.

Episode 150 | Deck the Halls, part 5: For Christ (Christmas Eve)

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-ug722-f5d298

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the importance of Love.

EPISODE NOTES:

Reader: Christie Spriggs, Praise Team Leader
Special Music: Christie Spriggs, Praise Team Leader

“Make Room”

CCLI Song # 7101018

Mark Hall | Matt Maher

© 2017 My Refuge Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
I Am A Pilgrim Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

CCLI # 11176278 + CCLI Streaming # 20109418

First UMC of Newton, NJ premieres worship online on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Join us for worship on YouTube.

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig

A LOOK BACK – God’s People, part 137: Mary

Read Luke 1:26-56

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. ‘He’s out of his mind,’ they said…Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them.”  (Mark 3:21, 31 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

the_nativity_story_15Part 137: Mary.

Áve María, grátia pléna, Dóminus técum. Benedícta tū in muliéribus, et benedíctus frúctus véntris túi, Iésus. Sáncta María, Máter Déi, óra pro nóbis peccatóribus, nunc et in hóra mórtis nóstrae. Ámen.

You may be scratching your head and saying, “Well, that’s Greek to me.” Actually, it’s not Greek, but it is LATIN. It is the traditional Ave Maria prayer that has been set to some of the most beautiful music. My favorite rendition is Gounod’s setting of the prayer to his own arrangement of Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C major, BWV 846.

The prayer reads in English as follows. “Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. It is a prayer to the Jesus Mother Mary, who is seen by Roman Catholics as set apart from other women because she is the Mother of God Incarnate. Some protestants like to state that this is idolatry; however, it really is NOT idolatry but rather an expression of reverence to Mary who did, Biblically speaking, who was set apart and chosen by God to bear God’s incarnation into the world. As a Protestant, I do not believe praying to Mary herself is necessary, or even effectual, but I do understand what is at the heart of it even if I believe it to be unnecessary and misguided.

The issue I have with this prayer, and our general image of Mary, is that it paints her as someone who is too holy to be human. We imagine her as a reverent, quiet, compassionate, loving woman. We think of her as having a halo over her head and as having guided Jesus from childhood to adulthood and preparing him for his ministry.

Roman Catholics, in fact, have the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, in which lies the belief that God removed Mary’s sin at the moment she was born. In other words, she was born untainted by sin due to God’s divine will. This doctrine officially came about under Pius IX during the 12th century in order to explain how Jesus was born without sin. If his mother was without sin due to divine intervention, then that makes the explanation easy.

Sadly, it also takes away the divine mystery of the Incarnation. What’s more, the Gospels do not all agree on how much on board Mary was with Jesus or his ministry. The power of the song, “Mary, did you Know?” (one of my all-time favorites), lies in the Biblical possibility that Mary did NOT know. For instance, while in Luke Mary clearly knew what was going on, in Matthew it is less clear how much she knew. In Mark, she seems to not only be ignorant to Jesus’ teachings and methodology, but to also be disapproving of him doing ministry in the first place. Don’t know what I am talking about, read the today’s suggested Scripture.

The challenge for us is to recognize that each of us is human. We must not put anyone on a pedestal as if they are holier than the rest. Whether it be Mary, the apostles, our pastors/priests, etc., each human being is just that: a human being prone to wander and sin. The only one who was and is sinless is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Let us put our trust in Jesus and show the kind of humble faith that Christ is calling for.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” – Jesus Christ in John 14:1.

PRAYER
Lord, I place my trust in you. Have mercy on me when I don’t and guide me toward trusting you again. Amen.

Episode 149 | Deck the Halls, part 4: With Love

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-mfuat-f5663f

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the importance of Love.

EPISODE NOTES:

Reader: Christie Spriggs, Praise Team Leader
Special Music: Christie Spriggs, Praise Team Leader

“Love Came Down”
CCLI Song # 5148938
Brian Johnson | Ian McIntosh | Jenn Johnson | Jeremy Edwardson | Jeremy Riddle
© 2009 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music, David C Cook))
Bethel Music Publishing
CCLI # 11176278 + CCLI Streaming # 20109418

First UMC of Newton, NJ premieres worship online on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Join us for worship on YouTube.

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig

God’s People, part 278: Julius

Read Acts 27:1, 3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 278: Julius. The previous few devotions have followed Paul from the Temple of Jerusalem through a couple of years of imprisonment and trial in Caesarea. We learned that Paul had not only used his Roman Citizenship to his advantage in terms of fair and just treatment under the law, he also used it to appeal his case to Caesar’s court in Rome.

This does not, by the way, mean that Nero Caesar (who was emperor at the time) would be the one hear his case; rather, appealing to Caesar meant simply that he wanted his trial to take place in Caesar’s court in Rome, where judges representing Caesar would hear Paul’s case. While it is possible that Caesar might have heard Paul’s case, it is very improbable that he had any personal invlovement.

Still, once the appeal had been made, Festus had only one thing to do and that was to send Paul to Rome. Of course, the quickest and least expensive way to transport a prisoner from Jerusalem to Rome was via the Mediterranean Sea. That is why Judaea was so important to Rome, because of its strategic location along the coast of the great sea.

Thus, Paul was put under the care of Captain Julius, who was to transport him on his ship from Judaea to Rome. I want to pause their for a split second. The number one responsibility of Julius was to ensure the safe arrival of Paul to Rome so that he may be tried in the Roman courts. Should Paul have pulled any shenanigans and escaped, Julius’ life would have been forfeit. It was NOT okay to fail Caesar.

So, it is curious to see how friendly Julius was with Paul. In fact, friendly does not do justice to the way that Julius treated this prisoner. He was not only kind to him, but showed him an exorbitant amount of respect and TRUST. For instance, while they were docked at Sidon, Julius allowed Paul to leave the boat and be visited and tended to by his friends.

If Paul had escaped, it would have been not been good for Julius; yet, the captain trusted Paul NOT to escape. This shows what a man of honor and integrity Paul must have been. Julius trusted him so much that he was willing to let Paul leave the ship to spend time with friends. Paul, as it were, would not forget that kind act of trust.

We do not know if Julius ever became a Christian or not. The chances are that he didn’t; however, Paul respected him and his entire crew. During a major storm, Paul not only comforted them, but assured them that God had shown him in a vision that NONE of the crew would be harmed. As it turned out, all of the crew indeed did survive the shipwreck. No one was harmed or died, just as Paul promised.

So, what do we make of this? Simple. Kindness goes along way. In regard to Paul, he was a person of honor and integrity and Julius could tell that about him, just as one knows that they are going to instantly click with someone they’ve just met. In regard to Julius, he was willing to give Paul his trust and, as a result, Paul was able to be cared for.

In Paul and Julius, we see models for how we ought to be. Paul shows us that we ought to be people of honor and integrity. Julius, though he may not have recognized it, placed his trust in God and did what he believed was right and just for Paul. His kindness not only blessed Paul but, in the end, it became a blessing to his entire crew. Let us, therefore be a blessing to others through our honor, integrity, and kindness through placing our trust in God and treating others as we would like to be treated.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life.” – Edwin Markham

PRAYER
Lord, help me to live by your golden rule, to be a person of integrity and honor, and one who shows kindness to others. Amen.

God’s People, part 277: Agrippa

Read Acts 25:13-27; 26:1-32

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.”  (Acts 28:30-31, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 227: Agrippa. The Agrippa of Acts 25 and 26 was actually Herod Agrippa II, who was the son of the better known Herod Agrippa I, who was the Agrippa in power back in Acts 12. If you remember, it was Herod Agrippa I who killed the Apostle James, son of Zebedee, and who had Peter imprisoned. In Acts 25 and 26, it is Agrippa’s son, also named Agrippa, who Paul plead his case before.

One of the tricky things about reading the Bible is understanding the passage of time. Years can easily pass in a chapter or two and so, as was mentioned in the last devotion, Paul had been in prison for two years before he came face to face with Agrippa II. Of course, that also means that many, many years had passed from the death of James under Agrippa I. Now his son was the ruler and Paul was nearing the end of his ministry and his life, with only another four to seven years left to live.

Agrippa, like every other politician, did not really care about Paul, himself. He cared about keeping the peace and he about order. When he arrived at Caesarea with his sister, Bernice, he was curious to hear Paul’s defense. In fact Festus wanted him to hear him as well, since Paul had appealed to Caesar. That very appeal meant that Paul had to be sent to Rome to be tried in the Roman courts. This was problematic for Festus who couldn’t send Paul with the charge of “Jewish heresy”, which is what the Jewish religious leaders were accusing him of. Rome didn’t care about the local religious matters of the Jews. Thus, Festus wanted Agrippa to weigh in on what charges to send Paul to Rome with.

Paul, then, was invited to make his defense before King Herod Agrippa II, Festus and his accusers. Paul, the great Apostle that he was, not only defended himself against the accusations of the Jewish religious leadership, he also took the time to appeal the merits of the Gospel to Agrippa, who was a learned Jew himself and an expert “on all Jewish customs and controversies” (Acts 26:3).  In fact, Agrippa was very knowledgeable in Jewish history and was a supporter of Flavius Josephus, a famous historian living during that time period.

Agrippa was certainly impressed and amazed by Paul’s zeal and passion as an evangelist. Paul even began to rhetorically question Agrippa on his belief in the prophets, in which Paul was then going to try and show the king how Jesus fulfilled all of those prophesies. Agrippa interrupted Paul and asked, “Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly” (Acts 26:28, NLT)?

Agrippa knew where Paul was headed with his line of questioning and, though perhaps a little taken back by his boldness, he clearly was impressed. In fact, following the hearing, Agrippa confided in Festus that Paul “…could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar” (Acts 26:32, NLT). In other words, Agrippa would have let him go and, no doubt, Festus would have as well, had Paul not gone up the political chain.

Still, it was Paul’s right as a Roman citizen to make such an appeal. Agrippa and Festus, as politicians, were not going to interfere with the Roman legal process and, truthfully, they were sparing themselves a headache by sending Paul to Rome. What’s important for us to take away from this is that, even when on trial, Paul put Christ and the Gospel first; instead of spending his time defending himself, he used his time in court to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world

As Christians, every waking moment should be a moment to serve Christ. Everything we do should be a witness to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The account of Paul and Agrippa should be a reminder of not only what is at stake, but that we can and should place our faith in our sovereign God, whose plan is being carried out through us. We are the vessels of Christ. Let the Gospel fill and pour out of us into the world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
We are the vessels of Christ.

PRAYER
Lord, fill this vessel with Your love and grace and with the Good News for all people, so that I may be a witness of You and all of Your glory to others. Amen.

Episode 148 | Deck the Halls, part 3: With Joy

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-96bsn-f4d829

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the importance of Joy.

EPISODE NOTES:

Reader: Kathleen Meredith, Lay Leader and Certified Lay Servant
Special Music: Christie Spriggs, Praise Team Leader

“Hymn of Joy”

CCLI Song # 7050420

Chris Tomlin | Ed Cash

© 2015 Alletrop Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
S. D. G. Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
sixsteps Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Worship Together Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI # 11176278 + CCLI Streaming # 20109418

First UMC of Newton, NJ premieres worship online on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Join us for worship on YouTube.

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig

Episode 147 | Deck the Halls, part 2: With Peace

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-emfqp-f4d763

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the importance of Peace.

EPISODE NOTES:

Reader: Kathleen Meredith, Lay Leader and Certified Lay Servant
Special Music: Christie Spriggs, Praise Team Leader

“Glory (Let There Be Peace)”

CCLI Song # 7071972

CCLI Song # 7071972

Chris Stevens | Matt Maher | Rachel Taylor Popadic

© Meaux Mercy (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Moody Producer Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
I Am A Pilgrim Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
Rachel Taylor Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

CCLI # 11176278 + CCLI Streaming # 20109418

First UMC of Newton, NJ premieres worship online on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Join us for worship on YouTube.

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig

Episode 146 | Deck the Halls, part 1: With Hope

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-3n8nj-f4d738

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the importance of Hope.

EPISODE NOTES:

Reader: Kathleen Meredith, Lay Leader and Certified Lay Servant
Special Music: Christie Spriggs, Praise Team Leader

“Even So Come”

CCLI Song # 7036288

Chris Tomlin | Jason Ingram | Jess Cates

© 2015 S. D. G. Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
sixsteps Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Worship Together Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Open Hands Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
So Essential Tunes (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
Chrissamsongs Inc (Admin. by Vistaville Music)
Go Mia Music (Admin. by Vistaville Music)
Vistaville Music

CCLI # 11176278 + CCLI Streaming # 20109418

First UMC of Newton, NJ premieres worship online on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Join us for worship on YouTube.

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig.

God’s People, part 276: Typical Politicians

Read Acts 24:1-27; 25:1-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.”  (Romans 15:24, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 276: Typical Politicians. As was discussed in the last devotion, Paul was a Roman citizen and he used that fact to his advantage after being arrested in the Jerusalem Temple. Following his arrest, a Roman commander was going to have Paul whipped and beaten for being a “rabble rouser” but, prior to that happening, Paul questioned the legality of that being that he was a Roman Citizen by birth and had not received a fair trial.

The question was a successful move on Paul’s part and, as a result, was placed under protective custody while he awaited trial. In Acts 24, we see that Paul’s trial fell into the hands of Felix, who was the governor of Judaea at the time. Judaean Governors, lived in the city of Caesarea and rarely came to Jerusalem, except on high holy days and other events that could break into a successful rebellion due to the massive number of people gathering in the city. Thus, Paul was transported to a palace prison in Caesarea where he awaited trial.

Paul’s trial started twelve days after he was arrested, and he was accused of being a trouble maker and someone who desecrated the Temple, which he had not done but had been accused of. Thus, Felix turned to Paul to hear his side of things. Paul did so eloquently, and he explained why he was in Jerusalem, and that as a devout Jew he was at the Temple to observe the purification ritual. He did admit to being “a follower of The Way” (aka a follower of Jesus), which he also pointed out that the Jews accusing him saw “The Way” as a cult; however, he also pointed out his deep, devout Jewish convictions and his desire to follow the Law and the prophets.

When Felix heard that he was a follower of The Way, which he was familiar with, he decided to table the trial until the commander came. Paul was kept in prison, but was allowed to have some freedoms, such as regular visitors. The problem was that Felix’s wife was Jewish and he did not want to upset her or the Jewish people. Felix had to walk a fine line and he was hoping that Paul would get himself into trouble by trying to bribe him, or to find some other cause to nail Paul on.

Days turned into weeks, which turned into months, which turned into two long years. Yet, the trial ceased to continue. After two years in prison, another governor succeeded Felix. His name was Porcius Festus and, once he took over, he resumed Paul’s trial after pressure from the Jewish authorities. The initial trial took place in Ceasarea; however, not wanting to further upset the Jewish leaders, he asked Paul if he was willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there. Paul objected and appealed to the emperor.

Little did Paul know that King Herod Agrippa was also coming to hear Paul’s case. According to Agrippa, he would have let Paul go if he had not appealed to Caesar; however, this should be taken with a grain of salt as Agrippa, just like Festus and Felix, was typical politician. With no pressure on him, he could easily make such a claim now that it was out of his hands; however, would he really have just let Paul go? Also, couldn’t Agrippa arranged to let Paul go and not send the appeal.

The point is that Paul knew that Christ was calling him to Rome. In his very letter to the Romans, he said that he wanted to go to Rome on his way to Spain. While I am sure that Paul knew that a trial in Caesar’s court might not go his way in the end, he was also sure that he could continue to witness to Christ in Rome as he knew he was called to do.

As for Felix, Festus and Agrippa, they were men of power. They didn’t care about Paul as much as they did their own prestige and station in life. All they cared about was looking good and keeping the peace. Paul was nothing to them, just a number. They were, sad to say, typical politicians. In appealing to Caesar, Paul was not actually looking for Caesar, another typical politician, to save him, but was fully thrusting himself into Christ’s plan. It was an act of faith and faithfulness. Let us, like Paul, not put our trust and hope in people, let alone politicians. They will fail us; however, Christ will not fail us and if we remain faithful to his mission, not even death will be able to stop us from our true inheritance.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
There is only one Savior, Jesus the Christ, and he is our only HOPE.

PRAYER
Lord, I look to you, and you alone, as my Lord and my Savior. In you alone I place my faith. Amen.