July 24

Acts 24

Paul stood before a Roman commander, then the Sanhedrin, and now Felix. The Jews accused Paul, then Felix gave Paul permission to bring a defense. Felix’s wife, Druscilla, was Jewish, and Felix had heard of what was called “The Way,” or Christianity. Felix feared God and was considering the judgment that would come. He didn’t want to come against Paul.

Paul was under what we might call house arrest. He was allowed visitors. Felix himself would go visit Paul and talk with him. Apparently if bail was made, Felix could have grounds to let Paul go, but Paul did not want to be let go. He knew his mission was to go to Rome. Two years later, Festus succeeded Felix. Festus was in office from AD 59-61.

Paul knew there was more to life than comfort and self-serving pursuits. He had one short life to live, so he lived it for Christ. That selfless mindset is not just for Paul; it’s for us all, as Paul writes in his letters. Eternity is more important than any earthly accomplishments, and we all have a part in expanding Christ’s kingdom. Some responsibilities we all share: gathering together, serving inside the local church, serving in outreaches, returning God’s tithe, giving offerings, and sharing Jesus with our friends. In addition, God calls some to specific things. What has God called you to do for Him?

Psalm 41-43

Psalm 41 is a psalm about the betrayal of friends (see also Psalm 55 and 109). For David, he was betrayed by Ahithophel, who ate bread with him before the betrayal (2 Samuel 17:23). To eat bread with someone is an act of covenant friendship, so it illustrates betrayal as a friend that becomes an enemy. For Jesus, he was betrayed by Judas, who also ate bread with Him before the betrayal. Jesus quotes from Psalm 41:9 about Judas Iscariot (John 13:18). Both Ahithophel and Judas hang themselves after their betrayal. Not only did they turn on their leader, but they also turned on God Himself. Both David and Jesus look to God for their salvation.

Psalm 42 begins Book Two of five books in Psalms. Book two contains Psalm 42-72. Psalm 42 is special to me because when I was a teenager, God used this chapter as a love letter to me. There was a song we sang based on the first verse, and it was a call to my heart to love Him. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.” When an animal pants for water, there is a desperation for a drink. This describes the heart of someone dependent upon God, desperate for Him to satisfy what only God can fill. In verse 7 it says, “Deep calls unto deep at the sound of Your waterfalls.” To me, I know God is a spirit, and I know He calls to our spirit. The way to truly know God is not from our head, but from our heart, spirit to spirit.

Psalm 43 seems to be a continuation of Psalm 42 because verse 5 is the same as Psalm 42:11. Also, verse 2 is similar to Psalm 42:9 asking, “Why?” Psalm 43 is the only psalm in Book Two without a title.

In addition, both psalms reflect the desire to be in the sanctuary for corporate worship, where everyone goes in together and where God’s glory dwells. The Jews would go to a sanctuary in their city once a week. They worshipped God together corporately, honoring their Sabbath as the Lord’s Day. That tradition was carried on by Christians in many countries, taking one day a week to go to church together and taking the rest of the day to rest. Do we look forward with anticipation to being in church and seeing one another? Do we long for being together in worship, hearing the Word taught from our pastor, making sure our kids are learning to value church, serving on a team, hearing church vision, developing community, and how we can work together to reach more people?

If you value consistent church attendance and corporate worship with other people, then I believe you are like the psalmists, thirsting for God. We can’t truly know and love God without having a passion for His house. The church is His heart!

If you have been hurt or disappointed in church, let me encourage you to receive and extend grace to one another. When I was hurt in a church, I saw a vision of Jesus with His nail-scarred hands, and He asked Me, “Did that Christian die for you?” I answered Him, “No.” Then He filled my heart with His love, and He asked me to put my faith in Him, not in people. I hope if you have been let down by a church family, that you can forgive, heal, and restore hope again. People aren’t perfect, and sometimes they need to be corrected or even removed from leadership. But Jesus is perfect! Let’s put our faith in Him and trust again.

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