Saturday, September 3, 2022

Jerusalem or Bust!

“Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” – Acts 21:13

In one of his many inspiring books, Pastor Max Lucado tells the story of Chippie the parakeet. One moment, Chippie was peacefully perched in his cage. The next thing he knew, he was—in Lucado’s words—“sucked in, washed up, and blown over.”

It all began when Chippie's owner decided to clean his cage with a vacuum cleaner. She stuck the vacuum hose in the cage and flipped the switch. Everything was going fine until the phone rang. The owner picked it up, said "Hello," and … sssspp! Chippie got sucked in. Chippie’s owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the canister. There was Chippie -- still alive, but stunned and covered with dirt. She ran to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, when she saw that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she tried once again to help—by reaching for the blow dryer and blasting him with hot air.

A few days later, someone asked Chippie's owner how her pet was recovering. “Well," she said, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore—he just sits and stares." Poor Chippie!

On the surface, Chippie and the Apostle Paul had a lot in common. As he wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians: “I have been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-25). Like Chippie, Paul was sucked in, washed up and blown over. After all that he endured for Christ, Paul’s friends and family would have understood if he had finished his life like Chippie—just sitting there shell-shocked, staring into the distance. But even after all that he had suffered, and knowing that more persecution awaited him in Jerusalem, Paul was just as determined as ever to fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith.

As they set off for Jerusalem, Paul and his team stopped in several towns, staying in the homes of fellow Christian disciples. In Caesarea, they spent several days at the house of a man you might remember: Philip the evangelist. Twenty years earlier, Philip had served as a deacon alongside Stephen, the first Christian martyred for his faith in Christ. Paul was at that execution … watching over the coats of the murderers who were throwing rocks at Stephen’s head. Think about that: Paul was an accomplice in the murder of one of Philip’s partners in ministry. Stephen might have been one of Philip’s best friends—and Paul had helped kill him. Surprisingly, in Acts 21, there is no hint of bitterness, anger or a grudge. There is just warm Christian hospitality. Isn’t this a beautiful testimony to the power of Christian love and forgiveness?

Before Paul’s group left Caesarea, a prophet named Agabus visited them to deliver a prophetic message to Paul. He took off Paul’s belt, tied it around his own hands and feet and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles’” (vs. 10-11). The church’s reaction to this prophecy wasn’t surprising. Paul’s missionary buddies and the Caesarean Christians “pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem” (v. 12). Paul had now been warned multiple times that persecution awaited him in Jerusalem. But listen to Paul’s response: “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 13). Is it any wonder that this man is a hero of our faith?

I’d like to suggest three life lessons we can pull from this passage:

Life Lesson #1: If you follow Christ faithfully, you will be misunderstood. Follow Him faithfully anyway. The 19th century essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said it really well: “Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther…. To be great is to be misunderstood.” Even Paul’s fellow missionaries couldn’t understand why he was so dead set on going to Jerusalem when he knew full well that persecution awaited him there. So, Paul was misunderstood by many people, including his Christian friends. To be a great Christian is to be misunderstood.

Life Lesson #2: If you are a Christian, you have family and friends all over the world. Everywhere Paul traveled and encountered Christians, he had a place to stay. And the same is true of Christians today. No matter where you find yourself here in the United States, or in other parts of the world, go to church. You’ll find family and friends there who will receive you with open arms.

Life Lesson #3: As you walk in grace, the Holy Spirit gives you the grace to forgive. I believe Philip is an unsung hero. Most people wouldn’t have done what he did. In our world, where people hold grudges and harbor anger, bitterness and unforgiveness, Philip walked in God’s grace. So, God gave him the grace to forgive Paul. Remember, no matter WHO the person is or WHAT they’ve done to wrong you and your family, God has given you the grace to forgive that person. So, do it. Let go of the anger, the bitterness and the unforgiveness today. Jesus will give you the grace to forgive, if you’ll just hand over your unforgiveness to Him.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook. Dane’s latest book, “Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God,” is scheduled for release on Amazon in September.

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