True and Reasonable Faith

Scripture Focus: Acts 25.18-19
18 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.

Acts 26.24-27
24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” 
25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” 

Reflection: True and Reasonable Faith
By John Tillman

Festus is confused by the false charges against Paul. He didn’t even know how to describe the case when sending it to Caesar. Paul’s claims seemed like madness to him.

Many within Greek-influenced Roman culture thought the spirit was a superior form of reality and the body was an inferior shell. The resurrection of the dead was nonsense—more like a curse than a miracle. Later, as Paul spoke of resurrection during his defense, Festus would interrupt, saying, “You are out of your mind!” (Acts 26.24-27)

Paul’s defense included telling the facts of his own life, his previous persecution of “The Way,” and his meeting with the risen Jesus. Paul presented his claims as verifiable facts that “did not happen in a corner” (Acts 26.26) and invited scrutiny of everything, including the resurrection. Even in Paul’s day, all the authority and power of Rome couldn’t disprove Paul’s testimony about Jesus.

Paul’s defense also claimed that his testimony about resurrection was “reasonable” from the Jewish perspective and in light of what was written in the prophets. To Agrippa, a man well-studied in Jewish anthropology and the scriptures, the resurrection of the dead was not madness and Paul’s story apparently seemed quite compelling. (Acts 26.28)

Paul demonstrated that he was innocent of the charges against him. But what is more important is that he demonstrated that Christian claims sprang logically from promises in the Jewish scriptures and that the facts of his life merited serious consideration of his religious claims.

The TV series, The Chosen, imagines a conversation between Nicodemus and Mary Magdalene. In that scene, she says, “I was one way… and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between… was Him.” Even as far removed from the events of the Gospels as we are, we still can bear witness, like Paul and others did, using our own stories.

You may think, “I don’t have a dramatic story. I wasn’t arresting Christians like Paul or possessed by demons like Mary.” But surely Jesus has made a dramatic change in you? Hasn’t he changed the way you think about yourself? Hasn’t he changed the way you think about others? Hasn’t he rooted out of your heart stones and weeds and planted new growth?

Keep testifying to the truth of the resurrection and living out its implications. It is our lives, paired with our words, that make our faith “true and reasonable” to the watching world.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading

Jesus said: “In all truth I tell you, whoever welcomes the one I send, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me.” — John 13.20

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Reading
Numbers 2 (Listen 3:47)
Acts 25 (Listen 4:40)

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Peter’s first recorded words to Jesus in response the miracle are “go away.”

Light for the Next Step :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Steve Bostrom, from Helena, Montana
To follow Jesus, we need the gift of faith. That faith uses a lantern to show us the next step. The next step. Not many steps but the next step. That requires humility and patience – but Jesus gives us those too. The illuminating quote from Amy Carmichael, a favorite of my sister, Judy, prompted me to send it to Judy. She was grateful to hear from her old mentor, Amy.

Scripture Focus: Psalm 119.105
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.

Reflection: Light for the Next Step :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published October 29th, 2018
By John Tillman

I’ve found the promises of light bulb companies to be some of the most blatant marketing falsehoods I’ve ever experienced.

In the past nine years living in the same house, I’ve replaced multiple CFL bulbs that claimed they would last over 10 years. Then I replaced those with LEDs claiming to last 13. Recently, I’ve replaced those with, slightly more honest LED bulbs that only claim to last 9 years. The truth will come out—or burn out, in this case.

The ease with which we access artificial light in our modern world makes it difficult for us to understand the world in which this Psalm was written. A lamp for our feet seems redundant when every space is illuminated. We will feel cheated by this verse if we mistake the light it promises for a prophetic career map.

According to the psalmist, God’s word isn’t a spotlight for our ego-centric quest. It isn’t automobile high beams enabling us to speed through the dark toward the future. God’s word, most of the time, provides one-step-at-a-time light. A lamp for our feet forces us to engage with where we are, not look only at distant destinations.

Serving in India, Amy Carmichael wrote about her experience of learning about this popular verse in a very practical way.

“Once when I was climbing at night in the forest before there was a made path, I learned what the word meant, Psalm 119.105: “They word is a lantern to my path”. I had a lantern and had to hold it very low or I should certainly have slipped on those rough rocks. We don’t walk spiritually by electric light but by a hand lantern. And a lantern only shows the next step—not several ahead.”

All the lights we trust in other than God’s Word, will one day fail.
The brightest lights we know and can design can’t show us what God’s Word can.
God’s Word is the light we need for everyday living.

Walking daily in this Word, meditating on it, breathing it in and out, making it a part of our thoughts and our prayers, charges an inner light of the Holy Spirit that we can trust to give us the next step. Carmichael explains:

“If the next step is clear, then the one thing to do is to take it. Don’t pledge your Lord or yourself about the steps beyond. You don’t see them yet.”

Daily spiritual disciplines keep oil in your lamp so that you may follow the steps of the bridegroom when he calls.

Divine Hours Prayer:  The Request for Presence
Show your goodness, O Lord, to those who are good and to those who are true of heart. — Psalm 125.4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Judges 21 (Listen – 3:47) 
Acts 25 (Listen – 4:10)

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Read more about Cultivation Requires Planning
God, desiring to walk with humanity in relationship, knelt in the earth and planted a garden. We, in our pursuit of a deepening walk of faith, need to follow his example of supernatural cultivation.