"And always let your conscience be your guide . . ." Really? Take advice from Jiminy Cricket, bit character in the original Pinocchio? The author of Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi of Florence, Italy, made Jiminy Cricket a minor character killed off in the tragic children's tale. Disney turned him into a whimsical sidekick who becomes Pinocchio's conscience. The problem is he isn't a very good conscience. He's inexperienced, not open to change, and frequently mistaken. We want a better conscience. In Acts 23:1-11, Paul shows us how to get it.
U.S. Embassies are positioned in most countries around the world. One of their functions is to support and assist U.S. travelers. If you lose your passport, get injured, or are wrongfully accused, you get to pull a "But I'm a US citizen" cad. It doesn't make the problem go away, but it does afford you a level of assistance not available to everyone. If you're in need, you'd certainly use it. In Acts 22:22-29, the apostle Paul was in need, and his Roman citizenship came to the rescue. Paul did what he could, where he was, with what he had . . . even his citizenship. We'll end up asking God to show us how to do the same, but only after he shows us how Jesus used what he had, where he was, to do what he, and he alone, could do. Welcome to worship.
Savvy tech operators track your online moves and suggest sites for you. They know your "click words." That's not so bad and might even be helpful. But most of us also have click words that close our minds. We hear them and close our minds. It's a kind of prejudice, really. The apostle Paul knew his audience, so in his great defense to the people of Jerusalem (Acts 22:1-22) he used a click word. It closed their minds, but it's exactly what Paul needed to tell them. Their click word was "Gentile." We barely yawn over it. But mention another word, another subject, and it gets a rise—a rise in pulse, breathing, and blood pressure. What's your click word? Maybe the Lord intends to speak to you about it this weekend. And you will need courage to face it. You are in the company of fellow courage-seekers. Together we look to the hope we have in Christ and find courage.
What's causing stress in your life right now? However you answer that question is also the answer to the question, "For what do you need courage right now?" Try it. Answer the first sentence in this paragraph. Does it also answer the second question in this paragraph? Heady stuff, to be sure, but you can handle it. Paul did. Today we’ll benefit from learning how he did it in Acts 21:27-40. Welcome to a fellowship of stressed-over-something brothers and sisters. We’re here to encourage one another, discover the same courage the Lord gave the apostle Paul and let his courage be ours. And, by the way, if you want to have an effect on others, few things are more contagious than courage.
Get a haircut, even if you don’t need it. Yes, that's in the Bible. Of course, there's more to it: respect for the weak, love for your neighbor, sacrifice for others, giving up your rights for the good of others, etc. In a haircut? Today we encounter the Spirit at work in the church in Acts 21:17-26. Yes, his work involved a haircut! Strange, but true. We’re so glad you’re with us to begin here what we will continue together in heaven: worship. Where we won’t need haircuts. Or will we?