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Contemporary Comments

"Confinement in Caesarea" |September 22, 2018 | Order Info

Texts: Acts 24; Acts 25; Acts 26; 1 Corinthians 1:23

You’d think it’s a no-brainer: a hurricane is coming, so leave! Over a million people faced mandatory evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Florence, but not everyone complied. Some would rather not deal with the hassle of loading up the car and driving to some place they’d rather not be, says Jay Baker, a Florida State University professor who studies hurricane evacuation behavior. “Once you leave, it’s hard to get back to check on damage,” said Tim Terman. “My home is all my wife and I have, a lifetime of stuff.” Baker said people are more willing to face the trouble of evacuating when they understand the hazards. “When asked, ‘Why did you leave?’ the overwhelming reason is that they thought they wouldn’t be safe where they were.”

Laura Randolph said she felt comfortable riding out the storm in Myrtle Beach. “We just feel pretty secure with everything. We feel like we prepared. We have our kits ready.” Some have weathered storms before but didn’t experience heavy damage, creating a false security. Baker says, “They have misconceptions about how severely they could be affected by a certain type of storm because they haven’t experienced the worst of that type of storm.” Flooding is more life threatening than wind damage. Most people, however, are more concerned about wind damage than storm surge. “They know about hurricanes generally, but they don’t understand about storm surge, and they don’t understand how it will affect them where they live,” Baker said.

Houston, known for its susceptibility to flooding because of its flatness, never evacuated during Hurricane Harvey. Mayor Sylvester Turner defended his decision: “You literally cannot put 6.5 million people on the road. If you think the situation right now is bad, you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare.”1

Acts 26:32 reveals that Paul could have potentially left his prison confinement, yet he chose to stay put. Facing the uncertainty of his continued imprisonment, he pushed forward with his plan to witness in Rome, even as an inmate. Our lesson this week explores how, through his imprisonment, God gave Paul unprecedented evangelistic opportunities in Caesarea—he witnessed to some of the most important dignitaries in Judea. The brutal governor Felix would have released Paul for the right price. Governor Festus couldn’t refute Paul’s reasoning, but feared alienating the Jewish leaders.

Paul even boldly declared that he wished Herod Agrippa would become a Christian. Agrippa had to admit that Paul made a compelling case from Scripture, but he couldn’t quite take that courageous step. Paul understood that his message was “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23), and yet he persisted in the face of a hurricane of opposition. Jesus said that we would possibly share the gospel with governors and kings, even as inmates of the state. Paul’s experience in Caesarea confirms that prophecy.

~ cb

1. cnn.com
~ For Reflection

Connecting: Have group members try to hit the bullseye with the Nerf gun. Can you figure out any tricks to improve your accuracy? How important is it to always hit your target in life? Is coming close good enough?

Sharing: Read 1 Corinthians 1:23-25. How hard is it to keep focused on one distinct target: to preach Christ crucified?
1. Not hard at all. Before every witnessing opportunity, ask yourself: “Is my focus on Christ alone?”
2. It can be very hard if we allow non-essentials to distract us.
3. If we aim for nothing, that’s what we’ll hit.
4. This proves our calling: if our preaching produces power and wisdom rather than foolishness and obstacles, then God has called us.
5. Shouldn’t every sermon topic be about Christ crucified?
6. Other...

Applying: On the whiteboard, list all the issues that distract churches from preaching the pure gospel of Christ crucified. Are they all non-essential topics? Are any worthy of our attention, even if they are not directly about the gospel?

Valuing: Have you ever imagined yourself in a courtroom, forced to stand up for your faith in the face of persecution? Ask God now to strengthen you for that potential day in the future.