On Israel’s Shore – Caesarea Maritima
Herod the Great built Caesarea in about 10 BC. He did the impossible – conquered an unruly sea and built jetties and an entire port on the Mediterranean Sea, complete with lighthouse, temples, a palace, and a hippodrome for chariot races and gladiator games. This city was home for Rome’s leaders – Pilate, Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa I and II.
About 30 years after Jesus died, this city was the setting for Acts 26:28 where the imprisoned Apostle Paul gave his defense to King Herod Agrippa II and Festus. Paul skillfully related his testimony, his story of conversion, and gave a reason for his life’s commitment to spreading the gospel. In response, Agrippa uttered his famous words, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian!”
The Problem With “Almost”
Our guide for our recent study trip to Israel chose that setting to share his own personal testimony. As we stood cooling off our feet in the beautiful Mediterranean, he described that as a rebellious young man, he decided he was finished with church and God and was leaving home to live his own life.
As a token gesture, he went to his home church to say “good-bye.” That evening, the sermon was on Acts 26:28. The speaker emphasized the irony of the word ALMOST. If you switch the L and the M in that word, you come up with a related concept ~ AM LOST. Being almost a believer is the same as being totally lost. How very, very sad.
The result in our guide’s life was that God’s Spirit used that to break his rebellion and catapult him into seeking an intimate life-giving relationship with the Lord. Eventually he went into ministry and has been training church leaders for 25 years.
We climbed up a small hill from the beach and walked out on to the very stone pavement where Paul spoke these words. How sobering to realize the ongoing living power coming from the Biblical account that took place right where we stood.
And how amazing to think that Paul’s words to “give thanks always for all things” were written during this imprisonment. I am th(i)nkful for our brother Paul’s faithful testimony during that long test that God sovereignly allowed in his life. How often we become very impatient with how God has written our story. We chafe and complain because it is hard for us and we don’t see the reason for the difficulties. Ever spend three years in prison for no good reason and wonder what God is doing?
Th(i)nkful For Grace
One of the outstanding lessons for me is that I am so incredibly thankful for “grace” – unmerited help and assistance from God. That same grace that helped Paul through all he experienced as he was imprisoned and beaten is also fully available to me. The grace that helped our guide respond to the challenge of Acts 26:28 is freely presented to all who desire to believe. Th(i)nkful that God is so merciful and faithful, quick to forgive, and slow to wrath.
Irony of the Aqueducts
Herod’s masterpiece on the Mediterranean – like so many other things he built in Israel – is in ruins, barely visible, just toppled rocks that beg for imagination. The Caesarean aqueducts that used to bring down fresh water from the foothills of Mt. Carmel are now dried and cracked.
But God’s living water, reflected in the life, words, and ministry of Paul, is still flowing steadily for all who would drink. People like our guide are still brought to life by the words of the living water uttered on that stone platform in Caesarea years ago. And the flow, growing stronger and stronger these days, is reaching into the spiritual deserts of countries and communities that have never heard. Sola Deo Gloria!
Lives Still Transformed
Paul gave a compelling testimony of the saving and transforming power of Jesus Christ. So did our guide in Israel. Your story is powerful, and no one can argue with it. Our friend Josh Chapmon is a videographer who has a ministry helping Christians record videos of their testimony simply using a smart phone to upload them to the internet. Check out God’s story in the life of Chris Dew!
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to be a Christian.” And Paul said, “I would to God, that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”