Sunday, June 19, 2011

Acts 26: A Powerful Testimony

King Agrippa is not just a Big Dog in the Roman hierarchy. He also controls the purse strings of the temple and appoints the high priest. Rome considers him an expert on the Jews. Festus' report on Paul won't be complete without Agrippa's perspective. At a hearing before Agrippa and Festus, Paul shares his compelling testimony, complete with an unforgettable first-person encounter with God, colorful colloquial expressions, and a direct presentation of the gospel.

It's all too much for Festus, who calls Paul "insane". As this is Father's Day, I will share a story of my father, Guy Page Jr., who at one time held the "record" as the youngest lawyer to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Before Parkinson's Disease robbed him of the pleasure of speech, he loved to tell anecdotes and stories. Out of the blue he once told me, "Guy, when the facts are against you, argue the law. When the law is against you, argue the facts. When the law and the facts are against you, call the other lawyer names." Which is pretty much what Festus does here. Paul responds firmly and rationally and then turns to Agrippa and basically lays an altar call on him in the form of a question:

"King Agrippa, do you believe in the prophets? I know you do."

Agrippa, no greenhorn in the art of Jewish discourse, answers with a question:

"Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to become a Christian?"

Paul's answers with commitment, certainty and laser-like focus: "Short time or long - I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains."

Paul has not won Agrippa's heart, but he has won a degree of support: in his opinion, Paul could be set free. His powerful testimony has made an impression. Which reminds me of another powerful testimony, made this morning by Joe before several hundred people at Jericho Congregational Church. As a graduate, he was offered the opportunity to deliver his testimony, and he made the most of it - see below - proud of you Joe and Imani and Tim and Happy Father's Day, everyone!

My Testimony

There are many ways I could begin with my testimony.  When I sat down at the computer to write this,  I really didn’t quite know where to start. Luckily, I phoned Pastor Carter, who returned my call, so that helped. Now I know just how to begin, and that is, firstly, by thanking God, withall of my heart, for all the wonderful people he has placed i n my life. From this supportive congregation, to my close friends who have recently graduated from Rice Memorial High School (along with myself and the rest of my class), to all the teachers and staff at Rice who have made a difference in my life, and last, but by no means least, to my family, including my mom in Heaven.

As many of you know, earlier this year, my family and I suffered the loss of my mother, Diane Page. As painful as the situation was, and still will be, I know that my family and I have been, and still are, in the prayers of many people. However, it is not only through prayer that people have reached out in their own ways:  Pastor Anderson and his wife graciously brought over dinners to us. Mrs. Jaquith has been a positive influence on me, sending out e-mails reminding me that God is ever-present, and that we are part of, to quote her directly, “His cloud of witnesses.” Mr. and Mrs. Sims, the Rainfords, and of course, my dad and Uncle Bill have always been there for me, no matter life’s ups and downs.

(For those of you I did not mention, as there are a great many of us who attend this church, I thank you as well). And it is only through what everyone has done for me, and the kindness and continued support I have been shown, and the prayer I have been a part of, that I’ve been able to keep going forward.

I am looking forward to attending Saint Michael’s College in August, and meeting new faces and forming new friendships. God-willing, I hope to be able to live on campus, and become comfortable in the new college setting as time progresses. I feel amazed that my four years of high school have now come to an end, reluctant to part ways from my friends and those I have gotten to know, while at the same time having hope that we will someday meet again, and feeling excitement to start another chapter of my life. Looking further ahead, I know that the Lord will be with me, wherever I go, and that one day, I too will join my mom and other loved ones who have passed away, in Heaven, where there is eternal life, salvation, healing and forgiveness through the death of Jesus Christ.

I end with this Bible verse from Proverbs 3:3, which says: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

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