Thursday, July 30, 2009

Galatians 5 -- Freedom

Being an American one of the values I hold in high regard is freedom. Last week I was in Washington DC and was able to visit the sites which celebrate the men and women who worked to bring about our national freedom, and who continue to work to preserve our national freedom. I am greatly thankful for the country I live in and the freedoms it allows me, yet it is not the end all, be all of freedom. My truest freedom is found in a Kingdom based not in this world, but one that rules eternity.

We allow so many things to steal our freedom away. Paul reminds us that freedom is the very reason Christ came, lived, died and rose. Yet we allow ourselves to get burdened by the yoke of slavery. In the United States this imagery of slavery carries a deep bitterness. Still we allow ourselves to be enslaved to things which only bring about further captivity and steal our freedom.

The products of how we live are the evidences of whether we are free or not. When we are burdened by the yoke of slavery we live according to the sinful nature as outlined in verse 19-21. When we are living in the freedom of Christ our lives are characterized by the fruit of the spirit, verses 22-26. The fruit of the spirit is not where we start, it is a result. We do not chose to do those things so that we might live by the spirit, rather our lives embody those things as we live free in the spirit.

Are you free?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Galatians 4 -- More Than We Know

Galatians 4 continues the thoughts from 3 but puts a little different flair to it. The essence of the section is our relationship to God is closer than we might think. Additionally it is established and sustained differently than most pursue it. Some would say chasing after the law is something that was done in the past, you know in Jesus day. The reality is, we are still chasing the law, we have simply exchanged the laws we are chasing.

Part of the human condition is our propensity to codify and organize, to create boundaries and rules for ourselves and others to follow. This in and of itself is not a bad thing. Trouble enters the picture when we begin to hold up this order and rules as the primary, and push God to the margins. Many titles have been given to this process, some call it legalism, others call it orthodoxy. The reality is when the rules and organization become more important than God it is simply one thing, sin.

Since the incarnation in Jesus, God has removed the rigidness of the rules and we no longer live bound to the law. This does not mean however, that we are boundless and free to do whatever we want. We live under grace, which means we have the freedom to follow Christ will all our being. We have the freedom to live like and for the Kingdom of God. We so not have to live like the rest of creation, rather to work on living like creation was intended.

This is what Paul is reminding the church in Galatia, as well as you and I. We are not children of slavery, we are children of the promise when we place our life in trust to Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Galatians 3 -- Human Effort

The beginning of chapter three brings with it one of the most harsh criticisms of the Scriptures. "Oh you foolish Galatians...", In our day and age to be called a fool is not something to be cherished, yet in Paul's day calling someone a fool was pretty high on the list of insults. Remembering in the Proverbs the opposite of wisdom was to be a fool. What has Paul so worked up? The church in Galatia had reverted to human effort in their journey more than the grace and righteousness offered through Christ.

It appears the Galatian church had returned to the law as the mode of salvation not the grace of Christ. More than the grace of God, the people were using their own effort to to gain a right relationship with God. Paul is clear the law has its place and there is an effort which must be made by humans, still this is not where our righteousness is found. It all comes back to the work of Christ on the cross and the Christless tomb.

In our day and age one of the greatest challenges we have is our own ability. We are very capable people and technology has allowed to extend that capability further than ever before. The danger is we will begin to thing we know better than God. Our even worse we will begin to thing we do not need God for wholeness. Basically, we can begin to live our lives for ourselves by our own human effort. Ultimately this will increase the distance between us and God. When we realize our need for God, and our dependency on the grace of God, we being to draw near to God. As we draw near to God we experience the wholeness that comes only from the grace infused relationship with God. Our only effort is a willingness to submit to the will and work of God, from there all human effort will fall short.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Galatians 2 -- To Be Crucified

Contained in what we call Galatians 2 are found some of the more famous words of Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me." v .20. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that said to me, or sung in a song. But what does it mean to be crucified with Christ?

If we are crucified we are dead. No longer do we live. The greatest struggle of my live is there is too much of me living my life. When we are crucified with Christ, our identity is not longer with ourselves, rather it is found in Christ alone. It means our desires, hopes and dreams do not matter. Only the desires, hopes and dreams given to us by God through Christ matter.

When we live apart from our crucifixion, we make Christ out to be a liar and his sacrifice to be in vain. If we can gain righteousness on our own, then we do not need Christ. To be crucified means that we recognize it is Christ and Christ alone who brings life, and that our only life is found in him.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Galatians 1 -- God or Man

As we open the letter to the church in Galatia we find Paul writing a very stern and convicting letter. The church has been struggling to keep focused on the Gospel and Paul is writing to them in order to call them back to Truth. In this opening chapter the stage is being set for the rest of the letter. Paul is not happy and after reading the letter the church in Galatia will not be happy. Right up front Paul is letting them know they will not be pleased with him, but that is okay because he works to please God, not humans.

This is a real powerful statement, as well as being very convicting. Most of us live to please people more than we realize. None of us like to have people upset with us, so we often do things to keep them happy. The struggle with this, and there are many, is who we are suppose to be concerned with pleasing. It is not humanity which brings about our right relationship with God. It is not another human being whom we will sit before at the end of times to face judgment. No we will sit before the God Almighty.

People pleasing is a no win game. First, it is impossible to please everyone. Second, you cannot please the same people all the time. The most significant reason is where our focus belongs. We are to please God more than people. This will mean friction and unhappy people. Paul comes short of saying I don't really care is people are unhappy as long as God is pleased with the effort. Once again we lose sight of who the church is about, people or God.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

2 Corinthians 13 --Wrapping it Up

Here we have the end of the record from Paul to the church in Corinth. As per usual there is the greetings to others and a few last encouragements. In those encouragements Paul says to examine ourselves. To test our lives in order to see if we are living and seeking the truth. I am amazed how easy it is to go through life and never stop to take a look at what it going on. Our propensity to live and unexamined life is staggering.

As Paul reminds us to test our faith, he also makes the assumption that we will pass the test. Yet there is still a need to take the test so we can measure our faith. When we live without testing our lives we run the risk of working against God, even when we are convinced we are working in the side of God. Testing ourselves also makes it easier to see the places where correction is needed, and possibly reduce the pain associated with the process of changing.

All of our journey is pointed at one thing, experiencing the fullness of the Kingdom of God. The way we experience that is through humble submission and examination of our journey. Then we must allow God to shine through our weakness and our strength. Ultimately, God must shine through everything we do more than we do. The examination of our lives is to ensure this is in the correct order.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

2 Corinthians 12 -- The Thorn

I have to tell you I do not like this chapter of the Bible. It has nothing to do with some great theological dilemma, or even that I think Paul is wrong. The problem is that Paul is very right about something I would like to be different. There is an expectation I share with many that life should be easy, and when it is not we ask God to make it better and it happens. Big problem, that is not how it works.

We are never told what Paul's thorn is, but we know there is something which causes struggle for Paul, and he has put it before the Lord to clear things up. I would think when Paul asks God for something, the wish would be granted, much less when Paul pleads with God three times. This also makes me wonder about the statements in other places of Scripture that say we will receive what we ask for when we ask in the name of the Lord. So why didn't Paul have the thorn removed?

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (v.9) In other words, life is not going to be easy, pain free without struggle. What matters most is the work of God in our lives. I would love to have the answer be different, but it is not. We are called to faithfulness and trust, no where does this include a thorn free life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

2 Corinthians 11 -- Paul Is Pissed Off

From the outset of this chapter Paul makes it clear what he is about to say is not the most Godly thing he has said. He then goes on a rant that would make any narcissist even more proud. Paul lays out his earthly credentials and his struggles for the sake of Jesus. Several times reminding that he is out of his mind for speaking like he is. Apparently Paul had enough of some folks undercutting his ministry with the Corinthian church. Since he was most likely in a Rome prison at the time of writing, he verbally corrects them. Paul is pissed off and he decides to let the people know it.

This is one of the great debates for any pastor. There are times when we simply get pissed off by what or who is pulling the attention of our congregations. I have a simple theory that says do not beat the sheep or they will bite back. Still there are times when I want to go into a sermon with both guns blazing and do a little boasting as Paul would say, about the sacrifice made to be a pastor in God's church. Still I do not, as it is not what God would have me do. At that point it is not longer sacrifice, it is whining.

So what are we to do? Let Paul speak and point people to Paul's words. We need to all ask who and what is demanding our attention? To who or what are we giving our attention? For as many people we are unhappy with, there are more than likely that many or more unhappy with us. While Paul's boast is part of the Scriptural record, I say humility is a better course. Even Paul knows his speaking is out of line.

Monday, July 20, 2009

2 Corinthians 10 -- Waging War

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary they have the divine power to demolish strongholds." v 3-4. Why is it that us church folks think we can solve the issues we face through the methods of the world around us? It seems over and over we try tackle the problems we face in the church from with an approach learned not in Scripture but in the thousands of other books available to us.

Now I am not saying we should not read secular books. I am not saying there is nothing to be gained from studying the way our world solves problems. What I am saying is those solutions will only give us earthly results. At some point there needs to be a recognition of the battle we are in. I do not want to over simplify, nor do I want to give too much credit to Satan, but the battle we have is the the battle of God and Satan. Our glorious promise is the battle has already been won. Our glorious challenge is we have not yet reached the time of the fullness of that promise. So now Satan is waging war with God, and we are the objects of that war.

We must not use only the techniques and weapons of this world, we must use what God has offered to us in Scripture. We are taught in Scripture how to deal with strongholds. It is not in the name of any earthly authority, it is in the name of Jesus. Time has come for the people to take Paul's words seriously, we are to use the weapons of God in this battle. They are not the same as the ones an earthly understanding offers.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

2 Corinthians 9 -- Giving

Especially in times of economic downturn such as these, people do not like to talk about giving money. One truth about humans remains however, no matter whether we have a little or a lot, we do not like to give our money, unless we get something in return. Paul would tell us our return is knowing we are participating in the work of God. For many that simply is not enough. We worry about our tax statements, and we worry about how the church is going to spend our money. There is a tendency to give with strings attached. I wonder how we would feel if God gave with strings attached?

What if God said you can only have the my grace if you... The reality is God's grace is offered no strings attached. Now when we accept the grace of God through Jesus Christ, there are responsibilities which come with that relationship, but the grace is no strings attached. Several times Paul refers to the gift of the Corinthian church as generous, would you say your generous with what you are giving to God? Or are you generous only when you feel God has been generous?

Basically, all that we have and are is given to us by God. This is our money and our being, please make sure to keep those two things separate. The measure of our faith is what we do with what we have been given. Further, it is seen in what we expect in return for what we give. As far as earthly investments it does not add up, we are called to give everything, and expect nothing. Yet when we give everything to God, we receive more than we can measure with earthly standards.

Where is your heart when it comes to giving?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

2 Corinthians 8 -- Finishing

In my life I tend to be a good initiator. God has given me the ability to look at a situation, see what needs to change and begin the change. Where I tend to fall short is in the area of finishing. When it comes down to the details to bring something to a close, or just seeing something all the way through, I can get disinterested and begin looking for the next. In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul is addressing the church who was the first to give an offering for the church in Jerusalem. He is not encouraging them to finish what they started.

Really what we are talking about is follow through. I like the way Paul states it to the church. "Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means." Matching willingness with completion, sounds simple yet can be so very difficult. For some the struggle is willingness, for others it is completion. I say lets get together. Remember this journey is not individuals it is about community. In community we work together to do the work of God. I tend to be strong on the willingness to start something. Another person may be good at finishing something already started. We need to get together and have a complete project.

It makes me wonder what things are not matching my willingness. For some it might be what things are not matching your completion. Is there matching in your life?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2 Corinthians 7 -- Sorrow

The most common struggling point for people as they relate to God is the whole pain and suffering issue. If God is a God of love, how can pain and suffering be allowed to happen? Why would a God who loves us cause us the pain of sorrow? Paul has an answer for that when we read through the seventh chapter of 2 Corinthians. God uses the sorrows we face to produce a greater faith in us. Paul also draws a distinction between godly sorrow and earthly sorrow, so what is the difference?

For Paul the difference is seen in the referred to letter which we do not have record of. It is thought that in the unseen letter, Paul corrects the church in Corinth severely. In other words, Paul lets them have it. We are not given the subject or content of the rebuke, but we do know it left the Corinthian church feeling sorrowful. Paul would say this sorrow is godly sorrow, because is came after being shown the error of ways, and a call to repentance. Earthly sorrow can still be used by God to grow us but it is generated not from correction, rather from circumstance or consequence. When someone we love dies, there is sorrow, earthly sorrow from the circumstance. When we make a poor choice and it causes hurt for ourselves or others, the is consequence.

God uses everything in our lives, if we will allow it. Yet, there are times when correction comes, and pain is felt. This pain and sorrow is to compel us to a deeper relationship with God. That is Paul's hope for the Corinthians, and for you and I.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2 Corinthians 6 -- Is Paul Whining?

When a person studies the life of Paul there is no shortage of information. There is his life before the conversion on the road to Damascus. Then there is his life as a missionary for God and the cause of Jesus Christ. It seems no matter what phase of life Paul was in there were people who did not like the way he followed God. Whether it was persecuting the followers of Jesus, or himself being persecuted for following Jesus, Paul faced challenge in his journey. In this letter to the church at Corinth he lists out some of the ways he has faced challenge. At first read it could seem like Paul is simply whining. Somehow though Paul does not seem like the whining type.

Yes Paul is listing the hardships and challenges he has faced, but not as a way to gain sympathy from the church, or us. We must remember the context of the church in Corinth. This is a city which is like modern day Las Vegas, only multiplied by a factor of 10. Corinth was a major stop along the trade routes, both land and sea, and host to many pleasures of the flesh. Not many people in that community were concerned with gods much less God. I am certain the church in Corinth was facing some challenges as they went about their work of following Christ. This is not to be confused with the relatively small challenges we face.

Paul is offering this list as a way of saying suck it up to the church in Corinth. It may be more a reflection of my thoughts, but I can hear Paul saying, "look. life is rough, but keep going. Keep doing what God has called you to do." Throughout his writings Paul seems to always be able to help the reader/hearer keep perspective. Often it is by showing the struggles he has faced, and comparing them with the light burden others are claiming to be huge.

Paul is not whining, but we often are really good at it. When we talk about the challenges we face, are we using them as a way to encourage, or are we whining looking for sympathy?

Monday, July 13, 2009

2 Corinthians 5 -- Not Themselves

Paul continues to remind the church in Corinth of who they are and that their prime identity is not found here on earth, but with God. This identity was sealed with Jesus Christ, and as Paul reminds, we are given a foretaste, or deposit of what is to come through the Holy Spirit. In the midst of this reminder there is a very important little phrase which might be easy to miss, "For the love of Christ compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." v14-15.

This little section is an echo of Mark 8 when we are told to deny ourselves and follow Christ. It is apparent that Paul's world was like ours in that people struggled with who life if for. It seems as though there was a struggle to keep the focus on God and not on the individual. Our lives are not our own, is another phase rendered in other portions of scripture. Somewhere along the way, possibly in the garden with Adam and Eve, humanity got thin impression that life was all about them. There might not be a more destructive thing to the whole of the church and our relationship with Jesus Christ.

When the people of God think they are more important than anything else, only trouble ensues. A 'Me' focus will ultimately result in the destruction of humanity. Let's be clear it will not be God who does the damage, it will be ourselves as we live on our own terms and not the terms of God. We are not to live for ourselves, our own desires, hopes and dreams, we are to live for God, and the hopes, desires and dreams God has for us.

Who are you living for?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

2 Corinthians 4 -- Unseen

Due to the fact we are creatures of the Enlightenment we tend to be people who need to see something to believe it. More than that we tend to be people who focus on that which we can see and observe. Things in live which we cannot see, we often are able to ignore with amazing regularity. Once we see something we find it more difficult to ignore.

In light of that fact we read Paul's words to the church in Corinth about focusing on the unseen more than the seen. When we are sounding super spiritual we say this is easy and what we are made for. When we are feeling more like ourselves this is a very difficult task. Life presents us with various challenges, and usually we focus more on the presented challenge than the unseen God who is waiting for the invitation to be involved. Our inability to focus on the unseen can leave us paralyzed when looking at that which we can see.

As people who are working to follow Christ, our challenge is to focus on the God who calls us more than the challenge or issue right in front of us demanding all our attention. This is no small task. The single most helpful thing to do is to not wait until the challenge is in full swing. Connect with God daily, so you are not having to place an emergency call, that it is merely an extension of the ongoing conversation with God.

What are you focusing on?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

2 Corinthians 3 -- Freedom

Here in the third chapter of 2 Corinthians we have the often quoted verse, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom". Paul is writing this to a group of people who feel trapped by many things. Trapped by the Roman government, trapped by a city of sin and list, Corinth was not the most pure of locations, and trapped in a religious system of laws and regulations. To these trapped people Paul reminds them they are free, not because of the law or what they do or do not do, rather because of Jesus Christ.

Freedom is one of those hallmark values in America, and we hold it high. Yet most of us do not experience the freedom we love so much. Especially when we look at the lives of those endeavoring to follow Jesus, we find people who appear to be even more trapped. Isn't amazing the most free people on the face of the planet, Followers of Jesus, live a life which seems to have no evidence of that freedom. Paul reminds the church at Corinth and us, that the glory of Christ should be seen on our face. The freedom we have been granted should not be heard with words, rather seen and experienced.

When we our faces are sour and our life is one of captivity, it is harder to see the glory of Christ in us. When people cannot see the glory of Christ in us, they are pretty closed to the idea of following Christ. Life is hard enough and has enough challenges than to be burdened with religion. I wonder what would happen if people experienced Christ Followers who were living in the freedom that comes from the Spirit of the Lord?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

2 Corinthians 2 -- What's That Smell

Paul tells the church in Corinth and us that we are the fragrance of Christ that others smell. to those being saved we smell fresh and life giving, to those who are perishing we smell like death. I am drawn to the fact that is is the fragrance of Christ not us which people experience. This is Paul's way of reminding us that it is Christ this is all about not us. When we make it about us, the fragrance suffers.

From time to time we see the work of Christ causing others to have struggles. So we help Christ out by trying to spruce up his image. We take the fragrance of Christ and try to add a little air freshener. When we do this the result is not fresher air, rather it is air which is fake and hard to be around, like a bad industrial odor eliminator. The fragrance of Christ is sweet and natural, not something which can be replicated by humanity. Some however, when they experience the fragrance are put off because they realize the state of their own life.

What do you smell like? Are you a Christ follower with the industrial odor eliminator sent, or do you allow the fragrance of Christ to shine through? Not everyone is going to like the fragrance of Christ, that is not our problem. Eventually people will see through the fog when the only fragrance we are putting forth is our own. Does the aroma of Christ surround you and your life? If not what needs to change?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

2 Corinthians 1 -- Once Again

Today we turn from the book of Acts to the second recorded letter from Paul to the church at Corinth. The church at Corinth was one of the churches Paul planted and encouraged. There is believed to have been as many as four letter between Paul and the church, but we only have the preserved record of two. Considerable time was spent by Paul and the crew in Corinth. Paul is well aware of their context and struggle.

In this second letter to the church Paul is already reminding them of similar themes by which he has already taught the church. When read together with 1 Corinthians this second letter continues the theme of a pastor doing his best to stir a church in ways of righteousness, and the church choosing their own way.

It is clear Paul is not happy with the church and the reports he is getting about the church. The tone is stern and corrective. The church in Corinth has lost its way in some areas and correction is needed. It makes me wonder how Paul would treat the church in America today. Many of the things facing the church in Corinth are things our church not only faces, but in some ways is proud of. I wonder if Paul would spare visiting our churches for fear of how he would speak to them?

The letter to the church in Corinth is written to a specific church, but I cannot help bu think it is written to the church of 2009 as well. The question is, will we pay attention?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Acts 28 -- Thats It?

The epic journey of Acts comes to a close. Paul is in Rome, doing what he does. The rest of the church is apparently alright as there is not a word on what is happening. With Paul teaching the book ends, and I say what the heck! The story is not over, but the book is done. What happens to Paul? Does he get an audience with Caesar? Is he killed by upset Jews? What happens?

The book of Acts ends with more questions than answers. There is so much begun in the book of Acts, and we are not told what happens in any of those situations. What was God thinking when Luke stopped writing there? Like Terry Tykle in his Book/Study "Acts 29", I cannot help but wonder if it is up to us to finish writing the story.

Not that we get to decide what happens to Paul, rather what happens to the people called Christians. Finding out what happens to Paul is what humans want to know, that is not the concern of God. I cannot help but wonder if God is more concerned with us writing our part of the story. How is it that we are totally trusting God and furthering the mission of God in this world? The book of Acts ends abruptly so we can be the ongoing players in the drama God is unfolding through the ages until the Kingdom of God is fulfilled, and Jesus reigns over all creation.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Acts 27 -- Shipwreck

It seems every good adventure story on the high seas involves a shipwreck. Paul has gotten his wish and is on the way to Rome for an audience with Caesar. The problem is the ship they are on is being lead by not so bright people. Despite all the warnings, and years of history, they decide to set sail in the dead of winter. This ends pretty tragically.

The most interesting thing in the midst of the crash is Paul's demand that everyone sit down and eat. Hard at work for 14 days keeping the ship going, the men had not eaten. So Paul prepares a meal and has them sit and eat. Can you imagine what the crew was thinking. Here they were facing death, and this guy wants to eat something. Paul assures them they are not going to die and they will need strength, so eat up.

As the chapter ends the ship is run aground and falling apart. The order to abandon ship is given and everyone makes to shore. It seems as though there will be a happy ending to the story. Everyone lives and they are safely on the island. As far as shipwrecks go, I am not sure this would cut it in our modern cinema, it seems rather anti-climatic. The boat falls apart, and everyone lives. No drama, no values clarification of who lives and who dies.

Honestly for compared to the rest of the book of Acts it is pretty tame. Yet the hand of God brings Paul and the crew to safety. Through the storm, even one poor choices put them in, God sees them through to continue the plan and work set before them. I wonder if there is something for us to learn?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Acts 26 -- Hard to Argue

In a mere two chapters the journey of Acts will come to a close. Before it does Paul continues his defense. Now with a wider audience including King Aggripa. Paul simply shares his story, and that is hard to debate. People can believe it or not, see Festus, but it does not change the fact that it is Paul's story. Paul is not the only person with a story. You and I have a story to tell about how we met God. People can agree or disagree with the story, but in the end their action cannot render your story false.

So the question is, are you telling the story God has written with your life? Or are you simply holding back, afraid of what people will think? Your story is your story, it is hard to argue with. Like the blind man who Jesus heals in John 9, the religious leaders are debating his healing story. His response is great, all I know is I can see now when I could not before. His is a life changed because of Jesus.

How about you? Have you met Jesus? Is your life different because of it, or is pretty much the same? We might not all have the dramatic story of Paul or the blind man, but we all have a story, and out lives should be different because we follow the One called Christ.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Acts 25 -- Have To Wonder

As the book of Acts draws near its close I cannot help but wonder if Paul made a crucial mistake, or if he was playing the system. It is obvious the new governmental official, Festus, is not sure what to do with Paul. I am not sure, but it seems as though he was going to release Paul to go his way as the religious leaders had not presented a convincing case. Ah, then Paul appeals to Caesar. With this appeal, as a Roman citizen, Paul must be sent to Caesar. The problem Festus has is what to write to Caesar regarding the charges against Paul.

Paul had no intention of being released. For two plus years he had been held by the Roman government pending a decision from the leadership. It is not only in the present age government takes their sweet time making decisions. During this time I cannot help but wonder if Paul did not resolve to got to Rome and have the Roman government pay for his passage there. Besides, Paul has greater possibility of death outside of Roman protection or custody. No doubt Paul is prepared to die if it comes to that, at the same time if he can reach a whole new group of people with the Gospel he will work for that.

I am convinced Paul could have been set free by Festus, yet chose to remain and be sent to Rome. It seems odd that Paul would choose to remain a prisoner when freedom was right in front of him. Yes freedom was there, however, Paul already had freedom. It was no longer the Roman government, or the religious leaders who help him, it was the call of God. Paul was free of concerns from an earthly perspective, and free of concerns for his own well being. There was a freedom in Paul's life to follow after whatever opportunity God put before him. Now that is truly freedom.