Acts 19:21-27

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Paul is making travel plans. Currently in the city of Ephesus in Asia (today Turkey), he sends Timothy and Erastus ahead to Macedonia (northern Greece). He plans to meet up with them and travel south to Achaia (Corinth) and then back across the Med to Jerusalem. This will complete this trip but he is already considering his next venture that will take him to Rome. (I have to keep looking for maps to see where he really was. Here’s a good one. http://bit.ly/1zBmMA2) Paul's 1st and 2nd Missionary Journeys

So, during all this travel planning there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. (This does not mean “the way” as in which way to go but “The Way”, as in what the church is being called. You know, like Jesus saying, “I AM the Way”. Anyway, cool nickname.)

I love it when the ESV calls it “no little disturbance” rather than “there was this huge uproar.” Of course where there is Paul there is often “no little disturbance” nearby.

In this case Demetrius, a silversmith is recognizing that as the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily (Acts 19:20) his business making silver shrines of Artemis was in danger. He decides to unionize and calls together all the local tradesmen who might have the same problem.

“Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis (or Diana – daughter of Zeus, sister of Apollo) may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

Demetrius has a pretty convincing argument. “People – this is where we get our money!“

I can relate. I’m inclined to spend no small amount of time dreaming of success for the guy who writes our paycheck or our stocks to triple. Regardless of my beliefs I have a deep seated dependency on the currency of my culture – money is the most obvious but there are other demi-gods too numerous to name.

Now I’m going to say something crazy here. We are fortunate – some events came hurtling into our lives and crushed that misconception – the one that says our money (health, connections, ability, blah, blah, blah) is what sustains us.

It was a shocking moment of realignment thinking and I can’t go back. Not to say I don’t go back but I can’t stay there. Those former idols have been exposed and now they seem so fragile. The Holy Spirit gently reminds me “Those puny things can’t hold you up…come over here and stand on The Rock!”

About God?
He is the source of Life and the Provider of all good things.

About Me?
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:20-21

About the World?
Real security is found in the One who loves you.

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Acts 19:11-20

 

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God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul…I love there was no doubt here that Paul was only an instrument, it was God at work. God’s power was so strong it infused the handkerchiefs or aprons that even touched Paul’s skin. And just this latent power healed the sick and exorcised evil spirits.

It must have been a wonder to observe such things but of course it was only a matter of time before someone would seek to abuse it. So was the case of some traveling Jewish exorcists who tried to use the power without knowing the power source. (Hold on – what were the Jews doing being exorcists in the first place? – check out Lev. 19:31.)

“I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” It’s a pretty wimpy statement. Reminds me of the commercial where the person without State Farm calls out “I don’t have State Farm but insurance man find me money!’ She got a dollar.

Then there is the story of the seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva. They tried casting out an evil spirit only to have the spirit tell them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” Having no genuine power they were overcome, stripped, wounded and had to flee. (God allows them to reap the consequences of their disregard and disrespect.)

This became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, (This kind of fear is just what it says – terror. As in “do you have any idea of who you are messing with?”) and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. (Praise is the natural response to a right understanding of fear.)

Many who were believers came forward and confessed their practices, brought their magic books and burned them publicly. (More than admonishing the usurpers, God uses this as an awakening moment for the church. Convicted, they publicly confess and repent. Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. James 5:16)

So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

Frankly, I am more comfortable with a Father image of God than a God to be afraid of. But it is flippant for me to not to fully appreciate the uber-difference between me and God. To say “I am no match for Him” doesn’t come close and while I am His beloved child, I am not His peer.

It is exactly when I seek to embrace the distinction between us – the Creator and the created – that I can most appreciate the compassionate depth of His love and the tenderness of His fatherhood.

About God?
God will not be mocked, manipulated or used.

About Me?
I think I will only know the depth of His love to the degree I rightly fear Him.

About the World?
The fear of the Lord leads to life. Proverbs 19:23

Acts 19:1-10

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Apollos was off to Corinth but Paul landed in Ephesus. He found some disciples there who knew nothing of the Holy Spirit but had only been baptized into John’s baptism. (Makes you wonder if these were men convinced by Apollos before he got the full scoop.)

Paul explained the difference (I’m gratified to find that what he told them was along the lines of what I had been thinking.) Now they were baptized in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

As was his custom Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly about the Kingdom of God. After 3 months some people became stubborn, continued in their unbelief and began to bad mouth “the way”. Paul packed up and moved his preaching over to Tyrannus’ hall. (I’m thinking things were becoming detrimental to the growth of the disciples because he took them with him.)

And so he began to preach there daily for two years. And every resident of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Two years DAILY? I thought 100+ days of this journaling was a lot!)

I am amazed at the many avenues the Lord uses to prepare people to receive the Gospel. No life experience is wasted but each is used as stepping stones to believing. The 12 men mentioned here believed in the repentance John preached. Paul recognized their leaning toward Christ and enlightened them. In Galatians Paul tells how he was chosen before he was born but did not know about Jesus until God chose to reveal Him.

Sometimes we don’t see the hand of God on us except in looking back. When I have done this, instead of being discouraged by my failing to understand, I am encouraged by God’s faithfulness in leading me to Himself.

About God?
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I Cor.1:9

About Me?
He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion.

About the World?
Ever thought the God of the Universe might be calling you?

Acts 18:23-28

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While Paul is out wandering all around Galatia and Phrygia encouraging the disciples, a Jew from Alexandria named Apollos shows up in Ephesus.

Apollos seems to be “all that and a bag ‘o chips” when it comes to accurately sharing the things concerning Jesus– knowledge, boldness, polish and fervor. He’s got it all right except one thing – he knew only the baptism of John.

I’m going out on a limb here – to say I think Apollos had a lot of head knowledge about Jesus being the Christ but he had not encountered Jesus as Savior. Here’s why. John’s baptism was about repentance and preparation for the coming Messiah. Remember he was “preparing a way for the Lord”? He even told the Pharisees “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. John 3:7. The other thing that strikes me is “he had been instructed in the way of the Lord” – he was a good student as far as it went but it didn’t go far enough.

Pricilla and Aquila heard him speak at the synagogue and took him home for a chat. (Now this is the way to approach a sticky situation.) They probably saw genuineness in Apollos so they explained (the word here means to expose –like point out the error?) to him the way of God more accurately. To his credit and God’s glory, Apollos received the good news of salvation through the work of Jesus. We aren’t told but this would have included receiving the Holy Spirit (and maybe being baptized since this is how things were rolling during this time.)

Next thing you know Apollos wants to go to Achaia (Corinth) and the church in Ephesus sends him off with credentials! This affirms the change that has taken place in him. Apollos has gone from a man with superior personal gifts to a man filled with power of the Holy Spirit directing gifts.

When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

So here’s what I love.

There are gifts and then there are Spirit controlled gifts. We all got gifts. They are just part of the package when God made us, unique and special. But, when those natural talents are filled by the Holy Spirit – then there is power at work for God’s kingdom building.askseekknock

Calling, vision, purpose – whatever you want to call it. Apollos was acting on his calling before he even understood it all. I think this is planted in us too and we are all trying to uncover it and act it out. Some of us are bolder than others, to be sure, but still it’s in there, waiting to be fulfilled. I’m sitting here looking at a sign I made for a Women’s Bible study. The way to find my true calling is to ASK.

Did you notice God’s got people on the job in every stage of development? We don’t even know they are out there until we bump into someone. When we do it’s our task to consider what part the Lord wants us to play in their life (or them in ours). Am I to teach, encourage, recommend, or bring them home for dinner? 

About God?
Man, oh man. The picture is bigger than we even know.

About Me?
I am grateful for every person who has taught me the truth. There are too many to name but “thank you.”

About the World?
You have gifts the world needs. Use ‘em.

Acts 18:12-22

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It seems during Paul’s stay in Corinth, Crispus is replaced as synagogue leader by a man named Sosthenes. Under him the Jews make a frontal attack against Paul. (I guess it was a bit troubling for Paul to have set up shop right next door and this may have ticked the Jews off…I’m just saying.)

So the Jews bring Paul before the Roman proconsul of Achaia, Gallio. “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.”

Before Paul can say anything, Gallio cuts the Jews off at the knees. “…Since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” (This was a pretty smart guy and he wasn’t about to be dragged into some “Jewish” thing. Pilate might have wished he could have done the same when he was confronted with judging Jesus!)

To literally add injury to insult, the Romans drove them from the tribunal and beat the stuffing out of Sosthenes to boot. Gaillio didn’t have much regard for the Jews since he didn’t stop them.

Paul, after a while longer in Corinth, sailed for Syria taking Priscilla and Aquila with him all the way to Ephesus. He left them there but he himself entered the synagogue to reason with the Jews. Unlike many places, he was invited to stay longer but he declined saying, “I will return to you if God wills.” Instead he went on to Jerusalem (Caesarea) to greet the church and then down to Antioch. (Back where he began, so ends Paul’s second missionary journey.)

Clearly things change. New leaders may not have your back. Enemies may come to your aid. Others may want you but you can’t stay. None of this change is a surprise to God but it might be a surprise to me. I might be caught off guard and spend time wondering what’s up. Paul did not. He was confident even when he had to leave the friendlies – “I will return to you if God wills.”

Here’s the take away for me.

1. Be alert. Sometimes we are staying put but sometimes we are on the move. I can’t know unless I’m listening for the voice of the Spirit.

2. Be flexible. It’s easy to get fixated on the plan (instead of the Planner) but rigidness can lead to resistance and then right on to ornery! Lord, help me remain pliable in your hands.

About God?
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26

About Me?
Go with the flow of the Spirit.

About the World?
So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” – Heb. 3:7-8

Acts 18:1-11

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When Silas and Timothy arrive they find Paul has moved from Athens to Corinth. He is living and working with Priscilla and Aquila who are tentmakers.

Paul has been reasoning every Sabbath with the Jews and Greeks at the synagogue. He is teaching that Jesus was the Christ. When it became apparent they were thoroughly rejecting his message Paul shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

He moved right next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. (Location, location, location – you know!)

Many Corinthians believed and were baptized including Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue and his entire family!

Even with these success stories Paul must have wondered from time to time if he was on target. I’m guessing it was this need for encouragement that prompted the Lord to speak to Paul one night in a vision: “do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

He just needed a little ‘atta boy because after that he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

I mean who doesn’t need encouragement every so often? Well, maybe like daily! Following the Lord’s leading is not always so clear and outward success or failure (measured by human standards) is not a very good indicator of being on target.

Sometimes my following is not about defined mission – sometimes it is about trusting Him for something beyond me or hard or impossible or devastating. I’m not Paul out to share the Gospel across the known globe. I’m Beverley, at home, wondering about our finances or how our children are going to make it or if our grandchildren will have everything they need or what the next biopsy will show or what else awful will show up on the prayer chain.

And the encouragement I need is to believe He is still there and loves us and can be trusted with all this.

I haven’t had too many visions . But I have come to believe this: “either God is who He says He is or He is not.” Because I believe the former, somehow my heart finds rest when I read words like these:

No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame – Ps 25:3

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jer. 29:11

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. – Ps 33:20

About God?
Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Ps 36:5

About Me?
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love. Ps 33:8

About the World?
If you don’t have Jesus in this life, I don’t know how you do it!

Acts 17:16-34

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Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens he took a good look around. The city was full of idols which had to be shocking to a man who, even before becoming a follower of Jesus, had been dedicated to the singular God of the Jews.

Paul was going to speak, no matter where he was and so he conversed not only in the Jewish synagogues with those who were devout but also in the marketplace with who ever happened along. Here he encounters the curiosity of the Greeks – Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

So, they give him a pulpit at Areopagus (Mars Hill as it was called by the Romans, was an actual rock hill where the Greeks held court of sorts.) It was here they sit down to listen and judge Paul’s words. (Who wouldn’t wish for an opportunity like this?)

Paul is masterful. (I could talk all day about this sermon…just ask Bob.) He affirms their zeal for religious things and begins to introduce them to their very own “unknown god.” He pictures God for them exactly as they have viewed Him…one whom they should seek …, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.

And then he reveals:
Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “in him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said. (Said poet being Epimenides who had written this line about the immortality of Zeus.)

Paul’s argument is logical (love it) and leads to a logical conclusion…the God who has done all this cannot be represented or contained by things built by man. However, this God has overlooked the time of ignorance (no condemnation fellows – ’cause, hey, you were trying but you didn’t know) but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

The crowd was divided over the idea of resurrection (always a tricky subject)  but some said, “We will hear you again about this.” The door remained open.

There were some men who joined Paul and believed and among them two people are named. Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris. It almost seems “some men” is the general term and “Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them” relates the specifics.

Dionysius is noteworthy because he was a judge at the Areopagus and therefore a prominent leader. Damaris may have been his wife, a woman of high social status or a foreigner.

(It is interesting how often now as the Gentiles come to Christ there is the intentional mentioning of the converts to be men and/or women, in groups or by name. This documenting of gender begins in the Gospels and into the beginnings of the church. No doubt it will culminate in Paul’s words from Gal. 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.)

About God?
He is the giver of the perfect words to speak.

About Me?
In Him we live and move and have our being – need to keep that on the frontal lobe!

About the World?
There are those who are eager to hear about “the unknown god.”

Acts 17:1-15

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Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke continue on. In Thessalonica, they visited a synagogue of the Jews where Paul reasons with them for three Sabbaths. Some Jews believed as did many devout Greeks and a lot of leading women. The unbelieving Jews were jealous and gathered a mob. Since they couldn’t find Paul they grabbed Jason and some other followers.

Upon presenting these men before the city leaders they actually paid Paul and the other Christ followers a great compliment: “these men who have turned the world upside down have come here also”. Jason was accused of harboring these men and had to but down bail in order to be let go.

The brothers sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. Of course sneaking them out of town does not equate to them keeping a low profile. In Berea they end up preaching in the synagogue there. The Bereans received the message with eagerness. They were the “first” Christian studiers – searching the Scriptures to see if what was taught was true. Many came to Christ – Jews, Greek women and men.

Of course the news spread and soon the angry Thessalonians come to stir up the crowds against Paul. Time to jet again – so Paul was sent away for his own safety – all the way to Athens. Silas and Timothy stayed behind but Paul sent word for them to come to be with him as soon as possible.

I’m impressed with the number of leading women who are mentioned in the Gentile culture. They apparently have great standing and influence in their communities but more importantly, they are spiritually open.

Secondly the Bereans have become the community we seek to emulate because they checked out the Scriptures even when their teacher was Paul!

About God?
God is no respecter of persons and the Gospel is for anyone – Jew or Gentile, male or female.

About Me?
What am I doing to turn the world upside down for Jesus?

About the World?
All are welcomed to hear the truth.

Acts 16:22-40

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I have to say the magistrates acted with extreme measures. Paul and Silas are abused, publicly beaten, thrown into prison and locked in stocks! With this background it is even more amazing what happens next.

Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns. The prisoners are listening. (I don’t think the prisoners would have been listening much to a couple of guys berating their jailers and complaining about their mistreatment. I’ve heard it said everyone in prison is “innocent” according to them so they would not have stood out. But having a Hymn Sing Prayer Meeting from their position? That would garner some attention.)

Speaking of attention, now that everyone is engaged, let’s have an earthquake that opens all the doors and unlocks everyone’s shackles (oh yeah, that’s just normal, right?). Of course the jailer freaks and is ready to fall on his sword – the Roman’s don’t overlook a tiny mistake like losing a few prisoners.

Paul shouts to him – “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” So the jailer gets the lights and finds out he’s telling the truth. He’s afraid, falls down in front of them and brings P & S outside. Now this is the curious thing. The jailer’s question is “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Why not, “Why are you still here?”. P & S’s response to all that had happened made quite an impact on this guy so he cut right to the chase.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” That’s what happens – they tell them everything, he believes, his whole family believes; they all get baptized. The jailer tends to them and feeds them and they are all rejoicing together before he returns them to prison for the rest of the night. (This “you and all your household” is what happened with Lydia and her household too. I believe everyone must make his own choice to accept salvation but it is interesting the influence held by the head of household. I’m sure the culture, Jewish or Roman played a big part but also a respect for the leader of the family. In 21st century USA – this response would be a rarity!)

Next day the magistrates are ready to let Paul and Silas go. The jailer is glad and offers for them to go in peace. But everyone is in for a shocker – now Paul decides to get in their face. “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.”

Okay, now we have some magistrates shaking in their boots. The rulers come and try to smooth things over and say they’re are really sorry and politely ask them to leave the city.

I guess Paul accepts their apology and they all walk out of the jail happy campers but leaving those rulers to be a little less quick to judge in the future! P & S visit with Lydia and all the local brothers to encourage them before they actually leave town. (I’m sure Lydia had been praying and worried and wondering what she could do. I would have been!)

So, if I believe this all true what here translates into my life?

Expectations – sharing the Gospel is very likely going meet with misunderstanding, or straight out rejection. Jesus said this would be true. This is warfare. But know who the real enemy is. It is not the jailer or even the magistrates or the owner of the slave girl – Jesus died for each of them just like he did for me. This will help me with the second thought.

Responses – it’s not hard to see P & S’s responses to being unfairly treated made a huge difference as to who was willing to listen to their message. They were rejoicing in spite of their circumstances, trusting God had a plan even if it was unknown to them. They might have been fine with just rotting in jail in order to share Christ with the prisoners. I’m kind of land locked myself. I’d love to spread my wings and follow my own ministry dreams.  But, truth is, I’m limited by circumstances God has allowed, if not deliberately placed, in my life. How am I responding?

Wisdom – Jesus said to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. Paul played the “Roman Citizen” cards and it was recorded here for a reason. Maybe it created some fear in the magistrates that would carry over as a form of protection from harassment for the new believers in Philippi. Maybe it had to do with Paul’s ultimate plan to take the message of Christ all the way to Rome. Maybe it had to do with not allowing bullies to be bullies. Whatever the reason, the point is if God has given you tools that work in your favor, it is not wrong to use them.

About God?
He takes care of His own.

About Me?
React or Rejoice?

About the World?
It’s a prison out there but Jesus is an earthquake maker.

Acts 16:11-21

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Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke are headed to Macedonia – first by boat then traveling over ground a few days until they end up in Philippi. The city at this time was a Roman colony – a predominately Gentile place so when they arrived they just scouted out the scene for a few days.

There was no synagogue to visit but they show up on the Sabbath, outside the city by the river where they find some Jewish women gathered to pray. The guys were able to speak to this group. One of those women was Lydia, a worshipper of God. The lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. She was baptized and all her household. (Wonder why there are no Jewish men mentioned who had come down to the river to pray? I vaguely remember they needed a certain number of guys to have a synagogue and I guess they didn’t mix with the women – their loss.)

She invited them to stay at her house which it seems they would have declined. But she asked in a meaningful way: “if you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” She is sort of asking if she has qualified to be with them. The answer was yes.

Now at this time there was a slave girl possessed by a spirit who made money for her owners by fortune telling. She was following Paul around shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” Of course it was true and I guess he tried to ignore her but after a while it was really annoying to Paul. So, he reacted and cast the spirit out of her in the name of Jesus Christ. (Interesting isn’t it? The demon is trying to make a mockery of the message.)

When their source of income was cut off the owners were ticked. Grabbing Paul and Silas they drag them in front of the rulers and charge them with being Jews who are disturbing the city and advocating unlawful practices.

Clift hanger…stay tuned to find out what happens to P&S tomorrow!

A couple of thoughts:

The Lord opened her heart – it’s the only way a person understands the gospel.

A story of two women: one who is faithful and one who is deceived. Both have position and influence – one for good and one for ill.

About God?
He is the only one who can open hearts.

About Me?
How will I use my position and influence?

About the World?
You cannot serve two masters – for you will love the one and hate the other. Mt 6:24