Philippi, An Encounter with Consequences

And the journey continues…into Acts. Acts is filled with the wonderful adventures of the Apostles learning to walk with Jesus and allowing Jesus to work in and through them to spread the gospel to the world. In Chapter 16 of The Acts of the Apostles Paul tells us how he and Silas met Timothy in Derbe. Paul wanted to take this new believer along with them on their second journey through Asia Minor and Greece. He had an instant affection for this young Greek Hebrew convert. He grew to love him as a son as is evidenced in his writings in 1 and 2 Timothy.

Then Paul has a vision during the night where the Holy Spirit spoke to him and directed them to go into Macedonia with the gospel message. Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy landed in Neapolis and traveled inland to the town of Philippi. They encountered the purple merchant Lydia and fellow Jews by a steam just outside the city. It was the Sabbath and since there was no synagogue in Philippi, they were praying and worship by the river. Paul presented the gospel truth about Jesus the Messiah and she became a believer and welcomed them into her home. I had the privilege of visiting this spot where Paul and Lydia met several years ago. It is peaceful and lovely, and you can just envision them sitting by the stream singing and praising God.

Jail where Paul and Silas were held.

As the chapter continues and Paul and Silas went repeatedly to the river to worship. A slave girl who was possessed by a spirit kept taunting them. “She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” Acts 16:17 Paul became troubled one day and turned to her and commanded the spirit to leave her in the name of Jesus. The slave girl’s owners had been using her divination powers to earn money, and they were very unhappy with these events. So they went to the town magistrate and complained, which resulted in Paul and Silas being beaten, flogged and imprisoned without trial. They were then thrown into jail. Later that evening while imprisoned, they were singing and praising God when there was an earthquake which opened the cell doors. The jailer, fearing their escape on his watch, started to kill himself. Paul called out to him that they were all there. Acts 16:29-34, And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”

Forum and ruins of Philippi

Later the next day, the magistrate sent officers to release Paul and told them to leave the city. Paul refused to go until they came and spoke with him. He was righteously outraged at their treatment as they were Roman Citizens and the magistrates desired to coverup the way they had unjustly treated Paul and Silas. They were vindicated and left the city, but not before saying good-bye to Lydia and the other believers. The new believers were encouraged.

I love these dramatic stories for several reasons. 1. It shows how Paul was lead by the Spirit on his journey to where the Holy Spirit knew there were people waiting and eager to hear the gospel message. Do I trust the Holy Spirit to lead you to just the right place and just the right time? Are you open to God opportunities to witness? 2. Paul and Silas stood up in faith and saved the young demon possessed girl. They then faced the consequences of their actions. They allowed God to use them and suffered for His name sake. God vindicated them and worked all things for their good and His glory. The jailer and his family came to know Christ, the magistrate and others were witnesses to the power of God, the magistrates were held accountable for their wrong, judgements and the believers were encouraged. How do you react to oppression and suffering? Do you complain and fight or do you pray, praise and sing with thanksgiving? Paul knew he was doing the Lord’s work and that God is sovereign over all government officials. He did not fear the outcome as he knew God was going before him and had his back. He completely trusted God. Where are you on a scale of 1 to10 on trusting God with the details of your life?

Take a few minutes and read this entire Chapter 16 of Acts. Let yourself feel what Paul and Silas must have felt- the joy, trust, and encouragement in faith along with the hatred of others, mistrust, and persecution. After, take a few minutes to pray for those brother and sisters in faith that are persecuted for the sake of Christ throughout the world. Pray for their safely and a boldness to proclaim the gospel, no matter the cost. Bravely ask God to bring you opportunities to witness to the power of Christ in your life.

Linda

Peace and Purpose came from Jesus, do you have them?

Peace
john 20 19

Jesus was actively reassuring his followers on Resurrection Sunday.   He appeared to the two men on the Road to Emmaus,  to the women in the garden and Mary, to Peter and to a gathering of disciples in a closed room.   John records this closed door appearance in John 20:19-22.  I like the Amplified translation as it makes what happened clearer. 19 So when it was evening on that same day, the first day of the week, though the disciples were [meeting] behind barred doors for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” 20 After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side.”  The fact that Jesus appeared to them without opening the door tells us He was a spirit.   Yet, he showed them His hands and side that had been pierced at the cross which tells us He was physically real.  Only Jesus could be both in His resurrection body.  He begins with the common Hebrew greeting- ‘Peace to you’.  This shows Jesus’ love and sensitivity as perhaps they might have expected a harsh word from Jesus for abandoning Him after His arrest.  They received peace and warmth from their Savior not rebuke or criticism.  When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with great joy. 21 Then Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you [as My representatives].” 22 And when He said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Their response to Jesus was pure joy!  He sent greetings of peace as they were living in fear being behind locked doors. I’m sure they thought that what happened to Jesus at the hands of the religious leaders could happen to them as his disciples. What they needed was peace and Jesus knew that. They also needed a mission or purpose. For 3 years they had followed him, spoke with him, listened and saw the miraculous power of God. What purpose did they have without him? Jesus knew what they needed was direction and purpose so He gave them orders to go out and tell others.   He was sending them with power from His Holy Spirit to go and be His representatives, telling others of His death, resurrection, salvation, love and forgiveness of sins.  Jesus breathed on them power that would sustain them until the coming of the Holy Spirit 50 days later at Pentecost.

romans 10 17
tell others

What is your response to the risen Savior?  I’m sure the disciples had various reactions like joy that He was alive, curiosity about His wounds, questions about their purpose in life now that He is no longer teaching them day to day?  Jesus answered their questions, shared in their joy and gave them purpose.  It is the same purpose Jesus has for us- tell others the good news of the gospel.  He desires that everyone hear how He saves us from the penalty of sin which is death and makes us clean and forgiven in the sight of God.  Paul reminds us in Romans 10:17   “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  Jesus sent them, and us too, into the world where we live to tell others the good news of Christ.  We have a commission from Christ to speak out and speak up for Him.

Who will you joyfully tell today?

Linda

Seasoned with Salt and Prayer

As Paul ends this letter to the Colossians he wants to emphasize the importance of prayer and wise behavior towards others. Colossians 4:2-6 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Pray, pray, pray! Pray for yourselves and be sure to include thanksgiving. Remember, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Thanksgiving is the place to start. Prayer and thanksgiving will establish an attitude of gratitude towards God for all He has done, is doing and will do in the future on your behalf. Next, pray for others that are serving the Lord as missionaries both near and far. Who do you know that is working serving others in your community? This includes your pastor and others serving in the church. Pray for their strength their opportunities to witness and tell others about the goodness of Christ and His salvation. Pray that their words would be clear and understood by those who hear the message. Pray that the message would be received and those hearing would come to know Christ. Paul consistently asks believers to pray for his own work for Christ that it might bear much fruit, so also we should pray for our brothers and sister who minister and live in our communities that the whole community might be saved.

Paul then admonishes us to be wise with our words and make the most of those God given opportunities to talk with believers and unbelievers about Christ. Look for those God appointments as I like to call them. When talking with unbelievers, don’t try to argue with them but be salt and light giving them words filled with grace and love. Tell them about your love for Jesus and the difference He has made in your life. I love 1 Peter 3:15 ” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Impetuous Peter had learned that you don’t beat someone over the head with the gospel but present the words of life with gentleness and respect. Being wise with our words shows love and grace towards others.

Take to heart Paul’s words to the Colossians as his God given wisdom is filled with grace and salt towards us too. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I am commissioned to pray diligently, speak boldly with softness and proclaim Christ to the unbelieving world.

Linda

Be Thankful Someone Shared the Good News with You! Praise God!

How would you describe your church leaders, your pastors or priests? In Colossians 1:7-8 Paul described who was doing what in the Colossian church. “You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf. He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.” Paul praised Epaphras for his faithful delivery of the gospel message and how he communicated their love for each other to him. From his prison cell, Paul was able to understand the work the Holy Spirit was doing among them through Epaphras’ genuine and faith-filled words.

What a wonderful example of God’s work among believers. Epaphras was a converted pagan who loved the Lord Jesus and wanted others to share in this love, forgiveness and salvation. He was serving in the cause of Christ as he told others of Jesus and showed them God’s love. It was evident that the Holy Spirit was at work there in Colossae. What about you and where you worship and serve? Is your service done there out of habit or are you serving so you can show Jesus to others? Is your service faithfully done or is it haphazardly executed as time allows? What should be our motivation for serving and telling others about Jesus? Several things come to my mind: so others can experience the love and forgiveness of Jesus, so others will have eternal life in heaven, so the quality of their life here on earth will be abundant and filled with hope and love that only God can give, so that others will come to know God in a greater way, so that others will glorify God in their faith and life. The good news of Christ is indeed good news and transforms the life of each one who embraces and believes. Shouldn’t we want to share this wonderful transforming news with others? Epaphras, Paul, James, Titus, Peter…. and the person who told you about Jesus all shared their love of Jesus. Each one of us comes to faith through the telling of Jesus’ story somehow. Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

As you meditate today on this passage, give praise and thanks for the ones who led you to faith, in my case it was a Sunday School teacher. Give praise and thanks for those who faithfully give out the Word of God each week at your church. By doing so they are helping you to grow and mature in your Christian faith. Epaphras did both of these for the church he planted in Colossae and Paul was eternally grateful for his work in the name of Jesus. Let us give thanks today for those who brought us to faith and those who endeavor to show us areas where we can grow more and more like Jesus as we seek to know Christ and walk with Him daily.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can live a life that grows and matures in God’s love and can have an eternal effect on others.

Linda

Let it be Good News around your Table

This week’s Stream of Water from the Word is from 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 and these verses have a timely message for us. In this passage, Paul is reminding the Corinthians that he did not come to them with flowery words and great speeches, but with God’s truth, love and the gospel of Christ. “When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters,  I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Paul’s words are a reminder that God is the one who speaks through us when we talk about Jesus. God’s message of redemption for the world and the solution to our sin problem is Jesus. Just like Paul, we need to rely upon the Holy Spirit to give us the right words when He presents us with opportunities to witness about Jesus. Paul spoke plainly and boldly so as to tell others about His amazing Savior. What about you? Are you afraid to speak about Jesus for fear of rejection, misunderstanding, or apathy? The truth of Acts 1:8 is true today just as it was in Paul’s day. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” He has appointed us as His witnesses and will give us words and opportunities to tell about Him. How can we tell others if we do not speak of Him? Paul also knew the truth of Romans 10:17 and was putting his faith into action. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

May you speak boldly of your Savior, Jesus Christ, as you gather around your table this Thanksgiving. Be it virtual or in person our words of witness need to be heard so others will know our Christ. Let your words be given with gentleness as you seek to witness for Him.

Linda

The 5 W’s of Pentecost…Let them speak to you today!

Who was there?  Scripture tells us in Acts chapters 1 and 2 that the disciples and many other Jews from every nation were gathered together.

untitled (2)What?  The arrival of the promised power from heaven that would empower them to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

When?  Pentecost was 50 days after the Passover.  It was called the Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament. It was 10 days after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven.

Where?  Jesus told them to go and wait for the helper that would come.  They returned to Jerusalem after Jesus’ Ascension just as He commanded.

41c6fe8801d24ef215fba3f9fc1c28b5Acts 2:2-4 describes to us vividly the arrival of the Holy Spirit.  “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”    Peter stood and preached to the gathered crowd and told them that this outpouring from heaven was from God.  He quoted the Old Testament prophet Joel in Acts 2:17 “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”   The arrival of the Holy Spirit was dramatic- tongues of fire- and noisy- as a strong wind and filled with many languages.  It was a surprise arrival yet it had been expected.  Jesus told them to go and wait, so they knew something or someone was coming.  In John 15:15-17, 25-26,  Jesus had promised them the Holy Spirit would come.  “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth.   And all this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Counselor, 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.”   Also in Luke 24:48-49 Jesus told them of the coming power and place,  “You are witnesses of these things.  I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 

Why was this necessary?  When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, His Holy Spirit came to dwell within me.  This Spirit that arrived on tongues of fire and with a great sound lives within me.  He empowers me to live a godly life and to speak to others about Jesus and His salvation.  1 John 4:4 puts it this way, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is great than the one who is in the world.”      Romans 8:16 “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. ”     2 Corinthians 1:21-22  “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”    

How do you answer your own 5 W’s about the Holy Spirit?  Who is the Holy Spirit to you?  What are you allowing God to do with this Holy Spirit that lives within you?  Where are you walking in obedience and listening to His Word?  When are you  stepping out in faith to tell others about Jesus?    Why is the Holy Spirit necessary in your life?  Jesus wanted the disciples, and us too, to use the power the Father sent to do the work of telling others and living for Him.  Will you begin today by allowing God’s Holy Spirit living within you to lead you to live for Him in a mighty way that will bring Him honor and glory?

Praising Him this Pentecost Sunday,

Linda

A Transformed Heart is filled with commitment

Commitment seems to be something that scares people in our day and age.  They seem afraid to step out and say they will be there at a certain time, place or with you in a project.  Are there so many choices in our lives that people cannot decide?  Have they had experiences where they felt trapped by agreements they’ve made?  Whatever the root of their fears, to love and serve Jesus we have to go beyond them, step above or over them and persevere.   1 Peter 3:15 appears in a portion of scripture where Peter is encouraging believers to persevere in their faith and not to fear doing good.  He tells believers to hold fast to their faith in Christ regardless of where they find themselves.  “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”    In addition to honoring Christ as Lord, we need to be able and willing to tell others about what Christ has done for us.  The hope we have in living, the hope we have in eternity, the hope we have in being forgiven and cleansed, and the hope we have in His always being with us.  We need to be prepared to tell others about Jesus.  Being committed to Jesus with your heart demands that we are ready to speak about Him.  This is not to be an argumentative discourse but words that speak of the Hope we have in Jesus with gentleness and respect that come from a heart of love and commitment to Jesus.

Reasons for Our Hope_0I love this verse in 1 Peter because it holds me accountable and tells me where my commitment needs to be.  God wants us committed to Him, loving and acting in our world with words of Hope for unbelievers and words of encouragement in that Hope for fellow believers.   Who will you tell today about the HOPE you have in Jesus?

May the Lord bring people to cross your path today that are in need of those words of hope and encouragement.

Linda

Resolve to speak of your Hope

In this next portion of Psalm 119, verses 41-48, the psalmist is struggling with resolve.  He is troubled by those that question his faith and he wants to have an answer for them.  He wants to be faithful to God’s Word.  Look at the number of I will’s he states.  He really wants to use God’s Word and live it!

Waw

41 May your unfailing love come to me, Lord,
    your salvation, according to your promise;
42 then I can answer anyone who taunts me,
    for I trust in your word.
43 Never take your word of truth from my mouth,
    for I have put my hope in your laws.
44 I will always obey your law,
    for ever and ever.
45 I will walk about in freedom,
    for I have sought out your precepts.
46 I will speak of your statutes before kings
    and will not be put to shame,
47 for I delight in your commands
    because I love them.
48 I reach out for your commands, which I love,
    that I may meditate on your decrees.

psalm 119 42In verses 41 and 42 the psalmist is asking God for his help so he can reply to those who would taunt him for or about his faith.  He asked God to give him an answer from His Word to reply to his tormentors.   Peter also tells us in 1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”  We are to always be prepared to talk about Jesus and the hope we have in HimDoes that describe your attitude towards telling others about Jesus, and what He has done for you?  We are not to brag or boast over our privileged position as a child of God but to convey our love for others, our concern about their future and our belief that life with Jesus frees us from sin and all the baggage this world heaps upon us.  Jesus 1 peter 3 15has and is the answer to the world’s problem of sin as He alone is the redeemer.

Just like the psalmist, you can ask God to give you the words to say in reply to naysayers.  We need to stand firm and boldly speak of Jesus.  He will give you the words, just as He has promised.  Keep studying and learning about God and He will reveal more and more about Himself.  Remember 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  God’s Word equips us for every good work and gives us replies to those who would question our faith.

It is a blessing and a comfort to be prepared.

Linda