Missionary Journey

Acts 16:35-40

The apostle Paul and those who accompanied him, had finally prepared to take the Gospel to Europe; more specifically, to Philippi in Macedonia. History records that Philippi is the place of the decisive battle which ended the Roman republic in 42 B.C., and Paul desired to establish a church here also.

As the men of God began to explore the city, they noticed a place where prayer was being made near a river side. As they approached the place of prayer, they sat down and ministered to the women who were gathered there. One woman, in particular, who worshipped God, had her heart opened while hearing the words being spoken of the missionaries. Lydia, a seller of purple, attended to, or took great delight in the words spoken of the men, and was baptized, along with her entire household. She then constrained the men to stay in her house for a while, so that she could show them hospitality. God always provides a place of refuge and provision for those who seek to do His will, no matter how far they venture.

Paul’s journey into Philippi may have started out well, but would soon become rather troublesome. The apostle Paul and those who were joined with him, had made a routine of attending prayer during their stay in Europe, but as they went, there was a young girl possessed with a spirit of divination, who followed them daily saying, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew us the way of salvation.” Although what the woman said was true, the purpose of satan was to discredit the message of the apostles by making the people think they were in cahoots with demon spirits who were making this announcement through a demonic medium. In other words, this woman worked deviously to bring profits to her masters, and the people would think the same was being done with Paul.

After Paul perceived the purpose of the demon then cast it out, the men immediately took the apostles and brought them unto the rulers to be judged. In these lands, it was known that Romans were very zealous for their national worship, and weren’t keen on introducing new religions, so without being given a fair trial, the apostles were beaten, then thrown into the inner prison, or dungeon. Spreading the Gospel of Jesus was indeed the will of God for the apostles, but inevitable opposition was a byproduct of doing so.

While in jail, Paul and Silas began to pray and sing praises at midnight, and immediately, there was a great earthquake. When life comes at you hard, do you find yourself singing and praying, or crying and moaning? In any case, the earthquake shook the foundations of the prison so much, until all the doors were opened. This was the perfect opportunity for the men of God to escape, since they were unjustly thrown in prison. The keeper of the prison had awaken from his sleep, and assumed the men had escaped, so he decided to take his own life, knowing that he would eventually die at the hands of his leaders. Before the man could take his life, Paul cried out with a loud voice saying, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” (vs. 28). Can you imagine how the keeper of the prison must have felt after hearing those words? The man was so humbled by this experience, until he literally ran to where the apostles were and asked, “what must I do to be saved?”.

We never know how things will turn out, or who we will reach on our journey to spread the Gospel, but if we stay true to God’s Word, abstain from evil, and walk in humility, God will make ways for us, no matter how bad the opposition is that comes against us.

Contrasting Standards

Romans 12:9-19

  The Church:                                     The World:
Genuine love                               Hypocritical love
Abhors evil                                  Embraces evil
Clings to good                            Shuns good
Cares for others                        Despises others
Sound in business                     Lazy in business
Excited in righteousness          Excited in selfishness
Hopeful                                        Hopeless
Patient in hard times                 Frantic in hard times
Prayerful                                      Wishful
Gives generously                       Gives sparingly
Hospitable                                   Unfriendly
Bless enemies                            Curse enemies
Empathetic and sympathetic    Cold and heartless
Of the same mind                      Divisive
Humble                                        Arrogant
Godly wisdom                            Worldly wisdom
Recompense good for evil  Recompense evil for evil
Honest                                         Insincere
Peaceful                                     Unruly
Forgiving                                     Vengeful

In life, we honor our employees so they will perform better, our bosses so they’ll pay us consistently, and those with the power of influence, so they’ll work for us and not against us, but we must also honor people, because they have been created in the image of the same God we live to please. Living to please others isn’t always an easy thing to do, but loving for real involves effort and concentration. God not only takes note of how we treat our brothers and sisters, but more so how we treat those who have yet to surrender their hearts to Him.

Gifted!

1 Peter 4:7-11

For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, but all have also been given the opportunity to be forgiven, redeemed, and brought into right standing with the Father, through the Son. Without Jesus, our lives would remain jacked up forever, but because of His love and grace, we have been adopted into God’s royal family.

Being in the family of God comes with amazing perks that are impossible to obtain otherwise. God gave the church His Spirit, to guide them in all truth, along with a unique gift, that is to be used to edify and build up the church. Gifts come without repentance, and all who operate in them, must do so with earnest, zealous, and abundant love.

The grace of God is diverse, and has distributed all types of gifts, by which the children of God function. The apostle Paul mentioned these gifts among the Corinthians, “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit. To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” (1 Corinthians 12:8-11). Paul also mentioned, that despite our different gifts and operations, God works in them all. It’s not our place to use God’s gifts for vain glory, instead, all glory belongs to the Lord.

If you’re uncertain what your gift is, pray and ask God to reveal it to you, because everyone was created wonderfully, and has something special to contribute in the earth. So, use your gift to bring glory and honor to God, and do your best to work hand-in-hand with those expressing their gifts as well.

Do Your Part

Romans 16

In a world where sin is prevalent in all societies, and hopelessness invades the hearts of many, love should always be seen among the body of Christ. Perilous times are indeed apparent, and many have lost their faith in God, but the church must continue to shine, despite the tragic state of the world, and be examples of holiness for others to witness.

Those who walk after the Spirit of God, and strive daily to live according to holiness, have a duty to love God, keep His commandments, and spread the Gospel to others. Since the fall of man, this world has never been the same. In fact, the state of the world worsens daily. Men have given in to evil desires and wicked schemes of the enemy, sickness and disease have claimed the lives of many, and others are anxious and confused, trying to find peace in these troubled lands. Fortunately, God is good, and His mercy endures forever. His love can still bring light and hope to those who believe in Him.

Saints of the past have endured more than we today could ever imagine, yet they kept their profession to holiness solid and consistent. Many great men and women took pride in representing godliness while in the midst of suffering and persecution, and God rewarded them for their faith. Today, there remains a remnant of believers, who have not given in to sin, nor the pressures of these last and evil days. For this reason, it’s very important for those who fight the “good fight”, to edify and encourage each other through it all. It’s not easy bearing the burdens of life alone, so the body of Christ must tend to each other’s needs. Learn to be strength to your fellow man, and not make them weak. Build up those who may be burdened down, and help them get back on their feet. Support those who put their lives on the line, so that others around the world can hear the Gospel message.

Everyone has a role to play in God’s plan, so be sure to do your part with all your heart. The world is becoming more difficult to endure, but trust and believe that God will keep His people protected, and sustain them according to His will.

Mind Your Business

Acts 18:12-17

“Sweep around your own front door, before you try to sweep around mine…Take six months to mind your own business, and take six months to leave other folks alone.” Those are words from a popular, yet very truthful song written and composed by the legendary Williams Brothers. Oftentimes, people focus more on the goings on of others, without properly managing the business in their own lives. Ironically, this unfortunate circumstance is prevalent amongst those in the body of Christ. While the church is supposed to be the representation of godliness in the earth, their efforts are continually disturbed by satan and his evil forces, but there are also some who just live to mind the business of others.

God commanded unity in the church, but it’s a daily struggle to fight against the enemy, while trying to keep the love of God in our hearts. There are many who stand strong against the wiles of the devil, but there are also a great number of those who have confessed repentance of their sins, yet haven’t fully let go of their “old man” characteristics. This is why men who seem to be great in God in some aspects, often struggle with personal misjudgments. But, the power of God is still potent enough to empower all who fully commit themselves to His plan, to endure through all oppression and opposition.

Jesus often dealt with the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees; men who sought only to silence His message, without attempting to grasp a proper understanding of His words. These men would plot, plan, and conjure up all types of wicked schemes to try to bring Jesus to an end. The same happened to the apostle Paul in our text, and on multiple occasions. Men hated Paul for simply preaching the truth, and they went to great lengths to try and have him silenced, imprisoned, or put to death. Rather than seek godly wisdom and understanding of Paul’s words (as one would think they should do, seeing that these Jewish men knew about the Messiah, just not in the sense they assumed), these men preferred to kill him. In fact, the chief ruler of the synagogue had been converted to Christ, which ruffled the feathers of the cold-hearted Jews the more.

Throughout the Bible, men and women who stayed true to God, were never free from contention. Whether the attacks came from satan and his minions, or ignorant church folk, the faithful few stood strong against their opposition, while God fought on their behalf. Mind not those who seem to have more time on their hands to worry about your life, than their own. Rather than argue, fight, or bicker against them, remain consistent in your humility, and speaking the truth of God’s Word. This way, God can freely fight for you, and you may possibly convince some to give their hearts to the Lord.

To The Jew First…

Acts 18:4-11

Preaching the Word of God, in an effort to persuade men into believing and understanding that Jesus was Christ, didn’t always come easy for the apostle Paul. While his determined efforts to build the church impacted many in a positive way during his ministry, those who should have easily accepted Paul’s reasoning of the Scripture were unwilling to believe the simple truth of the Gospel. Our text mentions that Paul had become “pressed in the spirit”, similar to a time when Jesus proclaimed desolation upon the stiffnecked people in the book of Matthew. Sometimes, church folk are the hardest people to reach, so much so until the seemingly futile efforts to edify them can cause you to “shake your clothes”, or shake the dust from your feet, as Paul did. Paul was so done with the Jews of Corinth, that he literally said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” Paul tried his best to help those who were first to be given the Word, but when they rejected it, Paul took his talents to those who would gratefully appreciate his teachings. Don’t burn all your energy on people who know better, but prefer to fight against the truth. Over time, you’ll literally burn out, trying to help someone who refuses to be helped. Instead, focus your attention on those who are eager to learn about the Gospel. This way, you won’t waste precious time and energy trying to turn a rock into a sponge.

Spirit, Soul, Body

2 Corinthians 13:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

Knowing that this world will soon experience a prophesied, yet abrupt end, why can’t we live and enjoy life any way we desire? If our bodies and minds will be made new in the newly renovated Heaven and earth, shouldn’t men be allowed to “do as they wilt” without judgment, until Christ returns? While men have the liberty to live according to their own wills and desires, living contrary to the holy God of Heaven comes with undesirable consequences. What the world considers fun or entertaining, God sees as vanity. Men find pleasure in self fulfillment, and accomplishing goals that have no eternal value, while God desires that we focus more on the fact that this world will soon fade away. For this reason, it’s wise to invest our time in doing things to help ourselves, and others solidify a safe and profitable forever after.

The biggest problem facing not only the world, but the church as well are, distractions. There are so many things that turn our attention away from what’s important to God. Oftentimes, we find our eyes glued to our cell phones or televisions so long, until hours pass by that could have been spent studying the Word, edifying a brother or sister, or spending time with an elderly person. Our current society is heavily centered around pride and self fulfillment, while God sees life from a different perspective.

Although we will leave these earthly bodies for new ones, we are still responsible for using them to bring glory to the name of the Lord. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23-24). The reason many in the church are drawn away from the things of God, and use their gifts and abilities for vain purposes is, they are more concerned with pleasing the men, rather than the God who created all things. When we place a man’s expectation of us over God’s, we will no doubt find ourselves far from God’s purpose for our lives. Whether we’re subject to a boss, professor, or even a ministry, no one’s agenda takes precedence over the Lord’s.

God created mankind in His image, and after His likeness, and He expects for us to imitate the character His Son portrayed in the earth. Rather then hate, we are to love. When people come against us with false accusations and lies, we’re to show them kindness. Even in times when we’re being persecuted, we are to pray for our persecutors, and desire that they commit their hearts to God. All we do in this earth should be aligned with righteousness and soul-winning, so God deserves all of you. It’s obvious we have to work, eat, rest, and do the normal human things, but at the end of each and every day, investing in the kingdom of God is the only way to make your life meaningful and purposeful while you yet live.

Many have passed away from the sickness caused by the lingering pandemic, and others have died from tragic events, but while you still have the breath of life flowing through your body, consider your ways, and seek first the kingdom of God the rest of your days.

Wise Counsel

2 Timothy 4:9-18

Times have changed from the days of old, to now, when the young would glean wisdom and wise counsel from the elderly. It always amazes me, how a child can claim to know more than anyone who’s lived more than twice the years they’ve been alive. But, I digress, and allow all to get enough bumps and bruises necessary to force them to seek after wisdom. Wisdom is a coveted virtue, for anyone seeking a productive and blessed future. Unfortunately, the years of knowledge and counsel the younger generations need to be successful (in God’s eyes), are shunned away for the cares of the present world.

The apostle Paul proved to be one of the most influential of all godly men mentioned in Scripture. He was not only motivated by his humiliating and regretful past, but his drive to spread the goodness of the Gospel was fueled by the sincere love shown to him by Christ Himself. Paul’s 180 degree turn from darkness to light, was a miraculous event, but he would soon learn that the journey set before him would not be as smooth as he would hope. The apostle Paul was bold, and sure of that which he preached, and he never allowed any situation or circumstance to deter him from his mission. He was inspired by the Spirit of God in all he set his mind to do, even when establishing churches. God guided Paul’s hand, and gave him strength and wisdom on how to teach those who sought after righteousness.

Along his journey, Paul’s message wasn’t well received by everyone, especially those whom he assumed would offer their support. Demas, once a minister and fellow laborer with Paul, had surprisingly forsaken him. Paul mentioned that Demas “having loved this present world, departed unto Thessalonica.” (vs. 10). It’s easy to get over losing people who were never there for you, but being forsaken by someone who fought beside you, leaves a sting that is not easily relieved.

There were many others who stood against Paul during his ministry of preaching the Gospel, but God sustained him long enough to fulfill the will He set before him. Many of the valuable lessons Paul learned throughout his life, he made sure to pass them along to young Timothy. Paul knew, just as he faced ridicule and rejection from men of the “cloth”, Timothy should always be prepared for similar experiences.

Living a godly life will present the church with challenges and struggles, but it’s unfortunate when those struggles come by way of those who are supposed to be fighting alongside us. The Bible teaches that we are to pray for our enemies, but we should routinely set aside time to also pray earnestly and fervently for those who claim to be children of God.

“Despite how young or old you are, seek after wisdom, and allow the Spirit of God to give you understanding.” – Ell

Faithful Women

Luke 8:1-3; Mark 15:40; John 20:10-18

As a non-Jew recording the words and works of Jesus’ life, Luke demonstrates a special sensitivity to other “outsiders” with whom Jesus came into contact. For instance, Luke records five events involving women that are not mentioned in the other Gospels. In first-century Jewish culture, women were usually treated as second-class citizens and had few of the rights men had. But Jesus crossed those barriers, and Luke showed the special care Jesus had for women. Jesus treated all people the with equal respect (Life Application Study Bible). The women mentioned in our text, proved their loyalty to Jesus, after being healed of evil spirits and infirmities. Not only were the aforementioned women loyal to Jesus, but Mary Magdalene, Joanna the wife of Chuza (Herod’s steward), and Suzanna were few among many, who consistently supported the ministry of Jesus financially. Mary Magdalene was healed by the hand of Jesus, supported His ministry, was by His side all the way to the cross, and after His resurrection. Her loyalty was proven to be as solid as the love Jesus had shown to her and others, and she serves as a great example of how all who follow after Christ should live.

“Never judge what you don’t understand, because it could be an integral part of God’s divine plan.” – Ell

Rolling Stone

Matthew 28:1-10

The stone that secured the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid, was not rolled away by the disciples, whom the chief priests and Pharisees assumed would steal the body away, but by an unexpected visitor from Heaven. The angel of the Lord removed the stone, so that others could see that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, as He boldly prophesied. History records that stones made to secure tombs were an average of a few tons, and while it was task rolling it into place to cover the opening, it was even more difficult to remove it. Fortunately, God sent an angelic being with powers beyond normal men, who entered earth’s atmosphere, causing a great earthquake, then easily rolled the stone away and sat on top of it, until the women who followed Jesus arrived. God knew the disciples and women who followed Jesus still didn’t believe, nor understand the words He spoke concerning His resurrection, so He had a plan to make certain all their doubts would be removed.