Trouble Again?

Click here to read Acts 16:16-40.

“Paul and Silas in prison.” This is the heading for this passage in my Bible. With a heading like that, someone is bound to ask, “Wait, wasn’t Paul thrown in jail a couple chapters ago?” The answer would be yes!

In the book of Acts, there is a pattern: Paul goes to a town, Paul proclaims Jesus Christ, people get upset, Paul goes to jail/is stoned/thrown out of town. How would you like this kind of life with a pattern like this? The Christian life is supposed to be easy, right? After all, Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.” But we miss the point if we think our life is going to be easy.

When we accept Jesus Christ and follow Him, we immediately are different from the world’s viewpoint. This means we get to be the people who bring the light of Jesus Christ with us, wherever we go, to shine light in peoples’ dark lives and to show sin the Holy Spirit is convicting people of.

Paul is on his way for prayer. He is on his way to spend time with Christ and allowing him to fill Paul’s spirit, mind, and heart for the task ahead. But he was interrupted. A fortune teller was there trying to tell everyone who Paul is, causing a disturbance. This happened day after day, after day. This had to be stopped. Paul commanded the spirit in her, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave her!” Her “owners” did not like what happened. They lost their income.

Instead of being able to continue on with their mission, Paul and Silas were grabbed and taken before the city officials. Paul and Silas were being blamed for the disturbance within the city. We all have been through some kind of situation like this in our lives. The truth is it is so much easier to blame lack of business, or even turmoil, on another person rather than looking at the true source. (Look at Romans 2:1-11)

Even though it may seem as though you are cut off from the world, because of a situation, the joy of Christ can be so firmly and deeply rooted in your life that it can never be taken.

May the joy of Christ continue to shine in and through your life and become so contagious that the people around you are drawn to the Spirit of Christ dwelling in you.

Philippians 4:4-7

Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

Between Two Friends

Click here to read Acts 15:36-41.

Just when everything seemed to be going well, or at least moving in the right direction, another conflict arises. This time it does not come the outside world; but inside the Christian faith. The argument is between Paul and Barnabas about whether or not John Mark should continue to go with them.

This may not seem like that big of a deal, on the surface. Paul was really hurt when John Mark left (deserted) them in Pamphylia. Why did he leave? Acts 13:13 says, “Paul and his companions sailed from Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia. John deserted them there and returned to Jerusalem.” We know where he went; but why did he leave? It doesn’t say. Maybe he got scared after “Bar-Jesus’ eyes were darkened and he began to grope about for someone to lead him around by the hand.” (Acts 13:11) John Mark would have been there when “Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Saul, also known as Paul, glared at Bar-Jesus and said, “You are a deceiver and trickster! You devil! You attack anything that is right! Will you never stop twisting the straight ways of the Lord into crooked paths? Listen! The Lord’s power is set against you. You will be blind for a while, unable even to see the daylight.” (Acts 13:9-11a) Constantly seeing acts like this and being there when Paul and Barnaba were thrown in prison and treated harshly, would make be nervous as well.

Maybe John Mark left because he needed a break. The point is Paul felt hurt by the desertion on their colleague. They wanted and needed him to be there with them; and he left. He went back home to a safe, familiar place. Paul did not want him to rejoin their group, Barnabas wanted to give John Mark another chance. Paul and Barnabas split ways.

This is how it seems to happen, even for us today. We can look at this passage and say that Paul was being too harsh and should have shown more grace. But Paul was too hurt and had a hard time believing John Mark would continue to stay with them even in the difficult times to come. But did he really have to get angry over the situation?

We should remember that anger is a secondary emotion. This means anger is manifested because we are hurt, tired, emotional, or a whole host of possibilities. When someone is angry, the best thing to do is let them calm down. Nothing productive comes to pass when both parties are angry and not listening. Staying in a state of anger can, and does, ruin relationships. So, listen to what is being said, ask questions (without making it worse), and be patient.

Maybe going different directions is what is needed at times. Maybe it is easier to part company than it is to work things out and get to the heart of the matter. But maybe we can allow our pride to get in the way and miss out on even greater things if we continue to pursue tasks out of anger.

Keep in mind, we are all human beings. We all live in this fallen state of humanity. It is when we experience the Holy Spirit living and moving in our lives that we will produce the fruit of the Spirit in us. It will not always be easy; but the time it takes to develop love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control will eventually prove to be worth it.

Yes, we will continue to respond in anger; but I hope and pray that we can all learn to get past ourselves and really listen to the other side. Maybe, just maybe, we can all learn how to better live with each other, developing more and deeper relationships instead of having more division.

NOTE: Paul does let John Mark rejoin him later on. J

Encouraged & Strengthened

Click here to read Acts 14:21-28.

Paul and Barnabas are on a mission. They have travelled many miles. They have endured hardships and harassment like not many other Christians at the time. What is amazing is how the joy of Christ has kept them moving and doing what they were called to do!

Think back for a minute about when you had to keep doing your job or any task you just had no energy to do. How easy is it to keep going when you do not feel supported, you do not feel like anything is getting done? Or How easy is it to quit altogether? We all have been in situations like this.

I am in a season of my life where my wife and I have 2 children (7 & 9) and one on the way. Day after day it seems like we are having to clean things up, fix something that broke, etc. If you have children, you will definitely understand. But, no matter how drained we are, no matter how it seems like we are just doing the same thing day after day, there is a joy and strength that comes within us to help us keep moving.

Raising children is not the same as what Paul was enduring; but I think this can give us some kind of an idea of how it is when things do not seem to be progressing at times. Around the world, people are harassed for their faith in Christ and persecuted beyond anything we can imagine. How to persecuted Christians keep going? Because of Jesus Christ.

Instead of giving up, Paul does something incredible. He encourages the people to keep doing the work they were called to do within their community. Not once did Paul try to pretend the Christian life is easy, or comfortable. He bluntly told them about the harsh conditions and the reality of hostility toward Jesus Christ around the world. But Paul knew, as a great leader would, the people needed to be encouraged.

Paul’s encouragement did not come just from him and Barnabas. The encouragement came through times of prayer and laying on of hands. In order to truly encourage and strengthen people, remember to call upon Heaven to bring supernatural strength and power so those around us (including us) can “do all things by Christ who gives us strength.” It is through the power, grace, and presence of God through Jesus Christ that we can do the work He is calling us to. It is not that we can do anything we want; but rather, we are strengthened to do His work His way.

So, be encouraged that the presence of Christ is with you. Be strengthened from heaven to continue in your calling. Be filled with peace that, even though the rest of the world says you have to act and be one way, you will become who Christ created you to be.

How can I pray for you to be encouraged and strengthened by Jesus Christ?

Strength to Stand

Click here to read Acts 14:8-20.

The passage today has many things going on. First of all, we see Paul and Barnabas come upon a man who was crippled in his legs and couldn’t walk. Paul heals the man who is able to walk. The people in the crowd see the miracle and call Paul and Barnabas gods. Paul then is stoned by the people. All in a day’s work, right?

For Paul this basically was normal, it seems. Every time he went to a new place, the people would either love him, making him as high as a god, or despising him, forcing him to leave, either on his own or by stoning/lashing him. Sounds like a cool job, doesn’t it?

But pay attention to what is happening here in this passage. Paul and Barnabas come upon a man who couldn’t walk. Now we, in our cities and day to day life, see people all the time who seemingly cannot take care of themselves. Most of the time, people just walk on past. After all, “God helps those who help themselves,” right? Nope. God uses people to help those who cannot help themselves. Paul goes beyond any prejudice for a begging man, and (with the power of the Holy Spirit) heals him. The man is now able to walk and life his life all because someone stopped and gave him what he needed: physical healing which could have lead to his spiritual healing.

The crowd seeing all of this happen, think that Paul and Barnabas have special powers and begin to elevate them into the position of their gods. Paul began to teach the people where the real power comes from and how the man was able to be healed and who the real God is.

After hearing about the one true God, people in the crowd became angry. Makes sense. You don’t like people flat out telling you you’re wrong. Pride becomes and issue here. People in the crowd did not want anyone to “mess with” their beliefs, so they stoned Paul.

Think about how this passage can relate to you today, this week. The man who was crippled needed someone to help him. We all need help at times, and are grateful when someone pays attention and helps. But this is not just about us needing help.

Paul was the person God used to heal the man. You and I get to be people God used to bring his healing power, grace, and presence wherever we are. By the grace of God, we get to be the answer to another person’s prayers, if we’re paying attention to the voice and prompting of the Holy Spirit within us.

There will be things you and I do that people will love and want to tell us how good we are at what we do. Look how Paul did not allow the crowd’s praise to inflate his ego. He turned it back on the crowd, with humility, and told them about the real God of the universe. But, the people were threatened by an outsider coming in to tell them their whole lives were wrong.

Stand strong when someone helps. Accept the help. God may have brought them to you because of your prayers.

Stand strong with the mission that God has given you. Be an encourager, lift people up, bring the message of God’s love and presence wherever you are.

Stand strong in who God says you are. The praise of people will only make us conceited; but when our faith is in God through Jesus Christ, we can keep the right perspective of who and whose we are.

Even when it hurts or you’re being criticized for following Christ, stand strong that he is using you in mighty ways and trust he will continue to lead and guide you each and everyday.

Stand strong.

Confidence in the Calling

Click here to read Acts 14:1-7.

It’s the same things that have happened to Paul and Barnabas before. People are undermining the truths they are speaking and are doing everything they can to discredit and remove the “threat” other leaders consider Paul to be. Have you experienced this kind of situation in your life?

Being a leader is difficult. It is a calling. It is a lifestyle. It is who God created the leader to be. Leadership is difficult and not for the faint hearted. Please don’t let this discourage you. Being a leader is also very rewarding. People in leadership, who exercise their gifts effectively, motivate and encourage others to reach toward a higher standard of living. When a leader answers the call of God in their lives, guiding people to see the work of the Living God all around is an incredible experience.

The thing I see, in this passage today, is how Paul and Barnabas kept growing in their confidence of being God’s servants because they paid more attention to the results than to the hardships that were going on around them and to them. Did you notice that people kept responding to the grace of God? Even in the midst of hardship, the midst of tragedy, chaos, God’s shining light came through and people’s lives are changed because of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Look around you, what do you see? Do you see more of the good or the bad around you? When you wake up each morning, what do you look forward to each day? I would encourage you to find ways to start each day with praising God for all the ways He is working in the world.

Now, this does not mean all we need to do is change our attitudes. This means we do change our minds, we change our hearts. Change happens with the work of the Holy Spirit is your life. It is not something we can do on our own. This change, this renewing of our hearts and minds happens when we are open to the Spirit working in us and allowing our eyes to see the incredible things that are really going on around us.

As you pay attention to the work of Jesus Christ, you have many chances to remember Who called you, and Who continues to work in and through you. I pray you grow in your confidence in Christ. Remember it is through Christ we get the power, direction, grace, and confidence to do the work He calls people to do.

Stay confident with Christ’s work in you and around you. As you stay confident in Christ’s work, I hope you can remain confident in the work Christ called you to do.

Taking a Stand

Click here to read Acts 13:13-52.

What is something you feel people need to hear? When we have something to say, do we always speak up? Or do we shy away? Sometimes we take the chances and sometimes we don’t.

Paul and Barnabas were travelling and entered into the synagogue. The leader was reading from the Law and the Prophets. Notice this is a time of hearing scripture, learning, and worshipping as a community. Gathering together was and still is important in our faith development.

After the reading of the scripture, the leader asked the crowd (congregation) if anyone would like to speak and give a sermon. I know of many people who would stand up to speak at every opportunity, mainly to speak to their own agenda. We hear propagandas all the time. A person or group just want to speak to “make sure” everyone hears what they want to say. Notice the key word there, “want.”

If there is something from the Holy Spirit, in my experience, we see how the community is build up, how God’s Kingdom is expressed and experienced, and how much it weighs on our hearts and spirits until we speak or act. I think Paul had something like this kind of desire everywhere he went. His only agenda was to speak and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. All he needed was an opportunity to speak.

When the opportunity arose at the synagogue, he took it and captured the congregation’s attention with his knowledge of the scriptures and his passion. There is a difference when people tell what’s in the scriptures versus passionately speaking about what’s in the scriptures. One has an agenda to hold people down. The other has an agenda to lift up Christ and to build the community.

Paul’s intention is to build the community. He walked through the, what we call, Old Testament and showed how everything pointed to and lead to Jesus Christ. This is a great recap of the Old Testament story through the Gospels. (Another place to find a recap of the Old Testament is in Acts 7.)

Paul spoke with such passion and authority that people believed the message and wanted to learn more. There were also people who were upset and angry about the message that they just wanted Paul and Barnabas to leave. People will respond to grace when we proclaim and take opportunities to speak about Christ, the Holy Spirit will use the message to fill the hearts of those who are truly hearing.

Remember that when we have an opportunity to speak about grace, take it. You never know how the Holy Spirit will be experienced in the hearts of the people listening. Let’s continually work to build people up and bring the Kingdom of God with us wherever we are.

Set Apart

Click here to read Acts 13:1-12.

Everything is going great! You have just been called and set apart for a special task, an important mission. You are excited! People have been praying over you and are sending you out to do the work they know you can do. God is with you.

As you go on your way, you are thinking of all the things you want to do or say. You take time each day to praise God and to connect with Him. You enter the town or place you were sent to with excitement. But then…someone begins to oppose you and the mission you’re on. It’s like they are trying to wage a war with God Himself by attempting to dismantle your mission.

Let’s just face it. We have all had times like this in our life. We can be so on fire for the mission we are faced with that when someone begins to challenge or oppose us, it stings and can be discouraging especially if you’re there to share the good news of Jesus Christ. “Who would not want to hear this message?” you might think. But people can be stuck in their old ways of thinking and their way of life.

Look at what’s happening in this passage today in Acts 13. Paul and Barnabas are traveling, after being commissioned by the church to go out, and they run into opposition from a sorcerer named Bar-Jesus. He was trying to lead the governor of the city away from Paul and Barnabas. Why? Maybe he felt like he would not have control over the governor anymore. Or his place of power would go away if Jesus’ name and message was spread. So, maybe he was acting out of fear.

This happens all the time. When people are used to being in a certain position of power and control, it is easy to lash out and to try to stop the gospel of Jesus Christ shining bright. But, we have been tasked to go with God to shine light in the dark places. We get to be people who show and share grace.  Living this life may not always be easy but we can be encouraged that when we follow God’s call and God’s steps, His plans and purposes will prevail.

This week, I invite you to look around. Where do you sense God is working around you? Look at the news, can you see God working and inviting people to join Him to redeem the brokenness that is around us?  Anywhere there appears to be backlash to the gospel, trust that God is on the move and is doing incredible work.

Remember the words of Jesus we read in John 16, “I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33 CEB)