This Past Sunday's Conversation

posted by Jeffrey on Tuesday, November 29, 2005 at 8:14 AM

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Don't you just love it when people get stoned to death, then come back to life, then invite people who almost buried them to join their crew? I know I do. This week our conversation centered on Acts 16, where this scenario played out for real. On Paul and Barnabas' 1st missionary journey, Paul was stoned (apparently to death), and drug outside the city where many disciples of Jesus gathered around him. Among those who gathered around him, highly speculatively, was a young man named Timothy. Here in chapter 16, five years have lapsed and Paul with Silas (not Barnabas) are again in Lystra. It is now that Paul invites Timothy to join his crew. Hmm...How intimate of a relationship with Jesus Timothy must have had to join with Paul even after witnessing first hand the price of such a life.

As I prepared for this discussion and as we entered into it, the Spirit spoke to my spirit something I did not want to hear. Those who belonged to the early church accepted not only open, but also closed doors, as avenues of God's guidance (as seen in this story). Crap! I hate when God takes away a perfectly good reason to be irritated with Him (j/k...kind of)! Aside: I have been searching for a new job closer to the Hermitage/Mt. Juliet area, which is where my wife and I live, and all I have run into is closed doors. Seemingly perfect jobs that I would fit well in--but nothing but closed doors. Thank you Jesus for sharply correcting me. Even further aside: I feel that, like Paul, God deals with me harshly and sharply because I am so freakin' stubborn.

Enter Lydia. A shrewd dealer in purple cloths and a worshipper of God who Paul, Silas, and Timothy happen upon along with some other women who had gathered by the river (can't help but think about Chris Farley's "Matt Foley" character on SNL) for prayer. Two things jumped out to us here. The first is that the missionary party appear to not have "pounced on their prey" like many Christians do today when flying the flag of "evangelism". No, they sat down to talk with the women gathered there--who knows when the topic of Jesus came up. I would suspect that it came up when Paul and his companions had sensed that "the Lord opened her [Lydia] heart." Oh that we would have such a spirit of discernment to know when the Harvest is ripe. I wonder how many stalks of wheat we ("Christians") cut to the ground prematurely when they need but only one more day to believe.

The rest of this particular chapter is an intricate story of how far God will go for the one single man to come into His Kingdom and family. This will be the quick version b/c it's a VERY long story. A slave girl possessed by a demon begins to follow Paul and his crew around shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." This irritates Paul so much that, finally, he wheels around and casts the demon out of the girl in Jesus' name. Why? She was telling the truth! But does it not undermine the very work they are about that a demon testifies to it??? What's worse is that the Greek text shows us that the people believed it to be the spirit of the god Apollo, who was worshiped in that region. So because the girl's owners could no longer turn a profit from her divination, they had Paul and Silas beaten, flogged, tortured, and jailed. The hour grows late. Their bodies are bloody, bruised, and broken. Yet there they sit, in the chamber of their torture--singing and praying. Suddenly an earthquake strikes and all the jail doors fling wide open!!! The guard awakes to believe that the prisoners have escaped, draws his sword, and just before he falls on it Paul screams out, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!" Why didn't Paul and the prisoners escape as Peter did in a similar scenario? Because this earthquake wasn't meant to free His servants from prison--it was all that the guard might come to know the love of the Jesus that these men served. Consequently, the guard's entire household came to serve the Lord.

I wonder, how many times do I look for an escape, when God wishes that I remain in my proverbial prisons for the sake of one who know Him not.


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