Walking in Joyful Obedience {Acts 16}

11:00 PM

By Mari Sandoval

Today we continue to see the Missionary work of Paul and some of the disciples: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they continually increased in number day after day.” These people were faithful to their calling, (Acts 1:8) and nothing was going to stop them! The Holy Spirit continually encouraged and empowered them as they continued to spread the Word of Salvation!
As we read today’s chapter we find Paul trying to take the Gospel to certain locations, but we find our God in His sovereignty forbidding them to go there (16:6-10).  I mean, hasn’t God chosen to use His people to help lost learn the way of salvation? Why wouldn’t He allow them to go? But, they waited… their EARS were always eager to HEAR His voice for directions!

Then Paul had a vision, he saw this man from Macedonia appealing to him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (16:9). When we walk in obedience to Christ’s Commission, whether it is to talk with a lost neighbor or to a stranger we happen to meet here in town, or to cross cultural or national borders, we experience great joy as God is pleased to save some from their sins and bring them to His Saving Grace.  There is joy in when we walk in obedience to God’s sovereign call to proclaim the gospel, even if we don’t understand the circumstances at the moment! He ALWAYS has a Perfect Plan and Purpose!

When Paul got to Philippi (a city in eastern Macedonia), all he had to start with was a small group of women who had gathered to pray : “ and on the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate to the bank of the [Gangites] river, where we thought there would be a [c]place of prayer, and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had come there.14 A woman named [d]Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a dealer in [e]purple fabrics who was [already] a worshiper of God, listened to us; …” (Acts 6:13-15)
How can you start a church with just a few women? Where were the men? But Paul faithfully spoke to them, God opened the heart of Lydia and of the rest of her family, and that is probably how the first church in Europe began!

Satan could not tolerate this happening here, so all of a sudden the disciples found opposition. In this case, it was a demon-possessed slave-girl who brought her owners much income through her ability to tell fortunes. This demon recognized Paul and his companions and cried out, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation” (16:17). This went on for many days, but finally Paul grew annoyed and cast the demon out of the girl. Now the girl’s owners had lost their source of income and they were furious, so they dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities, had them beaten and thrown into jail, where their feet were fastened into the stocks.

 "These stocks had more than two holes for legs, which could thus be forced apart in a such a way as to cause the utmost discomfort and cramping pain." (Bruce) But even in their pain, God was not far from Paul and Silas! "The legs feel nothing in the stocks when the heart is in heaven." (Tertullian) “But about midnight when Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;26 suddenly there was a great earthquake, so [powerful] that the very foundations of the prison were shaken and at once all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.”(16:25-26)

Some people have the false idea that if we obey God we will be exempt from trials. But such an idea is never taught in the Bible. In these few chapters in the book of Acts we’ve seen how God’s obedient messengers suffered as they proclaimed the gospel. But Paul had joy in the midst of these circumstances. His joy came from a total surrender of loving-obedience and faith to our God! After all these painful circumstances our Father showed HE was still in charge! God used the earthquake and the testimony of these faithful disciples, to bring the jailer and his family to His Saving Grace!

When the jailer and all in his household believed, they all “rejoiced greatly” (16:34-36). This is the same joy our Father wants each and every one of us to experience with our families! So let us be of testimony as we witness to their lives in love and obedience to our God and He will one day “open their hearts to pay attention and to respond to the Gospel”. Amen to that!! 

After the jailer ministered to Paul and Silas, they returned to the prison, and were set free by the magistrates the next day. “40 So they left the prison and went to Lydia’s house; and when they had seen the brothers and sisters, they encouraged and comforted them, and left”.

 “Whenever people are genuinely saved, there is demonstrable evidence in their changed lives. Lydia and her household members who believed were baptized and then showed hospitality to Paul and his companions (16:14, 15). If the slave girl was converted, you can be sure that she abandoned her occult practices and joined with the other Christians in following the Lord. The jailer was delivered from suicide, washed the wounds of Paul and Silas, was baptized, and joyfully showed them hospitality (16:31-34). The gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16).” (Bible Org. Steven J. Cole)   Imagine all these people gathering in the days to come as a Church, sharing their testimonies with joy and praise!

But, what about you? Do you still remember the first day of your conversion to Christ and the joy you experimented? Are you still sharing that testimony to others so that they too, will know the joy that comes from being reconciled to God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?  Some of us might have gone astray in our Walk with Jesus, instead of walking in obedience… but you know something? Our God is a God of Grace, and if you have lost your way and are willing to return to His paths… He is always willing to start over again! Isn’t that awesome?

Before I close: Remember, there is joy that comes from walking in obedience to His Great Commission!



Growing Pains {Acts 15}

1:37 AM

By Becky Bramlett Austin

The church is growing and the numbers of Gentiles being added are growing too.  There are some communities that Paul and Barnabas visit where new believers include Jews and Gentiles communing together.  A group of Jewish believers known as "Judaizers" began to teach that the Gentiles must first observe Jewish Law to be eligible for salvation, with particular emphasis on circumcision. In essence, they were declaring that a mixture of grace and law (or works) was necessary for God's acceptance.  Paul and Barnabas disagree, teaching salvation is by grace alone.  What an important matter for that time and for our time as well because this is no casual differing of opinion about religious beliefs but a disagreement about what determines the salvation of our souls. 

The matter is deemed so important that the church sends Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem for discussion with the apostles and elders. When they reach Jerusalem debate continues among the elders because some of them were Pharisees who held similar beliefs to the Judaizers. But Peter, who had been shown by God that the Gentiles were to receive salvation through faith in Christ gave a powerful account for giving the Gentiles equality based on God's saving grace alone.

“Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”” (7-11)

Peter bears witness to the simplicity and the all inclusive acceptance in God's plan of salvation based on faith in Christ and amazingly the people embrace and respect this view. 
“And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles." (12) And then James provides further reassurance by quoting Scripture of old that foreshadowed God's acceptance of the Gentiles.  And then he proposed only asking the Gentiles to abstain from “what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality." He was not trying to place conditions for salvation on them but trying to improve relations in these mixed communities of Jewish and Gentile believers.  All 4 of these things were part of the Gentile culture of pagan idolatry.  These practices were very offensive to Jews.  By abstaining from these things, it would help the Gentiles make a clean break from pagan practices and improve relations with their fellow Jewish believers.

And then a decision was made to send 2 men back to Antioch with a letter. “So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words." (30-32)

What a beautiful display of the Holy Spirit working within a divided church body to bring about unity, encouragement and most importantly, glory to God. Satan longs to use the growing pains of a church to foster disagreement, to place ungodly restrictions, and to confuse and discourage its believers. But clearly, God can help those who sincerely seek answers and truth to come together in purpose and mindset. 


The Secret to an Amazing Ministry- Revealed!! {Acts 14}

1:16 AM

By Sue Desmarais

I ended last week's post on leaving a legacy by sharing my desire to one day hear the Lord say, Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matt25:21) and since, I’ve been reading each chapter with interests, trying to discover the qualities needed to have an effectual ministry in this day and age. After all, I know times have changed, but our Lord hasn’t, and neither has His call to all of us found in Matthew 28:18-20!

Paul was hands-down the greatest missionary in all of the New Testament church and I was determined to see if I could learn his secret, and O goodness girls, I’ve found it!! It’s hidden within the chapter, but before the big reveal, I want to share a bit of how I found it!!

You see, I’m not always good at being, “intentional about my good intentions”. What I mean by that is, I may tell you I have this tremendous desire to hear the Lord say, “Well done…”, but when obstacles and opposition arise, I’ll be the first to rethink my goals, but not Paul! After he and Barnabas were run out of Antioch of Pisidia,they simply, “shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium.” - 13:51

Now I know, one could argue that they had seen and experienced great success in that city and that, “the Lord’s message spread throughout that region!” which only spurred them on. BUT, once more here in chapter 14, Paul and Barnabas see that with success comes great opposition and once more, “they fled to the region of Lycaonia—to the towns of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area.”- Acts 14:6

There seems to be a pattern forming: Arrive -> Preach -> Witness Conversions -> Oppositions arises -> Move on to the next town…

That is until 14:19-20,

“Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. But as the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.”

Did you catch it? I reached this point in the chapter and had to stop reading, and admit to myself and to the Lord that I think, had this been me at this point, The Lord and I would have had to have a talk, for I’m not certain I could have taken much more of the fierce persecution Paul and Barnabas were experiencing! And this was when the Lord showed me something I’ve never noticed before! - Paul Got Up!
Paul was
  • Stoned
  • Dragged out of town
  • Believed to be dead
  • BUT he got up!
  • AND walked back into the same town!
  • AND then started on a 60 mile journey the next morning!!

How can a person stoned and believed dead, get up and go on a sixty mile journey the next day!?

That’s when Paul’s own words came flooding into my mind…

“I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13
Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”
1 Thessalonians 5:24
For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good pleasure.” Phil 2:13

I can see now Paul knew exactly what he was talking about. No man can get up and keep going after being stoned and left for dead without God’s help, but Jesus has promised us that, “with God ALL things are possible”. Matthew 19:26 (emphasis mine)

I also understand now why Paul often referred to himself as the Lord’s “doulos” or bond-servant. A “doulos” is often defined as a slave, but it’s much more than that, in that the person volunteers to serve wholeheartedly, claiming to have no rights of their own. I looked up the definition once more in the Stong’s Greek dictionary and here’s some of what I found: A Doulos is
  • one who worships God and submits to him
  • the true worshippers of Christ are those whose agency God employs in executing his purposes
  • So devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests,
  • strenuously laboring for another's salvation,

I can clearly see Paul fitting this description, what I wonder most is, do I? Do you?