Page 288 was a Sunday and I continued my recent pattern of writing the previous day’s page first thing in the morning. It had been a long week for all of us, and Susan was still saying she didn’t feel well or was having seizures, so she slept a little longer and we didn’t make it to Sunday School. We had a good worship gathering at Deer Run and David continued a sermon series that he is preaching from the book of Acts. This morning’s message was from Acts 14 and opened up a glimpse into the odyssey that was a part of Paul’s life, and ought to be a part of our journey as well. We looked at three scenes from the chapter and focused on three words from the first scene.
- Scene One: Iconium. When Paul and Barnabas arrived in Iconium, they did what they usually did — they went into the Jewish synagogue and shared the good news about Jesus. The result was that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. Great story, great success! What could go wrong, right? Well, that’s where the three words come in.
- Refused. While there were a great many who believed, the text says that there were Jews who refused to believe. Not that they didn’t believe, or weren’t convinced, but the they had a firm enough understanding of what was being taught and deliberately chose to not accept it. This always becomes the dangerous crowd, and it was in the lives of the early Christians. No believing isn’t the same as refusing to believe, and once a person has enough knowledge to refuse belief, they become increasingly aggressive in trying to stop others from believing. This group that refused had no tolerance for those who did believe. They did everything in their power to stir up dissension and trouble. Good thing that attitude of refusal was only a first century thing, right? Think again. So much of the opposition that you and I will face as we share about our faith is not from people who aren’t sure, but from those who have already heard the truth and refuse to accept it.
- So. “So” is one of those big little words in the Bible. God gives us information about what took place and/or what was happening and then He opens up the window to the response with the little word “so”. Luke writes about the great opposition and the stirring up of trouble by those who refused to believe, SO, Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there speaking boldly. That may not be the response you were expecting, nor the response that you and I may have given, but the word so means that Paul and Barnabas took into account the opposition and chose to continue to speak boldly. The “so” in our life means we understand as much as possible what we’re up against and we choose to continue on, doing what is right and what God called us to in the beginning.
- Continued. Eventually a plot was conceived by a group of Gentiles and Jews working together to put an end to Paul’s message by stoning him to death. Surely, that had to mean an end to this journey and a return home where they could be free from this violent persecution. After all, they tried . . . the people just don’t want to know, or follow, the truth. They did more than most, so now it is time to just mind their own business and lead a peaceful and quiet life back home. Not if you are doing life’s adventure God’s way! Even when forced to flee one city, Paul and Barnabas continued to preach the gospel wherever they went. People may reject them, may mistreat them, may even force them out of town, but they would not be able to put an end to the proclamation of the gospel by those whom Christ himself had compelled to go into all the world and tell the good news . . . oh, wait, that’s not just Paul and Barnabas, that is the instruction Jesus gave to all who would take up their cross daily and follow Him.
- Scene Two: Lystra & Derbe. In some ways, scene two was a repeat of scene one, just in a different location. As Paul and Barnabas preached the good news of Jesus, they encountered a lame man whom Paul “saw that he had the faith to be healed.” Between the proclamation of the gospel and the healing of the lame man, the people were convinced the gods Zeus and Hermes and come to visit them. Talk about a fickle crowd, after Paul and Barnabas insisted they were only human and shared with them about the real God, the trouble-makers from Iconium arrived and stirred up the crowds to the point they stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city gates believing that he was dead. And I don’t think this was any “playing possum” routine to get them to quit throwing stones. After the disciples had gathered around Paul and life returned to his body, he did the unthinkable — he went back into the city where he stayed the night before leaving the next day! Oh, how easy it is to run away when things get difficult. God calls each of us to a life that knows there is a truth far more valuable than any difficulty people may throw our way.
- Scene Three: The Return Journey. After reading about scenes one and two, scene three can be a bit difficult to understand. After rough treatment in Iconium and Lystra, which eventually brought Paul and Barnabas to Derbe, the decision is made to go back home to Antioch and to do so with stops in Lystra and Iconium! The return journey was necessary to finish the work that God had begun on their first trip through. The seeds of the gospel had been planted as they proclaimed the good news of Jesus and now it was time to pray and fast as elders were appointed in each church. God wants us to allow Him to finish the work He began in us, and sometimes that means going back to a place where we weren’t treated well so that we can see the good results that He continued to produce.
After the worship gathering, it was time for lunch with my family and then some afternoon resting. I managed a short nap before we decided to head to the lake to capture some wave photos. The forecast was for high winds, so we bundled up and drove through periods of rain before arriving to the shorelines of Lake Michigan. The waves and beauty of the sky did not disappoint and I ended up with over 600 photos taken throughout the afternoon and evening! Today’s photo is one I caught as a wave was about to crash over the end lighthouse. As I watched surfers and kite surfers playing in the waves throughout the afternoon, I thought about a God who could calm even the most turbulent scene with just a word. That’s a God I want, and I have, in control of my life!
As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:
- Routines are good, especially if they are adaptable to actual circumstances.
- God gives us His Word to show us real examples of how people lived out their faith so that we would see how He would have us live ours.
- Some people don’t believe, but the group with even less hope is those who refuse to believe.
- There will always be facts and circumstances beyond our control. So, what will we do to move forward. The “so” is usually our choice.
- When we know God’s presence in our life and His calling to us to share the good news of Jesus, we ought to continue to do that no matter what.
- While I enjoy looking at, and photographing, storms and waves that I can safely view from a distance, I am also glad I know the One who can calm those storms.