Page 302 was a Sunday and it has been a day filled with God’s goodness and presence. I began the day addressing some online questions about the Growing Strong retreats, and then headed to church for our Sunday School and worship gatherings. Our Sunday School class is doing a study through 2 Timothy, but most of today was spent looking at scripture that provides background, context, and commentary on what Paul was writing to Timothy. When Paul writes and tells Timothy to “be strong”, he is not suggesting that he sign up for a self-defense class, gym membership, or body-building club. No, he is challenging Timothy to be strong in faith as he does the work God has called him to. This kind of strength involves things like submission, surrender, and suffering for the cause of the gospel. Part of the point of the background texts we read this morning was to make it clear that this type of instruction wasn’t just for Timothy — it is what is expected of every believer.
After Sunday School class, we joined the rest of the church family for a time of worship around God’s Word and His Table. CJ brought a message from Acts 16 as he continued a series that will take us through the book of Acts. In a message titled, “Rainy Road Trip”, we were reminded that Jesus is the best umbrella to seek protection under when our “road trip” of life finds us in the midst of rains and storms. Here are some of my takeaways from the message:
- God is bigger than conflict. The context leading into Acts 16 is a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas that ends with them parting ways. Instead of the conflict destroying the work of Paul and Barnabas, in many ways it multiplied it. While God is not the author of confusion or conflict, He is bigger than any of the confusion and conflict we find ourselves in the midst of whether from our own doing or from that of the enemy. God continued to work in the lives of Paul and Barnabas both during and after the disagreement. While there are strong hints in scripture that this conflict was resolved at a later time, in the short term picture God made the best of it by sending Barnabas and John Mark in one direction sharing the gospel while Paul and Silas headed in another — thus a God bigger than conflict took what looked like division and turned it into multiplication.
- People are what your mission is all about. When Paul would enter a city, he would look for places where people would gather — often starting at places where he anticipated people were seeking to figure out how to know God. He would often go into the local synagogues and share with the people about Jesus. Other times he would local places of prayer where he could not only join with them, but teach them about the good news of Jesus. But even though places were important, people were always more important. It was a vision of a man calling for Paul to come to Macedonia that led Paul and Silas to Philippi where they not only found a place of prayer, but they spoke the good news of Jesus to those who had gathered and as a result baptized Lydia and her household.
- Praise and worship overcomes annoyance and frustration. As Paul and Silas went about Philippi, they encountered a demon-possessed slave woman who was making money for her owners by fortune telling. To me it is interesting that this woman would follow Paul and Silas for days, shouting out that these men were servants of the most high God and they were giving instruction on how to be saved. While it is usually nice to have a local endorsement that will vouch for the accuracy of your words, the nature and source of this endorsement eventually got under Paul’s skin and he commanded in the name of Jesus that the demon come out of the woman. While the Bible says that Paul was annoyed with her when he did this, the real annoyance and frustration came from this woman’s owners who quickly realized their cash flow from fortune telling had dried up with the demon gone. Their annoyance and frustration turned into a near riot as they had Paul and Silas beaten and thrown in prison. It is in prison where we see the power praise and worship has over annoyance and frustration. The Bible says that Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns while chained in prison and the other prisoners were listening to them. As their praise and worship continued, God caused the doors of the prison to be opened and everyone’s chains to become loose. When the jailer discovered this, he knew it could only mean one thing — everyone in the prison had escaped and he would be best served by taking his own life before the Roman authorities did. As he was about to do that, Paul calls out to let him know that he and all of his fellow prisoners were still there. Rather than giving in to annoyance and frustration, Paul and Silas’s praise and worship resulted in this jailer being baptized into Christ along with his whole household.
After the church gathering, I spent much of the afternoon relaxing and doing some work on the retreat preparations. Eventually, we decided to head to Potato Creek to take some late afternoon photos as the sun was setting. It was a beautiful evening along the lake and a fast paced walk along the trail helped keep us warm. While I took a lot of photos of the beautiful fall foliage as the colors reflected off the calm areas of the lake, today’s photo is one I took of the moon just before we left the park. I am still fascinated by the detail I can pick up with the camera I have. I still marvel at the light that shines down from the moon even though it has no light of its own. It make me think of the detail that God sees in me that no one else can see. It reminds me of the light that God wants others to see in me even though I have no light of my own — He wants them to see the light of Jesus.
As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:
- God’s Word is not only living and active, it has a cohesiveness that allows us to gain a greater understanding of God by seeing His consistency throughout scripture.
- God’s idea of wanting us to be strong is very different from the world’s typical idea of what strength is.
- God is not a God of conflict or confusion but He is bigger than any conflict or confusion we may create.
- Our failures do not limit God’s successes.
- When we allow God to work, He can take our actions that may look like division and turn them into multiplication.
- People may very well be scary, annoying, frustrating, difficult to understand, and a variety of other things that may make us want to avoid them; but in spite of all that, they are our mission.
- Even when people are friendly, pleasant, welcoming, satisfied, understanding, and a variety of other things that may make us think they don’t need anything, they are still our mission.
- When things are good from our perspective, we need to praise and worship God.
- When things are confusing from our perspective, we need to praise and worship God.
- When things are frustrating from our perspective, we need to praise and worship God.
- When we are awake and when we sleep, we need to praise and worship God.
- Praise and worship of God will overcome annoyance and frustration.
- God makes a dark rock to shine light upon the earth by reflecting the light of the sun.
- God wants to take this dark rock of a human and make it shine light into the lives of people by reflecting the light of His Son.