February 18

Acts 13:13-15:21

We are in the Church Stream in the book of Acts. We are reading from the New Life Version this week and today is our final day in this version. Last week, the Holy Spirit said, “Let Barnabas and Saul be given to Me for the work I have called them to.” Let’s find out what the boys are up to. We reading Acts 13:13-15:21.

This section of Acts embodies Paul’s first of four missionary journeys.  This first missionary journey is the only one that Paul and Barnabas took together. Prayer and fasting allows the Holy Spirit to make it clear that Paul and Barnabas are to embark on a journey. And this first of Paul’s missionary journeys becomes anything but monotonous.

They soon arrive in Antioch, then go on to Seleucia, then they sailed to Cyprus.  There in the city of Paphos, the leader, Sergius Paulus wants Paul/Barnabas to preach and teach. However an associate of his; Barjesus who engages in witchcraft worked against Paul and Barnabas. Paul has a “showdown” with Barjesus (“son of Jesus”), then Barjesus is blinded for fighting against the gospel. Sergius Paulus; the leader is impressed by the power of God and comes to faith in Jesus. Notice that this man entrenched in witchcraft is going by a name that is false, he is NOT a son of Jesus! Remember that People who intend to deceive often operate this way.
It is also worth mentioning that this, their first encounter on their first missionary journey, is that of dealing with an enemy of the gospel. It is basically a sign that future ministers for Jesus must also be aware – that barriers and enemies of the gospel must be dealt with and neutralized so the Truth can go forth. It also happens so to demonstrate the power of God.
Paul/Barnabas soon sail NW to Asia Minor and come to pause in the city of Antioch in Pisidia (not Antioch in Syria). On the Sabbath, there in the synagogue, Paul is called upon to say a word. He gives a protracted explanation of the Jews history starting with the crossing of the Red Sea and the culmination on this road to salvation is that Jesus is the final matter in salvation. Many believed Paul and put their faith in Jesus, both Jews by heritage and new believers were soon filled with the Holy Spirit and were over joyed that God would accept them.
It wasn’t long before the Jewish leaders are jealous at the growing crowd that is listening to Paul, Soon the leaders of Judaism rousted all who would listen to turn against Paul and his teaching and ran them off.  Paul/Barnabas put up no fight but left for Iconium.
14~ At Iconium man believed as Paul preaches fervently. Soon there were so many new believers, both Jews and nonJews that it created a stark contrast in the town of whether people were going to follow Paul’s teaching or not. The leaders led a charge and people were throwing stones at Paul and Barnabas.  Soon they had moved on to Lystra where Paul healed a lame man. This causes such a stir that people are calling Paul/Barnabas gods and making sacrifices to them. Again the Jewish leaders of the local synagogue rally the people and get them to turn against Paul/Barnabas. Soon they gather to stone them and do so leaving them nearly dead. After Paul recovers he goes back into the city and then commences with [resumes] his discipling ministry. Paul retraces his steps through four cities of this region that could be called the geographical southern heart of Asia Minor. He encourages all the new believers wherever he was and told of the great things God had done to see new believers brought to Christ Jesus. Back in Antioch [Syria] he gave a wonderful report to all the churches and remained there awhile. This ended his first missionary journey.  We can receive strange comfort from these stories that when Paul is rejected by opposition and stoning, he is simply being told by God that it is time to move to the next phase now. Do not be troubled, be motivated.
15~ the part of this chapter deals with the skirmish that arose in Jerusalem when it became obvious that many non Jewish people found faith in God through Christ.  How was this going to restructure the culture of worship? Were these changes of God? Were they a deviation?
Lest we try to simplify and label what was happening against our own beliefs, let’s remember what has happened right in front of us.  Churches along the eastern seaboard of the US did not know what to make of German immigrants arriving 1650s-1700s. Shall we go to church together? invite them to worship with us? The unresolved issues spurred the Germans to go on west and set up their own communities in Pennsylania and beyond. 200 years later the Irish found themselves being “looked upon sideways” as they arrived in the land of the free. They quit trying to blend in in many ways and went north to Boston. The Scots and Celts (mostly all believers too) quit trying to intermingle and went mostly south and set up in Appalachia. I say that to remind us that we ought pause before we label the matter without really empathizing with the souls involved.  God had told the Jews for ca. 1400 years to have nothing to do with foreigners. Now just recently they are told to open up and share their faith, and the newly coronated faith in Jesus, throughout the world. Consequently most of the leadership in Judaism is having tremendous trouble with this transition. We often fight it too when God updates us or prompts us.
This finishes the seventh full week of the year. The COMMON THREAD throughout this week’s reading is that there are barriers to surpass before coming into the greater things God has for us. In Genesis the end of Abraham and the life of Isaac and the beginning of Jacob’s escapades are filled with difficulty. But Jacob does have his dream about what his life will end up meaning to the whole world; heaven will be opened In Judges, Gideon had a very bumpy and hesitant start but he is instrumental in running the Midianites out of the country. His children could have ended up; better but nonetheless, the Midianite problem is dealt with. Job is fed more blather from Bildad and he recounts many perplexing matters. His reminiscing is nostalgic in the final reading today, painful yes, but the memories are rich. Isaiah tells of the cities that are laid to ruin.  Why has God done this? so that, “one day/ in that day” all the people will gather and feast in Jerusalem. Yes, His people must be humbled first as well, but they will gather in Jerusalem one day.  Daniel is threatened with a gristly death in a den of captured lions because of his prayer life. Yet that same prayer-life sustains and protects him and causes the word of the One True God to go forth to whole earth.  Matthew tells of the capture and horrid death of Jesus’ dearest beloved and relative; John the Baptist.  But Jesus doesn’t go on a crusade of “Prophet’s rights”. No, He continues His mission and in the following days we see Jesus doing some of his most spectacular and blessed deeds ever.  He feeds multitudes – more than once, He walks across a stormy sea, He heals huge amounts of people, and casts out a demon from a helpless young girl. In Acts, Paul and Barnabas launch on the first mission. Before they shout “hooray, here we go” they are soon facing a demonic threat from Barjesus/Elymas who is dealing for the Dark Side. Paul quashes this problem and the converts pour in to the Kingdom. This is not their last obstacle, they will be pelted with stones but each of those incidents are followed by more good things for God’s Kingdom.
“Dear Heavenly Father, let us not be discouraged when obstacles drop into our pathway.  Let us overcome them and enter into the glorious things you have prepared for us to accomplish in Your Name.       Amen”


2 Replies to “February 18”

  1. What a fantastic thread connecting our streams this past week; that we must go through barriers during this journey of faith in order to reach the greater good that God has in store for us! We see this truth in various forms in each of the readings. Thank you for pointing that out, Serena. This allows me to draw encouragement from the scriptures as I encounter various barriers along my Christian walk- to persevere and keep my eyes on Jesus until I reach the greater good He is certainly bringing me to!

    1. Donna, I’m often amazed at the thread that God shows us each week. This journey has been a great workout for Drake and me thus far as we dig in to find these precious connections.

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