Be Who You Are – 3-3-22

And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city. So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.” Acts 16:38-40 NKJV

And they were afraid when they heard who Paul was! Then they asked him to leave quietly and quickly – but Paul refused to change his plans (he was leaving there anyway but he took his time).
Listen, When Paul was a youngster he had to have been mocked – Most Jews with Roman citizenship worked for the Romans and most worked against their own people (like a tax collector). Paul, trying to fit in at Torah school must have felt like an outcast. But throughout his adult life, God used Paul’s citizenship and the protection of Rome as a strength. This is who God made Paul to be. He stood fast in that.
God made you and me with things we may not like and things we may like – God did it and does NOT make mistakes. I have high functioning autism and a high IQ. The combo was my grief as a child – it is my strength as an adult. It hindered my learning as a child, because I cannot learn like others – as an adult I am able to learn more and learn faster and explain it to other, because I am made this way. When I am weak – He is strong!
So, my friends – BE WHO GOD CREATED YOU TO BE IN HIM! That is the secret to your success and fulfilling His plan for your life! And as in Paul’s case – it will also make many of your enemies afraid as there is power in standing firm in who God created. This is why the enemy tries to distort self-image.  

RELATIONSHIP:

Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen

BIBLE READING:

Dear Heavenly Father – Please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of who you are, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Open the eyes of our understanding, please, so we may know the hope of our calling and the vast sovereignty and power of the grace of the cross. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word and our sound mind. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Today’s reading is the Book of Acts chapter 16 (embedded below for your convenience in the NKJV). 

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas

16 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.

The Macedonian Call

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in [a]Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the [b]Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Lydia Baptized at Philippi

11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is the [c]foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.

Paul and Silas Imprisoned

16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days.

But Paul, greatly [d]annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour. 19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.

20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” 22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

The Philippian Jailer Saved

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

Paul Refuses to Depart Secretly

35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the [e]officers, saying, “Let those men go.”

36 So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace.”

37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.”

38 And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. 39 Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.

Footnotes

  1. Acts 16:6 The Roman province of Asia
  2. Acts 16:7 NU adds of Jesus
  3. Acts 16:12 Lit. first
  4. Acts 16:18 distressed
  5. Acts 16:35 lictors, lit. rod bearers

MEMORY VERSE CHALLENGE:

Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

STUDY/DEVOTIONAL

It is never a dull day with Paul.
Today’s study begins with Paul and Silas starting their journey by backtracking Paul’s first missionary journey. It makes sense to follow up with and visit the churches he started. We will come back to the reason for this trip. And in these first cities, he meets Timothy.
Paul and Mark (aka John Mark) were children when Jesus was alive. But they are now grown into men – Paul is approximately 45. Timothy is young when he enters our knowledge. Speculation says he could have been as young as 12 because he was still considered young about 10 years (give or take) later when he was handed a church to lead. The most common belief is that he was 16 making him about 25 or so when he started leading the church (early 30s when Paul wrote his letters to him). Either way we have a teenager joining a dangerous mission.

Timothy was already well spoken and thought of as a good Christian. He was already doing it right. It seems when he joined Paul, it was understood that Timothy was there to learn how to be a Christian leader and preacher. So, basically, Timothy was going to Bible College. And what is the first thing the Lord requires of him? His foreskin! Gasp!
When God call you to something more (than living the Christian life, serving in your local church and witnessing within your community) He must know, and you must know, that you are willing to give Him your ALL, including foreskin, including provisions, including safety and wellbeing, including your actual life or death life.
AND the foreskin was also so that the Jews would validate his Jewish heritage.

Verse 4 finally gives us the purpose of this mission trip: they were bringing the decrees from the Jerusalem Council, as well as following up and visiting. They strengthened these believers in their faith and continued to share the gospel so that more believed. This helps us understand what happens, starting in verse 6 (about where to go next).
Apparently they were going to make the same loops as the first journey to bring the decree and follow up with their churches. And a few things changed and when they arrived at Pisidian Antioch they found themselves without direction.
Timothy must have been like – um, what did I join? You all don’t know what your doing?
But the road between Pisidian Antioch and Perga was one of the most difficult and dangerous areas – cliffs and thieves – it was probably too dangerous the first time, but Paul and Barnabas made followers and there were many traveling with them for protection – also Barnabas was thought to be a big strong man (as we recall he was called Zeus in Iconium). This time, it was just Paul, Silas, and Timothy.
I do not know why the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let them go to Colosse, Philadelphia, Laodicea, etc. But I do know that whole region was seep deep in idolatry – and we remember what happened when Paul (who was called Hermes there) and Barnabas (who was called Zeus there) tried to bring Jesus to another city which was overtaken by idolatry – Paul was stoned and left for dead! So that may have been the reason. God was still working on those people, getting their hearts ready to be changed. Besides, Luke’s heart was ready and they needed to get to Luke.
So in Pisidian Antioch, they couldn’t go east – that is where they came from; they couldn’t go south – that was too dangerous; and they couldn’t continue west – the Holy Spirit said NO. So they took the last route available to them – North.
Sometimes God shuts one door after another door until you have only one choice. They walked through the mountains, along what is now the north side of Turkey, and came to Troas. Which what a port city.
Again, they were without direction.

Something interesting happens between verse 9 and verse 10. AND it isn’t the vision Paul had with direction. (By the way, another way God leads can be through dreams and vision.) This something interesting is revealed in one word in verse 10 which we have NOT seen in the Book of Acts in any verses until 10. The word is “we”.
Luke is the author and up to this point he has been using other people’s accounts of what happened to tell the story – mostly Paul’s account. But in Troas, Luke joins the group and from here on, it is a firsthand account of the event.

Let’s talk about more speculation that is often taught as fact, about Luke joining and Paul’s vision. Let me reinforce that it is speculative that the man Paul saw in his dream was Luke – therefore when he met Luke, he let him join their growing group. I do not see anything here that supports or disproves that idea. But in the interest of keeping the teaching and the word of God pure – I like to point out differing perspectives and thoughts because you have probably been taught them, just to remind you what is supported in our Holy Text and what is not. Kind of like our discussion yesterday of how we all “know” there are two covenants – even though we read three of them. I want to strain the mud from the waters – no drinking muddy water! The word of God is meant to be pure life – not mud. Over the year the enemy has added dirt into it and we MUST be committed to the purity of the water. Pure water is anointed to change lives and do the work of God and will complete what it was sent to do and will bring life.

In the vision Paul saw a man. So they went to Macedonia.
There they find a woman! A wealthy woman, who was converted and became a strong supporter of the church and Paul’s ministry. (Like Jesus had strong wealthy women supporting Him, God provided the same way for Paul.)
As a woman of God, I seek godly men and ministries to support. I am not wealthy as she was. I sell affordable luxury handcrafted leatherwork jewelry and accessories (only within the USA). I have had multiple professionals review my business and it should be making money but it isn’t. My accountant said I need to stop giving so much to the church and to ministries. NO. God will bless it, I am sowing seeds that I will harvest 100 fold when God grows them into fruit!
She argues as I send off my last 200 and change to another ministry.
But, look at Lydia. Look at the proverbs 31 woman. Look at Ruth. Look at Ester. Look at Deborah. Look at all the women named in the Bible – ALL of them gave something HUGE of themselves and received back 100 fold.
Now men, reading this – the principles of sowing and reaping apply to you as well. I separated the women for a moment, because women often forget that they have a roll in Kingdom work, they have something to give that God will turn into something vital, and that they too can have abundance enough to support ministries. I do not know why women often forget this. Please build up and support the Christian women and their small businesses – because that is the funding for Kingdom work!

Paul was a short, bald, and not good looking man – according to historian. He walked with a limp and struggled with his eyesight. He authorized and committed murder. He was a Pharisee, a Jew and a Roman. He had everything going against him in the eyes of the world! But because he was a Pharisee, he could circumcise Timothy.  Because he was Roman and Jewish, he could go places others couldn’t and reach people others couldn’t. Because he was a Pharisee, he knew the scripture better than most and was able to use the word of God to change people’s lives. God took his weaknesses and said to Paul – this is who I made you to be, and these are your strengths – stand in them.

SO when Paul and Silas were thrown in Jail for casting the demon out of the slave girl – Paul knew who he was in Christ and stood in God’s power in him.  Now – we need to be careful and clear about how spiritual authority works. Many get easily confused because of the wording.
We have been given authority, so we have authority – this understanding alone and not within bigger picture has led many into pride in their authority, which comes before a fall, and can ripple out more damage that we can calculate. Lord please forgive us!
As we see in Paul – God has given him authority in his weaknesses so that God is glorified and Paul has no room for pride.
So when Paul and Silas were jailed – Paul says to Silas don’t worry. They just broke the law and I will use the fear of Rome against them. Standing firm as a Roman – something that worked against him as a child and teen when he was studying the Torah to become a Pharisee.
Some discuss how this jail time was an example of worshiping when it is bad, I mean being in prison, blooded cause you were illegally beat is bad BUT… BUT! But Paul held and ace up his sleeve. Things were bad but he had the wrath of the Roman Empire on his side – that was huge and powerful. NOT to mention, he had just cast out a demon – he had the power of God on his side. So, how difficult is it to praise knowing you are about to make all these accusers poop their pants in fear?!

Of course God pulls off the miracle of setting them free – therefore Paul uses it to preach to the jailer (and other prisoners).  And the jailer says: what must I do to be saved?
Ok, friends, we are going to keep this in context.  This is an example, this is what happened to the jailer, and his family who all lived with him in the same house and were there.
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Verse 31
Now, I believed and was saved as a child, I wandered off – But as an adult I believed and was saved while my child still lived with me. Does that mean, my child is saved by my profession of faith? I mean the verse says all the jailer needed to do was believe and his whole house was saved. Or does this mean someday my son will be saved (even if on his death bed) because of my faith? The answers are NO and NO. I am so sorry if you are one of those people holding onto this verse as your promise. It isn’t your promise, it is the jailer’s promise. But take heart, there is a promise for your situation in the Bible for you to stand on!
Putting this verse BACK into the text – the next verse reveal they talked to each family member and they all believed. The belief was evident by the immediate change in their behaviors – they washed the bloody wounds from their beatings. When someone is ‘saved’ or begins a relationship with God – they begin to transform and change into the likeness of Jesus! And here we see Christ-like compassion.
Side note – In our modern world we do not fully understand “saved” because the term has been mocked and abused by satan for thousands of years. The same way he has corrupted “ask Jesus into your heart” and “born again”.  We do understand that we lack love and many spend too much time seeking love in all the wrong places. So I point to true love – God. We do understand relationships. So I use modern language (but still Biblical language) to help people enter into salvation. Once open to a relationship with God – the seed has been planted deep and God will grow it, God will change them, and it is God’s work! It is not our work to change a heart. Our work is to present an unadulterated gospel message to them and pray for them.

Stand therefore in who you are in Christ.

***

Thank you for reading in 2022 – a Year of Wisdom and Salvation
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

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