Influence without leverage
Acts 21:9 “He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.”
The Evangelist had daughters who prophesied.
A few months ago a couple came up to me after a church service and asked me to pray for their child. But they wanted a specific prayer. “He’s going to be a Pastor.” They wanted me to pray for him to be an anointed Pastor. But first they had to catch him as being only 4 years old he was running around the church as fast as he could. How someone’s future could be decided at such an age is quite worrying. I suppose they take the examples from the prophets of Old called before they were born even.
Throughout their childhood my children have played at ‘church services’. Whatever happened at church they copied at home. From worship bands to me preaching (this was called shouting by them) baptisms on the bed and during a season of Holy Spirit activity they would enjoy pushing each other over.
Today the fact that both of them are serving God in different churches doesn’t reveal their struggle to be who they are and more importantly who God wanted them to be and not because their father is a leader.
I have learnt that parents need to step back and allow children to be different and yet st the same time have some positive influence.
You see Philip had influence over his daughters. Paul believed that being single meant for a greater opportunity to be devoted to Christ. Philips daughters were committed to Christ and His Church. They prophesied just as Joel predicted that our sons and daughters would do. They were not afraid to speak the word of God.
But they weren’t Evangelists.
Influence without leverage is our greatest legacy to the next generation.
Who are you?
Acts 21:8 “Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven.”
I spend my life with titles, some are earned, some are given and some are self-appointed.
Recently I noticed a friend who had been called Pastor X and then Bishop X is actually now called Archbishop X. I wonder what he will be called next? Would it be Cardinal X? Is that what is next, I am not sure what the progression is? You see those of us from Pentecostal/Charismatic streams have to nip inside other denominations and church structures now and again to take a title. I fear we are running out of titles. I mean what is there after Pope?
In my ministry I have been called Parson, Reverend, Pastor and over recent years Teacher, Doctor, Bishop, Servant (I like that one), The Very (something I can’t remember), Missions mogul (okay I just made that up!). But my favourite name is Paul (it means small). In my office when the staff get a little cheeky I usually say, “Do you not know who I am?!” This is always followed by everyone laughing. Why? We have a working culture where we do not take ourselves too seriously or look at ourselves through rose-tinted lenses.
This is the only time that Luke describes someone as an ‘evangelist’ in Acts. This is not because there was no one evangelising. Not do I believe it was because Philip had created the title and given it himself out of pride and self-importance. I believe it was because Philip had been seeing phenomenal results, especially in Samaria. The title was given not because this is what he did, but the results of what he did.
I kind of like that. I think perhaps results should matter more than we give our attention to.
Certainly this is so if we are going to lay claim to a title that suggests this is who we are.
Can a fishermen be called a fishermen if there is no catch of fish? I suppose, but for how long?
What about a farmer who never grows anything?
A Pastor who is never with people to care for them?
A leader who has no one following them?
A missionary who has never moved and told anyone from a different culture the gospel?
Faithfulness is important and it is God who always gives the increase but not if the person is in the wrong job or has taken a title simply because it had a fancy name or for prestige.
I have met many across the world who are trapped behind a title that at the time seemed great but it soon lost its gloss. They are not who they or others say they are. They have to feign results, make them up, or justify a lack of them.
I am not against titles, I wouldn’t be as I have one, but I think we should always live in correlation. If this is who we are then not only should we be doing this but it should be obvious to everyone that the title justifies itself.
With love, from the International Missions Director.
Only for 1 day
Acts 21: 7 “We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day.”
Everywhere Paul went he would find disciples of Christ to encourage them. This wasn’t in a random way or taking him out of the way, but this was on route to his destination, his trial in Jerusalem. So we are not surprised to see in this verse when they landed at Ptolemais that he did just that. But only for a day.
Stay with me for a moment as we read the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem:
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem Luke 9:51
As they were walking along the road … Luke 9:57
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. Luke 10:1
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way … Luke 10:38
Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Luke 13:22
Large crowds were travelling with Jesus … Luke 14:25
Now on his way to Jerusalem … Luke 17:11
Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem …” Luke 18:31
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through … Luke 19:1
After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem… Luke 19:28
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives … Luke 19:37
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it … Luke 19:41
It is quite a journey! In between each of the above verses are accounts of Jesus meeting people, being confronted and confronting, teaching and miracles, but one thing is clear, I am not stopping here for long.
Just a day. One day. Why? Because I have to stand trial in Jerusalem, Paul would say.
What is our cause? Where is our destiny? What are our eyes focused on?
If we know where we are going then the interruptions of life no matter how wonderful and godly they may be will not become places where we settle and establish a home. This is not our home, it is there … that is my home … I cannot stay here too long … Don’t hold on to me I have to move … don’t distract me from my destiny.
It is true eternally, our eyes are on our heavenly home, the prize, the finishing line, Jesus. This is not our place, we are passing through and nothing will stop us from our destiny, we are sojourners in this world, we are going there, so I can just stay a day.
Acts 21:6 “After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.”
Some have to leave and some have to return home. But both do what God has called them to do and that is to live for Him and be a witness in this world.
On the beach after prayer, Paul and his team board the ship and the church believers go back home.
‘Get up, take your mat and go home.’
‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’
‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over the town how much Jesus had done for him.
Not everyone can live the life of a missionary, crossing borders, learning new languages and speaking of Jesus to those who haven’t heard of him.
However, our homes need Jesus, our towns and cities need Jesus. If we don’t have a strategy for the gospel in those places then no one will hear.
Go home today and show love.
Go home and be a disciple of Jesus.
Go home and tell others.
Let your home be saved!
Acts 21: 5 “When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray.”
When it is time to leave, leave.
The Message says, “When our time was up, they escorted us out of the city to the docks. Everyone came along—men, women, children. They made a farewell party of the occasion! We all kneeled together on the beach and prayed.”
Yesterday afternoon I listened to a message about seasons asking the question, do you know what time you are in, Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn?
Yesterday afternoon I heard a preacher and leader of many churches in India share how his father had died and that on his death bed, his father said, “God has done in my life all He has wanted to do.” His father knew this was his last breath and these were his last words and that is why he said them.
Yesterday afternoon I was told by a friend who has a school in a persecuted nation that their donor has suddenly without warning stopped their funding and has walked away from them. I wish I could give you the reason but if you can manage the smallest reason possible then it is smaller than that! The salaries of these teachers, the education and gospel witness is immediately under threat. They have had to borrow money to pay this month’s bill. But their anxiety over the future was also mixed with the fact that their close friend of many years had stopped their relationship.
We need to know when the season is over.
We need to know when the time is up for an activity or yes even our life.
We need to know when the chapter of a friendship is closing or has closed.
We then need to continue along our way.
Paul and his team knew it had come to an end, they had done what they should have done and painful though it was, they left.
We need to know the exits as well as the entrances.
The Lord would say this and that …
Acts 21:4 “We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.”
The Lord would say …?
I was in my first year at Bible College and had my student placement every Sunday in an old Welsh Chapel that seated 600 people. I went there every week with a team of 3 other students. We boosted the congregation and if it wasn’t raining we would get 10 people for the Sunday morning celebration!
And most Sundays the Spirit would speak through the gift of tongues and interpretation …!
The 6 members wouldn’t sit together, they were scattered throughout the ground floor trusting God that He would send in not just people to fill the lower level but also the gallery too. Revival was coming! However, they didn’t sit together pre-revival. One lady rose and spoke in tongues, we waited and another rose to give the interpretation. But often the lady who gave the message in tongues didn’t believe that the interpretation was correct, so would indeed correct the interpretation with something like … “What the Lord meant to say is …” I do remember one particular Sunday morning when the lady with the first interpretation decided to counter the correction with a “Actually NO the Lord was correct the first time …” This pantomime was part of my development as a bible college student! If I had the courage that I have today I would have carried out my threat of countering both messenger and interpreter by standing and saying “Actually you are both wrong says the Lord of Hosts, I have been silent the whole time.”
I am sure you have many stories of the Lord apparently saying something which seemed very odd to you. Well here in this verse it is one of those times. Paul had previously told the Ephesian elders that the Spirit was compelling him to go to Jerusalem and yet today we read that the Spirit urged Paul not to go. Argh! Has the Spirit changed His mind? NO!
Let me simply suggest that the Spirit is telling many prophets in various places that Paul was going to suffer in Jerusalem and out of their concern for him they added their own slant and understanding that this must mean ‘don’t go!’. However Paul is convinced he should and he is fully prepared to suffer and to lay his life down. He has already died to Christ.
Sobering this may be today for us however sometimes in our simplistic understanding we may be tempted to think, “Oh God wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me.” It is true our eternity is protected but not so our life on earth if you think protection is free from disappointment, sickness, harm and even death then you are mistaken. Jesus said we will have trouble in this world so we must be ready for that. We must surrender our lives daily. We must realise that to live is Christ, to die is gain.
The Spirit had spoken to Paul with a compulsion to go to Jerusalem and many confirmed what he already knew that he would suffer there. But that didn’t mean he shouldn’t go.
As a missionary in this world of which we are all one in some form or another we have to go into the whole world and at times we will be called to go to dangerous places. We will be called to lose our lives. “All to Jesus I surrender” is an old hymn I sang throughout my childhood and teenage years. I couldn’t sing it without being moved deeply to do just that. I have been saved many times on that hymn! Even today as a young 51 yr old (!) I am moved to tears when I hear those words.
It can go wrong, well at least it can feel like that, it can be very tough on this earth, but the promise of the presence of God is with those who are willing to go. Don’t let any man’s interpretation of the call of God on your life change that or divert your path. Pick up your cross and go forward.
SHIPS – Reason, Purpose and Timing.
Acts 21:3 “After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo.”
Paul was a ship full of cargo and at Tyre it unloaded what it had been carrying.
Ships have a commitment to carry a certain load. It is weighed at the port so that the ship knows how many tonnes it is carrying. The amounts today are incredible, over 100,000 tonnes can be carried. How they manage to float is a mystery! They are designed to carry the weight. That is the reason for them being built in the first place.
Ships have a commitment to carry their load to a certain place. A contract was exchanged so that the owners of the cargo know that their cargo is going across the seas to the place agreed to. It is not good enough to just drop off the cargo at any point!
Ships have a commitment to get their load to a place for a certain time. It is given focus and that is why it is out on the seas. It is a race against the time. It is not just floating aimlessly and any time will do approach. In 2013 a Russian cargo ship carrying 5,000 tonnes became lost, with no crew, it had been towed for some time but had broken free from the ropes. Although the UK’s Daily Mail ran the headline: “Could this Russian ghost ship infested with CANNIBAL RATS beach in Britain?” Interesting! It eventually sank in 2015.
So here’s the application:
Galatians 6: 2 Paul says ‘Carry each other’s burdens’, I wonder if he had ships in mind when he said this?
Today maybe you have to carry a load for someone:
1. Make sure you have a reason for doing so.
Is it justifiable? Is it right? Do you want to carry this? What is the other person carrying who owns the burden?
“This is my reason for doing this. I am not being ruled by man.” Make it clear. Reason is everything.
2. Make sure you know where you are carrying this burden to?
So, what are the signs of success? What is the future holding? If you know where you are going and that is of most importance to you then you will agree to carry only what is going the same direction.
“This is where I have agreed to go. I am not changing course.” Make it clear. Purpose is everything.
3. Make sure you know how long you will be carrying this for?
You can only carry for a certain time. Don’t be a ship drifting aimlessly blown off course carrying a burden.
“This is the time I have to carry this load. I will not drift with this load.” Make it clear. Time is everything.
You carry to unload. That is what it is all about. That is what ships do.
The journey – get it right.
Acts 21:2 “We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail.”
They had eventually arrived at Patara, this was an important shipping port. It was here that Paul found the ship that would take them on the 400 mile non-stop ocean crossing to Phoenicia.
This may seem really obvious to you but in order to move forward in the purposes of God:
1. You need to get the launch right. You need to be in the right place on the right vehicle going in the right direction. Any confusion at these foundational levels will complicate the whole direction. In the era of ‘messy church’ good that it is we must not have sloppy church. We need to get it right at the beginning, whatever that is, the basics, the welcome, the worship service making sense, good preaching, understandable witnessing, living out 24hr discipleship in every aspect of life.
2. You need to get the timing right. That ship was not going to wait for Paul. Knowing the times that we live in is so important. Now is the time for salvation. The harvest is ripe the workers are few, now is the time for mission. Every leader who prays for wisdom prays that they will know when to do something as much as what to do. Sometimes the plans of God are miscarried because the leader/the Church were not walking in step with the Spirit.
3. You need to get the route right. I looked on the map of this journey and it is amazing to see just how much of the journey was reduced because Paul went by ship. A huge corner was taken off, you will see it if you look, with Cyprus on the left. Often we hear about not cutting corners etc. But sometimes I say, why not? Life is too short to go the long way round. I have always cut a corner if I could. Yes I may have missed some important things going the long way round and maybe I should do more of those kinds of journeys. But for me let’s get there as fast as we can and get on with the show.
Acts 21:1 “When we had torn ourselves away from them and set sail, we ran a straight course and came to Cos, and on the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara”
New chapter except the heart is in the previous one. You see both groups were in anguish over the separation. It wasn’t only the Ephesian elders who were hurt over the separation. It was ‘we’; Paul, Luke and the team. It is sometimes so painful to keep moving ahead, to let go, to say goodbye.
In my earlier years of being a pastor I would spend long hours with members who wanted to attend a different church and not mine. I would do all I could to keep hold of them. I wanted to see a church being built and losing people was not the right way to go about it. They would always tell me not to take it personally, that this had nothing to do with me, I think they thought they were bringing me some comfort. It was like going to the butchers and saying “I won’t be shopping here anymore but don’t take it personally, it’s not you, it’s your meat.” The leader and the church are connected in every way. I lived, breathed, ate, slept God’s church, this was not a job 9-5, this was my life and it still is, I couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t take it personally.
But what I really hadn’t grasped at that stage was the truth that some people will only be with you for part of your journey.
There are those that you have to walk away from. There are times when you have to say this:
“I cannot stand around here waiting for you. I cannot stand around mourning my losses, reliving my past and what we could have had. I’ve got to return home. I’m becoming all that I can become and I can’t do that by regretting the past and wishing I had what I once had.”
There are those who will have to walk away from you. Jesus experienced the same thing.
At these times you have to say this:
“This is who I am, and this is where I am. I’m becoming all that I can become and if you walk away from me then that’s fine. If you don’t like me anymore, if I no longer fit into your personal agenda of what you want. If I am not being the person you want me to be and you don’t want my friendship then I release you to go. I realise you were only there for part of my journey.”
It is the same approach even when people want to follow you but for a very good reason they cannot come.
So I have learnt to:
1. Be thankful for the moments that God has brought people into my life.
2. Realising it might only be for a season do all that I can to love them.
3. Keep healthy memories of them and discard the rubbish. Talk well of them.
4. Bless them and don’t bully them to follow, release them to fulfil their own plan.
5. Don’t grow a thick skin in the new chapter; be flexible, open and transparent.
Luke says they had torn themselves away. Today you may carry a tear in your heart, a longing for those people in the past that you loved and walked with. Smile and keep moving forward, there is more to come!
A word to leadership teams
Acts 20: 38 “What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.”
There are times when leadership teams will feel grief over the decision of their leader. That is exactly how Paul’s team felt. His decision to leave them and to also tell them he wouldn’t be back was hurtful.
For some leaders they would back off and say if you are going that way then I cannot come. They would perhaps resign and begin following someone else, but not this team. They walked down to the ship with Paul. They went with him as far as was possible.
Sometimes we need to follow leaders all the way. We might not understand everything, we might even disagree, but we have to accompany them, trusting God that His leader has heard from Him.
It takes courage to keep following when you do not understand or do not want to.
Keep following and keep serving.