Meanwhile

 

Meanwhile

Acts 18: 24 “Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.”

Meanwhile:

At the same time as you are doing what you are doing, whether you are in success or struggling when perhaps the centre stage is the whole stage and you see no one else or nothing changing remember this word: Meanwhile.

You see in another place, far away perhaps, someone can be travelling towards you. God can have trained someone to come to help you.

Meanwhile … Apollos.

You don’t see it all.

You are only part of God’s story not the other way round.

In His story He has many people and He moves them into place.

You may lose a friend, a loved one.

You may be struggling in that job, in that place.

But it may not be how it is for much longer.

There are things happening right now that you do not even see or could possibly imagine.

Things are shifting, circumstances are changing for other people, preparations are taking place, do not give up hope.

You are part of the community of God who believe in this:

Meanwhile!

Strengthening

Strengthening

Acts 18:23 “After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and travelled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.”

Paul decided not to sail but to go by land and visit the churches. The purpose was to make those disciples stronger.

I have a new friend, he is a Pastor but also a fitness trainer. I like him a lot. But 2 days ago I didn’t like him too much as he gave me a fitness session. I haven’t had a personal fitness session before. It hurt. It hurt the next day too. I felt my body ache in places I didn’t think it could ache. His name  is Reenu and he wants to try and renew my body!

The exercises he gives me are meant to strengthen my body. This finely toned body of muscle challenges me by saying that his body used to look like my body and that I can change!

In 2 weeks time I will once again submit myself to 3 Pastors who will gather around me to challenge my vision, my plans, my spiritual well-being and the hours I spend in work,rest and play. I created this group 4 years ago because I wanted to be the best I could in what was then a whole new chapter for my life.

A few days before this I will have a one to one with my boss who will go even further in stretching my thinking and who at the moment is getting me to imagine what could possibly be.

In all 3 of these scenarios at times it is uncomfortable being vulnerable, but it has to happen in order that I become stronger.

Every day the Bible strengthens me as I read the beautiful Scriptures. But I need people, I always have. Over the years some have left me and I have had to move on from some but new friends come and they impact me positively.

Let me just leave you with 2 questions today:

Who strengthens you?

Who do you strengthen?

 

Which place are you in?

Which place are you in?

Acts 18:22 “When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.”

 

Luke has become very quiet on the activity of Paul though this would probably have been a journey of over a thousand miles and be a period of up to 1 year. He just mentions the places. Maybe that is all that was needed. Maybe the places alone indicate the importance of what was in Pauls mind or certainly the activity of what was taking place.

Let me illustrate:

“It was a Gethsemane moment” meaning it was a place of decision in my life.

“I knelt down at Calvary” meaning I surrendered to the importance of the cross of Christ.

“It was an upper room experience” meaning it was a time of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Places are sometimes enough to indicate activity or the importance of what is going on in a persons life.

He landed at Caesarea, named to honour and flatter the Caesar, a harbour city of which everyone had to come through to proceed on their journey. Man’s finest hour was all around. Power, praise, man’s success, wealth and prestige. Some people who land here think they have arrived, they have reached the top, there was no place higher. Paul landed but he hadn’t arrived. He had to go up, there was another level.

He went up to Jerusalem and greeted the Church. Throughout the gospels we read of how in order to go to Jerusalem ‘Jesus went up’. But Jerusalem was the place of the death of Jesus and the desertion of the disciples. It was the place of surrender and restoration. Going up to Jerusalem was actually going down to submission. Paul went up but he went down and we are led to believe from previous verses he laid the offering of his cut hair from the Nazirite vow in the temple fire. He went up to lay his life down.

He went down to Antioch where he had first been sent out with Silas almost 3 years ago. A reminder he was a missionary. He had been raised from the Damascus Road to GO. We all need reminding of our purpose, the reason why we are here, what our life should be about. We are sent.

So maybe Luke didn’t need to write about the activity, maybe the place is good enough.

Caesarea, the place of the power of man. Leave it.

Jerusalem, the place of the offering of your life. Surrender it.

Antioch, the place for the purpose of your life. You are sent.

 

How you do it is so important for when you do it.

How you do it is so important for when you do it.

Acts 18:21 “But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.”

When you leave do you make it easier for those you leave?
Paul left the Ephesians with a promise.

When you make plans are they flexible?
Paul said he would return if God permitted.

When you have arrived at the place where you have always wanted to be do you know it is still temporary and only serves the bigger place of mission in your life?
Paul loved Ephesus. He had wanted to be here for some time, he came and he left.

Decline

Decline

Acts 18:20  “When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined.”

(Paul had already decided that God wanted him to go to the Gentiles and not just the Jews. At Ephesus he went into the synagogue, as was his practice and he had good results as the Jews were receptive).

Decline man for God.
Decline time that you don’t have.
Decline need for purpose.
Decline success for obedience.

WAIT is a YES

WAIT is a YES

Acts 18:19 “They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.”

In Acts 16:6 Luke writes, “Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.”

The verse in Acts 16 tells us that Paul most probably wanted to preach in Asia but the Spirit said NO. The major city of Asia was Ephesus and although Luke doesn’t mention it, Paul would have wanted to go there as it was the commercial and cultural centre for that region.

In today’s verse, Luke writes, “They arrived at Ephesus.” The Spirit presumably said YES.

The point is this: timing. We must understand the timing of God.

The Spirit saying NO may actually be saying WAIT. HOLD ON.

How many times do people rush into what they think is what they or God wants for their lives? They jump through the NO or they become so frustrated with the WAIT that they GO.

WAIT may feel like a NO but it is a YES but not now.

Paul had to wait 2 years but he finally arrived in Ephesus.

Are you prepared to WAIT for the best? Or do you want things NOW?

You see, WAIT is a YES so long as you can submit to the NO.

Get your hair cut

Get your hair cut!

Acts 18:18  “Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken.”

Paul decided he would take the Nazirite vow for a period of 30 days in which one of the things he had to do was not to cut his hair during that time (Numbers 6:1-21). This vow was for those who wanted to give time to draw closer to God, for the separation of their life from the pressures of the world and to give oneself wholly to the Lord. After 30 days their hair would be cut and presented at the temple as an offering in the fire.
The Apostle Paul had decided to take this vow. But why?
Let me offer some thoughts from this verse and then tell you why now is the time for a hair cut.

  1. Paul stayed in Corinth and living in such wickedness warranted the need for separation to God.

Sometimes to remain in a situation you have to re-consecrate yourself to God to give you the strength to do so.

  1. Paul made some strategic decisions and that happened during his time of consecration to God. He would leave Silas and Timothy behind to train leaders and the church whilst he would take Priscilla and Acquilla and go to Syria.

Sometimes you have to know when to leave and who to leave behind. Not everyone can come with you but everyone needs to feel they are fulfilled in the purposes of God. If you leave then make sure those who are left are fulfilling their calling.

Sometimes you have to appoint new people to be your accompanying partners. This can be difficult if you are used to having certain friends who have walked your path for many years with you.

  1. Paul sailed from Cenchrea, an important harbour at the time, the place where a church had been planted and where one of the deaconesses, Phoebe, would deliver a letter to the Roman Church (Romans 16:1). Paul decided to end his vow at the place where he would literally distance himself from others.

Sometimes you need to get to the place where it is going to happen. Every chapter needs a new page. Many long for their destiny but don’t make the effort needed to get to the place where they will see what they long to see.

Paul had his hair cut. The vow of commitment had been made. His hair was just a sign of what had happened within. He cut his hair but his heart remained consecrated to God. We need to remind ourselves that our consecration to Christ is certain and for

Commitment, strategy and destiny are all found within consecration. If you have been through this then that is why you can get your hair cut today!

Avoid a beating

Avoid a beating

 

Acts 18: 17 “Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.”

Sosthenes had taken over as the Jewish leader from Crispus and was one of the many who had brought the accusation of Paul to Gallio.

Gallio drives them all out of the court and there on the streets the anti-semitists jump on him and it all becomes a very sad day.

The measure you use will be measured against you.

If you are an accuser, trying to bring people down, if you are a divider amongst people, you may feel justified it matters not, there will come a day when all that you heaped on others will be heaped upon you.

How you treat people really does matter.

It matters obviously for the person you deal with.

But it matters to your own destiny too.

As you know in these daily blogs I am very honest and at times vulnerable. I say this to qualify what I am about to write as I do not want to appear I have all this perfected. There are many times that through my tiredness and lack of thought I have not dealt with someone in the way I should have done.

However, yesterday I received an email about a matter. It was an email full of anxiety and stress about a certain situation:

“……Please forgive me…. I will not blame you if you feel my credibility is in question now…. “

I replied immediately, “Be at peace … It was a genuine mistake which you will rectify …But thank you for how you have expressed yourself in this email …Be at peace and be blessed”

It was so easy to write that. Being nice is easy. Being gracious costs but it is not complicated.

The persons response was delightful, free, forgiven and happy!

Today I can walk confidently in that if I get beaten up it won’t be as a result of me beating someone else up. I am using the correct measures. I am doing it for others and I am doing it for myself.

Sometimes you can avoid being beaten up.

The courtroom is clear!

The courtroom is clear!

Acts 18:16 “So he drove them off.”

Gallio had heard enough and he cleared his courtroom of these Jews who were bringing their accusation against Paul.

The accuser of your soul will keep trying to bring you to the court of justice before God.

He will not let go of your past. He has a record of every event in your life, underlines your failings, he highlights your sins. He reminds you of these things you want to forget. He is the accuser of the present: “Call yourself a Christian?!” He is the accuser of your future: “You’re a loser, a failure, you will never accomplish anything!”

But friends the truth is just like Gallio kicked out the Jews, Jesus has dealt a blow to the accuser!

Jesus, is your refuge, He is the Word of God who is living, active, sharper than any double-edged sword. His blood has freed us from all our sins (Rev 1:5).

The courtroom is cleared, can you hear the announcement?

I am reminded of the story of the Japanese soldier on Guam who stayed in hiding until 1972 because he could not believe the good news of peace. The war was over in 1945 but he could not believe Japan would have surrendered.

Who are you going to believe?

You will behave what you believe.

You will believe what you listen to the most.

The accuser is out to destroy you. He will remind you continuously of how disqualified you are.

And yet our Lord Jesus has driven him off!

The courtroom is clear!

Sort it out!

Sort it out!

Acts 18:15 “But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law – settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.”

I can still hear my mother shout at my brother and I, “Sort it out yourselves.” It was music to my ears because we had one way of doing that and it was to go upstairs on my bed and box it out. My brother always held back a little as from an early age I have worn glasses and he knew he would be in trouble if they broke. I capitalised on this. He would often ask me to take them off but I wasn’t stupid.

I no longer sort things out that way but I often look back and smile at the fun times we had.

One of the difficult tasks as Missions Director is receiving the cries of help to intervene between 2 opposing sides. I have had quite a few. It still surprises me how the Church manages so easily and so often to fall out with itself. The difficulty comes because like Gallio I do not know “words and names and your own law.” I do not know their language, the history of the names being mentioned and their cultural practice and known behaviour. I am always tempted to say, ‘sort it out yourself, don’t involve me.’

Maybe today you wake up and there are unresolved issues and disagreements.

Needless separation can happen because it isn’t sorted out.

The real problem is when the opposing sides are so offended that they want to sort each other out and not the matter. In fact the matter not only lies unresolved it becomes forgotten under a barrage of abuse, hurt and bitterness.

Welcome to the Church.

The Jews wanted rid of Paul, that’s how they wanted the matter settled. There would be no uniting.

To sort it out means:

  • There has to be understanding of the other position.
  • Identifying what is the real issue amidst many little unimportant issues.
  • Judgment and punishment is not the goal.
  • There has to be gracious giving.
  • Often there has to be a win-win situation so that both parties feel heard and appreciated.

Maybe today those 5 points will help you sort it out once and for all.