It can start well …

It can start well …

ACTS 28:15 “The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they travelled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.”

Several years earlier Paul had written to the believers in Rome, “… since I have been longing for many years to visit you … Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea … so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed.” (Romans 15)

The Forum of Appius was a market town and the Three Taverns was a lodging place approximately 49 miles outside of Rome, a resting place before entering the city which was approximately a day’s journey.

The believers of the church in Rome who Paul had written to were now receiving Paul with great honour. Their action was similar to that of a king who would be welcomed outside the city and then brought into it. Paul thanked God and was encouraged.

Things would change though. People do change.

By the time of Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome these are his words, “At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them” (2 Timothy 4:16). As he stood before Nero the church under great persecution deserted him, just as they did Jesus.

Hold praise lightly because persecution and hardship can change all of that. The encourager can be silenced so we need to find a way to engage with life with all that is thrown at us without the encouragement to sustain us.

The Pentecost of Rome

The Pentecost of Rome

Acts 28:14 “There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.”

Having spent a week with fellow believers they arrive on the outskirts of Rome, probably by foot.

It had been quite a journey! Many thought they would never make it and at one point they had given up all hope of being saved from the treacherous journey at sea. They were shipwrecked and they had been completely lost not knowing where at all they were. Alongside this Paul had to cope with a snake! However, Paul had a promise that he would be here, in Rome. “And so we came to Rome.”

And so God will bring you through.

And so God will cause you to overcome.

And so God will open doors for your destiny.

Here you are in x (your Rome).

It is the place of your surrender, where you will give your all to Him who called you and you will do it for the gospel and your love of people.

Here are some facts regarding Rome at that time:

Population: approximately 1 million

A multi-ethnic city: with Italians from various districts plus people from Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Judea, Persia, Egypt, North Africa, Spain, Gaul, Germany, Brittania and elsewhere.

Religion: The entire Pantheon of Roman gods, numerous Greek deities, some Asian, Persian and Egyptian deities.

 

The above is what Paul dreamed of. It is a definite reminder of the gathering of the harvest of people who needed to know the good news: the Pentecost of Jerusalem.

(The word Pentecost means fiftieth. 50 days after the feast of Unleavened bread is the Jewish Pentecost, a feat of the grain harvest thanking God for His provision. It was the day when the Spirit came on the Church and at least 3,000 of the travelling pilgrims into Jerusalem were saved in one day).

This was another Pentecost for Paul where the opportunity was simply too great to miss. He was in Rome where he could reach many, where the people were ripe for harvest. May we venture into our cities and towns with such joy of opportunity and gospel determination for souls to be saved that today indeed becomes another Pentecost!

 

The speed of the Spirit

The speed of the Spirit

Acts 28:13 “From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli.”

This large ship reaches Puteoli within 2 days. Luke is telling us the reason why they got there quicker than expected is because of a southerly wind.

The wind can certainly slow you down if it is coming against you.

But the moment you are aligned with the wind then that is when you will experience a quickness, a surge, a moment within the momentum that speeds everything up.

Some people work for years and years and do not see what others may see in a few years. Is it a tactical reason? Is it better leadership? Maybe it is being aligned to the Spirit and experiencing the speed of the Spirit. The Spirit can be quick! He can advance the vision forward at such a rate of knots that it looks like you have been doing the job for many more years than you truly have.

We need to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25) and sometimes He moves very quick indeed.

Get ready today!

The pressure of preventing speculation

The pressure of preventing speculation

Acts 28:12 “We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days.”

They decide to stop over in the capital city of the island of Sicily for 3 days. Nothing else is mentioned other than that. Everything is speculation.

Why did they stop here and what happened?

Nothing is provided.

So we speculate. Commentators do so. They talk of how strong the church in Sicily is, how they see Paul as the founder and it all stemmed from the 3 day visit all those years ago. Paul must have been permitted to wander the island with the gospel as he did in Sidon.

But it is speculation.

It must be because they were waiting for the right wind to sail or perhaps because they were unloading and loading cargo. Maybe it was simply because it was like a normal service station on the motorway on the journey to Italy.

We struggle with bare facts. We would rather not know anything than just some small aspects of someone’s story. We need to know why they did what they did, the logic behind the decision and perhaps we just need to know other people’s business.

We all know times when there has been a course of action taken or we have made decisions and we either cannot announce to the world the reason because of determining factors that need to be kept quiet. That can be difficult.

So people speculate.

Speculations lead to theories which are passed down generationally that become history.

Perhaps we need to allow more things to just hang in the air and to wait for any revelation that might come later. To do so without speculation or feeling a burden to tell the world the detailed reason.

Who is up at the front?

Who is up front

Acts 28:11 “After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux.”

Castor and Pollux were twin gods believed to help shipwrecked sailors and who brought favourable winds to those who sacrificed to them.

But Paul knew who was actually up at the front – it was the God who “got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm” (Matthew 8:26).

Castor and Pollux are depicted in art as helmeted horse-men.

But Paul knew who was actually up at the front – it was the God who gives “… the horse its strength or clothes its neck with a flowing mane …” (Job 39:19)

Castor and Pollux were believed to help Roman soldiers on the battlefield and each year there would be an annual elaborate parade through the streets of Rome where each rider would wear whatever decorations they had earned.

But Paul knew who was actually up at the front –  it was the God who “always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

Castor and Pollux in the many myths surrounding them die in battle but Castor goes to Hades and Pollux being so devastated at not being with his brother offers to lose his own immortality to be with Castor.

But Paul knew who was actually up at the front – it was the God who is “…the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)

Castor and Pollux were placed by their father, Zeus, as stars in the universe and in the constellation Gemini they are seen as the brightest stars.

But Paul knew who was actually up at the front – it was the God who “is the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16)

Know today that it is God who is leading you, nothing and no one else, no matter how it seems, your God is in charge and in control!

Create the WOW moment

Create the WOW moment

Acts 28:10 “They honoured us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.”

For 3 months the islanders supplied all the prisoners and soldier’s needs. Whatever it was whether food or shelter nothing was too much or beyond their reach of help. Don’t we just love such generous people? But there was of course more.

“They honoured us in so many ways.”

Honour: elevating someone else, high respect, esteeming them for who they are and what they have done.

In my culture we do this really well, when the person is dead. Not so much when they are alive!

‘Many ways’: we need to find new ways in fact many ways to bring honour to the person and their work.

We need to find the words.

We need to find the responses and the right reactions that will deflect from our thoughts and feelings to the elevation of the other. We need to become less …

We need to make things easier not harder for them. It is not just meeting any need but it is to imaginatively extend much grace to them beyond any hope they might have had. It is to act in such a way that the person is speechless. It is to create the WOW moment.

This is not about creating demi-god statuses or creating the thought that the person is perfect. They are not and we may not agree with everything they are doing or have done. We may not understand their course of action. But we choose today to honour and not dishonour their name even if they are all prisoners and are somewhat lesser than us.

Self-centred people cannot do this, they are incapable for it has to be about them or it has be about justice. Grace-givers are few, honour-hosts are even less. But today we all have the opportunity to be one, to be different, to stand out in the crowd and to honour someone who is alive.

 

 

Do something!

Do something!

Acts 28:9 “When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.”

Some things have got to happen first.

‘Paul had entered the room where the father of Publius lay sick, he saw, he prayed and he laid his hands on the man and he was healed. When that happened, a crowd came knocking at the door and there was a revival in Malta.

In our longing for such revival scenes our thoughts are on an unexplainable move of God that causes masses to gather at the church in their need of Him. We have all prayed for such moves of God. The vision is easy and it is clear. But we forget that in every move of God there has been at some point prior to that event a move of man. God’s people have moved whether that be in prayer or in action. Recently someone told me that at the recent church prayer meeting only 2 people had come to it. If the Church isn’t going to move then why should God? Let me say it again, if Paul had not gone into the room of the sick man, if that had not happened, then the crowds would not have come.

Maybe your tomorrow is waiting for something to happen today where it can be said, “when this had happened …”

Your action today can be a catalyst for revival tomorrow.

You deal in single numbers today but tomorrow you deal with crowds.

You enter a room today but tomorrow a nation is cured!

Make something happen today, do what you can and tomorrow the unexplainable and what you cannot do may just indeed happen!

We need to be in the room!

We need to be in the room!

Acts 28: 8 “His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.”

Publius had probably heard of the amazing protection Paul had from the snake. The people had believed Paul to be a god. Publius certainly believed it would be worth getting Paul into the room of his father who was ill.

Paul didn’t walk into the room announcing “I survive snakes therefore I can heal fevers, watch and learn!” So what did happen?

He went into the room to see the father. The Church is drawn towards the sick and those in need. We talk to the homeless, those suffering, the untouchables we embrace, those marginalised we engage. We ‘see’ what others don’t. Everyone is a person worth dignity and respecting of their humanity.

He went into the room and prayed. The Church prays. We talk to God. “What do you want to do Lord?” “Help this man, please heal him.” We intercede. We pray for others more than we pray for ourselves. We realise nothing is going to happen without involving God in what we do.

He went into the room and laid his hands on him. Paul would never forget when Ananias had laid his hands on him when he was blind from the Damascus Road experience. The Church lays hands on people who are in need. Jesus did and we do it. The touch of the Church with prayer is that of comfort and care, it is connection. Jesus had promised that the Church would pick up snakes but would also lay hands on the sick and they would be healed (Mark 16) and Paul was experiencing both.

Paul engaged with the man, he prayed and he laid his hands on him.

Above all, Paul was in the room. We need to continue to leave our place of rest and refreshment and get into the room. The Church needs to be in the room of those who need the Lord. Let’s walk right in today. Let’s accept every invitation and let’s put out more requests. Healings can happen if we can get into that room.

God’s provision is near you!

God’s provision is near you!

Acts 28:7 “There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days.”

Publius was Rome’s representative on Malta and Paul. Luke and Aristarchus find themselves being welcomed into a place of luxury for 3 days. Anywhere is luxury after weeks at sea tossed around in a storm, but this was probably the best place to stay on the island. Was it just for the 3 or for all the prisoners? Luke doesn’t say except for 3 days he was there experiencing fine dining.

GOD HAS PROVISION NEARBY

You may have gone through the biggest storm of your life and you didn’t know exactly where you were but God did! You were so grateful that you found land you didn’t care where it was but God cared!

You see, your haphazard, accidental, fortunate parking of your life battered and bruised was actually within the co-ordinates of your God who cares for you. Nearby …

It could have been anywhere on the island, but it was nearby …

Today you may wake wondering how you will get through this day, God has provision nearby.

Today you may wake wondering if you need to find a new starting point, you don’t, you can start again right now, because nearby …

God is near you all the time!

 

A dangerous fascination with the unusual!

A dangerous fascination with the unusual!

Acts 28:6 “The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.”

People will either demonise you or worship you.

They will condemn you or elevate you.

They will expect the worst or conclude you are perfect.

People are not content living in the average, or the normal, the pendulum has to swing wide for them. To see the unusual they are willing to wait, even for a long time, the miracles, signs and wonders, the dramatic is worth waiting for.

But boredom soon changes minds. The usual stays and the mind cannot cope. So we reinvent our thinking, we let go of our last conclusion and we create a new one which is equally as exciting. This is not a murderer after all, this is a god!

If leaders lead in to this they will attract the followers, for a time.

If preachers preach this way, they will receive responses, for a time.

But discipleship and spiritual health are determined when nothing unusual takes place. Maturity grows when the pendulum isn’t swinging so wide. Maturity is appreciated in the non-exciting times when men/women are neither the devil incarnate nor worshipped as gods. The problem is people will sacrifice all that for the pursuit of the unusual. Yet we live in the usual, it is meant to be that way. Be careful with what fascinates you.