Nonsense

Nonsense

Acts 18:14 “Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, ‘If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanour or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you”.

Don’t believe everything. Nonsense is all around you.

There was no crime. This was nonsense (see the Message).

For the on-looker it is nonsense:

We will never know what Paul was about to say but it would have been a defence of what Gallio saw were charges of nonsense. It was another Jewish squabble. Bickering that he didn’t want to be involved with.

Paul opened his mouth but no words were needed. God was using Gallio to speak and his voice carried a greater authority. In 2001 standing in a court of an employment tribunal as a staff member was bringing his charges against me I heard the words, “There is no case to answer.” It was the end of over a year of nonsense.

For the grieved it is nonsense:

The next time we are tempted to carry a personal grievance maybe we need to step back and ask is this just nonsense? Get the big picture, invite someone in. Is this serious? Many times all that has happened is that we have been offended. Feelings are there to be hurt and if they get hurt then it shows you are not dead. This is good news. So get over yourself you are not that important. This is a rule I try to live by.

For the accused it is nonsense:

Gallio was saying in effect “Paul be quiet, this is nonsense, I will deal with it.” He didn’t say that but you can see why I think this way. Have you ever received a letter or an email (accusations are often done not face to face!) of grievance? As you read the message all you can see are the words ‘Disappointed’, ‘let me down’, ‘you have failed’. Sometimes these brave people do pick up the phone. I remember a phone call I took in 1996. I had just announced I was leaving my church to go to Pastor another one. A really lovely lady, a faithful member and servant of the church called me and all I can remember is the many expletives in what she said! I have never heard so many in one sentence. She was offended that we were leaving the church. It is okay not to defend yourself. It is okay to open your mouth but not say anything. It is okay to look at the charges and think this is nonsense.

Maybe today will be a day of nonsense and that is okay! Enjoy!

Offence

Offence

Acts 18:13 ‘This man,’ they charged, ‘is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.’

Was it the law of Moses or the Roman law that they demanded justice of Paul?

Luke doesn’t say, though we could presume that because they had appealed to the proconsul that they were saying Paul was breaking the Roman law by encouraging people to worship other gods without its permission.

The law of the land should be kept.

But of course we know the hidden agenda of the Jews wanting to stop Paul. This was all about the fact that Paul was telling the Gentiles they didn’t need to be circumcised to be accepted by God. It offended the circumcised.

Here are five thoughts on offence from this verse.

  • Offence will cause you to distance yourself from the person concerned. “This man” had a name which they were fully aware of.
  • Offence will cause you to accuse.
  • Offence will cause you to exaggerate. Paul wasn’t doing what they said he was doing.
  • Offence will cause you to hide what you are secretly offended about.
  • Offence will cause you to try and drag more people into the offence.

When unity is wrong

When unity is wrong

Acts 18:12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment.

As I write this morning I am thinking of a situation recently that was similar to this verse. A group of people united in their campaign against their fellow colleagues with wagging fingers and cursed tongues. This year I have heard so many of these stories. My sadness is because these stories are of the Church.

In agreement.

Joined together.

Dwelling in unity.

Moving forward in battle.

Carrying a shared purpose.

Seekers of justice.

They were so right.

But they were so wrong.

Be careful who you agree with and who you are against.

Unity is no sign that God is blessing.

What campaign are you supporting?

Is anyone going to get hurt?

Friends with issues will do you no good.

You are not the judge.

So …

So.

Acts 18:11 “So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.”

God had told Paul that He was with him so to carry on speaking.

So. The result of. The outcome of God being with you is that you can do anything.  God is with you.

So, I can stay.

So, I can go.

So, I can speak even if people don’t want to hear.

So, I can pick myself back up again.

So, I can rely on His grace even with a thorn.

So, I can come through a storm.

So, I can live even though I am trapped in a prison.

What would you say knowing God was with you?

So …..

Even if it doesn’t look like it, the Lord is in control.

Even if it doesn’t look like it, the Lord is in control.

Acts 18:10 “For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”

Paul is in the worst place on earth, Corinth. There was no city like it for its wickedness. ‘To live like a Corinthian’ had become a Greek saying meaning to live a life of debauchery and drunkenness. On the hill of the Acropolis overlooking the city was the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Every night the 1,000 temple prostitutes would descend on the city. It is difficult to understand how horrible this city was and Paul was there.

Paul presumably had been thinking of leaving and who can blame him?

The Lord speaks to him and tells him to stay and informs him of something he didn’t know because he was yet to see it, “I have many people in this city.” The Lord was saying not that there were already Christ followers but that there were many people who would become so. This was the right place to be and that Paul was safe in His presence for He was in control even in the darkest time.

How I wish my old friend, Burnett, knew this.

In the city of Ndola, Zambia there is today a large warehouse full of scrap car parts. Outside in the courtyard lies piled up cars with parts taken from them rusting away in places. It is quite a successful business. But it used to be a church building. I visited the building in 2015 with my friend David Tinnion hoping to meet our mutual friend, Pastor Burnett. We had opened this church in the year 2001. Today it is a junkyard. The story is that the Church dwindled to nothing, Burnett became a ‘Corinthian’, his wife contracted HIV by him and died. He continued his wild living and was known as the drunk Pastor walking the streets of Ndola menacingly. He was found in a ditch in the city in 2007 and no one went to his funeral.

I cannot express the sadness we felt as we stood in that scrapyard in March 2015. Why do I tell you all this?

Behind what had been the stage and the pulpit hung a bible verse. Burnett had hung this up on the open day in 2001 as a prophetic message. It was on the exact same sheet of card. It says this:

‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.’ Acts 18:9-10.

How I wish Pastor Burnett had taken these verses to his heart. How I wish when the difficulties of ministry were before him that he focused on the presence of the Lord in his life. If only when he had wanted to give up he didn’t and he continued to speak. When people walked away from him and his heart was breaking he could have believed that others in the city would come to him and that he would make new friends, but he didn’t. In the darkest of times for his life when perhaps he wasn’t being the best Pastor, husband and father, he could have known the Lord was still in control. But he died in a ditch on the side of a road. That is how he ended his life.

Today we wake up to the results of the general election. As I type this it looks like we have what we call a hung parliament. Deals will be done today. I don’t think I will go on facebook, I am not sure I can be bothered to read anymore opinions. I think I will just be thankful that whatever happens now I know the Lord is in control of the villages, the towns, cities and the nations, including mine.

Whatever you are facing today and wherever you may be and for some you may think you are living in a Corinth. You don’t have to become a Corinthian and you don’t have to leave the city and abandon your purpose. The God you worship is in control and He is with you.

 

Who are you listening to?

Who are you listening to?

Acts 18:9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.

The Lord spoke to Paul.

You have an enemy of the soul that will fill your mind with as many voices as possible. Your mind filled with the noise of repetition. The same sounds have been there for many years: condescending, derogatory, vision killing, faith destroying voices as loud as the loudest thunder, battering your mind continually. You long for a still small voice. You long for peace and order. Thank God you have God!

Away with such intimidation!

Do not be afraid!

Keep on speaking!

Do not be silent!

 

You have an enemy of the soul that is trying to shut you up. He doesn’t like your voice. He doesn’t like your encouragement, your inspiration, your words of kindness, your love. He hates it when people are better for having been with you. So he will target you with such circumstance and threat that you will be tempted to abandon your voice in order to tremble with fear. Thank God you have God!

Away with such intimidation!

Do not be afraid!

Keep on speaking!

Do not be silent!

 

Paul had a vision in the night. Dreams happen when you are asleep, visions when you are fully awake.

You have an enemy of the soul that will keep you awake at night. When everyone else is sound asleep you are pacing the floor not knowing what to do and where to go. You call out to God for help, you pray, you weep, you plan, you write, you read, you search for guidance, but it can be dark and it can be lonely. Thank God you have God!

Away with such intimidation!

Do not be afraid!

Keep on speaking!

Do not be silent!

Thank God you have God and He has you!

Listen to Him!

Look what can happen when you move on!

Look what can happen when you move on!

Acts 18:8 “Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptised.”

Paul had announced, “From now on I will go to the Gentiles!” and no sooner had he changed his focus that the Jewish synagogue leader and his household received Christ! Paul would later baptise him (1 Corinthians 1:14).

Was Paul demonstrating reverse psychology? If only that was true it would be fun! In order to try to see conversions to Christ we do the opposite and try to not convert them. Actually we have probably been trying to do this for too long!

It does seem strange though that after Paul walked away from the synagogue that its leader then believed and became a follower of Christ. What could this mean?

  1. The Spirit may lead you away but remain to continue the work that you have done.
  2. You are often just a part of someone’s journey and you may have left before they convert.
  3. Deciding to move forward may result in forcing the issue of decision. Crispus had no one to debate with now Paul had left. He just had to make a decision one way or the other.
  4. Live your life in such a way that when you go next door that you leave something of you behind. After shave and perfume remain in a room even when the person wearing it has left.
  5. If you change your focus and you move forward into a new chapter then it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to forget those behind you, they are still important and may even play a part in your new day. Your focus changes but maybe your connections remain.

Next door

Next door

Acts 18:7 “Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshipper of God.”

Paul had decided he wasn’t going to waste any more time on people who refused to journey with him.

Since his conversion and the start of his ministry (Acts 9:20) on entering a city or town he would first head towards the synagogue.

It was his way of doing things.

But even the best made plans can be changed. We should operate far more with the understanding of the seasons of life. We should understand the times we live in so that we can know what to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). Some of the best plans are outdated plans. They were for then not for now.

So what does Paul do and more importantly where does he go?

Next door!

That is how far away you can be for the next chapter of your life.

The familiar could be your next move, your next appointment, your next job and your next best friend.

Ttitus Justus, a Roman Christian and possibly the same man as Gaius mentioned in Romans 16:23 opened his home for Paul to preach the gospel. Going to worship in this Gentile house would mean that Paul and the Christians would pass the synagogue crowd in the street. Sometimes you have to learn to have your past in your present. There is nothing you can do about that and the secret is to know it isn’t your problem. Your past didn’t want you, it refused to come with you, it wanted other things but you are moving forward and every day your past will be reminded by your present that you have found a way to live, you have adapted, changed, you have not become a monument to the past.

Maybe today you need to look next door?!

Enough is enough

Enough is enough

Acts 18:6  But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’

 

Enough is enough.

We have heard those words recently with the rise of terrorist attacks in the UK.

I hope those words lead to some decisive and maybe shocking actions that would never have been taken had we not experienced such evil attacks.

Enough is enough.

It was for Paul.

“From now on…”

Maybe today the situation you are in has become so difficult that you are going to have to declare, ‘From now on.’

Paul demonstrated this by following the actions of Old Testament characters such as Nehemiah in shaking the dust off his garments. This was known in Judaism and Jesus used this when he suggested to his disciples they shake the dust off their feet. Here is what it means.

Maybe today the situation you are in has become so difficult that you are simply going to have put some distance between you and that person or circumstance. Remove the situation from your life. Carry the heaviness no more.

Finally Paul decided that he was going to move on to a new life, a new ministry. This was a new moment for him. This was the day for leaving his old focus and head to something new, to the Gentiles.

From now on …

I remove myself …

And.

I now go …

Maybe today the situation you are in has become so difficult that you will announce a new moment, a new direction, a new job perhaps, you will hang around with a new friend, but this is the turning point.

And looking back in the years to come you will agree that the day of difficulty had to be, in fact you are grateful for it was then that you said enough is enough.

Encouraging others to continue

Encouraging others to continue

 

Acts 18:5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.

 

Silas and Timothy had been left in Macedonia they have much to tell Paul about the churches there.

They would speak of the work in Thessalonica and how the church was remaining strong. This would be the catalyst for Paul to write his letter of 1 Thessalonians to them.

Importantly for Paul they were also able to bring with them a substantial ministry gift from the church in Philippi (2 Corinthians 11:9; Phil 4:16). It was important for Paul because he could now leave his tent making business and give his whole attention to his preaching.

When visiting do you bring encouraging news? Do you bring a financial gift?

Thanks God for those that do. They may not be able to go or preach the gospel. But they can cause others to be compelled to do just that.

Maybe today you can be challenged to be such a friend. Perhaps you can make that visit real soon?!