in life, our faith in God waivers in and out. We might roll our eyes when confrontation
is before us and shun the real strength we prayed for in difficult times. But then
we return to the very spot we waivered from in the beginning. Our Almighty God always
remains with us, though, with welcome arms and forgiveness of our bad decisions.
night my eyes were opened a little wider by a word God whispered to my
conscience. I woke in fear of trying to comprehend His message. So I picked up
my Bible for protection and tried to find the meaning of the word He sent me. As
many knows, I’m a man of great faith. I’m not a Bible scholar by any stretch of
the imagination, but I do my digging when times like this are derived from God.
I tell you what the Holy Spirit spoke to me, you must know this word is written
in scriptures only three times. It was used in the Old Testament in 543 B.C. by
Samuel. He, too, was a man of great faith who led the Israelites to a battle with
the Philistines for over forty years. The Israelites lost twice, but then
Samuel looked to God and set up an Ebenezer between two mountains. He said, “Lord
God, You are my stone of faith, my rock I shall not break.” (1 Samuel) Scriptures
say, “The Lord thundered loudly against the Philistines that day and threw
them into such confusion that they were defeated by the Israelites.” From
that day forward, Ebenezer became the name of an altar for God to protect the
the bigger question is, why did God send me the word Ebenezer? Is it
because I, too, am fighting two personal battles, and God came to tell me it
will be Ok? Is it to inform you that your struggles are being watched over by
the Lord? Yes, all the above is true! Remember, your enemy is not greater than
God. He can make miracles occur with a stroke of His hand.
word for the day, Ebenezer, is the moment you realize you could not have
made it through the fires without God’s help. Your faith is like a stone, and
only God can bring you through these impeachable battles.
Ebenezer is as powerful of a word today as it was with Samuel in the Old Testament. We all bear our crosses, and as Christians, we must realize it is only God who protects us. Our awesome Father will come to our rescue in times of need. All you have to do is humbly pray for His help. May your Ebenezer be an altar as it was for Samuel. God bless.
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Last night I told my mom. when she said she was grateful 2019 was almost over, there were good things which happened in 2019.
Be grateful for the good things in 2019 and leave behind the rest.
I say again: BE GRATEFUL FOR THE GOOD THINGS IN 2019 AND LEAVE THE REST BEHIND.
Going further, be grateful for the lessons learned from the bad things that happened in 2019.
Overall, move in 2020 with a grateful heart. Forgive the events, people, and perhaps most importantly, yourself. Gratitude for the what was and gratitude for what will be. This is the best way to progress into the next decade.
I end with my favorite Scripture. Philippians 4:4-9:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a political
position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes may be
true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent examples of
strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible. Now two thousand years
later, everyone may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a
guiding tool in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.
Did you miss the first two parts of this series? Click HERE for Part One. Click HERE for Part Two.
Joanna the Apostle (also known as Junia)
Joanna does not have a specific story as some other women
in this series. In fact, her life is pieced together by many scriptures
throughout the Bible, but what an influential person! She was an upper-class
Jewish woman in 1st century Palestine. Her grandfather was Theophilus, the High
Priest in the Second Temple, in Jerusalem.
The earliest mention of Joanna was in Luke 8:3, where she
is referred to as the wife of Chuza, a steward to Herod Antipas. They were
married when she was very young, and they both maintained jobs in Herod’s royal
household. I’m sure this placed Joanna in a very unpopular category with
ordinary Jews. One of her husband’s duties was to make sure everyone paid their
taxes to Herod.
Like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, too, had demons in her body.
She was often curious about Jesus and His miracles. Would He cleanse her as
well? On the days she traveled away from the royal household, she would sit as
a bystander and listen to His sermons of parables. One day, Jesus directed his
attention to her and spoke with conviction. As the healing miracles of Jesus’
power tell, He knew she was possessed, too, with infirmities…and so He healed
Joanna gave a lot of money to Jesus and His disciples. She
was wealthy, well-connected, and influential, so she was able to protect Him in
subtle ways. She became instrumental in the success of His mission. In this
biblical age, it was scandalous for a woman to be financially supportive of a
man, much less a female who came from King Herod’s house. But, she took the
risk, even though she witnessed her employer, King Herod, behead John the
At some point in Joanna’s marriage, she becomes single
again. One can only imagine the reasons why this happened – perhaps Chuza
divorced her, or was he murdered for his position in the royal home? The Bible
does not state a specific cause. But, Joanna was in the ranks of the Galilean
poor with no social standing or financial security, but she held her head high,
turning her life to serve Jesus.
She memorized the Lord’s parables and joined Jesus in
storytelling among the poor villages along with a few other women. Many of
their listeners were rejected for their conversion to Christianity, so Joanna
could sympathize with their feelings. Indeed she was inspired by Jesus’
teachings. She traveled as far as Rome, being a witness to the Lord. She was
eventually named an Apostle.
It is spoken in scripture Joanna and Mary Magdalene
prepared the cloths to wrap Jesus’ body after His crucifixion. She was also a
witness to the empty tomb after His resurrection. Her love for Jesus was deep,
and she served Him faithfully until the end of His life.
What made Joanna a powerful woman?
Joanna was brave and proud. She faced public
condemnation by becoming single and leaving a royal household, but she held her
head high amidst the turmoil and confusion. I’m sure her conversion to
Christianity was a radical change too.
When she lived among the elite and wealthy, she gave her
money to Jesus and the disciples. She was generous to a fault. Her high
values didn’t place wealth on personal belongings, but rather to God.
Joanna was inspiring because she transitioned from
an aristocratic woman to a humble servant during her life. She didn’t mourn the
loss of possessions but became a witness to the strength of the Lord. Money was
a means-to-an-end to serve others.
Jesus healed her ailments because he recognized the self-power
she had inside her to change.
Her stewardship to Jesus and the Gospel was
uncompromising, and in return, He blessed her with grace.
After Jesus’ death, Joanna became a traveling missionary.
It is implied that if she died outside the Holy Land, they brought her body back
to Jerusalem. In the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, they adorned
Joanna a saint.
Imagine if suddenly your body just appeared as an adult.
You are facing another human who looks different, and his name is Man.
Everything around is magically beautiful. Objects called trees stand taller
than yourself, and the ground is green with grass and shrubs.
God spoke to them saying they could eat from any fruit of
the trees except for the tree of good and evil in the middle of the garden. God
warned them if they ate from the tree, they would die. This scenario is precisely
the one Eve faced on her creation day. I wonder what her thoughts were at this
As she walked through the shrubbery, she saw a slithering
serpent who spoke to her. (Genesis 3:1-6, NIV)
“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in
Eve responded, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the
garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the
middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”
“You will not certainly die, for God knows that when
you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing
good and evil,” the serpent retorted.
The fruit on the tree looked delicious, so she picked it
off the stem and took a nibble. Then she handed it to the Man who also took a
bite of the irresistible fruit. Their eyes opened wide when they realized they
were naked. Ashamed and embarrassed, Adam and Eve pulled fig leaves off of the
trees, sewed them together, and covered the most intimate parts of their body.
Suddenly, they heard footsteps walking in the garden, so
they hid, in fear, among the trees. The Lord God approached them and asked why
they were hiding. Adam spoke first… “I was afraid because I was naked; so I
God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you
eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” Adam and Eve
hung their heads down.
Adam answered, “The woman you put here with me—she gave
me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then Eve responded to God, “The
serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:11-13 NIV)
God sternly faced Eve and said, “I will make your pains
in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to
children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
(Genesis 3:16 NIV)
Then the Lord God said to Adam, “Because you listened
to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must
not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil
you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and
thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of
your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it
you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19
The Lord made garments of skin for them to wear and moved
Adam to the east side of the Garden of Eden, where he would work the land for
food. Adam and Eve procreated, and a son, named Cain, was born. Later, another
son, Abel, was born. As they grew older, their children learned to struggle,
working in the fields.
Eve realized the curse God placed upon them, for life was
a battle. Childbirth was unbearable, and then she endured the death of her son,
Abel. The Lord punished Cain for killing Abel and placed him in the land of
Nod, east of Eden, to become a wanderer. We must do what is right before God or
reap the consequences.
Many misunderstandings about Eve swirl throughout the
generations and since the beginning of mankind. She is held responsible for the
sin of humanity by eating the forbidden fruit. Some believe she ‘enticed’ Adam
to eat it, too. However, there isn’t biblical truth to this statement. The fact
is, Adam did not have to take the fruit and eat it, but he did, knowingly aware
of the consequences.
Eve is mislabeled with names such as “the devil’s gateway,”
“temptress,“ and “wicked persuasion.” My response to any of those unwarranted
titles come from this standpoint – Eve did not know of evil, nor Satan and his lies.
How can she be singly be held accountable for the fall of mankind?
What made Eve a powerful woman?
Eve was the first woman, no other before her.
She is “the mother of all living,” for she is the
beginning of humanity. Eve represents the maternal potential of adult
women. She proclaimed the sons she gave childbirth to were created by man and
Eve was created with a pure heart, and her only
knowledge of life came from Adam and God.
Created in God’s image, Eve carries the feminine qualities of the character of God. Her power of being a woman teaches us mankind cannot exist without ‘womankind.’
Eve’s powerful story wasn’t so much about her good
qualities, but what she taught us about life and a relationship with God:
Disobedience to God leads us to follow our own will, thus
unfortunate consequences. She believed Satan rather than God. How many of us,
today, act on impulse versus praying to God for the correct answer to problems?
When we compromise God’s Word by blocking out or changing
the parts we refuse to hear, it becomes a means to continue sinning.
If we do not resist sin when it presents itself, we will eventually give in to the temptation.
Next Sunday will be the final two women in this series. Be sure to join us!
What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a
political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes
may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent
examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible. Everyone
today, now two thousand years later, may find much wisdom in the biblical
females. Use them as a guiding tool in your personal lives and to develop a
relationship with God.
The last point I want to express is “behind every
successful man is a strong and wise woman.” So true of these most powerful
women in the Bible! I hope you enjoy my review of this week’s next two women.
This biblical story begins in the time of King Xerexes,
who ruled from India to Ethiopia in 486 BC to 465 BC. In the third year of his
reign, he gave a luxurious banquet for all his officials and ministers in the
garden courtyard. His wife, Queen Vashti, threw a separate party for women in
the royal palace. As he became drunk, he ordered his personal servants to bring
his wife to him. She was gorgeous, and he wanted to show her off to his
proteges. Queen Vashti refused to show off her beauty, and the king lost his
temper at her disrespect of his orders. He wanted to avoid his embarrassment,
so he ruled her to leave his premises. “Every man is master of his own
house; whatever he says, goes.”
King Xerexes’ young royal attendants suggested he search
the kingdom for beautiful young virgins to replace Vashti. Soon, a woman named
Hadassah, otherwise known as Esther, was brought to the palace and given over
to the overseer of the women in the harem. She stayed twelve months for beauty
treatments and for visits with the king in the evenings. Esther soon won the
admiration of everyone, including the king. He placed a crown on her head and
proclaimed a holiday for all the provinces. But she had a dark secret…
Her older cousin, Mordecai, raised Esther after her
parent’s death. He was a member of the Jewish community who had an ancestor
captured and taken away from Jerusalem. Her rearing was in exile, and Mordecai
begged her never to tell a soul.
Mordecai often walked in front of the palace, hoping to
glimpse Esther. He still felt responsible for her welfare. One afternoon, he
made his usual trek to the palace gates. He overheard two guards plotting the
death of King Xerexes, so he quickly sent word to Esther, who told her husband.
In the king’s investigation of the incident, she told her husband that Mordecai,
“her cousin,” heard the conversation, but this was all the details she gave
Sometime later, King Xerexes promoted a man named Haman to
the highest-ranking official in the government. He required everyone at the
palace gates to kneel before Haman, but Mordecai refused repeatedly. Haman
learned Esther’s cousin was a Jew, so he devised a plan to kill all Jews
throughout the kingdom.
Esther’s maids told her of Haman’s plan, and she was shocked
and scared for her relatives. So she sent a servant to find Mordecai and find
out the whole story. She also handed the servant clothes for her cousin to wear,
which would hide his Jewish roots. But, Mordecai refused to wear it and relayed
a message to her, “Do not imagine that because you are in the king’s palace
you alone will escape the fate of all the Jews.…” He encouraged her to talk
to her husband.
Esther sent a strong message back to Mordecai.
“Go and get all the Jews living in Susa together. Fast
for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, either day or night. I and my maids
will fast with you. If you will do this, I’ll go to the king, even though it’s
forbidden. If I die, I die.” Mordecai followed her instructions.
Three days later, Esther dressed in her royal robe,
visited the king on his throne. She asked him to arrange a dinner with Haman,
of which he obliged her request. Meanwhile, Haman was building seventy-five
foot high gallows. He would soon hang Mordecai.
The day of the dinner party arrived, and King Xerexes,
Esther, and Haman gathered for the feast. The king asked Esther, “What would
you like? Half of my kingdom? Just ask and it’s yours.” Her charm beguiled him.
She broke into tears and revealed the horror of her people’s fate at the hands
of their dinner guest. Haman was now terror-stricken. The king raged with fury and
stalked out into the palace garden. He saw the gallows structure and came
storming back into the banquet room when he noticed Haman on the floor in front
of his wife. Haman was pleading for his life at Esther’s feet, and the king
exploded with anger. King Xerexes ordered him hanged at the very gallows meant
for Mordecai… and so it was done.
Later in the day, the king presented Queen Esther the
estate of Haman, archenemy of the Jews. She admitted her background to him and
the story of her cousin. Mordecai came before the king who took off his signet
ring and handed it to him in a loving gesture. Esther appointed Mordecai over
Haman’s estate. Then, she pleaded with her husband to please revoke the plan
plotted against the Jews. “How can I stand to see this catastrophe wipe out
my people? How can I bear to stand by and watch the massacre of my relatives?”
King Xerexes allowed Esther and Mordecai to write whatever
she deemed necessary to stop the massacre on an order, and he signed it. Their
city exploded with joy for Esther saved their lives. Celebration, cheering, and
feasting took to the streets. Many non-Jews became Jews on this day. Mordecai
also became a mighty name in the palace. The king, with love on his face,
turned to Esther and said, “What else would you like? Name it and it’s
yours. Your wish is my command.”
Mordecai soon released a notice calling for an annual
celebration of the Jew’s freedom, and it became a tradition. He soon ranked
second in command to King Xerexes for the peace and prosperity he brought to
I found it interesting God is not mentioned in the Book of
Esther, however, the protection of His chosen people is implied. The Jewish
religion was an ethnic choice rather than a religious practice in the era of
Esther. When the Bible was interpreted, many rabbis were troubled by Esther’s
failure to live as a Jew, so her story suffered in its religious connotation.
Why was Esther a powerful woman?
Esther was a female hero, for women in Persia were
a low species in society. Whatever power she did have was earned through
manipulation of higher forces (such as her husband). Esther used her beauty,
charm, and political intelligence to save the Jews. She fought for her
Queen Esther was a positive role model for Jewish women
during her lifetime. She was courageous to approach the king about the
death plot of her race. Her life was on the line and it was risky but Esther stood
up for what she believed in, even though it was dangerous.
Though God was not mentioned in the Book of Esther, Esther
used fasting and prayer for clarity. It placed her in the path of humility.
Esther is a powerful example that our background does not
determine God’s plan for us, only faith. She was an orphan and lived in
exile, but God brought her to redemption and freedom.
Not many details are known about Esther after the story
written in the Bible. However, Jewish scholars claim she had a son named Darius
who became a king. He lifted the ban against the rebuilding of the Holy Temple,
which led to the building of the Second Temple.
According to Wikipedia, Esther is commemorated as a
matriarch in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. She
is also recognized as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox
Churches. It is believed Esther’s son buried her, with Mordecai, in a mausoleum
in Hamadan, Iran. In 2009, Iran added it as a Jewish holy site on their
National Heritage List.
Abigail’s short, but compelling story, is in 1 Samuel 25,
and written about 960 BC. It occurs in the town of Maon, a Jewish settlement in
the West Bank.
Nabal was a very wealthy, yet obstinate and harsh man, who
owned three thousand sheep and one thousand goats. His wife, Abigail, was an
intelligent and beautiful woman. One afternoon, Nabal was shearing his sheep in
the wilderness. A young warrior named David was hiding in a nearby town, and he
heard of Nabal’s huge undertaking. He sent ten of his men to visit Nabal; after
all, he guarded Nabal’s sheep on more than one occasion.
“Go and approach Nabal. Greet him in my name, ‘Peace!
Life and peace to you! When your shepherds were camped near us we didn’t take
advantage of them. I’m asking you to be generous with my men – share the feast!
Give whatever your heart tells you to your servants and to David, your son.”
Nabal was furious and began insulting the men while
demanding to know the identity of David. He yelled, “Who is this David? The
country is full of runaway servants these days. Do you think I’m going to take
good bread and wine and meat freshly butchered for my sheepshearers and give it
to men I’ve never laid eyes on? Who knows where they’ve come from?”
David’s men ran back to tell him of Napal’s arrogance. “Strap
on your swords!” he called out to four hundred of his men. “What a slap
in the face! May God do his worst to me if Nabal and every cur in his
misbegotten brood isn’t dead by morning!”
Meanwhile, a young shepherd ran back to Abigail and told
her of the confrontation in the fields. He begged Abigail to do something
before they killed everyone. She immediately took action by gathering two
hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep ready for cooking, a
bushel of roasted grain, a hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes. She
loaded all the food on the donkeys and had her servants lead the way to David.
No one could say a word to her husband.
As Abigail was riding her donkey into a large ravine,
David and his men were descending from the other end. They all met in the
middle where Abigail quickly climbed off the donkey and fell on her knees
before David. With humility, honor, and respect, she humbly spoke to him of her
“My lord should not pay attention to this wicked man
Nabal. He simply lives up to his name! His name means ‘fool,’ and he is indeed
foolish!” David immediately recognized Abigail was sent by God. He
apologized and thanked her for stopping him from murdering all of them. He
accepted the food she brought him and said, “Return home in peace.”
Abigail arrived home, and Nabal was eating a huge spread
of food and was very drunk. She left him be… until the next morning when she
told him what she gave David. Nabal’s raging face turned red, and he grabbed
his heart and fell onto the ground. For ten days, he laid in a coma until God
took his life.
When David heard Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be
God who has stood up for me against Nabal’s insults, kept me from an evil act,
and let his evil boomerang back on him.” He sent for Abigail to propose
marriage to her, and she didn’t linger. She climbed onto her donkey and rode to
Abigail was David’s second wife, as he was also married to
Ahinoam of Jezreel. Both women accompanied him while they sought refuge in a
Philistine territory, and their life wasn’t easy. But, soon after settling in
Hebron, Abigail gave birth to their only child, who was named Chileab (also
In case you did not make the connection in Abigail’s
story, the man who she married was none other than a young King David, one of
the most well-known figures in Jewish history. He was promised by God that his
children would rule Israel forever. If we delve into Bible scriptures, Abigail
was one of eight wives to David.
She suffered the consequences of an arranged marriage to
Nabal. She could not blame or fight their choice. But, her story reveals why
women should follow God’s guidelines for a partner. Though he was an abusive
husband, she remained dedicated to him until God’s perfect timing played out.
Why was Abigail a powerful woman?
Abigail was a very humble woman. Though she was wealthy,
she did not let her riches interfere with the welfare of her family. Not only
did she save her family, but she saved David from committing murders.
She was fearless as she rode to find David and give
him her offerings. It was perilous for her to face a man with an army of four
Abigail had an attitude of humility, honor, and respect
as she approached the man who would one day rule Israel. I think David knew
Abigail was the kind of comrade he needed to be a successful king.
She always acted in wisdom, for God was building
character in her heart. Living with an abusive man, she still grew into a
respectful woman, even amid adversity.
Please join us again next Sunday for two more powerful women in the Bible. God bless!
What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a
political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes
may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent
examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible, and I will
review two a week for the next four Sundays. Our ladies, now two thousand years
later, may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a guiding tool
in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.
The last point I want to express is “behind every
successful man is a strong and wise woman.” So true of these most powerful
women in the Bible! I hope you enjoy my review.
Mary of Magdala lived in a comfortable village of many
Greeks in Galilee. They depicted her as a prostitute in town. According to
scriptures, the single Mary Magdalene had a serious sickness caused by ‘seven
demons,’ so many people assumed she was a fallen woman. But, in biblical times,
certain illnesses such as schizophrenia, blindness, heart disease, and epilepsy
were thought to be demonic. The Bible is unclear what her specific situation
was, but bible scholars agree she was not a prostitute.
At some point in her life, Mary met Jesus in one of the
many villages He ministered to, and He healed her afflictions. She became an
immediate follower and a leader of a group of women who traveled with Jesus and
helped to support His ministry. Only a strong, self-confident woman would be so
brave to spread the Gospel in biblical days.
Jesus had two groups of people who accompanied Him – a
group of men led by Peter the Apostle, and a group of women led by Mary
Magdalene. However, according to religious tradition, females were meant to be
seen and not heard, but Mary, in controversy, was very close to Jesus. Just as I
wrote in the past, God chooses people to be His disciples that we least expect
to reach this broken world. Mary was one such example. Her great faith earned
special attention from Jesus.
On the day they crucified Jesus, Mary Magdalene, along
with two others, stood at the base of His cross and watched Him breathe His
last breath. Her heartbreak must have been unimaginable! In the Bible passages of Luke 23 and Matthew
27, Mary prepared Jesus’ body for burial by making a spice anointment for the
linens. She observed from afar as they placed His body in the rock tomb. Mary
visited His burial site every day as if waiting… did she know something?
In the early morning light, the following week, Mary visited
the tomb. As she sat and prayed an earthquake erupted and forced the rock away
from the entrance of the grave. Mary jumped up to look inside, and it was
empty! Suddenly, God’s angel appeared before her.
“Woman, why are you weeping?”
With tears streaming down her face, Mary replied, “They
have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
Suddenly a voice from behind her spoke, “Mary! Why are
you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”
Not recognizing the face, she said to him, “Sir, if you
have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him
away.” He responded with, “Mary!” It was Jesus standing before her.
She dropped to her knees, grabbed His hands, and said in Hebrew “Rabbouni!” Jesus told her not to hold on to Him because He had not ascended to the Father yet. Instead, He ordered her to go tell the disciples he was resurrected.
Mary ran to them and announced, “I have seen the Lord.”
It is interesting that in a society where women were held
in low regard, Christ showed Himself first to a woman. Mary loved her Lord, and
she was His truest, faithful follower.
What made Mary Magdalene a powerful woman?
She taught us to live courageously and faithfully for Christ. Jesus set her free by eliminating her ‘demons,’ and instead of going about her own life, Mary worked for Him. Even when she faced difficult times, and people called her hopeless, she allowed Jesus to work through her.
Mary was more loyal to Jesus than His own disciples. They hid as Jesus was led to His crucifixion, but Mary stayed with Him. She also anointed His linen with spices.
Mary was given the honor of being the first person to see Jesus after His resurrection. She was very important to Christ, or He would not have revealed Himself to her before the other disciples. It may be safe to comment Jesus changed the way women were viewed in society.
Mary teaches us that even if our lives are in terrible disarray, it is never too late to find hope in God.
Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends and His apostle, ostracized her work as a disciple. In the Gospel of Thomas, he said, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of the Life,” but her strength of character and love of God gave her the courage to move forward. Today, she is often called the first woman evangelist.
What happened to Mary Magdalene
after Jesus’ resurrection? Much controversy exists about this topic. One theory
suggests fourteen years after the crucifixion, she was put into a boat by Jews
and set adrift without sails or oars. The boat landed in southern France where
she lived in solitude in a cave.
Another theory claims she
accompanied John to Ephesus, where she died and was buried. Some say she
evangelized Provence, France during her last thirty years.
A recent book titled The Lost
Gospel even claims Mary and Jesus were secretly married and had two children,
but someone’s imagination was a little overextended.
Today, in the Russian Orthodox
church, they know her as the patroness of sinners and penitent women. One of
the world’s best-known monuments is the Church of Mary Magdalene in East
Hannah is an inspiring and
wonderful story of humanity and all its flaws. No one is the leading character
in the story of their own life.
Elkanah lived in the Ephraim
hills of a small town thirteen miles to the northeast of Jerusalem. He practiced
polygamy through his Levite religion. Hannah was his first wife, and he adored and
loved her, doting on her every need. But, she was infertile, and his family
name needed to be honored with children, so he married another woman. Peninnah
was envious of the love Elkanah had for Hannah. She cruelly taunted Hannah to
tears each time she gave birth to their ten sons, and Hannah lost her sense of appetite.
One day, Hannah traveled to the
sanctuary, and she spoke to the priest about her inability to have children.
Her soul was crushed as the tears flowed down her lovely face. She dropped to
her knees before the altar and prayed.
if you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, if you’ll quit neglecting me and
go into action for me by giving me a son, I’ll give him completely,
unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.”
Before the year was out, Hannah
conceived and gave birth to a son named Samuel. She told Elkanah she asked God
for this son. Hannah also explained when the child was weaned, she would
present him before God, where he would remain forever. He agreed with her
The day arrived when Samuel was
no longer dependent on Hannah for nutrition. She took him to Shiloh along with
a butchered bull, flour, and wine and presented him to the priest, Eli. “I
prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for. And now I have
dedicated him to God. He’s dedicated to God for life.”
Hannah and Elkanah dedicated their lives to God as they watched their son grow up among the priests. Hannah made Samuel little white robes cut to his size, and they took them to him. Eli often said a prayer over her on those visits, “God give you children to replace this child you have dedicated to God.” His blessings and prayers were heard as Hannah and Elkanah had three more sons and a daughter.
Today, we acknowledge Samuel as a
prophet by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, an equal to Moses. He wrote the story
of his life, including his mother, Hannah, in the Book of Samuel.
What made Hannah a powerful
Hannah’s main attribute was perseverance. She prayed for many years for God to give her a child. She had faith in the power of the Lord and never doubted He would answer her prayers. Hannah teaches us never to give up, even when we think something is impossible. Her faithfulness to the Lord bled into her son, who became a great man.
Her boldness, strength, and devotion were like no other for she was a mother who gave up her first-born to the Lord. I’m sure most parents would rethink this decision. But, Hannah recognized all things are God’s possessions, even our children. He honors parents with children as merely a gift, a temporary gift. We are to mold them in the ways of the Lord as a blessing to all nations. In Hannah’s case, because she fulfilled her promise to God, He blessed her with a legacy of five more children.
Hannah’s power is also demonstrated through a promise which she kept to God. Her integrity is in the commitment of handing her child over to God. She never went back on her word, for if she did, she might never have conceived any more children. God rewards us for loyalty.
Thank you, Hannah, for teaching
us we must trust in the Lord in everything in our lives. Life is not always a
bowl of cherries, but with persistent prayer, miracles can and will happen.
Dedication to the Master who created us, along with integrity, will reap you
blessings beyond your wildest imagination.
Hannah is buried in the Tomb of
Samuel in the West bank, beside her son Samuel, on top of a steep hill just north
of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot.
We hope you enjoyed Part One and will return next Sunday for two more powerful women in the Bible.
Paul needed much rest at home in Syria after his second
missionary trip, so he spent his time with the Antioch Christians and other
apostles. He preached and taught at the Antioch schools. But, after a couple of
years, he felt it was time to revisit his established churches and friends
across Asia Minor.
* SPECIAL NOTE: Bible scripture does not specify if
Timothy traveled with Paul on this trip. It was rare for missionaries to travel
alone in biblical days, but it appears Paul did just this on his journey.
GALATIA and PHYRYGIA (Acts 18)
Approximately 53 A.D., Paul headed northwest to check in
with his first established churches in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian
Antioch. He put a fresh heart into their leaders and congregations. As he
traveled from town to town, his old friends, Aquila and Priscilla, sent him
news of a powerful speaker who arrived in Ephesus. Apollos was an enthusiastic
Jew, born in Alexandria, Egypt, who was highly recommended to preach by their
Ephesian friends. But, there was one problem – Apollos’ knowledge of Jesus
stopped at John’s baptism. So, Priscilla and Aquila (the first Christian
missionary team) taught him of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Then
Apollos left for Corinth, and Paul headed down the mountains for Ephesus.
EPHESUS (Acts 19)
Soon after Paul’s arrival in Ephesus, he met twelve
disciples, and a conversation began with questions and answers. He discovered
they only knew of John’s baptism and had not been born again by faith in
Christ. They were, for sure, Apollo’s students. Paul taught them the complete
gospel. He baptized them in the name of Jesus, and they praised God in tongues.
The next three months, Paul spoke to the Jews in their synagogue.
He tried to convince them of the realness of God’s kingdom. A resistance formed
as evil rumors swirled about the Christian way of life. The Jews rejected the
reason for Jesus’ crucifixion and especially the resurrection. So, Paul stopped
teaching in the synagogue. The twelve disciples and Paul set up a new worship
place in the school of Tyrannus for the next two years. Paul taught there in
the afternoons when Ephesians took their siesta – it was less risky than
mornings. Many Jews and Greeks from Asia attended his daily lessons. Paul also wrote
letters to the church in Corinth (known as 1 Corinthians), as they were
struggling with moral issues.
God worked powerful miracles through Paul, which spread
quickly around the area. Soon people started taking pieces of his clothing and
began touching the sick with them. They believed his items healed others. A
Jewish exorcist tried his hand at this when an evil spirit spoke back to him,
asking who he was – he wasn’t Paul. This ended in a bloody brawl, and the news
of the incident led Jews and Gentiles to believe only God was behind the voice.
It led to witches and warlocks burning their books of spells and incantations
and sovereignty for Paul ruled the land.
It wasn’t long before another large ruckus in Ephesus
occurred over Paul’s presence. (Acts 19: 21-34) Demetrius was a silversmith for
shrines of the goddess, Artemis, and he employed many artisans in the city. His
business was failing because Paul discredited his statutes as being a real god.
So, he gathered all his workers, and they rioted. After several hours of
ranting and screaming, the town clerk settled everyone down and sent them home.
Paul called the disciples together and gave them lots of
encouragement. He said his goodbyes and left town quietly on a ship headed to
MACEDONIA (Acts 20)
The apostle stayed a short three months in Greece. While
Paul was there, he revisited his churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea
and encouraged the ministry. He also wrote another letter to the church in
Corinth (known as 2 Corinthians in the Bible) as some false disciples attacked his
Paul’s initial plan was to return to Syria via Jerusalem. However,
he learned of his death plot by some Jews who would attack him on the ship. So Paul
returned to Macedonia by land and gathered some apostles who would meet him in
Troas – Timothy, Sopater from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica,
Gaius from Derbe, and Tychicus and Trophimus from western Asia.
Paul stayed for Passover Week in Philippi and set sail for
TROAS (northwest Turkey) (Acts 20:7-8)
All the disciples gathered to meet Paul when he arrived in
Troas. On Sunday, they met the church congregation, and Paul preached long into
the night. As Paul talked, a young man named Eutychus went to sleep sitting on
a windowsill of the third-story room. He toppled out the window and was
declared dead. Everyone began crying and gasping at the horrible sight. Paul
ran down the steps and stretched himself over Eutychus. Squeezing him tightly,
Paul said, “No more crying. There’s life in him yet.” The boy was alive
so Paul continued telling stories of faith until dawn.
A short week later, Paul wanted to get back to Jerusalem
for the Feast of Pentecost. The disciples met him in Assos and then watched him
board the ship for Miletus (southwestern Turkey).
sent messengers to Ephesus for the elders in the church to join him. After
three years of working closely with the church, it was necessary to have a final
conversation with the bishops. He owed it to them.
everyone arrived, he began the speech with his qualities, characteristic of his
servitude. He talked of being a humble yet persecuted servant of God, but
through it all, he still encouraged them to continue spreading the word of God.
Now it was time for his sad news… (Acts 20:17-35)
now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will
happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me
that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth
nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord
Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom
will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent
of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the
whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the
Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he
bought with his own blood. (Acts 22-28) NIV
Paul gained a reputation for being against the Law, and
he knew he would be killed when he returned to Jerusalem. Through tearful
goodbyes and prayers, he encouraged the elders, and they walked him to the
ship. He could see the fear in their
eyes, so they knelt on the beach and prayed together one last time.
CAESAREA (Acts 21:7-16)
Paul stayed with Philip the Evangelist for several days. On
the fourth day, Agabus, a prophet from Judea, came to visit Paul. Dramatically,
he prophesied Paul getting mobbed and imprisoned if he went to Jerusalem. Paul didn’t
budge nor show fear.
He responded to Agabus, “You’re looking at this
backwards. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or
murder, but what God does through my obedience.”
A couple of days later, a group of friends escorted Paul
to Jerusalem where everyone stayed at the home of Mnason, a disciple.
JERUSALEM (Acts 21:27-36)
was in Jerusalem for a week when some Jews from Ephesus spotted him in the
synagogue. At once they ran and grabbed him. They screamed he was the man who
was telling lies against the Jews. Soon the whole city came to get in on the
upheaval. They dragged Paul outside the synagogue and beat him until soldiers
arrived and arrested him. As they took him to the holding cell, Paul requested
to speak to the crowd. He told the Jews he was Saul of Tarsus and gave them
some background of his history.
began shaking their fists and cursing, so the police dragged him inside the
jail. The Roman centurions wanted to interrogate Paul under torture to find out
what he did wrong, but when they realized he was a Roman citizen, they took him
before the high priests.
gazed at Chief Priest Ananias and said, “Friends, I’ve lived with a clear
conscience before God all my life.”
priest’s aides slapped Paul across the face for being disrespectful to the
Chief Priest. He apologized and explained he didn’t know he was a high priest.
Paul knew the council consisted of both Pharisees and Sadducees so as he spoke
who he was, their decision to keep him split in half. A violent council caused
the centurions to take him back to jail, for his safety.
night, as Paul slept behind bars, Jesus spoke to him. “Have courage! For as
you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
The following morning, Paul’s nephew arrived at the jail,
and he was allowed to speak to Paul. He informed him of a plot to murder his
uncle by some Jews in Jerusalem. His nephew also talked to the captain of the jail.
An ambush was set to occur if he removed Paul from the jail. The captain immediately
placed a plan in action.
About 9 PM that evening, two hundred soldiers, seventy cavalrymen,
and two hundred light infantry were placed in Caesarea. Paul was transported safely and placed on
house arrest in King Herod’s official quarters.
CAESAREA: PAUL ON TRIAL (Acts 24:1-21)
Within five days, the Chief Priest Ananias arrived with a
trial lawyer, and they presented the governor with their case against Paul.
They charged him with disturbing the peace, stirring up riots against Jews all over
the world, and being the ringleader of the Nazarenes.
Paul defended his innocence. “It’s because I believe in
the resurrection that I’ve been hauled into this court. Does that sound to you
like grounds for a criminal case?” They dismissed Paul until the captain
decided a resolution. Meanwhile, he remained at King Herod’s home where he was
allowed freedom in the house and visitors who could help him.
Paul was heartbroken the church never came to his defense
as he maintained house arrest status for the next two years. During this time,
a Jewish couple, Felix and Drusilla, listened to Paul talk about Jesus Christ,
moral discipline, and the coming Judgment. One day, Felix was replaced by the
new governor, Porcius Festus. For sure, his agenda was not a good one.
Festus went to Jerusalem to see the high priests and top
leaders, and he renewed their vendetta against Paul. They wanted him sentenced
to death. Ten days later, Paul was led into the courtroom with jeering Jews. He
asked for an appeal to Caesar in Rome, and it was awarded because it was a
religious argument. Paul had the right to defend his innocence.
Several days later, King Agrippa and his wife, Bernice,
asked to meet Paul as they wanted to hear his story. Paul was led into the
Great Hall. Festus began by saying all the charges made by the Jews were lies
and nothing else. Paul took the stand and told of his background and history.
It was too much for Festus! “You are out of your mind,
Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane.”
Paul appealed to their sense of religion. King Agrippa,
the governor, Bernice, and their advisors stood up and left the room. They
quickly agreed on Paul’s innocence. Agrippa faced Festus and said, “This man
could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
SAILING FOR ROME (Acts 27:27-28:5)
Under the supervision of a centurion named Julius, Paul
and a few other prisoners boarded a ship headed for Rome. They sailed close to
the shoreline because the strong winds were blowing against them. Then they
transferred onto another ship at the port of Myra. The weather was horrific
until they reached the island of Crete at the start the winter. Paul saw
disaster ahead if they set sail any further, but the centurion ignored him and
headed for Phoenix, a few miles further ahead.
No sooner was the ship out to sea when the gale-force
winds struck and they lost control. With lifeboats readied, they drifted near
some rocky shoals of an island, but it was impossible to get ashore. The ship’s
drift anchors stopped them for crashing into the rocks from the whipping wind.
For two weeks the ship drifted on the Adriatic Sea until they realized they were approaching land. Paul gathered everyone together and asked them to eat some bread for strength. By daybreak, the centurion could see a beach so he decided to run the ship upon the sand. They hit a reef, and the boat began to break into pieces. Everyone swam to the shore.
The passengers soon learned they were on the island of
Malta as natives came to their rescue. The head man of the island, Publius,
took them into his home. He fed them and left them stay for three days, but the
crew spent three months on Malta, waiting for another ship.
House arrest was imminent for Paul again as he entered
Rome in 60 A.D. He stayed in his own private quarters with a soldier assigned
to watch over him for two years. Many visitors came to see him, and he
presented all matters of the Bible to them. He continued to preach God’s word
as a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
What a cliffhanger! As I researched what happened to Paul
after his Rome arrest, I found a lot of articles written by biblical scholars
relishing in their own opinion. The Bible, though, does not speak of how, where,
or why Paul died. We may assume Nero’s military beheaded him or he passed away
as a martyr, after the Great Fire of Rome in July 64 A.D. Persecution of
Christians was at an all-time high during this period in history. Are we to
understand, then, Paul was released after his trial in Rome? There is no clear
indication to confirm this question.
Paul’s entire story is written in the Book of Acts.
However, it is believed many of the passages are not entirely accurate because
they are missing Paul’s letters which revealed his deepest thoughts.
The apostle wrote four books of the New Testament during
this last segment of his life:
18:22-38: Paul’s detailed his final
meeting with the elders of the church in Ephesus in Miletus.
Corinthians: This is the letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth
addressing immorality and divisions which had arisen among its members. He
covered issues such as sexual immorality, marriage problems, and lawsuits with
other believers. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the
kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor
adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor
drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (6:9).
He also corrected the doctrines which spoke of women in worship, the use of
spiritual gifts, and observing the Lord’s Supper. Finally, he talked about the
topic of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Corinthians: Written in Macedonia about 56 A.D., it is another letter to
the church of Corinth defending and protecting his apostleship. Paul detailed
the characteristics of an apostle so members could recognize a false prophet.
He also spoke of the persecution of Christians, but he also instilled hope in
Jesus Christ. Paul used the theology of his suffering as an example. The last
thing he wrote in this Book was how to know if you are a real Christian. He
said it was necessary to test yourself by examining the scriptures. (13:5)
Paul wrote to the Romans from Corinth in 57 or 58 A.D. beginning the letter
with “to all God’s beloved in Rome.” Addressing the Christian
church of Rome, it is the most profound coverage of the Christian faith. He spoke
that a believer’s relationship with God couldn’t be repaired by just good deeds,
but by faith and serving the Lord. Paul also teaches about the sinful nature of
man and how to gain freedom from the evilness of sin. Finally, he explained how
to obtain a holy lifestyle; many makes the mistake of conforming their lives to
the world, instead of to God.
Paul the Apostle was a real study in Christian character.
The description of himself was so accurate -“a slave to Jesus Christ.” He
served God first, man second, and himself last. His devotion to the Lord was
like none other. I think he contributed more to the growth of Christianity than
any other apostle.
This apostle is an exemplary example of working for God,
be it as a missionary or in the ministry. In fact, Paul’s life parallels the
missionaries who serve around the world today. These servants of God remain
devoted regardless of the cost to their life. The courage to go into uncharted
territories and preach Christianity can only be done through God’s anointment,
and God bless them for this dedication.
Though Paul suffered many tribulations and felt deserted by everyone, he found strength in God through his weakness. I hope, one day, to meet Paul and find out the many stories he did not write about in the Bible. God gave him more than any person could handle, but God delivered the apostle by the grace of prayer. I encourage you to read Paul’s books in the Bible and learn to apply the scriptures to your own life. Absorb it, live it, and teach it… it’s Christianity. Thank you, friends, for reading this series – we hope you enjoyed it!
Did you miss any parts of The Dynamic Story of Paul the Apostle? You may read them here:
Paul and Barnabas
settled back home and enjoyed leisurely visits with the disciples. They
discussed their handpicks for church leaders in their first journey. They also
detailed how God used them to open the door of faith to people of all nations.
Excitement filled the air.
Not long after
their arrival home, some Jews from Judea appeared at Antioch (of Syria) and
insisted they must circumcise every man for eternal salvation. A fierce protest
ensued, so the church sent Paul, Barnabas, and a few others to Jerusalem to
settle the dispute. (Acts 15)
The Jerusalem conference
happily received Paul and Barnabas. They knew about the good works of the two
disciples. The meeting began, and it wasn’t long before they argued both sides.
After a long period of heated discussions, James (the brother of Jesus)
declared the decision. Non-Jewish people would not be burdened with
circumcision. A letter would be given, instead, to every male – ‘Do not get
involved in idolatry, guard the morality of sex and marriage, and do not serve
offensive food to the Jewish Christians.’
Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, reported the decision of the conference, and it relieved many – they were pleased with the result. It was time to return to their missionary work. Paul wanted to return to a few of his earlier churches to give them continuing encouragement. But Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways. Paul chose Silas, a leading member, and preacher of the early church, to make this three-year journey with him through Asia Minor.
LYSTRA/ PHRYGIA (Acts 14:8-16:40)
It was the fall of 51 A.D., and Paul and Silas arrived in Lystra. He met a disciple named Timothy whose excellent reputation preceded him. Paul took the young man under his wing and mentored him, but one stipulation applied before he could travel with Paul… he must be circumcised so he wouldn’t offend the Jews who lived in Lystra. Timothy became one of Paul’s most steadfast and trusted companions as they traveled from town to town, presenting the Gospel. Day after day, the congregations grew larger and stronger in faith throughout Lystra and Phrygia.
MYSIA to MACEDONIA (Acts 16:16-40)
The apostles went
to Mysia (northwest corner of Turkey) at the suggestion of the Holy Spirit.
They finally arrived in the seaport of Troas which sat on the Aegean Sea. Macedonia
would soon prove to be an eventful trip.
The night of
Paul’s arrival in Troas, he could barely sleep. He had a vision of a Macedonian
standing on the far shore yelling to him, “Come over to Macedonia and help
us!” Paul understood God’s message; He wanted Paul to settle into Europe,
so he quickly put his plans and map in place.
When they arrived
in New City, Paul and Silas walked to Philippi, the main city and a Roman
colony of Macedonia. They prepared the list of cities they would visit, which
also included Apollonia, Amphipolis, and Thessalonica.
Several days later
was the Sabbath, and the apostles strolled down to the river where there was to
be a prayer meeting. They sat amongst the women who gathered there and talked
with them. Lydia, a purple-dye textile dealer from Thyatira, was a good
God-fearing woman. She developed a lasting relationship with the disciples, and
they even stayed as guests in her home until they moved to their next location.
But, before the disciples left, Paul baptized Lydia and her family. Today, we
know her in the Bible as the first European convert to Christianity.
Some time passed,
and a discerning incident occurred in town. The disciples ran into a slave girl
on the street who was a psychic. She began following Paul around for several
days, sarcastically yelling to everyone, “These men are working for the Most
High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!”
Paul became irate
one day and turned to her, “Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of
her!” And the spirit departed from her.
When the slave
girl’s owners realized their fortune-telling business was bankrupt, they
gathered many people together. They searched and found Paul and Silas and
viciously attacked them. The mob dragged the disciples by their feet into the
market square where the police arrested them for disturbing the peace. They put
Paul and Silas in a maximum-security cell with their legs clamped in round
other prisoners in the jail heard praying and singing of hymns. Paul and Silas
were clearly amused at their arrest. Then, without warning, the ground beneath
their feet started moving and shaking – it was an earthquake! The walls of the
jailhouse shook, and every door flew open.
Badly shaken by
the disruption, the warden fell on his knees before Paul and Silas. “Sirs,
what must I do to be saved?” The apostles stood shocked and examined his
in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” The warden took Paul and Silas home.
He bandaged their wounds and fed them a meal. In the morning hours, Paul and
Silas baptized the jailer and his entire family.
The next morning, the court judges sent word the apostles were free. Paul objected based on the principle it humiliated them in public and good standing Roman citizens. Surprised the apostles were Romans, the judges hurried to them and apologized for the mishap. It was time for the ninety-seven mile trip to Thessalonica.
THESSALONICA (Acts 17:2-9)
was an ancient and prosperous city of Macedon in northern Greece. It was a
major trade route with many cultures. Paul and Silas took refuge in a man’s
home named Jason, who was a Jewish Christian.
A community of
Jews inhabited the area, so Paul immediately preached in the synagogues, “this
Jesus I’m introducing you to is the Messiah.” The apostle won many of the
God-fearing Greeks. Mad with jealousy, the Jews gathered a group of brawlers
off the streets, and they hunted every street in search of Paul and Silas. They
broke into Jason’s house but couldn’t find the apostles, so they collared Jason
and his friends instead and dragged them before the mayor.
The Jews yelled
hysterically, “These people are out to destroy the world, and now they’ve
shown up on our doorstep, attacking everything we hold dear! Jason is hiding
them, these traitors and turncoats who say Jesus is king and Caesar is
The crowd of people and the mayor were alarmed by their charges. Jason had to post a heavy bail while the case was investigated. In the dead of night, Paul and Silas slipped out of town, but not before contacting Antioch (in Syria) to send Timothy to Berea.
BEREA (Acts 17:10-15)
A more matured
Timothy joined the apostles in Berea, a city in northern Greece. They, again,
met with the Jewish community and were treated so much better than in
Thessalonica. The Jews were enthusiastic to hear Paul’s message, and many
converted to Christians.
After only three months in Berea, reports filtered back to the Jews in Thessalonica that the three apostles were in town. Another Jewish mob scene began, and with the help of Timothy and Silas, Paul was put on a boat and taken out to sea. When Paul reached Athens, he sent word back to Timothy and Silas to come as quick as possible.
ATHENS (Acts 17:16-34)
Paul toured the
city of Athens while he waited for Timothy and Silas to arrive by his side. The
city was full of junkyard idols. Paganism gripped the town and works of art
such as statues were pillaged. It was clear the Romans deserted the city. He
spoke with many of the locals and developed good friendships. His preaching of
Jesus and the resurrection was often met with sarcasm, but many were intrigued
too. “That’s a new slant on the gods. Tell us more!”
approached Paul to make a public presentation of “his God” at the Areopagus, a hill
west of the Athenian Acropolis, where the government council often met. He took his stand and faced the audience.
of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked
around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar
with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing
you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”
Paul’s notorious speech on that day won the conversion of a few people and some Greek poets who attended the program in Athens. A successful trip it was but fifty-five miles to the southwest, Corinth was calling him.
CORINTH (Acts 18:1-11)
Corinth was a
thriving cosmopolitan city. Shortly after his arrival, Paul met Aquila and
Priscilla, who shared the trade of tent making with him. They were new arrivals
to Corinth too; since they were Jews, they were banished from Rome by the
emperor, Claudius. A friendship quickly formed between the three, and Paul was
invited to live and work with them. But
every Sabbath he was at the meeting place doing his best to convince both Jews
and Greeks about Jesus.
At long last Silas
and Timothy arrived and now he could devote his time to preaching, but
something was wrong. They persistently argued and contradicted Paul, so he
walked out and went to the home of Titius Justus. Titius was a God-fearing man
who lived next to the Jews’ meeting place. Paul assigned Timothy to be one of his
leading troubleshooters for congregational problems within the churches of
converted to Christianity, and with the Lord’s encouragement in the middle of
the night, Paul was successful in his mission. He stayed another year and a
half preaching while he also wrote two epistles to the church of Thessalonica. These
earliest apostolic letters today are known as First and Second Thessalonians of
persecution, once again, played in the forefront. The Jews campaigned against
Paul, hauled him into court, and filed charges of seducing people into acts of
worship that were illegal. Gallio, the governor, could not have cared less so
he let the charges drop against Paul.
Paul stayed a little while longer before he left Corinth with his friends, Aquila and Priscilla, at his side. He wanted to go back to Jerusalem to observe the Pentecost. They boarded a ship in the harbor town of Cenchrea and headed for Ephesus in present-day Turkey.
EPHESUS to CAESAREA (Acts 18:20-21)
Priscilla and Aquila got off the ship and stayed in
Ephesus. They pleaded with Paul to stay awhile longer, but he promised he would
come back soon. He left the ship briefly to preach to the Jews (the first
person to preach Christianity in Ephesus) and then returned to take a boat to
Paul disembarked in Caesarea and headed to Jerusalem where he greeted the assembly of Christians. It was a long three years, and it was time to go back to Antioch and rest.
Did you miss Part 1? Click HERE. Did you miss Part 2? Click HERE.
SUMMARY OF PAUL’S SECOND MISSIONARY TRIP
During this second missionary journey, Paul formed many
disciples from all backgrounds. He took a young Timothy under his wing and
mentored how to preach and exhibit patience, purity, and integrity. It was
important to encourage their congregations, or it will be lifeless.
In Philippi, Paul disciples and baptized a businesswoman
by the name of Lydia. She was the very first person to convert to Christianity
in Europe. Many Christian denominations today recognize her as a saint,
especially in the Orthodox church. A modern baptistry is located, today, on the
traditional site where Lydia was baptized by Paul. In, we have to wonder if he
had Lydia in mind when he wrote: “Not slothful in business, fervent in
spirit, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)
Paul developed a strong bond with the married couple
Aquila and Priscilla. He disciples them, and they eventually became a first-century
Christian missionary team. In some religions, we often think her to have been
the first female preacher or teacher in early church history.
He planted the church in Philippi during his second
missionary journey somewhere the year A.D. 49 or 50. His ministry was so
successful that even when he left Philippi, the Philippian Christians supported
Paul sending him monetary gifts at various times when he was in financial need.
He wrote about this in Philippians 4: 15-16:
“When I set out
from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and
receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me
aid again and again when I was in need.”
He loved them for their commitment to the Lord, and they
became his closest friends.
During the time they imprisoned Paul in Philippi, he
suffered mentally and physically, but he knew life was never truly hopeless.
God can rescue us from any trouble. We can note the earthquake which occurred
while he was in jail was not felt or observed anywhere else in Philippi –
another of God’s miracles.
Athens was a disturbing experience for Paul as idolatry
overpowered the beauty of this lost city. He wrote about it in the Book of
Romans claiming Gentiles and Jews are under divine condemnation, hopeless and
helpless, and in need of salvation. His Areopagus sermon was infamous, though,
because it was his first attempt to explain the nature of Christ to highly
cultivated philosophers. He emphasized the need to know God, rather than
worshiping the unknown. The part of his speech which covered “the resurrection
of the dead” was his kiss of death. The Greeks felt it foolish and impossible,
so they threw out Paul’s entire message. We can find his ministry teachings to
Athens in 1 Corinthians: Chapters 1, 2, and 3; Romans chapter 1; and Colossians
chapters one and two. Paul never founded a church in Athens.
Corinth, though many people were Greeks, they were more
worldly and from other parts of Greece and foreign lands. They were more
receptive to Paul and his message that the Savior was the highest expression of
love. He made it known there is no higher love than that which gives up a son
to die for their sins. It was a different psychological approach to those who
praised other gods. Paul successfully founded a church in Corinth.
I hope you are enjoying this series about Paul the Apostle. Next Sunday, I will conclude with his third and final missionary trip and the circumstances of his death. As many finds the Bible confusing, I pray I have shed a light and deeper understanding of the complexity of Paul.
The year was 46
A.D., and with the death of King Herod, the church was again free to preach the
gospel. However, the persecution of Christians in Jerusalem by the Jews and
Roman authorities increased; they forced many believers to leave the area.
Paul and Barnabas headed
to Jerusalem to meet Cephas (birth name Simon but later renamed Peter, by Jesus).
Cephas was the fourth child born to Noah after the great flood. The men spent fifteen
days fasting and praying. One day, news arrived the melting pot church in
Antioch (in Syria) wanted missionaries to preach to the Jews and Gentiles. Many
believers moved during the upheavals in Jerusalem, and they needed churches
throughout the region.
The Holy Spirit
spoke to the church elders in Antioch, “Set apart for me Barnabas and
Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) The church
laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas in 47 A.D., and they boarded a ship headed
to the island of Cyprus on their first missionary trip.
They arrived in
the port city of Salamis. The Roman influence was everywhere – public baths, a
large theater, and a temple dedicated to Zeus. The Graeco-Roman world was ready
for the message of the gospel. Focusing on the Jews, Paul and Barnabas wasted
no time proclaiming the word of God in local synagogues. Most who spread the
word of God were Jews who scorned and persecuted Christian missionaries. But
many believers were ready to receive Paul’s ministry across the island.
passed, and the two disciples decided to walk westward to Paphos, the seat of the
Roman government. It was the worship center for the goddess Aphrodite (Venus).
Word spread quickly they arrived in town. Soon a message arrived – the island’s
Roman governor, Sergius Paulus, wanted to meet them and hear God’s word. It was
also an investigation who was causing all the commotion in his community.
When the governor
entered the room, Elymas (also called Bar-Jesus), a threat to the Christian community,
strayed in behind him. Paul heard about this false prophet (sorcerer), and he
became infuriated of his intentions, but just the same, they spoke the message
for the governor. Elymas
turned to the official and urged him not to pay attention to their untrue
words. Paul was livid and stared Elymas in the eyes. He remembered his own
experience in Damascus and knew blindness would humble a proud man.
son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that
is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? Watch now,
for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck
blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” (Acts 13:10-11)
back, and a mist and darkness came over his eyes.
“Help me! I can’t
see! Someone, please, take my hands and guide me out of here!”
eyes opened wide, and he proclaimed the gospel as truth.
*SPECIAL NOTE: This incident was a critical turning point for Paul and his ministry. He became the team leader, initiated by Barnabas because Paul showed unusual faith and courage. The move showed Barnabas was selfless enough to set the good of others above personal glory. Instead of always striving for power, it is always seeking to help.
PERGA/ PISIDIAN ANTIOCH
Paul and Barnabas
set sail once again, this time to the mainland of Turkey. They arrived in
Perga, an ancient city of Pamphylia, and proceeded onward to the Roman colony, Pisidian
Antioch. On the Sabbath, they visited a synagogue and the church leaders
invited them to speak.
Paul lifted his
hand and began his speech. He started with the Israelite history, and finally,
he introduced Jesus.
one of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior of Israel!
Before he came, John the Baptist preached that all the people of Israel needed
to repent of their sins and turn to God and be baptized… Brothers – you sons
of Abraham, and also you God-fearing Gentiles – this message of Salvation has
been sent to us!” Acts
He told the story
of Jesus’ crucifixion and the laws of forgiveness. Paul ended his speech with
these final words:
listen! We are to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for
your sins. Everyone who believes in him is made right in God’s sight –
something the law of Moses could never do. Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’
words apply to you.” Acts
Many of the Jewish
and Gentile listeners were so enthralled, they invited him back the following
week. This time, the whole city gathered to hear the news. Angry, jealous Jews
stood in the crowd slandering, and they created arguments with Paul. Persecution
soon followed Paul and Barnabas. In a state of frustration, they declared they
would no longer preach the word of God to Jews…
you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will
offer it to the Gentiles. For the Lord gave us this command when he said, ‘I
have made you a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest
corners of the earth.’”
Acts 13: 46-47
Gentiles spread the Lord’s message throughout the region. They celebrated their
conversion to Christianity. However, the furious Jews gathered prominent
members of the city to expel Paul and Barnabas from their city. They did not
want the missionary’s blasphemy in Antioch. So be it…
With a smile in
their heart, and the happiness of converting many Jews and Gentiles to
Christianity while in Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas headed southeast to
Iconium. They preached much in synagogues, and the Lord gave them the power to
perform miracles. The city became divided in their beliefs of the Good News –
is it Judaism or Christianity? Upheavals ensued, and the opposition grew in
strength. A huge plot to kill Barnabas and Paul spread across the town. Rumors
of their impending death instigated the missionaries to flee Iconium. Paul and
Barnabas left immediately and traveled to the remote city of Lystra, just
twenty miles away.
little city laid within tall Roman walls and many beautiful temples dedicated
to Greek Gods stood tall and proud. The temple of Zeus was the most popular for
he was the father of the Greek gods. Paul and Barnabas settled right into their
new surroundings. They continued to minister in the synagogues and converted
many to Christianity.
One Sunday, Paul
looked out over the audience and noticed a man with crippled feet intently
absorbing his spoken words. Paul thought, “He needs the faith of God.”
Stand up!” Paul yelled to
the man. The startled man jumped to his feet and started walking. (Acts 14:
A loud gasp of
shock, then cheering erupted from the crowd. People everywhere shouted, “These
men are gods in human form!” (Acts 14:11)
The priest of the
temple of Zeus and a crowd of people began laying wreaths of flowers and some pulled
bulls to the town gates. These were signs of sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas.
The people mistakenly thought Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes. The
apostles tried to convince the crowd they were mere men.
why are you doing this? We are merely human beings – just like you! We have
come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless
things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and
everything in them.” (Acts
It was impossible
to restrain the crowd. In the distance, Paul and Barnabas saw some Jews from
Antioch in Turkey and Iconium arrive on the scene. Were they here to support
them? No! The Jews yelled out to the masses.
“These men are
imposters! They are blasphemous! Stone them! Stone them!”
The crowd, in
great anger, surrounded the apostles and pounded Paul with rocks and stones.
(It was never disclosed if Barnabas was also stoned in the Bible). In the agony
of pain, Paul passed out, so the angry people dragged him out of the city. A
small group of believers gathered around him for they thought he was dead, but
God had different plans. The Lord miraculously healed Paul on the spot, and he
got up off the ground and walked right back inside the city.
The next morning
Paul and Barnabas made the grueling thirty-mile walk to Derbe in central Turkey.
Paul preached the
Bible with great success in Derbe, and in each town, he established priests to
say Mass and celebrate the sacraments. The early Christian churches were
quickly establishing themselves as a stronghold in every city he visited on his
mission trip. Eighteen months passed, and they felt it was time to go home.
REVISIT TO LYSTRA, ICONIUM, AND PISIDIAN ANTIOCH
Though victims of
persecution, Paul and Barnabas decided to retrace their steps. They would
return through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch on their way to the ship. The
apostles strengthened and comforted believers and they appointed elders in the
church of each city. Paul was confident the Lord would protect these early
GOING HOME TO ANTIOCH OF SYRIA
Paul and Barnabas
returned home by ship to Antioch of Syria in 48 A.D. Paul gathered his church
together and reported all of his good deeds while in each city. “…we’ve
opened a door of faith to the Gentiles,” he exclaimed with delight. The
gospel spread far and wide. Paul’s journey was a preparation of more to come.
successful missionary trip gives us an idea of the very beginning of Christian
churches in the world. King Herod’s reign boasted fear and hatred, particularly
amongst the Jews. After he died, Christianity took hold of the land for many
witnessed the life and resurrection of Jesus. The church of Antioch of Syria
was the foundation for sixteen more Antioch’s built in the ancient world. They
had several outstanding leaders of which Paul and Barnabas were two of them.
What can we learn
about the early Christian churches?
God selects who will disciple His word, the early churches developed the skill
of leadership. They meticulously trained their missionaries and ministry teams
which came from many diverse backgrounds. Strong support for their apostles
came in the form of prayers, education, and mentoring skills.
first Christians were Jewish Christians, either by conversion or birth. They
revered the Hebrew bible in religious text which was often in Greek. They were a
sect of Judaism in Rome.
early Gospels spread only by word of mouth, so training of leaders was critical
for success. Preaching included the history of Jesus and His parables,
salvation, and forgiveness.
Paul built many
early Christian churches in this eighteen-month trip. His first journey covered
the regions of south-central Asia Minor, Turkey, and Syria. He traveled about
1,400 miles spreading the Good News.
missionary trip teaches us several Christian highlights:
met with horrible opposition and much persecution. As I’ve always said, history
repeats itself for this perplexing situation still continues today. God warns
all Christians; many will not believe in Him. Walk away from non-believers and
pursue those who want to find a better way of life. In Paul’s case, he always
began teaching to the Jews, but the Gentiles became the church’s followers.
is a virtue and is a mark of great spiritual maturity. A strict dedication to
God is the only way to covert doubters to believers.
It is unnecessary
to fully convert non-believers. God uses Christians just to plant the seeds.
demonstrated the ultimate meaning of forgiveness. They expelled him from Perga,
plotted his murder in Iconium, and almost died from stoning in Lystra, yet he
walked back into every city and pardoned their people. He prayed for their
forgiveness of sins.
perform unusual miracles, but they were done as a last resort – to testify of
God’s power and strength.
In conclusion, I pray for those who do not know the light of God. Let us never give up planting seeds, but remain in constant prayer… just as Paul.
The short, balding
man with crooked legs leaned against the stone pillar of the Christian church
and sneered at the attendees. As believers left the service, he picked up
stones and threw them yelling, “Blasphemy! You mock my Messiah with your false
religion! Run, or I’ll stone you to death too!” Saul of Tarsus never regretted watching
Stephen get stoned to death. “Jesus the Savior”, he exclaimed, “only God is our
Savior!” Stephen was a wicked and disgusting Christian, just as the people in
this church, he thought to himself. It was Saul’s job to serve and protect God
and the Jewish religion. All the talk of Jesus living on earth was lies so he
would see to it Christians were imprisoned and killed for their false
It was 33 AD, and
Saul decided to leave his regular tent making job behind, and head to Damascus
with three friends on a 136-mile trip. He was on a mission to arrest all
Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for prosecution by the Romans. Saul
limped down the dusty road, when suddenly, a great light shone directly in his
eyes. He stumbled onto the ground. As he glanced up, he witnessed a vision of the
art thou, Lord?”
am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you
will be told what you must do.”
speechless, Saul’s friends backed up and looked away with their hands over
their eyes. Saul trembled and staggered to his feet, but when he opened his
eyes, he was blind! The men took Saul by his hands and led him the rest of the
way to Damascus. Saul refused to drink or eat for the three-day trip. He could
only stay in deep prayer with every step he took on the road. The Lord had revealed
himself to Saul so what else could he do but praise God’s name? Everything he
believed until now was wrong – the Mosaic Law. Jesus was the name he should
arrival in Damascus, God ordered him to visit Ananias, a disciple (or prophet) of
Jesus. As Ananias entered the room, he spoke to Saul, “Brother Saul,
the LORD-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has
sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Ananias laid his
hand over Saul’s eyes and the “scales” of dead tissue on the surface
of his eyes fell to the floor; Saul’s vision was restored again. The next event
was even more profound for Saul was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and
filled with the Holy Ghost. It washed away his sins and he later adopted a new
Christian name – Paul.
Now baptized in the Holy Spirit, Paul (Saul of Tarsus) quietly headed for Arabia. It was a spiritual retreat where he could learn about himself and the reality of his true Savior. He was comforted and strengthened by God’s powerful presence as he studied the scriptures of the Old Testament. It is here Paul met his confidante, a Christian leader called Barnabas, who put God before his physical possessions. It intrigued Paul that Barnabas sold a field and laid the money before the feet of the apostles. The mentoring relationship between the two men laid the groundwork for Paul’s future superb ministry. He also met with Jesus’ brother, James. God was preparing Paul’s way for the ministry for the next three years. (Galatians 1:18)
Saul of Tarsus
(modern-day Turkey), better known as Paul, was born into a devout Jewish family
in 5AD. Most Jews, in biblical days, were not Roman citizens, but Rome gave him
and his family the honor. It is an educated guess they were of moderate wealth,
which made significant contributions to the Roman Empire. Citizenship outside
of Italy was only granted to people of substantial influence.
At fourteen Paul went
to Jerusalem and trained to be a Rabbi, an occupation he could fall back on if
tent-making proved unsuccessful. It was during this time he became a man of
firm convictions for the Jewish faith. His fiery temperament caused the death
of many early Christians, including Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity.
Paul went from house to house, dragged out men and women believers, and threw
them into jail.
If we revisit
history, Paul was born in the era of Jesus’ birth and entire life. Christianity
was the newest religion established in the Middle East and very much frowned on
by the Jews. They do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus for he was a mere
prophet and son of God. Also, this new Messianic movement (as they called
Christianity) denied Roman rule and antagonized much chaos throughout the land.
Therefore, Paul’s anger triggered towards the blasphemy which Christians spoke
– Jesus was “King of the Jews” and “Jesus the Messiah.”
What can we learn
from Saul’s conversion? A person who persecutes a Christian is persecuting
Jesus and this sin is mighty. The same fall-from-grace stands true today. The
Lord will seek revenge on those who attempt to destroy His children. But like
Saul, if we admit our sins and seek God, we will be forgiven.
fact about Paul, he was NOT one of the original twelve disciples. As he turned
his love of God into mission work, many believers assumed God assigned him to
be a disciple, but this was not true. Paul began using his name, “Paul the
Apostle” in his later writings. He became a prolific writer for of the twenty-seven
books in the New Testament, Paul wrote thirteen of them in his lifetime – 1st
Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, and Romans.
I began this blog
just before Paul converted to Christianity. We can read his conversion story in
Acts 9:1-19; Acts 22:3-16; Acts 26:12-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:8-9. As I researched
Paul, I realized his marvelous story spread over many books of the Bible; thus
the motivation to condense all the chapters and tell of his life in one dynamic
Next Sunday, we
will cover Paul’s tracks just after his conversion. We will examine the
profound impact he established on Christianity during his first missionary
trip. His life is nothing short of miraculous – he witnessed and lived through
God’s blessings and love. Isn’t this something every Christian should strive to
clouds grew more abundant, and the earth trembled beneath the old wooden cross.
The winds didn’t whisper – they yelled His name, Jesus, the son of God! Wait – that
was two thousand years ago… or was it?
in a cloud darkened room, I hear the rumble of the shaking heavens. The day was
Good Friday, but what was so “good” about it? Religiously speaking, it was the day
God’s son brutally lost His life. It was so sad! Jesus lived and died with the
knowledge He was only here to fulfill a prophecy for mankind. The weight of the
world rested upon His shoulders. Was His death in vain? Surely, I pray it’s not
innocent man was sent to earth to change our thinking, but I wonder, what did
we learn? This Easter weekend, the earth will recall the event of two thousand
years ago. Astronomers announced a very rare occurrence – the moon will turn
pink (of all colors) and a high energy field will surround the earth.
Coincidence? I wonder and gasp at the thought of Christ watching to see who’s
paying attention to His signs. Alone in my conscience, I tremble at the
didn’t live His life according to anyone else. The parables He taught was open for
interpretation so He could communicate with listeners. He loved and believed in
mankind with all His heart and soul. As in ages ago, amongst the belting rain
and clapping thunder, can we sympathize with the saddest biblical day? For
Christians, His death still vibrates in our lives, thousands of years later.
Friday… whoever connects “Good” with the death of our Savior? He came to release
the sin Adam and Eve placed on us at the beginning of time. Jesus made a stance
and was crucified to save the world. If you think you suffer today, examine the
agony God put His only son through to offer us everlasting life. How can one ever
repay the Lord’s mercy? How do we repent enough of our sin?
the sun rises on Easter, with the promise of a brighter day. The folded
loincloth left behind, which covered Jesus’ face in the tomb, meant, “I’m
coming back!” Let us celebrate a second chance to make it right for the Lord!
As for myself, I can’t wait to stare in the eye of diversity and shake the hand
of a man named Christ Jesus. We have nothing to fear when we do not question
Let the earth tremor, for our wonderful Lord created a man we call our King, who died to give us life again. The reign will return in His “Good”ness forever! www.danabicksauthor.com