My story is my story; Your story is your story; Mine is full of twists, And turns; Some turns are good; Some turns are bad; It’s a complex And mixed story; A mix of sweet and bitter; Of laughter and tears; A story that has thrilled many, Inspired many, And disheartened many; It’s a story of love, Of the twists and turns Of life; That exudes sacrifices; Frustrations; Overcomings, And triumphs. Its a story of success And failure; It’s my own very story. What of you? We all have our story; Some chapters, we remember, Some, we have forgotten; Never to be rememberd; But whether remembered Or forgotten, It remains our story.
How often do you drive down a road and notice the plants
and weeds growing along its edge? You might see them if they are shockingly
beautiful, but otherwise – not so much. Would you ever think a Mexican roadside
weed could become a symbol of Christmas, or be linked to Christianity?
Poinsettia, a name meaning “very beautiful,” grows as a
weed in Mexico and Central America. They grow wild in a tall, stringy form, and
the red flowers are actually not flowers. Similar to our Bougainvillea in the
United States, its upper leaves turn red, and the tiny flowers grow in the
middle of the bracts. Cultivated in a variety of colors now, an Aztec king once
prized it. So, how did it become a favorite Christmas plant?
The Aztecs used to pull these weeds to make purple dye for
clothes and cosmetics. They made the white sap in the stem into medicine to
treat fevers. In 1825, Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first ambassador from the USA
to Mexico, owned greenhouses on plantations in South Carolina. He began growing
these plants and sent them to friends and botanical gardens.
Joel’s friend, Robert Buist of Philadelphia, fell in love
with the plants when he received one. He began selling them as cut flowers,
using the name of Poinsettias. By the early 1900s in America, they sold whole
plants for landscaping and pot plants nationwide.
Albert Ecke, a German immigrant, increased the
availability of poinsettias in America when he sent cuttings by air instead of
fully grown plants by rail. By this time, the Ecke family had a profuse
inventory of single-stem plants. His grandson, Paul Ecke, Jr., was strong in
marketing, and he developed a brilliant idea for the poinsettias. Why not send
them to early television shows so they can be a backdrop during the holidays?
So, they shipped thousands of plants to the Dinah Shore,
Bob Hope, and The Tonight Show programs. The public went crazy over the burst
of color on the Christmas shows, and their popularity was born. Throughout most
of the 20th century, the Ecke family crop accounted for over ninety percent
of all poinsettias sold in the United States. The US Congress even deemed
December 12 as National Poinsettia Day to commemorate the date of Poinsett’s
As Christianity quickly spread across the Americas,
Mexicans became the first people to celebrate the holiday flower’s Christian
meaning. They saw its red leaves as a symbol of deep love and the blood of
Jesus at His crucifixion. Today, the poinsettia, with its star-shaped foliage
pattern, is used consistently in churches at Christmastime, for it is thought
it resembles the Star of Bethlehem.
I’m ending today’s blog with the Legend of the Poinsettia for your reading enjoyment. Be sure to join us again on Sunday, November 24, for the next “Everything Christmas Blog.” God bless!
The Legend of
Pepita, a poor
Mexican girl, had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve
Services. As Pepita walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin Pedro, her
heart was filled with sadness rather than joy.
“I am sure,
Pepita, that even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in
His eye,” said Pedro.
Not knowing what
else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common
weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of
weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of
her offering. She fought back a tear as she entered the small village chapel.
approached the alter, she remembered Pedro’s kind words: “Even the most humble
gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes.” She felt her spirit
lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene.
bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were
certain they witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes.
From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season.
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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.
My Treasures, please forgive the minor flubs with the video and audio quality of this video. I’m working with a new program for mixing that will hopefully cut down the time once I’m not such a newb at using it. I kept the flubs because this is just the reality of being a blind YouTuber who doesn’t have visual help during the editing process itself. Besides, they’re quirky, the visual flubs, and they sorta work for this insane video!
I’m just rollin’ with it, guys. If there are too many issues, I’ll re-edit and re-upload.
Now, to the video! Yes, this happened. All I can say is this. Never. Ever. Do this to a blind person. Or, you know, anyone. LOL!
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.
She was thrown out of her marriage. That was the saddest thing that ever happened to her. She never, for one moment thought such a thing could happen to her. She cried as she had never done before; and her eyes were swollen. She almost committed suicide. But just when she was about to set on it, a voice from nowhere, so loud and clear said to her:
“Stop! What is it that you want to do? Are you blind? Can’t you read the writing on the wall?”
She stopped; and first, was afraid. Who had spoken? And where was he? She had no answer; and it rang through her mind that an angel of God was talking to her.
Yes! God’s messenger had spoken. Who was she not to listen.
That was how the miracle happened. She did not die. She took the decision to live on and follow the path He would define for him.
As it turned out, what she thought was the worst thing that ever happened to her, was actually the best thing that ever happened to her.
Millions of people are successful and live happier lives today because of her work. The saddest thing that ever happened to her gave birth to the happiest thing that ever happened to her.
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.