March 27, 2009

Paul in Philippi - part 1

We are in Acts 16. Paul is on his second missionary journey. He left Antioch with Silas, drew young Timothy into the journey at Lystra, and is joined by Luke in Troas. The call to Philippi is supernatural. Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia asking him to come over and help. He answers the call and the band of evangelists heads to Philippi.

What does Paul find when he gets there? He starts by looking for a synagogue but finds none. This leads them to look for a place of prayer by the river, hoping to find a group to preach the gospel of Christ to. They succeed in finding a group of women by the riverside, including Lydia, who will become the first convert to Christ in the establishment of the church in Europe.

Paul and his companions stay in Philippi for several days, continuing to visit the little group at the riverside, teaching them the way of salvation. Conflict arises. A slave girl possessed by a spirit of divination starts raising a ruckus, focusing unwanted attention on the evangelists as they seek to establish a church in Philippi. She continues this harassment for many days. Finally, Paul has had enough. He turns and casts the spirit out of the slave girl in the name of Christ.

The slave girl's owners immediately realize their prophet of profit is fallen silent and they know who has staunched the flow of money. They drag Paul and Silas before the judges, hurling false accusations and stirring the crowd to join in the attack. They are stripped of their robes, repeatedly beaten with rods, and thrown into prison. Having received a command to guard them securely, the jailer takes extra precautions with these so-called rabble rousers, placing them in the inner prison and fastening their feet in stocks.

This is an opportunity. An opportunity to:

1) Question God's call to Philippi?

2) Doubt God's love or even existence in the
face of these current troubles?

3) Consider themselves failures in ministry?

4) Pray and sing hymns to God in full view of
the other prisoners?

Before you answer, place this in the context of current evangelical thought concerning successful Christian ministry. And no, I'm not thinking of Joel Osteen. Put it in the context of your local church and how the evangelists' mission would be judged, or how you personally might respond if you were in Paul's shoes, er... sandals.

The meta is open. Fire away.

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