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The Attempt: Day 16

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra…

These are called Laconian cities: wolf land cities.paul_journey_02

Now, remember what we’ve already read; where we’ve already been. Lystra is where Paul was stoned; home to Lois and her daughter Eunice and grandson Timothy.

… where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him.

Young as he was, he had a good reputation; possibly developed in those years since he witnessed Paul’s preaching and, of course, the stoning.

3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready…

I can’t remember if I’ve pointed this out yet, but note when Luke writes “we” and when he switches to third person, “they”; a clear indication of when he was traveling with Paul and when he wasn’t. Obviously, Luke wasn’t part of the story before he comes on to the scene here in verse 11. He is telling the story as a person who has researched the history accurately and was actually an eyewitness for part of it.

… at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed…

Notice:

  1. She wasn’t necessarily the credible witness the brothers would want advertising for them. She’s like the town witch, and having her announcing them, even if what she was saying was true, was doing more harm than good. There are certain people who’s endorsement I’d just as soon not have.
  2. Paul didn’t act rashly. He waited several days. I bet he was annoyed a lot sooner than he acted; but he was patient and waited so as not to be rash in his actions. I’ve messed up a lot of things in my life, rushing in, annoyed, and sure I knew just what to do. A lot to learn here from Paul in being patient; decisive in the end, but not quick to shoot.

 

…that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged…

Severely. Is there another kind? Paul would write just a few years later, ” Five times I received from the Jews the 40 lashes minus 1 (the law allowed for 40 lashes but to stay on the safe side the practice was to stop at 39. This was done by the head of the synagogue standing up over the victim and using a leather belt and giving 13 lashes to the chest and 26 to the back. Don’t get this confused with a Roman scourging, which was even more brutal and often fatal. ), 3 times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned…”

This would be one of those three times he was beaten with rods. This was a Roman way of punishment. And the bible is silent as far as I can tell about the other two times.

On a side note, if you go to 2 Corinthians where Paul lists his travails, he says that he was shipwrecked three times, and spent a day and a night in the open sea. We know about the time he was shipwrecked and spent a night in the sea on his way to Rome near the end of Acts, in chapter 27.

But that was long after he’d written 2 Corinthians. Which means Paul was shipwrecked no less than 4 times, and who knows how often flogged or beaten or abused before his death which occurs a few years after Acts ends.

The point being, the writers of the new testament I believe show remarkable restraint. In this case, Luke. Only enough detail is given as necessary to get us to believe in Jesus and see how they spread the gospel in their life times. Fortunately, so many details were left vague, allowing me to write a musical and tell you what really happened.

… they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”

37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”

38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed.

The stories of Roman retribution on cities and peoples who did harm to its citizen are… legion. One of my favorite President Bartlett quotes… “West Wing”, ok? … went something like, “2000 years ago a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the earth without fear of molestation cloaked only in the protection of the words, ‘civis Romanus’ : I am a Roman citizen!”

There was good reason for these magistrates to fear reprisals for their actions.

39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

Here Luke switches to “they”; “Then they left.” Luke stays in Philippi, apparently, or went a different direction for a while. I think it’s not until Acts 20 that Luke rejoins him, as they leave Philippi together, first stop: Troas.

In 1987 I took advantage of this change in pronouns to create a love story. Romance always seems like the best motivation for explaining why a man stays or goes. Lydia apparently was single. Luke was apparently single. He goes with Paul to Philippi. He doesn’t leave Philippi. Must have been love. I wrote in a love song and then had to kill Lydia off, cause; well a few chapters later he leaves Philippi.

The thing about the bible is that, without any extra color commentary, we’re told all we need to know for life and godliness. These imaginings of mine had better not get in the way of the simple message the Lord gives us in his word.

But there’s just so much space between those lines that I’m always wondering how much do we have in common with our family from 2000 years ago? How much were they like you and me, yet; did such extraordinary things, lived in such extraordinary times.

I long to imagine what it was like; but I’d never trade places with them. I’m so thankful that we are “more blessed” to be the ones who get to believe, having not seen… having not been there. I wouldn’t want to live in any other era since the beginning of time, if for no other reason than modern dentistry.

But these guys were the first. They were taking Christ to places that had never heard the story before at all. And with all the obstacles and lack of conveniences we enjoy; without jets and internet… and with toothaches and the occasional stoning… they turned their world upside down.

So, let’s continue to attempt to discover a closer kin to all of them. And let’s continue to attempt to draw inspiration from their commitments and sacrifices.

The attempt continues.

In fact, as I write this now , Skylar and I are taking our own sweet time, driving to St. Louis. Please keep us in your prayers. I leave behind a still recovering Lisa, who is now fighting off the germs my pneumonia brought into the house. The hits just keep on coming. But now, the show is upon us. Lord willing, this time next week we will all be together. Be well, be safe and be ready! We are making a bold attempt if ever there was one:

Heavenly Father,

Please help us as we attempt to inspire people all over the world to remember the Lord and to turn the world upside down for you. There’s plenty going on in the world that makes it scary and hard and sad and we need your blessings and peace to focus on the task before us. Please help Lisa to get well. She, like so many loved ones we all have, has just been through too much pain and misery. Help her to feel better. I’m not just praying for my wife; I’m praying for one of your most devoted servants who is needed to help so many people.

Please keep Sherwin well. Help him to feel better and have no episodes with his heart during this time. We love and need him so much. Please take care of him in a special way. Thank you for delivering Deb’s brother, Greg. Please deliver all of these dear ones in our show for the next few weeks as we attempt to do something really, really amazing, but fraught with challenges at every turn.

Please bless all of us on the road and in the air.

And help us with all the hundreds, if not thousands, of little details that need to be taken care of to get our story told. We need you Lord and in your son’s name, Jesus, we pray,

Amen.

slj june 16, 2016

Steve has been a minister for over 4 decades; 39 of those years married to the wife of his youth and partner, Lisa. Steve has spoken in Madison Square Garden. He’s swam the Hudson River to raise money for his favorite charity. He’s the writer, producer and director of an award winning short film. He’s an author, speaker, and father whose messages are hilarious, soulful and life changing. When he’s not trying to sell, ride or make friends on a motorcycle, you can find him in Portland, Oregon where he is happily serving with the http://portlandchurch.org

  1. Sherwin Reply
    There is power in the name of Jesus To break every chain To break every chain To break every chain.
    • Sarah M Reply
      We just sang that song this past weekend. There's an army rising up!
  2. Sarah M Reply
    Steve-these devos are getting me so pumped, excited, inspired and READY to turn this world upside down in a major way. Never have i felt more connected with our brothers and sisters from the first century. Thank you so much and praying that God brings all the details together! Love you brother!
  3. John Scamardella Reply
    Acts 16's story of Paul and Silas in the prison is definitely my favorite story in Acts. No matter how many times I read it, it always amazes me.

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