Having been chosen by God and sent by the church at Antioch, Paul, Barnabas and John Mark go home. First, they visit Barnabas’s home country of Cyprus. Then they head to Galatia in Asia Minor (Turkey) near Tarsus, Paul’s hometown. It was in their heart to reach the key areas so that they might reach as many people as they could with the gospel. As we start with Paul’s conversion and move through his first missionary journey, we have a sense of what God was making of this man who was once an enemy of the church and would become one God’s greatest servants.
Counterattack - Acts 14:8-20 As Paul and Barnabas travel into new regions, they never know what to expect. The duo has had some great successes. Do you ever wonder why there is trouble when things seem to be going so well? You see a church growing who suddenly has money problems, members transferring out of the area, or even splits. What happened? You can bet that it is Satan’s counterattack. Satan doesn’t bother churches who barely exist and will close on their own inertia. Satan is afraid, however, when a church is active and making inroads into the lost in their community. If you are successful, expect Satan to oppose your witness
What does success look like? - Acts 14:1-7 Ministry often seems like a dance. Two steps forward and one back. We whirl round and round the room like a couple doing the waltz and end up back at the same place we started. Are we really getting anywhere and does it really matter? Why can’t we be more like St. Paul in the bible? Give us grand tours that will bring the message of salvation to kings and countries. Oddly, Paul’s ministry was more like that dance than the impressive ministry that we often imagine. He made progress but often had to keep pushing forward to make any progress at all.
In Pisidian Antioch - Acts 13:13-45 What do you say when someone asks you to speak? “John, I know you go to church, I have struggled lately because my mother has been in the hospital. Tell me about Jesus.” If there were ever words that stop you dead in your tracks and cause your heart to skip a beat, those words rank right up there. Someone invites you to talk about your faith. What do you say? Saul and Barnabas are given such an opportunity. Paul spoke simply about what God had done and so must you. Like Paul, remember, it is all about Jesus. He alone can help the broken heart.
The strategy of the Spirit - Acts 13:1-13 What is next? The church that once was centered in Jerusalem has fanned out into Syria and beyond. Persecution in Jerusalem and the faith of hearts on fire for God has spread the gospel to new lands. And so we find these five men praying about what is next. It is the question that many churches struggle with. Our world is changing just as theirs did. We see people struggling with busy lives and fractured families. Our answer begins with a people in prayer whose hearts are burning for the lost.
Saul in Damascus - Acts 9:19-31 I have seen people talk about their family, their job, or some hobby every time you see them. They share whatever has the fire in their heart and makes them happy to be alive. I have even known a few who have that fire when they are talking about Jesus. Paul was like that from the very beginning. His faith is just days old and the fire is lit. He has to tell his story. He has to tell about the Jesus who he met on the road.
Paul’s Conversion - Acts 9:1-19 What sets Christianity apart from other faiths is that it is about relationships and not religion. Religions are based on a set of rules and doctrines. Christianity is different. It is based on a relationship with a loving God. If there is a difference between Saul the persecutor of the church and Paul the great missionary, it is found in contrast between religion and relationship. Saul the Jew was all about keeping the religion pure. Paul is about a relationship with the risen Christ that changes everything.