Paul could never stay in one place when there were open doors for preaching the Gospel to new people. He begins the second missionary journey encouraging many of the churches that he saw on the first journey. They needed the message that God wanted the gentiles as much as the Jews. After the Holy Spirit prevented him from going north and west in Asia Minor, Paul was led to begin preaching in Europe. On the way, he found new partners in Silas, Timothy, and Luke. He also began churches in places that we know like Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth. The gospel was moving forward with God’s power.
Past troubles, great encouragement (Corinth) - Acts 18:1-17 Corinth was a scary place to visit. It was the sensual capital of southern Greece and one of the armpits of the whole Roman Empire. Aphrodite had her temple there and every evening 1000 priestesses would come down the hill to ply their prostitute trade. America is struggling and becoming a scary place as well. Churches are closing and hatred fills in our society. Ministry is difficult and people don’t know the basic Bible stories. We need to learn two things from Paul. First, past troubles should not prevent present witness. Second, God will always prevail
Unknown God - (Athens) Acts 17:16-34 Athens was a city past its prime. 400 years have passed since the golden age of Athens. It is no longer the political center of Greece, but it still is a city of beautiful art and is filled with philosophers. It is also filled with altars for over 30,000 gods including one called the unknown god. Every morning I hear the cry on the morning news looking for heroes. Yet, the heroes fall one by one. The movie star has an affair. The technology has bugs. The hero is all too mortal. Like Paul, we need to realize that these people don’t know Jesus and need answers to basic questions of life.
King of the heart - (Thessalonica) Acts 17:1-9 In this short section, we will see a city that ends up divided. The gospel message creates an amazing revival for some and violent reaction for others. Some hearts are opened to the gospel so that this becomes a strong church and others make sure that Paul never visits here again. America has much in common with Thessalonica. We are wealthy compared to the world with a strong economy and great resources. Yet, we are a nation with great poverty and sagging morals. We are a nation that has lost its values of hard work and responsibility. We need King Jesus as much as the people of Thessalonica did. We need to follow Paul’s example and the example of the people of Thessalonica
God never wastes a hurt - Acts 16:16-40 It was a turning point in the church. Up till now, the Christian church was Middle Eastern and Asian. Philippi begins the move to Europe where the church will flourish. Yet, the beginning is not without challenges. Paul will even find himself beaten and imprisoned. The lesson of Philippi is simply that difficulties produce opportunities. In the church problems often mean that you are succeeding. Instead of moving back in fear or calling a problem failure, God wants us to trust that He has a solution. He wants you to move forward instead of being frozen by challenges.
Following God’s Direction - Acts 16:1-10 Paul had preached across his home area of Galatia, sent them a follow-up letter that we know as Galatians, and attended a conference in Jerusalem defining the role of Jew and Gentile in the new church. What do you do next? What has God got in store for you and how do you know? We often want to do great things for the Lord. We want an evangelism event to have great results. We want the church to grow by leaps and bounds. Yet, it is often the ordinary things that we do and the heart that cares about sharing the message that brings explosive growth. God has a plan and people who do the ordinary things of the Christian faith will find the greatest blessings.
Gentiles (not) welcome - Acts 15: 1-21 - What does it take to be a Christian? It is not an idle question. The early church was divided on the place of Gentiles in what had been a Jewish church. They wrestled with how much of the Old Testament law was necessary for the gentiles and if they could be full-fledged members of the church even with such piety. We still wrestle with the question of belief and salvation. Every denomination uses a different criterion from baptism by the Holy Spirit to devotion to the pope. The text for today is the church’s attempt to solve the question of what makes a Christian.