Paul's second missionary journey

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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.

Paul's First Missionary Journey - Going Home

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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.