In the last two week’s devotion we have read where Paul casts the devil out of the girl in Acts 16 and instead of causing a great revival it caused a religious riot. Never forget a real revival brings lost people to Jesus and hungry people more into His Presence but at the same time it also causes religious people to get mad. Religious people crucified Jesus! As I watched the Passion of the Christ, it caused me to remember the hatred, the jealously, and the anger that the religious leaders of that day had for Jesus. It was vicious and as we grow closer to Jesus our attack with come from the same source.
While we know the attack is coming, we also know that Father God has already made plans to turn the attack into an opportunity for Him to demonstrate His Power! He is waiting to show off on our behalf! Never forget your Father in heaven is never intimidated by the enemy in any form of the word, He is greater and knows it!
Paul and Silas have been arrested, beaten, and thrown into the inner prison and now we read: Acts 16:25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.
This is preaching ground for any preacher! It’s at the midnight times of our lives when people really know if we have what we claim to have in our relationship with Jesus. People do not pay much attention to our words when things are going our way but they always pay attention to our actions during the storms in our lives. We sing that the God on the mountain is still God in the valley but people want to hear more than words, they want to see the reality of Father God in our lives. Remember your greatest pulpit is during your greatest midnight because that is when people are listening to you the most.
At midnight, when it’s the darkest, the loneliest, the hardest is when we must demonstrate our faith. Paul and Silas, beaten, blooded, tired, in stocks, in the inner prison (no fault of their own) could have quit, could have thrown in the towel but instead we read that they prayed and praised. Notice this, their prayers and their praises were so loud that the other prisoners heard them. They were not afraid if they offended the prisoners. They began to pray and praise so loud everyone heard them. Once again your prayers and praise will not offend sinners just the religious so go ahead and verbalize your prayers and praise.
It’s important for your praise and prayers to be audible! I know there is a time to pray and praise quietly but friends, Father God loves it when you praise and pray so others hear you. It demonstrates that you are not ashamed of Him in your life. Many times we are commanded to shout out loud, to clap out
loud, to cry aloud, because it pleases Father God. Personally I would have thought this would have been a good time to pray and praise quietly but they would have missed their miracle if they had.
Not only did the other prisoners hear them but their prayers and praise infiltrated the throne room of Father God. Their praise was so powerful, not because of the perfect pitch or perfect vocal tones, but because it came from their hearts in a midnight hour. I believe Father God inhabited their praise and tapped his foot on the prison floor (just my imagination) and we read: Acts 16:26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!
Suddenly, what a word! Suddenly what held them bound, what held them captive was broken off of them. The doors which held them in now became an exit. I need to prophesy to someone that your suddenly is coming as you learn to pray and praise in your midnight hour. It may seem dark, it may seem too late, it may seem hopeless but Father God will show up on time every time if we will not allow midnight to steal our prayers and praise. Midnight will change you or you will change your midnight by your prayers and praise.
As long as you pout and murmur about the darkness, about the mistreatment, about the injustice midnight will dominate but as you pray and praise then midnight will dissipate.
I love the part of the verse where it says the foundation was shaken which means the prison could not be used again. As we pray and praise in our midnight hour, what use to hold us, to bind us, God will destroy its foundation to never hold us captive again.
Prayer Thoughts: Father God, help me to learn that people are listening and watching me in my midnight hour. Help me to have the wisdom, knowledge & maturity to praise you when things look dark instead of murmuring and complaining in Jesus Name!
Acts 16:19 Her masters' hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace.
Paul had just cast the devil out of a young lady who was being used in divination and witchcraft and now the war started. When this interfered with her master’s way of making a living they grabbed Paul and Silas and took them to the leaders of the city. It’s amazing what greed can do to you; they rather have money from divination than have the young girl set free from demonic activity. Greed is an awful thing because it will turn your heart away from Father God so quickly. Now we see what could have sparked a revival causing a riot but if it takes a riot to have revival the price is still worth it. We will learn the riot allowed Paul and Silas to touch hundreds of lives in a prison.
20 "The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!" they shouted to the city officials. 21 "They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice."
Notice the lies:
1. Whole city is in an uproar. This was not true, only those who lost their source of income were upset. I’ve learned a long time ago that when someone comes to me and says the whole area, the whole church, the whole organization is upset that usually it is them and their little band of followers which is usually family that is upset. I know Father God has to just giggle when things like this are spoken. Pastor the whole church is upset and find out it’s the person speaking and their mama, help me preach somebody. Friends, never let a personal opinion allow you to cause division in the house of the Lord; there is a high price to pay because division will keep people from being saved and others from growing into their spiritual destiny and their blood will be on their hands.
2. Teaching customs illegal for them to keep. This was also another lie because Paul was only teaching the Kingdom of God which was for every culture and every person on planet earth. The truth was they were mad because their source of income was depleted. I’ve seen others get mad when truth was spoken and their power or influence was diminished. Never forget, Greed and Power (influence) can become a god to many people. I’ve learned this; I don’t really know someone until they are given a little authority. The test of real
servant-hood Christianity is this, can you stay humble while serving in leadership? Can you still keep a towel mentality with a leadership title? The sad part is this, many can’t.
Their title becomes their identity instead of the love of God being their identity. Over 50 years of being in church I’ve seen this happen too often; people getting a title and it going to their head. Friends, I never need a title to serve with a towel and if I have a title, the title must never become more important than the towel. Just because we might have a title doesn’t make us God. No my friend, to whom much is given much is required. When you are a leader, Father God will test not only your works but even the motives of your heart. The bigger test is when you are done wrong God checks your fruits because a leader must know how to still bear fruit when being done wrong. They have to be able to pray Father forgive them as they nail you to a cross.
22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn't escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.
I wonder if Paul and Silas knew this was going to happen for just having revival and casting out a devil. There is always a price to pay for real revival and to walk in real power. Notice that because a few got upset a mob was formed and within a short period of time Paul and Silas were stripped and beaten with wooden rods. I know how we sing and rejoice when a demon is cast out, but can we still walk Godly when we are being lied about and beaten down with false accusations?
Soon Paul and Silas found themselves in the inner prison, the dirtiest and most awful part of the prisons of those days. It was dark, it stunk, and it was dirty and they were not even allowed to walk around but rather their feet were put in stocks, like they were murderers. Next week we will see how they overcame this time of testing!
Prayer Points: Father help us to keep a servant’s attitude in your Kingdom and a son’s attitude in your Family. Keep us Hungry and Humble in Jesus Name.
Acts 15:4 When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. 5 But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, "The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses."
I love true religion which is described in the New Testament but I hate this type of religious mentality where everyone has to adhere to my personal standard of Christian conduct/dress especially when it comes to the outward appearance. I’ve been talked about for wearing a suit, for wearing jeans, for not wearing a tie, for not wearing a suit for not wearing jeans because of personal preferences. Body of Christ, we need to be more concerned about the heart than we are the outward appearance. When the heart gets right, the Holy Spirit will direct everything else. If we were to go back to the biblical dress code, I would not be in a suit or jeans preaching but rather a robe of some sort. Never let personal preferences keep you from loving others and rejoicing with others.
Paul was talking about all those who had got saved and filled with the Holy Spirit and how revival had broken out, miracles were happening and the religious stood up immediately and said, “They have to be circumcised like us”. They wanted to steal the spiritual freedom the new born Christians had just found. They wanted to make them live by the law instead of grace!
I remember back years ago when we had a school at the church and one of the teenagers came up to me shrewdly and said in essence, “Pastor you are going to hell”, to which I responded “Why”? He proceeded to tell me, “You can’t go to heaven with a beard”. I said to him, “Really”? He said, “Yes, you can’t be saved and have a beard”! I said, “That’s sad because I was trying to cover my ugly and look more like Jesus” and he immediately showed his lack of knowledge by saying, “Jesus didn’t have a beard”. I replied, “The Bible says they plucked His beard”. He said, “It does?” and I said, “It sure does, it was prophesied they would pluck his beard” and he walked off speechless.
Religion loves to condemn while Christians celebrate the victories of others. They should have been so happy about the conversions but rather they couldn’t wait to say their religious two cents worth.
They had always lived by the law because that’s all they had been taught and was not receptive to the truth that Jesus had fulfilled the law once and for all. Now people could be saved by grace through faith and not by works.
Let’s read the conclusion of this debate because Paul says it better than I could:
6 So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. 7 At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: "Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. 8 God knows people's hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. 10 So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? 11 We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus." 12 Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.13 When they had finished, James stood and said, "Brothers, listen to me. 14 Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. 15 And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written: 16 'Afterward I will return and restore the fallen house of David. I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, 17 so that the rest of humanity might seek the Lord, including the Gentiles—all those I have called to be mine. The Lord has spoken—18 he who made these things known so long ago.' 19 "And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. 21 For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations."
Prayer Points: Father God, never let me get caught up in religion that condemns and never let me be deceived by false doctrine of any kind. Keep my heart and motives pure in your sight, Amen!
15:37 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark.
Paul and Barnabas, who were representatives from the main church in Jerusalem,
had decided to go check on and encourage all the churches that had been
established. As we read the verse above we see that Barnabas (nicknamed Son of Encouragement) decided that he wanted to take along John Mark, his cousin to which Paul would object.
Let me give you some history about Barnabas. A noticeable trait of Barnabas, a prominent early church leader fondly nicknamed Son of Encouragement
(Acts 4:37), is that he seeks out and assists others. The Biblical text highlights
this twice with Saul/Paul (9:26-28; 11:25-26), once concerning the vibrant
church in Antioch, Syria (11:19-30) and once in connection with his younger
kinsman, John Mark (15:36-41). Often these other individuals and groups are
believers in Jesus who, for whatever reason, run a bit against the grain of
mainstream thought and action. Instead of ostracizing them, Barnabas not only
deliberately encounters them, but also listens to them and welcomes them
First, Barnabas befriends Saul. Acts introduces Saul as a persecutor of believers in
what was then known as the Way (Acts 7:58; 8:1-3; 9:2). Saul then gets
transformed on road to Damascus. Saul’s sudden change of character and bold
preaching lead the Jews to conspire to kill him. Saul travels to Jerusalem after
being lowered from the walls of Damascus in a basket to escape the city by night
(Acts 9:21-26). The disciples in Jerusalem fearfully avoid him, not believing he
really is a believer (Acts 9:26). Luke writes: “But Barnabas took him, brought
him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the
Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the
name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27).
Sometime later, the Jerusalem Council sends Barnabas to Antioch, Syria, to investigate
something new: believing Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) worship Jesus together!
Believing Jews had been scattered as a result of persecution, with some settling
in their new exiled homes (Acts 11:19-30). These scattered believers evidently
talked to their neighbors, many of them Greeks, telling them news of the risen
Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20). Luke writes that “the hand of the Lord was with them,
and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). Notice
how persecution actually caused growth in the
Luke portrays Barnabas’s mission as fact-finding rather than as hostile. When Barnabas arrives in Antioch, he displays the same characteristics he exhibited in earlier
stories: he acts openly, listens and makes ethical decisions. The text says that
when he “saw the grace of God, he rejoiced” (Acts 11:23). Typical of a man of
honorable character, Barnabas’s mind looks at the facts: these people – some of
them uncircumcised Gentiles! – Really are new converts! Barnabas sees that they,
like him and other Jewish converts, believed in this radical new faith; he sees
this as evidence of the work and grace of God. He tells the Antioch believers
“to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion” (Acts 11:23).
Barnabas pastors the church but its demands are too many for one. So he seeks out Saul –
yet again – and journeys to Tarsus to find him (Acts 11:25-26). Barnabas’s action shows his humility and discernment. The text indicates that Barnabas’s overriding concerns were the needs of the people and the furtherance of the gospel. Yet he must have realized that Saul’s skill in debate and Saul’s incredible mind might overshadow his own qualities. Luke, however, gives no indication of jealousy on Barnabas’s part, only an indication of his desire to promote the name of the Lord Jesus.
Barnabas offers the younger man a job: co-pastoring the dynamic Antioch believers. Saul
accepts. The young church grows even more under their joint leadership (Acts 11:26). It must have been a glorious and fruitful time for both congregation and teachers. Most likely, this time shaped much of Saul/Paul’s theology. When the Antioch church fasts and prays, the Holy Spirit tells the church to “set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). This becomes what scholars term Paul’s first missionary journey. We talked about this last week.
I’m taking the time to give you history so when we read next week’s devotion, you can
understand that Paul and Barnabas have a lot of history in ministry together. Even with that being said, conflict would soon arise that would separate their ministries but Father God still had a plan.
Prayer Points: Father help me to realize that conflicts will arise in our lives, even at times with our brothers and sisters in Christ but help me remember You always have a plan
Acts 16:11 We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. 12 From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15 She was baptized along with other members of her household, and she asked us to be her guests. "If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my home." And she urged us until we agreed.
I want to look at the life of Lydia in our devotion today. Lydia without a doubt had to be an amazing lady especially to be a successful business woman during that time period and culture.
We are not sure if Lydia was actually her name or if she was just from Lydia. Many writers think Lydia means “The Lydian,” seeing Thyatira was a city of Lydia, and that her personal name is unknown. I just wanted to give you that little history lesson.
We do not have any information concerning her family connections. Scripture does not supply us with any information regarding Lydia’s background apart from the fact that she lived in Thyatira which was one of the Macedonian colonies. We do know the city was the melting pot of many nations, and that the chief object of worship was Apollo, who was worshiped as the sun-god under the name of Tyrinnus. There was also a strong Jewish element in the city maintaining faith in Jehovah.
She was a business woman: As I studied about Lydia I found that the water of the area was so well-adapted for dyeing, that no other place could produce the scarlet cloth as brilliantly and so permanently dyed. This unique purple dye brought the city universal renown. Lydia was a well-known seller of this product and typifies a successful business woman in a prosperous city. She undoubtedly had ability, enthusiasm, and singleness of purpose and mental insight which caused her to prosper.
She was a devout woman: We are not sure if she was of Jewish descent but we know “She worshipped God”. Often business people are so engrossed in their affairs that they have no time for religion. But Lydia, in spite of all her secular obligations, found time to worship according to the Jewish faith. Many times she made her way to the riverside to join in the prayer meeting. Now notice this, even though she was religious it is evident she had not encountered Jesus as her Savior but when Paul began to speak, her heart was quickened and she accepted the good news of Jesus being her personal Messiah. Then to prove her conversion to Christ, she was publically baptized with her household. Lydia had the honor of being Paul’s first European convert. Becoming a Christian did not make her less of a successful business woman. Now she had Christ as her Senior Partner and with Him we can imagine that trade remained good and that much of her profit was used to assist His servants in the work of the Gospel. Lydia’s transformation of life was evidenced by her eagerness to give missionaries the hospitality of her fine home. Lydia always had “open house” for the saints of God and her home became a center of Christian fellowship in Philippi with perhaps the first Christian church being formed therein. Lydia not only sold her dyes—she served her Savior. She stayed in business that she might have the money to help God’s servants in their ministry. How her generous care of Paul and Silas, and of many others, must have cheered their hearts. Lydia put Jesus first but she was still a successful business woman who continued to sell her purple dyes for the glory of God. When we reach heaven, we shall find this “seller of purple” wearing more superior garments, robes not stained even with the notable dye of Thyatira, but “washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.”
The main truth I need you to see in her conversion is that she was already a worshipper and prayer but she still did not know Jesus as her Savior. There are so many in this region who are just like Lydia and they need you, they need me to tell them about Jesus, about the cross, about His resurrection and what He has done for us.
Prayer Points: Father Give me the boldness and wisdom I need to be the Christian you desire who consistently shares their faith with the Lydias of this world.