Pastor Tim Pianta 65 Main Street, Tolga, Phone 0418882605 Email tolgacommunitychurch@gmail.com ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Monday, October 21, 2019

Being the Message – Bringing God’s Shalom (Paul and the Philippian Jailer)


Bible Reference:  Acts 16:1-99, Acts 22:1-99, Acts 24:1-99, Acts 25:1-99, Psalm 119:61-62

Ephesians 6:19 “And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike.”


“At one point during his ministry, the Apostle Paul was at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. He was accused by some Jews of bringing a Gentile into the courts where only Jews were allowed. He hadn’t, but they thought he did and a riot started. When Roman soldiers pulled him out of the crowd to flog him, Paul said, “You’d do this to a Roman citizen?” (Acts 21 & 22).

The penalty for abusing a Roman citizen without a trial was severe, so instead the terrified soldiers sent him under armed guard to be tried by the governor of the region. What makes this story especially interesting is that seven years earlier, in the city of Philippi, Paul was arrested, flogged, and imprisoned for teaching about Jesus – but he never said a word about his Roman citizenship.
Why would he claim his citizenship at the Temple Mount, but choose to remain silent in Philippi, a city much more Roman than Jerusalem? …”


Bible Reading: Acts 16 English Standard Version (ESV)

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas
16 Paul came also to Debra and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
The Macedonian Call
6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysis, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul[c] had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

The Conversion of Lydia
11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the[d] district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.


(Note:  Lydia heard the message, believed the message and became the message.  She wanted to bring peace into the lives of those around her including Paul and Silas.  She expressed hospitality to them and cared for them.)

Paul and Silas in Prison
16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

The Philippian Jailer Converted

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer[e] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore, come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemn, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.”

Prison in the Roman world was a holding place until their sentence was determined.  Paul and Silas had been beaten yet Paul did not state his Roman citizenship.  Why?

Paul was showing the message of Jesus – if you truly are the message then those who suffer, the displaced, the poor, the ones that our world system chooses to ignore, will be drawn to you.  Are we prepared? 

Being the message – bringing peace means paying a price.  Jesus did this for us!  He paid a heavy price to be the message – to bring peace (Shalom) to the world.  His death on the cross paid the price of peace with God.  Reconciliation.  Hope. 

In Jail, Paul and Silas were worshipping; praying; singing. They were being the message to those in the prison. Perhaps Paul remembered Psalm 119:62 “At midnight I rise to give you thanks because of your righteous rulings.”  He was a disciple of the Book – God’s Word.

Then God showed up!  We know because the text says, “Suddenly” … (v26)
There was an earthquake and the chains fell off and the doors were opened.  However, as Paul and Silas brought the message inside the jail, the others being held in prison did not leave.  Had they heard and understood the message – shalom, peace? By these prisoners staying, they saved the life of the jailer and his family. Whether innocent or not, those in the prison had experienced pain, suffering and possible death.  However, now the jailer expresses, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul explains about Jesus.

“And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 3And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”

The jailer cared for them – this is a direct violation of his job because those who were in prison were there being held until trial/or verdict.  They were not supposed to be looked after. The jailer went from following the religion of Caesar to a renewed, reconciled life in Christ.

However, Paul, who was a roman citizen and had remained quiet now claims his citizenship. Why?

35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore, come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, un-condemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed

If Paul reports what happened to him as a roman citizen, the whole town would have suffered under roman law.  The magistrates may have been killed.  But what he does by announcing his roman citizenship now, is to protect the new believers in the town.  The magistrates would be careful about how they treated the new church knowing that Paul could report what they had done to him.

What does this story of Paul going to Philippi teach us?

  • ·         God loves us – He loves people.
  • ·         Christ is Lord and Savior – regardless of your culture, social status, work, connections
  • ·         We need to listen and obey the leading of the Holy Spirit
  • ·         The Church has the same mission as Israel had – Bring God’s shalom (peace) to the world
  • ·         How we live and behave matters

So, God wants us to bring peace to others.  How do we do this? How do you bring shalom to someone’s life?  What will it cost?

Jesus Christ is the answer.  We can only know real peace when we come to the Lord, confess our need of him.  Accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and trust Him to save us and restore us into a relationship with the Lord and become part of God’s family.

Further Bible references: Phil 1:3-11; Phil 2:1; Phil 4:4-6



Monday, October 14, 2019

Being the Message – Bringing God’s Shalom (Girl with a Python Spirit)


Philippians Chapter 1:1-2

16-18 One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortunetelling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her. She started following Paul around, calling everyone’s attention to us by yelling out, “These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!” She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, “Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!” And it was gone, just like that. 19-22 When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. Then the police arrested them and pulled them into a court with the accusation, “These men are disturbing the peace—dangerous Jewish agitators subverting our Roman law and order.” By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood. (The Message) Acts 16: 16-22

Acts 16:16-22 (expanded version)
16 Once, while we were going to the place for prayer, a ·servant [slave] girl met us. She had a ·special spirit [spirit/demon of divination/prediction; L Python spirit; C Python was the serpent god that guarded the Delphic oracle; the term came to be used of the ability to predict the future] in her, and she earned a lot of money for her owners by telling fortunes. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, shouting, “These men are ·servants [slaves] of the Most High God. They are telling you ·how you can be saved [L the way/path of salvation].” 18 She kept this up for many days. This ·bothered [annoyed; exasperated] Paul, so he turned and said to the spirit, “By the ·power [L name] of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of her!” ·Immediately, [L That very hour] the spirit came out.
19 When the owners of the ·servant [slave] girl saw that their ·source for making money [hope of profit] was gone, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the ·city rulers [leaders; authorities] in the marketplace. 20 They brought Paul and Silas to the ·Roman rulers [magistrates] and said, “These men are Jews and are ·making trouble in [disturbing] our city. 21 They are ·teaching things [advocating customs] that are not ·right [permitted; lawful] for us as Romans to [L adopt/accept or to] do.”

When Jesus was on the earth, he had an amazing capacity for compassion for those who were bound by the “strongman” – the Evil one.  He even sought out such people.  These were people who were bound by the kingdom of evil, and Jesus brought them the message of the God’s kingdom – hope, light, peace and servant-hood.  This was in contrast to despair, darkness, suffering and slavery.  Paul comes to Philippi and is confronted by one (a young girl) bound by the strongman.
Slavery was a common practice in the Roman Empire. Scholars think that 1 out 3 in the roman empire were slaves.  Slaves earnt money for their owners. Money in the Hellenistic world of the Roman Empire was important. To try and take away the slave girl’s owners’ source of income would have threatened them directly and they will respond with deadly intent. The servant/slave girl in this passage was a young girl.  She may have even been sold by her parents or discarded at birth or a very young age. This was a common practice at the time of the early church. The Roman empire was dependent on cheap slave labor.  Slaves were the house maids, street cleaners, trades people, mine workers or even forced to fight in the arenas. Young children were often sold or caught into slavery.

The slave girl had the spirit of python – python spirit that was used to predict people’s futures and she earnt money for her owners. The Spirit of Pythia as a pagan origin from approx. 8 C BC to around 4 C AD. There was a temple at the Foot of Mt Parnassus where the people believes that the god Apollo slew a large python who protected the Oracle of Delphi (in ancient times this was the place of worship of Mother Earth – Gaia) There were vapors coming out of the ground in a cave and a young girls (the Pythia) would be seated above the vapors which cause a halogenic trance state and she would utter ‘oracles’.  The young girl who followed Paul around, was bound by the strong man (the evil one). She was bound those who owned her; but she was also bound the evil spirit in her.  Do we understand that whilst she is bound by the evil one, God wants her set free because she was created in the image of her creator?  God loves even the ‘bound ones.
In Matthew 12:29 (GNT), Jesus tells us - 29 “No one can break into a strong man's house and take away his belongings unless he first ties up the strong man; then he can plunder his house.

Ordinary people looked for signs.  They wanted to know they would have enough, be cared for, have a better future. Those who predict the future were sought after. 
So, this brings us a question – what do we seek?  Do we seek to know the future for comfort, to know we have enough? Today, many people seek horoscopes, fortune telling, so that they can have some comfort about the future.
This young girl kept following Paul and his team around and shouting out her message - “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”

Paul looked beyond the noise and saw the person.  He saw what Jesus saw – a girl enslaved with no free choice.  Paul knew Jesus paid the ransom for this young girl.  We can’t pay the price.  Only Jesus could.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Paul commands the evil spirit to come out of her.  She is set free!

If Paul had not intervened then this young girl may never have been set free from the spirit who ‘owned’ her.  By the power of the name of Jesus, Paul set this young girl free from the python spirit.  She now longer was bound by the evil one.  Jesus had bound the strongman and taken away his possession; the life of the young girl.

Paul didn’t take action against the girl – he took action against the evil spirit that had enslaved her.  He did this in the name of Jesus Christ.  This tells us that Jesus Name has power.  His Name should be given reverence.  Pray for those who take Christ’s name and discard it with careless words or use it as blasphemy.  They may not understand what they are saying, the evil one does and he uses Christ’s name this way to bring Jesus dishonor.  But it also is an enslavement for those who don’t understand.  How can they escape being bound if they don’t know the Savior?

We don’t know what happened to the young slave girl after her interaction with Paul.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to think that this young girl was part of the church that met at Lydia’s house?  That she might hear the words of Jesus Christ.  That she would know that she has been bought with a great price for her freedom? 

As Jesus had bound evil spirits during his ministry on earth, so Luke shows us that the Holy Spirit was at work in God’s people who were bringing the message of shalom (peace); that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life – the only way back to the Father. (John 14:6)

God’s redemption through Jesus Christ brings Shalom (peace) – it brings peace, healing and restoration to broken, confused and hurting people who are bound by the evil one.

This story challenges us to seriously think about:

·        What is our responsibility to see free the young ones enslaved to the ‘gods’ of our culture? Drugs, alcohol, DV, MH, family breakdown, unemployment, social disconnection, youth suicide?

·        Are we compassionate, or do we just hope that someone else will deal with the issues our youth are facing?

·        How do you, how do I bring God’s shalom (peace) the people in our world today?

·        How do we live showing Jesus Christ so that our culture is impacted by His message?

·        The spiritual battle is real – it was in Paul’s time.  It is today.  We only have to look at the world we live in to see this. 

·        Are we able to hear the cry for help or do we only hear the voice that aggravates or annoys us?

·        Are we sensitive to the voices crying out for help, or are we hardened by the culture we live in?

In our culture, it’s every person for themselves.  People are willing to climb over the top of others to reach their goals and they have no concern about the damage that’s left in their wake.

But Christ tells us to Love God and Love our neighbor.  To live the Christian life is not always easy; it is, however, worthwhile.

Next week we will see how Paul setting the slave girl free from the Pythia spirit sets himself and Silas on a collision course – God’s kingdom and the world’s kingdom.

Being the Message – Bringing God’s Shalom (Girl with a Python Spirit)



Philippians Chapter 1:1-2

16-18 One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortunetelling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her. She started following Paul around, calling everyone’s attention to us by yelling out, “These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!” She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, “Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!” And it was gone, just like that. 19-22 When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. Then the police arrested them and pulled them into a court with the accusation, “These men are disturbing the peace—dangerous Jewish agitators subverting our Roman law and order.” By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood. (The Message) Acts 16: 16-22

Acts 16:16-22 (expanded version)
16 Once, while we were going to the place for prayer, a ·servant [slave] girl met us. She had a ·special spirit [spirit/demon of divination/prediction; L Python spirit; C Python was the serpent god that guarded the Delphic oracle; the term came to be used of the ability to predict the future] in her, and she earned a lot of money for her owners by telling fortunes. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, shouting, “These men are ·servants [slaves] of the Most High God. They are telling you ·how you can be saved [L the way/path of salvation].”
18 She kept this up for many days. This ·bothered [annoyed; exasperated] Paul, so he turned and said to the spirit, “By the ·power [L name] of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of her!” ·Immediately, [L That very hour] the spirit came out.
19 When the owners of the ·servant [slave] girl saw that their ·source for making money [hope of profit] was gone, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the ·city rulers [leaders; authorities] in the marketplace. 20 They brought Paul and Silas to the ·Roman rulers [magistrates] and said, “These men are Jews and are ·making trouble in [disturbing] our city. 21 They are ·teaching things [advocating customs] that are not ·right [permitted; lawful] for us as Romans to [L adopt/accept or to] do.”

When Jesus was on the earth, he had an amazing capacity for compassion for those who were bound by the “strongman” – the Evil one.  He even sought out such people.  These were people who were bound by the kingdom of evil, and Jesus brought them the message of the God’s kingdom – hope, light, peace and servant-hood.  This was in contrast to despair, darkness, suffering and slavery.  Paul comes to Philippi and is confronted by one (a young girl) bound by the strongman.

Slavery was a common practice in the Roman Empire. Scholars think that 1 out 3 in the roman empire were slaves.  Slaves earnt money for their owners. Money in the Hellenistic world of the Roman Empire was important. To try and take away the slave girl’s owners’ source of income would have threatened them directly and they will respond with deadly intent. The servant/slave girl in this passage was a young girl.  She may have even been sold by her parents or discarded at birth or a very young age. This was a common practice at the time of the early church. The Roman empire was dependent on cheap slave labor.  Slaves were the house maids, street cleaners, trades people, mine workers or even forced to fight in the arenas. Young children were often sold or caught into slavery.

The slave girl had the spirit of python – python spirit that was used to predict people’s futures and she earnt money for her owners. The Spirit of Pythia as a pagan origin from approx. 8 C BC to around 4 C AD. There was a temple at the Foot of Mt Parnassus where the people believes that the god Apollo slew a large python who protected the Oracle of Delphi (in ancient times this was the place of worship of Mother Earth – Gaia) There were vapors coming out of the ground in a cave and a young girls (the Pythia) would be seated above the vapors which cause a halogenic trance state and she would utter ‘oracles’.  The young girl who followed Paul around, was bound by the strong man (the evil one). She was bound those who owned her; but she was also bound the evil spirit in her.  Do we understand that whilst she is bound by the evil one, God wants her set free because she was created in the image of her creator?  God loves even the ‘bound ones.

In Matthew 12:29 (GNT), Jesus tells us - 29 “No one can break into a strong man's house and take away his belongings unless he first ties up the strong man; then he can plunder his house.

Ordinary people looked for signs.  They wanted to know they would have enough, be cared for, have a better future. Those who predict the future were sought after. 

So, this brings us a question – what do we seek?  Do we seek to know the future for comfort, to know we have enough? Today, many people seek horoscopes, fortune telling, so that they can have some comfort about the future.

This young girl kept following Paul and his team around and shouting out her message - “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”

Paul looked beyond the noise and saw the person.  He saw what Jesus saw – a girl enslaved with no free choice.  Paul knew Jesus paid the ransom for this young girl.  We can’t pay the price.  Only Jesus could.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Paul commands the evil spirit to come out of her.  She is set free!

If Paul had not intervened then this young girl may never have been set free from the spirit who ‘owned’ her.  By the power of the name of Jesus, Paul set this young girl free from the python spirit.  She now longer was bound by the evil one.  Jesus had bound the strongman and taken away his possession; the life of the young girl.

Paul didn’t take action against the girl – he took action against the evil spirit that had enslaved her.  He did this in the name of Jesus Christ.  This tells us that Jesus Name has power.  His Name should be given reverence.  Pray for those who take Christ’s name and discard it with careless words or use it as blasphemy.  They may not understand what they are saying, the evil one does and he uses Christ’s name this way to bring Jesus dishonor.  But it also is an enslavement for those who don’t understand.  How can they escape being bound if they don’t know the Savior?

We don’t know what happened to the young slave girl after her interaction with Paul.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to think that this young girl was part of the church that met at Lydia’s house?  That she might hear the words of Jesus Christ.  That she would know that she has been bought with a great price for her freedom? 

As Jesus had bound evil spirits during his ministry on earth, so Luke shows us that the Holy Spirit was at work in God’s people who were bringing the message of shalom (peace); that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life – the only way back to the Father. (John 14:6)

God’s redemption through Jesus Christ brings Shalom (peace) – it brings peace, healing and restoration to broken, confused and hurting people who are bound by the evil one.

This story challenges us to seriously think about:

·   What is our responsibility to see free the young ones enslaved to the ‘gods’ of our culture? Drugs, alcohol, DV, MH, family breakdown, unemployment, social disconnection, youth suicide?

·        Are we compassionate, or do we just hope that someone else will deal with the issues our youth are facing?

·        How do you, how do I bring God’s shalom (peace) the people in our world today?

·        How do we live showing Jesus Christ so that our culture is impacted by His message?

·        The spiritual battle is real – it was in Paul’s time.  It is today.  We only have to look at the world we live in to see this. 

·        Are we able to hear the cry for help or do we only hear the voice that aggravates or annoys us?

·        Are we sensitive to the voices crying out for help, or are we hardened by the culture we live in?

In our culture, it’s every person for themselves.  People are willing to climb over the top of others to reach their goals and they have no concern about the damage that’s left in their wake.

But Christ tells us to Love God and Love our neighbor.  To live the Christian life is not always easy; it is, however, worthwhile.

Next week we will see how Paul setting the slave girl free from the Pythia spirit sets himself and Silas on a collision course – God’s kingdom and the world’s kingdom.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Being the Message – Bringing God’s Shalom (Lydia)


Bible References: Acts 16: 11-15; Philippians 1-2

The Message Version:
11-12 Putting out from the harbor at Troas, we made a straight run for Samothrace. The next day we tied up at New City and walked from there to Philippi, the main city in that part of Macedonia and, even more importantly, a Roman colony. We lingered there several days.
13-14 On the Sabbath, we left the city and went down along the river where we had heard there was to be a prayer meeting. We took our place with the women who had gathered there and talked with them. One woman, Lydia, was from Thyatira and a dealer in expensive textiles, known to be a God-fearing woman. As she listened with intensity to what was being said, the Master gave her a trusting heart—and she believed!
15 After she was baptized, along with everyone in her household, she said in a surge of hospitality, “If you’re confident that I’m in this with you and believe in the Master truly, come home with me and be my guests.” We hesitated, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.
__________________________________________________________________

Background:

Paul had been unable to go anywhere but west to Troas.  In Troas, Paul had a vision where he saw man of Macedonia begging him to come and help them.  So, Paul set out for Macedonia and came to Philippi (Acts 16:6-10)

So, Paul comes to Philippi. He comes to the colony of Philippi – which was a “miniature Rome”.  Philippi was a leading city in the region.  In coming to Philippi, it was the same as if you were coming to Rome.  Paul goes in obedience to the calling by the leading of the Holy Spirit, to be the message and preach the gospel to the people of Macedonia.

As you read Paul’s story in the New Testament, you will find that he usually looks for the community of faith – usually the Jewish Synagogue or believers of Jesus Christ.  And as was his custom, he went on the sabbath where he expected to find a place of prayer (synagogue) near a river.  We’re told that he found a proseuchÄ“, a prayer-house.  Whilst it has not been confirmed whether a synagogue existed at Philippi, it appears that there may not have been enough men to have a synagogue (10 Jewish men were needed to have an established synagogue) Why near a river?  Because part of the synagogue/Jewish religious practice needed ‘living water’ and living water is running water not cistern water.  Cistern water is collected during the wet season and stored.  The river would provide living water for ritual washing as part of their faith practice. Whilst we’re not sure if there was a synagogue, there was a house of prayer and the narrative tells us that women had gathered there.  Paul and Silas begin to speak with them. Interestingly, Paul and Silas meet Lydia.  

What do we know about Lydia?

1. She was a woman. We don’t hear about a husband.

2. She was a business woman – a dealer in purple cloth.  She had independent wealth. 

3. She sold purple cloth.  The significance of this?  Purple could only be worn by royalty and wealthy.  So, she sold expensive cloth to the very wealthy of the region and was wealthy. There were rules about who could wear purple, so she has connections with wealthy and royalty.

4. She was originally from the city of Thyatira.  Thyatira was well-known for purple dye.

5. She was a worshipper of God. Yet she was gentile (non-Jewish by birth).  She has discovered the God of the Jewish people and she had chosen to follow and obey God instead of the multitude of pagan gods and goddesses that were revered across the Roman empire.  The message of bring shalom, God’s peace, had already come to Philippi. There was a Jewish influence in this colony; and this provides Paul and Silas a foundation to speak the message of Jesus. The community of God’s people, although not Christians, must have been putting God on display and this invitation to follow God, brought Lydia to follow God instead of Caesar or one of the multitude of deities.

6. She was mistress of her own home and her house was large enough to accommodate her family and anyone else she wished to invite to stay.  Additionally, the house was large enough to accommodate a gathering of Believers to hold worship.

7.  We learn later that her home became the first church in Philippi. Do you realize that Lydia is also a foundational member of the church in Philippi? [* In some parts of the Roman Empire, women could play prominent roles in their Jewish communities, especially in places where women already had some social freedoms. Ancient inscriptions survive that show a few women were even called leaders of synagogues. Other women were patrons of synagogues and were prominent and influential in their Jewish communities. Lydia may have been a patron of the Jewish community at Philippi. It is likely she became both a patron and a leader of the church in Philippi.]

 Lydia believed the message that Paul preached.  The Lord opened her heart and she believed Paul’s message. She believes the good news.  What is the proof that the kingdom of God has come to Philippi?   Immediately she shows what it means to the be the message.  She wanted to bring peace to those around her and opens her home.  She wants to bring peace (Shalom) to those around her.  She shows hospitality to Paul and Silas. [Lydia “persuades”, or “prevails” upon, Paul to accept her hospitality. The Greek verb used here, parabiazomai, “reflects the Middle-Eastern custom of initially refusing an offer only to have it repeated and accepted on a second or third occasion.” The same verb occurs in Luke 24:29 in a similar context.)] This would have been at great cost to her.  She worships Jesus Christ as Lord instead of Caesar or one of the other well-known and acknowledged deities.

Being a Christian could potentially impact her ability to buy and sell.  Yet Lydia not only believes, but her entire household are baptized and follow the Messiah – Jesus Christ.  Then in response to the peace and freedom she experiences in coming to know Christ, she opens her home to God’s people.

Her witness must have been real because later in the story after Paul and Silas are released from prison, they return to Lydia’s house to see the church before leaving the colony.

When reading the Book of Philippians, note how Paul is thankful, how he encourages the church at Philippi to rejoice. He holds up this group of Christians to the Lord with great affection.

Philippians 1:3-9

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Paul then continues to give them a progress report on what has happened since he left them:

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preaches Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

At the end of Chapter 1 Paul encourages the church at Philippi:

Life Worthy of the Gospel

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[e] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
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Paul’s letter must have encouraged this church which was operating in a colony of Rome.  Regardless of their background, the Philippian church was loved by Paul and remembered.  He wrote to encourage them and provide a progress report on what was happening to him.

Philippians is actually an encouraging book. We see Paul’s great love for this church which not only responded to the message of Jesus Christ, but also saw to ensure Paul received practical help whenever they could. 

This church flourished in spite of Caesar worship and the multititude of other deities.  It flourished in spite of difficulties.  Paul calls the believers in Philippi ‘dear friends.  How wonderful it is when we can call each other ‘dear friends’ in the faith.

Does it matter if we are male or female? No.  Throughout the New Testament we read of a number of women – the woman at the well in Samaria, Lydia (Philippi), Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene (Jerusalem, Bethany), Phoebe (Romans), Priscilla who taught alongside her husband Aquila in Rome. There are others you will find as you read the Bible in both OT and NT.

How do we bring God’s message to a confused, hurting world?  Be the message.  How we live, what we say and how we act matter.  It’s not easy.  Only in the strength of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who set the example for us, can we accomplish this.

Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV)

1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (The Msg) Philippians 2:1-4
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Monday, September 30, 2019

Being the Message - How Do You Bring God's Shalom (Peace)?



Bible References: Acts 26:22-23 New International Version (NIV)
22 But God has helped me to this very day; so, I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

Bible References:  Ephesians 6:19 New International Version (NIV) “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,”

What does it mean to bring Shalom? (God’s Peace)

To bring God’s Peace is to bring His story – that great story of redemption. The story of how God chose the Hebrew people, the Jews and set them apart as his treasured possession.  A nation that was to live in such in a way that they would be a light to the nations and make God’s name known to all nations.  Then people would be blessed and the world would know God, know His story of redemption from sin and chaos.  The entire world could know shalom (peace) and praise the Lord and Heaven and Earth.

Paul, a disciple of Jesus Christ, a Pharisee, a student of the text (Torah) understood this.  He also understood once he was met and was saved by Christ Jesus; that the Church has been given the same task.  To show God to the nations so that they too can experience the Lord’s shalom – peace.  Centuries before, God had chosen a people – the nation of Israel to show God’s plan.  Their mission was to be witnesses to the world by how they lived and spoke.  They were to show that God wanted to bring restoration/redemption to the world.  To bring them into the Father’s house.  Use the resources they were given to restore people into the family of God.

In the face of bringing the gospel – the good news that Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah – which Israel was to have carried out and then the Church (the body of Christ); that same mission had not changed.

Jesus commissioned all of his followers to continue by bringing the good news – Paul understood that the Good News of Jesus Christ was coming up against a different gospel.  The worldly gospel at that time due to Rome being the dominant power was the gospel of Caesar. In the Greek/Roman world in which Paul lived, the two gospels displayed their message differently, even though both used similar wording.

Caesar was proclaimed in the Roman world as bringing peace – he brought peace by conquering. Jesus brought peace by his death on the cross to make the ultimate payment for our sin.  Caesar brought his gospel by his Roman legions and by enforcing roman rule and social structure. 

Caesar proclaimed himself as ‘lord and god’ and he was the son of a god.  In the mix was a multitude of pagan gods and goddesses from nations that had been conquered by Rome and surrounding communities of people who had integrated into roman life.

Caesar was proclaimed as bringing peace and prosperity to those who served him well. But Paul brought a story of a different gospel, where the true Son of God, the God of creation and the Book (Torah) had a son, Jesus Christ who obediently came and paid by this death and shed blood for our sins and was raised to life by God, the Most High.

There were two kingdoms – the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth – there were two sons of gods, two lords, two saviors.  In this setting, those who heard the two different gospels would need to choose.

So, Paul comes to Philippi where the gospel of Caesar was on display and the city had brought into the gospel of the emperor who gave them prosperity and peace.  Philippi was a Roman colony.  So, coming to Philippi was in essence as if you were coming to Rome.  If you want to know what goes on in Rome, then you could visit a Roman colony.  It was a leading city in Macedonia.

Acts 16:1-12: “Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, 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. 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 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[a] of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days…”

Paul would later write to the Philippians, and tell them that their citizenship is in heaven. Philippians 3 What Paul meant was act like you are already in Heaven.  He was giving them an example that they understood.  The Philippians understood that in coming to Philippi, you were essentially seeing what Rome was like.  So too, the believers showed to the community around them, they were in the colony of Heaven.  When people look at you, they would see how heaven is like.  The “colony” of heaven was shown in Philippi because people came together and caring and loving one another.  Our citizenship is in heaven although we are currently in ‘a colony.’

Caesar Augustus, the emperor at the time, claimed he had been born of a miraculous birth and was a descendant of the roman gods Venus and Apollo. Politically he was lord over the Roman empire – through his military, political action, and official decree. However, Jesus Christ brought a different gospel one where sacrifice, servanthood and obedience were part of bringing peace those lost, suffering and in need of a restored relationship with God. Caesar didn’t bring peace by sacrifice, he brought ‘peace’ by war, overpowering the weak, trodden down the poor and those who resisted his rule. Caesar wasn’t humble, nor obedient, he considered himself equal among the gods.

Paul brings a different gospel - one where a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. He was born in Bethlehem as the Bible tells us in Micah 5:2; Jeremiah 23:5 – a righteous king is coming of the line of David; Isaiah 7:14 – Wonderful Counsellor, eternal father, prince of peace…

Which Kingdom really brings peace?  The kingdom which comes and dominates with force, warfare, power, military control?  Or the Kingdom that welcomes the lost, despairing, confused, forgotten, fearful? A kingdom serves – with the King being the one who redeems?

Philippians 2:5-11 New International Version (NIV)
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God, the Father.

So, as the early church grew around the then known world, believers had two choices: (1) to go along with the pagan world in order not to create offense and endanger themselves and their families; or (2) to stand firm and declare that Jesus was Lord and risk suffering, even death. The witness of the believers was a declaration of war on the Roman statue and its satanic foundation. Here, two worldviews competed for domination of the world, and there would be no compromise.

Today, believers face a similar choice; will they totally submit to the Lordship of Jesus regardless the cost? Will they serve him everywhere and in everything, whether the cost is economic, social, or even life itself? Jesus is Lord. The battle is not between believers and pagan authorities. Rather, it is a battle between Jesus and Satan, and the outcome of that battle has already been determined (Rev. 20).
Today, there are still many people confused about God. The world around us offers various attractions: health, wealth, entertainment, romantic love, and promises that they will bring happiness and prosperity. While these things are not evil in and of themselves, they become problematic when people treat them like gods.

These false gods easily creep into our own lives. We may visit the shopping centre, a modern-day "temple" to the gods of materialism, and find ourselves seeking self-esteem in the things we buy. Some pursue romance or financial investments, seeking joy and security in love or money instead of looking first to God.

In our country we may not face death or imprisonment.  We may face persecution and being laughed at.  Those in the roman world had heard the gospel of Caesar. To proclaim anything else was treason. In contrast to the gospel of Caesar the early disciples preached the gospel of Jesus Christ who brought peace by restoring relationship firstly with God the creator and with each other, by living in harmony, encouraging one another, knowing we have purpose and wholeness. Bringing God’s shalom (peace) to a world in suffering and chaos.

How might you bring God’s shalom – his peace to someone this week?

References: