Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him. Acts 28:30-31
In South Africa, our phase of stage 5 lockdown was completed yesterday.
This morning we entered into stage 4 of lockdown and it feels as if a dark cloud has lifted. After five weeks of being in quarantine, we had our first ‘legal outdoor activity’. We are approaching Winter here, but the atmosphere was that of Summer when we went for our first walk this morning. We made full use of our 06.00 - 09.00 time slot and enjoyed the buzzing and chatty atmosphere of all our happy and awe-stricken neighbors.
We felt a whole new sense of appreciation towards community as we soaked up the social interactions. Although the lockdown regulations have not been lifted completely, the sense of isolation has.
It made me think about Paul who were ‘quarantined’ for two years in Rome. I believe he arrived tired and exhausted in Rome after many mission trips to various parts of the world. Both he and Luke, his ‘beloved doctor’ (Colossians 4:14), were not getting any younger. So, it might have been a relief that he received a sentence of quarantine as his form of punishment. He kept ‘open house’ and received anybody who wanted to discuss the things of the kingdom of God. He was chained to a guard who was switched every six hours. Those guards were forced to do life with Paul. They had to listen as Paul preached, taught and prayed. No wonder some of them got saved! (Phil 1:12-14; 4:22). He was locked up from the world but locked in with God.
Here are some of the meetings Paul had during this time:
• Paul’s friends, 26 of them met with him on their way to Rome, to visit and encourage him during that time (Acts 28:14-15; Rom 16).
• He also had Timothy (Phil. 1:23-27; 2:19; Col.1:1) with him, as well as John, Mark, Luke, Aristarchus, Epaphras, Justus and Demas (Col. 4:10-14; Phile.10-21). Epaphroditus brought a gift from the Church in Philippi (Phil. 2:25-30; 4:18). Tychicus was his ‘mailman’ who delivered the letters; Ephesians (Eph. 6:21), Colossians, and Philemon (Col 4:7-9).
• He met with some of the leaders in Rome (Acts 28: 17-22).
• He arranged and spoke at a conference (Acts 28:23-29).
• He wrote the books of Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon, also called the Prison Epistles.
• He also met Philemon’s runaway slave Onesimus and let him to faith in Jesus.
The Covid-19 pandemic worldwide have certainly caused difficult days and brought changes in our lives and ministries. However, every day with our Lord is a wonderful day and far outweighs anything we face during this time.
Most ministries have adapted their ministering styles to suit these times and are still working towards their main purpose; to share Jesus with the lost. Although, we live in different times than Paul, it seems that we have similarly adjusted ourselves to our circumstances.
We are preaching, teaching and mentoring with live streaming and recordings through websites and social media. Likewise, we have meetings and conference calls via Zoom and other programs.
Not only have we incorporated these new ways of ministering, but we also enjoy time at home with loved ones. We get time to rest and clean our houses, garages and gardens from all the things that clutter and occupy our minds. We get time to stop, reflect and reconnect with God as we clean out our lives with all the things that corrupt us. We get time to rearrange our schedules, agendas and cancel all appointments that keep us away from our main priority; our calling. We get time to rethink our spending habits, set new budgets and financial goals for the next few years. We get time to read and write. We are able to connect with friends and family via voice notes, video clips, email and face time. We are locked up but at the same time locked in with God.
Paul’s hired house in Rome became the headquarters for world evangelism. He could not go, but mobilized others so that they could go. People flocked to him as he continued to preach, teach and mentor his disciples. The churches he founded, the converts he made, the letters he wrote, and the life and example he left behind became the driving force of the Christian faith. I personally have a deep appreciation for Paul. His story inspires me. His writings have shaped my life more than any other but the Gospels and the life of Jesus Christ. There were times that he felt isolated, alone and deserted (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:9, 21) but he kept the faith and finished his journey well. He was locked in with God and it became another way for him to connect with others.
I invite you to ask, “How does this part of Paul’s life and story speak to your life today?”
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19).
If our Master commands us to go, we need permission to stay! The gospel is the account of Jesus’ leaving His Father’s right hand to go to Calvary. Jesus instructed those who wanted to be His disciples to leave their homes and their comforts and follow Him. Some disciples insisted that they could not go yet because they still had to care for elderly parents (Luke 9:59-60). Others wanted to make sure everything was in order first before they left (Luke 9:61-62). Certain disciples expressed a willingness to follow but inquired about the details of what they would be doing before committing to the mission (Luke 9:57-58).
Even though Jesus’ way of recruitment seemed odd to the people, He did not adapt the requirements of what it took to be a follower of Him. It might seem harsh to us, as we can reconcile ourselves with some of the situations the disciples were in. However, Jesus knew what it meant to live a surrendered life to God, and He needed to teach His disciples this very important lesson.
We can easily convince ourselves that Jesus does not really want us to adjust our lives, especially if we are in a phase where we enjoy the successes and comforts of life. However, we should not become misguided. Jesus often told His disciples to go elsewhere in spite of the success they were experiencing in a specific moment. Peter had just pulled in the greatest catch of fish of his entire career when Jesus invited him to leave everything (Luke 5:1-11). Philip enjoyed astounding success as an evangelist when the Holy Spirit instructed him to go to the desert (Acts 8:25-40). Success in our lives can be our greatest hindrance to go to where Jesus wants us to be.
If you become too comfortable where you are, you might resist Christ’s invitation to go elsewhere. God intends for us to continue growing and many times growth is best achieved through change. God always has an assignment for those who are willing to accept His invitation. If God is extending an invitation to you – be sure to accept. Not only will He guide you through the mission, but He will also provide all the necessary resources to complete the task. He may lead you across the street to encourage your neighbour or He might send you to the other side of your country. Wherever He leads, be prepared to go.
A Life Controlled by God and Love. God is working internally and externally in and through His children. But if God's hand and anointing is upon a person, there will be not just vital signs (internally) but also visible signs (externally) of His presence. Obedience to God's command is a clear and visible sign of a Life controlled by God and Love. On the night that Jesus was denied and caught in Jerusalem he said: 'But that the world may know that I love the father, and as the Father gave me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here'-John 14:31. Do the hearts of those around you rest in the confidence that the 'control and authority' of your life is God? Is He in control of your time, diet, activities, thoughts, destiny and even motives? Why don't we allow His love to control our lives as we are reminded of His life being controlled by His Father over this Easter?
He cares enough to keep a watchful eye
“He saw them.” (Mark 6:48, NKJV)
The disciples had just completed a very successful mission. They had shared in the miraculous feeding
of the 5000 (Mark 6:33-44) and were on a spiritual high. Jesus dismissed the crowd and sent them to
cross over to the other side of Galilee. On their way to the other side they encountered a storm. The
strong wind and waves frightened them. They were afraid. The excitement and miracle of the day was
soon forgotten. The atmosphere and conversation in the boat had changed and with desperation they
might have looked around, to see where Jesus was.
In that moment Jesus was alone on the mountain. He was spending some time with His Father. He saw
the disciples and knew their plight (Mark 6:48). He cared about them. He prayed for them and around
the fourth watch of the night He walked towards them, calmed the storm, comforted them and took
them safely to the other side of Galilee.
Life is not always filled with just the excitement of spiritual highs or miracles. It is balanced with lows
and highs, burdens and battles, challenges and opportunities and therefore, we can be sure that we will
go through some of the storms of life. However, God is not cold and unsympathetic towards you in
troubling times. He wants us to know that He sees us and knows our needs and fears. He understands
what we are going through (Hebrews 4:12-16) and cares enough to help. Just as He kept a watchful
eye on His disciples and helped them, is He watching over us (1 Peter 3:12) and praying for us
(Romans 8:34). He cares enough to keep a watchful eye on you and answer you in your moment of
God is searching
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.” (2 Chronicles 16:9,
Hot air balloon rides are one of the most popular activities in Cappadocia. These balloons
typically lift off at sunrise and the rides last about an hour in the air as the balloons
literally go wherever the wind streams may blow them through the Goreme Valley.
What a magnificent sight! The atmosphere fills with excitement as spectators gather around
to enjoy the beautiful sight of several dozen balloons that take flight each day. The balloon
ride provides beautiful landscape views from the air. Cameras flash as happy travellers take
pictures of the region, small villages and towns below. Those who enjoy the ride can see far
into the distance and nothing obstructs their 360 degree panoramic view from 3000 ft. in the
God is also looking down from heaven and He sees the sons of men (Psalm 33:13). He looks
down from His heavenly dwelling place to all the inhabitants of the earth (Psalm 33:14). His
eyes are searching, it runs ‘to and fro throughout the whole earth’ (2 Chronicles 16:9) and His
eyes are upon those who fear Him and whose hope is in Him (Psalm 33:18).
God is not searching the earth to find men and women of remarkable faith and stature. He is
not looking for someone with multiple talents, qualifications and degrees. He is looking to
find someone who is available and willing to do His work. He is looking for a man or woman
whose hope is in His mercy and whose heart is loyal, wholly and completely focussed on
Him. He wants a person through whom He can reveal Himself to the world. He desires to
pour out an abundance of blessings into that person’s life and to bless others through that
person. He knows the hearts of all people, (Luke 16:15) God sees behind the outwardly
behaviour of a person and understands their motives (1 Chronicles 28:9). God searches our
hearts to see if we might be that person.
Every believer in Jesus could be ‘that someone’. God only asks for our devotion through
which He wants to work His marvellous plan. God is available to all of us but how much we
experience of Him is up to us. He is searching and looking for a heart that is in harmony with
His heart, agenda and purposes. Will you make yourself available so that God can use your
life as a channel of blessing and hope?
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