Posts Tagged ‘Silas’

Acts 17:4, 12
Some of the Jews were persuaded [in Thessalonica] and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women… Many of the Jews believed [in Berea], as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

I don’t really know much about ancient Greece except that men viewed women in much the same way as women were viewed in Israel and other ancient cultures. Generally, women were relegated to the home and were not encouraged to participate in politics or other “manly” pursuits. And yet, there seemed to be a group of women who broke this mold and managed to become “prominent” or influential all the same. I think most people assume these women were wealthy or connected to free-thinking fathers or husbands who encouraged their independence and abilities.

These were women of power.

And so, when Paul specifically notes that these “prominent women” became believers, this was important. Their faith and leadership would make a difference. Their stand for the Christ would bring others to the faith.

Women have changed the face of our world many times. In recent years, the women’s movement gave rise to prominent women in a variety of fields and interests. [See Women’s Hall of Fame for a short list of just American women who had made a mark.]

Who are the prominent women of faith today (in my own lifetime)? Who is really using her influence and placement to further the message of Christ? I’d really like to start building a list. Can you help? Do these qualify? What makes a woman influential? What makes a woman prominent?

Phyllis Tickle, Mother Teresa, Joyce Meyer, Pearl S. Buck, Joni Eareckson Tada, Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, Sandi Patty?

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Acts 16:33
At that hour of the night the jailer took them [Paul and Silas] and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.

When the jailer accepted the word of God that Paul and Silas shared with him, his eyes were opened and with those open eyes came compassion. Paul and Silas were no longer just prisoners but injured men who needed attending. Before that, the jailer had been complacent.

I wonder how often I have missed human need and suffering because of a callous heart. I drive the same streets every day. I walk the neighborhoods. I go to the same grocery store and eat at the same restaurants. Am I looking and not seeing?

Martin Buber spoke eloquently of man’s ability to look at “the other” without seeing in his book, I and Thou. Am I looking at other as “object” … as an “it,” or as a person … a true “thou.”

William Shakespeare captured this idea slightly differently (but effectively) in the Merchant of Venice through one of the speeches of Shylock: “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?” [Act III, sc 1] Replace the word Jew with “the poor” and you get the idea.

The jailer could not do much. He couldn’t free Paul and Silas, he couldn’t change their circumstances, but he could give a small comfort: he could wash their wounds.

When I see poor and wretched souls, I become numb with the enormity of their deprivation. What can I possibly do? Perhaps it’s only the small act that needs doing in the moment…. washing wounds by listening, touching, asking, engaging, feeding, sharing. Perhaps I should stop worrying about what I cannot do and simply do what I can do.

I have heard it said that we can never “out give” the poor. Their need will always be greater that our ability to meet it. This sentiment reverberates in Jesus’s own words: “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want…” [Mark 14:7a]

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Acts 16:30
He [the jailer] then brought them [Paul & Silas] out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Paul, Silas, and the other prisoners could have escaped when the “earthquake” came, their prison doors opened, and their chains came loose. The jailer was about to commit suicide when Paul called out to stop him. Why was the jailer about to fall on his sword? He knew, like the guards who were killed when Peter miraculously escaped, that he would be flogged and probably killed. He feared for his own life.

I believe the jailer was asking about being saved from his fate at the hands of the magistrates. He did not expect the answer to be “faith in Christ Jesus.”

I used to dislike this question, “Are you saved?” I’d heard too many people answer, “saved from what?” And then the typical “Christian” response was “saved from eternal damnation… hell, fire & brimstone.” But really, if a person doesn’t believe or know about the Christ, is he or she going to be concerned about hell?

No, I believe a person who is truly ready to be “saved” will know what that word means in his/her own life. There will be no need for explanation. In fact, like the jailer, the person may be looking for a solution. It could be a need for salvation from physical illness or anticipated physical harm, or a crushing emotional situation, or a dire mistake that might place the person in jail, or a relationship that has gone bad, or futility or despair or fear… any of these will bring a person to the brink of struggle and need.

There is no point throwing a life preserver to someone who’s not in the water. Sometimes a person needs to be drowning before he/she will ask for help. Sometimes a person knows he/she can’t swim and asks for help right away. Another person, who knows how to swim, will try to swim to shore first, but then grow very tired and weak before asking for help. Does it matter when the moment comes?

I imagine that Jesus knew and recognized those “saving” moments in the people he touched. As followers of Christ, we must learn to recognize and respond to the signals. It is part of the helping profession to offer assistance but no one usually accepts help until he/she is ready.

In the meantime, what is my role? Walk and love authentically among the people. Be available and ready to help. Tell my story. Be in the moment. Go to the drowning places. There’s no point walking around with a life preserver if we never go near the water.

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Acts 16:13a
On the Sabbath we [Paul and Silas] went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer.

Philippi was a Roman colony and apparently had no synagogue. So, knowing this, Paul and Silas headed outside the city to seek out another possible prayer place where people would gather … by the river Gangitis.

Ezekiel writes [47:1-12] that a river symbolizes life. And certainly in any region (particularly a dry one) water is most precious and life giving. Rivers are flowing water and also represent cleansing, washing away dirt (and sin). Other religions also treat rivers as sacred (e.g., the Ganges or Kaveri in India, the Nile in Egypt, the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in former Mesopotamia, now Iraq & Syria).

And so the river outside Philippi was a natural place to go for a number of life-important activities and prayer was one of them. But this place was not just for individual prayer but for corporate prayer. It was a place of safety where people could meet without fear of reprisal (from the local authorities).

The Children of Zion Village near Katima Mulilu, Namibia in Africa is a children’s home that our church created and has supported since 2003. The property is on the beautiful Zambezi River. When the team [including my husband Mike] went to Namibia back in 2002 and walked the property for the first time, they also sat on the upper banks of the river to pray… a moment none of them will ever forget as they experienced a powerful presence of God.

Our small town is blessed to be at the mouth of the Susquehanna, an old lazy river that empties into the Chesapeake Bay. The town fathers were smart enough to build a beautiful promenade that hugs the water for about a 1/2 mile. It has become a place for prayer, for meditation, for contemplation as well as walking and fellowship. The water draws the people.

Until I read this scripture, I had forgotten how many significant experiences I have had at the water’s edge. It’s time to return.

So what is my point in all this? Nothing much, just a simple call for prayer: go to the river. Pray. If you have a river or creek nearby, go there… or a lake or an ocean or a fountain. Go to the water. Go with friends. Meet new friends. Plant your tree of prayer near the water and watch it flourish. I’m going right now.

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Acts 15:39a
They [Paul and Barnabas] had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company…

I think about all that Paul and Barnabas had been through and wonder how this disagreement finally tipped the scale. Maybe they were always kvetching with each other and this was one kvetch too many. Who knows? But clearly, these wunderkind apostles did fight.

It appears that Barnabas was ready to extend grace to John Mark for his disappearing act when they were all traveling together before (near Pamphylia), but Paul was not. For Paul, it was simply unwise. He didn’t think they could “count on” John Mark.

Both Paul and Barnabas were considered apostles. Both men were familiar with the Holy Spirit. Both men were prayer warriors. Both men were leaders. And yet, they could not agree.

It is no different today. There will always be disagreement between leaders … between believers. Some lean toward grace and some lean toward pragmatism. Is one right where the other is wrong? No, they are simply different roads.

John Mark went on to write the book of Mark which has been included in the canon of scripture. Barnabas disappears from the story after leaving Paul. Silas, Paul’s new companion, went on to work with Timothy. And of course, Paul continued his own journeys. Each man contributed to the story in his own way.

There is a place for both: grace and pragmatism. They are not necessarily on opposite sides of the coin.

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