While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem, and they stopped along the way in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them—much to everyone’s joy—that the Gentiles, too, were being converted. 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. 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.”Acts 15:1-5
This Gem today may seem a little strange to some of you. It will seem out of order and strangely disconnected between the events in Lystra and what was happening back in Antioch. The reason is my good friend Ross, one who holds me to my promise to work through your questions (and his) has just returned from a mission trip to the Philippines. He told me yesterday in church that I haven’t yet answered three questions that have been left hanging. He wasn’t able to tell me this until yesterday in church after he had read the Gems he had missed while he was away. I take his point. That is why I have left you all there in Antioch in Syria for the moment and have gone back by boat from Seleucia to Perga and then walked back the 200 km to Lystra. You don’t have to worry, you will be in good hands there in Antioch with the church folk. They will look after you. The things I do for you Ross. I must admit that I am little weary from the journey though. Dare I say it matches the fact that I am going back to Jakarta for a week (well ten days actually). It is like this flashback to Lystra matches the flashback to Jakarta. When I realized that I began this Gem today with a smile on my face at the irony of it all. Perhaps I have decided to leave you all in Antioch while I head back for the ten days. I have decided that I won’t carry on with the Gem while we are in Jakarta for that time. So the match between the return to Jakarta and the flashback to Lystra almost matches perfectly in terms of the timing in real life. However the voyage on the ship would have been what determined the perfectness of the match. It depends on the timing of the prevailing winds on the Mediterranean and whether it is the three month period when vessels could not sail because of the roughness of the seas. But I think I can make it back in time. Now after all that waffle over Ross’ request that I pick up on those questions, let’s get into them.
The questions in focus are:
- Looks like the enemies of Christianity followed Paul and Barnabas and stirred up the crowd. Sounds like where you are Ian?
- I find it amazing Ian that we are reading all about this and you are experiencing it as you write in Jakarta. How can that be?
- I love how God uses you wherever you are. I want Him to use me like that. Tell me how it happens.
As I told you in Gem 1654, it is inevitable that troubles will come as Paul and Barnabas told their audiences. As in the days of Paul and Barnabas so in this day and age as they told us. It seems a little crazy for us to head back to Jakarta at this time as the elections are being held January 15th. Why would we want to be there at that time? Some have asked this end isn’t it better to stay away from Jakarta at this time. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. Like Paul entered Lystra again after his severe beating, we too will head back to Jakarta despite the potential dangers. Why? Well this time it has nothing to do with the gospel compelling us. This time it is just simply because someone close to us is getting married and so wants us to be there at her wedding that her and her future husband are willing to pay for us to fly there. How can we refuse? We do these things because we love Jesus and we love people. As I have said many times to people over the years, there is no place safer than being in God’s will. Well the timing of this visit is appropriate from a number of points of view. Attending the wedding, sorting out details related to bringing a refugee family to NZ and tying up loose ends related to Deeper Bible in Jakarta. So the fit feels like a God ordained thing. Ok Lord we are ready once again.
As to how the timing of things in our daily lives here in the 21st Century match the events happening back 2000 years ago and often more importantly the lesson that we learn from applying the principles learned back then to the situations we face currently – that is a question you will have to ask God. It is He Who orchestrates things on the macro scale not me. He has done it in the past, I expect him to direct my steps today and I live in the hope that He will take care of my tomorrows too. I have learned to place my complete trust in Him. And furthermore I will continue to expect to see the day to day circumstances I face align with the principles and examples that I read daily in His Word (the Bible). I don’t know how He makes what we read in His Word so applicable to what we experience on a daily basis. I just know that is what happens. So I have learned not to question it.
His promptings may come through a Bible verse even when it seems freaky and can’t possibly relate (as in the case of Exodus 13:17 in my testimony I shared with you in Gem 1656).
- His promptings may come to my own inner thoughts whether I should or should not do something.
- His advice to my heart through comments from the friends and advisors around me.
- His input to me from a sermon preached for a totally different purpose but ends up being God’s answer for me that day to the prayer I prayed that morning.
It is all used by the Creator of Heaven and Earth to guide me as I seek to walk this earth in His footsteps, doing His will. That answers the question: How can it be? As to the mechanism by which He does it, I don’t know. I just believe that the God of Universe who upholds the universe He created by the power of His Word can cope with the complexity. It boggles my mind. His ways are higher than my ways just as His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. If He can hold the universe together by the Power of His Word when scientists tells us it should fly apart then I will trust Him for the events in my life. Have you ever stopped to wonder why if it all started from a big bang and the universe is expanding randomly as a result of an explosion how perfect order can be maintained in my little sphere of creation? It must be the God factor. I will put my trust in Him as I first did back on Sunday 19th of August 1973. My intention is to not ever stop putting my trust in Him. He hasn’t let me down over this last 47 years, 5 months and 18 days. Why would I think that anything would change when He has been so personal and so caring?
As far as I am concerned Ross, that takes care of the first two questions above. On Wednesday, I will respond the request: I love how God uses you wherever you are. I want Him to use me like that. Tell me how it happens. Having done that Wednesday I will pick up the Gems again after Tania and I return to Auckland from Jakarta on the 19th of February. That will make it exactly 47 years and 6 months since I became a Christian on the 19th of August 1973.
Some of us think we must ‘get away’ in order to experience intimacy with God. No place is closer to God than where you are right now!Bob Gass
You must be near God in order to hear God.Rick Warren
The only place in the universe you find atheists is on earth. God lets you deny him your entire life, but then he’ll deny you.Ian Vail
If God’s Word holds the universe together, surely He can keep your life from falling apart!A R Bernard
You think the universe is stable? It is easier for heaven and earth to vanish than for one dot of the Law to become void.John Piper
The universe is full of magical things waiting for their revelation as our wits to grow sharper to find them.Ian Vail