Paul traveled on an unexpected life journey, going above and beyond. He never expected to be called to be doing all he did. At one time, he was out to get Christians and made a living and purpose in having them persecuted and then God intervened and his purpose changed. It is written that no person, apart from Jesus, shaped Christianity like Paul. We look at him in our verses today on his unexpected journey.
So here is Paul and his companions in the area of Phrygia and Galatia. They are going to do God’s work. He mapped out his own journey. They think they are going to spread the good news, start churches, and do kingdom work here. They get to the border of Mysia. Jesus says no. Then they tried to enter Bithynia. The spirit of Jesus says no! Then they headed to Trosa and there Paul had a vision, he is to go to Macedonia. What did he do? He went to Macedonia!
What would we do? When God calls, nudges, whispers, talks to us through someone else, we are to listen and then… step out in faith. He expects us to step out in faith… and He will provide, as scripture promises us. And when he calls, he has your back. He’s got it! AND God doesn’t have to show us the whole picture… and here steps in… faith and trust. God’s plan was much bigger than Paul’s plan. EUROPE! The first preaching to Macedonia! And so Paul went!
I wonder if Paul thought….hmmmm….everything inside me says, “Yea, but, going over to Phrygia is the Godly thing to do too.” … Ever feel that way? Feels right, but tugged over there. I can’t describe in detail my experience in answering God’s call. The Power point is blank. I couldn’t find a description or picture to give my calling justice. I do know that I am not fighting, or struggling because from previous nudges, callings, I know He will win eventually.
He is victorious! I had a vision. I went to Tools of Ministry in March. The first workshop was exactly what I was expecting. The second workshop was not. I wasn’t going to stay, but I did. It was on prayer stations. The room was set up in a beautiful setting so the attendees could experience each prayer station. I was expecting more text book learning full of resources on designing prayer stations. This setting had seven tables set up throughout the room. In a prayer station setting one goes to each table and follows instructions at the table, such as read scripture, reflect or pray.
I sat at the first table with intentions to stay there. The table was to focus on being still. Then light a candle. Time got away from me. It was then I had an inner vision. I was standing in a field. The grass was green, green, the sky was blue, blue. There was a breeze, each tall blade of grass bent in unison. At the horizon was a man. It was hard to see him. I knew it was Jesus. He walked toward me, and said, “What are you doing here?” I said, “Here, at Tools of Ministry?” I sensed that was not the right reply. “Where?” I said. And I thought, and asked, “West Grove?” That was affirmative. “But Lord, you sent me here!” That was it. I decided to do nothing about this vision. Not pray about it, act on it, nothing. Let God. I let it go. Four days later, District Superintendent, Dawn Taylor-Storm, called me and ask me if I would be the pastor at Friendship UMC. God is the God of surprises. Now He has another path for me.
Jump back to Exodus with me for a minute. Exodus 13 talks about the Israelites heading to the Promised Land, scripture says. God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” Scripture continues to say, “So, God led them in a roundabout way…” Do we sometimes feel like God doesn’t take us from point A to point B, but takes us thru obstacles or everywhere else, in a roundabout way? In between point A and B we get to grow, become wiser, and learn.
The Israelite’s faith was exercised for some were strengthened, some broken. It was a spiritual journey. We are all on a spiritual journey. To be called to do the Kingdom work, devoting our time and energy is an honor! I love the Methodist Church because John Wesley said we are all ministers! And that also means we will be called on unexpected journeys. We are called to serve. Where? With children? With the older adults? In the kitchen? On a committee? Then let’s do it! And we thank God each time for the honor to serve. Are we led to lead? What are we waiting for? Are we called to serve on the Trustees, overseeing the building? Come on! Don’t argue, don’t struggle. Are you feeling lead to sing with the choir? God needs us, and expects us to step out in faith. Apostle Paul did.
God will provide in that step-out. AND as a church… we must listen, listen to the call of the Holy Spirit. Because if the church is not listening and not going where Jesus wants it to go—it will be in trouble. So be still. Hear him, personally and as a church.
I was listening to a speaker named Terry Crist. I had never heard of him. He says to plant your heart and make an impact. He asks, “Where?” He says … “in the church! Why? Because all said and done, the church will prevail. The church will prevail world changes, it will prevail nations changing, it will prevail boundaries changes. The programs won’t! The food programs, the social programs, (I quote Matthew 16…the gates of Hell will not even prevail.)
Terry Crist says in the bigger picture, the church will prevail and be a part of something that prevails. Be a part of what Jesus is a part of. Be a part in doing His work. How are we going to invest in it? Will we invest in his nudges, his calling? Or will we ignore his nudges, or the visions? Will we invest in the deep down feeling from the Holy Spirit? Or the visions?
Paul invested in God. His kingdom-work is still changing lives today and will tomorrow and the next day and the next day, and so on. Talk about an unexpected journey!!! I would say Paul accomplished his mission and much, much more.
Do we want to be part of the church? Take the challenge, to be part of worldwide church who looks toward Jesus. Answer His callings, and those nudges, believe in those visions.
Paul tells the Ephesians:
(Ephesians 1:18) “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.” Read it with me!
He has specifically appointed each one of our hearts with a calling. We were born to do great things for His glory… it is time. We are the children of God, he created the universe. Be who you were called to be. It is time… now…. to live the vision that is engraved on our hearts!
My experience?….it’s not just my experience, a vision exclusively for me, you all are part of it too. So, be willing, be still… hear His calling… invest!
1 Craig Brian Larson, Pastoral Grit: the Strength to Stand and to Stay, Bethany.
2. Inspired by Terry Crist you tube
New Testament Lesson: Acts 16:6-10
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. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 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.
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, June 24 ~ Saturday, June 30
Sunday: “When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” Acts 16:7 Has the Holy Spirit said to you not to go somewhere? Consider to be prayerful and wait.
Monday: “So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.” Acts 16:8 Have you ever planned for a long time a trip or an event and something happened to stop the plans? Could it have been the Holy Spirit? Praise Him today for His guidance.
Tuesday: “During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Acts 16:9 Having faith in God’s direction will bring you closer to Him. Read scripture each day and know Him.
Wednesday: “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.” Acts 16:10 Pray about where God wants you to serve. Be still, stay willing, DO hear.
Thursday: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 Remind yourself that Jesus has authority in all of heaven and Earth! Rest in this, being confident that God is good…all the time!
Friday: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20. Read this scripture again, and feel His assuring words that He will be with you always. Develop a practice of re-reading verses to hear God.
Saturday: “So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.” Exodus 13:18 When have you felt that God is leading you in a roundabout way? Take His lead, and know He will provide in your unexpected journey.