As important events happen in this ministry, we want to keep you informed so that both praise and prayers can be made to our God who rules over all things for His glory and eternal purposes.
God is doing wonderful things in Nicaragua. On March 3, David met with 80 pastors from congregations in the mountain regions. Their meeting was in the city of Estelí, to study the Bible using "The Plan of God for His Disciples" as a study tool. Though many of them have no formal education, they long to serve the Lord and bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to every remote place in this country. Their training was a great success. David will follow up with them next month.
Later this month, David will meet with the Miskito brothers on the Caribbean Coast and the brothers of Waspam Rio Coco who are very eager to listen to God's plan so they can tell others the Good News. Please pray for David and those he will be teaching.
I don’t know of any other passage in Paul’s writing that carries such weight and personal emotions as Acts 20:17-38. Though Jerusalem was in the forefront of his mind, he was also intent on leaving behind his personal concern to God’s work in Asia. Ephesus had been a place of exceptional spiritual growth and suffering for the gospel. Paul poured into this new church all the care of a faithful church planter/pastor/shepherd that anyone could possibly give.
He also knew that his absence would bring new challenges that the elders needed to be prepared to face. Reminding them of how he had lived among them and taught them was not a matter of pride but of ongoing concern that God’s work be nurtured and protected by men who had a like passion for what God had done and was yet going to do. This would require personal integrity on their part; “Pay careful attention to yourselves” (28).
Reading this warning reminds me of Jesus’ words to the same church and leaders. He applauds their work but exposes a serious flaw; “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Revelation 2:4–5).
This was what Paul warned them about before he left. Both warnings carried consequences if not heeded. If Paul or Jesus were to visit us, what would they say to us or the church we are responsible for? What warning or rebuke would they give us? Would we listen? Would we quickly repent and make changes? Complacency is a blinding disease.
As I read the section in Acts 20:1-16, I can imagine how Paul is on the move from one place to another speaking and teaching in synagogues or wherever he has the opportunity. As for the churches that were planted in Macedonia, he had preached the gospel in these places during his first visit and now it is important to “encourage” these disciples (20:1-2) with a second visit.
Macedonia and Asia are being established in the faith as Paul passes through them for a second time. Part of the encouragement is remembering the Lord Jesus in the breaking of bread which connects believers with the Author of their salvation.
I also sense a compression of time with Paul that caused him to “prolong his speech until midnight…he conversed with them a long while until daybreak” (7, 11). He is laying a foundation in these disciples that will make them strong in his absence. Though his time in Philippi was only 3 months, Thessalonica 5 months and Berea 4 months, it was enough time for them to mature and stand on their own. That is why there was no need to return to Ephesus because the work he had done there was complete.
There are just a few today who see the benefits of this pattern and are seeking to follow it. I urge you to look for biblical patterns for your life and ministry in Scripture and follow them.
Do you remember what happened to Paul and Silas right after they added young Timothy to their team? Yes, “the churches were strengthened in the faith and they increased in numbers daily” (Acts 16:5). But in the next verse when they planned to move on to Asia, they were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” (16:6). Is God not interested in Asia?
Jumping forward to the verses we looked at yesterday, we see that God’s timing for Asia was not Paul’s timing. He is called in the vision (16:9) to Macedonia which included Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea. Then God allowed circumstances in Berea that forced Paul to leave, and he was “conducted… as far as Athens” (17:15). Now he and those with him are in Asia! This included Athens, Corinth and Ephesus.
Was this the best way to go about getting the gospel into this region? As Paul, Silas and Timothy continued in Ephesus for “two years…all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks”(19:10). That is perhaps a far greater vision than what Paul had in mind.
The greatest fruitfulness in ministry is not accomplished by careful planning, more money or more people and organization. It is made possible through our submission to the Holy Spirit. His timing will always produce greater results than ours.
Acts 19:1-10 contains amazing principles that need to be applied by church leaders today! There was something in Paul’s spirit that made him sense critical teaching was missing in the conversion experience of the Ephesians. As Paul began asking questions of these disciples, he discovered what was missing. This is extremely important for us in discipling new and existing believers.
Notice this statement by the Ephesians; “we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (2). It could be that they missed the same teaching that Aquila and Priscilla found was overlooked by Apollos, an accurate understanding of baptism. Once they were given the full gospel of grace in Christ which includes baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit, they were ready to receive Him.
All this led to Paul remaining in Ephesus for two years for fruitful ministry so that “all…of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (10). I will discuss this important statement tomorrow. The question we are faced with is can this type of discernment and effective teaching happen today? From what I see in God’s inerrant Word, absolutely YES!
If I were to subtitle this section of Acts 18:24-28 about Apollos, I would name it with one word; “Teachable.” As Aquila and Priscilla had been taught accurately the foundational truths of the gospel by Paul, they wanted to do the same thing with others who were “teachable.” There was already a good spiritual foundation with Apollos. He was:
It seemed that his only deficiency was understanding baptism. Was that sufficient reason for Aquila and Priscilla to spend time with him to adjust his understanding so he could teach “the way of God more accurately? The fruit of their investment in Apollos speaks for itself; “he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (18:27-28).
These are the kind of persons that we should be looking for. From such teachable people, God will expand HIS work faster and further than we can imagine. Being teachable is a result of the Spirit working in them. Are you teachable?
There are moments of reflection that make me feel very ashamed. I love to take time thinking about the life of Paul and how he pushed through hardships and trials in order to be effective in sharing the gospel. He considered his personal life worth nothing in comparison to preaching the life-giving message of Jesus to those who never heard (Acts 20:24).
I am afraid we place too much emphasis on making sure we have comforts and conveniences at our fingertips, so we do not suffer more than we want to suffer. I have wondered why Paul made the list of things he suffered in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29?
“Far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (11:23–27).
It was not boasting, but an expression of his passion. Paul endured all this FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL, and I worry about having hot water and clean sheets! There is no sin in conveniences, but when they hinder me from giving the gospel to others, I miss God’s purpose for placing me where I am. I cannot afford letting suffering or inconvenience hinder God’s plan for me “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Are you with me in this?
Acts 18:1-17. Corinth becomes an effective place for Paul’s ministry. He first meets Aquila and Priscilla who were also tent makers, the same vocation Paul had. He stayed with them, worked with them and then “reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath” after hours. Because Paul sets an example for us of one who worked and did ministry at the same time, we must pay attention.
This model has been ignored by the Church for centuries. Paul insisted that his model was worth following (Acts 20:18, 34; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9). With such a clear example in Paul, why have we not followed this effective method in today’s ministry? The answer would take more room than I have here, but it is important that each of us in our cultures answer this question.
Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians was, “we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1 Thessalonians 4:10–12). Paul’s exhortations are not just theory, but they are supported and proven by his own example which adds weight to his words. This is another reason why his ministry was so fruitful and became part of Scripture. It therefore carries authority for us.
If we are honest, money has played too large a role in ministry decisions. We need to get back to the model in Scripture and see how our effectiveness and power will be generated by the Spirit.
As our team has been reading through the Book of Acts, new insights keep emerging as I read this letter written by Luke, a doctor. Over 30 times in the Book of Acts, Luke uses the word “we” to indicate that he was there with Paul and others on the many journeys and places Paul went to.
In the very last letter Paul wrote at the end of his life, he makes one small reference to this doctor who played ‘second fiddle’ to Paul; “Luke alone is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11). When we consider all that Paul went through during those years, it must have been a tremendous comfort to have a doctor by his side, a man who loved the Lord and shared the same values Paul had.
It does not matter what role you have, you know there are persons God put in your life as a support and encouragement along your journey. I can think of several. Have you taken time to thank them for the role they have played in your life? These are persons who never sought prominence but wanted to be there for you in the good times and when they were difficult. God placed them there so you would not give up or stop from fulfilling your purpose. THANK THEM!
Acts 17:10-15 is a wonderful example of God using His people to redirect His servants. As opposition in Thessalonica gained momentum, safety for Paul and Silas became a concern “the brothers [in Thessalonica]immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea” (10). Though this was not Paul’s plan, it worked out for the furthering of the gospel.
It was not just the fact that Paul and Silas followed their custom of entering the Jewish synagogue to proclaim the gospel, but God placed them among people in Berea who “were more noble than those in Thessalonica [because] they received the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (11). Notice the meaning of these words:
Though the time there was very short (3 months), Paul and Silas left behind them a local church capable of growing on their own (self-propagating). This is as effective as disciple making can be.
If we were more like the Early Church, we would be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and He would lead us to people in whom He is already working and who really want to be discipled. Being led by the Spirit is a mark of a true disciple (Galatians 5:18, 25).
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