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And God is able to make all grace abound toward you: that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (2 Cor. 9:8)

Dec. 30, 2005                                Divinely Touched

God's word is so amazing. When you begin to look past reading it on the surface, and start digging, prayerfully, it comes alive. It moves you deep inside where nothing else can reach. It causes living water to start flowing from deep within, washing, sanctifying, convicting, changing.

Act 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:

Amphipolis means a city surrounded by the sea. As newborn Christians, we are surrounded by wickedness, traveling through a world that lieth in darkness, as John said. Blinded by the god of this world. Paul and his companions went from there to Apollonia, which was so named after the pagan deity, the sun god worshipped by the people, Apollon. According to Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary, the word Apollonia means "perdition, destruction".

They went to Thessalonica. The name itself means "Victory of falsity" according to Thayer's Greek Definitions. Hitchcock says "victory against the Thessalians. "

This is early in the Christian church's history. According to history, this was written in the close of AD 52, or the beginning of AD53. It's said to be the earliest of Paul's writings. He goes into the synagogue and begins to reason with the people about the scriptures how it made sense that Jesus should have had to suffer and die and then rise from the dead. And that he was indeed the Messiah they'd long expected. What he is teaching is accepted and believed by quite a few people, beginning with the women. In verse 4, it says the of the devout Greeks, a great multitude and of the chief women, not a few. I looked that up and it means (chief) foremost, in time, place, order or importance, before, the best, beginning, first. So, these weren't just poor little nobodies in the city. They were women who held some position, or whether through wealth or name, were highly esteemed. They were also, Gentiles, apparently. Because it says the Jews which believed not were envious. (Sounds like the Pharisees, doesn't it? The religious crowd who talks the talk, but can't walk the walk and has a form of godliness with no power? ) They determine to resist Paul, and they get the lowest, most wicked men they could find to incite a riot, and go the house of Jason where Paul must have been staying, and demanded Paul be brought to them. And since he wasn't there for them to vent their anger on, they vented on Jason. The name Jason, incidentally, means "one who will heal", or "he that cures". And I must take a moment to ponder the name of the one so scornfully mentioned in verse 7-referred to as another king, "one Jesus". His precious name we know means "Savior, Deliverer, Salvation of Jehovah" and so many more. And the brethren, in an effort to protect Paul and Silas send them away to Berea, which means "heavy, weighty". And there they go straight into the synagogue.

It's interesting if you consider these scriptures, and you must remember as you read God's word that it is written for your learning. For your example. To teach you. It's not just a history book, but it is our instruction manual to living the Christian life to its fullest. The Lord was so gracious to give us such exact direction and instruction, but it can't be had by just casually reading the word. I want to be like the man who found the Pearl of great price in the field, and bought it, after selling all he had, then went digging in that field for that Pearl. Like David, I want to say Lord, open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. (Ps. 119:18.) For I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me. (119:19). Surely, he will freely give us all things that pertain to godliness. Nothing on earth is more godly than his Word. The Gentiles so readily received the Word of Truth. They dove into the Word of God with enthusiasm, searching these scriptures, establishing themselves in the truth, not just accepting things at face value, but digging in.

When a Christian gets saved and starts reading the scriptures, searching them, learning about the Lord, they are still so carnal, having so much to learn, with a fragile new life inside them that must be nourished and strengthened if the life of Christ is to grow to its fullness inside. It can't be neglected, it can't be lightly esteemed, it is to be cherished, guarded, kept. Held tightly, regarded highly. For opposition of the enemy will come. Imagine, or think back and remember when you first truly believed and were born again, did not the enemy whisper to your mind hateful lies in a saccharine sweet voice, trying to persuade you that Jesus was just not who he said he was? Or perhaps those around you who resented the change in your life, and character, whether through envy at your new found peace and happiness, tried to throw water or cold air on the fire of God in your heart? Trying to cast doubt on the truth of what you had found so precious? And if you are not persuaded, well, your mind will come under attack. Of course the Lord is so very faithful-he holds back the tide of the enemy's flood, giving you time to learn, and get your feet planted in his word, start getting it in your heart. And when you're on the Rock, the Rock of his Word, surely, as it is written, the storm will come. But it matters how you esteem the Rock. The value you place on it, is one of the most important determining factors on whether you will panic in the storm or stand your ground. Faith, hope and love are so intertwined. Faith in the Rock will help you stand your ground and remember your hope. But without love, the other two will waver under suffering. Love is what suffers all. Endures all. Love for the Master will carry the faith and hope and enable the Believer to stand. If we do not love him, we will not suffer for him, we will not endure the fellowship of his suffering. 1Co_1:9, 1Jo_1:3-7, Phi_3:10 spells it out plainly: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Without love for the Lord, Paul would not have endured being sent hurriedly out of town for his own protection, being run out, and these people even followed after him to destroy him when they found out where he went. We have an enemy on our trail that is hell-bent on destroying the faith and life of Christ in every true believer. And he will not give up, he will not stop.

In verse 14, Paul leaves Timothy and Silas in Thessalonica and goes on to Athens. Athens was the capital city of Attica, the center of Grecian sophistication and wealth. People there were educated and refined. Spoiled. Carnal and idolatrous. Athens was named after the mythical Greek goddess "Athene" meaning wisdom. She had supposedly founded the city. Didn’t God say in his Word, the wisdom of this world is foolishness? How clearly he illustrates it here, by sending his representative to the cradle of worldly wisdom and show how meaningless it is. And so few got the message. But for the few, God still cared. He wanted all to have a chance. So apparently, Paul goes from the frying pan into the fire. He faces each challenge where the Spirit leads him, dependent on the Holy Spirit to guide, teach, and empower him to do what God wanted him to do-spread the Gospel. Not hide it under a bushel. He did not back down. He didn't waver, or allow himself to be discouraged or intimidated, and you know the enemy must have been whispering a constant barrage of lies at this man's mind. He was coming at him right and left through other people, through every vice he could use, every tool he had he employed to try to bring this saint of God down. So what held Paul up? His faith and love for God. He was a man of like passions, as we are. The devil threw everything he had at Paul. God had Paul on a stage, a spectacle before the powers of darkness, the world who had mocked and scorned when he mentioned the resurrection, and the truth, and the life, the persecution and peril he endured. All watched the power of God take him through it. Not unscathed, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.

1Co 4:9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

Heb 10:32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;

Heb 10:33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.

Consider it. Angels, the devil and his unclean spirits, the world that is lost and dying and crying out to see something real, searching for something to fulfill and satisfy their innermost longings, they watch those who profess the name of Christ. They see. And they know more than we think. They understand more than we think. God puts his people on display because he has their back whenever they need him. He is an ever present help. That is how he is glorified. When in the fire, his people can still love and praise him. In the turmoil or temptation all around, his people are hungering and thirsting after righteousness-peculiar to the world, but they wonder. In trouble, his people can have all the peace they need if they just ask for it, and appropriate the promises of God. They might scorn, the world might laugh at how we dress or talk or think, but when the fire hits, they will remember. They will come running asking you to pray for them. God help me decrease so you can be seen in me, not me.

The only place to find strength is in the Word and the Spirit of the Lord. I have been fighting a battle of discouragement for a while now. I have allowed my situation to depress me and drag me down. Instead of getting alone with God and his Word, and drawing strength, I began to just dread waking up, eating too much, staying sleepy, lethargic, just not wanting to get up and trudge through the day. What a shameful testimony before the World of the love and keeping power of God Almighty. One morning, just as I was waking, early, I know the Spirit of God inside listens to every thought, every feeling, he knows it all. For as I awoke, I groaned silently inside, despairing at the thought of facing another day. And gently, he whispered "You are weak because you are not coming to my table and getting what you need." Ouch. This hurt. Because it was true. I had neglected my Bible for days on end, which was not like me, and prayer, as well, which is the Believer's lifeline to the Throne. We cannot let our situation overwhelm us and cause us to neglect our salvation, to disrespect our Lord by not showing up for our Daily Bread which is so needful in such a dark and dying world. We must have Bread and Meat to give to those around us who are in such dire need of the Light. Those who are hurting in the darkness, having been abused and misused by the enemy. God help me see past my own nose to his awesome plans and purposes. It's not about me. It's not about making me happy, but about Him, living his life in and through me, so that others can see him and have hope, and be saved from the awful destruction that is coming. And being a part of what God is doing, being in his will, feasting on his love, sharing it with others, this will make you happy. It will bring a joy that can’t be had in this world.

In verse 14, Paul is in Athens, waiting for his companions to join him, and seeing the idolatry and sin rampant around him, just as we do in the world today. And he was outraged, and yet had compassion on those who were so blind. His spirit was stirred in him, scriptures says when saw everyone so given to idolatry. Idolatry is simply put the worship of idols, images, or anything man made not made or of God. It can be a person, a life style, our own self interests, or desires, personal ambition, money, position, or pride. It can be anything that is placed before or instead of God in a person's life.

Now, when I got to verse 18, I thank God for making me curious, because when I saw the word Epicureans, I wondered what does that mean? Who were they? So I did some more digging. They were followers of man called Epicurus, who died in Athens around 270 BC. He had a philosophy (much like humanism today) that was a system of atheism, and taught men to seek pleasure and an easy life. Peace and prosperity being the highest goal of life. It's all about you, what you want. What feels good. Absolute truth doesn't matter. Feelings, not facts were important. Materialism and sensual selfishness was the ultimate end of his teaching.

The Stoics were a sect of Greek philosophers, and their founder, a man called Zeno, who was at his height around 300 BC, believed the laws and forces of nature were all manifestations of God. He taught his disciples that a man's happiness consisted of bringing himself into harmony with his environment. They too were materialistic, believing in fate, with an underlying sense of pride and arrogance that is unlike the humility Christianity dictates.

So here Paul is up against proud, arrogant, self-centered, self-focused people, who are driven by their fleshly desires. Sound familiar? Carnal vs. spiritual. They called Paul a babbler, they were not willing to give him any credibility, he sounded strange to them. And when I read verse 21 I had to smile. It simply says they spent their time doing nothing but looking for something to talk about or hear about a new thing. Thinkers and talkers. Probably, like many today, overanalyzing everything in error. They take him to Mars' Hill. This was where the Athenian supreme tribunal and court of morals was held. Picture this. Amazing! As I read how Paul addressed these people, considering humility, and grace was going up against pride, self-assurance, and arrogance here, this is a riveting scene.

Paul lays out the gospel in a short speech, from creation to resurrection, with just a few words. Some mocked, some wanted to hear more. He didn't use big words, which probably caused the elite and sophisticated around him to have dismissed him as ignorant because of his total simplicity. That's just too simple, it can't be that simple. It can't be true. Too easy. Isn't it always the devil as a harsh taskmaster, saying work for it, work for it, strive, work harder, try harder. Where is the grace by faith in that? We can't do it ourselves, which is why God had to send his Son. We could never measure up, so Jesus had to shed his blood. Thank you Lord!!!!

And you know, after he gave his speech, some did believe. The man Dionysius, who was a member of the court, his name means "divinely touched." That tells me the Holy Spirit was working there convicting hearts. Some yielded and some didn't. Reminds me of what Jesus said about the rich man, who trusts in what he has and sees, how hard it is for him to enter into the kingdom of heaven, which can only be entered by faith. And Damaris, that means "a little woman." Little, probably nothing to her city, or the people who lived there. But God thought enough of her and Dionysius to record their names for ever in his Word which is forever settled in Heaven. And there were others with them. Paul yielded to the Holy Spirit, glorified and lifted up the Lord and people's lives were touched. Surely he was put on the spot, in an uncomfortable situation. And probably the scorners weren't touched. But others were. Lives were changed. Some were saved. God knew before he sent his Son that not all would believe and repent. But he values our souls so much so did not let that stop him from forming the plan of redemption for "whosoever will come." Hallelujah! What a merciful, mighty, loving God. Thank you Jesus for your word, for your longsuffering, and your powerful truth!!!!!!!!!!! Plant it in the inward parts of this vessel so deep that should the earth around me shake and split in two I could like Paul not be afraid, stand still like Moses and see the salvation of the Lord for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord of glory. Hallelujah! Oh, thank you Lord, for waking your servant and welcoming her to your table. The food is awesome. The love is breath taking. Because I can't understand these scriptures. You are my Teacher. You said in Ps. 32:8 (it's an anchor for this simple child) "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." Glory to GOD!!!!!! He said the way I shall go, not might or maybe or should. But SHALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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