“Begin Again”: A Weekly Devotional for a New Year, Week 41

‘From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.  One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.’

Acts 16:11-15

Timothy, Silas and Paul have now arrived in Macedonia, after receiving a vision from God: A man of Macedonia, calling to them, to come and help them – to preach the Gospel to them. Though they go out on the Sabbath to meet and evangelize people, it is not clear whether Lydia and her friends are Jewish, or not. We are simply told that she was a “worshiper of God”, which probably means that she believed there is a God, and he can be contacted in prayer.

It would have been far easier for the Apostles to bypass these women, and to find Jews – people who were more familiar, with whom they shared customs, language, culture. But the call of to the early church was clear: Go to the Gentiles – go to the people who are not Jews, and declare the Gospel to them. In Christ, the covenant that began with Abraham, is now opened to everyone.

Paul, Timothy and Silas see that these women are praying – they notice that God has begun a work in them – a work that the Gospel is meant to complete. People tend to turn to God – to belief in a God – because of any number of life-events: birth, death, reversal of fortune, sudden, unexpected good fortune, and so on. People sense that either they cannot make it through these difficult events, or that they do not deserve the good they now enjoy, and so turn to what they believe is God, in prayers of concern or thanksgiving.

The task of the apostles is to say to these women: “The one you worship became one of us in Jesus Christ. The mystery you are naming in your prayers, had hands, feet, a body, a life, a teaching, and his name is Jesus. The tragedies you’ve experienced; the shame and guilt you may feel; or the good, undeserved fortune you’ve received – all find their source and resolution in Jesus the Christ. He is at peace with you, and now you can be at peace with him.”

Do you have someone in your life who is a “worshiper of God” – someone who believes there is Someone out there, and that He is worth our time and effort and prayer? Or is that you: You know there is a God, you’re just not sure what his name is? Church is the place where we learn his Name, and – hopefully – feel his presence. Church is the place where we can ask questions about Him, and – hopefully – begin to walk and talk with Him. See you in Church!

Prayer: O God, I have sensed your presence. I have met people who claim to know you – who say that your name is “Jesus”. Jesus, please begin to speak to me – to help me take the next step with you. I know that there is a hole in my heart that only you can fill – come quickly, Jesus, and fill my heart with your Spirit. Amen.

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