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Friday, May 3, 2013

6th Sunday of Easter: Guided by the Holy Spirit

This week's lectionary reading lends itself to just being read, explored and understood just as it stands before us. I don’t want to preach it so much as teach it. I think it’ll speak quite a few things into our lives but in particular I want us to listen to what it teaches us about:

Being guided by the Holy Spirit.

and our text is Acts 16:6-15

It’s two weeks to Pentecost and I think this reading can act like an appetiser, a kind of foretaste if you like, of what we can look forward to and expect the Holy Spirit to do in our lives if we let Him. 

 They traveled through the region of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit did not let them preach the message in the province of Asia.  When they reached the border of Mysia, they tried to go into the province of Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  So they traveled right on through Mysia and went to Troas.


Unless your geography is really good, you have no idea where these places are or were. But as we will see later, knowing where these places are, is imperative to understanding  what God was really doing.

If the names weren't important, they wouldn't be in the Bible.



A lesson to lift here though is this; Paul wanted to preach in these places, he wanted to spread the gospel here and we might say: "That is good – we must support him, encourage him, pay for his trip – this is mission work and must be supported" ........ except one thing... 
God didn't want him in these places, at that time and so.....

 They traveled through the region of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit did not let them preach the message in the province of Asia.  When they reached the border of Mysia, they tried to go into the province of Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  So they traveled right on through Mysia and went to Troas.


God closes doors is the way we sometimes put this – But we need to be sensitive to the guidance of God, because we are good at opening doors that God wants left shut.



And so this passage teaches us: the Holy Spirit guides us.


And there are many ways He does this: Firstly by promptings of the Spirit which require of course Spiritual perception which comes to all who earnestly seek it. But secondly, did you pick up another way God guides us?

 That night Paul had a vision in which he saw a Macedonian standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”


Through visions................ 

Throughout Scripture, people are given visions – there are many, last week, you might remember, we looked at the the story of Peter who saw a cloth full of unclean foods and God said: ‘Eat’. That was a vision which led to the inclusion of you and me in the church.



A vision is something you see, in the day or the night, while you are awake.

A dream on the other hand, (also a way God guides us), is something you see while you are asleep. Joseph in the Old Testament has dreams through which God guides him and a nation......... Daniel has visions.........and so on.

In the New Testament another Joseph discovers that his fiancé, Mary, is pregnant and he knows he is not the father of her child, but in a dream God speaks to him and reassures him and guides him.

And so we could go on and on – the lesson is that God (who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow) speaks to us and guides us through dreams and visions, just as he did people in the past.

An important point though, taught to us in this story is found in vs 10.

  As soon as Paul had this vision, we got ready to leave for Macedonia, because we decided that God had called us to preach the Good News to the people there.


Dreams and visions need interpreting, they need discerning. If we are going to grow in this means of communication that God has for us, we must share our dreams and visions with other believers and especially with people who have spiritual discernment in this area.


Paul has the vision, but it is a group who decide on what it means. And what did it mean?

we got ready to leave for Macedonia, because we decided that God had called us to preach the Good News to the people there.


They decided they must go to Macedonia. So....

 We left by ship from Troas and sailed straight across to Samothrace, and the next day to Neapolis.  From there we went inland to Philippi, a city of the first district of Macedonia;


Once again, a whole list of names that mean little to us .........

Where are these places and does it really matter?



 Oh yes it does!!!!!!

Because if we look for these places on a map we see what is really happening and it is nothing less than a small step for man, 



from Troas to Neapolis, but a giant leap for mankind, because what is recorded here is the Gospel’s arrival in Europe.

Up to this point the Gospel has been preached in Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Asia Minor and to Africa, now it comes to Europe from where Scripture doesn't so much record, but history does record, it will spread to every part of the world.

Almost all of Africa will be missioned from Europe, not from Africa
Almost all of North America will be missioned from Europe.
Almost all of South America will be missioned from Europe.
Almost all of Australia will be missioned from Europe. 

Here we have the start of it all..........

We spent several days there.  On the Sabbath we went out of the city to the riverside, where we thought there would be a place where Jews gathered for prayer. We sat down and talked to the women who gathered there.  One of those who heard us was Lydia from Thyatira, who was a dealer in purple cloth. She was a woman who worshiped God, and the Lord opened her mind to pay attention to what Paul was saying.


The start of it all, a group of women at a riverside, Paul preaching and one convert, the first convert in Europe, a women called Lydia. This reminds me of Jesus' parable about the mustard seed:

 Jesus told them another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man takes a mustard seed and sows it in his field.  It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows up, it is the biggest of all plants. It becomes a tree, so that birds come and make their nests in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32


The seed of the gospel's spread to all the world was sown that day.



Well, what can we learn from all this:

1.    God seeks to guide us – and when we let Him, it is not always to the place that makes the most sense to us. Believe that God wants to guide you.

2.    God guides us in many ways – sometimes by shutting doors, sometimes by opening doors, sometimes by dreams, sometimes by visions and many other ways.
Develop spiritual perception and seek the counsel of other believers.

3.    When we are where God wants us to be, as individuals, as families as a Church – the possibilities are beyond our comprehension.
Seek to be and long to be, where God wants you to be.

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