Encouraging Others is a Good Thing

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. Acts 18:9-11

The first part of Paul’s vision was encouragement. We all need it. Paul needed it. How would you like the reassurance that you wouldn’t be hurt because of what you’re doing?

When the Lord “visits” us, we are encouraged immediately. It could be through a vision or a dream or just reading the Bible. You see, the Lord is always with us, and encourages us when we need it. Sometimes we need it more than others. Sometimes others need it more than we do.

Let’s face it, life is hard. There are lots of things that go against our moral fabric every single day. We all need that encouragement.

You can’t go wrong by encouraging a fellow Believer. Encouraging non-Christians and children to do the right thing is also a win-win.

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Crispus

7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized. Acts 18:7-8

It is implied that Crispus followed Paul to Titius Justus’ home. Having the synagogue leader convert was a very big deal. The Holy Spirit was clearly moving as Paul and the rest of the disciples spread the Word of God.

Crispus would have to answer for his new beliefs. As we all know, when the Spirit of God moves in your life, things begin to change. The Lord pinpoints areas that you need to work on. It doesn’t happen overnight but it could.

Recall that day when you first believed. What would it mean for you? Would people understand? What if people didn’t accept you anymore? And of course, what if it wasn’t as real as you thought it was?

For many of us, it’s been a long time since that first day. For someone like Crispus his whole world was about to turn upside down. Paul knew what that was like. He was the best person to tell Crispus about his own radical transformation.

Rejoice that your name is written in the Book of Life! Close your eyes and relive those days when your faith was brand new.

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Pressing In Daily

5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:5-6

It didn’t take long for those listening to Paul to tire of him. He was no longer reasoning with them, but preaching. In other parts of the Book of Acts, we see Paul returning to those who opposed him and preaching more. The Holy Spirit must have been telling him to move on. Paul added that he was now going to preach to the Gentiles!

It’s apparent that Paul was aware of his surroundings. He knew when to fight and when to leave. He knew when to “dust off his feet” and when to press in further. He had to rely on the Holy Spirit for this kind of guidance.

Today as you consider these words, think about how we’re guided. Do we rely on the Holy Spirit regularly? Do we pay lip service to Him every once in a while? Or are we pressing in daily to get our guidance?

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Tentmaking and Reasoning

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. Acts 18:1-4

Paul did what he had to do to stay in Corinth. He didn’t want to be a burden for the people he was visiting (as he’s said elsewhere) so he made tents to earn his keep.

He wasn’t content just to show up at synagogue every Sabbath; he was a fighter. He had to make a case and reason with synagogue attenders and Greeks. Paul had plenty of time throughout the week formulating his arguments. It was also his time to pray for the hearts and minds of those he would encounter on the Sabbath.

At this stage in Paul’s ministry, he did his battling when he reasoned and argued with the learned. Later we’ll see him preaching. He was truly a man who was all things to all people so that he could win some to Christ.

Paul preached, reasoned with the educated, made tents, and taught disciples. We don’t know how well he made tents, but Paul doesn’t strike me as a slacker because he’s just so good in all the other areas.

We may not have such a broad skill set, but we can certainly do one or two things well. What is it for you? What’s the single thing you do that you like to do and that you’re good at?

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Is There a Seeker in the House?

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others. Acts 17:32-34

Say what you want about Paul but he certainly attracted all kinds of seekers. From skeptics to newby Believers, people loved to hear him talk.

To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 2 Corinthians 2:16

You will always have both sides of the discussion listening to your message. Some may oppose you, while others will cheer you. That’s actually with anything meaningful in life.

Keep pressing on.

Keep drawing close to God.

Keep telling the Truth.

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Eternity Awaits

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:29-31

After clarifying the obvious difference between God and man-made objects, Paul laid it all on the line: God commands all to repent. It’s a clear mandate. While some have argued that Christianity is exclusive, this command is highly inclusive. Is that all that is necessary to become a Christian. Well, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” goes hand in hand with repentance. People do not do one without the other. Believing comes first, and the Holy Spirit will convict of sins. Repentance is a “natural” byproduct of Believing.

Most reading this devotional have Believed and repented, but that may be a faulty assumption. Take some time to assess your spiritual condition. Have you believed? Have you repented? If you’d like to speak to someone about this, write me, and I’ll walk you through this message.

Eternity awaits.

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Responding to the Holy Spirit’s Guidance

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts 17:22-28

What a brilliant way to approach this subject! Paul took what was unknown to them and filled in the blanks. Verses 24-28 are well worth a second and third read because he encapsulates God so that all can understand. He is setting the stage for the Gospel message.

But it first took a clever and innovative idea, something Paul knew would resonate with his audience.

The Gospel message, of course, does not need cleverness or slick presentations. We need to be wise in how we approach people because everyone is different. Paul used the unknown to teach the known. He was speaking with seemingly sophisticated philosophers so he engaged them at their level.

Knowing your “audience” is important. Realizing that the Holy Spirit will guide you in engaging with people is even more important.

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One Step At A Time

18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) Acts 17:18-21

In a few short days, Paul was invited to speak to prominent leaders in Athens. Why? He was consistent with his message. Those listening hadn’t heard his ideas and wanted to hear more. Paul’s message, however, had the power of the Holy Spirit of God behind it! The Holy Spirit was also preparing the soil of the hearts of those philosophers. None of the other speakers ever came close to the power of his teaching.

Yesterday I challenged you (and me) to expose and confront evils of our day. Today, I’ll add to that by saying the Holy Spirit will encourage you, strengthen you, and light your way for you.

Fighting evil is messy. Dealing with the forces of darkness is difficult and dangerous work. You’ll be exhausted at the end of the day. You’ll not think you can go another day. You’ll say time and again, “What’s the use? I’m only one against all this mess.”

These words will resonate with some people reading this. Not all, but a few. You know who you are, and you probably know what you need to do. The Lord has been laying this on your heart for the last few weeks, months, or even years.

It takes a first step though. Then another. And another.

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The Great Challenge

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. Acts 17:16-17

As a relatively new Believer, sin grieved Paul. But Paul took that grief a step further; he confronted it.

He didn’t have to. He could have preached until Timothy and Silas joined him. He could have taught great and long messages as he did later in the book.

But he didn’t do any of those things.

There are a great many evils in our day: abortion, human trafficking, sexual slavery, pornography, and Islamic terrorism to name a few. What’s particularly grieving is the unwillingness of politicians and the powerful media to acknowledge that these evils exist. That’s why you and I have a vital role in bringing these evils to the forefront and confronting them as Paul did. The business of exposing and confronting evil is messy and can be dangerous. It’s not for everyone but it’s also necessary.

So you ask, but I’m only one person, what could I possibly do? First of all, it takes a willingness to become involved. Even if it’s a few hours a week. There are organizations in your community that are fighting some of the evils mentioned above. Unfortunately there are hundreds of other evils out there as well. Volunteer at those organizations that are on the front lines. Donate. Ask them what you can do. My guess is they are looking for someone with your unique set of skills and talents. Most of all they need willing hearts.

Are you up for the challenge?

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