In the Steps of Paul

A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them Acts 16:9-10

Pauls and Silas were the first to bring the gospel to Europe. There ship landed in this port and it is where we picked up the trail.

Pauls and Silas were the first to bring the gospel to Europe. There ship landed in this port which was called Neopolis back then now it is called Kavala. This is where we picked up the trail.

Nancy and I have been blessed with a wonderful trip following the steps of the apostle Paul into Europe. Did you know that Paul was the first to bring the Gospel to Europe? That this was at the direction of the Holy Spirit? ( He was trying to continue preaching the Gospel to Asia, ) That it is directly through this ministry that the Christian testimony spread to the west?

We have many people to thank for this Experience. The first is Marshall and Betty Burke who invited us to go with them on this trip. We love them so much. The Burke’s moved to Beaver Falls in 1987 the same year that we did. Marshal joined a decidedly Christian Surgical practice, and I a Christian family practice. We have been good friends and encouraged each other as we have watched each other’s kids grow up, get married, and have kids of their own.

The second is CMDA (Christian Medical and Dental Association) for sponsoring this and all the many people that helped us on the way, especially a dear brother, Costas, our guide who seemed to make the rocks speak “in the tongues of men and of angels” It was like we could hear them “…in our own tongue, speaking the mighty deeds of God”. So here goes:

# 1 The Roman Road

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!

Rom 10:12-14

Philippi Gets First Place

The first legal Christian meeting place was built in the middle of town in Philippi. It was built in a circle so every one could see Christ inthe face of their brother.

The first legal Christian meeting place was built in the middle of town in Philippi. It was built in a circle so every one could see Christ inthe face of their brother.

Acts 16:12-14… and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

When it comes to firsts Philippi ranks close to the top. In Europe it had the first convert, the first baptism, the first house church, the first  exorcism, the first persecution, and the first jail ministry. Not only that but it was the first meeting house built specifically for Christian worship. The remarkable thing is what the building itself can tell us about the early church. Here is what our guide Costas said:

“The octagon of Philippi that we are going to see on the site is considered to be the oldest building found on European land built right from the beginning to house a church assembly. It is a very special building. The shape of this building is not rectangular as we used to see in the basilica and other rectangular church buildings. This is a round building, a round building, it is an octagon.

Now in the 4th century AD especially after Constantine’s decree (313) setting the Christians free to worship, we have buildings built for church assemblies and we have a lot of them they have a round shape. They are hexagons, they are round, they are octagons. Have you been in Israel?  Have you seen in Capernaum the church built at the top of Peter’s home? It is and octagon, an octagon and is dated back to this time.

Why? Because at that time, the emphasis in the church teaching was on the body, the body was the most important element in the church; the body of the believers. So they were sitting around, looking into each other’s faces and on the face of each other, they should see Jesus.

There was not somebody higher than the others. Later, the churches, especially after the church became a state institution and had authorities and administration, took a certain orientation towards the altar, the pulpit, towards the authorities. Here they sit or stand all around the church, not facing the altar which is unusual for any Catholic or Orthodox Church. We don’t have built altars in that church in that phase. Later on the church buildings develop all these things… but not for the first 300 years!”

This was the first day of our tour and I wasn’t sure what we would see, but I have to say that I was not expecting to see so clearly in the stones the simple reality that the church is Christ’s body. For almost 300 years they had been meeting around the simple reality that Jesus Christ is in the center. Think of it, when the Church had its first opportunity in 300 years to publicly express itself it did so by building a meeting place where they meet in a circle, all on one level, no one but Christ is elevated.

PRAISE THE LORD!!!

Lydia Gets the Purple Heart

Phillipii River - Beaver Valley Christian Fellowship Church of Beaver Falls PA

And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. (Acts 16:13-15)

Lydia is one special lady. It is no coincidence  that she was at the river on the sabbath day. Note that it says, “outside the gait”. Devout Jews looked for a place that was outside of the gentle city gaits. If there was enough of them they would would form a synagogue, if not they looked for a place near running water that wasn’t near a cemetery, which would make it unclean. Paul knew that would be the place to look and find devout Jews on the Sabbath so he went looking for them. What he didn’t expect was to find a woman’s prayer meeting, nor did he expect to find a gentile, independent business woman, who loved the things of God. It wasn’t the first time that the Holy Spirit arranged a special meeting. (Eg. Phillip the Ethiopian Eunich, Peter and then gentile Centurian, Paul and Annanias). What struck me is the preparation that the Lord did to make such a meeting. Lydia is an independent woman. Normally that means you were a prostitute, but Lydia worshiped God. She is a long way from home. Thyatria about 50 miles inland on the other side of the Adriatic Ssa.(it was one of the 7 churches in the book of Revelation) Her city was known for its purple dye, which was very expensive. So she was able to set up shop in the city and own a large enough house to host the first house church in Europe. What were the events that led to her being there? I suggest that she paid attention to what the Spirit was saying, always looking and ready to act without delay. I think when the Spirit tapped on her shoulder and said listen to this guy, she was used to hearing His voice.

Listen to the ministry “Lydia, The Right Heart At The Right Time” below:

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“The Way” vs “a way” It was worth a beating

It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you [a] way of salvation.”  She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.
Acts 16:16-18

 We are sitting in the ruins of Philippi reading act 16:16-20 in Greek with Costas our Guide

We are sitting in the ruins of Philippi reading act 16:16-20 in Greek with Costas our Guide

When Nancy and I were at the ancient ruins of Philippi our dear guide Costas had us read the bible together on site. He read from the original greek text which was his native language. We read this passage. He pointed out something very important. It is something that is missing. It is that something that makes all the difference for this eyewitness account to make any sense. The thing that is missing is “the”. I have always wondered about this verse. If the slave girl was telling the truth why rebuke it? Almost all english translations say “the way of salvation” but the Greek is clear, there is no definite article, there is no “the”. What is the big deal? Well being “a” way is no threat, being “the” way, the only way to God is the ultimate threat to everything and every one who has something to sell. The Greek word translated “divination” is the word python, you know that snake with the seducing eyes. Paul spoke in the power of the name the python couldn’t say. Jesus Christ. “In the name of Jesus Christ come out of her” He is the definite article!

More on the python

…a slave-girl having a spirit of python met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling… Acts 16:16

…these men are bond servents of the most high God 

So you might be wondering now what  is the big deal between the Greek word Python and divination or fortune telling. Actually it is a very big deal and one of the reasons Paul’s encounter became a major power battle. It was something he would later describe as a battle against principalities and powers. Around the middle of Greece there was a special place that was thought to be the center of the world, well more  accurately it’s naval. In some ways that is true as several tectonic plates come together there making it  geologically active and beautiful. It was believed to be the home of the Greek God Apollo and the place where he killed a great dragon / snake called Python. Apollo was the son of Zeus who in Greek mythology was the “most high God”. That is the phrase that the slave girl used when she said Paul was a servent of God most High. There is a temple  shrine over a deep crack in the rock there and a priestess was said to be possessed with the python who would speak the words of Apollo in answer to your questions. Kings and anyone who could would seek out answers. It didn’t matter what what side you were on as long as you made an offering. When she spoke it sounded like the voice came from somewhere else so these mediums were also called ventriloquists.

Getting back to Paul, this is a show down, the Son of ʾĒl ʿElyōn God Most High who’s name is Jesus  he speaks by the Holy Spirit empowering an apostle vs. the son of Zeus who’s name is Apollo. He speaks through a python possessing a slave girl.

Round 1 

“…But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.” Acts 16:18