Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO on 11/05/06
"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me" (Isa. 6:8).
When I was a kid, many moons ago, it seemed that our Sunday School class only studied the book of Acts, Paul's missionary journeys, until I really got tired of reading about them. I remember asking our teacher, Brother Floyd, if we could study Romans, and he said, "No, Jani, we just don't understand that book." It took many decades for me to realize we didn't study Romans because we couldn't fit Paul's theology into the box we had built for God. If any of you have read J.B. Phillips book, Your God is Too Small (available at Amazon.com), you know what I mean by that. He observed that all religious groups have God in a box, and amazingly, if their concepts get stretched by the Holy Spirit, they seem to just build a bigger box to put Him in. Phillips' ideas really made an impression me, and my life experiences and observations show that he was right on in his assessment.
Suffice it to say that when I got to the place of deciding what I wanted to study, Acts was usually not in there, except for the occasional references. Part of the problem is that I am a visual learner, and without a map, I couldn't keep straight where Paul and his companions were traveling. My NIV Study Bible has valuable aids, maps, and historical data. I copied the maps of Paul's missionary journeys and with them in hand, found that I enjoyed his trips much more.(See link at end to Paul's Second Missionary Journey). Now, the Lord is weaving in the letters which were written to the towns where he preached the gospel, and I find it coming together into a cohesive whole. Of course, the Lord is the One who decides what I study from the Bible and when.
When we left Paul and Barnabas last week, they had returned to Antioch of Syria where they had begun the first journey. After encountering the Judaizers (party of the Pharisees), who insisted the Gentiles must be circumcised to be saved, Paul and Barnabas debated with them, but ultimately, they decided to go up to Jerusalem to confer with the apostles and elders about this question (Acts 15:1-2). It pleased the church leaders in Jerusalem to send Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with their decision, which as you may recall, advised the Gentiles to "abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood" (Acts 15:20). Along with our two friends, the elders and apostles sent Judas and Silas to the church at Antioch with them.
Judas and Silas were prophets, who "said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers" (Acts 15:32). Certainly their role in Antioch represents a large part of what prophets were called to do in the early church. Sometimes, I think Christians think prophets merely foretell the future, but in fact, by the Spirit, prophets are to encourage, exhort, and admonish. This describes Moses' ministry to a "tee." Scripture says of him, "Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face" (Deut. 34:10). The Hebrew writer gives us another aspect of the function of prophets: "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world" (Heb. 1:1-2). I mention this about prophets because they played an important part in Paul's ministry, including his "Macedonian call," which we'll get to in a moment.
After spending some time in Antioch, Paul suggested to Barnabas that they go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where they had preached the word of the Lord on their first journey. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them, but Paul did not think it was prudent because he had abandoned them earlier in Pamphylia. They had a sharp disagreement about this, to the point that they went their separate ways. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus (his birthplace), while Paul chose Silas to be his traveling companion (Acts. 15:36-41). I find their separation interesting because some Christians seem to think you can never argue or disagree with a brother, because it's not "nice." Paul and Barnabas parted company, but would it have been better if one of them swallowed down his feelings and pretended everything was all right when it wasn't? I think not.
It was not an irreparable rift between them. The NIV study note on Acts 15:39, indicates the following: "In I Cor. 9:6, Paul names Barnabas as setting a noble example in working to support himself. Also in Gal. 2:11-13, another scene is described in Antioch that includes Barnabas. Mark evidently returned from his work with Barnabas and become associated with Peter (see I Pet. 5:13). During Paul's first imprisonment, Mark was included in Paul's group (see Col. 4:10; Phm. 24). By the end of Paul's life, he came to admire Mark so much that he requested him to come to be with him during his final days (II Tim. 4:1)."
The early church was birthed in the Light of the Spirit of God and in the fires of persecution and stress. Disputes happened then as now, but they dealt with them and moved on as the love and grace of God took fruit in their lives.
Paul and Silas and their traveling companions left Antioch to return overland to the cities of Galatia where, amid great persecution, Paul and Barnabas had preached the gospel earlier. In Lystra, where Paul had been stoned, they met young Timothy who came highly recommended by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium (Acts 16:1-2). His mother was a Jewess and his father was a Greek. "Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek" (Acts. 16:3). The group traveled from town to town delivering the decisions handed down by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. As a result, the church was strengthened and grew daily in numbers (Acts 16:4-5).
From there, Paul eventually made his way to Troas, having been forbidden by the Spirit of Jesus to enter Bithynia (Asia. See Acts 16:6-7). It was here that Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us" (Acts 16:8-9). They packed their bags and left immediately for the area which is now part of Greece.
As on their first journey, they encountered triumphs and dangers. In Philippi, they met Lydia, a seller of purple cloth: "The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message" (Acts 16:14). They also encountered a slave girl whose gift of divination by an evil spirit, made money for her owners. Whether she really could predict the future or not wasn't clear, but as happened with Jesus on several occasions (Matt. 8:28-32; Lk. 4:31-37), the evil spirit in her recognized the Spirit of God within the disciples, and she followed them around shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God who are telling you the way to be saved" (Acts 16:16-17). Exasperated with it, Paul demanded the evil spirit leave her. When her owners realized that their "cash cow" was disabled, they dragged Paul and Silas into the marketplace to face the authorities (Vs. 19).
As a result of the riot, the magistrates ordered Paul and Silas flogged and thrown into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them carefully. He put them in an inner cell and fastened their feet in stocks. Most of us would be down for the count, with no medics to treat us, or ointment to soothe our wounds, but Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God at midnight with the other prisoners listening to them. That must have been a mighty testimony to them that night. If you haven't read this account recently, I encourage you to do so for it is faith building and thrilling as well (Acts 16:22-40).
God saved them in an amazing way: a violent earthquake caused the prison doors to fly open and the prisoners' chains to fall off. When the jailer saw it, he drew his sword to kill himself, knowing that if the prisoners escaped, his life would be forfeited. Paul called to him not to hurt himself, that all were there. Amazed, he fell trembling before them and asked "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Vs. 30). Paul told him "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household" (Vs. 31).
The jailer took them to his home, washed their wounds, and fed them a meal. He and his household were baptized that same hour of the night (Vs. 33-34), being overjoyed because they had found God. The next day, the magistrates sent word to release Paul and Silas. One reason Paul is my hero is that he didn't get the heck out of town as fast as he could, or slink away licking his wounds. No indeed. "But Paul said to the officers: "They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out" (Acts 16:37). The study note observes, "Public beating for a Roman citizen would have been illegal, let alone beating without a trial...Paul and Silas were not asking for an escort to salve their injured pride as much as they were establishing their innocence for the sake of the church in Philipi and its future."
The "Macedonian Call" has become a metaphor for those who walk by the Spirit. It symbolizes divine authority and planning, as well as provision to meet whatever need the call entails. Lenny received his call to come to the Baptist men in Neosho during a visit here in about 1995. During a later visit, both of us went forward at a Sunday service in that church. The pastor had invited any who felt led to come to the front and pray. My knees had no sooner touched the floor than I began to weep copious tears. When I looked down at the low table where we knelt, I saw trumpets, dozens, maybe hundreds of them carved on the wood. I knew it was a vision from God, and it startled and frightened me because I knew He was calling me to do something. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to do whatever it was, and I wept even harder.
Not given to visions, I wondered what it meant, but kept my eyes closed lest I see something that would unnerve me more than I already was. When I finally did open my eyes, of course, the trumpets were gone. I pondered that in my heart for a long time, knowing that trumpets symbolize God's message to the people. The shofar (ram's horn) was sounded throughout Israel by the priests to call the men to arms, or to announce a holy day. Joshua used the trumpet blast to bring down the walls of Jerico (Josh. 6:1-21); Gideon sounded the trumpet to achieve his triumphant victory over the Mideonites (Judges 7:19-21); the priest blew the trumpet to announce the crowning of the king (I Kings 1:38-48); the trumpet was used to praise the Lord (Ps. 81:3; 150:3); Joel said the trumpet would be blown to announce the "day of the Lord" (Joel 2:1); the trumpet of the Lord will sound to announce the resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15:52; I Thes. 4:16); and John saw the angels of God blowing a trumpet to announce each disaster that was to come upon the earth (Rev. 8:7-11:15).
That's an awesome list of how the trumpet was used in the service of God. When The Glory Road ministry began, the Spirit led me to the graphic used in this writing, and I knew the trumpets were exactly what I had seen on the surface of the table at the Baptist Church years before. That was my "Macedonian Call." Had I known then what I have discovered since, I would have rejoiced at seeing them, for what God calls us to do, He provides the means to do it. Of that one thing, Lenny and I are very clear. If He doesn't call us to do it, then we don't, for running ahead of the Spirit is only self effort that has no spiritual significance or eternal value.
I believe the time is upon us when the efforts of the flesh will become increasingly futile, with the end result being to draw us even closer to our Father as we seek to do only His will and not our own. It is getting more and more clear to many of us that we have control over exactly nothing! That's a daunting thought to novices on this walk, but once we see how much better He does things than we ever can, we are able to rest in His perfect will.
"Macedonian Calls" come in great or small packages. We're not likely to be imprisoned for preaching the gospel, or flogged, as Paul was, but it does get dicey sometimes because our flesh, ego, and pride take a terrible hit in the process He puts us through (the elect are those dragged through a cactus patch, backwards, so we can reach back and help someone else make it through). Deeds of the flesh, all self effort, are consigned to the refining fires, and only those which are authorized and empowered by the Holy Spirit bear fruit in the kingdom.
Do not compare yourself with anyone else, or think less of your gift than someone else's. Each of us is a unique vessel unto the Lord, one chosen before the foundation of the world, molded and shaped to be exactly what He had in mind for us to be. I was educated to be a high school teacher, but that profession definitely did not suit my temperament or personality. Looking back, I see that God knew I wouldn't like teaching school, but He knew I would need that precise education to do this ministry. I'm thankful for my parents' many, many sacrifices and their goal for me to have a college education, and more than that, for God's focus on what the education would be used for. He plans our lives with precision, knowing what we will be, when there is nothing visible but a block of stone waiting for the Master's hands to carve it.
Father, we thank You for opening our hearts to the gospel and for filling us with your Love and the Holy Spirit. We await whatever call You place on our lives knowing that You have prepared the way before us and Your glory will produce the harvest. Father, we worship and adore You. Make us instruments of Your peace to a war torn world. In Christ, Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Map of Paul's Second Missionary Journey
Dragon Slayer (Ephesus)
The Incorruptible Corinthians (Corinth)
The Galatian Conundrum (Galatia)
The Heavens Declare (Athens)
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 11/02/06
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/09/08.