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Into Greece

November 16, 2023

Daily Scripture

Acts 16:6–15

6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the regions of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit kept them from speaking the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they approached the province of Mysia, they tried to enter the province of Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them. 8 Passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas instead. 9 A vision of a man from Macedonia came to Paul during the night. He stood urging Paul, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 Immediately after he saw the vision, we prepared to leave for the province of Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
11 We sailed from Troas straight for Samothrace and came to Neapolis the following day. 12 From there we went to Philippi, a city of Macedonia’s first district and a Roman colony. We stayed in that city several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the riverbank, where we thought there might be a place for prayer. We sat down and began to talk with the women who had gathered. 14 One of those women was Lydia, a Gentile God-worshipper from the city of Thyatira, a dealer in purple cloth. As she listened, the Lord enabled her to embrace Paul’s message. 15 Once she and her household were baptized, she urged, “Now that you have decided that I am a believer in the Lord, come and stay in my house.” And she persuaded us.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

After a major meeting that resolved that Gentile men did not need to be circumcised (cf. Acts 15:4-21), Paul proposed another missionary trip. A disagreement kept Barnabas from going with him (cf. Acts 15:36-40). In some way (Luke didn’t say how), the Holy Spirit limited Paul’s work in Asia Minor. In the port city of Troas, Paul had a vivid vision of a man from Macedonia asking him to come there and help them. Paul and his companions left promptly, for the first time taking the gospel into Europe.

  • Paul usually preached first in a synagogue. Philippi, though large, had no synagogue. So, Paul found a place of prayer by the river, and spoke with the women who met there. Lydia, “a dealer in purple cloth” (i.e., costly fabric in royal colors), was one of his first converts. Paul baptized her and her household, and she offered hospitality while they were in Philippi. How good are you at going to unknown territory (physical or mental) if that’s what it takes to carry out God’s mission?
  • There’s a key detail in this reading. In verses 7-8, the writer spoke of Paul and his companions as “they.” But verse 10 said, “WE prepared to leave for the province of Macedonia.” With no great fanfare, Luke told his readers that he had joined Paul’s group in Troas. How did the use of “we” highlight the trust Theophilus (cf. Acts 1:1-2) (and we) can have in the eyewitness quality of Acts? How did the writer’s use of “we” only when it was accurate * stress the writing’s integrity?

Lord Jesus, you may not call me to sail to Macedonia. But nearly every day you let me meet someone like Lydia who doesn’t know you. Keep me as ready to share you in new “territory” as Paul was. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Angie McCarty

Angie McCarty

Angie McCarty is an ordained elder from the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church who moved to Kansas from Arizona in 2017. She is a Pastor in Resurrection’s Adult Discipleship department, creating and managing Leawood’s classes for adults. She is also the part-time pastor at Spring Hill United Methodist Church. She completed her doctorate degree at Saint Paul School of Theology in May 2023, focusing on Christian sexual ethics. Angie is married to Jonathan Bell, who also serves on staff at Resurrection. Together they have six kids, a live-in sister who is active in Matthew’s Ministry, and a totally joyful life.

I have stood at the site of Lydia’s home where Paul preached. In 2006, on a trip that followed the Journeys of Paul, the stories of his life became real as I walked in Paul’s footsteps. We remembered our baptism by the riverside where Paul (likely) preached, as we acknowledged Lydia’s role in the early church. The water was frigid. Our hearts were warm.

I wonder if Lydia knew the changes she was about to experience. As the first gentile convert, her name is emblazoned in Christendom for all eternity. We point to her as one of the first who heard Paul’s gospel presentation, which was likely nothing more than the story of how Jesus changed his life. Her life was turned upside down and the primary gift she displayed is hospitality. She opened her home and her life as a place of rest and comfort for fellow believers.

There is always evidence when Jesus comes into our lives in a new way. Maybe we become more dedicated to reading Scripture, attending worship or praying. Often those around us recognize the change as evidenced by a new disposition, a greater sense of hopefulness, a gentler spirit. Maybe the change isn’t dramatic but is simply marked by being less of a jerk today than yesterday. Jesus brings change.

I was 13 years old when I experienced a dramatic conversion at church camp. I was far too young to understand what that meant for my future, which is probably why it’s indelibly etched into my memory. I didn’t know enough to try to rationalize my emotions. I was simply overwhelmed by Jesus’ spirit and I knew I would never be the same again.

Unfortunately, 37 years later, the emotions of that experience have faded but the transformation of my spirit is a reality. I hope my conversion, like Lydia’s, will continue to make a difference in the world, not just because people know my name, but because my relationship with Jesus makes a difference in the way I live my life. What tangible differences in your behavior, disposition and actions are a result of your relationship with Jesus? Thanks be to God for the ways we are all changed because of Jesus’ presence in our lives.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* “The ‘we passages’ are found in Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-15, 21:1-18, and 27:1-28:16. (The events described, when Luke presumably was present, go beyond some of these passages, but the use of we is confined to these verses.)” From Hamilton, Adam, The Call: The Life and Message of the Apostle Paul (p. 100). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.