“This is not a moment for timid souls. Boldness comes easily when you are in the presence of those who agree with you; it is difficult when you are standing alone in the midst of people who seek your demise. Boldness behind a pulpit is one thing; boldness in a city council meeting is another. Boldness is seen most clearly when you have burned the bridge that would have enabled you to retreat to safety.”
Erwin Lutzer, We Will Not Be Silenced: Responding Courageously to Our Cultures Assault on Christianity, 120.
We are at a critical point in the history of the world and the Church. Should the Lord tarry, our children will look back on these dark and trying days and judge whether we were courageous in the face of great opposition or see evidence of compromise and capitulation. What will make the difference? Can I suggest a few things from Acts 4:8-12, where the disciples ran into their first major confrontation with aggression?
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12)
1. The disciples were filled with the Spirit.
This is the only way a group of Christ-followers who were cowering behind locked doors only a few days before could be so radically different. Courage and boldness is not for those of this type of personality. Boldness and courage filled the hearts of those filled with the Spirit.
2. The disciples testified to Jesus Christ.
The evangelical church is scattered and divided about a lot of things today—spiritual gifts, baptism modes, music, methodology, women in ministry, and more. Don’t get me wrong, hese are all incredibly important things. But the primary need for standing firm against the onslaught of the enemy is the gospel message. The heart and focus must highlight the cross of Jesus Christ and the atoning work accomplished. Everything else must be seen in its subordinate place.
3. The disciples upheld the importance of the resurrection of Christ.
The resurrection points to the acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. It is not tangential, but central. The resurrection of Christ points to our own future resurrection and glorification. If you grasp this, then courage is sure to come because nothing—NOTHING—can stop you. Not even death.
4. The disciples never forgot that Jesus was rejected too.
If you forget that they hated Jesus, you might be tempted into the sin of seeking to please man. But if you remember that they hated our Lord and crucified the Lord of glory, then we will not be surprised when they hate us as well—no matter how winsome or loving or kind we might be.
5. The disciples knew that there is no other hope for the world than Jesus.
If a person could be saved through Islam, or Mormonism, or liberation theology, then it would be much easier to just quietly practice our faith privately without any care about others because they’ll eventually get to heaven too. But the message of Jesus was clear—He is the only way to the Father. And that should embolden us because although some people might want to silence us or shout us down, we can’t be silent if we truly love them.
Brothers and sisters, don;t lose heart. Jesus is coming soon, but we have work to do and we can’t allow the shouts of the world to drown us out.
When stripped down to our historical foundation, IFCA International is a Bible movement. Our churches and ministries exist to preach Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23), a prospect that has never been acceptable to the world and is rejected by the apostate church. Like the Apostle Paul, we do not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). We believe that God has spoken without error and that His Word has never failed. We believe that the Word of God rules over the Church and God’s people, and that this authority extends to all humanity whether it accepts it or not. We believe the Bible, and this should have a direct impact upon how we minister in the preaching of the Word.
“Our Lord attracted sinners because He was different. They drew near to Him because they felt that there was something different about Him. And the world should see us to be different. This idea that you are going to win people to the Christian faith by showing them that after-all you are remarkably like them, is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder.”—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The Church of Thessalonica was established during Paul’s second missionary journey. It is chronicled in Acts 15:36-18:22. In this post I want to walk through this journey and then apply a few lessons that can be applied to church planting.
Paul’s journey began in Antioch, were Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement over John Mark, as to whether he should join them on their trip or not. Apparently John Mark had abandoned them on a previous trip and Paul did not think it was a good idea to depend upon him. Barnabas took John Mark and went to the island of Cyprus while Paul took Silas as his partner (Acts 15:36-41).
Meanwhile Paul and Silas headed to the region of Galatia to encourage the churches that Paul and Barnabas had established in the first missionary journey (Acts 15:36). The first stop mentioned was in Derbe and then on to Lystra. At Lystra Paul took Timothy with him on his journey (Acts 16:1-5).”
From Galatia Paul traveled with Silas and Timothy through the region called Phrygia, moving in a Northwest direction, avoiding Asia Minor (modern Turkey) because the Holy Spirit had forbidden that Paul should go there (Acts 16:6).
Paul then decided to go above Asia Minor into a Roman province called Bithynia, but Paul and his party were once again forbidden by the Spirit from going into this region (16:7). That meant that North and South were out of bounds to travel in. They could go back or they could press on toward Mysia along the northern border of Asia and Mysia until they reached Troas, which they did (Acts 16:8).
It was while in Troas that the Lord revealed to Paul his mission. He was given a vision of a Macedonian man who called out to him to come over and help him. Paul would have recognized this man as Macedonian from his traditional hat and clothing that had been a mark of the Macedonian people for centuries before and carries on even to today.
Although Macedon is not as well known to most of us today outside of the biblical references to it, it is important for us to know a little about its history.
The Macedonian kingdom was the “greatest empire ever known to human history.”  It was the empire of Alexander III also known as Alexander the Great.
Before he died at the age of 33, Alexander had succeeded in extending his kingdom from Egypt in the south to the Indus River in India to the east. His father, Philip II conquered the Greek city states and taught his son well many strategies that served him well as he sought to conquer the rest of the world. Alexander conquered Asia Minor, Phoenicia, Palestine, Egypt, Babylonia and India.
Alexander’s armies are pictured in Daniel 7:6 as a swift leopard with four wings. It says, “After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it.” The speed of the army was represented by the leopard’s speed amplified by four wings. The four heads refer to what happened after Alexander’s death. Since he died so young, possibly by poisoning, no plan of succession was in place.
After much turmoil, the kingdom was divided among his four generals into four kingdoms, with Antipater receiving the former Macedonian kingdom and Greece. At Antipater’s death, Cassander had the opportunity to take control and he solidified his position by marrying Alexander’s half-sister, the daughter of King Philip II. Her name? Thessaloniki.
In 316 BC Cassander founded a new city by consolidating 26 towns into the new city he called Thessalonica. This prestigious city would go through many more changes and wars by the time Paul would enter into it. When Paul came, it was a jewel to the Romans and had a population of about 200,000, which was quite large for a city in its day.
Let’s go back to Acts 16. Now we can see God’s purpose in not allowing Paul to go to Mysia or Asia or Bithynia! He wanted them to go to Macedon to bring the gospel message to the Gentiles!
Notice in verse 10 that it says “we” (cp. v.8 says “they”). What we find here is that in Troas Paul picked up another traveling companion—the author of Acts and the Gospel named for him—Luke! Paul went from Troas (in Mysia) across the island of Samothrace to the mainland of Macedonia and the city of Neapolis (16:11).
From Neapolis Paul and his friends went to the Roman colony of Philippi, named after Alexander the Great’s father King Philip II (16:12). In this city, Paul and his company met Lydia and led her to Christ. Later they were beaten with rods and thrown into jail after casting the demon out of a slave girl. (16:13-24) Welcome to Macedonia!
While in jail, God intervened and a jailer and his family were saved (16:25-40). From Lydia and the jailer’s family and any other’s saved on that trip to Philippi Paul established the first church in Europe. The letter we call Philippians was written to them.
Acts 17:1-9 tells us about the establishment of the Thessalonian church. Leaving Philippi, Paul passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, probably because they were so small (17:1) and moved to the city of Thessalonica, where a synagogue had been established by the Jewish population.”
In these 9 verses, I’d like to make three observations about the work that Paul did in planting this church and make some applications for our lives.
1. Paul “reasoned from the Scriptures with a Purpose (vv. 2-4).
Paul’s time in Thessalonica was short—he knew that. He was not on a vacation or sight seeing trip. He was literally on a mission. Because of that purpose, Paul’s time was focused, purposeful and methodical.
Verse 2 says he“reasoned”with the Jews. This word in Greek is dilegomai and it is where we get our word “dialogue.” Paul “dialogued” with them. He had deep, meaningful conversations with them about the Scriptures and their meaning. But it had a purpose and an aim. they didn’t argue about Jonah’s whale or who the Nephilim in Genesis 6 are. Paul made a bee-line to the cross and Jesus.”
Paul wanted to show them from the Old Testament that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah (v. 3). And Paul was seeking to change the hearts and minds of his listeners (v.4)! His mission had a purpose. Remember the way that Paul talked to King Agrippa? Acts 26:24-29. Paul preached for change!”
Studying the Bible and going to church is good. Listening to sermons and reading Christian books is good. But to what end do we do these things? Is it to seek holiness in our lives? It is to grow in Christ? Why do we share Christ? Is it to see people saved?”
2. Faithful gospel proclamation will also attract opposition from our enemy and those blinded by sin (vv. 5-9).
In a sense, these gospel preachers were turning the “world upside down” by preaching their message about King Jesus. We need to be honest. Most people like the status quo. We don’t like it when people rock the boat. And we love our sin. Listen to John 3:19-20. It says, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
Paul was trying to build a lighthouse in the darkness of Thessalonica. But the darkness wasn’t about to just roll over and let that happen. It fought back. So, we must wage war!” We too need to fight like Paul—reasoning, preaching the gospel, and persuading with the truth.
Second Corinthians 10:3-6 says,“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. “
3. Finally, Jesus must be trusted to build his own church (Matt 16:18).
It is easy to give up and be discouraged by adversity and the roadblocks that we encounter. To see all the failures and not the victories. Afterall, Paul followed Jesus’ commands and went to Macedonia, just as he said. Yet in Philippi he was beaten then jailed. Next in Thessalonica a mob formed and attacked their friend Jason in his home. When Paul left Thessalonica, he was probably only there from 3-6 months, but they had to move on!”
But a church was planted in Thessalonica. And it grew and matured…even with the absence of Paul! God gave life to that seed of a church and although Paul left when it was a weak little seedling, God would cause it to grow.”We certainly can learn from this. We need to work hard, and work smart, but we must learn as well to trust Jesus with the results. After all, it is HIS church.
 Green, Gene L. The Letters to the Thessalonians. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos, 2002; p. 9.
AND YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH, AND THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.—ST. JOHN 8:32
Inscribed in stone in the entry hall of the Chicago Tribune Building, Chicago, IL
With the proliferation of media sources it is possible to take in news and media non-stop from all over the world instantaneously at any hour of the day. Because of this mass flow of information, it is easy for Christians to become swept up in the downpour of news and information. And although it is good that we become aware of what is going on in our world so that we can be informed, like any good thing, there’s also a need to guard our hearts against the negative effects on our souls.
Before I get to some of the benefits of media, Let me first offer five warnings we need to take seriously. We must be mindful of our consumption of news media because:
It can consume your time. Where news used to be a small part of our lives, it can now be a danger of consuming hours of our day through Twitter feeds, satellite radio, and TV, RSS feeds and more. We need to ask ourselves if we are being good stewards of our time.
It can become an obsession. Like anything used excessively, even media can become an unhealthy obsession. As stories unfold, we become captive to the drama and we begin to see our lives through the lens of the news cycle. Many people have come to connect their whole identity with their political views and the latest updates of the drama being played out on their TV or Twitter feed. All the while far greater things such as family, spouses, and even ministry suffer.
It can take your eyes off of God and place them on your circumstances. A steady flow of the news can make a person jaded and cynical because the news tends to highlight the worst of humanity. It would be one thing if the bad news turned our hearts to prayer, but it most often doesn’t. Instead it plays upon our base fears.
It can fill you with worry and dread. As hinted at above, news stirs up (and even plays upon) our fears and tends to fill us with thoughts on the negative things in life. It can begin to induce fear, doubt, anger, and anxiety—all of which are frequently sinful in their manifestations.
It can develop in you a misplaced hope. Along with all of the bad news, there are nuggets of hope that are tantalizingly placed in front of the consumer. One effect of a constant flow of bad news is that we begin to seek a savior—in money, politics, celebrities, even in entertainment that will take our minds off of the world we live in. The media offers its version of hope, but it never offers the hope of Christ. And outside of Christ there is no real hope. But if we are not careful, we will continue watching and waiting, thinking that the solution is just around the corner, after the next commercial break or election cycle. And yet it never comes.
But does that mean that we should’ve watch the news or read Twitter or take in any social media? No, I don’t think that a total media blackout is either necessary or beneficial. As a matter of fact, the news is a helpful thing to be aware of. Consider these five reasons:
It can inform you of your neighbors’ outlook and the world at large. We do live in the world, even though we are not to be a part of its practice of evil. And to be engaged as Christians who want to show love and concern for our neighbor, we need to know what is going on and seek to understand the world in which they live and breathe. This will be helpful when we communicate with those that we are called to love with the gospel.
It can help you know what to pray for. This is a big world and we need to know what is going on in it partly so we can be praying intelligently. Wars, disasters, emergencies, political and social issues, all take place on a world stage that we should be informed about so we can take those needs and the people involved before the throne of grace. It’s hard to pray in ignorance, and in this way ignorance is not bliss. Allow the news, Twitter, your Facebook feed be for you a prayer prompt. Then pray.
It can sharpen your application of the Word. Some of the greatest Christian authors were Christian thinkers who took the Bible and applied it to the challenges of their day. This didn’t threaten the Christian faith, but made it more robust. I believe in the total sufficiency of God’s Word. Instead of fearing the onslaught of the next perversion rolling through town, we should open our Bibles and begin to understand how God has already addressed it through his Word. There really is nothing new under the sun.
It can remind you of mankind’s depravity and the need to proclaim the gospel. Some people read or watch the news and simply become angry at the evil they see. But shouting at the devil doesn’t do anything. Instead we should see that the Word is once again confirmed to be true in its doctrine of depravity, and we should pray that instead of a self-righteous judgmental attitude, it would instead drive us to share our faith because we continue to see the destructive nature of sin on those we love.
It can inform you of the needs of others all over the world. Seeing what is happening in another part of the world gives us an opportunity not only to pray for those needs, but it allows us to begin thinking about practical ways we can do more. Gospel missionaries are all over, and maybe a news story or headline will get us started in praying for and supporting the needs of those serving in that part of the world.
In 1 Chronicles 12:32 we are told that the sons of Issachar were “men who understood the times.” When the church understands the times while not being taken captive by them, we will become more effective witnesses and tools that are fit for our Master’s use. Make good use of news and social media as in everything, for the glory of God.