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Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Place of Prayer besides The River

Photo by Dr. Ian W. Scott

Today I once again had the privilege of leading the Parkrose United Congregation in worship.

Below is an out line of the service including my Communion Talk and Bible Message.

PARKROSE  1/5/16

Order of Service

Welcome and Call to Worship :   

Hymn: “Praise to the Lord thee Almighty”


Announcements: Deane

Bible Reading: Acts 16:6-15  Deane

Hymn:  “Here is Love”(Barrie singing then congregation join in)

Communion:  Geoff


Church Prayer:  Geoff

 Hymn:  “Like a river Glorious”

Sermon:   “The Place of Prayer beside the River”

Hymn:  “God forgave my sin in Jesus name”

Benediction and Vesper. “Now unto Him”

 Bible Reading

Acts 16   Living Bible

Next they traveled through Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit had told them not to go into the Turkish province of Asia Minor at that time. Then going along the borders of Mysia they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus said no. So instead they went on through Mysia province to the city of Troas.
That night[b] Paul had a vision. In his dream he saw a man over in Macedonia, Greece, pleading with him, “Come over here and help us.” 10 Well, that settled it. We[c] would go to Macedonia, for we could only conclude that God was sending us to preach the Good News there.
11 We went aboard a boat at Troas, and sailed straight across to Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis, 12 and finally reached Philippi, a Roman[d] colony just inside the Macedonian border, and stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank where we understood some people met for prayer; and we taught the Scriptures to some women who came. 14 One of them was Lydia, a saleswoman from Thyatira, a merchant of purple cloth. She was already a worshiper of God and as she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart and she accepted all that Paul was saying. 15 She was baptized along with all her household and asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am faithful to the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we did

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“The Place of Prayer beside the River”

A little while back in this service I shared a message called “Does God Engineer our circumstances?”

You may or may not recall it but it was a the story of how Jeremiah was called by God to do mighty things that Jeremiah was not very keen on.
God caused things to happen in Jeremiah’s life that brought him into God’s will.

A few weeks back I also spoke about a “Street called Strait” which was where God directly intervened in Saul’s circumstances and Ananias which resulted in Saul becoming Paul and an amazing Apostle of the Lord.

This week we have another story of God engineering circumstances.

It is the story of Lydia and her encounter with Paul and his small group.

This happened as Paul, on his famous missionary journeys, had a definite sense of calling to go to Macedonia.

“Come over here and help us” was the request he heard in a dream.

Lydia was a by all accounts a successful business woman who traded in Purple cloth and the dies that created them.

“Lydia in the Bible was originally from Thyatira but was living in Philippi when she met Paul on his second missionary journey. She was a seller of purple cloth, which Thyatira was famous for, being a center of indigo trade. Lydia apparently had moved to Philippi to ply her trade in that city. Archaeologists have found among the ruins of Thyatira inscriptions relating to a dyers’ guild in the city. It is possible that Lydia was a member of this guild, but there is no evidence from the Bible to prove that detail.”

The indigo dye was extracted from sea snails.

It was and still is a colour associated with Royalty and Power and Status.

"Lydia was also a worshiper of God (Acts 16:14), and, when Paul found her, she was honoring the Sabbath, which means she was likely a Jew. The account of Lydia’s conversion says that she was gathered with a group of other women on the Sabbath at a place of prayer near the river outside of Philippi.”

It is interesting that in Paul’s vision he heard a man calling him to come to Macedonia but it was group of women Paul first encountered and accordingly as she responded to the Gospel presentation by Paul she became by all accounts the first person to become a Christian in Europe.

Many of the larger Church denominations regard Lydia as a saint and they hold feast days in her honour.

Lesley and I were at a funeral a couple of weeks ago and were surprised to see a large wall hanging in the Church hall of Lydia.

I thought it is obvious that this Lady is quite significant and yet in my journey as a Christian I had not really been aware of her so it has been very rewarding to research for this talk.

The place where Paul and Timothy, Luke, and Silas came was a special spot by the river which is still a place you can visit today.

The picture you have seen is of an outdoor chapel which has been built where it is believed Lydia was Baptised. The picture is courtesy of By Dr. Ian W. Scott – He is an Associate Professor of New Testament Studies, Tyndale Seminary. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
I wrote to him and asked permission to use it. 

Co incidentally Ian was preaching on the same passage last Sunday.
Here is a link to his youtube message.

So how did Lydia become open to the Gospel.

In the first place she had become a Jew as she was observing the Sabbath.

As such she was a believer in the one true God.

The God of the Jews, Yaweh, is also our God.

Jesus is His only begotten son.

In Romans Paul tells us that the Cross of Christ is the means by which God draws us near to Him in the process of our salvation.

“1 Corinthians 1:18English Standard Version (ESV)

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Our salvation is a process.

All of us who come to Jesus and receive Him as our Saviour have at some point in our lives responded to the message of the cross.

That is what Lydia did and her whole household.

God had brought her some of the way to Him via the Jewish religion and then He arranged for Paul to show her the way of salvation.

By going to the river with a group of like minded women each week to pray and observe the Sabbath was a process whereby she was listening to God and He was listening to her.

It appears that there was no synagogue in Phillipi that she could attend.

She was Baptised almost immediately and her household who were also being prepared by God to receive Jesus.

If they were not they hardly would have entered into Baptism.

15 She was baptized along with all her household and asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am faithful to the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we did.

The story does show the importance of us sharing our faith with our family.

That can be quite awkward sometimes but it is important.

It strikes me that there are many honest seekers of God who may not be believing and following the right God , they may be even involved in some sort of pagan sect or practice but that does not mean God is not recognizing their seeking.

We read on in the chapter shortly after this encounter.
‘16 One day as we were going down to the place of prayer beside the river, we met a demon-possessed slave girl, who was a fortune-teller and earned much money for her masters. 17 She followed along behind us shouting, “These men are servants of God, and they have come to tell you how to have your sins forgiven.”
18 This went on day after day until Paul, in great distress, turned and spoke to the demon within her. “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her,” he said. And instantly it left her.”
This girl was in the grip of the devil.
She was at the same place that Lydia had come to worship.
It is an interesting thing that she was shouting out the truth of Paul and his friends’ mission for all to hear.
The demons know who Jesus is.
Paul set her free from this power that had become lucrative for her owners.
I have no doubt that she became a follower of Jesus.

(Some years ago, when Lesley and I were first married we were living in Darwin.
I was not a Christian.
We went to a party of Airline Pilots and Flight attendants.
A friend's wife who was an air hostess had invited us while she was on a flight to Darwin.
There was a flight attendant there who was quite attractive and yet had a depressive type of disposition. 
She was reading people's palms.
By her appearance she was possibly from the part of the world Lydia came from. 
She told me that I was not very close to my parents.
It was hardly a revelation as my parents were 2000 miles away in Adelaide!
I wondered after that encounter, and since becoming a Christian, whether she had some demonic presence in her life.
She certainly seemed oppressed.) 
This incident with Paul and the fortune telling girl, produced a reaction in her owners that resulted in Paul and his companions being thrown into jail.
Another thing that followed on from that was the conversion of their Roman Guard and his family.
The Guard was about to commit suicide because he thought his prisoners had escaped.
28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer[f] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

On their release from Jail after God’s miraculous intervention, Paul and Timothy, Luke, and Silas briefly went back and stayed at Lydia’s house and encouraged them in their faith before they left.
There is a whole book in the New Testament dedicated to the Phillipian Church.
Paul encourages them in the letter to the Phillipians and expresses his gratitude to their faithfullness in supporting him in his work.
It all started in Lydia’s house.
So God was working in people who were very unlikely converts in our eyes but not in God’s.
Imagine what was like for the people in Lydia’s house as they started their house church.
The young church of the book of acts mostly met in houses to begin with.
We learn in the book of revelation that there was indeed a Church established in Thyatira where Lydia came from but that is a whole new topic.
It is part of the letters in the book of revelation to 7 different churches.
The place of prayer beside the river.
The Bible tells us that if we are Christians, that through the Holy Spirit, Rivers of Living Water will flow from us.
The river where Lydia met Paul and Thus Jesus, was not really conscious of the wonderful things happening in it and on the riverbank.
In the same way it is more than likely that we may not be aware of the impact our lives are having on others.
If we continue to walk in the Light of the Son of God,
that means being in communion with Him,
 obedient to His word to the best of our ability,
meeting with fellow Christians,
studying the Bible
it will be certain that God is speaking to others through us.
Lydia would have no idea that we are talking about her today and learning from her encounter  with Jesus.
I have often heard from staff who work in places like Parkrose how much some of the people they care for inspire them.

So lets all determine to be God’s person in this place.

Communion Talk

In Australia we are blessed to have an amazing continent.

We have desert,

snow an mountains,


rivers and lakes,

sweeping plains,

wide open spaces,

amazing wildlife ,birds and plants:

We have droughts and we have floods.

A land of great contrast.

The floodwaters, when they happen up in Queensland, wind their way down through our dry  interior to fill up the usually dry salt Lake Eyre.

They create a great inland sea.
When that happens Birds and Animal arrive from every where to breed.

The desert blooms.

It is like God is pouring out His love on our gasping,dry continent.

It is a time of wonder.

Most of our normal rivers flow into the ocean but not those rivers and creeks that head to lake eyre.

There is life  a plenty in our dry interior when this happens.

It is great when in our lives some unexpected good fortune comes into our lives to brighten us up and give us new lease of life.

All too often though, like the floods in the outback, the good things and times are soon past and we struggle onwards.

Our communion Hymn,Barrie’s song though reminds us how God provides for us no matter how dry our life has become.

I will read the words of the song again and then we will give thanks for the Bread and the cup.

1 Here is love, vast as the ocean,
loving kindness as the flood,
when the Prince of life, our ransom,
shed for us his precious blood.
Who his love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing his praise?
He can never be forgotten
throughout heaven's eternal days.

2 On the mount of crucifixion
fountains opened deep and wide;
through the floodgates of God's mercy
flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
poured incessant from above,
and heaven's peace and perfect justice
kissed a guilty world in love.

 The Prince of life Jesus,did shed His precious blood for us.

"Who His love will not remember?

As Christians we need to always remind ourselves and remember what Jesus has done on the cross for us.

We will give thanks.



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