Monday, May 7, 2007

Following God's Lead to Macedonia Acts 16:9-15

In Acts 16:6-15 we see one of the heroes of the New Testament at moment of decision. The Apostle Paul was on a mission. He was taking a message of hope to the world. He was proclaiming new life in Jesus to everyone he encountered. Some loved what they heard and others burned with rage. He would know many troubles because of this message; but the troubles from chains to shipwrecks to beatings wouldn't stop him. He was inspired. He knew that this message wasn't just a fable. He personally knew the power of God. It's critical that we remember God's activity in Paul's life in Acts 9. Paul had first hand experience both of God's anger and frustration and of God's mercy and forgiveness. He carried this message with fervor. He personally knew the love and the power of God who he now served as a messenger.

Paul's travels brought him further and further away from the church in Jerusalem. Sitting in Galatia and he was at a cross roads and he started planning where to go next with the story. He had to pick a new direction. Either cross over to Europe or head east and go further in Asia. Paul decided his way. He planned to go on ahead and go east into Asia with the message of Jesus Christ. But somehow the Holy Spirit stopped him. At night in a dream he saw a man from Macedonia calling to him to come over across the water and to start sharing the Good News. Macedonia wasn't in Asia. Macedonia was part of the European mainland.

The call that Paul heard from Macedonia in that one dream changed everything. His plans were put aside for the sake of journey further on. There's mystery in God's plans. There's uncertainty and unpredictability; at least from the human perspective. God's up to something in the world. We might reasonably and rationally decide on one course of action and God might very well call us to do something very different. The Acts of the Apostles is filled with these moments of God redirecting Jesus' followers.

Discerning God's call apart from our own desires isn't easy in an age when self-fulfillment and self-actualization has become part of the popular religion of the day. In our individualistic age Paul's bold willingness to let God make the plans isn't easy concept to explain; but his model of faith is clear; sometimes we've got to take the detour.

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