Welcome to my 37th straight post in 37 straight days, while reading the New Testament. I must say, every morning so far has been met with eager anticipation over the readings for that particular day, and how God will move my heart and spirit and thoughts. God speaks something to me, and I can’t wait to hear it.
Today’s reading is Acts 16 through Acts 18, and it is probably my favorite passage in the book of Acts.
Paul, now, becomes a world traveler, and becomes part of an amazing social network.
And, as you read this, I want you to ask yourself this question:
What if I used my Facebook and Twitter account to exclusively expand the kingdom of God?
Before we get to that, though, I want to show you a map of Paul’s travels during these three chapters, and what ultimately led him to his very own social network.
He began his second expedition from Antioch.
Yet this entire trip is the result of a detour.
Paul did have some sort of plan. When you look at the map above, and read Acts 16, you get the idea that after he and Silas traveled through Tarsus, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, he wanted to continue due east, to the city of Ephesus.
Here are the famous passages, though, which show how Paul was pushed into a completely different direction.
6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16)
Paul wanted to go further into Asia, to travel a route that would have carried him all the way to Ephesus. But the spirit of God refused to allow him to travel into Asia. That was detour number one.
So they moved northwest, into the territory of Mysia, but couldn’t enter the city of Bithynia, because the spirit of Jesus would not allow it. That was detour number two.
Because of these two detours, then, Paul was pushed into to the city of Troas.
While there, Paul received a vision of a man, beckoning him to come to Macedonia. Paul and his companions left at once, crossed the Aegean Sea, and headed to the city of Philippi. And that was detour number three.
Wow. God moved Paul in this direction.
Yet God didn’t give Paul a full revelation of this trip before he began.
He didn’t lay out the plan to Paul, but instead gave Paul the only thing that would’ve gotten him moving immediately. Specifically, anger. Paul believed zealous Jews had traveled to the cities of Galatia, and were undoing all of his previous work there. He bore the scars on his back from his time in that region. That was certainly more than enough to get him moving.
Paul was a smart man, too. He was a Jewish man, and probably wouldn’t have traveled as far as he did. Because in the Roman Empire, of its population of 100 million people, there were only about 7 million Jews.
He would’ve been in a visible ethnic minority everywhere but Judea. There was a significant Jewish presence in Galatia, because of historical reasons, but once he entered the region of Macedonia and Greece, Paul was outnumbered. He even looked different.
As a matter of fact, he didn’t even find a Jewish synagogue in Philippi. And his visit to Greece freaked him out a little.
I don’t think Paul would’ve opted to go this far. He didn’t really want to leave Asia. Yet God took him to a different continent.
Which allowed God to give Paul an incredible social network.
The Social Network
I want to list for us some of the people Paul met on this journey. I hope it shocks you a little.
- Timothy (in Lystra) – a young man who was the product of an interracial marriage, who eventually ministered to the church in Ephesus, was the recipient of two of Paul’s letters, and was imprisoned for the cause of Christ.
- Luke (in Troas) – a doctor probably from Philippi who traveled with Paul for a time. Had Paul never met Luke, we wouldn’t have the gospel of Luke, or Acts of the Apostles.
- Lydia (in Philippi) – a woman, and the first convert in the continent of Europe. She was probably connected to the Caesars in Rome because she sold purple clothing. Purple was the exclusive color of the Caesars. Because she dealt with the Caesars, she probably first lived in Rome, but was expelled by the emperor Claudius probably because of her belief in Jesus.
- Acquila and Priscila (in Corinth) – a powerhouse couple from Rome, expelled, too, by Claudius, probably because of their belief in Jesus as well. They, too, were tentmakers, like Paul, and Paul lived with them for 18 months. They taught Apollos, and later in their life, returned to Rome.
Understand this: Paul would’ve never met these people had it not been for the detour God forced him to take.
And, if that is the case, you and I would have never known these people, or their story, if not for this journey. These meetings were not accidental.
This tells me something.
Our relationships are not accidental. Every decision we have made in our lives is the result of God moving us to this very moment. Everyone around us is a part of a vast social network in the kingdom, and God has us at the center of a hub designed to further the message of Jesus.
Wealth, status, and experience are all relative things to God. Paul, along this detour, met an interracial man, a doctor, a wealthy refugee, and a married couple with a mobile profession. Again, there is no rhyme or reason here.
Because the kingdom is the only social network worth our time. It’s urgent that we open our eyes to see everyone in our lives as people living in, or living in the shadow of, the kingdom. Our web of connections is only useful for the expansion of God’s kingdom.
So imagine this: what if we lived in this reality?
Or, to be a bit more relevant to our own social networks, what would it look like if all believers used their own participation in various social networks to further the kingdom?
Or, what if we used our participation in social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, to write our own epistles among our own social connections?
What would happen in the world if we stopped posting petty, snarky comments, and instead focused every status update on building the kingdom of God?
Maybe that will give us something to think about today.