The Great Re-Arranger

I was thinking to myself this afternoon about the times I asked him, Who are you, God? and about how he had answered — Trail Guide. Teacher. Empowerer. Friend. Warrior.

I wasn’t really asking that today, but he interrupted my thoughts to say, “and Great Re-Arranger.”

Suddenly some events of Joseph’s life came to mind. Joseph, the dreamer, youngest son of Jacob, owner of the many-colored coat, had an agenda, an itinerary and plans for his day. But his jealous brothers changed all that. Some plotted to kill him, one plotted to save him, but he was sold into slavery and they all lied to their father about his fate.

Joseph’s agenda, itinerary and plans were all rearranged. And so were those of his brothers! (Genesis 37; 50:20)

Saul the law-enforcing Pharisee had a wonderful career, zealously defending the Law of Moses. On the road to Damascas, he had an agenda, an itinerary and plans for his day. But a jealous God changed all that! His agenda, itinerary and plans were all rearranged – and his name was changed too. (Acts 9; 26)

Have you made New Year’s Resolutions for 2019? Do you have an agenda, itinerary, plans for the year? You should probably hold them lightly.

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How to heal the sick

HowToHealTheSickJesus healed the sick. He commanded the disciples to heal the sick, and to teach  future disciples (us) to do the same.

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” (Acts 10:38 NIV)

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” (Matthew 4:23-24; it does not say how, it just says he healed them all. Every sickness and every disease.)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)

“Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20)

How did Jesus heal the sick?

  • Gospel of Matthew:

Touch / spoken command  8:1-3 When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

Spoken command  8:13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Touch  8:14-15 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

Spoken word  9:6-7 “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home.

Faith  9:20-22 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

Touch  9:25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the (dead) girl by the hand, and she got up.

Touch / faith  9:29 Then he touched their (two blind men) eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored.

Spoken Command  12:13 Then he said to the man (with a shriveled hand), “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.

Touch of his clothes  14:35-36 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Touch  20:34 Jesus had compassion on them (two blind men) and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

  • Mark:

Touch  1:30-31 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

Touch / spoken command  1:41-42 He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

Spoken command  2:11-12 To the paralyzed man: “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Spoken command  3:3-5 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” … “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.

Touch / spoken command  5:41-42 He took her (the dead girl) by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means Little girl, I say to you, get up!). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.

Touch of his clothes  6:56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Touch / spit / spoken command  7:33-35 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

Touch / spit / spoken command  8:23-25 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Faith / spoken command 10:51-52 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man (Bartimaeus) said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

  • Luke:

Touch / spoken command  13:10-13 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

Spoken command  17:12-14 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

  • John:

Spoken word  4:46-53 There was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”  The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.

Spoken command  5:5-9 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

Touch / saliva / spoken command  9:6-7 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man (who was born blind) went and washed, and came home seeing.

How did the disciples / apostles heal the sick?

  • Peter:

Touch / spoken command  Acts 3:6-8 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

Spoken command  9:33-34 There (in Lydda) he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up.

Spoken command  9:40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.

  • Paul:

Spoken command  14:8-10 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

Touch of his clothes  19:11-12  God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

Touch  28:8 His (Publius) father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.

Paul’s method of ministering to the sick is not specified in many instances. However,  “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.” (Romans 15:18-19) “I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.” (II Cor. 12:12)

Some thoughts:

  • The original disciples did the same sort of things Jesus did, in the same way.
  • What did they not do? They didn’t pray for the sick. They didn’t ask God to do something he had told them to do. Jesus showed them how, healing multitudes of sick people right in front of them. Then he sent them out to do it also.  And not just the original twelve, he sent out 72 others also to “Heal the sick who are there…” (Luke 10:9)
  • One size does not fit all when it comes to healing. They addressed each person individually, specifically – they didn’t treat each one the same as every other one. Some they merely spoke to, some they touched. Some Jesus spit on! Some he just stated, “Your faith has healed you.”
  • Some they told to do something they could not physically do – but they did it.
  • The command Jesus gave those disciples is still in force to today’s disciples.
  • The same Holy Spirit that indwelled them indwelled disciples today, leading them, informing them, instructing them, and empowering them to do the same things, in the same way.

Are YOU yourself the one who is sick? Then also see: https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/how-to-heal-the-sick-addendum/

Philippi – why should I care about that place?

PhilippiViaEgnatiaEtcOne morning last week as I was thinking about what book of the Bible might be good to re-read next, Paul’s epistle to the Philippians popped into my mind.

“What do you know about the people and place Philippians was written to?” the Lord asked me.

“Not much,” I replied. “Uh – why should I care, exactly?” Not being rude, I was just curious.

“Why don’t you see what you can learn about them?” he suggested.

Okay, I thought, why not. So I approached the subject like Sherlock Holmes might: who, what, where, when, why, how – like that. Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far:

A bit of background

While Paul was in house arrest in Rome, he did more than boldly proclaim the gospel to anyone and everyone (Acts 28:30-31), he also wrote at least four letters which scholars refer to as the “prison epistles”: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon.

First-century house arrest wasn’t your typical American prison; however, it wasn’t a vacation home either. It’s purpose was to serve as a holding tank for prisoners awaiting trial. Two years was the maximum amount of time someone could be held, at which time they were either tried, found guilty and executed, or released.

Although guards were always nearby, prisoners were allowed much freedom such as access to visitors and limited access outside the home. “The apostle was under the charge of these troops (i.e. praetorian guard), the soldiers relieving each other in mounting guard over the prisoner, who was attached to his guard’s hand by a chain. In the allusion to his bonds, Ephesians 6:20, he uses the specific word for the coupling-chain. His contact with the different members of the corps in succession, explains the statement that his bonds had become manifest throughout the praetorian guard.” http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/view.cgi?bk=49&ch=1

Probably the most difficult part was that prisoners were responsible for payments, such as their rent, food, and so on. This was obviously tricky for someone who was not allowed to work for a wage. In fact scholars say that numerous prisoners died in house arrest due to lack of food.

So what was Paul to do?  Enter the Philippian church.  As Paul was in house arrest completely dependent upon the financial gift of others to keep him alive in prison, the church at Philippi stepped up by sending a man named Epaphroditus with a financial gift (Philippians 4:18).  (This wasn’t the first time the church financially came to Paul’s aid.  In a number of letters Paul mentions the grace-filled generosity of the Philippian church in providing for his needs time and time again: Philippians 4:15-16; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5; 11:7-9. )

Epaphroditus didn’t travel 800 miles to just bring Paul money, but he also came with news about the health of the Philippian church.  Apparently the persecution Paul faced in Philippi more than 10 years earlier was still on-going against the believers in Philippi (Philippians 1:29-30).  And, not only was the church facing trouble from the outside, but they were also experiencing great disunity and conflict on the inside between one another (Philippians 1:27; 2:3-4,14; 4:2-3).

In light of these threats on the church Paul writes them a letter (what we know to be the book of Philippians), gives it to Epaphroditus and sends him back to Philippi with it (Philippians 2:25-30).

Source: http://www.brookhills.org/gathering/reading_guide_archive.html?id=15

Miscellaneous thoughts about Philippi

“But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.” (I Thess. 2:2 KJV)

This entire chapter describes how Paul lived and preached, both at Thessalonica and previously at Philippi, and what happened because of that – persecution.

In Philippi it had been by Romans – who were upset at losing their demonic source of income and needed a way to get it back.
In Thessalonica it was by the Jews – who disagreed with Paul’s message about Jesus and continued to follow him from town to town.

In Paul’s vision (Acts 16), he saw a Macedonian man calling him to come and help. It wasn’t a man of any specific city or country, but the entire region, what we know today as the country of Greece and other Balkan nations. This was the doorway into Europe…

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippi

From Smith’s Bible Dictionary: “Achaia signifies in the New Testament a Roman province which included the Peloponnesus and the greater part of Hellas (Greece) proper, with the adjacent islands. This province, with that of Macedonia, comprehended the whole of Greece; hence Achaia and Macedonia are frequently mentioned together in the New Testament to indicate all of Greece. Ac 18:12; 19:21; Ro 15:26; 16:5; 1Co 16:15; 2Co 7:5; 9:2; 11:10; 1Th 1:7,8 In the time of the emperor Claudius it was governed by a proconsul, translated in the Authorized Version “deputy,” of Achaia. Ac 18:12.”

Note: Macedonia was the northern region of Greece. Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea were there. Hellas was the southern region, before reaching Achaia. Athens was there. The Peloppones peninsula is the western and southern-most region of Greece. Corinth was there.

Paul had not intended to go into that part of the world, at least not yet. He had intended to go into the northern part of Asia Minor (Turkey today). Somehow, we are not told exactly how, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let him go that direction. But he continued his travels and changed directions as necessary, being hindered from first one place, then another. He wound up going west, instead of north.

It was important to God that Paul take the gospel that way next – into Europe. Why? Who was there, that God wanted to reach? Perhaps Romans?

Acts 16 (NIV) (notes in parentheses are mine):

“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.

11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace (an island in the Aegian Sea), and the next day we went on to Neapolis. (A port city, now called Kavala. The Roman road Via Egnatia began/ended here originally, extended on to Byzantium shortly before Paul’s visit.) 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district[a] of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.”

Another source: Marvin Vincent Word Studies of the book of Philippians.
http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/view.cgi?bk=49&ch=1

About the City of Philippi

Philippi was a city in eastern Macedonia, established by the king of Macedon Philip II in 356 BC and abandoned in the 14th century after the Ottoman conquest. The present municipality Filippoi is located near the ruins of the ancient city and it is part of the region of East Macedonia and Thrace in Kavalla, Greece. Philippi was established on the site of the Thasian colony of Krinides or Crenides (“Fountains”), near the head of the Aegean Sea at the foot of Mt. Orbelos about 8 miles north-west of Kavalla, on the northern border of the marsh that in Antiquity covered the entire plain separating it from the Pangaion hills to the south of Greece.

The objective of founding the town was to take control of the neighboring gold mines and to establish a garrison at a strategic passage: the site controlled the route between Amphipolis and Neapolis, part of the great royal route which crosses Macedonia from the east to the west and which was reconstructed later by the Roman Empire as the Via Egnatia.

Philip II endowed the new city with important fortifications, which partially blocked the passage between the swamp and Mt. Orbelos, and sent colonists to occupy it. Philip also had the marsh partially drained, as is attested by the writer Theophrastus. Philippi preserved its autonomy within the kingdom of Macedon and had its own political institutions (the Assembly of the demos). The discovery of new gold mines near the city, at Asyla, contributed to the wealth of the kingdom and Philip established a mint there. The city was finally fully integrated into the kingdom under Philip V. The city contained about 2,000 people at that time.

More about Philippi

Philippi was in a strategic location — it commanded the land route to Asia Minor. The city was also important because of the gold mines in the nearby mountains.

In 42 B.C., it became the site of one of the most crucial battles in Roman history. In that battle, the forces of Antony and Octavian (cf. Luke 2:1) defeated the republican forces of Brutus and Cassius. The battle marked the end of the Roman republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire.

Antony and Octavian settled many of their army veterans at Philippi, which was given the coveted status of a Roman colony. Later, other army veterans settled there.

Being a Roman colony, Philippi was governed by Roman laws and subject to Roman rule. Citizens of Philippi were Roman citizens, exempt from paying certain taxes and not subject to the authority of the provincial governor. It was a little Rome in the midst of a Greek culture, just as the church is a “colony of heaven” here on earth (Philippians 3:20).

Events leading up to the founding of the church

  1. Paul was on his second preaching trip and he visited the churches established on his first trip (Acts 15:36; 16:5).
  2. The Holy Spirit prevented Paul from turning aside to Asia or Bithynia and he journeyed to Troas (Acts 16:6-8).
  3. The Macedonian vision directed Paul to go into Europe (Acts 16:9-10).
  4. Paul went to Philippi and searched for a synagogue (Acts 16:11-13). (There wasn’t one.) Though the initial converts were Jews or Jewish proselytes, Gentiles made up the majority of the congregation. The fact that there was no synagogue is evidence that the city’s Jewish population was small.
  5. The church began with the conversion of Lydia at a meeting of Jewish women.

About the church at the time of the letter

The 10 year old Philippian church had its share of problems. At the time of Paul’s letter, its members were desperately poor, they were being persecuted for the cause of Christ, they were being attacked by false teachers, and there was a feud between two prominent women in the congregation.

Source: www.lawofliberty.com/sermons/Resources/thechurchatphilippi.pdf

About Paul’s letter to the Philippians

  • Author

The early church was unanimous in its testimony that Philippians was written by the apostle Paul (see 1:1). Internally the letter reveals the stamp of genuineness. The many personal references of the author fit what we know of Paul from other New Testament books.

It is evident that Paul wrote the letter from prison (see 1:13–14). Best evidence favors Rome as the place of origin and the date as c. 61. This fits well with the account of Paul’s house arrest in Acts 28:14–31. When he wrote Philippians, he was not in the Mamertine dungeon as he was when he wrote 2 Timothy. He was in his own rented house, where for two years he was free to impart the gospel to all who came to him.

  • Purpose

Paul’s primary purpose in writing this letter was to thank the Philippians for the gift they had sent him upon learning of his detention at Rome (1:5; 4:10–19). However, he makes use of this occasion to fulfill several other desires:

  1. To report on his own circumstances (1:12–26; 4:10–19);
  2. To encourage the Philippians to stand firm in the face of persecution and rejoice regardless of circumstances (1:27–30; 4:4);
  3. To exhort them to humility and unity (2:1–11; 4:2–5);
  4. To commend Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippian church (2:19–30); and
  5. To warn the Philippians against the Judaizers (legalists) and antinomians (libertines) among them (ch. 3).
  • Recipients

Christian citizens of Philippi, mostly non-Jews. The city of Philippi (see map) was named after King Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. It was a prosperous Roman colony, which meant that the citizens of Philippi were also citizens of the city of Rome itself. They prided themselves on being Romans (see Acts 16:21), dressed like Romans and often spoke Latin. Many were retired military men who had been given land in the vicinity and who in turn served as a military presence in this frontier city.

That Philippi was a Roman colony may explain why there were not enough Jews there to permit the establishment of a synagogue and why Paul does not quote the OT in the Philippian letter.

  • Characteristics
  1. Philippians contains no Old Testament quotations.
  2. It is a missionary thank-you letter in which the missionary reports on the progress of his work.
  3. It manifests a particularly vigorous type of Christian living: self-humbling (2:1–4); pressing toward the goal (3:13–14); lack of anxiety (4:6); ability to do all things (4:13).
  4. It is outstanding as a letter of joy; the word “joy” in its various forms occurs some 16 times.
  5. It contains one of the most profound Christological passages in the New Testament (2:5–11).
  • Outline
  1. Greetings (1:1–2)
  2. Thanksgiving and Prayer for the Philippians (1:3–11)
  3. Paul’s Personal Circumstances (1:12–26)
  4. Exhortations (1:27—2:18)
  5. Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel (1:27–30)
  6. Following the Servant Attitude of Christ (2:1–18)
  7. Paul’s Associates in the Gospel (2:19–30): Timothy (2:19–24); Epaphroditus (2:25–30)
  8. Warnings against Judaizers and Antinomians (3:1—4:1) (Antinomian: the view that Christians are released by grace from the obligation of observing the moral law.)
  9. Exhortations concerning Various Aspects of the Christian Life (4:2–9)
  10. Concluding Testimony and Repeated Thanks (4:10–20)
  11. Final Greetings and Benediction (4:21–23)

Source: http://www.biblica.com/en-us/bible/online-bible/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-philippians/

Having gotten that far, I thought I should do more study on the letter itself. So far I’ve read several translations and a few commentaries, plus some word studies by a couple of notable scholars. I’ll share my thoughts about all that in a separate post one day. It has turned out to be a really interesting investigation.

So, why should I care about the people and place of Philippi?

They are a lot like believers today. Men and women, a mixture of races, ages, cultures and financial status, from a variety of religious backgrounds.

Many were military, active duty or retired. Many of those were landowners. No doubt some were civil workers for the Roman government, workers in the nearby gold and silver mines, or tradesmen and shopkeepers serving the thousands of travelers coming through this crossroads between continents. Some were most probably slaves, and some were slave owners. Rich and poor, all were citizens of Rome, the most powerful empire on earth.

They were a melting pot – a lot like America. But there is yet one difference between the Philippians and American believers, at least for the present:

All of them were being persecuted for their faith.

Called but not chosen

Saul of Tarsus was called. “Saul, I need you. Come here.” Of course, it was couched in other words initially: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9)

My mother loved to work in her back yard, pulling weeds, planting flowers, puttering around. She didn’t want to come into the house with dirty hands and feet just because she was thirsty, so she would call me. “Bette, I need you. Come here.”

And I came, often to be sent back indoors for a tall glass of water or a “milk shake.” Mama’s version consisted of milk with sugar and vanilla flavoring added, ice cubes but no ice cream. Once I put it into her hands, I could return to my book, homework or television, whatever I was doing before.

That’s not the kind of call Saul of Tarsus got. When he heard that voice, what it didn’t say was understood just as clearly as what it did say.

“Saul, I want another apostle. You’re it.”

“You meet my criteria: genealogy, authority in the Sanhedrin, Roman citizenship, self-supporting occupation, knowledge and zeal for the law. Come here.”

It wasn’t just an invitation, it was a draft notice. To make sure he paid attention, Jesus brought this invitation in person, in quite a dramatic fashion. Saul paid attention; he obeyed the instructions to the letter. He became an apostle.

Fast forward twenty plus years. Saul’s name is now Paul and he’s planning a trip to Rome, where many Gentiles and Jews have become followers of Jesus. He writes them a letter, informing them of his plans.

This letter to the Romans begins with an explanation of who the writer is, for a good reason. Though they had never met him, he had a widespread reputation; they knew who he was. Still, he was about to give them some orders. Why should they listen? Who is he, to them?

And so he begins, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God… apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”

He is identifying himself to them, and with them.

A servant? He was born into a prominent family, had achieved prestige and position, and he probably had servants himself. Now he’s a servant instead, as many of them were.

Called? Like they were? They knew what it meant to be called. Recruited, drafted, not because it was their own idea, but because it was someone else’s idea. They had accepted calls from owners or employers or government officials in the past, and now had accepted the call of Christ. This man says he was called, too, something else they had in common.

But Paul had not just been invited to be part of this group who believed Jesus to be God’s son, as they did. He says he was called to be an apostle, somebody sent out on assignment, traveling from place to place with God’s message for his people.

Paul’s zeal had gotten him into trouble soon after his confrontation with Jesus and he’d had to be sent home to Tarsus. Where once he’d been a respected, honored and feared member of the Jewish authority structure, he had become an outcast. A criminal, like those he’d pursued and arrested. The time back home was put to good use, I’m sure. Studying, meditating, communicating with God, learning, unlearning, relearning.

He was learning everything he could about the gospel of God, who Jesus was and how he fulfilled the promises, the prophecies. About God’s power. Grace. Faith. He was preparing to be an apostle, to share with the world at large what the Holy Spirit was teaching him. We know the rest of Paul’s story, that he did indeed become an apostle.

As I meditated on just what “called” means, I came across the Greek word for church. Ekklesia: the called ones. The invited ones. The drafted ones. And I began looking for other instances of this word, called.

Jesus told a parable about a wedding for a king’s son in Matthew 22. The king had invited (called) the proposed guests beforehand, then when everything was ready he sent his servant to say, “It’s time.” But they were too busy, they weren’t prepared. They refused.

So the king had other guests invited. The servants brought in everyone they could find – they filled the banquet hall, but the king wasn’t pleased with one of these new guests. He was invited, he had come, but he wasn’t prepared. He wasn’t wearing proper clothing for a wedding. He was thrown out.

He was called, but because he wasn’t prepared, he wasn’t chosen. Jesus ended this parable with, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” You get the picture.

The call isn’t the only thing necessary. Saul of Tarsus was stopped on that road in such a way it left no room for argument. He acknowledged Jesus’ identity and he accepted the assignment, but that wasn’t enough. He had to be prepared, clothed with something he couldn’t provide for himself.

And he was. In Acts 9 Ananias told Saul, “The Lord… has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The results, in his own words: “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I had said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.” (Romans 15:18-19)

“The things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance.” (2 Cor. 12: 12) When I think about all that happened to Paul in his lifetime (2 Cor. 11), I realize he could not have survived without that essential preparation; that clothing of the Holy Spirit.

Called, prepared and chosen. Clothed. That’s what and who we need to be.