Hello and welcome to Monday’s podcast. I’m James and I’ll be sharing a short thought each day this week. I’ve just taken the podcast on from Mick who did something different with them last week as we looked to launch our Vision and Purpose for 2020 as a church. Mick was getting us to think about “Join Us for the Better Life”. We will hear more about that into the new year and I would definitely recommend giving them a listen if you haven’t had a chance yet. For this week, and as we head into Christmas, we are still focusing on the book of Acts as we are not finished yet, and do keep in mind the 2019 vision of Join us and Grow.
Today and tomorrow we are going to hear two stories of how Jesus changes lives. Both very different people but we will take a similar approach both today and tomorrow, asking who they are, what Jesus means to them and how they are impacted.
So first of all, let’s look at Lydia. You might have heard of this story before, but maybe you haven’t, let me explain it again very briefly. This starts at Acts 16:13 – On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshipper of God.
We learn a few things about Lydia straight away from these sentences. First of all, she is from a different city, so whatever is going on in her life – it affords her the chance to travel around a bit. Secondly, we learn she was a dealer in clothes. Meaning she was a business woman. Presumably doing very well for herself if she is making clothes for more than her extended family. Thirdly, she was a dealer in purple cloth. It was very expensive to pay for the process that dyed cloth purple for whatever reason. We know this from the historic writers of the time. There are multiple different reasons for it but we know that only very wealthy people could afford purple. It was considered very exclusive, luxurious and beautiful. A sign of being rich. Basically, Lydia sold beautiful clothes to powerful people. I guess the equivalent would be a trendy high-end fashion boutique in the city centre. Maybe even having a couple extra shops in the city region or Leeds and Manchester etc. You’re getting the picture. It is impressive.
One of the most impressive things about this woman is that we are told she was a worshipper of God. She’s not only an entrepreneur and has pulled together a successful business, but she’s loves God and is open to conversations about him, a woman of high integrity.
So why does a woman like this need to hear about Jesus? I mean from our perspective, it looks like she has it all together and is living a successful life.
Well it says here that they were praying – I’m looking at verse 13 again – basically having a Bible study. And what stands out to me is the words “We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.” They sat down… this means it probably was not a big group or a big presentation. It was a conversation. Not a pitch but something more natural, a back-and-forth. A low pressure conversation and Lydia was open to it. Not only open to it, but it says, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” We’re often encouraged to look at the meanings of the word when we share from the Bible, especially when it is a few verses, and the word here for respond actually means to be attracted to. For example, in another part of the Bible this word is used to describe how it is bad to be addicted to wine! What this word “respond” really means is that Lydia began to be really attracted to what Paul was saying… not just convinced that his ideas where good but that the message of Jesus was beautiful and powerful news.
Lydia, who sold beautiful clothes to powerful people, who had an eye for things that are pleasing, considered the message of Jesus to be beautiful and powerful.
So what difference did Jesus make in her life?
Well, we read it now in verse 15. That she says, after being baptised, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” … “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. They debated it and she won. She wanted her home to become a base where people meet friends, meet God and lived the better life. We know this started to happen because of verse 40 in this chapter. They began meeting in this way in Lydia’s home… and that is so important because that is basically how the good news of Jesus began to expand to the ends of the earth in the early days. There was no church infrastructure. Ordinary people opened their hearts and opened their homes and the rest is history.
Let’s think about our church for a moment. It is something like 1000 people and 600 adults. The majority of people who meet in midweek communities each week. It really is a beautiful thing that so many are meeting in homes across the city. Say on an average week 350-400 people are meeting JUST in homes. Do we know how much that would cost if we centralised it to a venue in the city? If we hired one of these new trendy banqueting halls like we see in Kelham Island so we could meet, eat and worship. Before catering costs we are probably looking at, like, £2,000 per week. Hundreds of thousands of pounds per year. What point am I trying to make by saying this? We are sharing that cost in the same generous way that Lydia did in this story! That is no small thing and it is a wonderful offering to God and it is so important and so Biblical. If we think about it, God is working in the same way in our lives as he did in Lydia, as we open our hearts to this beautiful and powerful news. And as we open our homes to meet friends, meet God and learn to live life better we are part of the same gospel story that is witnessed to the ends of the earth. To all people and places we can imagine.
If you have never hosted a cell or cluster before – give it a go! It’s such a gift back to God that has given so much to us.
Thank you that the message of Jesus is so attractive. It truly is beautiful and powerful news. Would it continue to inspire us. Would it continue to open us up to people – even to those who appear to have it all together. Would you open people’s hearts to respond as we share. In Jesus name, Amen.
BIBLE READING:Acts 16:11-15
From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we travelled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptised, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.