Friday, December 28, 2007

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

A recent research project has determined that the religion of teenagers in the US can best be described as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. If you have no idea what that means, here are a few of the beliefs...
  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.
Jason showed me this article this morning, and we both agreed that this religion is pervasive
throughout our culture, and not just among teenagers.

The results of this research project were compiled into a book titled Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

2007 Top Ten List: Books

Time for top 10 books I read this year, once again in no particular order...

  1. In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson - I read this one in a book group with Jason and Glen. It was a good first book for the men in our church.
  2. The Ministry of the Missional Church, by Craig van Gelder - I actually just finished reading this book yesterday. Half of the book contains some of the best stuff I've read on the subject of the missional church, while the other half was simply ok. If you liked Missional Church by Guder, you will like this one (at least half of it).
  3. New Testament History: A Narrative Account, by Ben Witherington - I mentioned Dr. Witherington in my Top 10 Blogs post. I have really enjoyed this book as I've gone through the book of Acts.
  4. Mavericks at Work, by William Taylor & Polly LaBarre - This was the best leadership book I read this year.
  5. Launch: Starting a New Church from Scratch, by Nelson Searcy & Kerrick Thomas - Jason and I read this book this past Spring, as we were first beginning to plan our Fall Launch. It's the most practical book I've read on the subject of church planting.
  6. Grace Based Parenting, by Tim Kimmel - I actually haven't finished this one yet, but what I've read is great. I especially like it because it encourages parents to teach a missional worldview to children, and not to try to shelter them from the world.
  7. This Beautiful Mess, by Rick McKinley - This is probably my favorite for the year. It's one of the most helpful books I've read on understanding the Kingdom of God.
  8. Cities of God, by Rodney Stark - The subtitle for this book is "The Real Story of how Christianity became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome." What more do I need to say?
  9. The Pursuit of Happyness, by Chris Gardner - I've had Audible this past year, and this was one of the books I listened to. The movie centers on the second half of the book. There was quite a bit of bad language, but other than that, it was a good book. Great story!
  10. The Collectors/Stone Cold, by David Baldacci - I'm putting these two together so that I keep my list to 10, but also because it's really one story, albeit a very long story. I read The Collectors on our trip to Gatlinburg, and then listened to Stone Cold a few weeks ago. Very good fiction.

Reflections on my Birthday

My birthday was Tuesday. I turned 33 years old. My dad said that the first birthday that seemed a little weird to him was when he turned 35, so we'll see if that happens for me. This one didn't seem any different than any other one before it. Of course Jason reminded me that this is the crucifixion year. Thanks Jason.

My step-dad's birthday is December 22, so we celebrated our birthdays together on Tuesday night by going to The Butcher Shop for some steaks. Joining us were Mandy, Adam, my Mom, and my step-grandparents. We noticed that Adam wasn't himself. He was acting tired and wanted Mandy to hold him. Towards the end of the dinner we learned what was wrong - he threw up! The poor guy didn't even get to sample the steak. Turned out that he was fine after that, and didn't get sick anymore. And he and I enjoyed the leftover steak last night.

The highlight of the day, though, was getting to see my baby for the first time. On Monday night Mandy shocked herself when she touched an exposed, and live, wire on her laptop cord. She was fine, but was worried about the baby. She called her doctor, who said that it was probably fine, but she should come in Tuesday for an ultrasound. Since we were both a little worried, I went with her. The baby is perfectly fine, and even posed for a picture. I'll post it soon. Mandy is 12 1/2 weeks, and the due date is June 29.

It was a good birthday!

Best Quotes of 2007

The 10 most memorable quotes of 2007, according to Fred Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations:

1. "Don't tase me, bro." -- Andrew Meyer, a senior at the University of Florida, while being hauled away by campus police during a speech by Sen. John Kerry.

2. "I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps and I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and Iraq and everywhere like such as and I believe that they should our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for us." -- Lauren Upton, South Carolina contestant in the Miss Teen USA contest, when asked why one-fifth of Americans cannot find the U.S on a map.

3. "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country." -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking at Columbia University in New York.

4. "That's some nappy-headed hos there." -- radio personality Don Imus, referring to the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

5. "I don't recall." -- former attorney general Alberto Gonzales' repeated response to congressional questions about the firing of U.S. attorneys.

6. "There's only three things he (Rudy Giuliani) mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11." -- Sen. Joseph Biden, speaking during a debate for Democratic presidential candidates.

7. "I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating." -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, referring to Vice President Dick Cheney.

8. "(I have) a wide stance when going to the bathroom." -- Sen. Larry Craig, explaining why his foot touched the foot of an undercover police officer in an airport men's room.

9. "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man." -- Sen. Joseph Biden, referring to rival Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama.

10. "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history." -- Former president Jimmy Carter, referring to the Bush administration.

Monday, December 17, 2007

2007 Top 10 List: Websites

Next up for my Top 10 of 2007...Websites. Once again, I use Bloglines for these sites. It's set as my home page, so every day I see which sites have new feeds. Very nice.

  1. Catalyst Space - this is put on by the same people who put on the Catalyst Conference. There are some very good articles each month
  2. Fast Company - for quite awhile I subscribed to this magazine. I no longer do that, but I still get to read all of the articles online.
  3. Out of Ur - I've been reading these posts since it came out. It's from Christianity Today.
  4. Church Relevance - I was on this site everyday this past summer as we prepared for our church's launch. They pointed me to great resources on marketing, design, leadership, etc.
  5. Church Marketing Sucks - another great site on marketing, websites, technology, etc.
  6. Bankrate - I go here for great mortgage articles and headlines.
  7. ESPN - I hope everyone knows what ESPN is.
  8. Yahoo Sports NBA Rumors - the title says it all
  9. Hoopsworld - more NBA action
  10. Techbargains - I can't tell you how much money I've saved using this site.

2007 Top 10 List: Blogs

I do a lot of my reading online. I'm thankful for blogs, and I'm thankful for Bloglines, the way I read my favorite blogs. Here are the blogs I read the most this year.

  1. Scot McKnight - this guy is brilliant, and very well-read. He's also extremely balanced. I heard that his blog gets around 5000 hits a day.
  2. Jason Elder - he's my co-pastor. He's a great writer, though I wish he would write a little more often (yes, you heard me, Jason).
  3. Ed Stetzer - Ed is a missiologist/church planter/writer who just started blogging this year. He always has really great things to say.
  4. Ben Witherington - I've just recently discovered him through reading one of his books. He's a professor at Asbury Seminary. Here's his personal site.
  5. Joe Boyd - Joe is a friend that I met in Las Vegas. He then moved to Hollywood to be an actor, and now is a teaching pastor at the Vineyard in Cincinnati. I've learned a lot from him when it comes to story telling.
  6. Steve McCoy - Steve is a pastor from Illinois who writes on all kinds of subjects. If I'm ever looking for something on Tim Keller, I go to his site.
  7. Dan Kimball - he's another guy who writes on controversial subjects but does so with a lot of grace and balance.
  8. Drew Goodmanson - he is a pastor at a church in San Diego. He is a great thinker and is very outside the box
  9. Mark Batterson - he is a pastor in Washington DC. He's very creative and humble, and I love the fact that he wants to give away the ideas that have worked for his church.
  10. Bob Hyatt "aka PastorHacks" - I've found more freebie (or cheap) software and resources on this site than anywhere else on the web.


Today I've been reading a little on Willow Creek's "Reveal" study. A few years ago they decided to survey their congregation to see how well they were doing as far as their mission goes: turning irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ. They discovered that for people investigating Christ, and for new Christians, they were doing great. However, the results were not quite as favorable for those who had been Christians for a long time. Those people desired more teaching and opportunities for growth. Willow Creek's leadership realized that the mistake they have been making is not teaching new Christians how to self-feed (reading and studying the Bible, practicing spiritual disciplines, etc.). Since that time, they have studied other churches and are finding the same results.

I'm really thankful that Willow Creek has been so honest with their findings. We all struggle with how to measure success. Below are some links for further reading.

Out of Ur's blog post "Willow Creek Repents?"

Out of Ur's follow-up post by Greg Hawkins, executive pastor at Willow Creek

Reveal Website

Scot McKnight's blog post on the Reveal study

David Fitch's blog post on the Reveal study

A review by Bradley Wright

More Relational Gift Ideas

These are from Bankrate.

6 gifts that give beyond the holidays

For scores of Bankrate readers, it's the season to save money. We asked you to submit holiday money tips, and you sent a stocking full of great ideas for giving on a tight budget.

Following are some of our frugal favorites among your suggestions. We like these ideas because they show that simple, economical gifts can have an impact that lasts far beyond the holiday season.

College savings accounts
My husband and I have two nieces and two nephews, all ages 6 years and under. Several years ago, we opened college savings accounts for them rather than getting toys or clothes. We contribute $50 to each account and have no fuss with holiday shopping.
-- Joan and Randy Oscarson

Year of free meals
My 94-year-old mother-in-law doesn't need more "things." So, for Christmas last year, we made up a coupon booklet with one coupon per month (decorated with appropriate clip art) to be redeemed for dinner with us at a local restaurant. She is thrilled that we have committed to take her out for dinner once a month, in addition to the regular holiday meals we share during the year.
-- S. Lea Lowe

Health care for the homeless
Last year at the office, I sent an e-mail to my colleagues that in lieu of getting them gifts, I would make a pledge to a local charity in their honor. My company is in health care, so I pledged money to a local agency to provide medical care to a homeless person living here in the nation's capital. This gesture seemed very much appreciated when I did it last year -- so I plan to do it again.
-- Carol Sardinha

Picture bookmarks
This is a great one for grandparents -- I take pictures of my children and make bookmarks out of them. On my computer, I put several small pictures into a strip and print them out on photo paper. Then, I take them to a print shop to have them laminated. Grandma loves them! She can easily show off pictures to friends. Bookmarks are easy to mail with Christmas cards, too.
-- Phebe Wall

Memory in a frame
Take a photo of a loved one, choose an appropriate size and purchase a suitable frame. Give the framed photo to that person or someone else who would cherish the memory you have captured.
-- Jo-Ann Raines

Gift rotation
All six of our children are married with kids. To make the holidays affordable, gifts are given family to family on a rotating basis. Each year, each family gives to a different one of the sibling families and then gets from another one of the siblings. Everyone agrees what is fair and keeps to that budget. This has been going on for 10 years and all like it.
-- Anonymous

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits

Here's another great article from Fast Company's annual issue on Social Capitalists. The article is taken from a book called Forces for Good, by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather Grant.

First, an excerpt...

The secret to success lies in how great organizations mobilize every sector of society -- government, business, nonprofits, and the public -- to be a force for good. In other words, greatness has more to do with how nonprofits work outside the boundaries of their organizations than how they manage their own internal operations. Textbook strategies like relentless fundraising, well-connected boards, and effective management are necessary, of course, but they are hardly sufficient. The high-impact nonprofits we studied are satisfied with building a "good enough" organization and then spending their time and energy focused externally on catalyzing large-scale systemic change. Great organizations work with and through others to create more impact than they could ever achieve alone.

I feel the same way about Neighborhood Church. Systemic change is the goal. So often we spend so much of our time trying to build an excellent organization, when sometimes a "good enough" organization is all that we need, so long as that "good enough" organization influences society.

Prison Entrepreneurship Program in Fast Company

Rising Star: Prison Entrepreneurship Program

From: By: Fast Company staff

Catherine F. Rohr, CEO
Houston, Texas

A large percentage of inmates come to prison as seasoned entrepreneurs, having run highly successful enterprises such as drug rings and gangs. What if these influential leaders were provided with the training and resources to establish and run legitimate companies?

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) links executives and inmates through entrepreneurial passion, education and mentoring. The program engages the nation's top business and academic talent to constructively redirect inmates' energies by equipping them with values-based entrepreneurial training--enabling them to productively re-enter society.

In three years since inception, PEP has dramatically reduced return-to-prison rates: its graduates' return-to-prison rates are 3.7%, compared to the national average of more than 50%. The program has a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 150%, and has assisted 40 participants in starting their businesses. PEP has recruited 800+ senior level executives and venture capital/private equity professionals who serve as inmates' mentors and business plan judges. Additionally, the program has established affiliations with 12 top-tier MBA programs, including Harvard and Stanford, whose 400+ students serve as weekly advisors for the inmates' business plans. The program's innovative work has won several awards, and has received coverage on NBC Nightly News and in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur Magazine.

PEP's five-year vision includes:

  • Growing its budget from $2MM to $15MM
  • Graduating 1,000 inmates per year
  • Assisting 500 graduates in launching successful businesses
  • xpanding staff from 17 to 125 employees

PEP is hiring successful, motivated entrepreneurial-types. Ready to jump ship? Email:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Don't Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford

Jordan links to this SNL skit on the Grace Church Blog. Very funny!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Acts 18:1-17

Corinth had become Greece's most important city. It was both its economic as well as cultural center, and was also a major sponsor for the Isthmian games, a biannual set of games located not too far from Corinth. When Emperor Claudius forced the Jews to leave Rome in AD 49, many of them came to Corinth.

When Paul arrived at Corinth (a fifty mile walk from Athens), he headed to the marketplace to set up shop. Tentmaking was in high demand due to the Isthmian games, but also due to the fact that so many new people were moving into the city. He soon met a fellow Jew by the name of Aquila, one of those who had been forced to leave Rome. His wife's name was Priscilla. They made tents for a living and were both believers. Paul was delighted to meet them, and was even more delighted to learn that there had been a group of believers in Rome, a city he hoped to visit soon.

Paul went to the synagogue on his first Sabbath in Corinth and was again given the opportunity to speak. Once again, he shared about Jesus. Soon after this Silas and Timothy arrived in Corinth, bringing word on how the churches in Thessalonica and Berea were doing (see 1 Thess. 3:1-6 for Timothy's report on the church in Thessalonica).

On one Sabbath, the Jews opposed Paul, so he left and went to the Gentiles, specifically to the home of Titius Justus, whose home, coincidentally, happened to be located next door to the synagogue. The Jewish leaders must have hated this. However, tensions would grow even more when Crispus, the leader of the synagogue believed in Jesus. The word was spreading, transformation was taking place, and people were getting baptized. Paul, though, was growing weary, and discouragement and despair were setting in.

This may sound morbid, but it's kind of nice to see that Paul is actually human. He had faced so much pain and rejection up to this point but kept going. When thrown in prison wrongfully, he had responded with worship. When beaten and left for dead, and had gone back for more. Yet even for a man like Paul, he had his limits. Corinth was a complicated city. First, it was extremely overcrowded, especially since so many Jews had fled there. Second, because it was a port city, it was very busy. Goods were bought and sold 24 hours a day. Third, and this was due in part to the fact that it was a port city, Corinth was very diverse, both ethnically and socially. Fourth, Corinth was known for its perversion. The saying "Anything Goes" was an understatement in Corinth. It is said that Plato used the term "Corinthian girl" in reference to a prostitute. And the temple of Aphrodite had 1000 prostitutes. This had to have had an impact on Paul as well.

God knew Paul's limitations better than Paul knew them himself. At the time when Paul needed it most, God gave grace and affirmation. God spoke to Paul through a dream, telling him that he didn't need to be afraid and that he should continue doing what he had been doing, for God was going to protect him. He then let Paul in on a little secret: "For I have many in this city who are my people" (Acts 18:10). Whereas in the past, Paul never stayed in a city more than a couple of months, God allowed him to remain in Corinth for a year and a half. He used this time to strengthen this new church that was filled with gifts and talents, but who down the road would need the fatherly discipline of Paul.

After 18 months had passed, some of the Jews appealed to Gallio, the proconsul of Corinth, that Paul needed to be stopped. Gallio wanted nothing to do with squabbles between these Jews, so he dismissed them, before Paul could even give his defense. The Jews had made a mistake, though. They had stirred the crowd into such a frenzy that they had to let out their aggression on someone. That someone turned out to be Sosthenes, the man who had replaced Crispus as ruler of the synagogue. The mob seized him and beat him right in front of Gallio, who did nothing. It is very interesting to read 1 Corinthians 1:1 in light of this story:

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes...
How ironic is it that this man turned out to be Paul's co-author years later!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Adam's Christmas Video

Adam would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

More on Christmas Spending

Here's an excerpt from an article from Bankrate on tips to de-commercialize Christmas.

For many people, Christmas means a severe case of holiday dread, directly tied to a sense of obligation to spend money in order to have a meaningful celebration.

We all know the pain of those credit card bills in January and February. If we've been particularly festive, that pain might even stretch into the spring or summer, or -- yikes -- the next holiday season.

This year the average U.S. consumer plans to spend $817 on holiday-related shopping, plus an additional $107 on "non-gift" purchases of promoted or discounted items, according to the National Retail Federation -- up 3.7 percent from 2006.

At the same time, however, 70 percent of Americans say they would welcome less emphasis on gift giving and spending during the holiday season, according to the Center for a New American Dream.

If you're among those who feel holiday spending is out of control, remember: It doesn't have to be that way. You can start new family traditions or return to some abandoned long ago.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Reflections on 1 & 2 Thessalonians

I've never spent much time in 1 & 2 Thessalonians, but after reading the account of God moving in that city, I decided to remedy that this morning. I'm really encouraged by this church. Paul was not with them very long (a minimum of three week, a maximum of not that much longer). Then he was gone, off to a new city. He sent Timothy to be with them later, though we're not exactly sure when that took place nor for how long.

The first thing to look at is the state of the Thessalonians before Paul met them. In his letter to them, he reminds them that they "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God" (1 Thess. 1:9). They worshiped idols. They didn't know the Most High God, and they had never heard of Jesus. Contrast that with my culture. Most people have heard of Jesus. My question is, "What have they heard about Jesus?"

The amazing thing about these people is that they listened to Paul. The gospel came to them in word and in power (1 Thess. 1:5), and they received it, even though it meant that they would suffer for it (1 Thess. 1:6). It's almost as if Paul was surprised by their receptivity, especially after his time in Galatia. He praised God for this, though.

Why did Paul write to them? Many of his letters came as rebukes. In the letter to the Galatian churches, Paul rebuked them for replacing the true Gospel for one based on works. He was very harsh in this. Paul has less nice things to say to the Corinthian church later on. They completely forget who they are and start living like they used to live. They are filled with pride and allow sin to run rampant. But these people are different. Paul doesn't correct them. He loves them deeply. He compares himself (along with Silas and Timothy) as both a mother (1 Thess. 2:7) and a father (1 Thess. 11-12). He describes them as being torn away from one another (1 Thess. 2:17), though there was great joy in being able to send Timothy back to them later.

God had moved deeply and quickly through this new church. To go from idol worshipers to, as Paul said, "you have no need to have anything written to you" (1 Thess. 5:9) is amazing. Does God want to do this type of work here in Memphis? What would that look like? Paul led, taught, and poured himself out with such passion and intentionality. If I'm honest with myself, I don't know if I have that passion or intentionality...but I want to. I want to pour out my life for the gospel. I do want to see God do what only He can do. Do I have faith for this? Am I willing to suffer for it? Am I willing to do foolish things, and to call others to do foolish things? These are tough questions, but I'm drawn to wonder what our city could look like if we saw God move in this way.

If Paul had started a church here in Memphis, what would he have to say to us? Pause...where to begin! We have so many resources. We have a good foundation of faith. We have seen God move in our lives. Yet we are impotent. We are not affecting our culture. We are ashamed of the Gospel. We are often more a slave to our flesh than a slave to God. We don't really want God to do what only He can do, because that would mean that we would not be in control, and it might mean that we have to suffer. We have Bibles on our shelves, yet we have no idea what the Word says. That which we do know, has it spread from our head to our heart? Are we living obedient lives? Are we daily being shaped by the Gospel? Are we hearing from God daily, and if so, is it having an impact on how we live our lives?

We must repent!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Acts 17:16-34

Ben Witherington asks two questions in his preface to Paul's time in Athens:
  1. How would Paul fare alone in a city that was the center of pagan philosophy and all things Greek?
  2. How would he relate the gospel to pagans who were not part of a synagogue.
New Testament History, page 264

It seems that Athens was different from the other cities that Paul had visited. On one hand, it was more Jewish than Philippi in that there was a Jewish synagogue. On the other hand, we learn that Paul was deeply troubled when he saw all of of the idols throughout the city. William Barclay, in his commentary on Acts, writes, "It was said that there were more statues of the gods in Athens than in all the rest of Greece put together and that in Athens it was easier to meet a god than a man" (130).

Athens was not the great city that it had once been. It was about a third of the size that it had been during the days of Plato, and was now kind of like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite, longing for the glory days. However, as their importance and population shrunk, the number of gods in Athens continued to grow.

We're not sure how long Paul was in Athens, but we do know that each day he was there, he spent time both in the synagogue and in the marketplace. Luke did not have a very favorable view of the Athenians, believing that all who lived there "would spend their time in nothing new except telling or hearing something new" (Acts 17:21).

In the marketplace Paul encountered Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. The Epicureans believed that pleasure and the avoidance of pain were the goals for man. They weren't completely atheistic, though they believed that the gods stayed out of man's business. The Stoics believed that the goal for man was to learn to be indifferent to pain and pleasure. They were pantheists. It's easy to see that these two groups could argue for days at a time. Their reaction to Paul was to take him to the Areopagus (a court) and ask him to give an account of this new teaching. Apparently he had violated the law by introducing a foreign deity, although a foreign deity was not so much the problem. Instead, they had a big problem with the idea of resurrection.

Paul was a true missiologist. He had been studying their culture ever since arriving to Athens, and now he put this knowledge to good use. Standing before the Areopagus, he pointed out an idol to an unknown god that he had come across. He explained to them that this unknown god was in fact the Most High God, a personal, loving God who created and sustains the world. He then quoted from Epimenides, a philosopher from Crete who lived during the sixth century. The belief during Epimenides' day was that Zeus was mortal. Epimenides believed that Zeus was immortal, and wrote, "In him we live and move and have our being." At some point in his life, Paul must have come across this writing and recognized it as a bridge to the gospel. And that's exactly what he used it as.

Paul had their attention as he shared the gospel. That is, until he started talking about the resurrection. At this point, some in the crowd began laughing. This was foolishness to them, and they refused to hear any more. There was no persecution, no riots breaking out...just indifference. One lawyer, Dionysius, from the Areopagus council believed, along with a woman named Damaris. No church was birthed, though.

Soon after this Timothy (and perhaps Silas) came to Athens, and Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica. Paul then decided that it was time to go to Corinth.

Acts 17:1-15

From Philippi, Paul, Silas and Timothy traveled 100 miles to Thessalonica. Apparently Luke stayed in Philippi. Many believe that this was his hometown. Plus, Luke goes back to using "they" instead of "we." Thessalonica, unlike Philippi, had a Jewish synagogue. Therefore, Paul went there first. On three consecutive Sabbaths Paul had the opportunity to share the Scriptures with the Jews, "explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead" (Acts 17:3).

This is a good opportunity to look at what Paul did during the rest of his time in a city. For example, how did he support himself? We learn in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 that he and Silas practiced the tentmaking trade so as not to be a burden on the new church that was forming. We also learn in Philippians 4:16 that the new church in Philippi took up an offering for Paul and the others and sent it to them while they were in Thessalonica. Apparently they were the only church who did this for Paul.

This is the second city where Paul soon after wrote a letter to the church there. If you will remember, Paul wrote his letter to the churches in Galatia around a year after returning to Antioch. Paul wrote his letter to the church in Thessalonica while he was in Corinth. Not only do we get to read the narrative account of their time in Thessalonica (in Acts), but we also have two letters in which we see Paul's love for these people. We also get to see their problems and what Paul had to say to them.

As Paul taught in the synagogue, many Jews, as well as Greeks, "were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas" (Acts 17:4). As I read this today, I asked, "What does it mean that they joined?" What did this look like? We learn that just like in other cities, this new church met in homes. In this case, they met at Jason's house. During these times at Jason's house, Paul apparently did a lot of teaching. He was there for at least three weeks, and then it appears that he later sent Timothy back to be with them. In a short amount of time, the gospel truly transformed this young church. Before Paul had spoken to them, they knew nothing of Jesus. Now, just a year or so later, he encourages them, saying that "not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere" (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

During those three weeks in Thessalonica, many Jews and Greeks believed, but many Jews were also jealous. They had heard of what Paul had been doing in other cities. Now "these men who have turned the world upside down have come here also" (Acts 17:6)! They stirred up a mob and attacked Jason's house. Because of this, they ended up having to leave Thessalonica and traveled fifty miles southwest to Berea.

As before, they went first to the synagogue, but Luke makes a big distinction between the Jews here and the Jews in Thessalonica: "they were more noble; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (Acts 17:11). They didn't let their emotions get the best of them. They no doubt were just as confused as other Jews who were for the first time hearing that their fellow Jews in Jerusalem had murdered the Messiah, but they went to the Scriptures to see if Paul was speaking truth. When they learned for themselves that he was, many of them believed.

Soon, though, the Jews from Thessalonica came to Berea and stirred up the crowds. Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea, but they all thought it best that Paul should leave. Some of the brothers from Berea took Paul 200 miles away to Athens.

Clean Water