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Birth of a Church and a New World

Equal in wonder to the birth of a child is the birth of a church. Where there was death, suddenly there is life. Where there was darkness for untold generations, suddenly there is light beyond saying. Where there was bondage, loosed chains and freedom!

Long, long after Paulus (first Saul, later known as Paulus, then simply Paul) had gone to the place of his eternal reward, a poet of the late 20th century and early 21st century—-certainly not so fine a poet as Homer writing of Achilles the hero, or Paris and Helen, or noble Hector and tragic Priam—-set down in his own simple words the famed account of what happened once Paulus (or Paul), Silas, and Lucanus (or Luke) sailed from Alexandria Troas (the port near the ancient city of Troy or Ilios of famed Hector, Priam, and Achilles) disembarked at Philippi in the Roman colonized portin of Macedon.

Why was this man so important that his preachings and writings changed the world so much it could never return to the old pagan foundations unless Christianity itself was completely eradicated? Why will his name be honored when the names of Hector, Achilles, Paris, Priam, and Helen, and even that of Homer, will have faded and been long forgotten?

Another question is how this man survived all the floggings, stonings, shipwrecks, assassins, robbers, mob riots, and severe hazards of bad weather and the roads while exposed naked, hungry, starved, and abandoned?

Human beings have many questions, but God often chooses to hide himself, for His own purposes. He chooses the most unlikely individuals to be world-changers, though Paulus was, unarguably, one of the most brilliant and best educated men of his time and world. Added to this was a personality that few if any of his contemporaries could match for passionate intensity and fervor of conviction.

However intellectual he was, that was not enough to change the world so dramatically. But married to a white-hot fire of love for the truth and the boldness to launch forth to tell it to the world--that was enough.

Yet Paulus, the dynamo of the world's spiritual engine, was clothed in frail human flesh.

He could be hurt, hurt badly, in fact, as he was hurt many, many times, almost beyond number. He could be hurt physically. He could be hurt psychologically. He wore his heart on his sleeve, and it was a very big heart, big enough to reach out to the whole world.

That was his chief fault, his tremendous heart and its vulnerability.

If only he and his companions had known that the mighty angel of Thyatira, Simchu, was standing special guard over them, protecting them from mishap at sea, then later assassins in the city and an evil spirit, and even against rocks in a tremendous quake of the earth, it would have comforted them to know it while things were going grossly awry. Yet knowing that, they might have not risen to the heights of faith and trust the heart of God desired. And would they have depended upon God Almighty to stop the spirit of Jezebel in its tracks, a most powerful spirit that sought to conquer the whole world, starting from its base in the Middle East?

An Alien Entity in its own right, it had invaded the Earth. Starting with the queens of Babylon and Assyria and even Northern Israel, it went on seeking human hosts to further its plans to destroy the knowledge of God and capture the heart and soul of humanity.

A tearful man in rough-sewn dress

Cried to Paul within a dream:

“Help us, sir, in our duress,

Breach Macedon with Christ’s cross-beam!”

So off Paul sailed to Philippi—

Roman colony a chief;

No one marked him, not one eye;

His welcome sunk upon a reef!

There Luke and Silas, plodding Paul

Walked the strets through empty days;

Busy throngs filled every hall,

As buying, selling was their craze.

On Sabbath day they tookt heir leave;

City Gate they passed on through.

Out to where they ceased to grieve,

A place of prayer for not a few.

The riverside was holy ground—-

Women gathered there for prayer,

Seeking ever (though not found),

The Most High God was their one care.

“So let us reason,” spoke first Paul;

“Scarlet sin shall be as snow;

Crimson stains from Adam’s fall,

Each through Christ be cleansed and go!”

A woman, Thyatira-born,

Cried aloud, “O Lord, cleanse me!”

Selling purple to be worn,

She chose pure white for all to see.

Her heart was opened by the Lord;

Saved, immersed in Christ’s own death;

All her family, one accord,

New-born in Christ, in-breathed His breath.

Another day, on way to prayer,

Shrieking turned Paul full around.

Voice inhuman in its sound—-

A slave girl cried, with unbound hair.

“The servants of the Most High God!”

cried the demon seizing her;

Lashing like a Roman rod,

She troubled them, a pricking burr.

Then one day Paul commanded it:

“Vacate her, in Jesus’s Name!”

Throwing one last, spiteful fit,

The spirit flew, and with it, fame.

This girl brought her masters gold;

Witchcraft was the spirit’s bent;

Future things through her foretold

Heaped lucre higher than her tent.

And when they saw their gain was gone,

Brutal men seized Silas, Paul;

Dragging them with faces wan

Into the magistrate’s fine hall.

There was no justice practiced there,

Lawlessness enjoyed full sway;

Judges only by their chair

Turned wild beast or wolf that day.

They tore and beat both men near death;

Jews, they said, who upset peace;

Condemned to rod and lash, each breath

Was agony without surcease.

The Called-to-Macedon were blocked;

Dungeoned souls, such laughed to see

Sons of Israel chained and stocked,

And thrown head-down at Gentile knee.

Then darkness, groanings, curses, phlegm—

Prison foul rose up each side;

Wounded, bruised from neck to hem,

To Paul and Silas Hell yawned wide.

Yet praying in the Spirit gave

Strength and love no man e’er knew;

Thanking God whose love can save,

They raised a song both old and new.

Bleeding in their stocks they sang

Psalms of thanks to Jonah’s God;

Song raised up where cursing rang,

And sense of sin dropped its sure rod.

And when their praise had risen high,

prison doors burst open; out

Thrust stones with fearful sigh,

a heaving struck the earth about.

Then men in prison cried in fear,

Pagan gods were cursed by name;

Some called out as death roared near

For Christ to take away their blame.

Then suddenly the tumult stopped,

Outer doors hung all released;

Stocks and fetters all were popped,

Bowels of Mercy rocked, then ceased.

When Love had set the poor men free,

Jailor woke in mortal fright;

Moon crept in each crack to see,

And stars shone bright amid the night.

He drew his sword to pierce his heart;

Paul cried out: “Thyself, harm not!

All are here, all bonds apart!”

Then Jailor sprang to ease their lot.

So with torch he ran to where

Paul and Silas sat in blight;

Falling down before them there,

He cried to God in his lost plight.

“Believe,” they said, “that Christ is Lord;

You, your house, so shalt be saved.”

Nuggets from Paul’s Gospel poured,

The entire prison floor was paved!

So soft’n ing in his bitter face,

Jailor took them to his home;

Bathing in Christ’s blood and grace,

His star was lit in heaven’s dome.

He washed their stripes, each bleeding side,

Soothing them with ointment rare—

Fragrance of the One who died

Did run off both their beard and hair.

Rejoicing, he laid them both down,

Softest beds he gave to them;

Each he clothed with costly gown,

With purple stain upon the hem.

And Jailor took a rough-sewn robe,

Himself he clothed, with feet both bare;

Sackcloth, slave-marked on ear-lobe,

The Church of Philippi, most fair!


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