Pray for Our World: Syria

Syria is an ancient civilization, located on the Mediterranean coast between Turkey and Iraq.  Damascus is known as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.  Syria is written about throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.  Its people trace their origins back to Noah, as descendants of Shem, Noah’s son.  King David of Israel led a successful conquest against Syria and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites who occupied the land.  In New Testament times, Syria became a Roman province.

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 4:23-25

The apostle Paul and members of the Early Church spent a lot of time in Syria.  Antioch was the center of one of the first Christian churches and they primarily preached to the Gentiles.  In 634-640 AD, Syria was conquered by the Muslim Arabs. The Orthodox and Catholic churches that had existed since before Islam still endure and have many members. The majority in the Church are Arab but there is also a large Armenian community. Christians do experience some discrimination in housing and employment, and must exercise caution and wisdom in relating to the state and Muslims.

Pray for this ancient country, once walked upon by Jesus and where Paul had his conversion. Pray that the historical sites will be preserved and not destroyed by the fighting, and that the people will once again be renewed in the faith of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, in one of the most ancient and historical countries on earth.

Don’t kick against the goads

Paul to King Agrippa in Rome:

Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? – Acts 26:8

I love the character of Paul in the 1st century.  He was bold yet humble.  He walked the talk.  He didn’t waiver, not once.  He knew his job, and he wasn’t afraid to change when he first found out he was wrong on that fateful road to Damascus.

“Saul, Saul, Why are you persecuting Me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
So I said, Who are you, Lord, and He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” – Acts 26:14-15.

What a strange thing for Jesus to say.. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.  I had to look at this statement a little further.  An ox goad is a stick with a point of iron on its tip, which is used to guide the animals.  Sometimes the animals would rebel and try to kick the goad, which would result in it being driven further into their flesh.  In other words, it is harder on us when we rebel, and useless.

I love to read just about anything, and the book of Acts is one of the most fascinating, exciting, and historical books I have read.  Luke the physician, the author of Acts, follows Paul around Rome, Ephesus, Jerusalem and the world, and intellectually records many of his travels.  It is equivalent to our modern day interview.  And Paul, like Jesus’ words, is succinct and to the point, to the heart of the matter.

As the imprisoned Paul states his case at his trial, the governor Festus says with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” – Acts 26:24.  Dr. Luke captures this both humorous and personal detail.  Then Paul goes on to quite eloquently tell his story.  At the end, Agrippa says to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” – Acts 26:28.  How is that for a last quote?

So, today, I reflect on all these words from Paul, and marvel at such a wonderful God, the amazing story of our written history, and the hope that Jesus gave to such a man like Paul.
little feet

paul travels     paul and luke