Carter Conlan from the historic Times Square Church in New York City. It's truly amazing when you and I simply have the courage to obey the voice of God. And so the question is, where is the Lord calling you?
We're glad you've joined us for this weekly A Call to the Nation program. Something intriguing happens in the book of Acts chapter 16. If this one single event had not taken place, there would not have been a new house church planted, deliverance for a girl, people being set free from the powers of darkness, midnight songs sung, shaking in the prison, chains falling off. And a jailer and his family would not have heard about the saving grace of Jesus, all because one man prayed and obeyed God.
Here's Carter to explain further. Acts chapter 16, I want to share with you a few moments of thoughts on faith and prayer. And if I were to give this short word a title, I would call it, where is the Lord calling you? Where is the Lord calling you? Because He's calling you somewhere. He's calling His whole church somewhere. There's something God has specifically for you to do. It doesn't mean the rest of your life.
It might even be just a short season. But the question is, where is the Lord calling you? Father, I thank you with all my heart for just giving me these thoughts. And Lord, because they're from you, it's your word. Your word lives, it breathes. Your word is alive. And God, when you speak, things begin to change.
Our hearts change. Lord, you draw us to something deeper in you. And our lives find their full meaning and expression when we are able to say, Lord, here am I, send me. And so Father, I pray for the anointing to speak this and the willingness to hear it in every heart, including mine.
And we thank you for it in Jesus' name. Now in Acts chapter 16, the Apostle Paul, he's already been out and the Lord is already doing wondrous things through his life. And it comes into his heart in verse 6 to go to Asia. And the scripture tells us in this particular verse, when they'd gone through certain regions, the region of Phrygia and Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. And after they had come, verse 7, to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.
It's amazing, you know, good ideas are not always God ideas. And even as Christians, and nobody can doubt that Paul was a sincere believer in Christ, a sincere disciple, truly wanting to do the work of God. But as happened to him, it happens to all of us, there are certain places we want to go and certain things we want to do, and we're expecting God to go with us, even though it may not be his will. There's certain pathways that we choose for our lives. And at that particular season in our life, it may not be the pathway of God for us.
And so here's the Apostle Paul, he's got an idea suddenly, and he wants to go into Asia. But in prayer, I have no doubt the Holy Spirit forbids him. It just takes it out of his heart or puts a sense of foreboding maybe in his heart. I don't know, I've experienced it over the years when you want to do something and the Lord says, don't do this, don't do this.
If you do it, you're on your own. I've been there, I know what that feels like. And then trying in verse 7 to go, trying to go into a certain place, but the Spirit did not permit them. It's like landing in a foreign country thinking this is really God, and the Lord sent me here only to find the border agents send you back home again.
It would be something similar to that. The Spirit did not permit them. So passing by another town, they came down to Troas. And in verse 9, we assume in this verse that Paul is praying. And the Scripture says a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him saying come over to Macedonia and help us.
Now Macedonia was in the western part of society at that time and it is in a place that had not heard the gospel yet. But suddenly there's somebody there, a messenger of some sort. We don't fully understand it. It could be an angel standing on behalf of the people.
We really don't know who this man is. But he's standing up and pleading with him saying come to where we are and please help us. Now after he'd seen the vision, immediately he sought to go there, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. So Paul heads off to Macedonia. And in Macedonia, the first person he really encounters that hears the gospel is a lady called Lydia who is a merchant. She's a successful merchant. She's a seeker of God. The Scripture tells her worshiper of God.
But she doesn't understand the way of salvation through Christ. But when she hears the word from the Apostle Paul in verse 15, it says she and her household were baptized and she invited the Apostle Paul and his company to come into the house. And the house of Lydia became the first house church in Macedonia. Now God was on the move.
He was beginning to do something. The church had been established. People had heard the word of God.
They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And verse 16, it says now it happened as we went to prayer. Now as they went to prayer, now when you begin to pray, the devil knows his time is short. He doesn't fear our services.
We could go for 18 hours. He doesn't much care. It's when we start praying. When we begin to pray, the hand of God begins to move. And the devil knows his time is short. And it's interesting in verse 16, it says, now it happened as we went to prayer that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us who brought her master's much profit by fortune telling. This girl followed Paul and us and cried out saying, these men are the servants of the Most High God to proclaim to us the way of salvation. Here's the point. When the devil knows he's going down, he'll try to imitate a Christian. He'll try to get close to you and say, hey, I'm with you in this. I'm with you.
You're doing a good work here. But there's something, you ever had somebody next, please don't point to anybody, you ever have somebody next to you in a worship service and they're just saying, praise the Lord, praise the Lord. But it's like nails on a blackboard when those words come out of their mouths. There's just something wrong in that person's spirit. They're trying to imitate a Christian. To me, it's like the devil is on his last stand.
I'm just going to get involved in the crowd and maybe they won't notice that I'm here. But she did this for many days, but Paul greatly annoyed. Sometimes we miss these words in the Bible, greatly annoyed.
He put up with this for a while, but after a point he said, I've had enough of this. He turned to the spirit and said, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her, and he came out that very hour. Now when those who were making money from this spirit of divination, and Pastor Patrick talked about that today, those that are in the house of God still going to palm readers and things like that. People making money from a power that God says we're not to touch, we're not to go near it. They drew Paul into the marketplace and Silas, and the Savior says in verse 22, they tore off their clothes and they commanded them to be beaten with rods.
And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. When you obey the will of God, nobody said it's going to be easy. There's no guarantee that this is going to be an easy pass through trial and tribulation and trouble.
I don't care what anybody tells you. Sometimes obeying the will of God will actually get you into trouble. We're not obeying the will of God. Paul, having received such a charge, he put them into the other prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. Now remember, this all started with a man appearing to Paul in a time of prayer at night saying, come and help us. At midnight, Paul and Silas are praying, singing hymns to God, and the prisoners are listening to them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake. The foundations of the prison were shaken.
Immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed. Can you imagine if Paul had not obeyed that voice? What if Paul had gone instead to Asia? What if Paul had gone into this other place called what if he pushed against the Spirit of God and thought, well, Bithynia is a good idea.
I'm just going to go there. You and I begin to realize, first of all, there would be no house church in Lydia's house. Secondly, there would be no deliverance for the girl that was being used by people to make money.
She was just she was a captive of darkness and just being used for somebody else's gain. There'd be nobody set free from the powers of darkness. At midnight, there would be no songs sung. There would be no shaking in the prison. Nobody's bar chains would have fallen off.
This incredible victory wouldn't have been won. The jailer brings Paul to his house. The jailer is transformed. The jailer's children are baptized that night. His wife receives Christ as Lord and Savior. It's truly an amazing journey that started with one man praying and obeying God and going to the place that he was sent.
Wherever that place is, and you see all these things through here that would not have happened had Paul simply refused to obey and listen to the voice of God. I thank God with all my heart for history is filled with instances where men or women heard the voice of God and moved in the direction of where God was leading, even if it was in a place of hardship. Many years ago, I had the occasion to preach up in the Canadian Arctic to the Inuit people. It used to be called Eskimos. Now they're called Inuit.
And I had the occasion to go up into the Canadian Arctic. And there was a lady, I don't remember her name at the moment, but a book is written about her called God's Fire on Ice. And she was 21 years of age. She was in a church in Vancouver, Canada. And she heard in a message in that church that there was a whole people group up in the Arctic that had never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ ever, not even one time. Nobody had gone there because it was so cold and very few could survive. She felt the urging of the Lord to go with no training, no language training, no nothing.
She just packed everything up. Thank God she had a good Christian parentage. And she left and went to the Arctic. And that winter almost froze to death, that first winter. She lived in such hardship. It was so difficult for her physical body because it was so cold and she was not used to the cold and didn't quite know how to survive and heat her small abode that she was living in. She almost died that first winter.
And being among these, they had never seen a foreigner up there. And she was the preacher of this strange God called Jesus Christ. And they weren't really even interested because they had their own styles of worship and such like. But see, when they saw her go through such hardship that first winter, for them, that's what opened the hearts of the people to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
They said, why have you endured this for us? And suddenly they began to listen and conversion started to take place. When I was invited up there to speak at a Bible school that was now there, pastors and leaders were flown in from all over the Arctic by this lady. Her name was Kay Gordon.
I remember her name now. And they flew all these leaders in. And the gospel had spread like fire all through the Arctic through the obedience of one 21-year-old girl. She was now in her 70s when I had the privilege of speaking there to pastors and leaders from all over the Arctic through the efforts of one girl that God could speak to. I wonder how many people he had tried to speak to before her who wouldn't go? How many people maybe were more skilled? How many people maybe had better survival training and understanding or maybe deeper Bible training than she had? But they simply would not or could not hear the voice of God and actually make the sacrifice to go to a place of hardship. And she stayed there for over 50 years with these people and they loved her. She was so respected by the people in that area.
When I went up there, it was just amazing to see it. And you and I think of all that would happen if we would obey God. I want you to think about that. Think of all that would happen if you and I, every one of us here, simply said this one little prayer, Lord, what would you have me to do?
Where do you want me to go? Now in Paul's case, this is only one short chapter in his lifetime of living for Christ. It's not like for the rest of his life. We don't know how long he was there.
I don't think it was actually that long. But in the season of being in a place that had never heard the gospel, great, great good was done. And after Paul was released from prison, he went and says the last verse in the chapter says, so they went out of the prison and entered into the house of Lydia.
In other words, the first house church in Macedonia. And when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed and they went somewhere else. The Bible says that those who are walking with God, I'm paraphrasing it, but I don't remember the exact words, but they pass through the valley of weeping and they make it a place of blessing.
It's truly amazing when you and I simply have the courage to obey the voice of God. And so the question is, who is calling out for you? Who is asking for you to come? Who, if you pray, is it the person down the street from you that is filled with despair but you're not really aware of it?
And maybe that person's lifestyle is not inside of your comfort zone. Maybe you would find it very difficult to go there, but as you pray sincerely, you feel the cry in that heart because God knows who's there. God knows. I don't know who in Macedonia was the one really crying out. Was it the girl who needed to be set free? Was it Lydia who was a successful businesswoman but didn't understand the way to salvation, the way we know it? Was it the slave girl that was being used, trafficked, may I put it that way, for the profit of others? Was she the one that was crying out? Was it somebody in the prison who was just crying out to God and saying, it's so hopeless here, it's so helpless here, I don't know what I'm going to do with my life and my future.
Am I destined to live in this God-forsaken place for the rest of my days or is there a way out? Was it the jailer who was just sick and tired of the anger, the dampness, the way that he had to treat the prisoners that were there? Was he fearing for his family?
Was he lacking resources when he went home just to be kind to his wife and his children? Was it he who was crying out? Was it the children of the jailer who were crying out in their beds at night because they had an angry father coming home and they never knew whether or not he was going to lose his temper with them?
Was it the jailer's wife who felt trapped in a marriage and being verbally abused maybe when her husband was getting home? We don't know who it was, but somebody was crying out for somebody to come and help them, somebody living in a place where the gospel had never been. You and I need to understand that the gospel had never ever been in this place, but God found one man who would not do his own will and who would be open when the Spirit of God was resisting his direction and he would go where God sent him to go. That's where the power of God is always found.
No other place but that. It's where the power of God is. God does not go with us and validate our plans.
It doesn't work that way. The way it works is not my will, but thine be done. Praise be to God.
Whatever you have. So I want to read you some prayer requests before we go in the light of what I've been sharing. Let me just read these prayer requests and I want you to ask the question to the Lord, God, where are you sending me? It doesn't mean you have to leave the country or the city or your job, but there are people crying out and God knows who they are. God hears every cry.
You know that? There's people crying in their apartments right now, right now. They're sobbing right this very moment as I speak. They're sobbing and crying and some of them are saying, God, if you're real, would you come to me?
If you're real, would you show me who you are? Somebody, some child is crying in their bed. Some businessman is crying. Somebody who's in a lifestyle they can't get out of is crying. I venture a guess there are thousands of tears, thousands, countless of tears being shed and we are the church of the living God. We're the church of Jesus Christ.
We bear in these earthen bodies the message, the treasure and the life of Christ that can set people free. Is somebody being trafficked? Somebody caught, being used and sold for other people's gain that needs to be released of the darkness that is in them? Is somebody crying?
Oh, don't let the lights out here fool you. Don't let the casual look on people's faces fool you. There's a deep cry in so many people right now. People are crying for freedom. They're crying for hope. They're crying for help. That's why we have so many suicides happening now in our society. That's why grandma and grandpa in cities all over America are hooked on opiates now.
It's become a major addiction in the country. That's why there's such distress on all sides. Here's one that says pray for this little boy. He's been bullied in school and he's tried to commit suicide. Lord have mercy on this boy.
It's from Connecticut in Jesus' name. You think that little boy might be crying at night? He wants to commit suicide because he has to go back to school every day and maybe he's short or fat or who knows what the situation is.
I'm not deriding any of that. Don't misunderstand me on that, but there's a reason why people are picking on him. Maybe he's not forceful in personality. Maybe he can't fight back.
Maybe he has some kind of deformity. I don't know what it is, but he's being bullied and he wants to commit suicide and he's just a boy. Again from Connecticut, my name is Christina. I'm 25 years old from Connecticut. I've been struggling with substance abuse since I was 16. I've also endured a deep trauma. Please pray for me.
From Colorado, I'm in my 50s. I have no income. I'm homeless and winter is coming. I need a miracle, a prayer. Jesus, be seen in this need. Stan, we're going to pray that somebody comes to you. Again from Grand Junction, praying for healing in my life.
I'm in my 20s and I'm lost. Please pray for my salvation and for godly character. I need a church like yours. I'm in and out of jail and I have four children.
This is a lady called Barbara. Again, prayer for a place to go during the holidays. The bus shuts down and stores are closed. I'm homeless and the holidays are very hard and lonely. I need a breakthrough in the worst possible sense. I continue to fail the Lord in the same way.
My emotions and anger are killing me and ruining my life. I was in a shooting as a Marine that killed a small boy in the Middle East. Please pray for me.
From Texas, I'm a retired soldier. I'm married and a career adulterer. Please pray that Jesus breaks through these lusts. I'm homeless. I need a shower and clean clothes and just someone to care if I live or die.
Thank you. Please pray for me. I feel like God has abandoned me. I've been praying for years and years and see no change and I've given up. From Pakistan, my Muslim family needs Jesus. Let my children walk with Jesus. This is a cry of a Christian mother. Sabina, we're going to pray for you and believe God for you. I just read these just again to go back to the original question.
Who is calling out for you? You don't have to go far. You don't have to go to Pakistan. You don't have to go to Colorado.
You just go out in the streets. We've got millions of people here. I venture a guess a third or more are probably crying, looking for help and looking for hope. And if you and I would have the courage to say, Lord, what would you have me to do? Where would you have me to go? I don't want to live just for my will, but let your will be done in my life. You'd be amazed at the miracles that begin to happen. The hearts that are set free, people that are brought to the house of God, the great good that could be done. If you and I would each become an evangelist, led by the Spirit of God, trusting the power of God, laying hands on the sick, casting out devils, believing that the kingdom of God has come and that we have authority to lead people to Christ and see them set free. So Father, we thank you, Lord. We recognize that you have given us a great responsibility, but with that responsibility, you have given us power and you've given us courage, compassion, love, all the giftings that we need to do what we're called to do. Lord, would you help us, Lord, to leave the trap of self-focus? Would you help us, Lord, to escape God, what seems to consume this society? Would you help us to see and to hear what we need to see and to hear in this generation? Would you give us a tender heart and great courage to step out and believe that if we start speaking to people, whether they're slaves of somebody else or whether they're successful business people in jail or the jailer, that God, you are able to do the miraculous through an obedient servant. Would you help all of us, Lord, to be sensitive to the leading of your spirit now?
For unless you build the house, we labor in vain. Thank you, Lord, that you didn't let Paul go to Asia and you didn't let him go to Bithynia. If you had, there would be no church in Lydia's house. The prisoners would not have been set free. The young girl would have been sold off until she was of no more value to these people. The jailer would not have found you as Lord and Savior.
His family would not have been baptized, and the church would not have been formed in Lydia's house. We thank you, Lord, for the great good that you were able to do in a very, very short period through an obedient man. Would you help us, Lord, to obey you this way? Would you help us, Lord, just simply to ask the question, where would you have us to go?
What would you have us to do? And open our ears to somebody who's saying, come over here and help me. Give us the courage to start speaking what we need to speak. And God, help us to praise you when the times get hard. Lord, we thank you. We praise you. In Jesus' name, amen. You've been listening to Carter Conlon from Times Square Church in New York City. For more information and resources to help you in your walk in Christ, log on to tsc.nyc. And be sure to be with us next week for A Call to the Nation with Carter Conlon.
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