Reflections on Cecil and Planned Parenthood

One of my favorite places in Chicago is the cat house at the Lincoln Park zoo. Unlike most zoos that keep their big game behind 20 foot tall plexiglass walls, this one only had thick, steel bars. On one particular day Whitney and I were there during the day with every other elementary school in the city. Along with the children we had gathered in front of the lion pen when we saw it stirring from his nap. His thick mane hung like a golden robe as he stood to his full height. I met his eyes and fear crawled up my spine. He was beautiful and terrifying. Only a second after I noticed his chest expanding did I feel the force of his deep-throated roar pressing me back and the heat of his growl causing me to turn my face. All the children promptly ran as the cat house filled with their screams. For some reason, I stepped closer. And so did the lion. He roared again. Pressed back, my ears rang. He would give one more roar, louder than all the others. The echo rang throughout the cat house. All the other cats ran for shelter.

I understood then why he was called the King.

I understand that without those bars I was a dead man because I dared to stare down the King.

I also understood why the Bible used this animal as an image of awe-inspiring power and terrifying beauty.


When I Cried for A Baby I Didn't Know

I can still remember the night I laid my head on my wife’s stomach. It had only been a few weeks since we confirmed our pregnancy. Noah had not yet formed the hands I love to hold. His piercing blue eyes were not open yet. The mouth he uses to yell “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” at the top of his lungs was not yet fully developed. And I loved him.

My heart began to break as I thought of all the young mothers who felt helpless and hopeless believing that abortion was their only answer. I thought of all the blue, green, and browns eyes that would never sparkle, or the little hands that would never hold their mommy’s.

I almost wept.


Zimbabwe Doesn't Weep for Lions

With the fifth undercover video of Planned Parenthood released words continue to fail me. I was heartbroken (though not surprised) when the Senate vote to defund Planned Parenthood fell a few short. Around this same time the controversy over Cecil the Lion blew up. The man who hunted the lion has had to hire a security firm. PETA is calling for him to be hanged

Then I read this article from a Zimbabwe national. He has lived in the United States for the last five years while working on a Ph.D. in bioscience at Wake Forest. For him, the killing of a lion was a source of relief. He grew up in a world that lived in constant fear of a lion attack. His own uncle barely escaped a close encounter with a leg wound. Another young boy he knew was mauled to death in the night. He could not sympathize with a late night talk show host who cried over Cecil. “Maybe he confused him with Simba,” Mr. Nzou asks. Not to be accused of indifference towards animals, Nzou says:

Don’t misunderstand me: For Zimbabweans, wild animals have near-mystical significance. We belong to clans, and each clan claims an animal totem as its mythological ancestor. Mine is Nzou, elephant, and by tradition, I can’t eat elephant meat; it would be akin to eating a relative’s flesh. But our respect for these animals has never kept us from hunting them or allowing them to be hunted. (I’m familiar with dangerous animals; I lost my right leg to a snakebite when I was 11.)

In other words, Nzou has come from a world where animals are valued and treated with an ancient, sacred respect. Yet, they understand that human life is more sacred and valuable than that of any big game. Even Cecil. If we too lived in a world where lions could eat our children, rather than the one in which we currently live - where we excitedly press our young ones faces against the glass of lion’s pens at local zoos - then we too would dance in the street at their death.

Where Nzou wrestles with our cultural gaps, I couldn’t help but notice the gut wrenching irony of it all: we weep over lions and celebrate holocaust.


A Kingdom Toppled by A Baby

In the book of Revelation John tells an ancient tale. An enigmatic woman is introduced in 12:1 as “a great sign in heaven". She is described as “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” John also says “She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth” (12:2). A dragon appears and, likewise, is “a sign…in heaven”. He “stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it” (12:4). This ancient story speaks of a great, evil dragon seeking to destroy God and his people.

John immediately tells this ancient story again. This time the drums of war began to beat in heaven with “Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back” (Rev 12:7). The dragon was defeated and cast out of heaven. Lest there be any confusion, John identifies the dragon as “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev 12:9). Seeing he had been removed from his position in heaven and condemned to earth, “he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child” (12:13). 

What is so fascinating about Revelation is that it is overflowing with imagery and allusions. The description of the woman in 12:1 is reminiscent of Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9 describing all Israel. Hosea 11:1 calls the nation of Israel God’s son. Matthew will quote this same chapter in 2:15 in reference to Jesus. This image of the woman also creates connection to particular women through the Bible who have given birth to promised sons: Sarah, Hannah, Mary. Even these women are echoes and allusions to the first women, Eve. In the midst of the curse God speaks of “the seed of the woman”. This seed will be attacked by the serpent. And the serpent will find his head crushed by the seed, destroyed forever.  Paul, with all of these connections, themes, allusions, and echoes in mind, says in Galatians 4:4, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son, born of a woman…"

It is no surprise, then, that we see Satan pursuing this woman and attempting to destroy her son. God’s people have seen this story play out many times in history. Already crushed under the weight of slavery, Pharaoh orders “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile” (Exodus 1:22). Centuries later another fearful King goes on a murderous rampage killing “all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under” (Matthew 2:16). The dragon, it seems, has a particular hatred for babies, especially sons. That’s because he knows that all it will take to destroy him forever is the birth of a little boy.

The roaring lion, that murderous serpent, is also called the “god of this age” (2 Cor 4:4). And he has “blinded the minds of the unbelievers”. Those who do not know the one who binds up dragons and declaws lions suffer from the worst sort of Stockholm Syndrome. In protesting the death of lions and celebrating the sale of unborn organs, they believe they are doing the greatest good. But they do no see that they are advancing the kingdom of darkness, ushering in the reign of death. After the events of Revelation 12 we’re told that the serpent calls up two other terrifying beasts. He gives them all kinds of dark power and authority to rage against God and his people. And that is exactly what they do.

Until a lamb conquers lions. 

Until a baby tramples kings.


Pulling Back the Veil

So, what do these beasts and dragons have to do with Cecil and Planned Parenthood?

Everything. 

More than a timeline of future events, Revelation describes for us the nature of our current world. From the day of Jesus’ ascension until his second coming, this book paints a picture of the spiritual reality behind human events. When I hear about Planned Parenthood profiting on the sale of body parts from aborted children I picture the ancient dragon standing in front of that woman trying to devour her child. When there is rioting in the streets over a killed lion, while PETA calls for a man’s execution and talk show hosts weep, I picture that first beast called up by the dragon and given authority to call evil good and good evil.

It also tells me that unless the true king comes - that dragon binding, lion-taming king - to deliver our neighbors from the domain of darkness and transfer them to his kingdom (Colossians 1:13), then there is little we can do to open their eyes. I know that Satan holds a particular hatred for infants and the unborn because his kingdom was toppled by a baby in a manger. 

It tells me that one day everything sad will become untrue. 

Until that day we conquer evil “by the blood of the lamb and the word of his testimony” (Rev 12:11). We see the abortion industry torn down brick by brick as we pray. We will overcome the baby-eating serpent as we love and serve those young mothers in crisis. We conquer the accuser as we open our homes, our checking accounts, our churches, and our lives to those preyed upon by Planned Parenthood.


The day I stared down a lion I knew I was a dead man. 

Except the lion was caged.

He was powerful, intimidating, and terrifyingly beautiful. The lion could rage all he liked and he would remain caged.

The serpent can rage all he likes, but his time is still short.

Blogging the Confessions: Pleasure

Confessions 1.xvii(27) - 1.xx(31)

Augustine, in Confessions, could never be accused of making little of his sin. The entire work is filled with confessions, hence the title. However, he does also acknowledge the influence of the pagan myths upon his young mind and life. In 1.xviii(28) he writes, "when one considers the men proposed to me as models for my imitation, it is no wonder that in this way I was swept along by vanities and travelled right away from you, my God" (Chadwick, ed. 20). I do see that this is consistent with the Biblical witness. We are fully culpable, or blameworthy, for the sins committed by our own hands and we are certainly not victims, even the youngest of children. Sin comes, as James 1:14-15 informs us, when our own sinful desires "lure and entice" us. He then states clearly, "then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin". The "vanities" proposed to Augustine as a means to educate him in the things of Latin and other disciplines had proved to me a means of stirring up his own desires which then gave birth to sin.

Near the end of Book 1 he makes a statement that gets to the heart of the nature of sin: "My sin consisted in this, that I sought pleasure, sublimity and truth not in God, but in his creatures, myself and other created beings" (22-23). Just one sentence later he states that God is his "source of sweet delight" (23). I believe that this is the heart of sin and holiness. Sin is not the presence of pleasure but it is the misplacement of pleasure. Pleasure in good things in the proper way is the generous gift of God. Physical pleasure in marriage, for example, creates unity and intimacy and, further, ought to underscore the joy in conception and child-rearing. We must be wary of thinking that views the created order and its pleasures as vices. Many evangelicals (as well as Roman Catholics and E. Orthodox) are guilty of this mindset. The Biblical witness maintains that the created order was made very good. The concept of physical as evil and spiritual as good comes from the Gnostic heresy of the 1st and 2nd centuries. The very issue, I believe, the apostle John was combating in 1 John.

So, Where comes sin? my own sinful nature and desires stirring itself up. Where comes holiness? In loving, appraising, worship and seeing God as the source of all pleasure and the means through which we experience physical pleasures in this life, in their proper measure and means.

End of Book 1.

Blogging the Confessions: Education

Confessions 1.xiii(22) - 1.xvi(26)

I found this section of book one in Augustine's confessions to be particularly interesting. He speaks of the education that he received as a young boy. Looking back he realizes that he was taught the myths and stories of the Greeks and Romans as a means of teaching him to read and write. However, he explains that his main concern as a boy was not the development of a skill set but a fascination with the tales. But now, he laments his fascination, "Obviously I much prefer to forget the wanderings of Aeneas and all that stuff than to write and read" (Chadwick, ed. 16). Augustine sees the immense value of an education but expresses a distaste for the means.

The reason he loves the message but decries the means is "the words actually encourage the more confident committing of a disgraceful action. I bring no charge against the words which are like exquisite and precious vessels, but the wine of error is poured into them for us by drunken teachers. If we failed to drink, we were caned and could not appeal to any sober judge" (19). The words themselves are a wonderful testimony to the power and wonder of language. Unfortunately, the words contain a poison to the soul and conscience that weaken resolve and make immorality appear appropriate. To make matters worse, he was unable to plead to any court an excused absence from these studies. His only end is the cane.

The reason I found this section to be so intriguing is that it causes educators to be discerning in the means of their pedagogy. Certainly, this discernment has led to the rise of Christian schools. Uncritical dissemination of information through any means can lead to an unwise life - educated though they may be. Teaching the appreciation of literature through unnecessarily immoral works without the grid of a sound theological system will only fill the minds of students with folly. This provides my new position as a Pastor of Education with a renewed sense of purpose and meaning. I am not only teaching people the content of Scripture. I am teaching them to think biblically, understanding the world through a sound theological grid and that, in turn, will give them a foundation for understanding and assimilating the skills they use everyday.

The knowledge of God's Word is the greatest achievement and highest calling of any student, teacher, pastor and parishioner.

Blogging the Confessions: Boyhood

Confessions Book 1.viii(13) - 1.xiii(20)

During his boyhood Augustine was like most other children. His interest lay in games, not in school. Unfortunately, for a boy with Augustine's interests, the educators of his day were given license to use whatever means necessary to maintain order and focus. This usually meant corporal punishment. Near the close of this section he discerns "the root of this aversion must simply have been sin and the vanity of life" (Chadwick, ed. 15). Though the days of his youth were spent in (as we would see it) relative innocence, Augustine knows that the real problem is his own sinfulness and "the vanity of life". He hated study and loved entertainment because he was moved by his sinful passions.

In 2 Timothy 2 and 3 Paul describes the nature of godlessness. He includes, in his list, many things that we would accept without question as acts of godlessness. Yet, he also includes many things that are characteristic of young children; they are disobedient, without self-control, lovers of pleasure. Sin manifests itself even in the youngest of children. Augustine was no different. His sin was great.

As yesterday, today I think of the infant Jesus. In his infancy and his boyhood, he committed no sin. Much of the precocious things of children that go without punishment are sin. Yet, Jesus was free of guilt in even the behaviors of "normal" children. Augustine's experience is our experience and his need of a savior is our need. Considered a saint, though he is, his path to sainthood is the very well-trod path that I and others walk today. It is the path paved with the blood of Christ. That same path which carries us to the cross, through the empty tomb and down the sweet, easy road to glory.

Religion and Republic

Confessions Book 1.viii(13) - 1.xiii(20)

During his boyhood Augustine was like most other children. His interest lay in games, not in school. Unfortunately, for a boy with Augustine's interests, the educators of his day were given license to use whatever means necessary to maintain order and focus. This usually meant corporal punishment. Near the close of this section he discerns "the root of this aversion must simply have been sin and the vanity of life" (Chadwick, ed. 15). Though the days of his youth were spent in (as we would see it) relative innocence, Augustine knows that the real problem is his own sinfulness and "the vanity of life". He hated study and loved entertainment because he was moved by his sinful passions.

In 2 Timothy 2 and 3 Paul describes the nature of godlessness. He includes, in his list, many things that we would accept without question as acts of godlessness. Yet, he also includes many things that are characteristic of young children; they are disobedient, without self-control, lovers of pleasure. Sin manifests itself even in the youngest of children. Augustine was no different. His sin was great.

As yesterday, today I think of the infant Jesus. In his infancy and his boyhood, he committed no sin. Much of the precocious things of children that go without punishment are sin. Yet, Jesus was free of guilt in even the behaviors of "normal" children. Augustine's experience is our experience and his need of a savior is our need. Considered a saint, though he is, his path to sainthood is the very well-trod path that I and others walk today. It is the path paved with the blood of Christ. That same path which carries us to the cross, through the empty tomb and down the sweet, easy road to glory.

Blogging the Confessions: Original Sin

Confessions 1.vi.(8) - 1.vii.(12)

Augustine continues the opening of his Confessions by reminiscing about his infancy. He states in 1.vii.(12), "this period of my life [infancy], Lord, I do not remember having lived, but I have believed what others have told me and have assumed how I behaved from observing other infants" (Chadwick, ed. 10). Augustine spent some time in his life observing the behavior of infants. He sees the power of sin present even in these little ones. Quoting Job 14:4-5 and Ps 50:7 he is not ashamed to preach, teach and believe the sinfulness of humanity from conception. Original sin, as it's known, is the doctrine that teaches that all mankind fell into sin in Adam. Therefore, every one of his progeny are conceived, born and live in the depths of depravity. Augustine sees the jealousy in an infants eyes having to share his mother's breast.

And, though Augustine does not remember his own days of infancy, he knows that the Lord does. At first the break from speaking of children to speaking about the Lord may cause confusion. But, Augustine knows what he is doing. He does not remember the wickedness of his infancy, but the Lord does. Augustine did not see the evil in his heart, but the Lord did. Rhetorically, he asks the Lord, "How many of our days and days of our fathers have passed during your Today, and have derived from it the measure and condition of their existence?" (8). Difficult, though it may seem, to see the sin of a newborn over the joy of a new life, yet it is present; and our condition has not escaped the eyes of God.

These next thoughts are my own, but I find great comfort in reflecting upon the incarnation of Jesus. He did not descend from the clouds as the ascended. He entered the virgin womb of Mary, grew in her womb as any one of us, was born and grew - yet, was without sin. He was full of holiness in his conception, his birth, his infancy, his childhood and each day to the cross. He has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. In his adulthood, he can identify with our temptations and sufferings and, even more, he can identify with us in our infancy. We truly do have a great high priest who knows our weaknesses and intercedes on our behalf. Our God is a God who sees, but he is also a God who knows.

Walking with God through A Crisis of Faith

The trouble with Christianity is that it doesn't seem to work. At least, not in the way we hope. I wish I could tell you that I haven't ever seriously considered leaving pastoral ministry. Becoming a lawyer (or even a manager at Chick Fil A) seems more appealing most days, and certainly more lucrative.

It doesn't take much for me. Most of our neighbors are doctors, engineers, lawyers, or successful entrepreneurs. I'm a pastor working two jobs. Our parking garage is filled with the newest BMW's, Mercedes, Audi's, F-150's, and Silverados. I leave for my day in a hand-me-down Ford Focus. Because our apartment faces the pool I can tell you most of my neighbors also have decent abs. I've been nursing this daddy belly for a good two years.

Now, I love my work. I know it's what God made me to do. I also love having a car without a monthly payment. But it's easy to get distracted and fall into self-pity when you're surrounded by (perceived) ease. I know I'm not alone either. The old cliche ("Keeping up with the Joneses") proves true nearly every day.

An Age-Old Struggle
This isn't a new problem either. Psalm 73 is a song describing this very ease-induced crisis. It was written by a man named Asaph. He was a priest who wrote songs for Israel to praise Yahweh; like an ancient, middle-eastern worship pastor. But, one day he starts looking around and notices that the people who don't know Yahweh seem to have a pretty good life. They eat at all the best restaurants, have great physiques, drive the best imported chariots. In short, "They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind" (73:5). Pride quickly finds a home in our hearts when we have success and ease. These people are arrogant and they know it. Like a beautiful necklace they wear their pride openly so everyone can see it. On top of all they already have, they just continue to get more (73:12).

You may have a specific person in mind right now. We all know those people who just seem to go from success to success. I have some in my own Facebook feed. They may give God lip service, at best, but they're on their own agenda.

So, Asaph starts to question everything. "What's the point of all this faith stuff?" he wonders. In a moment of great honesty he confesses that he feels "it has all been a waste of time, energy, and money" (73:13). Not only does he feel it has been a waste, he can't even share this crisis with others. He doesn't want to lead them astray, or worse, be seen as someone betraying their people and their God (73:15).

The more the non-believer succeeds, the more his faith crumbles.

The Perspective-Altering Presence of God
The song turns on a dime at verses 16, 17. Asaph has come to the end of his patience. He doesn't even want to try and figure it out anymore, "until [he] went into the sanctuary of God" (73:17). Rather than walking away from his ministry or his faith, he decides to take it to God. Being in God's presence changes his perspective entirely. He starts to see behind the veil of success and ease to see a quick and certain descent into destruction. Despite their perceived security, "they are destroyed in a moment" (73:19).

Having met most of my neighbors I can tell you that things are not what they seem. Sure, they may drive the latest model of European imports. And, they may have a pretty nice wardrobe and only eat the best. But, these are some broken people. Most have been divorced. Many don't see much of their kids. They are chronically lonely, yet distrustful of everyone. They give themselves to alcohol, sex, and drugs. It's a heart-breaking sight. Behind the facade of power and significance they, like Tolkein's ring-wraiths, are mere ghosts.

Asaph, on the other hand, sees that God is always with him. So close, in fact, that it's as though God is holding him by the hand (73:23). The certainty of God's intimate presence now strengthens hope for the future (73:24). Now he is able to say that even when his body begins to break down and his emotions are no longer stable that God will be his strength (73:26).

Mark's Use of "Immediately" as a Marker of Kingdoms in Conflict

I have always known that Mark's gospel makes regular use of the word "immediately". But, until recently I had never thought to look at the where he uses it. This past Sunday's sermon was out of Mark 1:21-28, a chapter that begins with the purpose of showing that Jesus' coming was also the coming of the kingdom of God. The first words of Jesus in Mark are that "the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (1:15). Before and after that pronouncement, Mark uses "immediately" seven times and in connection to the theme of God's Kingdom coming into space and time. I think that Mark uses "immediately" to signal conflict between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan.

Below is a chart containing the references and a summary of those verses' content. This word isn't used in Jesus' teaching or in other scenes. It is only used in scenes where there is a conflict between the two kingdoms. This conflict manifests itself in various ways. Jesus' baptism and calling the disciples doesn't look like conflict, but the changing from a non-believer to a follower of Christ was in Paul's mind (Ephesians 2:1-10). The miracles of Jesus are meant to be clear demonstrations that the Kingdom of God was present, that Jesus was the one who ties up the "strong man" to plunder his house (Mark 3:27). This is, in part, the reason why Mark 1:14-8:26 are filled with healings, exorcisms, resurrection, and other miracles.

Other examples, like 3:1-6, continue this theme of kingdoms in conflict by showing the allegiance of the Pharisees. If they belonged to God (as they claimed) then they would believe Jesus and follow him. But they don't, and thus show that they belong to Satan (John 8:39-47).

What do you think? Is Mark's use just a coincidence or is he pointing out the Kingdoms in conflict?

Fifty Days of Prayer | Day 36

Praying for Church Planting through the Book of Acts

 

After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.

But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.
— Acts 20:1-16

Fifty Days of Prayer | Day 35

PRAYING FOR CHURCH PLANTING THROUGH THE BOOK OF ACTS

From the very beginning Paul's ministry has been led by God through the Spirit. Today's section opens up by saying that "Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem" (19:21; emphasis added). He would later tell the Ephesian elders that he was "constrained by the Spirit" (20:22). The Holy Spirit was active in the ministry of the local church in many ways, and this direct leading of Paul was one of them. This is important for Paul and for us. Luke records two occasions where Paul experienced direct opposition: once from the Jews (19:8-10) and once from the non-believing Gentiles (19:23-41). Opposition will come from the religious and non-religious alike. The Lord knows our hearts. And that means he knows we are tempted to second guess ourselves in difficult circumstances. We need to know that he is with us and lead us to this place. So that is why we pray (as we have so many times the past thirty-five days) for continued leading from the Holy Spirit. 

This section of Acts 19 records the opposition that Paul experienced from a man named Demetrius. We're told he was "a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis" (19:24). This was a source of tremendous income for him. Luke records a conversation he had with his fellow tradesman: "Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth...and there is danger...that this trade of ours may come into disrepute" (19:25, 27). He also says that Paul's preaching of the gospel has disrupted the worship of Artemis. She was a fertility goddess in the Greco-Roman mythology. Her temple was built in Ephesus and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It drew tens of thousands of worshippers who would buy the trades created by these craftsman for their worship and devotion. It is good for the gospel to disrupt ungodly trades in our cities. Houston is one of the largest centers for human trafficking and boasts the largest Planned Parenthood. So we pray that God would use our church to disrupt the ungodly trades in our neighborhood.

This speech by Demetrius would incite a riot that carried Paul and his companions into the local theater (19:28-29). There was confusion (19:30) and yelling (19:34) for nearly two hours. Finally one of the local leaders quieted the crowd and warned them not to continue. He feared that the Roman military would fear a riot and come in to "put it down". The town clerk was able to dismiss the riot while also validating Paul's ministry. Christianity was not viewed as a menace to be eradicated. It upheld the virtues of a just, fair, and orderly society. Once again we see the church being granted favor with the local government. So we pray again that God would give us favor with local leaders, especially in the face of any potential opposition. 

Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.
— Acts 19:21-41