Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh continued preaching the series The Early Church. The title for today sermon was ‘Paul’s deliverance from prison’. Her main text was taken from the Book of Acts chapter 16.

This chapter in the Book of Acts describes events during Paul’s second missionary trip. Paul’s first missionary started from Antioch. He was accompanied by Barnabas and his nephew John Mark. They went in Asia Minor, in present day Turkey. They preached the Gospel and started churches. They suffered persecution and Paul was very sick, but the trip was spiritually fruitful. The young man John Mark abandoned them halfway. Because of that, Paul and Barnabas had a heated argument, and both decided to separate at the end of the trip. They later reconciled. The unexpected challenges during this first trip helped Paul to seek God more, to die to the flesh, and to learn to totally depend on the Holy Spirit. He now decided to walk the Royal way of the Cross. His understanding of doctrine and application of doctrine in life, became deeper. He saw that the body is weak and relationships with brethren are fragile. He became more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Chapter 16 describes his second missionary journey. God provided two new helpers for him: Silas and Timothy, who in a way, replaced Barnabas and John Mark. During this trip he met Dr Luke who became a close associate and friend for life. There are so many lessons for all of us in this chapter.


 “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit (of Jesus) did not permit them… Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Ac 16:6, 7, 10)

We see how the Holy Spirit guides Paul and his team during this missionary trip. The plan of God supersedes the plans of men. “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the LORD’s counsel, that will stand” (PV 19:21). Man makes plans according to his understanding of events. But it is God’s eternal plan and purpose that stands, that is established and will be carried out.

“When He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future]” (John 16:13; AMP). The Holy Spirit is God, also called the Spirit of Truth. He guides only the believers. He leads them step by step into the fullness of truth, an unknown territory for them. He does not carry them. He leads them. You can carry loads, but you lead people. The believers need to cooperate with His leading. Because He is God, He speaks eternal truth because He knows the end from the beginning.    

The mistake the believers make is that they see God as passive, who is not really interested in the day-to-day events on earth. That is an error. God is the Creator of the universe. He has not abandoned His creation to men or devils. He rules and overrules all things on earth. He has His plans for men, especially for the believers. Listen to what God says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer 29:11; NIV). In Hebrew, the word ‘plans’ also means thoughts, like a machine that works according to God’s will. God certainly has His own plans for us. His plans are always good for the present and for the future. His plans are always better than ours. We should trust God even when we do not understand His plans.

The same word ‘plans’ appears in this passage in Isaiah 55. We are told that God’s thoughts or plans for us are not only different than ours, but much greater and infinitely better. Our thinking is based on what we see on earth. God’s thoughts and plans are heavenly, eternal, and perfect. We are to seek God’s mind in all situations so that we can be led by the Holy Spirit. Seeking God’s will and His leading is vital for a believer. That is the only way we make spiritual progress. In seeking God, we must repent of sin, die to the flesh and to the worldly way of thinking. We go to the throne of mercy and grace to find those in times of need. This is a painful and humbling process, but necessary in finding God’s will and His leading. “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:6-9). From here we see that God does not reveal His plans and does not lead the unbelievers or the backsliders. He only leads the humble believers who desire to know Him more. Selah!

In this missionary journey, it seems that Apostle Paul wanted to go eastward, possibly to Ephesus where there was a big Jewish population. But the Holy Spirit wanted them to go towards west, to Europe. You see here how the will of man clashes with the will of God. The Holy Spirit leads them step by step. First, the Holy Spirit ‘hinders them’ and later He does not ‘permit them’ to go their own way. These are strong words showing that the Holy Spirit leads the way according to God’s plan. What is the lesson? We cannot preach what we want or where we want. Evangelism must be done led by the Holy Spirit and not according to our ideas. How does God lead? It is possible that the Holy Spirit spoke to their minds thru special revelations. They discussed among themselves and prayed. This is how they arrived at Troas (in present day Turkey) where Paul had a vision in the night of a man pleading for help, for them to come to Macedonia. Paul, accompanied by Silas, Timothy, and Dr. Luke went to Macedonia by boat. They stopped at the port of Neapolis (in present day Greece). From there they went to Philippi.

In Greek, the word ‘concluding’ means to unite, to drive together, to teach, to deduce something based on facts. It means that they were in the unity of the Spirit during this trip. Paul combined the internal leading with the vision received and concluded what the Holy Spirit was saying. The feeling is something like ‘This makes sense’.  He now saw the purpose of the trip. It was at Troas that God met Dr. Luke for the first time. He was a disciple of Christ already. He jointed Paul, Silas, and Timothy on the trip. It was Luke who wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. See how he changes from ‘they’ to ‘us’ (Acts 16 verses 8 and 10). Luke was a medical doctor, a scholar, and a great writer. Paul trusted him completely. He became a faithful coworker in the ministry and a close friend for life. If Paul did not go west to Troas, he could not have met Luke. Apostle Paul is an example of how to be led by the Holy Spirit. Be dead to self, sensitive to the Spirit’s guidance, humble and flexible to move where He directs. The unity of the Spirit must be maintained. The sign and seal of God’s peace must be received.   

Practically, to be led by the Spirit it refers mostly to guidance, to make decisions on what road to follow. God’s commands are not to be debated. For example, you do not pray to be led by the Spirit about stealing or not. The leading is necessary when we need to make decisions in life that are not directly revealed in the Bible. For example, you need to be led to choose a city where to live, who to marry, how many children to have, or what job to take. In ministry, you need to be led by the Holy Spirit in choosing what sermon to preach or where to do evangelism. In the Bible there are only two places that speak about the leading of the Spirit: Romans 8:14 and Galatians 5:18.

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:13-16). “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal 5:16-18).

We see that the leading of the Holy Spirit is given only to the children of God. The unbelievers are led by their fleshly desires or by demons. The leading of the Holy Spirit is always in accordance with the Word of God and prayer. The Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, and He alone knows how to interpret them to us. In the Christian, there is a battle between flesh and spirit. Thru the process of sanctification, we die to the flesh and live by the Spirit. The devil works thru the flesh. There are three ‘voices’ that the Christian hears: The impulse (voice) of the flesh, of the devil, or the voice of the Holy Spirit. The devil works thru deception pretending he is God. It takes spiritual maturity to discern, to listen and to obey the voice of the Holy Spirit. His leading comes thru the Word of God, by an impression on your mind, or thru sanctified imagination. When God speaks, there is a special feeling of hearing Him. You hear authority in His voice. You hear your Father, your Shepherd speaking. You feel a strong urge to follow, even if you do not totally understand the way. Often, God uses other people, especially the mature Christians who have a prophetic gift to confirm the leading. Once you hear from the Holy Spirit and you obey, peace comes to you and the strength to move on.  Never forget! As children of God, we are never alone. Like the shepherd leads his flock, the Holy Spirit leads us on ‘besides the still waters… in the paths of righteousness… and for the glory of His name’ (Psalm 23). Halleluiah!


Philippi is an ancient city in Macedonia, in the present-day Greece. It was founded by King Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great.  Macedonia, including Philippi, was later conquered by the Romans. In the first century, Philippi was a Roman colony, more like an army post. Because the Romans built many structures similar with those in Rome, Philippi was called ‘The little Rome’. The population was made from retired soldiers in the Roman army and their families. They were given houses to settle there as a reward for being faithful in Caesar’s army. The city was governed by two retired senior soldiers called ‘magistrates’ who were directly under the authority of Caesar. They made sure that there is peace in that area. Because gold was found in the hills around, Philippi was a prosperous city.

Apostle Paul, with his team made of Timothy, Silas, and Dr. Luke, arrived by ship at Neapolis, a port by the Mediterranean Sea (Today, Neapolis is called Kavala, Greece). From there, they walked 10 miles up the hill, to Philippi. The Holy Spirit led on to this very place. Philippi is the first city in Europe where Paul preached the Gospel. When he came to Philippi, he must have felt good because he too was a Roman citizen. Historians say that Alexander the Great used Philippi as his European base to attack and conquer Asia with his mighty army. Now, Apostle Paul, armed with only the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, came from Asia to Philippi, to conquer Europe for Jesus. Halleluiah!


In this chapter we see two women, one is free and the other is in bondage; one is a child of God, the other is a child of the devil. Women in the Bible are symbols of churches. There are only two types of churches, the living, and the dead. There is no middle ground. Where do you belong?

“Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So, she persuaded us” (Ac 16:14, 15). The free woman’s name is Lydia. Her name means noble or beautiful. Lydia was a gentile godly woman who ‘feared God’. It means that she has repented of idolatry and now she is a Jewish proselyte who served only Jehovah God. Lydia was a businesswoman originally from the city of Thyatira, a city in the Asia Minor, in the present-day Turkey. She was selling fabrics died in purple. This die was extracted from a type of shellfish, and it was extremely expensive. Purple was considered royal color. Only the princes or the very rich could afford that type of fabric. She had a house in Philippi where she was selling the fabrics. From here we deduce that she was a wealthy hard-working woman. The Holy Spirit has located her and sent Apostle Paul to preach the Gospel to her. Like the Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius, the centurion, Lydia was genuinely seeking God. She heard the Word preached by Paul with faith in her heart! Lydia had good ears. The ears must be opened for the heart to be opened. She ‘attended’ to what Paul was preaching. It means that she was truly interested. She obeyed the Word! Then God opened her heart! Lydia was baptized with her household. Later, in the same way, the jailer and his household got saved. Here you see the influence of the leader in his household. Lydia’s house became the first church in Philippi. Read the letter of Paul to the Philippians and see how much Paul loved the church there.

God’s ways are mysterious! Jesus chose a woman to be the first convert in Europe. Christianity brought dramatic changes. At that time, both to Jews and to Gentiles, a husband was like a slave master. Polygamy was common. A man could divorce his wife for any reason at all. The wife was almost like a slave to her husband. For example, a wife could not change her religion to be different than her husband. We do not know if Lydia was married, or she was a widow. She was clearly a successful woman on her own. She was like the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. This is a good lesson: the Christian wife is to work-hard and become successful in her profession or trade, and at the same time, not neglecting her duties to her husband, children, and members of her household. No Christian woman should be lazy, foolish, or a liability to the people around her. By choosing Lydia as the first convert in Europe, Christ opened the door of faith to all, male and female. This is revolutionary, especially for the women. This revolution affected the men too, and the way they see their wives and daughters. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). The Christian marriage is unique in the world. It is based on submission, understanding, respect, and love, for God and for one another.  

What did Lydia do? She ‘heard’ Paul preaching the Gospel. In Greek, the word ‘heard’ means to listen carefully, to pay attention, to meditate and understand the message. The Lord Jesus opened her heart to heed to the preaching of God’s Word. ‘To open’ it means to remove a hindrance, a covering, or a veil. It means to expose and to allow entrance. “When one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor 3:16, 17). In the morning, you wake up and open your eyes. It is the start of a new day. To open the heart is similar. Lydia woke up from the sleep of death by the power of resurrection. An open heart is a saved and living heart. God opened her heart to heed the word of God preached by Paul.  When God opened her heart, He planted the seed of faith. She was now willing to believe, accept, and respond to God’s Word. This beautiful picture describes the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation.

Just like with Lydia, the Resurrected Christ opened the hearts of the disciples to receive the Word and believe in Him. In the past, they trusted Him, but it was only after His death and resurrection that they truly understood Him. When Jesus opened their hearts and minds, they saw the truth that Jesus was the Messiah, that He was indeed the Son of God. They saw the connection between the Old Testament and Jesus, who is the fulfilment of all the law and all prophesies. “Then their eyes were [suddenly] opened [by God] and they [clearly] recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.  They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was talking with us on the road and opening the Scriptures to us?”…  Then He opened their minds to [help them] understand the Scriptures” (Lk 24:31, 32, 45; AMP).

An opened heart is a pure heart. It is the heart of a worshipper who worships God in Spirit and in truth. God alone can purify the heart from sins, fears, doubts, prejudices, and wrong religious ideas of Him. God removes the veil of darkness from the minds of men. He opens and cleanses the heart to be like a child’s, simple, pure, and full of light, trust, and wonder towards God. The fact that God opens man’s heart is the proof that He has direct access to it. It is the work of Grace. God opens the heart of His child thru faith in His Word and by His sovereign power.

This is another godly woman’ story. Her name is Hannah. She was barren because ‘the Lord had closed her womb’ (1 Sam 1:5). She prayed for a son and vowed to dedicate him to God all the days of his life. God answered her prayer. He opened the closed womb and Hannah became pregnant with Samuel. Mother and son were true worshippers of God. In this sense, an open heart is a spiritually pregnant and fruitful heart.

Apostle James also speaks about the power of God’s Word ‘implanted’ in the open heart. The Word should be received deep, like a seed planted in good soil. For that to happen, we must be ‘quick to hear’ and willing to obey God’s Word. The Word planted will germinate in the heart and produce fruits to the glory of God. Sin manifests as talking too much, anger, or being careless with the things of God. These are hindrances to the opening of the heart unto salvation. An open and receptive heart is blessed by God. “Understand this, my beloved brothers, and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]; for the [resentful, deep-seated] anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God [that standard of behavior which He requires from us]. So, get rid of all uncleanness and all that remains of wickedness, and with a humble spirit receive the word [of God] which is implanted [actually rooted in your heart], which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word [actively and continually obeying God’s precepts], and not merely listeners [who hear the word but fail to internalize its meaning], deluding yourselves [by unsound reasoning contrary to the truth]. For if anyone only listens to the word without obeying it, he is like a man who looks very carefully at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he immediately forgets what he looked like. But he who looks carefully into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and faithfully abides by it, not having become a [careless] listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he will be blessed and favored by God in what he does [in his life of obedience]” (James 1:19=25; AMP).

This is a great lesson: The most important thing about evangelism is not how smart, or how emotional you are when you preach. Your duty is to preach the Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected with simple words anyone can understand. After that, you trust God to touch the hearts of the listeners. In Lydia’s case, God opened her heart. As preachers, we have work to do. But some things, only God can do. “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Cor 3:5-7). Glory to God!


After she got saved, Lydia insisted that Paul and his team come to her house. She said that ‘if you judge me to be a true believer, come to my house’! Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, Lydia ‘constrained’ them to come. She put pressure on them to come to her house. She was a true leader. Her whole household was converted and baptized. Like the jailer, Lydia clearly manifested the gift of Hospitality. This is a gift given by the Holy Spirit. Hospitality means to love, welcome, and help strangers (not only your family and friends). It means to treat people you just met warmly and generously. In the early church, there were no hotels or restaurants the way we have today. People depended on one another for food and shelter. Exercising hospitality to all needy people, but to believers and servants of God in particular, it is a sacrificial spiritual ministry rewarded by Jesus. This is God’s command: “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet 4:9). Grumbling, stinginess, laziness, and bitterness are all hindrances to the ministry of hospitality and to receiving the blessings attached to it. Hospitality is one of the requirements for the position of leadership in the church. “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach” (1 Tim 3:2). Hospitality is a platform for the manifestation of miracles. “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Heb 13:2). In Genesis 18 we are told that Jesus Himself, accompanied by two angels, went to visit Abraham and Sarah. The old godly couple welcomed them with much joy. Jesus told them that Sarah will have a son in a year time. This is how the promised son Isaac was miraculously conceived and born.

Hospitality has great spiritual rewards. Jesus said: “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward”… “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me” (Matt 10:40-42; 25:34-36).

Socially, the home is the woman’s domain. She is free to use it as ministry. God has blessed many women for exercising the gift of hospitality. For example, the Shunammite woman welcomed the prophet Elisha in her house. This is how she got pregnant and had a son (2 Kings 4). Martha of Bethany opened her house to Jesus and His disciples (Lk 10:38-42). The church in Jerusalem was meeting in the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12). The first church in Europe started at the house of Lydia. Praise the Lord!

After Paul was released from prison, he went to her house to say goodbye and to encourage the brethren there (Ac 16:15, 40). Later, Apostle Paul remembers the sweet time of fellowship he had with the brethren in Philippi, the joy he had what that ‘first day’, when God saved Lydia by the river. He prayed for the church that started in her house. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:3-8).


“Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days” (Ac 16:16, 17).

This is the story of a young woman who was in bondage to Satan. She has no name. She was a medium. She followed Paul when he was preaching in Philippi. She started shouting saying that Paul and his team are true servants of God. Maybe she went to the river where the women gathered for prayer and she heard Paul telling them about Jesus. What she said was true, but the way she was shouting, it disturbed Paul. He waited for few days, probably praying for discernment and wisdom. Paul hated the idea that the devil is ‘advertising’ his ministry. After few days, he rebuked the demon, and the girl was free. From that moment she could not practice divination again. Here we see that Paul had authority to drive demons even from unbelievers. We are not told what happened to her after that. Her masters got angry because they lost their source of money. They instigated the authorities to beat Paul and Silas and put them in prison. God sent an earthquake on the prison. This miracle saved them. The jailer and his household also believed. The Word of God continued to spread. What is the lesson? When God moves, the devil always attacks. The devil comes as an angel of light causing confusion. In the early church, the devil tried to infiltrate thru Ananias, Saphira, and thru Simon the Sorcerer. The devil used Saul, the religious leaders and King Herod to persecute the church. Infiltration is always more dangerous than persecution. During Paul’s first missionary trip, when the devil saw that the proconsul listened to the Gospel preached by Paul, Elymas the sorcerer tried to hinder the Word. God used Paul to stop him by causing him to be blind for a season (Acts 13:6-12).

This slave girl was a medium who had an evil spirit of divination. What she said about Paul was true. The devil can speak the truth but with an evil intent to deceive men. False prophets and cult leaders speak truth to deceive men. The devil masquerade as an angel of light so that men will follow him. “Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Cor 11:13-15).

What was the plan of the devil? He wanted to use this girl to infiltrate the church in Philippi. People will think that she is saved when she was not. The devil will use her as a spy, giving information from inside the church. The devil wants to bring the Christians into his bondage again by corrupting the Gospel. But Apostle Paul was not deceived. He did not submit or cooperate with these religious evil spirits. “False brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gal 2:4, 5). There are many pastors and preachers who married false prophetess thinking that they are women of God. Oh, the need for discernment, spiritual warfare, and moral courage for all preachers of the Gospel! Selah!

Divination is an occult skill by which a person, using supernatural powers, reveals secret things or can predict the future. In Greek, the word ‘divination’ is Phyton. This sad girl was possessed by a Phyton demon. She was working for her masters, making money by fortune-telling, predicting the future and by uttering spells. The word ‘medium’ means to be in the middle, in between states. The medium in a trance is in between the natural and the supernatural realm. A medium is a woman (or a man) who says that she can contact the world of the spirits, even the spirits of dead persons (called familiar spirits) while she is in a trance. These occultic sessions are called seances. The evil spirits use the medium’s voice to speak out. The messages come audibly, visibly or thru body feelings. During the seance people feel, hear, and see the dead person they want to contact. In the Bible, divination, casting spells, and all attempts to contact evil spirits, are seen as demonic activity. God totally condemns this type of practice or even any association with it. This is God’s Word: “You shall not permit a sorceress to live” (Exodus 22:18).  “Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God… And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people” (Lev 19:31; 20:6). These demons are spiritual ‘prostitutes.’ Going to them for counsel will result in ‘defilement’. In Hebrew, this word means to become leprous, spiritually raped, polluted, and unclean. An unclean person cannot come to God’s presence. This is a serious matter. The Christian needs to repent and pray for deliverance. Selah!

In 1 Samuel 28 we see that King Saul contacts a medium, a witch. He was fighting the Philistines. God refused to talk to him thru dreams, by Urim or thru His prophets. King Saul wanted to know the future of the battle. When he was younger, he drove all witches from the land. But now, he needed to see one. He went to consult a witch at Endor. The witch herself was surprised when the spirit of Samuel came up. We do not know why God allowed this to happen. Anyway, Samuel told Saul that he and his sons will die the next day. The word came true. Saul, Jonathan and his other two sons died in battle. The reasons why God killed Saul was because he was unfaithful to Him and he consulted a witch for guidance. “Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the Lord; therefore, He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (1 Chr 10:13, 14). The mediums say that they can bring the spirits of the dead. They are liars and deceivers. They are servants of the devil who is the greatest liar. These spirits are demons (also called familiar spirits) and not the true spirits of the departed persons. When the rich man went to hell, he could not go back to earth again (Luke 16:18-31). In 1 Kings 22, we are given a glimpse into the spirit’ realm. God allowed a lying spirit to go to the earth and to deceive King Ahab to go into battle and die. This is not an easy story to explain but we see that demons influence evil people with God’s permission. Finally, this is God’s Word: Do not go to those who are mediums to ask for prayers or advice. Do not be attracted by them. Do not respect them. Do not submit to them! Selah!


The oracle of Delphi was the most famous oracle of ancient Greece. Its role in Greek politics was great as Kings and politicians sent representatives to consult its chief priestess called the Pythia, so named after the Python snake. They wanted to know what the gods are saying so that they make decisions for war or peace. Sometimes, the Pythia could cast spells on the enemies of those who patronize her. These spells manifested as incurable disease, accidents, sudden poverty, madness, or untimely death. The Pythia lived in the temple of Apollo who was the god of the oracle. The Pythia was the mouthpiece of the oracle. Most of the time she was a virgin woman of middle age who dressed in a young girl’s garments and wore her hair loose. The Pythia devoted her life to the oracle. She was a slave to the Python spirit. To have an audience with the Pythia, the person will sacrifice a sheep or a goat. The Pythia will chew some leaves, sit on a three legs stool, enter a trance, and speak ‘words of wisdom’.

The slave girl in Acts 16 was a medium and a false prophetess. She was paraded by her masters. When a customer wanted to know the future, the girl will fall into a trance and speak with a different tone of voice. Her masters will interpret what she is saying for a fee. Because many wanted to know the future, the girl was busy divining making a lot of money for her masters. She was possessed by a python spirit. This demon is the only demon named in the Book of Acts. How does it manifest? In the natural, the python is a big powerful snake. It does not kill by poison. It kills by suffocation. It coils around until the victim stops breathing and dies thru cardiac arrest (‘heart attack’). The victim bones are not crushed. There is almost no sign of violence on the body of the victims before the snake swallows it whole.  It may take weeks to digest it. Pythons can swallow big animals like the antelope. They can also swallow humans. There are cases when men made pythons as pets and the pythons killed their owners. Spiritually, the python demon chocks the victim. Under such a spiritual attack, the victim has difficulty in breathing, or asthma-like symptoms. As the demon slowly coils around, the victim feels gradually getting weaker. Fear of closed spaces (claustrophobia) or the fear of untimely death accompanies these attacks. Some experience oppression or sexual attacks in the dreams. The spiritual weakness manifests as loss of interest in the study of the Bible, in prayer or in praising God. The victims feel like leaving the sanctuary saying they suffocate inside. In Nigeria, this python demon is called by strange names as: Mammy-Water, Spirit-Wife or Spirit-Husband, Ogbanje Spirit, One Kind Eye… What is the solution? If the victim is an unbeliever, he must surrender totally to Jesus Christ. If the victim is a Christian under attack, he needs deliverance in the name of Jesus! Start to fast, pray, and praise God with a loud voice. This is what Paul and Silas did in the prison when they were attacked by the python demon. God answered and they became free. Halleluiah!


This slave girl from Philippi was a false prophetess initiated at the Apollo temple. Initially, Paul ignored her words. Later, he rebuked the demon out from her. She was free from the demon. From that time, the girl refused to fall into a trance and speak. Her masters discovered that the girl could not ‘prophesy’ again. They got angry with Paul because they lost the source of their money.  We do not know why they arrested only Paul and Silas. They beat them and they were thrown into the prison. In the Roman law people should worship Caesar. The Romans allowed some religions, but they had to be approved by Caesar. Christianity was not yet approved by him. They beat Paul and Silas with rods. There was no trial. Just beating. They put them in stocks (they tie the legs to stretched to the maximum to cause painful cramps).

At that time, prison was a terrible place. They were thrown in the inner cell. Just imagine that they were rats and bad smell, no clean air. Paul and Silas could have complained to God. But they did not. They prayed and praised God. They were happy that despite the persecution, God’s work was successful and the first church in Europe was born. They knew that the devil attacked them because they had a great success. At midnight God sent an earthquake. In the Bible, the midnight hour is when Jesus comes again to defeat all enemies. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!” (Matt 25:6). Paul and Silas were like the wise virgins. Their prayer and praise were fueled by the Holy Spirit. God sent a miraculous earthquake that affected only the prison. All chains got loosed. The gates got opened. The jailer was terrified and wanted to commit suicide. But Paul encouraged him. He then became saved. Him and his household believed in Jesus and were baptized. He later joined the household of Lydia, the first church in Europe. The next day, the officials discovered that Paul was a Roman citizen. By law, they were not supposed to beat him without trial. Apostle Paul refused to go quietly. He wanted everyone to hear that a Roman citizen preached the Gospel and started the first church in Europe.


The story of the jailer is the classic story of salvation. He asked the greatest question of all and he received the greatest answer given to me:  “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 So they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Ac 16:30, 31). I imagine that the jailer was hard man, a rough retired Roman soldier with blood on his hands. His job was the best thing he now has. His job was his god. That is why when the jailhouse collapsed, he wanted to kill himself. Only the Holy Spirit could change this hard sinner unto an humble saint. He invited Paul and Silas in his house, feed them and washed their wounds. Like Lydia, we see the manifestation of the gift of hospitality as a sign of salvation. Finally, let us see how great God is! God is gentle with Lydia and opened her heart. With this jailer, God brought an earthquake. The earthquake was localized only at the prison. All chains get loosed and all gates got opened. God is all-powerful!     


The word ‘praise’ is used more than 200 times in the Bible. God commands His creation to praise Him. Praising God means to glorify His name, perfection, character, power, and mighty works. It means to give God the glory and the honor He deserves. Praise is spiritual sacrifice and proceeds from a grateful heart. It manifests as singing, playing instruments, dancing, or clapping of hands. Why praising God is so powerful?

First, thru praise, you encounter God. He promised to manifest Himself as King and Judge when His people praise Him. “You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3). Problems are solved immediately when praising God with all your heart. In God’s presence there is fullness of joy (Ps 16:11). When Paul and Silas praised God in prison, the miracle of deliverance happen. Praising God humbles you. Praising God removes your attention from yourself and the circumstances around you. When you see how great God is, you also discover how small you are. You now look unto God. You realize how much you need God every moment. God gives grace and help only to the humble. The more you praise God, the more King Grace will bless you. Secondly, when you praise God, He will fight your battles (2 Chr 20:22). Thru praise warfare the victory is sure! Halleluiah! Worship the Lord!


Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh continued preaching the series The Early Church. Her main text was taken from the Book of Acts 10 and 11.


The beautiful story of the conversion of Cornelius in Acts chapter 10 is a miracle of pure grace. This chapter is filled with supernatural events. Heaven seems so close to the earth. This is the revelation of the work of the Holy Spirit in the early church. Secondly, this is a story of two great men, Peter, and Cornelius. They lived in separate, parallel social realms. In the natural, they could not have met. But the grace of God made a way where there was no way. They met and thru the Gospel, King Grace made them one. They became friends forever. Old divisions and prejudices are falling. Thru their encounter, Cornelius understanding of God became deeper and Peter’s theology got wider. Praise the Lord!

Apostle Peter was staying in the house of Simon, a Christian brother. Simon was a tanner. Tanning was the process by which animal skins were processed to become leather. Because tanning was accompanied by strong unpleasant smells and unattractive sights, the Jews considered tanning as an unclean work. Because the process needs salty water to process the skins, and for the smell to go away by the wind, most tanneries were situated along the Mediterranean Sea. Simon lived in the city of Joppa. By the way, it is from this ancient port that Jonah took a ship and went to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, the people of Nineveh. Because of his ‘dirty’ job, a man like Simon was not allowed to enter the synagogue. But as he became a Christian, the church was opened to him. To encourage him, Peter decided to live in this ‘smelly, unclean’ house, As Peter was fasting and praying, he experienced a trance. In Greek, the word ‘trance’ is the same as ‘ecstasy’. A trance is not a dream. During a trance, the person is awake, but his natural senses are suspended. His consciousness connects only with the spiritual realm. Peter saw heaven open and a sheet coming down with different animals and birds. According to the Mosaic law, some were clean, and others were unclean. A voice told him: “Rise, Peter, kill and eat!” Still having his Jewish religious prejudice, Peter refused to obey. In his self-confidence, he was trying to correct God’s command. Then the voice told him: “What God has cleansed you must not call common!” This vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was taken back to heaven. Eventually, Peter believed that God is doing something new, and he accepted to go and visit a Gentile man. This vision prepared Peter for the work of evangelism among the Gentiles, who were considered ‘common’ by the Jews. Peter forgot that one of the blessings of Abraham, the father of Israel, was that all people on earth will be blessed thru him. God told him: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3).

Cornelius was the first official Gentile convert to Christianity. (The Ethiopian eunuch was considered a Jewish proselyte before he became born again). Cornelius was a centurion in the Roman army. It means that he oversaw 100 soldiers. His name means ‘horn or strength’. He was living at Caesarea, a port along the Mediterranean Sea. The Romans choose Caesarea as their capital in the area because it was free from the political religious strife in Jerusalem. It is possible that Cornelius was a freed slave who became a soldier. There was a famous Roman politician and soldier called Lucius Cornelius Sulla (108-45 BC). This was his strategy: when he conquered a territory, he killed all the rulers and the rich people. He then freed their slaves. He freed about 10,000 slaves and made them soldiers. He gave them the rights to be Roman citizens. The slaves became very grateful. In this way, the army became his strength. All these freed slaves got the name of ‘Cornelius’. It is possible that this centurion called Cornelius was once a freed slave. (It is interesting that all the centurions mentioned in the Bible are good and godly men).

Cornelius was “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. He was a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews” (Ac 10:2, 22). Cornelius was a Gentile who possibly got to know about Jehovah God while he stayed in Caesarea. He started reading the Old Testament and tried to serve Jehovah God. He was not a Jewish proselyte like the Ethiopian eunuch because he was not circumcised to become a Jew. He got friendly with the Jews. This was a great achievement knowing that the Jews hated the Romans. He followed the Jewish pattern to pray three times a day. He was a good moral kind religious man, but not born again. He quietly gave up the worship of the Roman idols and choose to serve the only God. He led his household of slaves and soldiers under him to do the same. An angel came to him in a vision at ‘the ninth hour’ which is 3 pm, at the time of the afternoon prayer at the Temple in Jerusalem. The angel said this: “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God… Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering… Your prayers and neighborly acts have brought you to God’s attention” (Ac 10:4, NKJ, NLT, TM). The angel told him to send for a man called Peter. It is amazing to see how God knows all things on earth. He told Cornelius the name and the address where to find Peter.

Peter came and preached the Gospel to Cornelius, to his household and friends. Cornelius knew something about Jehovah. But he did not know that God is interested in him personally. This personal living faith in Jesus was activated thru the preaching of God’s Word. He and his household believed the Gospel. The Holy Spirit came on them and baptized them. They spoke in tongues and praised God. They became saved and got baptized in water. Peter and his Jewish friends stayed at the house of Cornelius few more days to have fellowship together. When Peter went back to Jerusalem, the Christian Jews were angry with Peter because he visited a Gentile, which is against the Jewish Law. When Peter explained what happened, they believed God and praised Him for granting repentance and salvation to the Gentiles too.

What are some of the lessons?

*God is sovereign in His choice of saving men. Salvation is God’s work. It is by His grace alone. Both Saul, the Jew and Cornelius, the Gentile, became saved by God’s grace alone. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Rom 8:29-30). The doctrine of God’s sovereignty in salvation says that God alone elects, choses, and calls those who He wants to save. Salvation is of God alone and by His grace alone. Man is born a sinner. There is nothing in man that impresses God to save him. Because of sin, all the works done by man cannot please God. We are not saved by anything we have done, or we desire to do for God. We are saved by God’s purpose, pleasure and will. If any sinner truly desires to know God, that desire is planted in his heart by God. God grants the gift of repentance from sin to those He wants to save. God gives the gift of faith to those who have repented of their sins. True repentance is always followed by faith in Jesus. The grace of God is sovereign. He is merciful to His elect and He hardens the others. God is under no obligation to save any man. He has the right to give or to withhold His grace according to His will and pleasure. If any sinner is saved, it is because God chose him to be saved. If any sinner is lost, it is because God wills it to be so. Many reject this doctrine, but the Word of God is clear about it (Rom 9:10-18). For us who by God’s grace are saved, we bow and worship Him!

*There is no partiality with God.

Partiality or favoritism is defined as the habit of preferring one person over another according to your own personal likings. The price for favoritism means that you discriminate and reject people you dislike, seeing them as inferior. Favoritism is sin and produces division in the church. Men tend to judge others by their outward appearance. If a man is rich and handsome, or a woman is beautiful, people tend to be attracted by them. Favoritism happens because we do not see man’s true character hidden in the heart. But God, who alone sees the heart, is never deceived by appearances. When we read that ‘there is no partiality with God’ it means that God will not ignore or bend His law or change His standard for anyone. He is faithful to His Law. God’s standard is Jesus!!!! This is good news to the believers and bad news to the unbelievers! This is God’s Word: “The LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe” (Deut 10:17). “He is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor; For they are all the work of His hands” (Job 34:19). “God shows personal favoritism to no man” (Gal 2:6). God does not have favorites among rich or poor, masters or slave (Eph 6:5-9; James 2:1-6)

“These things also belong to the wise: It is not good to show partiality in judgment. He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,” him the people will curse; Nations will abhor him. But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them” (PV 24:23-25). The child of God is wise. Like God, he will not be bribed to acquit the wicked but will rebuke him. In this way the wise man is blessed.

For example, King Saul was a handsome man who looked like royalty. But God rejected him. Judas looked like a faithful disciple, but he was a traitor. We cannot see ‘the heart’ of man. Only God sees it. Therefore, we need to depend on the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We do not evaluate a man based on his outward appearance or level of popularity. Like God, we should not discriminate or show partiality to men. We should not have ‘personal friends’ in the church. We must treat all people kindly as they are all God’s creation. The only people we get close to are not the ones that ‘we like’ in the natural, but the ones God recommends. To know them, you need to pray. Christian friendships should not be based on being from the same tribe, same social status, same level of wealth or education. All close friendships should be approved by the Holy Spirit. It means that you should not enter a relationship based on an impulse. You cannot ‘fall in love at first sight’. “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (PV 12:26). Many have ignored this command and got hurt in the church.

God judges all men by the amount of light they have, by the level of understanding they have about Him. God judges the Jews or the religious people according to their knowledge of God’s Word. God judges the non-religious people according to their conscience. “For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel” (Rom 2:11-16).

Initially, Peter argues with Jesus, just like in the past. That is why the vision had to be repeated three times. Eventually, Peter obeyed and went to visit Cornelius with an open heart. When Peter saw that the Holy Spirit came on Cornelius and his people, he was amazed. He said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Ac 10:34, 35).

*God always prepares His servants before He saves or uses them.

God prepared both Peter and Cornelius for their encounter. Peter still had some Jewish prejudices. A prejudice is a preconceived judgment, an unfair opinion or feelings about others made with only a partial knowledge about them. Prejudice discriminates and hurts others. God delivered Peter from his prejudice against the Gentiles. In the past, Peter surely observed that Jesus did not show favoritism among men. Even His enemies acknowledged that saying: “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth” (Lk 20:21). Peter saw Jesus rebuking the religious rulers but accepting Samaritans, prostitutes and tax collectors who believed in Him. Now, Peter must learn to behave like his Master. This was a difficult lesson for Peter. It is hard for us to understand how much the Jews disliked the non-Jews. Thru that vision of unclean animals, Jesus delivers Peter from all his prejudices against the Gentiles. By God’s law, Peter was forbidden to socialize or to do business with the Gentiles. God is showing him now that he is not under that law anymore. He should not call any man impure whom God calls pure. In Christ, we are one! “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

Even before Cornelius became born again, the grace of God was working in his life preparing the way for his salvation in Christ. The prayers of Cornelius and his gifts to the poor were accepted by God. Here we see the sovereignty of God preparing the sinner for salvation. Cornelius was seeking God with all his heart. He had a limited knowledge of the true God. Cornelius believed that Jehovah God is the only true God. He also believed that God is pleased with faith and rewards them who seek Him (Heb 11:6). He expressed his faith in God thru praying like the Jews and helping the needy. He is not saved but he is seeking God. The angel acknowledged both his faith and his generosity to the poor confirming that God has accepted them as ‘a memorial’. God rewards Cornelius by giving him a greater revelation unto salvation. God sends Peter to him to preach the Gospel. Here we see that Cornelius was not a religious hypocrite or a moralist who wanted to impress people. He was no seeking for fame among the Jews. Moralists are proud, they trust their own righteousness or works, but they always reject Jesus. Cornelius was not a proud religious man.  He was a genuine seeker of God. His prayers and gifts to the poor were given from his heart, willingly and faithfully. Cornelius was not saved by works. Like any sinner who became a saint, he was saved by grace and thru faith. When Peter preached Christ to him, he immediately believed the truth, and surrendered to Jesus. The Holy Spirit came on him to confirm the conversion.

Cornelius is a man awaken by the Holy Spirit. He is seeking God. He was fasting and praying regularly. The Jews prayed three times a day like Daniel (Dan 6:10). The Romans worshipped many gods. But Cornelius became a worshipper of the only God, Jehovah. He has repented from his idolatry. He is not yet saved but he is anxious for his soul. He knows he is a sinner. He wants to repent. Anxiety does not save a man but it is a sign that the soul is seeking for God, for eternal life. If any man who has no anxiety about the state of his soul, that man is going to hell. Selah! Cornelius is trying to obey the law of the Jews. He does not know that the law cannot save. The law only convicts a man of sin. The law makes man guilty. The law can only tell a man that he is lawbreaker. “Therefore, by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:20). The law is a teacher directing the sinner to Christ. The law cannot save but trying to obey the law will produce a peculiar frustration that eventually becomes ‘a teacher, a tutor’, who directs us to Christ and His saving faith. “Before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore, the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Gal 3:23-25).

God prepares the other believers. Peter came to the house of Cornelius and met a great number of people. This is the work of the Holy Spirit preparing their hearts to believe in Jesus. Peter preached Jesus. Even before he finished his sermon, the Holy Spirit came on the people. They started praying in tongues and praising God. This was like a second Pentecost but this time, it was for the Gentile. This event surprised Peter and his Jewish friends. But they could not argue with God’s work. The believers were baptized. Peter stayed in the house of Cornelius for few days explaining further who Jesus is. He later came back to Jerusalem. The Jewish believers were angry with him, who did he go to the Gentiles. But after Peter explained everything, they believed and said: “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Ac 11:18).

Repentance and faith are twins, but they are not exactly the same. Repentance from sin is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a turning around from sin to God. Repentance leads to conversion and to living faith in Christ. It is a gift ‘granted’ by God to His elect. Any sinner who does not receive this gift of repentance remains hardened in his sin. Later Paul said: “testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ac 20:21).

*Prayer and helping the needy are ‘a memorial before God’. God will remember you!  

A memorial is an event, a celebration that keeps the memory alive after the person has died. Partaking in the Holy Communion is a Memorial to honor Jesus. Cornelius honored God by praying and caring for the poor. His good deeds were acknowledged by heaven. They are called ‘a memorial before God’. Thru the angel God said that He will answer his prayers and reward his gifts to the poor. Just the way the Holy Communion is a memorial for us to remember Jesus, so the helps to the poor are a memorial for Jesus to remember us!

One of the offerings commanded by the Law in the Old Testament was the grain offering. This is an offering without blood. It is a symbol of the life of Jesus on earth before the Cross. He was like a grain of wheat in a field of tares. Jesus is the grain crushed and made into flour. This is God’s law: “When anyone offers a grain offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it. He shall bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense. And the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord. The rest of the grain offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. It is most holy of the offerings to the Lord made by fire” (Lev 2:1-3). Thru this offering God confirms that the life of Jesus as a Man on earth was totally pleasing to Him. The oil represents the anointing of the Holy Spirit on Jesus as Man on earth. The Frankincense is a symbol of worship. The offering of flour, with oil and frankincense on top, is a memorial offering made by fire. Jesus served and worshipped God the Father with all His heart, until His last breath.

In other words, Cornelius gave gifts to the poor as a memorial before God. He was telling God: remember me! Selah!

Hannah’s prayers and vow are a form of memorial for God to remember her: “And she was in bitterness of soul and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.” (1 Sam 1:10, 11)

The thief was trusted in Jesus while on the Cross, prayed a memorial prayer. He had nothing to give Jesus except his heart. He rebuked the other thief who was insulting Jesus. He prayed: “Lord, remember me…” Jesus accepted this prayer and saved him (Lk 23:40-43).

This is the lesson: For Christ’ sake, the child of God prays, intercedes for others, and does good deeds to help the poor. These gifts to the poor are pleasing to God who will remember the worshipper. We too, must do the same. We help the needy for the sake of Christ, not for fame or men’s applause. We do it for the glory of God. Doing good ‘in secret’ is rewarded openly by God. “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matt 6:1-4).

*God blesses His generous children in a particular way  

In both the Old and the New Testament, prayer, praising God and providing to the needy are seen as spiritual offerings. God blesses the generous worshipper with divine health, supernatural provision, strength, supernatural protection, favor with men and His intimate fellowship.

“Blessed is he who considers the poor; The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed” (Ps 41:1-3). “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself” (PV 11:25). “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given” (PV 19:17).   

“Continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality” (Rom 12:12,13).

“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6).

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal 6:9)

“Indeed, I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18).

“For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister… Therefore, by Him (Christ) let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb 6:10; 13:15, 16).  

*God blesses the preaching of His Word! Peter uses the keys of the Kingdom and opens three doors for salvation!

Cornelius got converted and baptized with the Holy Spirit when Peter was preaching the Gospel. His conversion and Baptism with the Holy Spirit happened almost at the same time. This is a good lesson: If there is living faith, conversion and the baptism of the Holy Spirit can happen at the same time. There is no need to wait to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Both Peter and Cornelius learned that the Gentiles could come to Jesus directly, by faith. They do not have to pass thru the Jewish religion. The church is not ‘a branch’ of the synagogue. Jesus died, rose again, and sent the Holy Spirit to make a new creation called the church, His Bride and Body. In this new creation, both Jew and Gentile can become members, by faith in Jesus Christ. 

Keys are made to open doors who are closed or to close open doors in case of danger. When Peter received the revelation from God the Father that Jesus is the Christ, he received a personal promise. Jesus told him that he will use the Keys of the Kingdom. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:18, 19). This promise applies to all believers, but Peter has the honor to be the first one to use these keys in a special way in the early church.

Before ascending to heaven, the resurrected Christ told His apostles: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Ac 1:8). According to this Word, Jesus gave Peter three keys of privilege, power, and authority, to be the first witness to open the door of salvation to the Jews (Acts 2), to the Samaritans (Acts 8) and to the Gentiles (Acts 10). God chose Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles (Gal 1:15, 16). But in the encounter with Cornelius, we see Peter using the keys of the Kingdom to open the door to the Gentiles. In all three circumstances the Holy Spirit came to confirm the open door to heaven by baptizing the believers with the Holy Spirit.

What is a Key of God’s Kingdom? The key is God’s Word, the preaching of the Gospel. God does not use angels to preach His Word because no angel has ever been redeemed. God uses men to preach His Word because in Christ men have been saved. “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom 10:13-15). Cornelius was God’s elect, but he still needed to hear the Gospel, for the door to the Kingdom to open for him. Cornelius was not there to argue. He was there to listen. He who has the key is in charge! In Samaria, Philip was preaching God’s Word and experienced miracles. But when Peter arrived and prayed the Holy Spirit came on the people. Peter used the same Key of the Kingdom to shut the door to the false prophet Simon the sorcerer. Later, when Peter preached to Cornelius, the door opened even before the end of the sermon. Cornelius is God’s elect, but he still needs to hear the Gospel. He is a wonderful example of a sinner seeking Jesus outside the established church. The Bible says that ‘none seek after God’ (Rom 3:11). Therefore, is any man is seeking after God, it means that God is working in his heart already, He will eventually find God, as His reward (Heb 11:6). God never disappoints true seekers after Him. “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer 29:13).

Finally, we see that Peter teaches Cornelius and Cornelius teaches Peter. Meeting Cornelius changed Peter. This encounter is a milestone for Peter. He has learned a new lesson about the power of the Blood of Jesus. The uniqueness of Christianity is the grace of God. Cornelius’ faith challenges Peter and Peter grows in grace. Peter was too much a Jew. He thought that if a Gentile wants to become a Christian he should pass thru the Jewish tradition. He did not imagine that God can save a Gentile directly without passing thru the religious traditions. Observe the weakness of the law and the power of grace to make godly relationships! The law could command Peter to go and preach. But only grace could change Peter’s heart and make him friends with a former enemy. Religion can change your behavior but only the Gospel can change your heart. Grace is amazing. The Gospel does something what the law or religion cannot do. From now on, Peter and Cornelius see each other as brothers for eternity. They start to like one another. They become friends for life! Oh, the blood of Jesus! Worship the Lord!


“Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (PV 31:10-12)

This is our testimony: My husband and I are married for 43 years. All glory to God! One of our greatest achievements is trust in God and in one another. It is easier to trust in God. It is much more difficult to trust in one another. A good marriage foundation is made of hard work. Work comes first. Pleasure is the fruit. Successful marriage is one of the greatest blessings given to men on earth. For both marriage and ministry, we need trust!

“Who is she coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? (SS 8:5). Trust to a relationship is like oxygen to the body. Without trust the relationship will suffocate and die. Here we see this couple coming out from the wilderness. The wilderness is a place of death. There is no water, no flowers and no colors. It stands for the world which is full of trials and temptations. This couple has endured many things in the desert. But they stayed together and they are coming out of it together. The Bride is ‘leaning’ upon her Beloved! This is a position of trust. The Lover is stronger than her. She needs his help. She trusts him to help her. They walk together, trusting each other. The wilderness experience was difficult and painful but it failed to separate the two of them. Divorce died in the heat of the desert of life. They are still together carrying a testimony of loving trust and resurrection power.

Trust is a fighter and a survivor! Trust in God and in one another is not easy to achieve. But it is vital for the success of any relationship. Trust is defined as the unquestioning reliance on the character and strength of another. It is the confident expectation of hope; the assurance that the future of the relationship will be better than the present. Trust gives a feeling of security. Trust is built having faith in the Word of God and from past experiences you had together. When you trust your husband you believe that he will be sexually faithful in the marriage, understand your deepest needs and help you fulfil them. That is why mature trust is always connected with deep understanding and with total satisfaction at all levels, spiritual and physical. Trust is a royal crown to a successful marriage.

Once trust is broken, it is very hard to regain. Trust must be earned. It takes hard work and patience to re-build trust. The first reason for broken trust is money. You both need to build trust in the way you handle finances. If you cannot trust your spouse with your money, you will not be able to trust him (or her) with other things. The second reason is adultery. The opposite of trust is anxiety and doubt. These feelings appear when you think that your spouse exploits you and does not have your best interests at heart.

How do you build trust? By first of all putting all your trust in God and His Word! Out of that faith you can invest your trust in one another. To build trust you need good communication and understanding. Learn how to say ‘yes’ and how to say ‘no’. Do not always say ‘yes’ just to avoid arguments. Be true to your conscience, your feelings and desires. Share your vision for life with your husband. Do not sacrifice your dreams for the sake of ‘peace’. You need to listen to the other’s perspective. Put yourself in ‘his shoes’. Try to understand his fears and pains. Help the other in his weaknesses. The desire to help will build trust. Pray that your marriage will grow, spiritually and emotionally. A stagnant relationship becomes a place where the weeds of doubt will grow. Building your marriage together creates excitement and trust. Try to do something new together, travel together; serve God together! Make new memories together. Have new things to talk about. Don’t overstretch the relationship. Do not provoke one another to jealousy. Don’t keep secrets. Be open and vulnerable with each other. Keeping secrets takes a lot of energy and destroys trust. If you are secretive you will become tired and sad. Be gentle and wise with each other. Each one has a different level of maturity. There are seasons in each relationship. Keep your eyes on Jesus as you grow together! Finally, remember that these are just guidelines. Building loving trust takes a life time. Trust is risky but very rewarding! May God help you to build a happy home! In Jesus’ name, amen!

(Love from Malia! Notes from my diary, 2017. In the picture, my husband, Richmond Sisan Leigh and I, about 2017).



“The older women likewise, should be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things… They should teach the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Tit 2:3-5)

At 65, I am what the Bible calls ‘an older woman’. I am a wife, a mother or three and a grandmother of seven. I am a woman of God, a pastor. My husband is also a man of God and a pastor. We are married for 45 years. To be a pastor’s wife is not just a title, but my privilege, my ministry, the gift of God! According to the Word of God, I am my husband’s ‘helpmeet’ (Gen 2:18). A helper must be close to the one he helps. I have tried to keep close to my husband, spiritually in particular. It pains me when he quotes a Bible verse or teaches me something new, and I am totally ignorant of that subject. I challenge myself to study the Word of God so that when my husband needs somebody to talk to about the Bible, I am ‘current’ with it.

I have learned many things about subjects that I do not like in particular. Because my husband is a Nigerian, I know much about the current affairs in Nigeria. I am not a politician, but I need to know these things, if they are good or bad. Ignorance has never helped anybody. To listen when my husband talks I need to be informed about the subject.

I need to know my husband’s plans, his vision for the ministry, his dreams and God’s purpose for his life. I need to pray for those. I need to grow as he grows. We are not competing one against each other. But we must complement each other. To complement my husband I need to grow too. As the vision for our lives and ministry increases with time, so we must grow with it. To be left behind spiritually, to be a passive wife, it is sin. If I am lazy or careless with our relationship, and I walk too slowly behind him with nothing new to add to our marriage, that sin is almost like spiritual adultery. My husband will be tempted to be worried, angry, disappointed and bitter against me, his wife, helper and friend. As a wife, I should not be found to be too fast and lead my husband. I should also not be found to be too slow and leave him alone.

Marriage is two people learning to be one. Each one of us must grow in grace towards God and towards one another. I should not take his love for granted. I should be watchful for any virus of disappointment towards me that I sense in my husband. I must be filled with the Holy Spirit so that I will help him be the man God wants him to be. I should cherish his choice of me to be his wife. Like King Solomon, he could have married a thousand other women who are better than me, but he decided to marry me, for better and for worst. I stand in awe of God for the privilege to be called his only wife. In Nigeria with ask: ‘Na small thin be this?’ Of course the answer is no! ‘Na big thin!”

We both work hard at making our marriage a success. It is not easy to be successfully married. Success does not come with time. You need to pray and study the Bible. We both are very serious in applying the Word of God daily to our lives. No one is perfect but as people and as a couple, we aim for perfection in Christ! Many people look up to us. Our victory is theirs too! We plant good seeds of love, caring, forgiveness and we harvest hundredfold of the same! The hard work is bringing a greater than expected harvest of peace, joy, wisdom and ministry to those who call us parents in Christ. The Bible says so and I conform it: Love is stronger than failure! Love has won the battle!

Dear daughters. may these words challenge and inspire you! God loves you! God loves your marriages! God loves your children! Glory be to God!

(In the picture, my husband, Pastor Richmond Leigh, and I. I wrote this letter in 2019. Since then, my husband has gone to heaven. By God’s grace, I continue with our ministry, as the senior pastor of Father’s House Bible Church, Warri/ Effurun/Nigeria. People come and people go, but the principles of marriage found in the Bible are eternal. To God be all the glory!)