LYDIA - "The Lord Opened Her Heart."
Mother’s Day Sunday, May 9, 2021
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
“The Lord opened her heart.”
(Acts 16: 14-15)
Today I honor my mother, Estelle Floyd, who passed to Heaven only seven months ago. I honor the mothers in our church as well as those who are spiritual mothers. God has given to you spiritual mothers a promise of “more children” (Isa. 54:1).
The message today is dedicated to Diana Terlep, who like Lydia is a business woman and has desired to cradle the church on her property, near her home. Many years ago, the Lord spoke to me that “He wanted a church like the one at Philippi.” Paul later referred to these members as his “joy and crown” (Phil. 4:1).
The church at Philippi is the only church I am aware of in the New Testament that is used as a model for other churches to follow. When Anne Peyton led prayer here on April 30, she honored Eastgate Church by saying, this church is a standard for other churches. That is a high compliment, but no less than the charge the Lord gave to me when he told me “He wanted a church like the one at Philippi.” I can promise you that I have fallen far below that commission many times, but I can also promise you that I have never had any other motive, but to be led by the Holy Spirit.
Just as the church at Philippi was birthed through miracles of God, so have we been birthed.
Lydia was a businesswoman, a “seller of purple,” and probably one of the most successful and influential women of Philippi. But more than that, she was a seeker after truth, thus a seeker after God. She became Europe’s first convert.
Through the close to ten years, I have known Diana Terlep, I have come to respect her as not only as a woman whose heart is to seek the Lord, but I am now witnessing her business skills to organize and administrate the construction of our new church building in complete harmony with her husband, Tom Terlep, contractor and engineer.
God did not give man dominion until he had woman standing beside him which is clear evidence of her exalted place in the Creation. In the union of Adan and Eve, all marriages become co-existent with Creation, fully demonstrating that moral laws and laws of nature co-exist.
It seems the Lord’s charge to me that He wanted a church like the one at Philippi has found it’s home in the cradle of the arms of another woman with the spirit and heart of Lydia.
As we have assembled together all across this nation this past week to pray for our nation, we must also pray for righteousness to be restored to womanhood. “A woman is the carrier of righteousness. If the woman becomes unrighteous, a nation will fall.” Eve carried a heavy responsibility. Woman as mothers and wives still bear the responsibility for the righteousness of a nation.
A woman is the symbol of the church and the nation of Israel. A woman is the universal mother of the world. I pray for the women of the world to live in the presence of God with purity of heart and with simple mindedness. That is a choice, a decision and great courage.
“LYDIA HEARD US”
(Acts 16:14, 40)
Acts 16:13-15: On the Sabbath day, we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayers were customarily made. We sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 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. 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.
It was of interest to me that Lydia was the name of a kingdom in the region in Asia Minor from 1200 BC to 546 BC. The kingdom of Lydia no longer existed in Paul’s day. However, there were five large cities in the Lydian-province: Ephesus, Smyrna, Sardis, Philadelphia and Thyatira. These five churches are named in the Book of Revelation.
The Lydian market, as it was called, enjoyed for generations a wide and valuable trade throughout the Greco-Roman world. The woman, Lydia was so influential, that her personal name identified her with the Lydian province.
It was of interest to me that an inscription of the Dyers’ Guild was discovered in ruins at Thyatira. Today, there is still a worshipful Christian group of dyers, called the Dyers’ Guild.
In a culture and age where women were treated as collateral with no rights, she will ever stand among the immortal women of the bible. She was not only a successful business woman, but the first convert to Christianity, “who the LORD opened her heart.” Her conversion to Christianity probably came somewhere between 50 and 60 A.D.
Again, I can identify Diana Terlep coming to me and requesting that the Church be built on her and Tom’s property. Lydia spoke thus to Paul: “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” I can identify with Paul as He would have sought the Lord for His direction for the baby church to be established at Lydia’s home. The “key” was “have you judged me faithful?” This would not be Paul and Silas’ judgment; but the sovereignty of God’s divine appointment of a divine relationship through the providence of God.
Through a dream, the Lord sent Tom and Diana Terlep to Eastgate Church. The Lord directed her to Texas many years ago to fulfill a Kingdom assignment for this region. Their divine appointment to this church at this location is established as the Lord has found both Tom and Diana faithful.
Twenty-one centuries have passed since Lydia walked the streets of Philippi, yet she is still remembered by us today. She could never have imagined that her fame and name would always be read and saluted by Christians. She was obviously a woman of determination, foresight, generosity and a personal magnetism which drew people to her. She would have walked the streets of Philippi wearing her beautiful purple, blue and red garments without intimidation by those who chose more somber clothing. It takes a very secure woman to be able to own her own appearance and wardrobe choices without the critiquing and jealousy of others. Cultures try to control apparel styles especially for women. As a Christian, I dress to bring honor to the Lord. He spoke to me one time, “Carolyn, I don’t want you to look frumpy.” As far as I am concerned, that gives me total liberty to dress in garments that bring glory and honor to God.
We are told in verse 13, this first little group of worshipers were praying on the river bank at Philippi. This would be “down by the river praying.” That river was the Gangites (modern Angista). On the Sabbath came Paul and his companion, Silas. They had come from Troas after having received a vision to go over into Macedonia. We can be totally assured the meeting on the river bank was no happenstance meeting. Paul was sent by God for a great purpose because they were seeking the LORD for truth. It does not take a large company for God to respond to our cry. It takes a pure heart seeking only the Lord and His Kingdom purposes. Though small in number, they were strong in the Spirit of God.
Luke, the writer of Acts, who may have been with Paul in Philippi, tells us that “Lydia heard us.” Lydia and the other women’s soul thirst for God, for the living God (Psa. 42:2). This Gentile woman, Lydia, was a Gentile, but she was worshiping the one God of the Jews.
They listened to Paul as he related his story of the new gospel proclaimed in Jerusalem by Jesus Christ and now spreading westward into Macedonia. Lydia listened. The Lord opened her heart and “she attended to the things which were spoken of Paul.” The Holy Spirit met her thirsty heart and filled her that day. To have received this “great grace of life,” she would have had a fervent spirit, with deep humility and indomitable courage to receive this crucified Savior who was raised from the dead.
It is the Lord Who touches people’s hearts, not merely the words of His servants. We speak, and the Holy Spirit bears witness. Christ is the one building his church even though He does it through his servants.
Soon afterward, she was baptized and then her household was baptized. She did not weigh how it would affect her business if she accepted this faith. She fell in love with Jesus Christ of Nazareth and became faithful to fulfill the charge of the church in Philippi.
Apparently, Luke, and probably Timothy as well as Paul and Silas were also guests of Lydia. In Acts 16:16, says they were on their way to the place of prayer and there they encountered a slave girl with a spirit of divination (Python spirit). So, this tells us they stayed at Lydia’s home for many days ministering to the people. The slave girl is the second recorded convert. Paul restored her to her right-mind. The owners of the slave girl seized Paul and Silas and dragged them before the city officials to stand before the Roman judges. The judges stripped them of their robes and ordered them beaten with rods. They were then thrown into an inner cell with their feet bound in chains.
We can imagine that group of down by the river-side pray-ers were praying in agreement with Paul and Silas who were praying and singing praises to God in their prison cell; when a violent earthquake rocked the foundations of the prison. All the cell doors flew open and every man’s chains were loosened. The jailer and his whole family were saved and baptized. They were stripped of their clothes and beaten with rods on their bare backs.
At daybreak the magistrates sent their police officers to the jail with orders to “release those men.” Paul refused to leave quietly. Paul, a Roman citizen demanded that his rights had been violated. He asked to be escorted out in respect due him as a Roman Citizen. The magistrates agreed.
On leaving the prison, Paul and Silas went straight to Lydia’s house where they met with the new believers. What a glorious meeting they would have had that night praising God for opening prison doors. After speaking words of encouragement to them, the missionary team departed from the city.
That door of Lydia’s house would always be open now to Christians, no matter how great their persecutions. Because her home was a haven for Christians and because she became a great spiritual leader who helped Paul spread the Christian gospel, it would never die on these new shores.
About ten-years later, Paul wrote his Epistle to the Philippians whose members were the nucleus of the church Lydia had helped to organize. He said, “I thank God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3-5).
When Paul wrote to the Philippians, the small band of Christians would now have grown into a functioning church for he addressed them:
Phil 1:1: Paul and Timothy, to the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.
Philippians 4:8: Brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
The church at Philippi began with a vision of the night when Paul heard the Macedonian call. Lydia’s home was chosen and foreordained by God to establish this beautiful fellowship which even in the 20th century the Lord still holds as the standard bearer for the church which He desires on earth.
Elders and Deacons were established as the church came under the government of God’s Kingdom. Lydia picked up that first torch from Paul at Philippi and carried it steadfastly. She wasn’t looking to start a church. She didn’t even know what a church was. She was looking for God. Her testimony still stands, just as the Spirit of the Church at Philippi still lives in the heart of God.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians points us to heaven. He teaches us that our true life is not in this world, but it is in the heavenly calling, the heavenly realm. We are given Heaven on earth through Christ, the heavenly Man. He left heaven to redeem us and reveal the heart of God, the heart of a servant. He gave us new birth that we would be heavenly lights in this dark world as witnesses of Christ’s power to change our lives.
I salute and honor all the women of this church. I bless you who have given birth and raised your children. I bless you who have given birth and nurtured spiritual children. I bless you who have been faithful to God’s call for this church through the many years in which the LORD has supernaturally held us together. I bless Diana Terlep who like Lydia welcomed us into her property that we may build a church home for the family of God of whom He sends for us to nurture and show the ways of Christ.
Carolyn Sissom, Pastor
Eastgate Ministries Church
Scripture from K.J.V. – I entered into the labors of Edith Deen, All The Women of the Bible; Comments and conclusions are my own and not meant to reflect the views of Edith Deen (1905-1994).