INSIDE THE HEARTS
OF BIBLE WOMEN

8 ~ True to the End
(Priscilla)

(based on Acts 18 & other chapters; Romans 16:3-4; I Corinthians 16:19; II Timothy 4:9)





Part 1 ~ The Price of Searching
        Priscilla stood at the dock checking the belongings she had managed to get out of her house before fleeing her beloved Rome.  

        Why was all this happening?  Just for once why couldn't those orthodox Jews leave the Christian Jews alone?  They didn't in
Jerusalem and they didn't in Rome.  It seemed as though they were following them around just to harass them.  

        Claudius Caesar finally just ordered all Jews out of Rome, no matter what kind they were.  They could take their dispute somewhere
else.  

         "Oh, Priscilla, why did you have to become a Christian?  Look what it has done to our family?  You're leaving us and we may never
see you again."  [1]

 "Don't worry, Mother.  We will come back some day.  It will blow over.  The Jews will quit bothering us, and then everything will be back to
normal."  

         "But what about the beautiful home you are leaving behind?  Your civic organizations?  Your friends you've known all your life?"  

        "There are more important things in my life now.  Mansions in heaven.  The Christian organization.  And all my new eternal friends."  

         "There you go talking like those Christians again."  [2]

        "But that's what I am, Mother.  And how I long for you to be a Christian too.  I'll be praying for you, you know that.  I will ask God to
watch over you and take care of you.  I always have and always will.  I love you, Mother."  

        Priscilla kissed her mother goodbye at the dock.  She kissed her brothers and sisters goodbye.  She hugged many life-long friends.  
They all wept.  

        "We'll never see you again," her mother repeated as her daughter walked up the gang plank to the ship.  Priscilla turned and waved
goodbye.  

       "Yes you will, Mother!  I promise!" she called back.  

        The trip was sad.  The Priscus family after whom she had been named was very prominent back home.  She had many roots there.  
It was also there she first heard the Messiah had come after so many centuries of waiting.  The Jewish pilgrims brought the news from
Jerusalem at Pentecost time several years ago.  

        "Priscilla, how can you leave the religion of your family?" they had responded.  She hadn't been expecting that.  

         She had been baptized in imitation of the death and burial of the Christ and raised a resurrected saved one just as Jesus had been
raised a resurrected savior.  She had been elated.  She couldn't wait to tell the good news to the rest of her family and friends.  [3]

         She wasn't prepared for their reaction.  Most of them did not want to hear it.  They pressured her, taunted her, shamed her,
embarrassed her, made fun of her ~ everything possible to talk enough sense into her to go back to the religion of her family and friends.  

         She had found herself growing closer to the Christians than her own blood relatives.  In a sense she lost her old friends, relatives,
and now her home.  But in return, she gained eternal friends, a new family with a loving divine Father, and a glorious heavenly home.  

         The winds were with them on the trip, and it did not take them as long as they had expected.  Someone called out.  "Look ahead!  
It's Corinth!  We're almost there!"  

         Her heart beat a little faster.  She watched and thought and wondered.  How would she be accepted in this new city?  What would
her new neighbors be like?  She was used to living in the big city, and Corinth was nearly as populous as Rome's half million.  Maybe the
adjustment wouldn't be so bad.  She remembered Solomon's inspired wise words, "A man that has friends must show himself friendly."  

         The small group of traveling Christians found an inn where they spent the first night.  They were well accepted, being the Roman
citizens that they were.  But when they bowed their heads to thank an invisible God for their food, right there in public, everyone thought
they might bear watching.  [4]

        Finally the new families in Corinth became settled in their own homes.  Aquila, Priscilla's husband, returned to his production job.  
He was a master tent maker.  He was so much more proficient now than when they had first married while he was just an apprentice.  
People talked when she married Aquila, since she had come from a noble Roman family and his was relatively unknown.  

        But every time she said his name, she was reassured that what she saw in his life was good, for it meant "eagle".    

        He may be lower in society than some thought he should be, but to her he soared far above the masses in his devotion to God.  It
disturbed her that people so often said her name before his.  For although he was a rather quiet and reserved person, he was strong and
had great vision.  [5]

        On their first Sunday in Corinth, Priscilla sent word among the others that they were welcome to worship in her home.  Since Sunday
was a regular work day, they had to continue on their jobs until evening.  But then they came.  

        "I'm so glad you could make it," she greeted at the door.  Everyone received the same greeting, and some received a warm
embrace.  

        Then they all sat down and sang praises to the newly-come savior of the world.  They discussed different words of the Lord that
various people had heard of him saying while on earth.  Because there as yet was no written record of Jesus' life on earth, some were
given a special gift of prophecy by God so they could know his will for them.  And they all prayed.  

        Finally the evening culminated in passing around the unleavened bread and the wine which were to be taken on the weekly
anniversary of Jesus' resurrection until the end of time.  They must not forget the sacrifice - his body, his blood.  They must never forget.  

        When they were not speaking directly of the Lord's life and teachings, they were seeing how things were going with everyone at
home and work and encouraging them.  If someone needed a little extra food that week, it was told and the others made arrangements to
share what they had.  It was this way with everything.  The Christians were like that.  The meetings usually went quite late.  Often to
midnight.  [6]

        Time passed.  The church in Corinth grew slowly but gradually.  The occult was very popular in this city.  People often gathered to
try to call back the dead, or foretell the future, or sell good-luck charms.  Priscilla often tried to reason with the women when they met at
the water fountains or over other work.  

        "Don't you realize you can't reach the spirit world the way these witches claim you can?" she'd ask.  

        "Well, I don't see why not."  

        "The world of good spirits is heaven.  Yes, you can go there, but it has to be God's way, through prayer, the Word, and the Spirit."  
       You can call it heaven or whatever name you like.  It's all the same.  And we'll all go there whichever way works for us."  That was the
common reply she received.  

        "By the way, my husband found some land he wants to buy.  So now all we have to do is wait until our stars are right so the
transaction will be successful.  And of course, on that day, I'm going to give him my good-luck charm.  It's never failed me.  I don't know
what I'd do without it."  

        Priscilla always sighed at such talk.  And it was so common that no one ever thought to challenge the logic.  They'd always thought
that way it seemed.  

        Didn't they know it was folly to try to detect the future, when all is in God's hands anyway?  And couldn't they understand that their
luck changed, not because of an object they possessed, but by the Christ who wanted to possess them?  Could she ever get through to
them?  Often she could not, but sometimes she did.  She never gave up trying.  [7]

      Weeks, months, years passed.  Had it actually been twenty years since the church began in Jerusalem?  Things were progressing
well in Corinth.  But they wished they could reach the people better.  Priscilla felt as though she'd talked and explained and pleaded with
these people a thousand times each.  Usually they politely but indifferently listened to her.  She knew how far to go with each
conversation without making them angry and tuning them out.  It took time.  She was willing to give it.  

        Priscilla often wished she could have met Jesus face to face.  She thought about the opportunities she had passed up to go to the
Passover Feast at the Jerusalem Temple.  Her savior was there.  She could have seen him.  Would she have recognized and believed
him then?  She was positive she would have.  She treasured her consolation though ~ that someday she would indeed see him, and live
with him forever.  [8]

         As a second choice to seeing the savior, she often wished she could see one of the chosen twelve who had lived and worked with
him for over three years.  Now that, she knew, was possible.  Only two of them had died.  The rest were yet alive.  

        She and Aquila had relied for so many years on the words of people who had spoken directly to the apostles.  But she'd never seen
one of the apostles personally.  Yes, her congregation had people with special gifts of prophecy since not many had copies of Jesus'
words.  But it just wasn't the same.  If only one of the apostles would visit Corinth some time.  It would be such an encouragement to her,
and to the whole church.  Maybe it would even grow faster.  Often she prayed that this desire would be fulfilled.  

         Then word came.  

        "Paul is here!  Paul is here!"  

         "The apostle?"  

        "Yes, he's walking into town from the dock now."  

        The word spread fast among the Corinthian Christians.  As many as could stopped their work and ran to meet him.  Though most
had never seen him before, as soon as he identified himself, they embraced him and acted as though they had known him all their lives.  
But that's the way it was with the Christians.  Just one big family.  [9]

        Paul did not know how long he would be there, but thought the opportunities in such a large world trade center would be good.  He
was a tent maker and settled in the part of the city where the other tent makers lived.  He needed a place to stay.  Some said their homes
were too small.  Others didn't think their homes were good enough for an apostle.  Others thought it would make them too busy.  Priscilla
opened up her house to Paul; he was welcome to stay as long as he desired.  Silas, Timothy, and Luke, his companions, were welcome
too, of course.  

        Paul had many questions.  

         "Are there many believing Jews here?"  

         "Yes."  

        "How about Gentile converts?"  

        "We have both."  

        "Are you persecuted by anyone?"  

        "Well, the Gentiles pretty much leave us alone, but the unbelieving Jews just followed us from Rome and they still report false
accusations to the authorities trying to get us into trouble with them."  

        "When the Jewish sabbath comes, I will go to the synagogue to talk with them."  And so Paul did.  [10]

        It was near evening that day when Paul returned home.  Priscilla met him at the door with a cup of refreshing drink.  Though usually
appreciative of this thoughtfulness, this time he didn't seem to notice.  He sat down and put his bowed head in his hands.    

        "I did it."  

        Priscilla couldn't image what he had done that was so terrible.  "What did you do?"  

        "The Jews won't listen to me.  For years I have proved to them by their own scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah, the one they've
been looking for all these centuries.  But very few ever believed."  

        Priscilla was all too familiar with the validity of his statement.  So what did he finally say to them or do to them today?  She couldn't
imagine.  

        "That's it!  No more!  They do not want to hear the truth.  I can no longer waste my time with them."  

        She sat there quietly.  This was unnerving.  But she knew there were many people who did want to hear the truth, and he needed to
be using his precious time with them.  

        "I told the Jews I was going to leave them alone now ~ forever.  I would from now on go only to the Gentiles."  He took a deep breath
and stared out the window.  Priscilla waited in silence.  "I shook my cloak and left the synagogue.  I left them behind.  I never thought it
would come to that."  

        After another moment's silence, "We all do things we don't think we would," Priscilla assured.  "You can't keep spending your time
teaching people who just hate you more and would rather see you dead.  You'd be no benefit to the cause dead.  We need you alive,
Paul."  [11]

        It had been morning when Paul left the house to go to the synagogue.  The synagogue service had ended at noon.  When Paul
returned it was nearly sundown.  

         "Where have you been since that happened?" Aquila asked.  

        Paul's demeanor changed and he sat up straighter.  "I went next door to the house of Justus.  He gathered a fairly large number of
people there to hear about Jesus.  We baptized some of them.  Would you believe Crispus, the synagogue ruler, became a Christian
too?"  Paul smiled faintly.  

        Overjoyed, Aquila responded.  "Then your efforts were not in vain!  Truly did Jehovah say through the beloved prophet Isaiah, 'My
Word shall not return to me void'!"  [12]
                                         Part 3 ~ The Price of Sharing  

        Priscilla watched Paul closely.  She had a way of understanding that even the strongest of Christians had their moments of
discouragement.  He was, of course, pleased with what had happened.  But he should have shown more gratitude than that.  Surely Paul
knew how to shake the dust off his feet when people rejected him.  There had to be something else bothering him.  

        Paul's mind reverted back into himself.  He was either thinking or praying as he sat there so still, his head in his hands again.  The
couple sat quietly with him for some time.  Then he looked up at them.  

        "On the way home I happened to look toward a doorway where a man was standing with a knife.  I turned down another street to mix
in a crowd and lost him."  

        "Oh Paul, not again."  

        So that was it.  Paul had been through so many persecutions and beatings and stonings.  Sure, he had written other Christians that
he was proud to undergo such treatment for Jesus, but he never said it was easy.  And so the Jews had passed the word along that Paul
was headed in the direction of Corinth and they must have followed him here.  Why couldn't they ever leave him alone?  They prayed.  

        Then Priscilla urged, "Come, let us eat.  You will receive strength.  You need that.  Then you can sleep.  You have been through too
much for one day."  

        As he left the room, she watched him move through the doorway.  This was not at all the Paul she had heard about.  She had never
heard of him getting this discouraged.  What could she do?  What could she say?  She could keep praying.  [13]

        Alone in his room, Paul could not get the man in the doorway out of his mind.  Nor could he the Jews who had rejected his teachings
of Christ.  They all needed the love of Christ so much and couldn't yet see it.  Would they ever?  Maybe he should just quit preaching
completely.  His head spinned.  He didn't know what to do.  He prayed.  

        As the peaceful night embraced the tired Christian soldier, he drifted into a half-awake half-asleep state.  

        "Paul!"  

        He waited.  

        "Paul!"  

        He'd heard that voice before!  Many years ago!  He could never forget that voice!    

        "Oh yes, Lord!  I hear you!"  

        "Do not be afraid!"    

        "Oh Lord, I needed to hear those words."  

        "Keep on speaking, do not be silent."  

        "Lord, you know I want to teach them.  But those people are forever following me, forever trying to kill me.  Sometimes I just don't
know if I can keep going like this."  

        "I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you."  

        "Oh Lord, thank you.  Thank you."  

        "I have many people in this city."    

        "Many people?  The church is still fairly small here.  Does that mean many will come to Jesus if they are taught?  Surely that's it!  
Many people!"  [14]

        Then Paul drifted off to peaceful sleep.  

        Encouraged and knowing he had a place to stay, Paul continued on in Corinth for two and a half years.  Priscilla continued to lay
the ground work for him with her daily benevolent works done among the people she knew or heard about.  Whenever she helped people,
she would tell them that she wanted to show them the love of Jesus.  What marvelous love!  

        So Paul taught, Priscilla and the others encouraged, and the church actually grew.  They made such a good team.  

        One evening, "Go with me, Aquila."  

        Thinking that Paul wanted him to visit someone there in town, he stood up and replied, "Where to?"  

        "Ephesus."  Aquila sat back down.  

        "I've been praying about it a long time.  The church is well established here now.  You are well established in the faith.  Move to
Ephesus.  I will go along, help get the church started, then you and your wife can stay behind and strengthen it."  [15]

        So it was that Priscilla found herself moving.  Once again packing up.  Once again saying goodbye to loved ones.  Once again
getting on the ship and sailing across another strait to yet another country.  It had been Italy.  Then Greece.  And now the western edge
of Asia.  Rome, the seaport.  Corinth, the seaport.  Now Ephesus, the seaport.  At least each city had similar types of people in it.  She
had been around such people all her life and felt she understood them.  

        The first Lord's day in the new city came along quickly.  The church was begun in her home.  She didn't worry about the mess and
clutter.  She hadn't really had a chance to move everything in and get it straightened out the way she wanted it.  But more importantly, her
home was always the Lord's home and he needed it now.  Her possessions were his possessions; her time his time.  [16]

        Priscilla finally got settled in.  Then she ventured out to meet her new Ephesian neighbors.  As always through the years, she took
the necessary time to show God's love by her concern for their needs.  Each little deed of kindness was just another building stone to the
monument that was Priscilla's Christianity.  

       Paul took every opportunity he could to teach anyone who would listen to him.  And if no one came to him, he went to them.  He went
wherever there was a crowd.  And he was only too happy to meet and talk with them individually.  Days and weeks passed.  He knew he
wouldn't be there as long as he had at Corinth.  Occasionally he talked with Aquila and Priscilla at home in the evenings about where he'd
go next.  

        Paul's last few weeks with them went fast ~ too fast.  Priscilla had to mend his clothes and make a new cloak for him.  She preserved
as much food for his journey as possible.  Sometimes she cried - when no one was looking.  

        Would they ever see Paul again?   Why were they always saying goodbye to those they loved?  Would he be all right?  He lived in
personal danger so much of the time.  The unbelieving Jews just followed him around, never giving him any peace, never leaving him
alone.    

         Finally the day came that they had to say goodbye.  Their dear friend Paul left.    

        He left behind an emptiness.  Some said, "Paul no longer is here.  The preacher we have now is boring compared with Paul.  I can't
work all day and then go to worship at night anyway."  

        Priscilla must have encouraged them to remain faithful.  "We are not worshipping our preacher; he did not die for us.  We must
remain true to Jesus."  [17]

        Well, that was not so easy to do in Ephesus, the rich trade center of the world and center of Diana worship.  Money and sex.  That
seemed to be all that was on people's minds these days.  

        She talked with the women whenever she could.  They called her a prude.  

        "Our bodies are the very temple of God the creator.  No true God would want us to sacrifice our bodies to just any man who came to
the temple."  

        The women usually laughed and told her it was impossible to have a flesh-and-blood temple.  And besides, she didn't understand
what true love was.  What a prude!  

        "But true love is showing kindness to others.  Our bodies are to be used to do good deeds for people.  We are the only hands and
feet God has in this world."  

        They'd answer, "Well, we're doing good deeds for the men," or some other such nonsense.  Priscilla would then just leave them
alone.  

        However, occasionally she would run across someone who had been feeling that things should be the way Priscilla explained.  And
those Priscilla guided into Christianity.  [18]

        Once a traveling preacher came through and held a religious meeting telling of the Messiah to come.  Priscilla and Aquila went to
hear him.  

        "Please come to our home.  Stay with us.  We feel we have much in common with you.  There is so much to talk about concerning
this Messiah you say will come some day."  

        As soon as Apollos arrived at their home, Priscilla fixed a big meal and made him comfortable.  They showed him where his room
would be and where he could freshen up.  Then, in this privacy, she and her husband told them the good news.  

        "The Messiah did come!  He was Jesus!"  They explained everything Jesus had done on earth ~ all the miracles to prove he was
divine ~ and how his entire life had fulfilled one ancient Jewish prophecy after another.  Apollos was thrilled!  So he too was baptized into
the death, burial, and resurrection of his savior.  

        In the years that followed, it was always a source of great personal joy to Priscilla whenever she received news of Apollos' work after
he met and joined up with their mutual friend Paul.  [19]

        Priscilla always did her teaching at home or in small groups.  Aquila had to be on the job all day and had little time to teach.  She
had a lot of time during the day.  Aquila had his time to teach at the larger group gatherings of the church in the evenings when he wasn't
at work.  So God's system meant even distribution of time to teach for them both.  

        Some of the women back in Corinth had wanted to teach at the larger assemblies.  Paul finally wrote and reminded them that God's
plan called for the women to have more time to study at home than the men, and the men to be able to take advantage of the larger
public gatherings for their own study and teaching.  

         Some of the women objected.  Priscilla tried to calm their fears.  They were not being dominated or overlooked.  But private and
public teaching both would make the women in charge of nearly everything and the men neglected.  Her example of helping Apollos in
private proved that God's system of even distribution of teaching time did not hold the women back at all.  [20]

        Not too long after, Paul returned to Ephesus.  Priscilla and Aquila were so glad to see him, as were the other Christians.  Every time
they saw him they wondered if this would be the last time.  He was glad to see that the church had grown some while he was gone.  

       He decided to set up a Christian school.  So for the following two years, Paul taught daily in the school of Tyrannus.  Of course he
continued to have dinner at Priscilla's home; he did enjoy her cooking and talking over old times with them.  There were future plans too.  

       While here in Ephesus, Paul wrote back to the church at Corinth where they had lived previously, trying to set straight some
misunderstandings.  Aquila and Priscilla asked Paul to send their Christian brothers and sisters their love, which of course he did.  
Priscilla missed her old friends there so very much.  

         One day a billow of smoke came from a street well known for its occult booths and bookstores.  Priscilla ran over to see what the
problem was.  

         She laughed.  She cried.  She was overwhelmed.  Could she believe her eyes?  All those women she'd talked to about the occult.  
All the teachings of Paul and the others, and his miracles.  These people had finally "seen the light!"  They were actually burning their
occult books, and in public!  They wanted everyone to know they now believed in Jesus as the only way to the spirit world of the living ~
heaven. [21]
                                         Part 3 ~ The Price of Salvation  

      The two years passed quickly.  Things were going so well, Paul decided it was time to leave and work his way toward Jerusalem.  He
had collected funds to help the poor saints there.  Priscilla had sold all her jewelry to do her part.  Some told her she didn't have to be a
fanatic about her giving.  But she knew this loss was nothing but gain.  Was there anything she was not willing to do for others?  Paul was
now nearly ready to leave, and sent several of his traveling companions on ahead.  

        Before he was able to leave, it happened.  

        The silversmiths all got together, blamed Paul for ruining their idol business, grabbed two of his companions as examples, and
rushed them into the amphitheater.  Luckily it was not an organized crowd, and no one knew for sure what to do to their hostages.  Paul
heard the noise and started running toward the theater to try to rescue his friends.  [22]

        Priscilla ran after him out the door begging.  "Don't go!  They're mad!  They won't listen to you!"  

        Aquila had to get in front of him and bodily force him back toward the house.  In a matter of minutes, there was a loud banging at the
door.  A messenger from some of the city officials who were sympathetic to Paul was looking for him.    

      "Stay away or you'll be murdered!"  

        But as soon as Aquila left the room for a moment, Paul rushed out the door.  Priscilla ran after him.  "Please, Paul.  They'll kill you!  
You are the one they really want!"  

        "Go back, Priscilla," he called out to her.  "You can't help!"  

        "I can get you to go back into hiding at our house.  Look!  They see you!  They're coming after you!  Put this cloak on and go back
with me!  This is just a trap to get you!  Don't you see that?  We need you alive!  We need you!"  

        Paul paused, stared a moment, and his muscles lessened their grip.  She was right, really.  He groaned inwardly as Priscilla put the
cloak over him.  She gently but anxiously nudged at him to go on ahead of her.  

        She could hear him as they hurried through the shadows:  "Listen to them!  Listen!"  The echo of what met their ears swept across
the city.  "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!  Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"  Tears came to his eyes.  [23]

        They got back to the house, Aquila bolted the door, and the household knelt in prayer.  They prayed and begged and pleaded for
two eternal hours.  

        "Lord, we would give up our lives for you.  But if it is your will, spare Gaius and ArisTarchus at this time.  If not, give them faith and
courage in the hour of their departure from this life and welcome them through your gates with honor."  

        But, even with the shutters closed, they could still hear from the distance the terrible mocking chant.  "Great is Diana of the
Ephesians!"  

        Over and over and over.  Then....silence.  What had happened?  

        They waited.  Finally a peculiar knock on the door - a pre-arranged signal among the Christians since their growing unpopularity
among the gentiles.  They opened the door.  There stood the two hostages.  Their lives had been spared!  

        "You must not delay your leaving Corinth another hour," Priscilla urged Paul and his friends.  

        "I'll show you the best way out of the city," Aquila instructed.  

        "No.  I just can't go yet," Paul objected to their amazement.  "Just until tonight.  Then I will go.  Send for the church first.  I want to
see them all once more.  They're going to need reassurance and prayers for the days ahead."  

        So once again the church assembled in Priscilla's home.  Paul encouraged them, prayed with them, then slipped undetected out of
the city.  [24]

        Aquila and Priscilla stayed on another year.  But matters grew worse.  Merchants often refused to sell food to Priscilla.  The town's
women gossiped about her odd faith, and it seemed they only talked to her to get more fuel for their gossip.  Word had it that these
Christians were cannibals, for they ate the body and blood of their leader.  Some said they practiced incest because the "brothers and
sisters" in their group were often married to each other.  Others said they were atheists because they only believed in one invisible God.  
Some refused to buy a tent from Aquila if they learned he was a Christian.  

        Priscilla often had to remind herself of Jesus' words,   

      "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets."  And "Blessed are you when
people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your
reward in heaven."  

        News arrived from Rome that Claudius Caesar had died, and that Nero had become Caesar.  He was only 17 and seemed harmless
enough.  Perhaps now they could return at last to their homeland and be at peace.  

        Besides, it was common knowledge that the rebel Christians met in Priscilla's home, and this was becoming dangerous to them all.  
Perhaps if they left, the meeting place could be changed and kept secret.  [25]

        Priscilla packed what she could once more.  She said goodbye to the brave Christians in Ephesus, and they sailed back to her
homeland.  It had been so long.    

        Their homecoming to Rome was wonderful.  They saw family and friends they hadn't seen in nearly six years.  As usual, Priscilla
opened up her home to anyone who wanted to worship the Christ with their household.  She never tired of talking of Jesus.  And she and
Aquila had numerous Bible studies in their home for individual families.  

        The church thrived in Rome, even in the household of Caesar.  Paul was so proud of them that when he wrote to the Romans, he
said their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world.  He sent special greetings, first to Priscilla and Aquila, to whom he was still
grateful for risking their own lives to save his.  He greeted numerous others in his letter which this couple had been instrumental in
converting to Christianity.  

        The freedom they felt to worship as they chose was a welcomed blessing for which Priscilla thanked God daily.  But it was not to
last.  Tension began growing here too.  Young Nero, still but a teenager, often acted irrationally.  He judged people out of whim rather
than fact.  He gave to the rich and took from the poor.  His crooked politics, if you could even call it politics, was impossible to respect.  

        Paul became aware of this and warned the Roman Christians in his letter that all power was from God and whoever resisted that
power resisted God.  No matter how crazy, no matter how unfair, they were to give Nero whatever taxes he assessed.  And they were to
respect and honor Nero as God's instrument for destroying the evil and strengthening the good.  Honor a mad man?  Yes.  [26]

        Priscilla had prepared a special meal for some new converts that fateful evening.  She was so thankful to God for blessing the
church here.  But as they ate, it seemed to be growing dark too early for that time of year.  

        "That's unusual," Priscilla mused as she walked to a window.  She suddenly turned around horrified.  "It's fire!  The whole city's on
fire!!!"  

        She hadn't finished before the others ran to the windows.  Distant screams!  Wooden beams crashing!  Dogs barking!  They
grabbed what provisions they could, including their copy of Paul's precious letter to the Roman church.  They rushed out to try to save
their lives.  But where was Priscilla?  Not too far behind, she came rushing out of the house clutching a bottle of ointment ~ for those who
were hurt.  

        Aquila couldn't help but think even as they ran down the street, "That's my wife.  Always thinking of others first."  

        They ran to as many homes as they could to warn people.  At the moment, they all felt like straw puppets in their emperor's devilish
hands.  

         How they ever escaped, they never quite knew, except for God's grace.  The tumultuous city was silent now.  But black.  They
looked over at it from a nearby hill.  They set up camp until they could decide what to do.  

        Priscilla put together whatever food she had managed to bring with her.  She was exhausted and scratched and a little burned
herself.  But rather than think of herself, she took a few bites of food to as many people as she could.  She applied ointment on wounds
and burns as long as it lasted.  

She quietly told each one that Jesus would have done the same for them.  She nursed everyone she could, and listened as they told of
losing loved ones in the fire.  Often she wept with them.  She told them she would pray for them, and they saw her kneel.  Other Christians
knelt, and they too silently prayed to their invisible God.  They had lost everything, but actually thanked God for their blessings!  What
people these Christians were!  The others wondered.  [27]

         But look!  There was a strange mob gathering at the end of the city near the palace.  Though ragged and dirty themselves, they
started down the hill from the outskirts shouting.  

        "Where are they?  Where are those Christians?  It's their fault!"  

        "They started the fire!"  

        "They burned our city!"  

        "They destroyed our homes and killed our families!"  

        Shocked, some people along the way stopped them.  "What do you mean?  I heard it was Nero who started the fire."  

        "No, it's those atheists who don't believe in Caesar as our great immortal god."  

       "They did it to spite him.  They hate him."  

        "They want their Jesus to be king."  

        The praying Christians heard the commotion, and caught enough of the words to realize they were being falsely accused once
again.  They ran in all directions.  The mob caught some of them and hauled them off toward the palace.  

        "What about the catacombs?  Some of the brothers are buried there," Priscilla remembered.  "Let's try there."  

         Aquila led their group to the spiny caves and safety.  Miraculously, no one had caught them.  There they collapsed in unbearable
exhaustion, most not even able to weep any more.  

        "Dear Lord, take our burden, as we take yours.  Yours is so much lighter.  We will defend you always; please defend us now.  
Please...."  [28]

        Priscilla and the others hid as long as they could.  But they were too well known to ever return to the city undetected.  They had to
escape somehow to another city.  Priscilla was not very young any more.  And the fire had taken its toll on her aging body.  

        They managed to slip out one night when there was no moon.  Luckily they had enough money on them for passage.  They were
able to pay the captain of a ship who was not yet aware that it was no longer legal to be a Christian in Rome.  

         The ship was headed for Ephesus.  Yes, Ephesus was a dangerous place for Christians to live now too.  But these days there
seemed no where they could go and be at peace with the people.  

        Once again Priscilla settled down in a new home.  Their funds had depleted through their many moves and her assistance to poorer
Christians.  Her home was small and plain now.  But it was adequate for everything they needed.  Immediately they looked up the church
there and brought them up to date on what was happening.  Then Priscilla went back to work, teaching people, helping people, praying
with people.  

        Now and then they received word of their old friend, Paul.  It seemed so long ago that he had spent that five years in their home.  

        One day there was a knock on her door, and Priscilla went to it expecting one of her neighbors.  Instead she was shocked and
delighted at the same time.  

        "Timothy!  Where in the world have you come from?  Is Paul with you?  How long will you be here?"  

        "Could I come in first?" he teased her.  

        "Oh, yes, of course.  Let me get you something fresh to drink.  I'll send for Aquila at work.  Then you must tell us all about
everything."  

        "Paul is not with me.  He was falsely accused by the Jews when he went back to Jerusalem, and they finally succeeded in making the
charges stick.  He was put in jail.  He appealed to Caesar, so now he is in Rome."  

        "Oh, that dear old man.  He has taught so many people and didn't care how they treated him as long as they'd listen to him just
once."  

        "You know he'd always wanted to teach Caesar."  

        Priscilla smiled.  "Yes, nothing and no one ever scared that man.  I guess Nero doesn't either."  

        "He will get his chance," Timothy assured.  He will indeed teach Nero Caesar.  But he will pay for it with his life.  [29]

        Timothy settled down in Ephesus.  He liked it there and found much work to do there.  Then one day he came over to the house with
a letter from Paul.  Priscilla and her husband sat down quietly yet anxiously as they listened to Timothy read.  They smiled when the part
was read where Paul sent his love.  

         Then Paul said goodbye.  No, it was not the closing of a letter.  It was the closing of his life.  His last goodbye.  He knew his death at
the hands of Nero was eminent.  

         Priscilla wept quietly as Timothy read.  Paul said he would be executed soon.  He had been deserted by the Christians once before
in Rome.  Yet God delivered him from being thrown to the lions.  The old apostle knew this time he would not escape.  He had mixed
feelings.  He did not want to leave so many people untaught.  But also he longed to be at rest with his Lord.  

        She envisioned him sitting in the dark prison writing his farewells.  Her heart was etched with something special he said.  "I have
fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."  

         She thought back to the days of their youth.  It had been over twenty-five years ago that they first met Paul, this relatively unknown
apostle.  They had all worked together, prayed together, laughed together, built the church together.  In and out of their house, traveling
together, letters to each other.  He was so strong and powerful in those early days.  Now he was old and tired, his body broken.  

         "He'll get to rest now," she whispered as she lay her greying head on her husband's shoulders.  She thought of him with his spirit
leaving his old, worn out body, and exchanging it for a new wonderful spiritual body.  

         "That new body will be giant enough to hold the greatness of his soul."  Then she pictured him rushing at last to Jesus, the King of
Kings.  

        "He must be so glad he'll finally be seeing his Lord again after so long," she whispered with a smile.  Some day Paul and all of us will
be together again in heaven ~ just like the old days.  But better.  Much, much better."  

        She paused, then looked into her husband's dim eyes.  "Aquila, it IS all worth it, isn't it?" [30]
                                               THOUGHT QUESTIONS
                                            Part 1 ~ The Price of Sharing

1.        The decision to become a Christian is not a light one.  It means dedicating one's life to a cause, no matter what the future may hold (1
Corinthians 15:58).  Tell about the first time you recall deciding to search for the truth for yourself and dedicate your life to Christ.

2.        Read Philippians 1:27 and tell about a time when you guessed someone was a Christian by their behavior.  How did it encourage or discourage
your search for what they seemed to have?

3.        There are many philosophies in the world on how to become a born-again Christian - all the way from a simple decision in one's heart, to
walking up the steps of a cathedral on one's knees with a prayer at each step.  Really, though, whose "philosophy" is the only one that counts?  Read
Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3,4 and 1 Peter 3:21.  What is your conclusion?  Is it a popular conclusion?  Why?

4.        Being born means someone automatically enters a family.  Being born again as a Christian means a person automatically enters God's family by a
form of spiritual adoption (Ephesians 1:5; 5:8,23).  Tell about a time you felt closer to a Christian sister than you did a member of your earthly family.

5.        The fact that even Paul mentioned Priscilla's name before her husband's indicates she was probably more outgoing than him, or perhaps was
converted first, or some similar circumstance.  Yet we can be assured she honored her husband (Ephesians 5:22-25,31-33).  What can a wife do to
honor a husband who is slower in accepting various precepts of Christianity than her?

6.        The early Christians did these things in their times of worship on the first day of the week, the weekly anniversary of Jesus' resurrection:  Acts
20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:24-26; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Colossians 4:16; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; 3:14,15; Hebrews 10:24,25.  In our search for true worship (John
4:23,24), we find this too has been complicated in modern times.  Tell of ways people have tried to "spice up" what they consider boring worship and/or
left out some things as "unnecessary."  What do such variations do to God's pattern?

7.        Philosophies on religion grow out of men's minds - each adding to the confusion.  Most of it is due to zeal (sincerity) without knowledge
(Romans 10:2,3,17).  Look up in a Bible concordance all the verses listed under "astrologer," "bishop," "seal," "testament" and "saints."  Share some
belief you used to have, but after further Bible investigation found it was not accurate.  Tell about your inner turmoil in discovering you were on a shaky
spiritual bridge so to speak, and how you pulled yourself to solid ground.  After looking up the above in the concordance, do you believe it is possible for
people to believe the Bible alike?  How?

8.        Our search for Truth is motivated by what desire (1 Thesalonians 4:16,17)?  Share smaller causes or projects you have had that were difficult,
but were completed by shear determination to see the end result.

9.        We do not have access to the apostles today to keep us on the right track to heaven.  How can we substitute having them here in person (Luke
1:1-4; John 20:30,31; Revelation 22:18,19)?  What subjects in the Bible would you like to learn more about?  Why?  How can you go about it?

10.        In religious discussions, we all have a tendency to tell the other person what they believe, thus confusing things even more (Acts 24:5,6,12).  
As a result, more time is spent denying things than explaining what we ourselves believe.  What can we do to avoid this?

11.        Recall a time when you believed something that was not really taught in the Bible, and refused to alter your belief even after seeing you were
misled.  We don't like to admit we are wrong.  How can we "save face" when we admit a misunderstanding (1 Timothy 1:12-16)?

12.        When Crispus, the Jewish synagogue ruler, became a Christian, what do you think he was treated like by lifetime friends with whom he ceased
to worship?  What must the new Christians quickly do in order to not let these old friends pressure them from reneging on the Truth (Hebrews
10:22-26)?  Changing friends is not easy.  If you have ever done so, tell how you did it.

GOOD WORK:  Write a note to someone you know who seems to have many questions about God but not the answers.  This person is likely to not
even be attending church anywhere due to confusion.  Tell them you have noticed this searching in their life and are praying for them.

                                            Part 2 ~ The Price of Sharing

13.        Sometimes when we try to share God's truth with people, they become angry and assume we are their enemy.  Share some Psalms or other
Bible passages that have encouraged you in such times.

14.        Even the strongest Christian has been known to get discouraged and nearly give up.  Tell of such an instance you know of (no names please),
and how some weaker people misunderstood and gave up on their own faith.  Who actually were the weaker people using to determine their faith (2
Corinthians 10:12)?

15.        Apprenticeship works in Christianity too.  Moses used the system, and Jesus and Paul and many others (1 Corinthians 11:1).  As a fairly new
Christian, how can a person find and apprentice yourself to an older Christian?

16.        Name some ways you can use your home in which to teach God's truths and principles of love.  Be imaginative and try to think of something in
which your unique interests could be utilized in this way (Romans 12:6-8).

17.        When we teach others, their loyalties may unintentionally become misguided.  Read 1 Corinthians 1:12,13.  What are other ways we can explain
to people that our religious opinions do not matter, only God's?  What can we do to have readily available to  us God's answers to their questions?

18.        There are some people we try to teach who are not logical because they seem afraid of the truth or just don't like the truth.  We need to be
patient, remain friends, and watch for a time when their wrong beliefs are making their circumstances worse.  Acts 26:14 gives one example.  Facing
death is another such time.  What are some other times of doubt?

19.        Priscilla went to hear a very sincere preacher who taught the truth up to the point he had learned it.  She and her husband invited him to their
home and taught him the rest of the truths for which he was obviously searching.  He later became a great preacher (Acts 18:24-28).  We can listen to
other preachers on the radio or TV and listen for points where they are very close to the truth.  Name some common points of faith that are close to the
truth but not quite there, and discuss the steps you could take to show someone to a fullness of that truth.

20.        If we have a Bible study group of men and women in our home, how can we decide what size group ceases to be private and becomes public?  
This calls for judgment.  If you had a home study, its advantages being more opportunity for discussion and revealing more personal matters, how many
people could you include without its losing its special effectiveness?

21.        Often it takes years of patient teaching by word and example before someone decides to accept only the dynamic simplicity of first-century
Christianity (2 Timothy 4:2; Isaiah 28:9,10).  Tell about someone you know who was taught many years before finally becoming a Christian.

GOOD WORK:  With a list of radio and TV preachers in your area, divide up their names among your group and begin a correspondence


                                          Part 3 ~ The Price of Salvation

22.        We are to give in order to help the needy.  But there are those who want to keep everything for themselves, regardless of who it hurts.  Read
Philippians 3:8 and tell of a personal experience or one you heard of where people were helped from your wealth or poverty.  Share any struggles you
may have had with it.  Have you ever missed a meal to help someone?  Tell about it.

23.        Were you ever surrounded by a group you tried to teach and they "ganged up on you" with false religious accusations (friends, stranger, even
family members)?  How did you feel in front of them?  What did you want to do?  How can we apply  1 Peter 2:23 the next time this occurs?

24.        Even as we must rearm ourselves daily with God's word, we must empty ourselves of our burdens and transform them to praise daily in our
prayers (Colosians 1:9).  Have you ever prayed with others over the phone or in a home over a special problem?  How did it make you feel?  What was
the outcome?

25.        Just as a coach puts obstacles in front of runners to strengthen them, so God allows us to run into obstacles to our salvation.  And just as the
coach cheers those who face the obstacles, overcome them, and run even better and faster; so too God cheers us when we overcome and become
stronger Christians as a result.  We can complain about the obstacles or rejoice (Philippians 2:14-16).  Name an obstacle to your Christianity that you
have complained about and decide how you can rejoice and grow from it.

26.        Although many people today are persecuted for their Christianity, people in America are not.  However, there are laws that some have a
tendency to not obey because they seem unfair or unnecessary.  Tell about any laws you disagree with and try to see some good in it.  Also reconcile
these laws with Galatians 5:22,23.

27.        Do you know people who have been in pain but continue to tend the needs of others?  How does this help you forget your own difficulties
(Matthew 25:35,36,40)?

28.        Jesus said if we'd take his burden (teaching the way of salvation), he would take ours, for his is much lighter (Matthew 11:28-30).  Tell of a
time your burdens got so unbearably heavy you handed them over to Jesus, then got a brave smile and spread the love of God instead.

29.        Although we live in peace today on American soil, decades of peace have been known to be shattered to only a memory in a matter of weeks.  
The best time to make a decision is before the decision must be made.  Discuss how you would like to react if you were told to renounce God or be
tortured or executed.  How can you prepare yourself to be able to make such a decision beforehand in case it should ever happen to you?  How might
Paul's attitude (Romans 8:17, 35-39) help?  How do you think making such a determination now can help you with your Christian dedication today?

30.        A Christian lives for Christ so she may leave this earth to go live with Christ (Philippians 1:20-24; Revelation 14:13).  Our reward will be
indescribably glorious (Revelation 7:9-17).  Describe how you think you will feel when at last, at the end of your Christian life, you are released from
this body and rush to the arms of Jesus.

GOOD WORK:  Write a note to an elderly Christian, possibly in a nursing home or hospital.  Tell them how you have admired their dedication and how
marvelous you know it will be when at last they get to live with Jesus forever in heaven.