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Archive for September, 2016

Verses 32-34: “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”

Filmation, producer of animated and live action Saturday morning shows heavily in the 1970’s, had an animated version of Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. Here, Tarzan was shown as more intelligent and literate than the movies preceding this series; he was also voiced by the wonderful voice of the actor, Robert Ridgely. In the very first episode, “Tarzan and the City of Gold”, Tarzan was taken captive by warriors from Zandor, the militaristic City of Gold. He was made to fight in a gladiatorial bout for the cruel queen Nemone against a warrior named Phobeg. Phobeg, a mighty warrior of a man, never understood why Tarzan didn’t kill him when Tarzan would get the upper hand. He, like most Zandorians, didn’t trust outsiders. Even when he tried to cheat and kill Tarzan, Tarzan bested him and refused to kill him. Phobeg asked Tarzan why he spared him. Tarzan let him know that his life was not Tarzan’s to take or anyone else’s. In doing so, Phobeg becomes an ally to Tarzan, realizing that there are kind, brave people in the outside world as well. Phobeg smuggles Tarzan and an acquaintance who had been captured, a woman named Thea, out of the prison. He later provides them with a disguise and a chariot to get them out of the city.

Here was the jailer, probably a tough, hardened man with a tough job. He was used to handling, to shackling, and to being in charge of prisoners of all sorts, but here he stood amazed by what he seen God do with the earthquake, as well as Paul and Silas not escaping. Once he accepted Jesus into his life, his relief at his life being spared (physically and spiritually) translated to kindness toward his two charges. He washed their wounds, brought them into his house, and set food before them. He began to exhibit the characteristics that we as Christians should exhibit today. Even when he came to them, in the next verses, and told them that they were freed by the magistrates, he probably did it with a kinder, better manner.

Something to think about.

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Verses 28-31: “But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.””

“Window of Opportunity” was an episode of the TV series Stargate SG-1 which contained an interesting and humorous premise. After the team returns from a mission on a planet experiencing strong solar and geomagnetic activity, only COL Jack O’Neill and Teal’c seem to be aware that they are replaying the same 10 hour timespan of the day (which began at breakfast). The archeologist Daniel Jackson is convinced that if they can solve the translation of some runes on an altar that is connected to the cause of the time loop, they can find the answer to this puzzle. Because the time loop resets everyone except O’Neill and Teal’c back to their memories at the start of the day, it’s up to these two to help Jackson determine the translation. Along the way, after a theoretical comment from Jackson explaining that a time loop would be interesting in that nothing you do matters if the loop resets, the two engage in some humorous outrageous behavior to break the monotony of repeating the day (the funniest being these two playing golf, and teeing off their shots through the Stargate!) Eventually, they solve the language and reset things back to normal.

But think about it: how fruitless it would be to realize no matter what you said or what you did, that it didn’t make any difference? That none of your actions counted for anything? Some defeatists have that attitude, and that can be downright depressing to think that way. It’s a wonderful moment here when the jailer, after the earthquake that freed all the prisoners and made him think they had escaped, was moments from taking his own life for “dereliction of duty”, that Paul cries out that they are all present and accounted for. Unlike others we have met in the book of Acts, who didn’t “get it”, this jailer does! He immediately brings Paul and Silas out and asks THE most important question in the world: “what must I do to be saved?”

And Paul and Silas give him the answer that counts: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

The most important question in the world, and the only correct answer to it!

Something to think about.

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Verses 22-24: “Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”

The court of public opinion wasn’t just something that started in this century or even last century; it has been around for a long time. Here we have the people who brought charges against Paul and Silas joined by a worked-up mob. It doesn’t take long for word to spread, especially when it has to do with people that you don’t want around. The magistrates hastily had punishment laid out on Paul and Silas. No investigation of the charges was made; quick “justice” to appease the mob was done. But God wasn’t through with Paul and Silas yet.

Today, we see that mob mentality take place. Many times I have read online news articles, and then scanned the posts of commenters from vox populi, “the voice of the people”. Overwhelmingly, the opinions are uninformed and bigoted, lacking knowledge of what truly happened and making judgments only on what was reported on (where have you gone, Joe Friday?) In this day and age when information travels almost at the speed of lightning, we must be careful not to give in to the anger of the moment. Either an investigation turns up information that changes the story…or it confirms what was already assumed. However, at least, in this country, all citizens should get the benefit of due process. Justice may not always be served, but it should be striven for.

Remember though, the justice that we sinners deserve is the cross. Thank Jesus He gave out mercy instead.

Something to think about.

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Verse 19: “But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.”

Al Capone was the vicious mob leader and gangster during the Prohibition era in Chicago. He had friends on both sides of the law, and for a while, no one thought he would be arrested. For all of the crimes he was responsible for (murder, bootlegging, and other violence), the charge that he was arrested and later convicted on was…income tax evasion. Seems like such a minor charge, but it was one that the federal authorities were able to get a conviction on. Once in jail, Capone’s influence began to wane.

When Paul cast out the prophetic demon from the young girl, her masters who owned her (and profited by her “gift”) were none too happy. But this wasn’t the charge that they had Paul and Silas arrested for. They complained to the magistrates that Paul and Silas were “teaching customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” It was the implication of “civil disorder” that was frowned upon in Roman society that more than likely snowballed the efforts to get Paul and Silas thrown in jail. You see, Paul and Silas preaching the Gospel, what they actually were doing, wasn’t the charge. It was “causing civil disorder”…that and probably some discrimination against them, since they were Jews. It doesn’t seem like anything more than a minor charge, but this was all it took to get them thrown into prison. We’ll see more in the next couple of verses of how these two were “railroaded” without due process.

Just a cautionary devotion on the fact that the devil cheats, and uses all sorts of weapons, major and minor, to attack Christians.

More to come.

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Verses 14-15: “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple form 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.”

A study in contrast here. According to the Holman New Testament Commentary on Acts, page 271, “the first convert in Europe was a Jewish worshiper of God, a Gentile who worshiped with the Jewish women by the river. Lydia was not only a Gentile and a proselyte, but also a businesswoman.” Lydia was a seller of purple. My footnotes in my Holman Bible state that royal purple cloth had important uses in the Roman Empire, and she was probably a prominent woman in the society there. She worshiped with the Jewish women there, and God opened her heart to the Gospel through the words Paul spoke. After she and her household were baptized, she invited the missionaries to stay at her house. Through all of what I’ve read and learned, I’m struck by Lydia’s quiet, sincere, and humble conversion. We know from later Scripture that she played a role in supporting Paul’s mission through the Philippian church.

Now, I said contrast to start this devotion. In the next few verses, we also see a “certain slave girl with a spirit of divination”. She, too, recognized Paul and his group as “servants of the Most High God.” However, it was not her saying this, but that demon possessing her (remember, even the demons knew who Jesus was, and they trembled). Paul cast out that spirit, not wanting the distraction probably. We’ll see the consequences of this in the next devotion.

Two women: one who was sincere and earnest in coming to know God, and one who was nothing more than a pawn of a demon possession and used by her masters to make them money. We live in a society today where “out loud and proud” seems to clamor for attention. But don’t let all the shouting and ruckus distract you from what you should hear…the gospel of Christ.

Have a blessed day in the Lord!

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Verse 9: “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.””

I had a good friend who was a pastor of a local Baptist church. This pastor was invited by another church, out of state, to come be their pastor. My good friend, who was a true man of God, prayed about it, and he asked me and several others to pray for him as well, for he wasn’t certain which way God was leading him. I told him I would pray for him. On the day that he and his wife were to travel and meet with this other church, I managed to get him a letter I had composed; I wanted him to read this letter on the road. In the letter, I told my friend how much I appreciated him as a pastor and as my friend. I also encouraged him that, no matter which way God led, he needed to follow the Lord’s will for his life. I knew my friend wanted to be in God’s will above all else. I told him I wouldn’t pray for him to be out of God’s will, but to know His will, beyond all matter of doubt. To end the letter, however, I did ask my good friend what side of the road he wanted me to put the “burning bushes” on, so he would take that as a sign to stay! Now, I meant that humorously, and I knew my pastor friend would take it humorously as well…the “burning bush” being the sign that God showed Moses, to demonstrate His power and His authority, and so that Moses would know it was indeed the Lord talking to him.

Paul and Silas were in the midst of the second missionary journey. They had intended to go to certain areas, but as the Scripture passage records, the Holy Spirit prevented them from going to certain areas. Then Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia imploring him to come there. Again, it is God guiding Paul, directing his paths, keeping him from going certain ways and supernaturally guiding him to where He wanted him. Paul was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading: the Bible doesn’t say how the Spirit prevented him…maybe it was another vision, maybe it was what we might call a circumstance that was God-ordained to detour Paul (I’ve heard those called “God-incidences”). Whatever form they took, Paul knew that God was giving him the signs of where He wanted him.

Like I kidded with my friend above, you need to be on the lookout for the signs God puts in your path to guide you. It might not be signs during a physical journey, but a direction in your spiritual path that God wants you to take heed of. We “follow the map” through prayer, through Bible study, and through seeking God’s direction daily in our lives. If you do these things, it becomes easy for God to send us those signs. We won’t be like the poor clueless folks in Bill Engvall’s comedy routine, “Here’s your sign!”

Have a blessed day in the Lord!

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