Tuesday, September 22, 2015

An Annoying Girl (Acts 16:16-40, Psalm 143:8)

Ocean Grove Cathedral
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.
We got to go to the Tenth Avenue North concert in Ocean Grove.  It was really good.  The main musician told us how God doesn't live in Cathedrals (like the one in Ocean Grove).  He lives in the hearts of those who love Him.  Sidewalk Prophets were also there.  It was a really great time.  The Ocean Grove "Good Old Auditorium" is amazing with an organ that stretches all around the inside.

16 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.
Well, she was just trying to help...  sometimes "helping" isn't a good thing.  You can ask my husband.  The interesting thing is that the spirit must have been taunting the Apostles.  An evil spirit would definitely not be on the side of the Most High God.  Then there's the girl who was possessed.  She wasn't able to control herself.  That would be pretty scary for sure.  What a terrible thing to wake up to, the way people must've looked at her and treated her, like an outcast.  I can hear the whisper's of Mom's telling the kids to stay away from her.

But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour. 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.
Finally Paul couldn't take it anymore so he cast out the evil spirit.  I would think her masters would be happy, but nope they wanted her for their money.  Paul's face must've turned red and his cheeks puffed out when he finally got rid of the spirit.  Then there's the masters.  All they could think of was money and not the poor girl's health.  She may have been embarrassed to realize what she had done all this time.  I wish I could say we are much better about using people today.  But it's not true.  There's still human trafficking.  Young kids being sold as prostitutes for someone's income.  I should pray more for these kids.

20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” 
So the girl's owners went to the leaders and complained.  You notice they didn't say that they were using a possessed girl to earn money...  Just that they didn't like Paul and Silas' teaching.  Soooo... the whole city rose up in anger.  Don't you just hate when that happens?  It's amazing how these men who were using a girl suddenly became really really good Romans...  Yup.

22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Ok so we have another robe ripping event.  That sounds like a really bad day for Paul and Silas...  It just seems like when we stay in our safe places where everyone agrees with us, it becomes easy to get stupid doesn't it?  The leaders actually trusted these thieves.

So what did Paul and Silas do? Hide in a corner and eat rats?  Nope! They started singing hymns.  I love to sing Christian music.

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them

It reminded me of this verse:
8 Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.
(Psalms 143:8 NKJV)
And then...
26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed. 
Our God is awesome at unlocking doors.  Even in real life.  There was a man that sat on the other side of my cubicle at work.  One day he told us he had cancer.  The Lord prompted me to ask if I could pray for him.  He wasn't real pleased but then said, "Whatever, it might help."  When he came back to work, he thanked me for praying for him.  His cancer was gone.  It wasn't my mastery of prayer.  It was God's, "Yes."

So the prison guard was a bit worried when he woke up and the prison doors were open.  All their chains  were released and he had no way of explaining it.  
27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 
Romans were not kind to people who didn't follow their rules.

28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
So the prison guard started job hunting?  Nope!  He wanted the kind of faith Paul and Silas had so he asked how to be saved.

31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 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.

35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, “Let those men go.”

36 So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.”
Ok to be quite honest I would've run out, but Paul had a right.  Paul was Roman and Jewish.

38 And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. 39 Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.
So they went back to Lydia's house.  Wish I could hear what they all said.  And to think this all started by an annoying girl.  God can fix anything or anyone.

Heavenly Father,
As I read the story of Paul and Silas, I am reminded of Pastor Saeed, in a prison, in Iran.  Father, You are so awesome at turning terrible situations around.  I pray You will step in on his behalf and allow him to be free.  Please send the angels to help him out and tend to his needs.  I pray for those caught in human trafficking.  Please remove their chains and set them free as well.  

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

(Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV)

In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Here's a song from Sidewalk Prophets, The Words I would say (link)

(Acts 16:1-40 NKJV)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Reaching up, Reaching out, Reaching in ( Acts 16:1-15, 2 Chronicles 7:14)

This week we watched a Christian movie, "Behind the Mask."  This one is set in the Revolutionary War period, Benjamin Franklin is in it.  It has romance (clean) and good vs. evil choices. It's another good one.  It turns out, right now in America, Christian movies (faith based) are the most popular.  I never thought I'd see the day.  Our country is experiencing a faith lift : )

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
(2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV)
Things are looking right for a miracle, all over the world.

Acts Chapter 16:1-15

Timothy joins Paul and Silas
1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. 4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, 2 To Timothy, a true son in the faith:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
(1 Timothy 1:1-2 NKJV)
Paul loved Timothy and called him his son in the faith.   It's nice to see that Paul took time to encourage him.  Paul wrote 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy to him in his travels.  In these books he gave Timothy some wise advice on being a Pastor or Missionary.

6 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. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 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.” 10 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.
I know I'm on the wrong track when I listen to what I think is best and don't pray for the Holy Spirit to give me words to say.  The Holy Spirit has helped me stop arguing with my husband and also say the right things in other awkward situations at work.  He makes me sound so good!  One of my Pastors called it, "Intense Fellowship."  (hahaha) I believe we receive the Holy Spirit when we accept Jesus as our Savior.  There are lots of other opinions out there.  In my experience, He's usually most helpful when I ask Him to.

I really like Lydia, she was artistic like me, and sold purple linens.  That would make her a crafter with linen and dye.  She also opened her home to the apostles.  I always smile when I see her name in the Bible.

11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 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. 15 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.

Heavenly Father,
Thank You for the gifts and talents You've given us.  I believe You love to see us doing crafts, exercising, helping others, and using our time wisely.  We are faced with so many temptations.  I pray You will bring peace to those in the middle east who are struggling to survive.  Please be with leaders in Europe, guide them with wisdom with so many refugees.  I pray You will pour out Your love in Israel.  Joseph wrestled with You to become Israel a nation.

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

(Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV)

In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Here's a song from Tenth Avenue North, Where the healing begins (link)

We are looking forward to going to a concert with them next Saturday : ) in Ocean Grove, NJ.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Encourage and Strengthen each other (Acts 15 part 2, 1 Kings 19:11-12)

"God seeks to forgive and restore us"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

We got to see the new Christian movie, "War Room."  It's really good.  It's about being prayer warriors for our families and neighbors.  It reminded me of the story of Elijah and God's still small voice.  This DVD will be coming soon on Christianbook.com.

11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
(1 Kings 19:11-12 NKJV)
We also saw, "The Drop Box."  This  is a movie about a Pastor who took in unwanted babies.  People would wrap up babies and put them in a box that opened into the Pastor's home.  He saved many children.   Life is never perfect and neither are we.  But waiting to find love and marriage is a good idea.  

Back to the Book of Acts...

19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them:
to abstain from: 
  • food polluted by idols
    we need to avoid food someone else has worshipped... (God is a jealous God).
  • from sexual immorality
    it's important to keep our marriages and wait for a good spouse. 
  • from the meat of strangled animals
    sorry no more road kill for us... 
  • and from blood
    This is a very practical law.  Blood carries all sorts of diseases, so God definitely wanted His people to be safe with what they ate.  It's been in recent years that Aids, Hepatitis, Sepsis, and Mersa have been treatable.  The flip side is that Jesus' blood set us free to be His followers, our Shepherd loves His sheep.  Sometimes I read the Bible and just get amazed at how useful and relevant the it is.

21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 

23 With them they sent the following letter:

The apostles and elders, your brothers,

24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.

28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:
29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. [34] 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
Ok I might be a geek...  but it would be so cool to listen to what Judas and Silas said in our time period, at Church.  I like how God inspired verse 32- "Judas and Silas were prophets and encouraged and strengthened believers."  We could always use more encouragement right?  It's actually one of my spiritual gifts.  The meaning of my name, "Karen," is "Grace."  No one on earth could be more clumsy than me... So it must've been wishful thinking on someone's part...  

36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
This is a very real human disagreement.  It's encouraging to realize that Paul and Barnabas had disagreements and worked it out.  I like the human side in the Bible because I can relate to it.  Paul was in the zone of preaching and teaching.  And Barnabas wanted to help disciple John Mark.  Barnabas is always the encourager.  Peter and Paul were both drivers hoping to change the world for Jesus.  I can see several of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in this passage.

(Acts 15:1-41 NIV)

Here's a song from Josh Wilson, That was then, this is now (link) 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A heavy yoke (Acts 15:1-18, Ephesians 6:12, Proverbs 3:24, 1Timothy 5:18, Matt 11:28-30)

"He gives us rest for our souls"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

My husband and I celebrated our 23rd Anniversary last week.  He spoiled me with flowers : )  They are still beautiful.  We've had some great days, good days, and really bad days.  I think these Bible verses are good for us all.  Real life is full of challenges.  I'm also looking forward to seeing the movie, "War Room."  It's about being prayer warriors.  

18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages."
(1 Timothy 5:18 NKJV)
A yoke was a curved wooden collar that would be placed over the neck of oxen while they treaded grain.  If the oxen was muzzled it couldn't eat anything and the work was hard with no reward.  Jesus said, 
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
(Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV)
To me this is saying that when I feel stressed and like things are too hard, I need to stop and remember Jesus and allow Him to refresh my soul.  Sometimes I just focus on Jesus' name and find peace.  Also memorizing Bible verses helps me.

1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
So everything seems like it's going well.  Then the question of circumcision came up.  I can understand how the Pharisees would believe Christianity and Judaism can't be different.  There is only one God and if He wanted them to be circumcised as babies, new believers should go through it too.  But that's not what Jesus had in mind.
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
(Ephesians 6:12 NKJV)
Most of what we deal with isn't people that disagree;  it's against evil and darkness.   Satan would like to destroy people to deceive and destroy.  There's a battle in Heaven.  Angels fight demons and protect believers.  Jesus is at the throne praying for us.  I still think that is totally cool!  Most powerful person in the universe praying for us.
6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them:“Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.
We are saved by Jesus' grace and our faith, not by performing rituals.  It's not about how many people we lead to Christ.  It's about how many people Jesus wants to come to Him.  He is the gift we share.  He is the Savior and we are the servants.  I believe that's how God wants us to approach others.

12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

16 “‘After this I will return

and rebuild David’s fallen tent.

Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things’ —
18 things known from long ago.
And now we wait for Jesus' return.  I've been reading what the Jews for Jesus are saying.  God will never forget Israel.  They are His chosen.  He will include us too.  They are trying to map out the date of Messiah's return : ) No one knows the time of His coming.  We all hope it will be soon.

Heavenly Father,
Thank You for rest and peace when we stop trying so hard and just let You work.  You are so patient and wise.  I have so many thoughts in my mind, You see all and know all.  we know looking to You all is well.  I pray You will bring peace to those in the middle east who are struggling to survive.  I am so grateful for our country and I pray we will grow in righteousness and honor You.  Guide us with wisdom and expose the deeds of darkness as we elect our next president.  Father please help us all to pray hard, like a warrior.

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

(Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV)

In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Here's a song from Steven Curtis Chapman, "Warrior" (link)