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)

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