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Paul and Silas

When morning came, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” And the jailer reported the message to Paul, saying, “The magistrates sent word to let you go; therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul replied, “They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they going to discharge us in secret? Certainly not! Let them come and take us out themselves.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens; so they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. After leaving the prison they went to Lydia’s home; and when they had seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters there, they departed. (Acts 16:35-40, NRSV)

Paul and Silas should not have been beaten publically before a trial. That was the law for Roman citizens. So when the morning came and they were back in their cells, the police came and said release them, but Paul was like, uhm no way dude! We were not given our rights as Roman citizens so they need to come and walk us out.

And after the officials apologized Paul and Silas went to the home of Lydia and encouraged the believers there before they left.

The picture here is the Basilica of Lydia. It is a beautiful church my wife and I have seen first hand. I stood on the bridge over the river where they claim Lydia and her family were baptized. It is a wonderful cross-shaped area for baptisms.

How do we encourage one another?

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Paul and Silas

One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities.When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay.He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God. (Acts 16:16-34, NRSV)

This is an interesting section of scripture because there is so much there.

But as I read it this time I was struck with visions of the movie Braveheart. Because it is all about the last line of William Wallace.

You see the movie Braveheart is about William Wallace who marries a young maiden and keeps it a secret because the king has reinstated “an old custom. Grant them prima noctes. First night, when any common girl inhabiting their lands is married, our nobles shall have sexual rights to her on the night of her wedding. If we can’t get them out, we breed them out. That should fetch just the kind of lords we want to Scotland, taxes or no taxes.” Longshanks said. King Edward I of England about Scotland where Wallace was. So Wallace married in secret but it was discovered and the nobleman of England in Wallace’s area came to “take” his right. Which set off Wallace and a battle ensued. Longshanks on his deathbed was waiting as Wallace was tortured at the end of the movie after his capture. And as Wallace was tortured Langshanks waited for Wallace to cry for mercy. But Wallace when he mustered the strength didn’t say mercy, he cried “Freedom!” Because he knew at that point he was truly free from Longshanks and everything that had held him back.

In our reading, we see several people who are captive. The easy to identify captives are Paul and Silas, put in prison for casting out a demon and causing a disturbance in the city. But they are not the only captives. The slave girl is captive to those who own her and the demon. The jailer is captive to society and those who hold power over him. But in the removal of the demon, Paul and Silas freed the slave girl from that which holds her back, because those who owned her didn’t want her free from the demon because of what it did for them. She was held captive by the demon because she was held captive by her owners. And the jailer thought he was free, only in as much, he did what those who had power over him told him or wanted him to. Becuase when he thought that the prisoners were gone he was ready to kill himself rather than face what was to come.

Truly Paul and Silas were never captive because they were in shackles and chains and still were singing praises to God. The man who was having followers of Jesus arrested and killed is now chained, but singing praise to Jesus! Now that is true freedom.

So how does our freedom in Christ change everything?

 

 

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Peter and Cornelius

The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the believers from Joppa accompanied him. The following day they came to Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. On Peter’s arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshiped him. But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled; and he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me?” Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock, I was praying in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling clothes stood before me. He said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon, who is called Peter; he is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’Therefore I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. So now all of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say.” (Acts 10:23b-33, NRSV)

I am not to call any person profane or unclean!

Oh if we could all only get it like Peter does! Peter was a strict follower of the law. He did not eat anything that was unclean and only associated with Jews/Christians. Peter was one who had arguments with Paul about circumcision and other things that the first followers were saying the new Greek converts needed to be doing. Peter knew that Jews could not interact with Gentiles, but here he is a good Jew with Gentiles because God showed him that what God has created is not to be called profane or unclean. That all of creation is good and loved by God.

So what is profane or unclean for you that God would say is a beloved creation?

 
 

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Peter and Cornelius

Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate. They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three men are searching for you. Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” So Peter invited them in and gave them lodging. (Acts 10:17-23a, NRSV)

We find this story hard to take because we have never had God speak to us through angels or through visions. And it seems that people don’t show up at our doors and say that God has sent them.

Still happens. I know of a congregation in Texas where a man walked from California to that congregation and when he arrived walked in and said that God had sent him to be the pastor of that church. And he was the pastor. I am not sure if he still is or not, but it happened…

Why is it hard for us to believe this just because we have not had it happen to us? Can’t we believe on faith?

That is really hard. But really that is what our faith is, hard. Following Jesus is easy and the most difficult thing you will ever do. But know you do not do it alone.

 

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Peter and Cornelius

In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.” He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter; he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.” When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him, and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa. About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.”The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven. (Acts 10:1-16, NRSV)

What God has called clean, you must not call profane! And when God made everything, God saw it and said it is good.

Even Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort. Nothing is out of the realm of God.

When we assume it is we judge it based on our own preconceived notions and are not looking with the eyes of God.

What do you call profane, that God would say is good and clean?

 

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Peter in Lydda and Joppa

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner. (Acts 9:36-43, NRSV)

Do you find this story a little hard to believe?

If so why?

We believe Jesus rose from the dead. We believe Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb. And we have heard Jesus tell the disciples that you will do these and greater things. So why is it so far-fetched that a disciple of Jesus can raise someone from the dead?

And a person who was devoted to acts of charity and good works.

We can do this. We can through our good works, make someone’s day, and bring them new life.

Your smile might be the one thing that brightens another’s day.

Do good works and acts of love always.

 

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Saul Escapes from the Jews

After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him. When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9:23-31, NRSV)

Saul just went from being the man every follower of Jesus despised and stayed away from, to Saul being the most wanted man by the high council.

That escalated rather quickly I think.

But that is exactly how God works.

You see. God can instantly take your heart and change it and set you on fire with the Holy Spirit and send you out to tell the world about His love.

Making those that despised you still afraid and those that were for you wonder what happened.

God works in mysterious ways. Just hold on and enjoy the ride!

 

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