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Prayer and Singing in Prison | Acts 16:22-25

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:20 NIV

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:22-25 NIV

Paul and Silas are in a Philippian prison, in the very innermost cell, fastened with their feet in the stocks all night, and they are praying and singing hymns to God. The other prisoners heard their prayers and singing. Why do you think these men were able to pray and sing while in this situation?

I think the book Paul later wrote to the church in Philippi has the answer. Paul and Silas had a Biblical and an eternal perspective. Paul and Silas knew God’s desire for them – was to share the gospel in any and all circumstances. For these men, it did not matter if they were preaching in a synagogue (Acts 14:1), beside a river (Acts 16:13), or in prison (Phil. 1:12-13). Their job was to proclaim the gospel of Christ in any circumstance. Later, when Paul was under house arrest in Rome, he said, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear,” Philippians 1:12-14.

So, what about us? Have you found yourself in a difficult situation and just didn’t feel like praising God in the midst of it? I know I have, but I personally have found if I take a step back, – look at our faithful God – my perspective can change. Lamentations 3:21-26 says, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

The simple act of singing praise to our faithful God, whose love for us is unfailing can calm our spirit, realign our perspective and give us hope. Listen to this song– perhaps sing along, give God praise – rejoice in what Jesus offers to all.

By Grace Hunter

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Prayer and Singing in Prison | Acts 16:22-252021-11-04T15:05:13-06:00

Why Baptism? | Acts 16:29-34

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household. Acts 16:29-34

It took me a long time to understand the need to be baptized. If baptism in and of itself didn’t save you- just demonstrated a decision you already made- did it matter? It seemed like an “extra credit” thing that the overachieving youth group kids did. And I was not an overachieving youth group kid. It wasn’t until years later- and hearing a more robust explanation of baptism than I had before- that I realized its importance. While it’s true that the act of baptism doesn’t save, Jesus changes everything and he has changed me. Why not acknowledge and declare, to myself and others, all that he has done and that in him I am a new creation?

Over and over in the book of Acts, those who believe the good news about Jesus are often immediately baptized in the name of Jesus. We see it here, with the Philippian jailer and his family (v. 33), as well as the stories of Lydia (Acts 16:15), Philip and the Eunuch (Acts 8:38) and Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:48), as well as many others. Belief and acceptance of good news is followed by joyful action.

If you have already been baptized, spend some time today thinking about that day, why you were baptized, and the joy and celebration of that day. If you have not been baptized but consider yourself a follower of Jesus maybe it’s time to consider taking that step. If you are interested in baptism- even if it’s just in finding out more about it- you can let us know here.

By Jessica Rust

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Why Baptism? | Acts 16:29-342021-11-09T13:50:22-07:00

Corrupt Captivity Leads to Converted Captors | Acts 16:25-34 NIV

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household. Acts 16:25-34

When driving around town I have seen a bumper sticker with the message: “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”. That thought brings to mind outrageous examples of twisted accusations and legal proceedings launched to stop Jesus followers from offering the Good News and serving the needs of the oppressed. 

The early part of Acts 16 describes Paul liberating a slave girl from the oppressive power of a fortune-telling demon in the name of Jesus. Because this act deprived her owners of income derived from the demon’s predictive powers, the owners launched a twisted and false accusation that Paul and Silas were leading an insurrection. The magistrates of Philippi then beat and jailed them without a trial. If that happened today, such a gross miscarriage of justice would make many of us angry! 

Instead of anger rising to the surface at such evil treatment, the above passage describes Paul and Silas praying and singing after their beating and imprisonment as well as remaining in jail when it was clear God had arranged an earthquake to release them. 

Why such counterintuitive behavior? The only explanation is Paul and Silas had learned to first seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in every situation. Their obedience opened a supernatural path to lead their jailer and his entire household to salvation in Jesus.

Although each injustice carried out on those who follow Jesus arises from different circumstances, the Holy Spirit is faithful to guide us to fruitful purposes as we respond in the way of Jesus. 

Here are a few other situations recorded in Scripture that demonstrate one or more aspects of injustice toward godly, righteous people: 1) no crime committed, 2) false charges, 3) lack of a formal trial, 4) severe punishment/death/imprisonment in spite of no legal conviction:

Pick one of these situations and meditate on both the godly response of the righteous individual and the purpose God intended through their response to injustice.

By Kathleen Petersen

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Corrupt Captivity Leads to Converted Captors | Acts 16:25-34 NIV2021-11-04T15:02:01-06:00

In the Name of Jesus Christ: Change- Encouragement or Threat | Acts 16:16-21

One day on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortune-telling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her. She started following Paul around, calling attention to us by yelling out, “These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!”She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, “Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!” And it was gone, just like that. When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square .Then the police arrested them and pulled them into a court with the accusation, “These men are disturbing the peace–dangerous Jewish agitators subverting our Roman law and order.” By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood. Acts 16:16-21 The Message.

At first it wasn’t a problem for the slave girl’s owners that she followed Paul and Silas and yelled words telling what the two of them were about. Maybe there would be money in it. The trouble started when Paul ordered the spirit to- in the name of Jesus Christ- get out of her. Everybody now knew what Paul and Silas were doing, but the owners could no longer make money on the girl’s psychic abilities. Competition for attention had killed their business, and would likely destroy the economy if allowed to continue. Paul and Silas and the power they brought were a threat, so the owners started a riot in order to get rid of Paul, Silas and their message.

Words have power for both good or evil, depending on who is using them and for what purpose. Scripture is full of ways words have been used for good or evil, as encouragement or as threats. And in every age, and certainly, in ours, the word, “CHANGE” is one of those powerful words.

In Acts 1:1-9:1-32, as the Holy Spirit came and the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached, huge changes happened in individuals, communities, the culture and started to spread into the world.

Go back through those chapters in Acts and pick one that encouraged or felt like a threat to you. Then look at one or more of the changes that have happened in your life as you follow Jesus and are learning to know his heart. How have you been encouraged or, perhaps, felt threatened? Using Psalm 139:23-24, go to the Lord, who knows you intimately and loves you deeply, and thank him for encouragement and talk with him about your felt threat.

By Carolyn Schmitt

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In the Name of Jesus Christ: Change- Encouragement or Threat | Acts 16:16-212021-11-04T14:59:41-06:00

Demon Evangelist | Acts 16:16-18

Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. Acts 16:16-18

I can’t help but find humor in the scriptures, and this little story is yet another example of that. Here we see a demon-possessed woman recommending following Paul and Silas, shouting affirmation of their message. At first, one might think that this is a story about God’s power to cause the demon to do this; like an older sibling might grab the arm of a younger, then use it to smack them while saying, “Why are you hitting yourself?” God could do that to this demon, but there seems to be something more going on here.

Strangely, Paul is not thrilled by the marketing efforts of this afflicted girl. That begs the question: why, if she is speaking the truth? After all, she is speaking the truth!

There is some hidden motive for the actions of this demon through her. The only explanation is that her persistence is a distraction from what God is trying to accomplish in the town. The conclusion is that not all correct theology is well-spoken. This demon-possessed girl is right in her theology, but it was designed to distract. Paul has the wisdom to set her free from the influence of the distracting spirit.

The question for us is, can an over-emphasis on correct belief sometimes distract us from what God is doing in the world? The goal of Christianity is not to get all the facts right; it is to stay in step with God. The risk we run when we overemphasize theological correctness is that we lose the usefulness of truth. Correct theology is only good if it helps us live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.

Take a moment to reflect on the past few days. Was there a moment when you stood up for a belief while hurting someone? For me, this often comes in moments of conflict with a loved one—the desire to right often causes us to damage the relationships around us. If you have a moment like this, or recognize a tendency to speak the truth without love, pray a prayer of confession and ask God to help you speak his truth in a loving spirit.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Demon Evangelist | Acts 16:16-182021-11-04T14:55:30-06:00

Emmaus Illustrated | Luke 24:13-32

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:30-32

For centuries, scripture has inspired artists (visual, musical, or otherwise) in their craft, and art has inspired its audience in a new way to understand the stories of scripture.

Take a minute to meditate on these works by Rembrandt or Caravaggio, or read this poem by Denise Levertov. What do you notice about the work you chose? What resonates with you? Read through the passage again with your painting or poem in mind. Does it change how you read the story? If you’re feeling particularly inspired, try making your own piece of art based on the road to Emmaus.

By Jessica Rust

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Emmaus Illustrated | Luke 24:13-322021-07-15T15:55:10-06:00

The Dinner That’s Not Really A Dinner | Luke 24:30-35

When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. Luke 24:30-35

Have you ever had something you just had to tell someone? Maybe you got a promotion or maybe you found out you were going on a surprise vacation! Nowadays, we tend to get excited and share our news over social media; instantly telling our friends, followers, and acquaintances all of the good news in our lives.

These two disciples had a similar experience (and I bet they wish they had Twitter to immediately share their good news with everyone around). After Jesus journeyed with them to an inn, He sat down and shared a meal with them. As He broke the bread, the disciples’ eyes were opened and realized that it was Jesus who was dining with them. Without even finishing their dinner they got up and ran nearly seven miles to tell the other disciples about Jesus’ return.

When we encounter Jesus, something changes in our hearts. We are filled with this sense of joy and love that is so great and overflowing that we end up needing to tell people about it! This is the core basis of the Great Commission in Matthew 28: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” As we follow and experience Jesus, we are called to share those experiences and work to bring others into His love and grace. Today, look for an opportunity to share what Jesus is doing in your life with someone, whether it be a family member, coworker, or stranger in a coffee shop. Then ask how you can pray for that person and ask God to help them experience His love in their lives today.

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son to us. Thank You for the death and resurrection that has freed us from our sins and brought us into Your everlasting love and redemption. Help us to share this love with others today in order to help bring them closer to You. In Your mighty name, Amen.

By John Egland

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The Dinner That’s Not Really A Dinner | Luke 24:30-352021-07-15T15:49:12-06:00

Explaining it All | Luke 24:25-27

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27

When I look forward to vacations, events or other gatherings, I tend to get in my head about what they’re going to look like. If something doesn’t pan out the way I thought it would, I can be completely thrown off. Have you ever experienced this? Unmet expectations can affect how I feel in the moment, taking truly amazing experiences and manipulating them into something disappointing in my mind. It often takes good conversations with friends and family to readjust my mindset and help bring me back to enjoying what we are doing.

Throughout Jesus’ teachings with the disciples, He foreshadows His death and resurrection while pointing to the scriptures, reinforcing that He is the Messiah. In his Gospel, John references how Jesus’ actions worked to fulfil the prophets and mark Him as the Messiah. Although many of His disciples had been present during these teachings, His death massively shook them to their core. In that time, many left! They decided He must have been just another prophet to come and go without freeing the Jews from the Romans. They had built an expectation of Him in their heads, not understanding His own teachings in the process and forgetting He had told them about His resurrection multiple times.

To address this, Jesus starts at the beginning with two disciples, reviewing with them everything the prophets foretold about Him and the acts He had performed during His teaching. In doing so, Jesus emphasizes the importance of reading and understanding scripture. He also teaches us to entrust our hopes to God and listen to Him as He speaks into our lives. As we do that, we begin to hear God’s voice and His plan for our lives. Today, think about what hopes you’ve put aside that, when looking back, God was or is still moving in. Take the time to sit in prayer, thanking God for working in your past hopes and for Him to speak into your future.

By John Egland

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Explaining it All | Luke 24:25-272021-07-15T15:45:50-06:00

Biblical Hope is Never Foolish | Luke 24:1-27, Mark 16:1-11

…but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. Luke 24:21

Please take time to read today’s passages in their entirety. As you do, notice the first persons to hear the message of the angels at the tomb and those who first encountered the risen Jesus. Also note how the testimonies of their encounters were received by others.

Sometimes it’s easy to discount the testimony of those who seem too excitable about their faith – especially if you’ve had a history of misplaced faith and hope in another’s experience that later proved to be inaccurate or exaggerated. No one likes to be gullible and appear foolish.

Now let’s focus on Jesus’ initial response to the distressed disciples as they walked along:
And then He said to them, “You foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to come into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the Prophets, He explained to them the things written about Himself in all the Scriptures. Luke 24:25-27

Does Jesus’ admonition to his two disappointed followers seem a little judgmental? It’s more likely Jesus was encouraging them to take a deeper look into his ultimate mission. Let’s review the disillusionment these disciples were experiencing: But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Luke 24:21.

So where had they misplaced their hope? Had they trusted in a particular political or religious outcome? Why were they so slow to embrace the good news of the initial eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection?

Think about times you have struggled with the disappointment of unfulfilled hope. Could Jesus’ guidance in Luke 24:25 – 27 ignite fresh hope and a new approach to what seems lost opportunity? As you meditate, put yourself in the place of one of the disciples as you view this drawing of “The Road to Emmaus” by Rembrandt. Be prepared to go to our fellowship of hope for further encouragement.

By Kathleen Petersen

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Biblical Hope is Never Foolish | Luke 24:1-27, Mark 16:1-112021-07-15T15:42:21-06:00

Conversational Hospitality | Luke 24:13-31

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. Luke 24:13-31 NIV

Hospitality in this passage in Luke looks a little different this time. Two of Jesus’ followers are walking seven miles to Emmaus from Jerusalem. They are making this trip on the same day that some female followers of Jesus discovered his empty tomb and spoke with angels. These two on the road to Emmaus were discussing all of this because they simply did not understand the events of the previous three days. Then Jesus joins them. They are kept from recognizing him, but they are hospitable by inviting him into their conversation on their walk. They share their feelings, their dashed hopes, and their confusion with their new companion. In an echo of this passage, the writer of Hebrews exhorts us to, “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it,” Hebrews 13:1-2.

Jesus also shows hospitality to these two by asking about their discussion, listening carefully to their answer, and teaching them from the scriptures about how the Messiah must first suffer – then come into his glory. All three people in this passage show hospitality in different ways. One way for us to show hospitality to a friend or to a stranger is to ask about him or her and then listen without interrupting his or her answer. Sometimes simply a good listening ear is all that is needed. Sometimes teaching can occur after listening, as it did in this situation. Sometimes sharing your own similar past situation is helpful, but sometimes simply listening – simply allowing someone else to be heard – is what is needed by way of hospitality.

Once the three reached Emmaus Cleopas and his companion urged their new companion to join them in a meal and to stay with them, as the day was nearly over. They are concerned for their companion’s welfare because traveling at night was a risky, dangerous endeavor. After Jesus agrees to stay, gives thanks and breaks the bread for the meal, the two followers of Jesus are allowed to recognize him, and he is instantly no longer with them.

This week, let’s practice hospitality in our conversations with others. Ask God to show you how to sincerely listen to another’s feelings, another’s need to share a current situation, or to simply hear a kind word.

By Grace Hunter

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Conversational Hospitality | Luke 24:13-312021-07-15T15:35:01-06:00
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