What I Saw – May 29th

On the spur of the moment I decided to bike uphill to a nearby park for my afternoon devotions.  I had done devotions there a couple Sundays ago and had a good time, so I thought I might try replicating the experience.  Once there, I went to the Pray As You Go app and listened to the Tuesday, May 28th entry.  The text was Acts 16:23-34.

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The Pray As You Go devotions always read the text twice, giving you the chance to give it a first pass and then a second, deeper listen.  On both occasions, I realized there was an interesting chain of events here.  I was even tempted to call it a “spiritual” chain of events, meaning it was a chain of events that resulted from and illustrated several spiritual truths.

The first spiritual truth is that God’s workers often suffer.  Paul was flogged and put into prison.  I was taught in Bible college that suffering in ministry was a result of some mistake the suffering minister was making.  I see here, though (as well as hundreds of other places in Scripture), that suffering in ministry is par for the course.  It is not a result of a mistake made by the minister or ministry team; it is just the way things go.  It is not something to be ashamed of, in other words, but something that just happens.

The second is that God’s workers often suffer because of other people.  Here, Paul is flogged and put in prison by Gentiles.  Other times, he is flogged and put in prison by Jews.  (In fact, I saw in the previous day’s reading, John 15:26-16:4, that some religious people considering the persecution of God’s workers as the right thing to do).  So the suffering isn’t just an accident; it was an intentional attack.

The third is that Paul and Silas were witnesses even in their suffering.  They responded to their situation with praying and singing (I don’t know what they were singing; I’ve always been taught they were worshiping, and I think there is a strong case for believing that, but it is possible they could have been appealing), and they were heard by their fellow prisoners.

The fourth is that only Jesus can rescue us from our suffering.  Paul did not get himself out of this predicament; he was pulled out of it by a divinely-sent earthquake.

And the fifth is that Paul did the right thing after he was rescued.  He did not only do the right thing; he did the above and beyond thing.  While most people would have fled without concern for what happened to the jailer (especially if the jailer had been harsh to them during the jailing process, which I think is a good bet), Paul did not.  He stayed, knowing what would happen to the jailer if he fled.  As a result, the jailer was not only saved physically but spiritually.

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This chain of events really touched me as I listened to it twice in the park.  I’m not sure why.  It might be the idea of being thrown in prison by others, which is something that happens to us all more than we would like (anytime anyone does something harsh to you which continues to make you angry or afraid, you have been “thrown into prison” in a sense).  It might be the idea of Jesus divinely getting me out of that prison with an earthquake (which of all the ways to get out of prison is a pretty great one).  It might be the idea of Paul doing what was above and beyond right for his captor, as that is something I’m not so great at doing (I always like to twist the knife on my captors a little bit).  Whatever it was, it hit me.  I realized that I will be thrown in prison from time to time due to no fault of my own, that Jesus will get me out, and that I need to do what is right once I’m let out.

That is what I saw on May 28th, 2019.

What I Saw – November 10, 2018

On Saturday, November 18th, I saw two things which worked in conjunction to bring me a great word from the Lord.

The first occurred at a men’s devotional I held early that morning.  We watched a video during this devotional.  In the video, John Eldredge talks about God not only being our father but always intended to be our father.  He says God is not a “consolation prize” for those of us who didn’t have fathers but the father every man has whether he had a decent human father or not.

I was such a guy.  I had a great stepdad who did a ton for me, but I didn’t know my biological father (still don’t), so I always had that “ache” Eldredge talks about and always felt “God as my father” was such a consolation prize.  Hearing what Eldredge says here about God always intending to be my father was a great encouragement to me.

I took that idea into my nighttime prayer.  I always start that prayer with what Tim Keller calls “approaching” in his book Prayer; I tell God I’m coming and hope to be with/hear from Him.  On this night, I said this during that approaching time: “I’m ready and willing to be fathered by you.”  I then opened the Moravian Text (which I always use for my nighttime prayers) and found this:

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Everything here spoke to me.  God lifting up the downcast (which I am) and God loving the righteous (which I also am; I’m not perfectly righteous like Him, of course, but I am “relatively righteous” as I have chosen to pursue Him; thus this verse applies to imperfect me) spoke to me; I certainly need both those things.  God bringing His people out of Egypt and Paul & Silas out of prison spoke to me even more.  I saw that He is indeed a “liberating God” as the prayer calls Him.

This is important to me because I have always feared imprisonment.  Indeed, I have always felt imprisoned one way or another.  I have always felt what John Parr says in his song “St. Elmo’s Fire”:

That’s me and that’s always been me: a prisoner trying to break free (and if you make fun of me for the cheesy 80s music/movie reference, you’re imprisoning me even more!).

But what God told me through His living and active Word and the Spirit He put inside me is that I won’t always be a prisoner.  I might be a prisoner to some degree now (and I am), but I won’t be a prisoner forever.  Not only so, but He also told me I wouldn’t have to “break free”; He would break me free Himself; I wouldn’t have to do it, wasn’t responsible for it.

It was a great word for me, one that greatly encouraged me.  And that’s what I saw on November 10, 2018.