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God- Embracing Us In Love

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God’s Word: Embracing Us in Love

Introduction

Acts 16:16-40: Paul and Silas are beaten and put in jail after freeing a girl from enslavement to an evil spirit. While in jail, they sing and pray, and a strong earthquake shakes the jail doors open. Paul and Silas do not leave, and the jailer becomes a believer.

Today’s Scripture: Acts 16:25b

Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

Today’s Reading

16 One day as we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a young servant woman who had an evil spirit that enabled her to predict the future. She earned a lot of money for her owners by telling fortunes. 17 She followed Paul and us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They announce to you how you can be saved!” 18 She did this for many days, until Paul became so upset that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I order you to come out of her!” The spirit went out of her that very moment. 19 When her owners realized that their chance of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the authorities in the public square. 20 They brought them before the Roman officials and said, “These men are Jews, and they are causing trouble in our city.21 They are teaching customs that are against our law; we are Roman citizens, and we cannot accept these customs or practice them. ” 22 And the crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas. Then the officials tore the clothes off Paul and Silas and ordered them to be whipped. 23 After a severe beating, they were thrown into jail, and the jailer was ordered to lock them up tight. 24 Upon receiving this order, the jailer threw them into the inner cell and fastened their feet between heavy blocks of wood. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, which shook the prison to its foundations. At once all the doors opened, and the chains fell off all the prisoners. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped; so he pulled out his sword and was about to kill himself.28 But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, “Don’t harm yourself We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for a light, rushed in, and fell trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. 30 Then he led them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your family.” 32 Then they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in the house. 33 At that very hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; and he and all his family were baptized at once. 34 Then he took Paul and Silas up into his house and gave them some food to eat. He and his family were filled with joy, because they now believed in God. 35 The next morning the Roman authorities sent police officers with the order, “Let those men go.” 36 So the jailer told Paul, “The officials have sent an order for you and Silas to be released. You may leave, then, and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to the police officers, “We were not found guilty of any crime, yet they whipped us in public—and we are Roman citizens! Then they threw us in prison. And now they want to send us away secretly? Not at all! The Roman officials themselves must come here and let us out.” 38 The police officers reported these words to the Roman officials; and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were afraid. 39 So they went and apologized to them; then they led them out of the prison and asked them to leave the city. 40 Paul and Silas left the prison and went to Lydia’s house. There they met the believers, spoke words of encouragement to them, and left.

Reflect

Why were Paul and Silas put in jail? Why did they refuse to leave when the earthquake struck? How did they bear witness to their faith while in jail? What can you learn from the actions of Paul and Silas?

 

Unintentional

From: Our Daily Bread

If a person sins unintentionally . . . let him offer to the Lord . . . a young bull without blemish. —Leviticus 4:2-3
Bible in a Year:

When I was returning our grandson Alex to his family after a visit, the traffic seemed especially challenging. Fast-maneuvering cars blocked me from the correct toll lane, forcing me to go through a lane where only cars with a prepaid pass are permitted, which I didn’t have. Alex told me that my license plate would be photographed and a ticket might be mailed to me. I was frustrated because a penalty would have to be paid even though my infraction was unintentional.

For the ancient Jews, a violation of God’s laws committed even in ignorance was taken very seriously. The Old Testament recognized and provided for unintentional sins through appropriate sacrifices: “If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments . . . let him offer to the Lord . . . a young bull without blemish as a sin offering” (Lev. 4:2-3).

Old Testament sacrifices were more than a reminder that accidental wrongs have consequences. They were given in anticipation that God in His grace would provide atonement even for wrongs we didn’t realize we were doing. He did this through the death of Jesus in our place. God’s grace is far greater than we could ever imagine!

Grace is getting what we do not deserve. Mercy is not receiving what we do deserve.

God’s will and our hopes

From: Our Daily Journey

Genesis 1:1-31
The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters (Genesis 1:2).

Read Colossians 3:1-417,23-24 and consider how to build your hopes on the reality of heaven.

What’s the difference between making a risky decision and stepping out in faith? How can we know if what we’re hoping for is something that God has for us or if it’s something of our own making?

Barely a few inches long, the image on the sonogram looked like something from a science fiction movie. With distinctive little nubs for hands and a clearly defined head, I could see the promise of the one who was to be our firstborn. Still unknown were the gender, personality traits, and distinctive qualities to fill out the picture of the now-beating heart. Capturing the image of this little life in the womb, the sonogram pictures were treasures for my husband and me. They reminded us that what we couldn’t see with our naked eye was indeed real, though hidden.

The capacity to produce and bring forth something seen from the unseen is inherent in all living things (Genesis 1:12,24). Humans are unique, however, in our ability to hope. We live in hope because—though marred by sin—we carry the DNA of our Creator (Genesis 1:27).

For the believer, seeing something we hoped for come to fruition isn’t about raw human ability. We base our hopes on the hard foundation of this truth: God fulfills what He designs (Psalm 139:13,15-16Philippians 1:6Hebrews 6:18). Like the formation of a child in its mother’s womb, however, the fulfillment of a hoped for outcome in life takes place in stages—many of them imperceptible with the natural eye.

Seasons of waiting can be difficult, for our emotions become especially heightened in times of protracted delay. When the questions—from ourselves and others—pile on top of one another, we must choose to settle ourselves on the “strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls” (Hebrews 6:19). For whether a hope is realized or not is based in God’s perfect plans. Our role? Stay focused, be patient, and accept His loving will in hope.

Happy People’s Secret

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THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS

Author Unknown

A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said. “Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.

The Lord led the holy man to two doors.

He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water. The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful.

But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.

The Lord said, “You have seen Hell.

They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

The holy man said, “I don’t understand.”

“It is simple,” said the Lord. “It requires but one skill. You see they have learned the secret to happiness….. feed one another.”


WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?

From: gatewaytoJesus

Clarence Schultz

Let’s see…I think it started when Madeline Murray O’Hare complained that she didn’t want any prayer in our schools, and we said, OK.

Then someone said you had better not read the Bible in school-the Bible that says Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said, OK.

Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem. And we said, an expert should know what he’s talking about, so we won’t spank them anymore.

Then someone said that teachers and principals better not discipline our children when they misbehave. And the school administrators said no faculty member in this school better touch a student when they misbehave because we don’t want any bad publicity, and we surely don’t want to be sued. And we accepted their reasoning.

Then someone said, let’s let our daughters have abortions if they want, and they won’t even have to tell their parents. And we said, that’s a grand idea.

Then some wise school board member said, since boys will be boys and they’re going to “do it” anyway, let’s give our sons all the condoms they want, so they can have all the “fun” they desire, and we won’t have to tell their parents they got them at school. And we said, that’s another great idea.

And then some of our top elected officials said that it doesn’t matter what we do in private as long as we do our jobs. And agreeing with them, we said it doesn’t matter to me what anyone, including the President, does in private as long as I have a job and the economy is good.

And then someone said let’s print magazines with pictures of nude women and call it wholesome down-to-earth appreciation for the beauty of the female body. And we said we have no problem with that.

And someone else took that appreciation a step further and published pictures of nude children and then stepped further still by making them available on the Internet. And we said they’re entitled to their free speech.

And the entertainment industry said, let’s make TV shows and movies that promote profanity, violence, and illicit sex. And let’s record music that encourages homosexuality, rape, drugs, murder, suicide, and satanic themes. And we said it’s just entertainment, it has no adverse effect, and nobody takes it seriously anyway, so go right ahead.

Therefore, now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves. Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with… “we reap what we sow.”


 

(More Food For Thought follows these reflective questions.)

When I die where will I go?
What do I need to do to live forever?
Why do I believe what I do?
If what I believe isn’t true, would I want to know it?
Who has the answers?

 


daddy’s empty chair

— Author Unknown

A man’s daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her father. When the minister arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two  pillows.

An empty chair sat beside his bed.

The minister assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were  expecting me,” he said.

“No, who are you?” said the father.

The minister told him his name and then remarked, “I saw the empty chair and I figured you knew I was going to show up,”

“Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?”

Puzzled, the minister shut the door.

“I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day, four years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Johnny, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest…’”

‘Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky, because He promised, ‘I will be with you always.’ Then just speak to Him in the same way you’re doing with me right now.’”

“So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”

The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the church.

Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her daddy had died that afternoon.

“Did he die in peace?” the minister asked.

“Yes. When I left the house about two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But, there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?”

The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, “I wish we could all go like that.”

From: inspire21

empty chair
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The Life Saving Station

Author Unknown

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little life-saving station grew.

Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now, the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely, because they used it as a sort of club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired life-boat crews to do this work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in this club’s decoration, and there was a symbolic life-boat in the room where the club initiations were held. About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick and some of them had black skin and some had yellow skin. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life-saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. They did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another life-saving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.

From: Inspirational Christian Stories