Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Acts 16:16-40

One day Paul and Co. were headed back to their place of prayer, when they were met by a slave girl who was possessed by a demon. She was owned by men who forced her to be a fortune teller. They were very wealthy because of her work. She followed Paul around, crying out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." Ben Witherington points out that this may not have been a proclamation of true salvation, from the true "Most High God." The culture was very pluralistic, and could have meant many things. If that is the case, it makes sense that Paul would not want this demon-possessed slave girl proclaiming false truths.

Paul finally had had enough. He turned to her and commanded the demon to leave her. At once it left. When her owners learned what had happened, they realized that their little business was no more, and they were understandable upset. They took Paul and Silas into the middle of the city and called the cops (actually, the magistrates). Their accusation was that these men were Jews, and they were "disturbing" their city. The accusation that they were Jews is important because just two years earlier, Emperor Claudius had expelled the Jews from Rome. Outcasts are never looked upon very favorably, especially when they have made your city, as well as all of the surrounding cities, even more crowded than they already were. The second part of the accusation was equally condemning, since money seemed to be a major bottom line in that city.

The magistrates ordered that Paul and Silas be stripped and beaten with rods (according to 2 Corinthians 11:25, this happened to him two additional times). After they had been severely beaten, Paul and Silas were thrown into jail. Everything had happened so fast. They had not even been questioned by the magistrates, which would have revealed that both of them were Roman citizens. This was very important, for Roman citizens could not be punished without a proper hearing. Nonetheless, Paul and Silas now found themselves in prison with real criminals.

Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if you were being punished for a crime you didn't commit, in a city that you were not familiar with, and you were simply trying to follow God? I know what I wouldn't be doing...Singing. But that's just what these two men were doing. It was midnight, and these two crazy men were singing their heads off to God. Luke points out that the prisoners were listening to them.

At that moment there was a earthquake, and the prison shook violently, so much so that the chains holding the men were loosened. The jailer, who had been sleeping, woke up and ran to the jail cell. When he saw that the prisoners were loose, he immediately drew his sword, not to fight them but to kill himself. He knew that the punishment for allowing prisoners to escape would be far worse than death. At that moment Paul cried out to him, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here" (16:28). The jailer turned the lights on, and, discovering that the prisoners were indeed still in the cell, fell down trembling before Paul and Silas, and asked them what he must do to be saved. Their response: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (16:31).

It appears that the man must have lived above the jail, so therefore his entire household was there as well. Paul and Silas told them all about Jesus, and they all believed. Instant transformation takes place. Just a little while earlier he was about to kill himself because he feared his punishment for allowing prisoners to go free. Now he takes Paul and Silas upstairs and washes their wounds. He and his family are then baptized, and then share a meal together with Paul and Silas. Fear was replaced by rejoicing!

We don't hear anything else about the prisoners, but I can't help but think about them. All we are told is that they stayed in the jail cell, and they listened. That's pretty phenomenal!

The next morning, the magistrates discovered what had happened and ordered that Paul and Silas be released. Paul let it be known that he and Silas were Roman citizens, and their beating and imprisonment were unlawful. If they were going to leave Philippi, it wasn't going to be in secret. The magistrates came to them, apologized, and begged them to leave immediately. Paul and Silas obliged, but first went to Lydia and the new church that was emerging in the city.

Monday, November 26, 2007

AC in the CA

Here's the link to Wendi Thomas' article about the Advent Conspiracy. The article is great, and yesterday we had over 200 people look at the website.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I just found this site tonight. Most of us have a bunch of programs start up when we boot up our computers. You can go into MSCONFIG (Run --> MSCONFIG --> Startup) and select which programs you want running at bootup. More importantly, you can deselect those programs you don't want to always be running. The problem is that normally you don't really know what some of these programs are. That's where this site comes in. You can search for the name of the program and it will advise you as to whether or not you can get rid of it or not.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What Would Jesus Buy?

Mandy just sent this to me.

Risky Business

I'm in a book group on Thursday nights with two other guys, and we've been reading In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson. Last night we discussed chapter 6: "Playing It Safe is Risky." A few quotes...

The more you're willing to risk, the more God can use you. And if you're willing to risk everything, then there is nothing God can't do in you and through you (102).
Sometimes taking a calculated risk means giving up something that is good so you can experience something that is great. In a sense, sin is short-changing ourselves and short-changing God. It is settling for anything less than God's best. Faith is the exact opposite. Faith is renouncing lesser goods for something greater. and it always involves calculated risk (106).
Obedience is a willingness to do whatever, whenever, wherever God calls us (109).
Maybe righteousness has less to do with not doing anything wrong and more to do with doing things right (109).
If you were to always act in your greatest self-interest, you would always obey God (111).
(quoting Johann Wolfgang von Goethe): Hell begins the day God grants you the vision to see all that you could have done, should have done, and would have done, but did not do (114).

This chapter had a profound impact on me. It wasn't so much that I read anything new. It was more that I received a renewed permission to take risks for God. My heart beats for stuff like this. I've grown most in my life when I was completely dependent on God to do what only He could do. I feel like I'm in this place right now, especially with the church.

Yesterday our little church had a good day. One of our core group members had been emailing Wendi Thomas, a writer for the Commercial Appeal, about the Advent Conspiracy. Yesterday she received an email from Wendi saying that she was planning on writing about it in Sunday's paper. Shelley forwarded the email to Jason and I, and five minutes later I was being interviewed by Wendi on the phone.

Wendi is a great writer, and I'm very excited that she has decided to write about the Advent Conspiracy. The fact that it is going to be in Sunday's edition is icing on the cake. God is up to something here!

So what does that have to do with the book? Well, last night I was reminded of an incident that took place one year ago. That's when I first heard about the Q conference. I immediately wanted to go, but I knew that Jason and Barb were going to be having their baby around that same time, plus it was pretty expensive. I eventually decided that I probably shouldn't go.

A couple of days later, I felt that God was telling me that I should go, and that He would provide the funds. The trick, though, was that I was going to have to ask for the funds...not from Him, but from people. I'm like most people in that I do not like asking people for money, but I felt like God wanted me to do this. So I took a risk and asked two people. One gave and the other didn't. Then a couple of days later we received the rest of what was needed.

Here's what hit me last night. The Q conference was where I first heard about the Advent Conspiracy. That was my big takeaway. I knew when I first heard Rick McKinley talk about it that this was something that our church should take part in.

The step that God was asking me to take was pretty small compared to others' steps of obedience, but look at what it led to. I continue to be amazed by the creativity of God!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Santa has Arrived!

On Saturday morning we went to the Pink Palace to see Santa arrive by helicopter. I must say that it was very exciting, though I'm sure you can all guess that the one most pleased by this was Adam. Here are a few pics.


Do you have a will?

This is one of those things that I've been procrastinating about for awhile. With another child on the way, it's even more crucial that we do this. I just read an article that said that only 33% of families with children under the age of 18 have wills.

So this is going to be something that we work on over the holidays. The goal will be to have it finished by the end of the year.

Dave Ramsey recommends US Legal Forms. I was going to use that, but then I found this software for free (though you have to sign up for something - I signed up for Blockbuster for a month). It looks good.

A new baby

If you haven't heard, Mandy is pregnant! We are expecting our second child at the end of June. Yea!


On Thursday night I took my family to the University of Memphis to hear Vinx. I first started listening to Vinx in college. I roommate introduced me to his music, and I borrowed his CD so much that he ended up giving it to me when he graduated (thanks, Brian). Below are a couple of YouTube clips.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Acts 16:1-15

Paul and Silas' first stop Derbe, then Lystra. There they found Timothy. Timothy was most likely a convert of Paul during the first missionary journey. Timothy was young enough to be Paul's son, and in fact is referred to by Paul as a spiritual child (1 Corinthians 4:17). Paul asked Timothy to join he and Silas, but said that he would first need to be circumcised. This seems odd in light of what had taken place in Jerusalem, but it seems that this goes to Paul's desire to be "all things to all people", including the Jews (1 Corinthians 9:19-22). Timothy's mother was a Jew, but his father was a Greek. Paul understood that the Jews throughout Galatia would know this, and it would prevent him from going to the Jews first, as was his custom.

The three of them then went to the churches that had been started during the first missionary journey, sharing the Jerusalem Council's decision with them. Luke once again adds, "So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily" (16:5).

It appears that Paul's plan was to head into Asia, perhaps into a large city such as Ephesus (population of 250,000). According to Luke, God had other plans. After a couple of attempts by Paul to go into Asia, he finally headed to Troas (around 400 miles from Iconium). Troas was a port city. When they got there, Paul saw a vision of a man from Macedonia asking them to come there to help them. After seeing that vision, the men concluded "that God had called us to preach the gospel to them" (16:10).

Another change happens in 16:10. Luke goes from using "they" to using "we." Apparently Luke joined them for their voyage across the Aegean Sea. They eventually made their way to Philippi. Philippi was famous for being the battlegrounds where Octavian Augustus defeated Marc Antony in 31 BC. It is very possible that Luke lived in Philippi.

On their first Sabbath there, they went down to the riverside, since there was no Jewish synagogue there. There they found a group of women praying. Among them was Lydia, a wealthy woman who made her living through selling royal purple cloth. This might not sound like much of a trade today, but in those days a person selling this type of cloth had to have permission from the Roman Empire, and as a result would have significant social status.

As Paul shared with them, God opened Lydia's heart to the gospel. After she was baptized, she invited them all to stay at her home.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What is the Missional Church?

From The Ministry of the Missional Church, by Craig Van Gelder (p.18).

God has a mission in the world, what is usually referred to as the missio Dei (the mission of God). In understanding the missio Dei, we find that God as a creating God also creates the church through the Spirit, who calls, gathers, and sends the church into the world to participate in God's mission. This participation is based on the redemption that God accomplished through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a redemption that was announced by Jesus as the "kingdom of God" (which I prefer to re-frame as the "redemptive reign of God in Christ"). This redemptive reign of God in Christ is inherently connected to the missio Dei, which means that God is seeking to bring back into right relationship all of creation. Or as Paul put it in 2 Corinthians, "In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself" (5:19). The Spirit-led, missional church is responsible to participate in this reconciling work by bearing witness to the redemptive reign of God in Christ as good news, and through inviting everyone everywhere to become reconciled to the living and true God.

Advent Conspiracy Video