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A Work in Progress: Walking with Jesus

Throwing off the chains

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he 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, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptised. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.

Acts 16:25-34, New Living Translation

Reading this amazing story this morning really challenged me. Paul and Silas had been arrested, stripped, publicly humiliated, severely beaten, and thrown into prison. Unlike many of us would react, however, they were not wallowing in self-pity but praising God! Their focus was not on themselves. They were not saying “Why me?” They were not giving in to fear, misery or despair, understandable as that would have been. They are focussing on God who they know is always the same no matter what is happening on earth. Carry on reading…

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Culture Clash

For the last couple of days I’ve been reading about the Council at Jerusalem, in Acts 15:1-21. Paul and Barnabas had fallen out with other factions in the church who were arguing that the new Gentile converts still had to adhere to traditional Jewish practices, for example circumcision, in order to be saved. Paul believed passionately that this was contrary to the gospel of grace. In his letter to the Galatian believers he writes:

“Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favour with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.”

(Galatians 5:2-6, NLT.)

This led me to ponder what we are tempted to add to the gospel. We too can get bogged down in our church culture. What additional demands do we make of people, that make it difficult for them to worship with us, and to become part of our church families? Carry on reading…

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