God, Jesus, Prayer, Trials, Uncategorized

Praising God in Prison

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“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,”

Luke 4:18, NIV

 

Have you ever been in a prison? Maybe you, or a loved one has served time in prison. I was in a prison once as a little girl, watching my mom’s tap dance group perform for the inmates. I don’t recall giving it much thought at the time, or being fearful. They were trying to do some good for the incarcerated.

Prisons are terrible places. They are supposed to be. They are designed to punish. Prisoners spend countless hours inside tiny cells. Freedom is gone. Our modern American prisons look like a hotel stay compared to the old Roman ones. Ancient Roman prisons were horrific.

The most famous Roman prison can still be visited today. It is located just outside the Forum Romanum buried at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. It was Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome, who, sometime during his reign (640-616 BC) constructed this dark, damp and foreboding subterranean structure.¹

Roman historian Sallust described it as about twelve feet deep into the ground. “Its appearance is disgusting and vile by reason of the filth, the darkness and the stench.” It was into this room, 6 1/2 ft. high, thirty feet long and twenty-two feet wide, that prisoners who had been condemned to die either by strangulation or starvation were thrown. One attributes the phrase “to be cast into prison” had its origins here.²

Roman prisons were not used to punish criminals, but instead served only to hold people awaiting trial or execution.

 

Paul and Silas in Prison

While in Philippi, a slave girl who had a spirit that could predict the future was following Paul, Silas, and their entire group.

17 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.” 18 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 16:17-18, NIV)

The slave girl’s owners were angry since she made them a lot of money. They grabbed Paul and Silas, and brought them to the authorities. (Acts 16:19)

20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” (Acts 16:20-21, NIV)

The crowd goes crazy and joins the attack against Paul and Silas. They are flogged, and thrown into the inner cell of the prison. Their feet were placed in stocks. (Acts v.22-24)

Paul and Silas were wrongfully accused, stripped, beaten, and severely flogged. Their backs would have been bloody, raw and ripped to shreds. The pain would have been unimaginable. After being beaten, almost to death, they are thrown into a horrible Roman prison. Things were looking bleak. If that were me, I would have given up. I would have asked, “Where are you God?” “You have abandoned us.” “You don’t care.”

Paul and Silas never curse God.

Paul and Silas never question God’s will or His plan.

Paul and Silas never give up.

Paul and Silas trust God.

Paul and Silas pray and sing hymns to God!

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 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. 27 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. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:25-28, NIV)

And the best, most exciting part is God did a miracle! All the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. Not just Paul’s and Silas’ chains. Every prisoner who was in the prison that night experienced a miracle. Their chains came loose. Prison doors flew open. What were all these prisoners thinking? What were Paul and Silas thinking? I can only imagine the unexpected joy they all must have felt. God showed up mightily.

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 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 16:29-33,NIV)

In the morning Paul and Silas get released and everybody lives happily ever after. At least for that moment.  If you want to read the entire story it’s Acts 16:16-40.

Because of being wrongfully accused, beaten to near death, and thrown in prison, a bunch of people accepted Jesus Christ as savior. Paul and Silas remained faithful. God answered their prayers and did a miracle. The jailer, and his entire family, and all other occupants in his house got saved. Who knows how many of those prisoners and guards came to know Jesus as their savior. They all witnessed a miracle. How could you not be forever changed. They experienced the mighty hand of God.

Do you have chains of affliction? Are you in your own kind of prison? You’ve prayed, and prayed, yet feel trapped. Hopeless. You stopped praying. Stopped believing.

Your prison has a purpose. God wastes absolutely nothing. Whether you put yourself there by your choices, or circumstances out of your control put you in that prison, God is still able to make a way. He opens prison doors.

God is a chain breaker.  

If you are bound up in chains then pray, and sing hymns to God. Look to Him. Declare the truth of His word over your life and circumstance. Surrender everything to God and wait to see what He does with your mess. No one can do for you what God can. Keep trusting Him.

Jesus came to set prisoners free. 

 

Father God,

I love you and praise you. Thank you for being in the miracle business. There is none like you. I lift up every person who is in chains right now. They are trapped in their own prison. Comfort them. Reveal yourself to them. Open those prison doors and loose those chains. Set all those captive, free. And for those in actual prison, set them free too. Even if they have years left of incarceration, they can still experience your freedom. Come Lord Jesus to the prisons, and to homes, and hearts. You came to set all of us free.

In Jesus mighty name,

Amen!

 

 

Love you all,

Meghan

 

 

Photo credit Pixabay Desertrose7

  1. &  2. https://www.unrv.com/government/roman-prisons.php

 

Bible, Faith, God, Jesus, Trials, Uncategorized

God Makes Dead Things Alive

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Have you ever had a dream die? You were sure that “thing” was going to happen and change everything. But it never did, and you gave up. Too much time passed. Too much heartache. It’s dead and buried. You even marked the tombstone with the title of your dream. Gone forever. Or is it?

God is in the miracle business. He can bring dead things to life. It may be that the dream was supposed to die, so that God can turn around and raise it up again. Some things are just supposed to die. Dreams that are not from God should be left alone. Sure, we can pursue all sorts of endeavors in the name of God, that really have nothing to do with Him. I’m talking about the deep desires that He places in our hearts. The ones we barely tell anyone about. The seeds that He has planted.

We get impatient. We think, “It will never happen”. And so we walk away. We give up. We bury the dream. God does things different than we do. He’s God, and we are not.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts,” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV).

It’s easy to think we’ve got God all figured out. Like there’s some formula, and if we follow it, we get everything we want, whenever we want it. Following Christ means surrender to Him and His plan. And He does have plans for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11). And He does have dreams He gives us. God’s plans cannot be stopped.

“I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted,” (Job 42:2, NASB).

 

Lazarus

The story of Lazarus in the book of John is well known, and is the only place in the Gospel’s it’s told (John 11:1-44). Jesus gets word that his friend Lazarus is sick.“When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s son may be glorified through it,” (John 11:4, NIV). I can only imagine that Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, were sure that Jesus would show up and save the day. God had a different plan.“Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,” (John 11:5-6, NIV). 

Jesus tells the disciples it’s time to go back to Judea. They think this is a bad idea since the Jews there tried to stone him. This doesn’t stop Jesus. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him up,” (John 11:11b, NIV). The disciples tell Jesus that Lazarus will get better if he sleeps. They thought he meant natural sleep. Jesus was talking about Lazarus death (John 11:12-13). He finally tells them Lazarus is dead and they must go to him (John 11:14).

By the time Jesus and the disciples arrive, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days (John 11:17). The damage was done. Death won and there would be no victory for Lazarus, or so it appeared. Martha went to meet Jesus, but Mary stayed home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask,” (John 11:21, NIV). 

“Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again,” (John 11:23, NIV). Martha and Mary still didn’t understand that Jesus was about to do something miraculous. Jesus asks to see Lazarus tomb. “Take away the stone,” he said (John 11:39a, NIV). Martha thinks this is a very bad idea since Lazarus body had been in the tomb for four days. She tells Jesus it’s going to smell pretty bad (John 11:39b). “So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have always heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me,” (John 11:41-42, NIV). 

“When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go,” (John 11:43-44, NIV). 

Wow!! Jesus could have immediately healed Lazarus when he was sick. Instead, he waited, even when the sisters asked for Jesus help. He had a bigger plan; To raise Lazarus from the dead. Your God-given dream can be resurrected too!

God makes dead things alive. He is the same God as during Lazarus time. God does not change (Malachi 3:6). What has died in you? Faith. Peace. Hope. Trust. Maybe the dream that God gave you died. For your marriage to be restored, a loved one who’s not following the Lord, physical healing, emotional healing, fill in the blank. What is it that you need God to breathe life into once again?

 

 

Dear Lord,

I lift up every hurting soul right now. You see them. You know them. You love them. Bring new life to their God-given dreams. The ones that died. You are in the miracle business. We love you, thank you, and praise you for who you are. Perfect, Holy, God.

Amen

 

 

Love you all,

Meghan

 

P.S. The picture is from Elvis’ grave site at Graceland.

 

 

 

 

 

Bible, Faith, God, Jesus, Trials, Uncategorized

The Storm

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August 24, 2017 we were dropping our oldest son off at college, about 5 and half hours north of our home. I was eating breakfast at the hotel and the news was on. I saw weather maps, and the words “hurricane” and “Houston” got my attention. Wait a minute, that’s where I live. “This is real?” I thought to myself. Everything quickly changed from focusing on getting Dylan settled in his dorm, to focusing on buying water and supplies to survive the impending storm, before we left his little college town. I hated saying goodbye to my son but knew he was in God’s hands. We had to get back home and prepare for a historic hurricane. My first ever. There were large lit up signs along the freeway, “Avoid the Texas Gulf Coast”. Unavoidable for us. We live in the Gulf Coast Region. We were headed straight for the storm.

The storms we face in life can be unexpected or we can see them coming from miles away. It doesn’t seem to matter how much warning we get before life’s storms, they still can cause so much pain as the winds and rains beat down on us. When will it end? How much damage will we experience? Why God? Have you forgot about us? Do you hear our cries for help?

     “That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

    He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

     He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

      They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

(Mark 4:35-41, NIV)

The disciples and I have more in common than I would have thought; Fear and doubt at times. I am surprised that the disciples, who had already at this point witnessed many miracles by Jesus, were so terrified. He healed many sick, diseased, and demon-possessed people, (Matthew 4:23-24). A leper was healed by Jesus, (Matthew 8:1-4), and he healed the Centurion’s servant, (Matthew 8:5-13).  A paralytic man was healed by Jesus, (Luke 5:17-26), a widow’s son was brought back to life by Jesus, (Luke 7:11-17). The disciples were with Jesus when he was performing all these miracles. They must have had amnesia when the storm hit their boat.

A squall comes down on the lake and it’s frighting for these guys. The waves are coming up over the boat and they may have thought, “This is it. We are all going to die.” Things were looking pretty bad. The boat is filling with water and about to sink, or so they thought.

Jesus was not afraid. He is never afraid. He was sound asleep on a cushion, in the stern of the ship. That’s not the picture of a worried, stressed out person. He knows who is in control and He knows there is no need to fear the storm.

The disciples aren’t too happy that Jesus is sleeping through the storm. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38). They are in full blown panic mode and assume that Jesus doesn’t care what happens to them.

“He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm,” (Mark 4:39). Only Jesus can do this. Only Jesus can calm wind, waves, and raging seas with His words. He is God. Infinite in power.

“He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). Jesus knows our hearts. He knew they were doubting what He could do even after seeing so many miracles before they ever got on that boat. He still loved them. Just like He still loves us when we have doubts. He patiently teaches us and shows us who He is and what He can do.

Ultimately the disciples are so scared at what just happened they don’t know what to think. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41). I can relate to them. I have times where I forget what God has done in my life and the storm is raging. “Don’t you care Lord?” I have asked. But my God always, always is faithful. He always shows up, always makes a way. He either stops the storm or He gives me peace in the storm.

As Christ followers we belong fully to Jesus. That means He promises to take care of us and all of our needs. “So we say with confidence, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).  Storms will rage and sometimes we will have losses, and sometimes He will calm our storms. There is a bigger purpose in our storms. He wants us to grow in our faith, just like the disciples. And the only way we grow is through struggle. We need Jesus to get through the storms in life.

When I look at the satellite image of Hurricane Harvey it’s menacing. It appears to want to swallow up all of Texas. When we focus on the size of our storm and how much damage can possibly take place we will stay afraid. If we focus on Jesus and that He is bigger than the biggest hurricane, our faith grows and the storm gets smaller.

We can’t control the storms but we can control how we respond to them. Who is Lord of your life? If it’s Jesus then give it all to Him. Write down every time God has taken care of you in the hard times or when He has stopped the storm completely. When the rains and the wind are coming down remember His faithfulness.

 

 

Dear Lord,

Thank you for your faithfulness. You are perfect and your power is unlimited. You’re love for us is overwhelming. I lift up all those who are in the middle of storms. Remind them that they are not forgotten by you. Give them peace and calm their storms, and may their faith grow. Comfort them, protect them, and provide for their every need.

In Jesus mighty name,

Amen

 

 

Love you all,

Meghan

 

 

God, Trials, Uncategorized

God Never Sleeps

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I couldn’t sleep. After tossing and turning for a while, I got up. It didn’t seem fair to wake my husband and include him in my insomnia. I went down the hall to the guest room and looked out the window. The moon was bright and beautiful. I grabbed my phone and headed outside to take a picture of one of my favorite things. It was calm. Peaceful. My anxious heart was soothed.

The moon always makes me smile. It reminds me of God’s purpose in everything and His awesome power. The moon helps set the tides in the oceans. True to God’s style, it’s beautiful, and bonus, is a light for the night sky. That’s pretty awesome. When I look at the moon it reminds me that God is still in control, even when I think He has forgotten me.

God never sleeps. When I was wide awake with an overactive, over thinking, trying to figure everything out mind, God was working. He doesn’t sleep because, well, He’s God. He met me in my worry. Through the still night and the illuminated moon God whispered, “I love you. I have a plan. Trust me.”

God is always at work in your life and in mine. Sometimes, we can’t see the progress. Sometimes, it’s night, and we are wide awake with worry. It can be so quiet that we assume He’s not doing anything. That is a lie. Sometimes, He is doing His most important work on our behalf, at night. Isaiah 64:4 “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him” (NIV). 

Do you feel like it’s been continually night for a very long time? Are you waiting for the sun to rise on your circumstance or in your heart? Take courage. God is working out something fantastic for you in your night time. There are wonderful things occurring at night. Rest. Restoration. Growth. Healing. Miracles. There is beauty at night. The moon. The stars. Quietness. As you wait in your night time, remember that God never sleeps and is at work for you.

During the night talk to Him. Psalm 42:8b “at night his song is with me- a prayer to the God of my life” (NIV). The night can be a great time to have an honest conversation with your Heavenly Father. There are no distractions. Just your thoughts. Use those night time moments to give it all to Him.  Even if fear or stress is keeping you awake, God is still there waiting for you. He can give you peace. He wastes nothing. Not even a sleepless night.

Psalm 8:3-4 “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” (NIV).

God set the moon and stars in place. He loves you and me, and cares for us! We are so important to God that He crowned us with glory and honor. If He keeps the moon in place than He can handle whatever is concerning you today. Whether it’s a sleepless night, or you are in a season of perpetual night, waiting on the Lord. Be encouraged. The morning is coming! Hold on tight to Jesus. He’s already holding on to you.

Love you all,

Meghan

Bible, Faith, God, Jesus, Trials

Broken

broken butterfly

I feel like this butterfly today. A little bit broken. Of course God gave me the gift of finding this beauty in my garden right when I needed it most. He tends to do that. He’s just that good. I wasn’t feeling particularly faith-filled this morning. Actually, I was feeling pretty lousy and just plain worn out. I told God, “I can’t do it anymore. I’m done. Fully cooked.” I brought Him my exhaustion, anger, fear, and doubt. He listened. He still loves me when I feel broken.

This beautiful butterfly with torn wings still did exactly what it was designed to do. It stopped to drink nectar and pick up pollen along the way to help pollinate lots of flowers. The brokenness didn’t stop it’s mission. This butterfly that God made still has purpose, torn wings and all. He can use my brokenness too. God shines through our broken pieces.

Life is hard. I wish it were always puppies, kittens, and rainbows. It’s not. I wouldn’t grow if life were perfect. I wouldn’t rely on God. I wouldn’t cry out to Him. I wouldn’t trust Him. I wouldn’t need Him. The truth is I need my savior, Jesus. I need Him every moment of every day. This world is imperfect and is not my home. I’m just passing through and along the way learning how to be more like Jesus. I’m not always the best student, but God is a patient teacher.

Brokenness is a requirement for spiritual growth. God will allow us to come to the end of ourselves. He wants all of us, not just bits and pieces. He knows us like no person on earth. He is our creator and knows exactly what we need to get to the place where we need to be. It’s going to involve pain. I know that’s not happy-go-lucky theology. It’s truth.

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”(NIV).

Yep, our faith must be tested. God’s been teaching me perseverance lately and I’m not thrilled about it, but I know it’s necessary if I’m going to be any good for the Kingdom. He wants me mature and complete. God doesn’t hurt me or cause me pain. He does allow circumstances to draw me to Him. Ultimately, that’s what He wants. Me. All of me. And if struggle accomplishes that, so be it.

Here’s the really good news about being broken. God shows up there! He is so faithful. Every time I come to the end of myself and think I can’t take it anymore, God meets me there. And it’s a wonderful thing to feel that love He has for me. To be encouraged by my sweet, precious Jesus. Doesn’t mean all my problems just poof, go away. Something bigger happens. He comforts me. Sings over me. Loves me. Holds me. Now that’s exciting, life changing kind of stuff. So, I’ll take broken, even if I hate it, if it brings me closer to my Father. Because I wouldn’t be as close to Him if I didn’t go through trial.

My feelings of brokenness do not change who God is. He does not change (Malachi 3:6). Jesus does not change (Hebrews 13:8).  If I am feeling down or discouraged that doesn’t change God, the Rock (Psalm 18:31), or how He feels about me. It also doesn’t change His plans for me. What God starts, He finishes.

Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (NIV).

One thing you can be sure of is that God is working out something beautiful for you and through you, in spite of your brokenness and because of it. He is working for your good and my good. That’s unbelievably excellent news!

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

Stay with me for a minute. That verse gets used A LOT. We know means it’s a sure thing. Not “I think” or “maybe”. We know means it’s solid because we are relying on God to handle it. We know God is at work on our behalf. Woo hoo!! That’s good, good news. God can do things through brokenness that no one else can. He’s God and I am not.

If you are broken right now my heart goes out to you. It’s a very difficult place to be, especially if you’ve been broken for a very long time. Please be encouraged that God has not forgotten you. He has a perfect, beautiful plan for you, and yes, it involves brokenness. But, it does not mean you will have to remain there. You are loved! You are not forgotten, and your Heavenly Father is waiting with open arms to embrace you. Cry out to Him. Tell Him all your hurts. He can take it.

 

Dear Lord,

I lift up all the broken people who are reading this. You know every pain, heartache, and disappointment. Let them bring each one to you and lay them at your feet. Bring healing, comfort, and hope. You are The Rock and there is no one like you, who can take our pain and do something beautiful. We give it all to you!

In Jesus name,

Amen

 

Love you all,

Meghan