Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Messed up or Misunderstood

Acts 16:16-32
One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortunetelling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her.
17 She started following Paul around, calling everyone's attention to us by yelling out, "These men are working for the Most High God. They're laying out the road of salvation for you!" 18 She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, "Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!" And it was gone, just like that. 19 When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. Then the police arrested them 20 and pulled them into a court with the accusation, "These men are disturbing the peace - dangerous Jewish agitators 21 subverting our Roman law and order." 22 By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood. 23 After beating them black and blue, they threw them into jail, telling the jailkeeper to put them under heavy guard so there would be no chance of escape. 24 He did just that - threw them into the maximum security cell in the jail and clamped leg irons on them.
25 Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn't believe their ears. 26 Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose. 27 Startled from sleep, the jailer saw all the doors swinging loose on their hinges. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, he pulled out his sword and was about to do himself in, figuring he was as good as dead anyway, 28 when Paul stopped him: "Don't do that! We're all still here! Nobody's run away!" 29 The jailer got a torch and ran inside. Badly shaken, he collapsed in front of Paul and Silas. 30 He led them out of the jail and asked, "Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?" 31 They said, "Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you'll live as you were meant to live - and everyone in your house included!" 32 They went on to spell out in detail the story of the Master - the entire family got in on this part. - The Message

What a strange world we live in. The news that is coming across the Internet this morning is filled with stories that make the perplexed even more confused. That firmly grounds me in this category. I am bewildered at how messed up or misunderstood people are today. Last week, we anxiously waited to see if more lives would be lost as a result of a small, obscure church's plan to burn thousands of books that are held sacred by a sizable percentage of the world's population. The pastor said that his church's intent was misunderstood. Another story that surfaced in a local news story was about a man who was arrested because he picked up and carried a lost child to the service desk of a local store. The frantic parent accused him of trying to kidnap the child.

What's happening here? When did it come about that people started to think that their constitutional rights gives them the liberty to trample on other's rights and beliefs? When did it become unsafe to help help out a frightened child? We are messed up and misunderstood.

The scripture passage above gives some hint that this isn't a recent phenomenon. We see that some two millennia two men who were trying to do a good and godly act was quickly arrested and thrown in prision. They were misunderstood by a messed-up world.

But, the story doesn't end there - not with them rotting away in prision. Instead, it gives the insight to their hearts, that was still filled with joy for serving God. No one around them could believe it. Even when they had the opportunity to escape from their unjust accusers, they remained, so that God would be be honored. Because of this, God was honored with more to believe in his saving grace.

That's probably not what most want to think about though when we are in misunderstood by a messed up world. As a dear friend of mine used to say, "When you are up to your elbows with alligators, it's hard to remember that your purpose is to drain the swamp." But even in the midst of the alligators, even in the mire and muck of the swamp, God is with us. Don't forget that. Don't forget to sing some praises.


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