Sing praises while still in your prison

Acts 16:16-26

16 One day, as we were going to the house of prayer, we encountered a young slave girl who had an evil spirit of divination, the spirit of Python.  She had earned great profits for her owners by being a fortune-teller.

17 She kept following us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Great High God, and they’re telling us how to be saved!”

18 Day after day she continued to do this, until Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit indwelling her, “I command you in the name of Jesus, the Anointed One, to come out of her, now!” At that very moment, the spirit came out of her!

19 When her owners realized that their potential of making profit had vanished, they forcefully seized Paul and Silas and dragged them off to the city square to face the authorities.

20 When they appeared before the Roman soldiers and magistrates, the slave owners leveled accusations against them, saying, “These Jews are troublemakers. They’re throwing our city into confusion. 21 They’re pushing their Jewish religion down our throats. It’s wrong and unlawful for them to promote these Jewish ways, for we are Romans living in a Roman colony.”

22 A great crowd gathered, and all the people joined in to come against them. The Roman officials ordered that Paul and Silas be stripped of their garments and beaten with rods on their bare backs.

Miracles Can Come Out of Painful Places

23 After they were severely beaten, they were thrown into prison and the jailer was commanded to guard them securely. 24 So the jailer placed them in the innermost cell of the prison and had their feet bound and chained.[n]

25 Paul and Silas, undaunted, prayed in the middle of the night and sang songs of praise to God, while all the other prisoners listened to their worship.

26 Suddenly, a great earthquake shook the foundations of the prison. All at once every prison door flung open and the chains of all the prisoners came loose.

What about our personal prisons?

In these passages we see Paul and Silas, going their way in life, doing the normal things of life.  The enemy sent a young woman who was demonized to harass them constantly for days on end.  When Paul reached the end of tolerance, he dealt with the enemy and the girl was set free.  They were then accused of teaching unlawful things and beaten then put into prison.  Not just shoved into a cell, but put in the innermost place and put in shackles.  In this horrible atmosphere with their backs ripped open by the rods they were beaten with, they chose to praise and worship God.  Totally counter to the normal reaction of mankind.  They refused to allow the physical pain and rejection cause them to deny their God and Lord Jesus Christ.

Instead of complaints and whining, sour attitude and crying out in pain, they were able to go through the circumstances and rejoice in the Lord, right there in the middle of their pain!  In the middle of their unfair punishment, they remembered their God.  The Lord heard them and caused an earthquake to open ALL the prison doors.  So that not only they were set free, but everyone else around them too.  It was a miracle of God performed in the middle of their praise.  The greater miracle was the prisoners did not all try to escape.  The guard’s own life and his family also were recipients of Salvation all because these two men chose praise and worship over allowing their flesh and blood circumstances to win out.

When I was meditating over these verses, I realized many of us are in our own personal “prison”.  We may be trapped in sick bodies, so worn and out of control it looks like there is not way out.  We may have emotional terrors that haunt us day and night.  We may have so much debt or other financial problems that only a dark future shows before us.  Our families may be in such an uproar that there is no peace to be found.

The Lord Jesus wants to challenge us today to walk through these trials and horror-filled issues praising and worshipping Him.  Why to act like we are not having all these things in our lives?  No, to open the way for Him to come in and show us the way out of the prison we are living in.  Praise is a weapon we can use against the enemy of our lives.

Psalm 107:18-22

18 Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.  19 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.  20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.  21 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!  22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.

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Letting Go of If Onlys and Regrets

Letting go of if onlys and regrets

Our lives are filled with if only and regret events.  We are living in the results of the decisions we made in the past.  While most of them are good for us, there are some which cause great harm and loads of regrets. We tell ourselves, “If only I had not done …..” or “If only I had done ….”  The pain resulting in some of our past decisions lingers for a lifetime.

Choices are a free-will gift from God.  He created us with the right of choice.  We can choose to do good or evil.  We can choose to do a lot or a little in life.  Each choice has consequences, good or bad.  Even little children have regrets and if only situations.  A little hand reaching out to touch a hot stove, even though Mommy has told them not to touch it, soon brings regrets when little hands are burned and filled with pain.  The biggest issue is not the fact we have regrets and if only moments.  It is that we have to live with the consequences and learn from the mistakes we made in our choices.

As I get older, there are a lot of “I wish I had not done that” and “I wish I had done that” events in my life.  I wish I had been more adventurous in my younger years instead of being so reserved and afraid of making mistakes.  I also wish I had made wiser decisions over lots of past events.  The point is, I didn’t do either in some events from my past.  I am sure many of you can say the same.  It is the past and cannot be changed. I can make some new choices now on how to deal with those past regrets and if only moments.  I can choose to wallow in self-pity, punish myself for stupid mistakes, try to hide the past and never admit to anyone what I did, tell everyone all the time all the dumb things I did causing them to want to tell me, “GET OVER IT” Or I can choose to bring all that stuff to the Lord Jesus and let Him help me deal with it.

WHAT DOORS WILL WE CHOOSE TO OPEN?

The Bible has something to say about our past and how to deal with and how to pray about it.

Psalm 25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.

Psalm 79:8 Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, For we have been brought very low.

Ecclesiastes 11:7-8  TLB Oh, how sweet the light of day, And how wonderful to live in the sunshine!  Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted.  Take delight in each light-filled hour, remembering that there will also be many dark days And that most of what comes your way is smoke.

Psalm 119:89-95 TLB 89 Forever, O Lord, your Word stands firm in heaven. 90-91 Your faithfulness extends to every generation, like the earth you created; it endures by your decree, for everything serves your plans.  92 I would have despaired and perished unless your laws had been my deepest delight. 93 I will never lay aside your laws, for you have used them to restore my joy and health. 94 I am yours! Save me! For I have tried to live according to your desires. 95 Though the wicked hide along the way to kill me, I will quietly keep my mind upon your promises.

LET US LOOK TO THE lORD for answers

Philippians 3:4-14 TLB 4  Yet if anyone ever had reason to hope that he could save himself, it would be I. If others could be saved by what they are, certainly I could! 5 For I went through the Jewish initiation ceremony when I was eight days old, having been born into a pure-blooded Jewish home that was a branch of the old original Benjamin family. So I was a real Jew if there ever was one! What’s more, I was a member of the Pharisees who demand the strictest obedience to every Jewish law and custom. 6 And sincere? Yes, so much so that I greatly persecuted the Church; and I tried to obey every Jewish rule and regulation right down to the very last point.  7 But all these things that I once thought very worthwhile—now I’ve thrown them all away so that I can put my trust and hope in Christ alone. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ, 9 and become one with him, no longer counting on being saved by being good enough or by obeying God’s laws, but by trusting Christ to save me; for God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith—counting on Christ alone. 10 Now I have given up everything else—I have found it to be the only way to really know Christ and to experience the mighty power that brought him back to life again, and to find out what it means to suffer and to die with him. 11 So whatever it takes, I will be one who lives in the fresh newness of life of those who are alive from the dead.  12 I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet, but I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be.  13 No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.

No More Looking Back!

As we can see in these Scriptures, mistakes are a part of the human condition.  We all make foolish, selfish and ignorant mistakes in our lives.  Some are fairly easy to live through and go on with life, others have long lasting results.  But we can become like Paul, the Apostle, and put it all behind us.  We can choose to ask God to forgive us, and also the persons we wronged if need be.  We can learn from those past events and we can also forgive the person we were at the time.  It is so easy to judge from a more mature place in life.  We can see more clearly what should or should not have been done.  Yet, when we made those decisions a lot of things surrounding us were involved.  We may have panicked at a huge bill and charged everything instead of finding a way to earn more money for a season.  We may have been angry at our friend, husband, wife, child….and let loose the frustration on them, causing great pain.  The person we were at that time, made the decisions.  We can’t judge ourselves from today’s life experience.  We can only ask for forgiveness and forgive.

We may need to forgive someone who hurt us years ago and we still hold them in anger.  The only person who is hurting is usually us.  The person or persons may even be deceased, yet we still are in bitterness and regrets.  Painful past memories can be healed by the Lord Jesus.  We can release the past to where it belongs…in the past!  We cannot change it, we can only learn to live with it and go on.  So many people are crippled in their present lives because they cannot seem to forgive and forget the past.

Let us be like Paul the Apostle and choose to forget the past and press toward the future the Lord has personally designed for us.  Though some things we will never be able to accomplish, there are so many we can do!  We can have an exciting life following after the Lord.  What will you choose to do with your if onlys and regrets?  I pray you will be able to allow the Lord Jesus to heal them, forgive them and then forgive yourself and get ready for an exciting new life in Him.

ALLOW YOURSELF TO WALK FREE OF REGRETS

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