God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
In our last post from the book of Acts we saw how a young girl with an unclean spirit was following Paul and Silas shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And we saw what Paul did about it, and why he did what he did. If you’re interested you can learn more here: Is the Unseen Real: Acts 16:16-18.
Today we’ll learn about the owners of this girl, and what they did in response to Paul’s freeing the young woman from the unclean spirit. And we’ll also see the amazing way Paul and Silas respond to being thrown in prison and locked in stocks.
Introduced Into the Ecosystem
It was Christmas day when a wealthy Australian man received a gift of thirteen rabbits. He was delighted. His hope was that his rabbits would multiply so he and others could enjoy hunting them. As you know, his hope was realized beyond his wildest dreams. The rabbits multiplied from thirteen to 600 million. The rabbits have taken over Australia. To this day rabbits are damaging farmers’ crops and competing with the native animals of Australia to the detriment of the ecosystem.
And rabbits aren’t the only invasive species in Australia. There’s also the Cane toad, another prolific breeder. The Cane toad’s bufotoxin kills animals native to Australia. I also learned that dingoes were introduced into Australia (thousands of years ago) and that the introduction of the dingo is thought to be largely responsible for the extinction of the thylacine, otherwise known as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf (see illustration below).
Which brings us to Paul and, his arrest and imprisonment.
But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to themActs 16:19-25
So as is so often the case, the love of money resulted in evil. Because there were greedy men who were taking advantage of the young girl who told fortunes. They were using her to make money and when Paul freed her from the unclean spirit the source of their wealth was no more. Enraged they incite a riot in Philippi. Paul and Silas are beaten and arrested and thrown into prison. Into the high security part of the prison, the inner prison. And their feet were fastened in stocks.
And along about midnight, Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns to God. And the prisoners were listening to them — I’m guessing they were listening in amazement, because, who sings in the dark when their feet are in stocks and they’re locked up in the inner prison?
How Was Paul Able to Sing in the Dark?
So how did Paul and Silas do that? How were they able to sing and pray in the darkest and grimmest of circumstances?
Something I’ve noticed about people who follow Jesus closely, and begin to resemble him, is they’re focused on changing themselves as a person. They have a growth mindset. They’re focused on changing their inner man or inner woman to adapt to their environment and circumstances.
Today I learned ChatGPT-4 is out. Remarkably, the previous version of ChatGPT could outperform less than 10% of humans who took the bar exam but the latest version of ChatGPT outperforms 90% of humans who took the bar. AI can now write books for us. It can produce high quality artwork. It can even write code.
It’s going to have a big impact on the world, even as smartphones and the internet and airplanes and automobiles and nuclear energy have had a big impact on the world.
If you’re a regular reader of the God Running blog, you know I’m a lover of technology. But up until a few weeks ago, I thought of technological advances and inventions as tools, and any tool can be used for good or for evil. Pretty simple right? But I recently learned there’s another dimension to technology. Inventions aren’t just tools that can be used for good or for evil. But each invention can also be viewed as an organism of sorts introduced into the ecosystem of our society.
Some of the results of all the content available to us today on screens is that it can enrich our lives with amazing entertainment. And it can be used to share Jesus with the world. But it can also affect our attention spans and our ability to memorize and our face to face interpersonal skills.
Another affect has been a modern focus on manipulating our environment to adapt it to our comfort and preferences. I do it all the time. I have air conditioning and a pretty nice car and a great computer setup and a late model smart phone.
Just a few weeks ago I had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man about this very topic. We talked about how in our culture today, our go to move is to use technology to change our environment, rather than focus on changing our inner man. My friend behind bars understood what I was saying. He recognized the problem with a strong focus on changing our environment to suit us, is, that takes away from our ability to focus on changing the inner man or inner woman to adapt to our environment.
In other words,
If our emphasis is on changing our circumstances rather than changing our inner selves, we’ll never grow into a person who sings in his suffering.
The way Paul and Silas did.
“Father, have mercy on me and on the dear person reading this right now. Help us to have a growth mindset in the best possible way. Make each of us a person who’s more concerned with growing into the likeness of Jesus than we are with changing our environment to suit us. Help us to grow into people who sing Your praise and pray to You in our darkest circumstances. Help us to grow into people who strongly resemble Jesus. Help us to feel the presence of Christ when we’re walking through trials. Bless us with Yourself when we find ourselves in the hardest parts of life. Fill us with the love of Jesus and the joy of Jesus, even during times of trouble.
“Help us Father.
“In Jesus’ name.
Rabbits Introduced, National Museum Australia
Arrival of the Dingo, National Museum Australia
Samantha Murphy Kelly, 5 jaw-dropping things GPT-4 can do that ChatGPT couldn’t, CNN Business, March 16, 2023
Image of rabbits in Australia via Wikimedia Commons
Image of the Thylacine via Wikimedia Commons
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus) available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.