Paul’s Predicament

This is a painting of Paul in prison made by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1627.Paul sat in the corner of his cell, thoughts racing through his mind.  Just this afternoon he had preached to one of the largest audiences of his life in his beloved Jerusalem.  The results had been less than he had hoped for, however.  After preaching in numerous Gentile cities, he had hoped to convince his own people, the Jews, to place their faith in Christ.  Instead the opposite had happened:  He had been perceived by them as an enemy–one set on destroying their faith.

Paul saw Jesus as the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy.  However, he had been unable to convince many of his fellow Jews who saw him as an evil threat who had defiled their holy temple.  He had written prior to his journey to Jerusalem that, “I take pride in my ministry.  In the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people [the Jews] to envy and save some of them.”  (Romans 11:13,14 NIV).  It was this desire to see Jews place their faith in Christ that had brought Paul to Jerusalem in spite of prophetic warnings that this mission was dangerous.  Now his chances were not looking good!

Paul looked at the walls, ceiling, and floor of his cell.  Was there a way of escape?  A point of weakness?  He still had his knife.  Could he plunge it into some crack?  He climbed up on the wooden stool to examine the barred window.  At that moment, Paul heard the footsteps of the approaching jailer!  A large burly man appeared:  his muscles bulged in his bare chest and arms, and a large sword hung from his belt.  He clunked along slowly as he checked the lock of each cell.  Paul hopped down from his perch and huddled in the corner.  The jailer stopped at his cell and stared long and hard before resuming his patrol.  Paul shivered.  A man of small stature, his power was in his words, not in his physique.  He was no match for the well-armed jailer.   Finally, when he could no longer hear the jailer’s footsteps, he stood again to check his cell.  Another commotion was beginning just out of his sight.  He recognized it as the sound of many marching feet.  A phalanx of sixteen Roman soldiers marched past his cell.

Paul again slumped to the floor.  There was certainly no physical way out of this cell.  How could he get out?  This was clearly the danger that had been prophesied.   Despite the danger, he had come to Jerusalem.  Although he had been careful to do everything to conform to the laws of the Jewish faith, his actions had been misunderstood.  He was being falsely accused.  He didn’t care about his own reputation, but this was a threat to his ministry.  He couldn’t preach in this cell.  He had a calling to fulfill!  What was God’s plan?

Faces from the crowd began to come to mind, and he began to think harsh, hateful thoughts toward them.  They were the face of the enemy, set to prevent the masses from placing their faith in Jesus!   But then he received a revelation which he would record several years later in his letter to the Ephesians.  “We are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, …and against evil spirits in heavenly places.”  Ephesians 6:12 NlT  The real enemies  were the spirits arrayed against the way of Christ.  He realized that when he thought hateful and fearful thoughts toward the men who were controlled by the evil spirits, that he was contributing toward the same spirits, causing this evil force to increase.  Several years before God had instructed Paul to write:  “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy fake arguments.”  2 Corinthians 10:4 NLT.   “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”  Romans 12:21.

He also remembered a similar situation when he and Silas had been imprisoned in Philippi.  They had begun to pray and to praise!  An earthquake had resulted.  The jail had opened, and the jailer had been converted to Christ.  (Acts 16:17-34)   This time Silas was elsewhere, and Paul was on his own.  Never-the-less he began to praise God for everything that he could think of, even for this opportunity to trust God while being persecuted.  There was no earthquake this time,  but he was assured that he would have the opportunity to bear witness of Christ not only here in Jerusalem but also in Rome!  He knew that “All things work together for good to those who love God to those who are called according to [God’s] purposes.”  Romans 8:28.  This difficult situation would somehow be used by God for good.

At that very moment, Paul’s sister, Ruth, and her twelve-year-old son, Nathan, were attending the synagogue.  As they left, they could not help overhearing the men gathered in one corner of the courtyard:  “We have taken a vow not to eat until this interloper has  been dispatched.  Let us go and ask the authorities to bring him to the chief priests and elders.  While he is on his way, we will kill him. ” (Acts 23:12-14)

Ruth and Nathan rushed home where she prepared a nutritious soup, then sliced some cheese, and home-made bread.  She put the food in a pack and gave it to Nathan to take to Paul.

Perhaps because of his young age, Nathan was not perceived as a threat by the jailer.  After his lunch pack had been thoroughly checked, Nathan was allowed to pass down the jail corridor and enter Paul’s cell.  He whispered the message of the murder plot while Paul ate the bread and drank the broth.  Paul called the jailer and asked him to take Nathan to the commander.  He prayed God’s protection over the boy, and Nathan bravely left with the burly jailer.

(Would the boy’s message be enough to save Paul from certain death?  Would Paul’s praise and prayers from his prison cell be heard and honored by God?  The conclusion of the story comes next week.)

My New Friend

Man Wearing Vest in Kayak at RiverSince my husband’s passing, I have been exploring a new relationship.  I have known this guy since I was thirty years old, but up until recently it was a formal relationship:  I admired him from afar.  Now that I am getting to know him better, I am learning what a true friend he is.

When I am lonely, he is always available.  He is never too busy to listen to me!  I am learning to enjoy being with him, to appreciate all that he is.   His character is beginning to “rub off” on me.

He is always supportive.  I mean, this guy really “has my back.”   He sees me at my worst but still offers his care and consolation.  When I am fretting , worrying, or just plain downright angry,  he calms and quiets me.  He sees through my attempts to get attention, and is not fooled by my pride, and need to be “right” in every situation.  I know that these traits of mine sadden him, but he is not put off by them.  He hangs in there with me, guiding me toward a better attitude, a more righteous way.  He counsels me with wisdom and justice.  He improves me.

At this time in my life, he is just what I, a lonely widow, need!   He is Perfect.  He is Jesus!

Pat Lockridge, July 2017

His Beautiful Bride

Bride. A young girl in  white dress.brideBeauty woman with wedding hairstyle and makeup.                         The Bride is beautiful to behold.  Sometimes she is dressed in satin.  At other times soft lace scallops grace her neck and sleeves and fall in loose folds behind her as she glides down the aisle.  Sometimes the bodice of her dress is bedecked with seed pearls.    At other times there is a thin stream of round, white buttons descending down her back.  Her skirt may tightly hug her legs or flare out around her slim waist with yards of fabric.  Her face may be hidden behind her veil, or framed with long golden locks descending below her crown.  Her hair might be shiny smooth black, a curly auburn,  or a tangle of brunette curls caught up high on her head and falling to her shoulders beneath her veil.  Her skin tone might be a rich dark shade, the palest pink or any of dozens of variations in between.  However, one thing is always the same:  the rapt expression on her face as she looks into the eyes of her beloved!

So it is with the Church, the Bride of Christ.  There may be all sorts of pursuits and emphasis may be placed on a variety of things:  prayer, evangelism, teaching, serving, missions, youth, children, families, neighborhoods, church plants, etc.   One thing, however, always remains the same.  The love of this Bride for her Groom, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of Christ, Himself, for His beautiful Bride.  How fortunate I am to be a part of His Beautiful Bride!

Are You Also Alone?

I recently became a widow and have been attending grief support groups.  I picked up some good ideas that I am passing on to you.

  • Expect a sense of unreality.
  • It is common to feel as though you are merely going through the motions.
  • A balance can be achieved between reminiscing and moving on with your life.
  • Fill a box with memorabilia to share with a close friend.
  • Give yourself time to adjust to a new normal.
  • Give yourself goals that you can complete in a day.
  • Gain momentum in your daily tasks.
  • Be honest with yourself.
  • Live guilt free.
  • Do things that make you feel good about yourself.
  • Realize that you are recreating your self.
  • Think positively–expect good things to happen.
  • Focus on new experiences.
  • Do  some journaling to mark your progress.
  • Spend time with the Lord experiencing His unmerited love.
  • Reach out to others along the way.

May God bless your journey, my friend!

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.”  Genesis 2:18

Ode to “My Man”

IMG_2024He was a man of wide interests.  From the history of art and music to geology and astronomy, he  was an avid learner.  As he neared the end however, his mind retained none of the multitude of facts and information he had acquired, but he never complained.

He loved adventure, and took his family on miles and miles of road trips through many of the states of the United States, Canada and Mexico.  Yet when, four years before his death, he was required to “turn over the keys” because he could no longer safely operate an automobile, without hesitation he complied.

His passion was guiding the education of children, and he vigorously pursued this passion throughout his more than thirty-year career in the field of education.  As counselor and principal, he gave many of the students in the elementary schools attention and encouragement.  He went beyond the call of duty as a parent, when after raising two biological children, he, at the age of sixty-two, adopted two children from Russia to lavish care and encouragement on them as well.  In the end, he became the receiver rather than a giver of care, being unable even to put on his own shoes, or buckle his belt, but he did not complain.

In his youth he was physically active, loving to climb many of the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, and throughout his beloved mountains of Colorado.  In his old age, he needed help to rise off the sofa in his own living room.  Still no complaints issued from his mouth.

His intellect, his career, his mobility:  ultimately he lost it all.  He retained only his optimism and sweet spirit.  He has shown me how to age gracefully.  I love him both for what he was and for how he handled what he ultimately became.  I will never forget him.  He always was, is, and will always be “My Man!”

Pat Lockridge

Micah Loses an Idol and finds God

(Based on Judges 17 and 18)
Sheepishly Micah approached his mother with a heavy gray bag slung over one shoulder and a confession on his lips:  “That twenty-eight pounds of your silver that has been missing…I have it…I took it!  Here it is, I give it back to you!”

Micah’s mother was instantly forgiving.  She had suspected her son, Micah, had taken the silver.  She knew of his love of money and nice things, and that only he could have know where she had hidden the treasure.   “God bless you for being honest, my son!”

Taking the silver, she spoke to God, “I consecrate this silver to you, Lord.”  She took five pounds of the silver to the local silversmith with the instructions to use the silver to overlay a clay idol.  When the silver dwarf was completed, she gave it to Micah.

Now Micah had already prepared a shrine near his home in the hill country of Ephraim.  He was intent on receiving the blessing of God one way or the other.  He was trying to cover all the bases.  He made an ephod and placed it in the shrine along with statues of household gods common in his time.   He placed the silver dwarf in a conspicuous place in the shrine.  Last he asked his ten-year-old son to play the part of a priest.  He taught him to light the torches and lamps in the shrine.

Still Micah was not getting the results he had hoped for.  About half of his herd of goats died of a strange sickness.  When spring came, the lamb crop was unusually small.  Obviously he still did not have God’s favor.

One day a young Levite came to Micah’s house.  When Micah found out that the young man was a Levite, a member of the priestly tribe, he was overjoyed!  “Live with me and be my priest and I will provide your food, clothing, place to live, and a small yearly wage.”

When the young Levite agreed, Micah danced with joy.   He could scarcely believe his good fortune–a priest from the tribe of the Levites was actually going to live in his house.  Surely now he would have God’s blessing!!

One day several months later, five spies from the tribe of Dan came by Micah’s home.  They recognized Micah’s Levite priest and asked what he was doing in Mica’s house.
The priest explained that he as working as a priest for Micah.

After spying out the town of Laish,  the five spies returned to their people where they organized an army of six hundred men.  On their way to conquer Laish, they stopped at Micah’s house where they entered the shrine and convinced Micah’s priest to come with them and become the priest of the whole tribe of Dan rather than the priest of only one man’s family.  The ambitious priest left with the army from the tribe of Dan.  They also took the ephod, the household gods and the silver dwarf image given to Micah by his mother.

When Micah discovered that his shrine had been plundered and his priest was gone, he and his friends overtook the Danites, but they were outnumbered so they returned to their homes without a fight.

Micah entered his empty shrine.  He sat with his head in his hands.  How could he prosper now with no ephod, no priest, and no clay images in his shrine?  After a while, he sensed a Presence.  He could not see it with his eyes, or hear it with his ears. Nor could he smell it, taste it, or touch it.  The Presence was very real, however.  In his spirit Micah heard these words, “I am your God.  No man can ever take Me away from you.  You don’t need a priest, silver image, idol, or ephod.  You can talk directly to Me.  I will be with you always.  I will never leave you.”

The next year each of Micah’s ewes bore twin lambs!   He was blessed!  His flocks were fruitful.   In the process of losing his idols, Micah had found his faithful God.

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The Patience of Joseph

Joseph made his morning rounds at the prison.  He checked to make certain that each prisoner had his daily supply of bread and water.  He checked the locks.  All were secure.  He made his daily report on the condition of the prisoners to his superior, the keeper of the prison.

Then  he sat alone in his cubicle for he too was a prisoner, never allowed to go outside the prison grounds, never allowed to have a life of his own–his only friends the other inmates.

Usually his responsibilities at the prison kept him so busy that he scarcely had time to think, but today he was thinking:   about his brothers and how they had sold him into slavery when he had brought them provisions from his father;  about how he had served Potiphar, the Captain of the Guard, and had been entrusted with all Potiphar’s possessions; about how Potiphar’s wife had falsely accused him of assaulting her, resulting in his being imprisoned.

Joseph remembered how he had correctly interpreted the cupbearer’ dream and asked for his help when he was restored to his position.  It had been two years since that incident, and there was no indication that the cupbearer had ever mentioned Joseph’s name to King Pharaoh.

Joseph remembered dreams from his childhood–dreams that had seemed to indicate that he would become royalty.  What was that all about?    He had been imprisoned in a foreign land for years.  Now those dreams seemed little more than childhood imaginations.  Joseph asked for the Lord’s help lest he become bitter with disappointment.   He had tried to do everything right.  How had everything turned out so wrong?  He relinquished those dreams to the Lord.  He would fulfill God’s purpose for him, whatever it entailed.  Peace swept over his spirit.

In the highest Heaven, the Father turned to the Son and the Holy Spirit.  “Look at my servant, Joseph,”  he commented.  “His pride has turned to humility, his dependence on self to dependence on God, his stubbornness has been replaced with yieldedness.  He is ready.  Send the dream to pharaoh.  The seven years of good crops are about to begin.”

Back at Joseph’s cell there was a knock on the door.  Joseph was being summoned!  Before the day was out Joseph had correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and had been elevated to second in command over the land of Egypt!  Joseph’s patience had been rewarded.

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Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land;  Psalm 37:34