Category: E

Echoes Down the Hall

On three different occasions of late the Lord has put on my heart to bring the message at Calvary Baptist Church from Acts Ch 16 vs 1-34.  I hope you’ll pause here and go read those verses before continuing.  There are many things we could look at here but let’s consider first that in addition to suffering a terrible beating [vs 23], they have also been thrown into prison, in the very heart of the prison. Imagine yourself there with them. The stench, the defilement the hopelessness. Hear in your mind the screams, the moans, the calls for water…the calls for death to come and finish what it started. I imagine myself there in the dark listening to the chains of the prisoners and the rats scurrying about.  Can you hear it? Can you smell it thick and pungent? Can you feel the despair so thick in that place you can almost reach out and touch it [v. 24].  In my mind I think I might go back to the poor decisions of my wasted life. I might revisit all my crimes and thieveries and I might feel the tears of shame run down my cheeks. I imagine what it must have been like to listen to those ‘followers of Christ’ that the guards dragged in early this afternoon. I saw the blood-stained tunics and I figure the beating they suffered must have been bad. But despite that, I try to imagine what it must have been like to listen to those two men praying and singing and praising God!  I think all the other prisoners would have been listening with rapt attention. In fact, did you notice that after God shook that prison with an earthquake and all those prisoner’s doors fell off the hinges or swung open wide and their chains fell to the flood, not one of them ran [vs 28]? No, they stood there still listening to Paul and Silas. Did they go into Paul’s cell? Did any of them walk to his cell and stand there with tears of joy and redemption running down their cheeks? When I read this amazing and beautiful account of God’s wonderous love I picture the untold millions of people who are themselves no less prisoners of sin and of condemnation. They are just as much locked in a cell with their own heavy chains as were those prisoners in this precious story.  But they too might be set free from their chains if you and I would sing! Their feet might be freed from the stocks if they could hear some echoes of our prayers down the hall. They might see their own prison door swing open if we would praise the great Lord of Heaven. How many times throughout the last 2000 years has a prisoner of sin stood listening to the sweet hymns and the praises and the prayers echoing down the hall? How many have been moved to kneel in their cell and cry out to God for pardon and mercy? I do not know how many prisoners were made disciples of the living God there in the prison of Philippi but I wonder how many of them spent the rest of their prison sentence singing and praying and praising God as they had heard Paul and Silas do? I invite you to come and get in your place and send some echoes of your own down the hall to your family and friends.

The Eyes of Mercy

Last Sunday morning and evening the great and terrible Lord [Nehemiah ch 1, ch 4, Psalms 99:3] put on my heart to preach from Luke 15:20 the message “When Resolve Becomes Deed”. There is an old Latin phrase “acta non verba” {actions not words}; it means that ‘actions speak louder than words’. In this instance, as the great “prince of preachers” Charles H. Spurgeon pointed out, the prodigal son’s intent to return to the father and repent of his actions is all well and good, but utterly useless until the intent is put into action. As they say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

Let me say that I am glad the younger son finally ‘came to himself’ and decided he’d had enough of the pig pen. Only God knows how many parents through the centuries have themselves lain awake at night on a tear soaked pillow hoping and praying for a wayward child to “come to himself / herself” and come home. They would join us in agreeing that the intent to repent is useless if not carried out.
But finally the son decides to humble himself and go home to ask for mercy and forgiveness. In v. 20 he was “yet a great way off” when his father saw him! How far off is a ‘great way’? I don’t know…but nonetheless his father saw him coming! How’d he know it was him? How’d he recognize him so far away? How’d he even spot the young son coming from so far away? Myself, I think that father loved that son as much as you love yours! He’d been watching. I see him in my imagination, staring down that long road…I see him sitting on a milk stool glancing through the barn door toward that road waiting, hoping. I see him in the field picking the peas and glancing every few moments up that road. Likewise I see that faraway look in his eyes as he eats his evening meal, his mind in the far country hovering over his wayward son.

Perhaps you find yourself looking for your own prodigal to return? Perhaps you ARE the prodigal? Can I tell you friend that our great and terrible God is also a loving and merciful Father! He waits for you to turn intentions into deeds. He waits for you to come to yourself and begin the journey home. I tell you more, that father was watching and waiting and hoping and what joy when he finally saw that son coming! Even though it was a great way, he ran to his son and fell on him before a word was spoken! I tell you that our Father will run to you and fall on your neck before you can even say a word for He knows the thoughts and intents of the heart. WHY? Because He is compassionate and merciful! Never mind the filthiness of the pig pen, just come! Never mind the things you failed in, just come! Never mind what others will say, just come! Up sir, up ma’am, waste no more time planning to leave the pig pen – Come Home! The Father is waiting even now with kisses of love and mercy for you! We are all waiting for you! The fatted calf is ready, the robe awaits, the ring awaits. Come Home!