the same week he was beaten with rods,
and left with many wounds,
and thrown in prison, Paul later wrote this:
But I would ye should understand, brethren,
that the things which happened to me
have fallen out rather to the furtherance of the gospel;
So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace,
and in all other places;
And many of the brethren in the Lord,
becoming confident by my bonds,
are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
The thing is, the gospel can't be chained.
See, this was the city where the chains broke with him in them.
Where an earthquake, instead of crushing him under the debris of the jail,
broke him loose,
and woke a dead jailer, and took him out of the dark and into the Light.
These people should have known already what Paul wrote to them --
that just because he had been bound, it hadn't bound the gospel.
It was to their credit that they worried about him.
True brothers would.
But had they forgotten the birth of their own church?
You can't abort the gospel.
I heard a woman say once how she had heard the Lord speak to her
while she was having an abortion.
You can't drug the gospel.
I know people who were plainly changed while high as a kite.
I've heard of drunks mockingly repeating what they heard the pastor say,
only to have a hearer transformed.
I know a man who was living in a garbage dump, hungry, in a Muslim country.
He thought he saw a loaf of bread, and he shoved a child to get it.
But it wasn't bread.
It was a piece of paper, and it said,
"Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and you shall be saved."
God's Word has power wherever it goes -- even if that place is a tired church,
or an unconcerned church kid.
It wasn't that I'd never read my Bible before.
I certainly had -- I was raised in church.
But there was so much good literature out there to read.
I wanted the best.
I read in an encyclopedia one day that the Psalms in the Bible
are some of the world's best poetry.
So I began to read them on my own.
When the nightmares woke me up at night,
I remembered something I had read:
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
will abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
My terror changed to peace, and I couldn't stop reading it.
I wept over Hosea, read in the Living Bible version.
You know, the one that says His Word is a flashlight to my steps,
because 'lamp' is so archaic?
Hosea -- a story of a heartbroken husband with a tramp for a wife.
And plainly, God identified with him.
With a man in love, and so unfaithfully treated.
But a man willing to take her back.
I think about Paul, the things that he suffered,
and the man that he was when he was changed.
This was a man who approved the violent death of the church's first martyr.
A man who participated in the tearing apart of Christian homes
and Christian families,
and the legal pursuit thereof.
A man willing to travel to Syria to rout out the Christians from there, too.
A man breathing out threats and slaughter against the disciples.
When the Lord asked Ananias to go to him, Ananias argued.
He had heard of the evil this man had done to the saints,
and the power he had to do more.
Maybe the Lord was unaware of these terrible deeds?
But the Lord said, "He's My chosen vessel."
And when Ananias went, he called him 'brother'.
I'm thinking about and praying often
for our persecuted brothers in Syria and Iraq right now.
But I am also wondering who might be a chosen vessel of the Lord Jesus Christ
who simply has not yet been knocked off his horse?
It has been long years
since I had the joy of spending time with that brother
who was saved in the dump.
I don't know where he is anymore, but his gentleness remains with me.
I have a vague memory of him telling with tears and shame
how he had helped to throw a Christian into a pit.
We brought him to the airport once,
and being Middle Eastern, with a Middle Eastern name,
he was stopped at security, even before the increases since 9-11.
He had an electronic Bible in his bag,
which the agent suspiciously demanded to know about.
He was delighted.
He pulled it out of its case, turned it on, punched in John 3:16,
and showed it to the guard.
The guard was busy, and was trying to move on to the next person.
"Read it!" he insisted.
And the guard did. Out loud.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him, should not perish,
but have everlasting life.
His eyes teared up, and he nodded.
Are you praying for these persecutors?
Because some of them may be brothers who just are not yet born.
And they may be the very evangelists God intends to speak through.