Joy In The City
The other night Mary and I went to the Midlothian High School’s basketball playoff game. They won and there is great joy in our city. This is the first time in seven years the varsity has made it to the playoffs and there is a good chance they will be able to keep winning for at least a couple more games. We’ll see.
In AD 33 when Saul of Tarsus started house to house searches in Jerusalem and threw believing men and women in prison, there was terror, not joy. A first century refuge problem erupted as hundreds fled out of the city into Judea and north to Samaria. It looked bad for the Jesus Movement, but in fact God used the pressure of the persecution to move his children out of their comfort zone so they could move out into Judea and Samaria. Instead of destroying the movement, the persecution spread the flame of grace and the Spirit’s healing power. The signs of his power couldn’t be missed. When Philip, Stephen’s sidekick in serving table in Acts 6, picked up the message where Stephen left off, he brought joy into Samaria.
“Then those who were dispersed because of the persecution proclaimed the Good News, the Word about Jesus, everywhere they went. Philip went down to a city in the region of Samaria announcing the Messiah there. The crowds came together and paid close attention to the words he was speaking. They came together to hear his words and see the signs he did. With loud shrieks, unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed. And many who were paralyzed or lame were healed and there was great joy in that city.” Acts 8:4-8
Demon’s crying out and then being exorcised by the power of Jesus’ name is not a regular occurrence in many American churches, but when I spoke to several hundred pastors in Brazil about exorcisms, they picked up the discussion and began to compare notes about how they had witnessed the power of Jesus to release those enslaved by the Evil One in their gatherings. And they expressed how the joyous freedom of deliverance through Jesus and His grace was spreading to every corner of Brazil.
LORD, I pray that my own city would become full of joy, not just over athletic success, but over the power of Jesus to heal and forgive. I pray especially for a friend who is waiting to get a diagnosis and desperately needs you to heal and support. Help him to be able to rejoice like these Samaritans.
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