ACTS – The Acts of God
There are many heart warming stories of tenacity, perseverance, and generosity this time of year. I turn to a puddle of tears at every story depicted. Even a touching commercial causes me to tear up every time it is played. I think of people I knew in my family who never gave up in spite of adversity. I also think of family members who are my heroes of faith by the actions they took to help others no matter what time of year it was. I think of friends who always smiled no matter what was happening in and around them.
But look at us today. We get down and out at the slightest things in this life because we are spoiled. We get grumpy if we are a little sick. We heave a sigh at those who take more time than we think they should at the store. We change our happy mood while singing Christmas carols quickly when a driver cuts us off in traffic! We think life will never be the same because an order didn’t come in on time…or at all. We are dismayed when a family member can’t make it for Christmas. We get depressed over the bills WE are racking up.
Yes, we are spoiled and a bit selfish. We let all these life inconveniences mar our witness of the Savior, Jesus Christ whom we say is our Lord. We never know who might be watching…and learning. What are we teaching with our actions?These little life things will be forgotten by us. But, who we are and what we do in the Name of Jesus Christ will be remembered forever. I think about this as I read about Peter.
Nothing compares to the dogged determination of Peter and the other disciples as they stand firm to tell the story of Jesus and His salvation to the world. They are like energizer bunnies who never give up because of their desire to obey God. They were thrown in jail. They were beaten to a pulp. They walk through locked jail gates and preach again. They are brought back in to stand in front of the Jewish Council. They speak Truth fearlessly. They must obey God rather than men because of their desire given to them by Jesus Christ Himself to carry on the work of bringing all men and women back to God. They know their message well. The message isn’t altered in any way. So what, if we are whipped a few times, you can’t kill the message!
Acts 5, The Message
12-16 Through the work of the apostles, many God-signs were set up among the people, many wonderful things done. They all met regularly and in remarkable harmony on the Temple porch named after Solomon. But even though people admired them a lot, outsiders were wary about joining them. On the other hand, those who put their trust in the Master were added right and left, men and women both. They even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on stretchers and bedrolls, hoping they would be touched by Peter’s shadow when he walked by. They came from the villages surrounding Jerusalem, throngs of them, bringing the sick and bedeviled. And they all were healed.
To Obey God Rather than Men
17-20 Provoked mightily by all this, the Chief Priest and those on his side, mainly the sect of Sadducees, went into action, arrested the apostles and put them in the town jail. But during the night an angel of God opened the jailhouse door and led them out. He said, “Go to the Temple and take your stand. Tell the people everything there is to say about this Life.”
Promptly obedient, they entered the Temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.
21-23 Meanwhile, the Chief Priest and his cronies convened the High Council, Israel’s senate, and sent to the jail to have the prisoners brought in. When the police got there, they couldn’t find them anywhere in the jail. They went back and reported, “We found the jail locked tight as a drum and the guards posted at the doors, but when we went inside we didn’t find a soul.”
24 The chief of the Temple police and the high priests were puzzled. “What’s going on here anyway?”
25-26 Just then someone showed up and said, “Did you know that the men you put in jail are back in the Temple teaching the people?” The chief and his police went and got them, but they handled them gently, fearful that the people would riot and turn on them.
27-28 Bringing them back, they stood them before the High Council. The Chief Priest said, “Didn’t we give you strict orders not to teach in Jesus’ name? And here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are trying your best to blame us for the death of this man.”
29-32 Peter and the apostles answered, “It’s necessary to obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, the One you killed by hanging him on a cross. God set him on high at his side, Prince and Savior, to give Israel the gift of a changed life and sins forgiven. And we are witnesses to these things. The Holy Spirit, whom God gives to those who obey him, corroborates every detail.”
33-37 When they heard that, they were furious and wanted to kill them on the spot. But one of the council members stood up, a Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel, a teacher of God’s Law who was honored by everyone. He ordered the men taken out of the room for a short time, then said, “Fellow Israelites, be careful what you do to these men. Not long ago Theudas made something of a splash, claiming to be somebody, and got about four hundred men to join him. He was killed, his followers dispersed, and nothing came of it. A little later, at the time of the census, Judas the Galilean appeared and acquired a following. He also fizzled out and the people following him were scattered to the four winds.
38-39 “So I am telling you: Hands off these men! Let them alone. If this program or this work is merely human, it will fall apart, but if it is of God, there is nothing you can do about it—and you better not be found fighting against God!”
40-42 That convinced them. They called the apostles back in. After giving them a thorough whipping, they warned them not to speak in Jesus’ name and sent them off. The apostles went out of the High Council overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name. Every day they were in the Temple and homes, teaching and preaching Christ Jesus, not letting up for a minute.
Think about it…
Yes, Truth reigns because of Peter’s obedience. Little inconveniences such as beatings and being thrown into jail do not stop the Message. Because of who they are and what they did, we will hear the Truth be told to us at our next church service! Think about it. We are the church because of the work Peter and others who tenaciously spread the Truth no matter what. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone that holds the church (us) together.
The best message of wisdom was by a teacher of God’s Law when he calmed down the council with, “Let them alone. If this program or this work is merely human, it will fall apart, BUT IF IT IS OF GOD, there is nothing you can do about it…”
This causes us to stop and reflect. What are we thinking about today? Who are we thinking about today? IS IT OF GOD? Are we working to please God rather than men (or ourselves) with our attitudes, gratitude, positive actions, smiles no matter what our current circumstances might be right now? Or are we being grumpy because we are out of coffee?
Let our first thought, our very first thought, be Love. Love is Jesus Christ who came to seek and to save us. That is of God!
Isn’t it awesome to see how Jesus used the gift of previously uncontrolled rash boldness in Peter to tenaciously obey Him and be the rock upon which He builds His church? Wow!
And…smile. Smiling’s my favorite.
Then Shine! “Make ’em wonder what (who) you’ve got!… (My favorite Newsboys song.)
Dear Heavenly Father,
May my life reflect Your glory today…not my grumpiness over trivial stuff. Holy Spirit, you are welcome to guide my thoughts and actions. Cleanse me. Fill me. Transform me. May all we think, say or do be of You. I pray your protection and blessing over those in the world who truly are suffering for Your message of Truth.
In Jesus Name, Amen