Saturday, May 21, 2016

Hang On To Your Hat

Gratitude Year 4-Day 142: Today, I am grateful for the flowing...the falling... and one wild ride.  (Long post warning: If you choose to read on...pee first) 

Have you ever felt forced into action... when something goes completely against what the Holy Spirit is directing?  Have you ever experienced itching powder? The irritation is about the same. There is no comfort and no peace...until washed clean. 

Have you ever tried to force God's hand...wiggling your will into His way? How did that work out? Not so well for me, either? 

The Holy Spirit arrived as a gift, as a comforter, as power, as a guide, as a translator for our prayers, as a friend and as a director of our days. He is a gentleman and will not force us in any direction, but He will lead.  When we find ourselves out of step and out of tune with Him, discomfort in our souls and in our lives will take root.   

The Holy Spirit, also, moves in way that throws doors open and caution to the wind. We take off on a wild ride with nothing to do but buckle in, throw up our hands in the air... and enjoy the wild ride (and hope I don't throw up along the way). 

There is a documented event in Acts 5 that gets little "air time". Probably because our human hearts focus on the fact that Peter and the apostles get flogged for their faith. The subtitle reads, "The Apostles are Persecuted". Who enjoys reading about suffering? Not me. I almost missed the joy in this passage. 

Today, as I read from His Word...when I was looking for something totally different...this jumped right out itching to be told. I was redirected and new eyes looked a little deeper... to see a little clearer. 

In Acts 5, Peter and some other apostles have been arrested for preaching, teaching and reaching others for Jesus. They were causing a stir. The truth of the resurrected Lord could not be denied.  The apostles would not be silenced.Healing people all over town created quite a stir. 

Peter had left the docks and was fishing for men. He had "sheep to feed". Typical Peter...bold and determined. They were all taken to prison. In the middle of the night an angel releases them from their locked cells in a well guarded prison and gives this instruction. 

“Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” -Acts 5:20

Now...they did as the angel said. (It is a good idea to do what an angel tells you to do!) They went to the temple courts and created quite a stir. They started at daybreak.  By the time the officials caught word of what was happening they knew they had a big problem at the temple. Peter and his loony friends were loose... with loose lips:

On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to. Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” -Acts 5:24-25

They were "at a loss".  I love that line. The reality of a supernatural jailbreak was staring the officials in the face.  Most were angry and ready to kill Peter and the crew. Peter and the others were fueled with the fire of a God who had rescued them from jail so they could live to preach other day. The church officials wanted them dead! 

What were these passionate "fools" thinking returning to the temple? How many of them shook their heads saying, "Idiots!" They were free to run and hide. 
Good news for us...Peter speaks clearly on that matter:

"Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross."  Acts 5:29-30

There Peter goes.  Literally lifting up the name of Jesus with the imagery of an empty cross...and an empty tomb!  Today, he might say this: "Yes, boys...our Jesus lives. What do you have to say for yourselves?" 

The poor Sadducee's were under the impression these men were in their courts. Peter was confident that these men needed to hear the truth of God and his mercy through Jesus in God's own house (it wasn't really their house). He was packing the Holy Spirit and they didn't even understand that he was "well armed" and dangerous to their comfortable way of living. 

Killing the disciples seemed like a good idea at the time, from a Sadducee perspective. Yet,  a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law,was wiser than the rest...and brilliant in his presentation of the problem before them. Gamaliel gave multiple accounts of other men who had come and gone with different claims and followers. The other men's names died out. Gone. Forgotten.  Old news.They were not who they claimed to be and time proved it. They failed to prove themselves true. They were not the real deal. But Jesus...he was not like the others, and Gamaliel knew it.

The Sadducees were still dealing with the ramifications of the truth that the Jesus they crucified was not dead. He had been seen, heard, touched and then...he ascended into heaven. Too many had seen, heard and believed. What a pickle for the priests!

Gamaliel was smart enough to know that if they killed Peter and this team of mission focused men...there was a risk. What if...what if...they, too, would not stay dead?  

He had Peter and the apostles removed from the courts so he could have a private word with his fellow counsel members.  This is what he said:

Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men." (vs. 35) (omitting several examples of their recent past but do go and read them for yourself...good stuff)  "Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (vs.38-39)

What a wow passage! Seriously, this is the good stuff. Fighting again God. Not smart. 

Peter and all of the apostles had been healing many in Jesus name under the power of the Holy Spirit. They were filled with God's power and acting in Jesus name.  I think that Gamaliel knew...he feared... killing them could result in a bigger disaster.  These guys supernaturally escaped from jail, they healed the sick in Jesus name, they spoke of the Jesus that had caused the temple leaders nothing but embarrassment. Killing them seemed far scarier than letting them go. 

Reality check...if these guys are from God...we don't want to find ourselves getting in His way.  How many times do I get in His way with my worry, woes or attempts to control? This safety girl does not seek out roller coaster rides...but I have been known to enjoy the ride (after much persuasion and anti-nausea medication). 

The second "wow" moment for me this morning is from the last couple of verses. I can't exclude them but promise we are almost done for today. Gamaliel's speech worked.

 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. Acts 5:40-42
The flogging (I hate that part. I hate that part. I hate that part.) light of the whole is just a "blip" on their radar. A brief moment of suffering into the ripples of eternity. When you read the whole context... I think that the beating seems insignificant to them, except that they rejoiced they were found "worthy of suffering" for Him. They lived in the celebration of the opportunity to go   “and tell the people all about this new life.” They were too full of Holy Spirit's fire to be rattled by a brief beating. A blip...not a bonus...but by no means a deal breaker. 

Gamaliel...I hope he found his way to the foot of the cross.  I would love to meet him someday. I think he was already hearing whispers of the Holy Spirit calling him to Jesus and it was moving his heart.  He was a man of the law...and he knew the scriptures.  He knew the curtain ripped in the temple on the day we know as "Holy Friday". Jesus...he wasn't like the others. He was the real thing, baby!

Today, I am grateful for the flowing...the falling... and one wild ride.  

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