That “Hard to Read” Person

27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Acts 5:27-32

What a transformation for Peter! Recall he denied Christ three times while warming himself near a fire on the night before the crucifixion. Now he was leading a group of men and women who were fearless and bold.

The Jewish leadership was still worried about their reputation and the appearance of guilt. Peter pointed the finger at them because they were guilty, but he also shared the Gospel with them. But weren’t these men so steeped in their own traditions and religion that they would never repent? Possibly, but Peter was giving them the benefit of the doubt.

We never know where a person is in their spiritual journey. Even the so-called hardest of hearts could be putting on a charade to mask what’s going on inside.

There is someone in your life who is like that. That person is “hard to read,” but you have a heart to pray. Don’t give up praying for that person because you may be the only person in the world praying for that person. That’s significant. Let them know you’re praying and watch the reaction. You’ll be surprised at how well your prayers are received.

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Say What?

When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.

25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. Acts 5:22-26

After the religious leaders arrived at the jail, they realized they had some problems on their hands.

First, the guards standing in front of the jail were guarding an empty cell. Shouldn’t the guards be reprimanded (or worse) for letting them get out?

Next, Peter and John were now doing what they were first caught doing. That had to puzzle the leaders. The two Disciples had their freedom but they chose to use that time preaching and teaching in the temple courts. It’s obvious that they were laser focused on getting the Gospel message out. They were passionate and obedient but they had to know they would be confronted again.

I am thankful for those passionate and faithful people who have carried the Gospel message throughout the centuries. Many lived in obscurity and poverty while feeding the hungry, translating the scriptures, caring for orphans, and just living a godly life in Christ. Praise God for faithful men and women.

I don’t do this often in this space, but I need prayer for a family situation. My brother, Grady, who is 55 was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung and Brain Cancer this week. I spoke with him today and he said if he did nothing (no treatment) the doctors gave him 6 weeks to live.

He’s scared.

His girlfriend of 37 years is also scared.

He has two younger teens living at home, plus a 26-year old son. I will be going there to North Carolina in the next few weeks just to be with them. As his girlfriend said on Facebook, “our world just got turned upside down this week…”

I’m not even sure what to pray for at this point. Peace, wisdom, healing, salvation, strength, whatever you feel led to pray.

Thank you.

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Challenging the Darkness

17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. Acts 5:17-18

Jealousy is called the big green-eyed monster. The Disciples were becoming popular and well-known, and the Sadducees couldn’t tolerate it. But there’s much more to this story.

Throwing Believers in jail has been in Satan’s “bag of tricks” for a long long time. It never works, and the Believers generally come away stronger and more determined than ever to preach the gospel. Or perhaps he’s conceited enough to think that “this time” the persecution will work, even as it has not worked for centuries!

This is considered a principle throughout Christianity: if you are beginning to make progress in growing the Kingdom of God, Satan will oppose you and try to stop you using any means possible. This is true in youth ministries, overseas ministries, Bible studies, and even in prayer.

Peter and John and the rest of the Disciples were plowing through Satan’s kingdom. It just so happened that Satan used the religious leaders of the day to try to stop it.

The challenge today is simple: what are you doing to challenge the darkness all around us? Even the itty bitty baby steps can make a difference.

On a related side note: my wife recently noted that everyone sitting in the large church we attend was there because of those 12 Disciples.

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Faith and Obedience: Two Sides of the Same Coin

19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” 21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. Acts 5:19-21

The Holy Spirit was moving once again in the jail house. But it wasn’t so that that the Disciples could flee Jerusalem to some foreign land never to be seen again. No, they went right back to the temple courts.

What’s interesting to me is that they had all night to think about what they were going to do the next morning. Maybe they had fitful sleep that might, but I don’t think so. It’s always nice, though, to have an angel of the Lord telling you what you should do, especially if you’re with someone else. That way you know that you weren’t the only one doing the same seemingly crazy things.

And going back to the scene of their “crime” was a crazy thing to do .

The Bible calls it faith and obedience. The angel of the Lord commanded them to do something and they did it.

In fact, the Bible is filled with words that challenge our faith and obedience.

We don’t have an angel of the Lord commanding us to do something. Instead we have the Spirit of the Lord encouraging us to walk in faith in whatever we do.

He challenges us to be obedient in the things we know to be right.

He doesn’t nag or belittle us if we don’t.

No, He is always drawing us to Himself because He knows that the way He has chosen for us is perfect and wise. If we depart from that path, we do so at our own peril.

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14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. Acts 5:14-16

As I’ve mentioned earlier, there was a extraordinary move of the Holy Spirit on the early Believers. With that move came great responsibility. God was healing people and delivering them from evil spirits. God was changing many lives. The word got out quickly about what was happening. Peter and John and the rest of the Disciples were embarrassing the leaders as we will see shortly.

Here’s something to remember about this kind of move of God. It will draw a lot of unwanted attention from leaders. That’s why underground house churches have to be careful. If they grow too quickly, local leadership will investigate and shut down the house church quickly. Sometimes they’ll throw church leaders in jail…or worse.

How would sudden church growth affect your community, especially if it were only one church? It’s difficult for us to imagine this scenario because It doesn’t happen that often. Certainly God is saving people and He still heals people, but not with the numbers we see in this passage.

Here’s an opened ended question that only you can answer, but how do you suppose your church could get to that kind of phenomenal growth again? Can it? What would it take?

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Sticking to the Truth

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Acts 5:12-13

The early Believers met openly in the outer courts of the Temple. They were not hiding away in an upper room, away from the masses as they had done prior to the Holy Spirit coming down upon them. It took a lot of guts to meet so openly. They performed all of their healings and miracles out in the open. Yet many of the people around them were afraid. They could not deny what was happening through these Believers, even though they were not able to discern what was happening.

Peter and john and the rest of the Disciples had known that fear. And they had a distinct advantage over those they were preaching to: they had direct contact with the Messiah!

But the Believers continue to preach and teach and perform miracles. The stories may have been different in their messages, but the message was the same: repent and believe.

That’s the gist of the Gospel message, isn’t it? Two millennia have passed but the message is still the same. How we go about telling it is different, but the truth is still truth.

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More

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. Acts 5:7-11

It’s one thing to withhold the truth from someone but it’s entirely different to lie when asked about it. The significant part of this passage is in verse 11. At this point, they all had to be asking the same questions we would ask. Because of what God was doing in their midst, they seemed to be operating under a different set of rules than what we would have today. We think it’s harsh that both Ananias and Sapphira were killed because they lied. I’m sure those who heard about it felt the same way.

The lie was wrong to be sure, but it was their greed that led to the lie.

In the movie “Wall Street,” a clerk asked a stock broker, “What’s your number? What the number you need to just pack it up and leave this all behind?”

“More.”

Are we like him?

How much is enough? It’s a question we all have to ask and answer sooner or later.

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Bearing False Witness

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. Acts 5:3-5

The Lord had revealed Ananias’ deception to Peter. The early Disciples were in a period of great revelation and growth. With that kind of revelation came great responsibility (and rewards). Presumably, Ananias and Sapphira knew better than to lie. In fact, they colluded in holding back a part of their proceeds. But Peter pointed out that they didn’t just lie to him, but they lied to God.

Does this mean that if we lie as Believers, God will strike us down? If that were the case, we’d be thinned out pretty quickly. But we shouldn’t take lying and deception lightly either. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God admonishes us to refrain from lying. It’s even one of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

God’s grace, though, is sufficient for us.

Choose your words carefully when talking to others and about others. We get into trouble when we blurt out things that shouldn’t be said or tell that little “white lie” just to make ourselves seem better than we are.

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Just a Little Greedy

5 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 5:1-2

Dear Ananias and Sapphira:

Why’d you do it? Why did you agree to keep back some money? You would have been well provided for. You would have had everything you needed. How much did you set apart? Unfortunately, you’ll go down in Biblical annals as two who were just a little greedy. Just a little. Well, that’s probably not true, is it? You’ve been that way all your life. You probably never went the extra mile for anybody. The fact that both of you were in on this ruse indicates you were probably cutting corners in other areas of your life. It didn’t start with this action.

Fortunately for us, though, we can learn from your petty greediness. For instance, we learned that when God demands all of us, He means all of us. Actually, we have to learn that lesson daily, and usually apart from any lesson you can teach us. We also learned God knows the heart and propensity we have towards cheating…just a little. As we will soon find out, we also know about God’s attitude towards cheating.

Oops. Don’t look now but Peter’s calling for you. I still don’t understand why you had to do it that way, but you did.

Pity.

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