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Tense Beginnings

We all love a movie or a good book when it starts with a tense beginning. I just started a new novel called, The God Hater by Bill Myer. In the first few pages an atheist professor shames a god-fearing author on a talk show, gets abducted by a taxi driver, and is threatened with harm if he doesn’t reveal the location of his brother. It is intriguing and has my curiosity stirring wondering what is going to happen next. I love it when it happens in a book but I don’t really enjoy it when unexpected difficulty takes place in my life.
It is my goal, however, to learn to see past the beginning. One of the main themes in the Bible is that difficult moments are often the introduction to some of God’s greatest work in our lives. Acts 21 begins innocently enough. Paul is in Jerusalem where many Jewish believers are concerned about what he is teaching Jewish inhabitants throughout the Gentile world. He decides to participate in a purification rite with four other men (v. 18-26). His goal was to calm down any fears that might hinder his continuing effectiveness.
Then things took a dramatic turn. “When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, ‘Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place’” (v. 27-28). It wasn’t true but it didn’t really matter. “The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut” (v. 30). For his own safety, he was arrested by Roman soldiers who assumed he was “the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists . . .” (v. 38). Up until now, there is not much good news. It looks as if Paul is going to be the victim of mob rule and it does not appear that God is coming to his rescue.
Looking back, we know this is the beginning of one of Paul’s most effective seasons. I don’t know how he could have known that in the midst of the difficulty but history has proven it to be true. Paul was a man of action. Even in the midst of his arrest, he wanted to talk to the crowd and either straighten things out or use this as another opportunity for evangelism. He would never think to sit down for long periods of time and write. He would never entertain the strategy of being confined to one location for years so that he could put down on paper the truths that would impact every generation to follow. His mindset was to go and get things done. This tense beginning resulted in an arrest followed by a trip to Rome to appear before Caesar. During his confinement, he wrote Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians. It also appears there was a maturing and softening that took place. After his release he wrote Hebrews, Titus, First Timothy, and Second Timothy. Hebrews is his deepest work and the letters to Titus and Timothy are very personal and obviously aimed at grooming younger men to carry on the work. Paul even reveals a change of heart toward John Mark who defected during the first missionary journey but in his later years proved to be “helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
Life will never be the same because Paul was arrested. I can only hope for the grace to keep my eyes focused on God and His plan when the unexpected difficulties hit my life.

Why I Believe in God

The Areopagus

In Acts 17, the apostle Paul engaged in a discourse at the Areopagus, which was a bare marble hill next to the Acropolis in Athens. The name literally means, “Rock of Ares,” and got its name from the Greek God Ares who, according to mythology, was tried at this location for the murder of Poseidon’s son Alirrothios. Ares was the god of war and was known to the Romans as Mars so this location is also referred to as Mars Hill. It was common for men to gather at this location to discuss the important issues of the day. Paul was given the opportunity to share and gave some of the most compelling reasons why I believe in God:
He created us. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth.” (v. 24) Only the existence of a creator can explain the intricacies, beauty and complex nature of our world. Even the simplest of the organisms are too complex to be a product of chance. The reasoning ability and creative force of mankind cannot be adequately accounted for by random acts of nature. There has to be a creator and that creator cares about his creation.
The idea of God resides in all humans. Every culture has the idea of something big. Religions have risen up around the globe to honor the being that is bigger than us. Societies have risen up throughout history with the driving notion of ruling the world. Men dream of great ventures and building vast civilizations because the idea of something big in life cannot be extinguished. Paul reminded his hearers, “the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything.” (v. 24-25) You cannot help but think big ideas because the realization of a God who is bigger than life resides in your soul.
The necessary elements of life are consistently available. “He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” (v. 25) Everyday, the building blocks of life are presented to sustain living creatures. There is enough sunshine to keep things warm but not so much that everything would burn up. There is enough rain to grow crops but not so much that the earth is constantly flooded. There are enough cold days to kill pests and create storehouses of ice and snow for the summer months but not so much that everything dies of frostbite. The seasons change every year. The rains come every year. A balance of night and day takes place every day. If it were up to chance, things could not have arranged themselves in such a delicate and consistent balance.
All humans long to be in relationships. We are driven to gather in societies and relate to one another because God is a relational being and made us in his image. “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (v. 26-27) The reason God provided all that is in the world for us is so that we could discover the possibility of having a relationship with him. He is reaching out to us continually and he has given us free will to reach back to him. Admittedly, people are looking elsewhere most of the time. They reach out to other humans, to possessions, to power, or to risky pursuits to find the fulfillment their soul longs for but God is patient. He is committed to never violate free will in his interactions with us. He will continue to reach out with the hope that all of us will eventually reach back and enter an interactive experience with  him.
As for me, I see evidence everywhere that God not only exists but he is intensely interested in those he created. Since he is that interested in me, I am going to get more interested in him!

Complete the Formula

Most people I know are looking for some kind of formula for success in their lives. The desire is expressed in lots of different forms,

  • How can I make more money?
  • How can I have better relationships?
  • How can I feel better about myself?
  • How can I increase my influence?
  • How can I be a better person?

but it boils down to the same goal, “I want to feel like my life is working.”
Acts 9 presents an interesting formula for those of us who are looking for the ingredients that make for a productive, significant earthly journey.
Ingredient #1: Competence. In order to fulfill the purpose for which we were created, we need to develop our skills to the point that they work well. I was on an airplane yesterday flying to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Most of the plane was filled with Boy Scouts in uniform heading for a wilderness camping adventure. The young man sitting behind me was an “expert” on everything. We passed through a cloud that created some dramatic turbulence and he knew all about turbulence. He knew all about the difference between jet planes and prop planes. He knew all about the quality of planes and how to determine which were solid and which were inferior. He knew all about takeoffs and landings and how well the pilot of this plane had approached the runway. I have no doubt this young man will grow up to be a leader and that his confidence will be useful some day in a career. I am just glad he wasn’t the captain of the plane. He may have “known all about flying” but e lacked the skill to be the actual pilot.
The main event of Acts 9 is, of course, the conversion of the apostle Paul. Remarkably, Paul demonstrated competency almost immediately upon meeting his savior. “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished . . . Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.” (v. 20-22) The ability to present his case wasn’t enough however. “After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him . . . But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. (v. 23-25)
Ingredient #2: Courage. Influence is a great thing but it causes people to evaluate their lives and often points out the error of their ways. As a result, your abilities often unsettle others and bring out jealousy and anger from their hearts.  Although your contribution to their lives should make them grateful and motivated to grow, it often has the opposite impact. Anyone, therefore, who wants to live a significant life that makes a worthwhile contribution to their community, needs to have a brave heart and thick skin.
Paul possessed this also. “When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas . . . told them . . . how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.” (v. 26-28) From the very beginning Paul was fearless and bold but it wasn’t enough. “He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him.” (v. 29) It became such a distraction that “when the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.” (v. 30)
Ingredient #3: Time. You may have the skill and you may have the bold determination to stay at the pursuit despite the obstacles but you can’t force the timing to be right. After Paul went to Tarsus, we don’t hear about him for a while. He spent three years in training adding grace to his intellectual prowess while the rest of the world adjusted to his dramatic change of life. He couldn’t rush it and he didn’t have the ability to choose his launch date.
This makes most of us uncomfortable because we want the world to be ready for us when we think we are ready for the challenge but the timing of our lives is in the sovereign hands of God. I even made this point start with a “t” instead of a “c” because I knew it would make some of you uncomfortable as it messed up the alliteration.
Our job is to seek training that builds our competency and personal growth that raises our courage while we wait on God to make the time right. Be strong as you wait!

Freedom’s Focus

Men who give away freedom

You can always tell when someone is truly free because they focus on helping others. By nature, people are self-centered and determined to get their own needs met. When freedom grips their hearts, a transformation takes place that creates a desire to give other people what they have discovered.
It begins with Jesus. An Ethiopian Eunuch was traveling from Jerusalem reading these words,
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:32-35) Jesus gave His life so that we could be a part of His family, share in His inheritance, and be free from the condemnation of sin. It was all for us!
The eunuch heard the story of Jesus because Philip was willing to go anywhere at any time to share the message. He had a great ministry going in Samaria before when “an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza,’” He simply went. (Cats 8:26) If his main concern was for himself, he would have stayed in Samaria and enjoyed the success of his influence.
The people of Samaria received the gift of the Holy Spirit because Peter and John were willing to go there as a follow-up to Philip’s ministry. They required no payment, no promises, and no reward in order to give others the greatest source of power for living ever available. In contrast was a man named Simon who had previously made his living as a sorcerer. “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 8:18-19) At first it sounds like he is sincerely interested in being free. The difference is that he wants the power for himself while Peter and John were giving away the power for the benefit of others.
There will be a lot of talk about freedom today since it is the day we celebrate the independence of America. The founding fathers sacrificed greatly so that their descendants could live free. Throughout our history, men and women have sacrificed financially, physically, socially and personally so that others can have the freedom to build a life for their loved ones without undue opposition or oppression. The focus has always been on providing for others. As we continue the discussion of freedom in our country and in our families, may we all find the humility to ask, “What can I do to help others live free?”

Telling Your Story

The main story in Acts 7 is  the stoning of Stephen. He was a faithful servant of the church who had a short  but significant run of influence. His eloquent and straightforward presentation of the gospel led threatened people to take his life by heaping rocks on him.  His speech was one of the most remarkable speeches ever delivered and there is much for us to learn about life, leadership, and communication. Today I was reminded about the basics of sharing our stories with other people.
First  of all, let me emphasize that each of us has a story to tell. You are a unique  individual and God has worked uniquely in your life. When you tell your story,  others get a unique perspective on how the truths of God’s word apply to life. Your story, however, has a lot of details that are just details. In the midst of his presentation, Stephen told the story of Moses. The story covers 120 years of history and would have been very boring if he tried to cover all the details. The recounting is a good example to all of us of the elements of a compelling story.
Talk about moments of Growth: There are noteworthy moments in all of our lives when life-changing truths came into focus. In the life of Moses, they included:

  • For three months he was cared for by his family. (v. 20)
  • Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. (v. 22)

Talk about moments of Spiritual Clarity: There are also moments in our lives when the spiritual side of life becomes clear. These include the time in your life when you realized your need for a Savior and trusted in Christ for your salvation, times when you gained insight into your God-given purpose, and times when the direction of your life changed by circumstances out of your control. For Moses, these included:

  • When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites.(v. 23)
  • Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. (v. 25)
  • Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons. (v. 28-29)
  • After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. (v. 30)
  • “. . . he was amazed at the sight . . . he heard the Lord say: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob . . . Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’” (v. 31-34)

Talk about moments of God’s Intervention: Real life is a partnership between God and us. We are called to do our part but there is much of life that is beyond our abilities. God is an active partner and the miraculous steps of grace He takes on our behalf deserves to be reported. In Moses’ experience these include:

  • “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself . . .” (v. 35)
  • “He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.” (v. 36)
  • “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’ . . . and he received living words to pass on to us.” (v. 37-38)

As you tell your story may others remember that they also have had moments of growth, spiritual clarity and miraculous intervention that bring glory to God and hope to others.

Highlight Films

Click to see Caleb

One of my favorite things in life is reviewing highlight films of my kids performing in their areas of giftedness. All my sons played high school football. I videotaped all their games and then put together highlight reels so we could relive the moments together. Watching those films, you would be surprised to hear that they ever lost a game! I often show a short clip of my youngest, Caleb, sacking a quarterback and returning an interception 96 yards for a touchdown when I speak to men’s groups just because it is so fun to remember.
It is a good thing to have a way of recalling the great moments of our lives and the events in our history that demonstrate God’s faithfulness. You never know when you will need that information available at your fingertips. Stephen had one of those critical experiences in Acts 7. He was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin to give an account of the supposed trouble he was causing in Jerusalem. The high priest turned the floor over to Stephen with one simple question, “Are these charges true?” (v. 1)
In response, he delivered the equivalent of a verbal highlight film of the history of Israel from which he gained confidence. With no preparation, he reminded everyone present of the following events:

  • The calling of Abraham to give birth to the nation. (v. 2-4)
  • The miraculous birth of Isaac even though Abraham and Sarah were too old to become parents. (v. 5, 8 )
  • The exile of Israel for 400 years where they would serve as slaves. (v. 6-7)
  • The covenant of circumcision. (v. 8 )
  • The selling of Joseph into slavery. (v. 9)
  • The exaltation of Joseph in Egypt. (v. 10)
  • The move of Jacob and his family to Egypt (v. 11-14)
  • The death of Jacob in Egypt (v. 15-16)
  • The increase of Israel in Egypt and subsequent jealousy of the Pharaoh (v. 17-19)
  • The birth of Moses (v. 20)

And this is just part of his speech. It is obvious that he had applied himself to know his history. He must have reviewed the stories often and retold them numerous times. He was determined that the most important moments in his family history would not get lost over time.
It is a great reminder to me to keep my story alive. My experience of meeting Jesus because a movie, The Exorcist, scared me into reading the Bible needs to be told again and again. Understanding that there is a way for Jesus to live in our hearts because I read 1 John 4:4, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world,’ needs to be passed on to new generations. The practical skills God has allowed Pam and I to learn about priorities, making decisions and having healthy relationships needs to be proclaimed rather than protected. I tend to take these for granted because they are aspects of my journey but they need to be included in the highlights of my life.
Your life is the same way. God is doing a good work in your life but it is surrounded by mundane tasks and difficult days. A lot of our time on earth is boring and frustrating but scattered throughout our experiences are spectacular moments of God’s provision and faithful compassion which need to be told over and over. Don’t ever forget what is on the highlight reel of your life!

Do What You Do

 

Zach Doing What He Does

My son, Zachery, has a way of coming up with sayings that intrigue me. Not too long ago he said to me, “Whatever you do, you do what you do.” At first it sounded strange to me but it has continued to linger in my mind. The most obvious implication of this statement is that our choices matter. The not so obvious implication is that what you do paves the way for what others are supposed to do.
Consider the scenario in Acts 6. The church had been in quite the whirlwind. The Holy Spirit indwelt believers for the first time in Acts 2. 3000 people responded to the call of the gospel at the very first sermon. (Acts 2:41) Since that initial event, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) Since the church was born on Pentecost, people from all over the Jewish world had gathered in Jerusalem. With the advent of this incredible movement, the church kind of moved in together to figure it out. “Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.” (Acts 2:43-44) This all sounds good but anytime you have a large group of people spend very much time together, issues arise. In this case, it is the feeding of widows.
I think we all agree this is an important matter. Women who have lost their husbands and have no way of providing for themselves need to be taken care of by a compassionate congregation. As with any gathering of people, resources are limited and the organizational process is strenuous. Tensions arose because it appeared that the process was unfair. There were “Hellenistic” widows and “Hebraic” widows in the group. The Hebraic widows were those who spoke Aramaic (the language of Jerusalem) and were committed to the traditions of Judaism. The Hellenistic widows primarily spoke Greek, probably were not fluent in Aramaic, and had adapted much more to the Greek culture. At first, the distribution of food to these widows was casual and spontaneous. There didn’t seem to be a need to organize because compassion was high and the early church was simply taking care of each other. Once the newness wore off, however, the distribution process became lopsided and the Hellenistic widows were being slighted.
As is the case so often, something other than the message of salvation became the hot topic of the gathering of believers. It began to dominate conversations and grew to be the main topic in their meetings. A legitimate need was about to become the distraction that would keep people from what they needed the most. The apostles recognized the potential this had to derail the mission of the church, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.” (v. 2) On the scene came seven men who tackled this process so the twelve could “give their attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (v. 4)
I don’t know what you do but I know it has the potential to help increase the influence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You may think it is insignificant and no one may ever know your name. From the list in Acts 6, we all know about Stephen and Philip but we would be hard pressed to remember anything significant about Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas. I even noticed that my word processing program thinks four of the names are misspelled! They are the unknown heroes of the faith. Because of them, Peter, John and the rest of the disciples were able to hone their skills in studying, teaching, and leading the newborn body of Christ. The gospel was publicly proclaimed, people were healed, teaching sessions were organized because other people were willing to do the routine work of organizing food.
I don’t know if God has called you to be someone who publicly represents the truth about salvation or if he has called you to support the work in the background. I just know that what you do counts, even if no one on earth ever remembers who you are. Keeping doing what you do!

It All Depends on Where You Look

Some people see death while some people see the resurrection. In Acts 5, the church is in its infancy and the power of the Holy Spirit is creating quite a stir. The disciples have been miraculously released from jail and they are teaching the people on the temple mount. There are two prominent groups in the story. Both groups witnessed the death of Christ on the cross and both groups know that the resurrection has taken place. The disciples have chosen to focus on what it means that Jesus rose from the dead. The Sanhedrin chose to focus on the fact that Jesus had been killed.
I find this intriguing because I see the same choice being made today by modern men and women. Some people see the decay, hardship, and obstacles of life. They are afraid to venture out because it might fail. They hesitate on valid opportunities because it will take a lot of work and will expose their inadequacies. They refuse to utilize their gifts because they don’t want the responsibility that will result from their productive influence. Don’t get me wrong, the hard things of life are real in our world and we don’t want to live in denial. The brokenness of life, however, is not a great place to focus.
At the same time, I have observed another group of people who see life in the midst of the devastation. They see the opportunities of life and believe they will somehow work out. They are convinced that hard work and perseverance will bring about positive results. They live with the conviction that “all things work together for good to those who love God.” (Romans 8:28) They don’t deny that life is an incredible challenge but they have accepted that death is not the end of the story.
As I read Acts 5 today, I saw the contrast between these two mindsets. Those who were fixed on the death of Christ:

  • Made decisions out of fear – “The captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.” (v. 26)
  • Relied on authoritative statements to control the behavior of others – “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name. . .” (v. 28)
  • Were motivated by guilt and shame – “you . . . are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” (v. 28)
  • Were threatened by the progress of others – “When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.” (v. 33)

On the other hand, those who were focused on the fact that Jesus was alive and had given the Holy Spirit to people:

  • Experienced unexplainable blessings – “The officers . . .  reported, ‘We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.’” (v. 22-23)
  • Lived out their purpose despite the obstacles in their lives – “Then someone came and said, ‘Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.’” (v. 25)
  • Were supernaturally confident – “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” . . . Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (v. 28-29)
  • Believed grace is available to anyone at any time – “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead . . . that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (v. 30-32)
  • Were joyfully persistent – “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (v. 41)

Today, I have a choice. I can focus on the hard stuff of life and the effects of death on my world. Or, I can focus on the resurrection of my Savior and the power of the Holy Spirit that lives in me. Intellectually, it is such an obvious choice. God, give me the supernatural strength to live in the power of your risen Son.

The News Spreads

It was all over the news yesterday. One of the TV networks aired a commercial that featured kids reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and members of the military performing various patriotic acts. The ad was entertaining and inspiring but the term “under God” was conspicuously omitted. Whether it was an honest mistake or a blatant attempt to remove God’s presence from our national pledge we may never know. What we do know is that everyone was talking about it. An effort to ignore God and limit His influence increased people’s awareness and raised their resolve to honor God in their personal lives and local communities.
It had to be the same way for the religious leaders in Jerusalem after the birth of the church. They had succeeded in arresting Jesus and leveraging Pilate to turn Him over to be crucified. They watched Jesus die. One of their own (Nicodemus – John 19:39) had buried the body. They watched as the followers of Jesus cowered in fear in the upper room after the death of their rabbi. They must have thought, “We did it. We got rid of this trouble maker who had drawn the hearts of the people away. His followers are nothing more than a scared gathering of uneducated people now. It is time to get back to the business of being in charge.”
Then the Holy Spirit gave life to the church. The frightened turned into the fearless. The silent transformed into sirens. The unskilled became unstoppable. By Acts 5, it had become customary for “all the believers to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade,” (v. 12) which was a “porch” with columns on both sides that ran along the eastern portion of the court of the

Solomon’s Colonnade

Gentiles in the temple. In other words, it was a very public place. Jesus had preached from this location (John 10:23). Peter had healed a lame man at this location which caused a great crowd to gather. (Acts 3:11-26) Then, “the apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people.” (v. 12)
It must have been incredibly frustrating for the leaders who had tried to stop this very thing from happening. They were convinced that Peter and the rest of the apostles would disappear into obscurity if they could take out the head of the movement. Instead, it was like crushing incense. The harder they tried to smash it, the more the fragrance spread. Notice all the ways the church was gaining momentum:

  • “No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. (v. 13)
  • “Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” (v. 14)
  • “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.” (v. 15)
  • “Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” (v. 16)

The national leaders were convinced the disciples lacked the persuasive ability to do anything without Jesus but the “pathetic” had  become so powerful that the people couldn’t help but flock to them. Of course, they tried again to thwart the new movement. “They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail,” (v. 18) and from there it gets comical.
“During the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. ‘Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.’” (v. 19-20) These were pretty clear instructions so “at daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.” (v. 21) They are preaching in a well-known place. People showed up to hear what they had to say. It was the news of the day—men had been arrested and put in jail but here they were doing the same thing that resulted in their arrest. While all that was going on, “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.” *(v. 22) It seems the only people who didn’t know what was going on were the ones who thought they were in charge!
I don’t want to show any disrespect for the people who serve in leadership. We need them. Their service is an honorable pursuit. When they lead with humility and integrity, it is an awesome thing that benefits all of us. When public officials become proud and attempt to sideline Jesus, however, I just want us to remember that their attempts to remove God’s influence will inevitably result in a resurgence of faith.