Friday, June 28, 2013

What response should be our norm?

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison... (Acts 12:1-5a, ESV)

I am never surprised by ungodliness; neither in secular or religious sectors, nor in government or private life. Here, in the US of A, we tend to think we are owed an ease of life that probably isn't a fair expectation. Our government is not a theocracy. Yes, there are many in our government who are part of the church organization, but very few that are alive within the church organism.

Don't be surprised when they are ungodly, and pass immoral legislation. Of course, it's great when they do, but we should not be at all surprised when immorality is the norm. 

I think a regular reading of the book of Acts, and a little study of the old days will tell us that Christianity has met many challenges. I don't think "challenge" is even the right word. Persecution. Suffering. Martyrdom. 

Those are the right words. 

Take a fresh gander at the Scriptures this blogpost opened with:

  • The government laid "violent hands" on Christians. 
  • James was "killed...with the sword..."
  • It "pleased the Jews"
  • So, they "proceeded to arrest Peter also." 
  • They "put him in prison"
This environment; this government does not sound at all like they cared about Christians. 

I'm telling y'all... we have to get our perspective corrected! It's a blessing we have so much peace and freedom and ease, but I don't think we should assume we deserve it.

Did God  not love James and Peter? Had they done wrong?
You know the answers to these questions!

What trips me out a little bit is how it tells us very little about James' death? How did his family feel about it? What did the apostles say? Did it further impact the lack of freedom the church in Jerusalem was experiencing? 

The Bible simply tells us James was killed. 
And, Peter was put in jail. 

How did the church respond? 

...but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:5b)

I don't know about you, but that's convicting, because I usually respond to troubling news with fret or complaint. I want to respond to troubling times with "earnest prayer." 

And, what happened next? The extraordinary!
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” (Acts 12:7-11, ESV)

Now, of a truth, I don't expect an angel to deliver me or you or the church from every trouble, but I do know this: prayer is wise and right in every situation. It is seeking God's power in all things for all reasons to discover His solutions for all issues.

One thing of note, the church in Jerusalem was all about walking with God. They were all about preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that's what got them in trouble. That's not something that could be said of the church in Person County, where I live. Think about it, someone can throw a ball on a field and hundreds of people will come out and chase it around in a church-league softball game, but do we ever see the same response when a problem is "thrown" onto the "field" of life? Rarely. 

Keepin' it real here friends... rarely. 

And, I'm not only talking to you ... I'm culpable here, too. Oh my... 

Conviction stinks, but thank God for it. 

All I'm sayin' is this: responding to whatever is going on is natural, but we need a new natural. We need to first, and earnestly, respond to the issues of life and culture by humbly falling before Him who has the power to do something about stuff. We need to pray. 

Further, we need to lead our congregations to pray, too. Really! It's one thing to lament that there's no common reaction of prayer, but what am I going to do about it?

Right! I will pray.
Yes, I will exhort, encourage -- maybe even inflame -- fellow believers to pray as well. 

Further, I want our churches to get about the business of sharing the Gospel. Yes, that will get us in some hot water, if we really get serious. Yes, I want our churches to get about the business of living the Gospel. Yes, that will make us make serious changes in our own lives, but, frankly, that's what we're all called to.

It will change: 
  • Our speech
  • Habits
  • Hobbies
  • Spending
  • Giving
  • Behavior
  • the very nature of how we live in every single way...
But, it will also cause us to start living like we were called to live!

Now, I feel like I better pray...

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