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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

God Rather Than Men

I've been reading the story in Acts where the apostles are imprisoned by "the powers that be" for sharing their faith. No sooner are they miraculously rescued by an angel, than they receive instructions to jump right back into action again.

I don't know about you, but if I had just been sprung from jail, the last thing I'd want to do is head back to the same place I'd been arrested to commit the same offense. Unhesitatingly, the text seems to indicate, they obey. I have to wonder, though, if in their humanness they didn't blurt out, "You want us to go where? And do what? Remember what just happened to us? You just took us out of the frying pan, and now You want to hustle us right back into the fire? Something's wrong with this picture!"

I've had some large-ish trials this past year - nothing close to what the apostles faced in the first century - but enough to send me to my knees more often than when things are humming along at a normal pace. I've endured some pretty sticky dealings with "powers that be," and found them pretty intimidating. When we read the account in Acts, the religious leaders, at least to my mind, don't sound all that scary. We are only privy to a few lines of dialogue, and the apostles seem to come out on top in every confrontation. They don't appear to flounder for words, or think of things they should have said two days later, like I do. But I'm willing to bet if we could get inside the minds of Peter and the gang, we'd see they were just as petrified as we are about going up against the "big guns."  I would further surmise that the high priest and his cronies could hold their own in a debate, and shred a fisherman like Peter with a few clever sentences. After all, they were the leaders of the Sadducees, the conservative Jewish ruling body of the day. They would have been powerful, wealthy and well educated. Most of  the apostles were humble tradesmen. What business did they have going up against such an influential assembly?

To put a modern spin on the type of situation the disciples were facing, imagine being "invited" to a meeting with management to discuss some "issues" with your work performance. You enter a conference room with a table long enough to seat the Partridge Family, the Brady Bunch and everyone on Walton's Mountain. You're escorted to a high backed leather chair by men in Armani suits holding laptops which click incessantly as they interrogate you. You yearn for a cheesy poster or piece of fluff art to break some of the formality; all that meets your eye is a dead-white dry erase board and ceiling projector, both of which seem to scoff at your desperate situation. You feel helpless, overwhelmed, and without a prayer.

That's where you're wrong. There's always a prayer, and it's the smartest (and sometimes the only) thing to do in such circumstances.

The disciples knew that key fact, and they ran with it. Their courage came from none other than God Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit, which descended upon them on the day of Pentecost. And yesabsolutely, the same help is ready, willing and able to be tapped by timid believers like me in today's global, post-modern world. I know this because, on more than one occasion, he has un-tongue-tied yours truly, whose tendency is to stutter and stumble when feelings of inadequacy kick in, and whose debating skills are - well, let's just say lacking.

Not only that, but He sends help from unexpected sources. Looking back at Acts 5 again, we see that the apostles' case was pleaded by none other than a Pharisee, a member of the rival religious group to the Sadducees, and certainly no friend to the early Christians. It was the persuasive and self-serving argument of Rabbi Gamaliel which prompted their accusers to let the apostles off with a flogging and a warning. They didn't get away unscathed, and we may suffer some fallout, too. There is precedent, though, for believers to anticipate deliverance and unusual means of assistance.

I personally have experienced God's creative methods of intervention many times. Last spring He "sprang" me from a dangerous and hostile situation in a way I couldn't possibly have predicted. Years ago, when my husband was in medical school and we needed every cent we could lay our hands on, God guided me to resign a part time day care job. My son was a toddler at the time, and he accompanied me to work. He was becoming increasingly jealous of the attention I had to share with his peers; every shift was becoming a combat zone, leaving both of us exhausted and angry with one another. While I knew unequivocally it was time to leave, this was insanity from a financial point of view. A week later, a better, more lucrative child care position, which included a separate classroom for my little boy, fell into my lap through no effort on my part. As such evidences mount up, so does my assurance that He can and will protect and often rescue His people from the perils which assail us.

Count on it.

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Deliverance

Morsels for Meditation...: Deliverance Part 2, AKA, Jurassic Park Revisited

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