Saturday, October 18, 2014

That Name! Part 2

My last post left off where Peter and John had healed a crippled beggar on their way to temple.
The full story is in Acts 3. The book of Acts has come alive for me like never before. Maybe it’s because of what’s happening in our country and world today. Acts might be a good model to go by in these days we’re living in.

After Peter healed the lame beggar, crowds gathered to see what all the commotion was on the temple porch. When they saw the once crippled man leaping and walking around praising Jesus, they were amazed and filled with wonder.
Peter then began to explain what just happened. He gave all glory and credit to Jesus Christ, who the people had earlier rejected and sent to His death. He boldly addressed everyone explaining the truth of who Jesus is, including the prophetic history foretold about His coming.

The “men in charge” got angry because they were teaching about Jesus and His resurrection. They arrested them and threw them in jail.
What did they do that was so criminal?
Here’s the charge: Teaching in the name of Jesus.
The truth is Peter and John were a threat to their priestly power and authority. Just like Jesus was. Of course, they would never admit it.
Their reason for arresting Jesus and His followers, persecuting them and trying to stop the spread of the gospel was blasphemy of God.
But the leaders weren’t concerned about God. They used God to promote themselves. They didn’t look into the history of scripture and see that everything the prophets predicted was and is coming to pass.
This is what Peter was explaining to the crowds that day. Everything leading up to the coming Messiah, Jesus, was just as it was written on their scrolls.
So they locked Peter and John up until their hearing the next day.
Speaking in their defense Peter addressed the rulers and elders saying, “If we this day are judged for a good deed alone to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who you crucified, who God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole “ Acts 4:9-10.
The leaders admitted that a notable miracle occurred. They marveled that Peter and John were uneducated men, had been with Jesus and now taught boldly with much knowledge of scriptures. Aware that all of Jerusalem knew about it, they worried how they’d look if they convicted Peter and John.
They decided to severely threaten them to stop spreading the gospel. Before releasing them, they commanded them to not speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus to anyone.
Did it work?
So what’s the reason today that we can’t speak the name of Jesus? What are our government leaders, principals, superintendents and politicians so afraid of?
Oh, I know, the claim is, “it’s offensive to others.”
Is it because Jesus addresses the condition of our hearts and souls? Does this threaten man’s power and authority?
Why can’t a student bring a Bible to school to read during their lunchtime or later when classes are over? What’s so criminal about that? We’re told we can pray, but not in Jesus’ name.
I’ve personally been told I can’t post a flyer with the word Jesus or Christian on it.
The spread of Jesus and Christianity hasn’t stopped, despite persecution, being arrested and simply told to stop.
We’re supposed to have freedom of religion in this country. If we’re told to not talk about Jesus, pray in His name or display evidence of faith in Him, yet other religions are free to do so, is that, in fact, admitting that Christianity IS NOT a religion, but a relationship?
Could, should, would Christians today be as bold as Peter and John? Will the U. S. government someday knock on my door and threaten me for asking such questions?
Will they one day outlaw the name of Jesus on blogs and other social media platforms to stop the spread of "God so loved the world, He sent Jesus"? 
It didn’t work 2000 years ago, so I suspect it wouldn’t today.
In Jesus’ name,

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

That Name! Part I

I was reading this story in the book of Acts the other day and saw something I've never seen before. It seems that people haven't really changed much since the time of Jesus' ministry on earth, and after His ascension to Heaven.  The mere mention of His name would either make folks squirm or smile. And speaking of Him by name, praying and ministering in His name and so on could get you into a lot of trouble with the law back then. Sounds familiar in our day and time, doesn't it?

Not long after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came and filled the disciples, just as Jesus promised, Peter and John went to the temple one day at the usual hour of worship.

Worshippers were entering the temple courts, including the political, religious and government leaders who had recently arrested Jesus, mocked, beaten, slapped, spit on and sent Him to His death.

All the people were obviously aware of their sin, as they had come to pray and offer their animal blood sacrifices to cover their sin, for which Jesus had just done, but they rejected.

Outside the temple were the usual beggars, lame and sick people asking for money and gifts for the poor as the crowds entered the temple.

A lame man saw Peter and John through the crowd and asked them for money. I wonder if he knew they’d been with Jesus who was recently crucified by the very leaders entering the temple. He’d also probably heard that this same Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. I’m sure he’d also heard of the thousands of new Christians nearby.

When the disabled man spoke, Peter stopped and looked straight at him.

Their eyes locked.
Only the sound of goats, lambs, and doves could be heard in the background.

Peter, full of the Holy Spirit and probably overwhelmed with compassion, felt a burning boldness to do more than just give this man money.

As the dust swirled around the disabled man from the passing crowds, Peter walked over to him and told him he didn’t have any money to give him, but said, “what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” Acts 3:6 (NKJ).

He did this right in front of the crowds and all those important leaders!

Immediately the disabled man’s feet and ankle bones received strength, after being this way for over 40 years. Peter grabbed him by the hand and pulled him to his feet for the first time in his life. The man started joyfully leaping and praising God, as he went into the temple with his new friends. I don’t imagine it was a quiet, reverent scene. Oh, no.

Here were Peter and John, who the leaders already knew were Jesus followers. The same Jesus who the crowds who’d just witnessed this miracle had demanded the prisoner Barabbas be released in Jesus’ place sending Him to His death. These two guys had just committed blasphemy in all their eyes.

They all thought if they killed Jesus, their threat of power, money and pride would be gone. I’m sure some were aghast at the seemingly disrespect of the holy and serene quietness of the temple, as this man entered with Peter and John praising the name of Jesus by which he’d just been healed.

I feel sure Peter and John didn’t shush him. I bet others wished they would’ve.

The lame man’s body was not the only thing healed that day. His heart now was like the other thousands of new Christians, bursting with joy, as he began his new life with Jesus. I imagine he must’ve joined the rest of the Christians, after Peter and John were arrested for what they’d just done. Those bad boys.

Stay tuned as the story continues when Peter and John were arrested and jailed for reaching out to a poor, disabled beggar in the name of Jesus.

In Jesus’ name,