Tuesday, April 5, 2016, 7:32 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “All Through the Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 5:17-42 (Select vv. ESV). Jealousy (vv. 17-18) But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. When we love and serve our Lord, and we walk in his Spirit, and obey his teachings, and we give witness to others of his love and grace, and tell of his marvelous salvation, there will be those who will be resentful and jealous of us, not because they want something we have, necessarily, but because we have something they don’t have, and that something offends them or makes them uncomfortable. It may also be because we don’t do the things we once did, and perhaps it might be because they are the ones we once did those things with, and so they will see God/Jesus as their rival. Or it may be that by our witness that many others will be led to leave their lives of sin behind them and to follow the Lord in obedience, and that may serve as a threat to those who have had a hold on those people’s lives in the way of power and influence, but now God is the one influencing and controlling their lives. They, too, may be jealous of our peace and joy, not because they want it, but because misery loves company and they don’t want us to have what they don’t have. Go and Speak (vv. 19-21) But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Jealousy of the apostles led the religious leaders to place them under arrest. But, the Lord sent one of his angels to let them out, because God had a mission for them. They needed to keep preaching the gospel, and God’s purposes can never be thwarted. And, this should serve to encourage our hearts! God/Jesus is absolutely sovereign over all things. He is completely in control. Satan can do nothing unless God gives him permission or the freedom to do so. And, God has a purpose for what he allows Satan to do, as well. Nothing happens by chance. Nothing takes God off guard. When the apostles were persecuted for their faith, it was for their spiritual strengthening and maturity, and it was for the advancement of the gospel and the salvation of many lives. Think about all that Joseph went through (Old Testament), and how he was mistreated by his brothers, and sold into slavery, but how this was God’s plan for Joseph, to send him ahead of his people to prepare the way for them in order to spare their lives. When we are going through hard things, too, God is using them in our lives for his good purposes, which is for our spiritual maturity, and may be for the salvation of many lives. We Must Obey (vv. 27-32) And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” We are always going to have enemies. Some of us will have more than others depending on who we are, what we stand for, and how verbal and bold we are about our beliefs. The more we obey the Lord in being his witnesses to the ends of the earth, the greater threat we serve to Satan and to his many hordes, and the harder he will work against us to try to silence us. If you are facing no opposition to your Christian life, then something is terribly wrong. Jesus said we would be hated and persecuted as he was, so if everyone likes us, then we need to find out why. God did not put us on this earth to see how many friends we can get to like us. He put us here to make a difference for his eternal kingdom, and to turn people from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and a place among those sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ. Wise Counsel (vv. 33-39a) When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” We are not always going to have people who will stand up for us, and who will try to persuade our enemies to not harm us. But, what Gamaliel said is so true. If what we are doing is of human origin, it will eventually fail, but if it is of God, nothing can thwart God’s plans and purposes. No enemy will be able to stop the advancement of the kingdom of heaven. The more they try, the more that people will get saved, and will turn their lives over to Jesus Christ, so it will only backfire on them. We need to keep this always in mind, because Satan likes to whisper in our ears that he can stop the work of God in our lives. He likes to try to make us afraid, and to doubt God and his Word, and to believe the enemy’s lies, instead. No sickness, no hardship, no famine or sword can overrule God or halt his plans and purposes. He will always prevail. His Word will live on forever. Counted Worthy (vv. 39b-42) So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. Jesus said we are blessed when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. I think we are blessed in several ways. One of them is with the earnestness, maturity, perseverance, and the love for God/Christ and for others that such suffering produces in our lives. Another is with the effectiveness that our lives and testimonies has on the lives of others when they see our responses to our suffering, and how we do not let it discourage us, but how we allow it to help strengthen us in our faith, and in our resolve to keep obeying our Lord, despite being treated poorly, and perhaps even though we are being accused falsely of things we did not do. When we bear up under such treatment with grace, and with love and with kindness, others see that, and that serves as a testimony of God’s saving grace in human lives. And, yet another is with the accomplishment of encouraging others in their walks of faith, and leading others to faith in Jesus Christ, because we did not give up, but we continued to obey our Lord despite our suffering, and/or as a direct result of that suffering and the determination that it instilled inside us to keep going. To me, I am blessed when I feel my life has been a blessing to others, and when I see others’ lives transformed by the power of God; when I see them turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. All Through the Night / An Original Work / December 7, 2013 Based off Various Scriptures Blessed are you when you’re persecuted Because of your faith in Jesus Christ. Blessed are you when people insult you, And falsely say what leads folks to doubt. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is Great in the heavens. You’re not alone. When you are persecuted in one place, Flee to another. God will be there. You will be hated by all the nations Because you testify of God’s grace. Many will seize you and persecute you, And put to death the foll’wers of Christ. Yet, do not fear what humans may do to you, For I’m with you all through the night. I tell you, love your enemies with my love, And forgive as I forgave you. Pray for those who do evil against you. Rest in my love and grace from above.