They Charged Them not to Speak in Jesus’ Name

November 29, 2012 at 10:06 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”  Acts 4:18-20 (ESV)

Yesterday, while catching up on some reading material that had piled up on my desk, I read two articles about our religious freedoms being curtailed.  This morning I read Acts 4 and 5 in my devotions.  It is amazing how much overlap I saw in those things.

Our religious freedoms in the United States have been drastically reduced in recent years, and I’m afraid the news of the past few weeks means that they will continue to be reduced even further.  I showed my daughter an article in World magazine about the number of colleges in the USA that have either excluded Christian groups from their campuses or even outlawed them (“Toxic U”  World, November 17, 2012, p.34.  The other article demonstrates how the current opposition to Christian freedoms has been often held up in the courts – “Individual, Community, and State: How to Think About Religious Freedom”  Imprimis, September 2012).  So we are losing the freedom to speak of biblical values, and, in some cases, even the freedom to speak of Jesus, sometimes actually being told it is unlawful to do so!  And all in the name of tolerance!  It seems this direction will not soon be reversed.

In Acts, the disciples were forbidden by the Jewish authorities to speak any more in Jesus’ name, which sounds to me exactly like what is happening on our college campuses.  The reason given for the prohibition is the authorities don’t want “it” to spread any further (v17).  Whatever “it” is, they do not say; in context it sounds like “it” is not the Gospel, but the good deed the apostles just performed!  When the authorities threatened the apostles the second time (ch 5), it becomes apparent the real reason is jealousy (5:17).  They were afraid they would lose their powerful positions if this “it” spread.  I believe that is not at all dissimilar to today’s situation.  The leaders in Peter’s day whined that the apostles were determined to bring blame for Jesus’ death on them.  This was, of course, totally off base, as the apostles would have been quick to offer grace to any religious leader who trusted Jesus, as they did for many of the priests (6:7), but, when someone feels threatened, he latches on to anything he can find to blame those who threaten him.  The same silly arguments are presented against Christians today by those who would strip our freedoms.

The disciples’ reaction to that opposition is instructive to us.  They gathered together with other believers and prayed.  First, they reminded themselves of good theology:  God is in control, and what has happened is a part of his sovereign plan (4:24-28).  Second, they asked God for boldness in face of the troubles and threats (29).  They had already determined to speak in spite of the threats (19-20), and they needed God’s strength to carry out that commitment.  When they were arrested the second time, they were ready with the answer, “We must obey God rather than men” (5:29).  Only the wisdom of an old respected rabbi kept the council from killing the apostles then and there.  Jesus’ followers had a bold perspective about it.  “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.” (5:41)  Wow, they were honored to suffer for Jesus!  And they continued to be bold: “every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” (5:42)  As a result of their boldness, “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.” (6:7)

As opposition against Christians mounts, as our religious freedoms are taken away, may Jesus’ followers today determine to be bold, remember that God is sovereign, ask our sovereign God for boldness, and see his word increase in our world.

For similar thoughts, see my articles “Persecution — A Gift of God’s Grace?” and “Rejoicing They’d Been Counted Worthy.”

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That Thanksgiving!

November 18, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Posted in Personal Testimony, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Except for the obvious tongue in cheek parts, the following story is completely true.  I wrote it down about 10 years ago with help from my mom and sister.  I thought this week of Thanksgiving would be a great time to post it for others to enjoy.

Every time my extended family gets together for holidays or family reunions, one memory is bound to come up at least once.  It was November of 1977 or 1978, we’ve since forgotten exactly which, when it all happened.  Ever since then, we’ve simply called it “That Thanksgiving,” and everyone in the Gilpin family knows exactly what we mean by “That Thanksgiving.”

For my Mom, it all started on Wednesday afternoon with a list locked in a file cabinet.  She was working at the church, and a number of high school girls were coming to Cheyenne for a weekend church conference.  A list was made of the girls coming and the families who were to house them.  It was this list that was inadvertently locked into the file cabinet for which only Mom had a key.  She had left the church early for lunch, and to do some necessary Thanksgiving shopping with her sister, forgetting to get the list to Pastor Dunn.  The church office had been trying to call her all afternoon.

In the mean time, my sister Linda and I arrived home from college for the long holiday weekend, carrying the loads and loads of laundry college students usually have on such occasions.  Being the wonderful, good kids we were, we separated our dirty clothes into piles on the basement floor and began the first wash load.  Not knowing where our mother was, we kept putting Pastor Dunn off.  “She’ll call you when she gets here,” we said.

Mom arrived home and called Pastor Dunn about the list.  While on the phone, it occurred to her that the water had been running into the washer ever since she arrived, which seemed like an awful long time for one load of laundry.  She ventured into the basement to find the laundry room flooded with 3-4 inches of water.  All the laundry that had been so carefully separated was now sopping wet.  Pastor Dunn wasn’t the only one who was called; a plumber was needed as well.

Mom then left with the file cabinet key to get the list delivered, while Linda and I waited for the plumber.  When the plumber arrived, he reported that there was nothing he could do.  It appeared to be a washing machine problem and the repairman for that appliance needed to be called.

When Mom returned home, she prepared supper, while she, Linda and I worked to clean up the mess in the basement.  The rest of the evening was quiet and uneventful primarily because the laundry repairman couldn’t get there before Thanksgiving.

When we all woke up on the holiday, Mom had a stomach flu bug.  Thanksgiving Dinner for the extended family was scheduled to be at Aunt Martha’s house, but Mom opted to stay home in bed.  Nobody in the family brought her dinner.  (This was an oversight of which her children have been reminded numerous times since.  Hey, what could we do?  She had told us she was too sick to eat.)  Not only that, but Martha had made mince meat pie, and she tried to get us to take a piece home for Mom.  We responded that no one in our family likes mince meat pie.  (We’ve since learned well that no one in our family EXCEPT MOM likes mince meat pie!)

On Friday, Mom was feeling better, and went to work at the church.  (That is, she was feeling better physically; she still hasn’t recovered emotionally from the mince meat ordeal.)  However, I contracted the stomach flu and got so sick that I began throwing up (I still swear it was mince meat, though I really didn’t eat it!).  It got so bad that Mom decided to take me to the hospital emergency room.

When we arrived at the hospital, we waited for what seemed an unusually long time.  (I mean this was an emergency room, what if someone had a real emergency?)  Anyway, the only comfortable position I could find for the tremendous side ache was laying flat on my back, so I finally laid down on the floor of the waiting room in that position.  No one seemed to take much notice.  We laughed about a person with a real emergency dying on the floor of the waiting room and the attendants not even noticing it.  When a nurse finally did happen in, she saw me and said, “O my gosh!  Is he alright?”  When assured that I was not dying immediately but that had come to the EMERGENCY ROOM for a reason, she left.  As she left the waiting room, we heard her say, “Has anyone called the Morgue yet?”

Well, eventually I was given some medicine to survive the ordeal, and we went home to welcome our guests who were arriving in town for the church conference.  Because we were to house two guests who were girls, they were given Linda’s bedroom upstairs, and Linda moved into the basement — now much dryer — for the next two nights.  She woke up Saturday with the stomach flu bug that seemed to be making the rounds of the entire family.  She spent the day at home, but didn’t need the hospital.  A few things seemed to be looking up that day.  The washing machine was repaired, and no other major disasters were recorded.  That is no other major disasters were recorded during the day.  The night is a different story.

I recall my dad shaking me awake in the middle of the night saying, “Get up. The house might be on fire.  We have to get outside.”  For a man who doesn’t get emotional about anything but Bronco football and, to a greater degree, University of Wyoming Cowgirl Basketball when his daughter plays, those are tremendous words of excitement!  And, as you can imagine, I got up rather quickly to find that everyone else in the house was already aware of the problem.  Apparently Dad was awakened by the smell of smoke.  He and Mom debated what to do with guests, but had decided it best to wake everyone right away and call the fire department.  Because it was cold outside and there seemed to be no immediate danger — no flames were visible — we all sat on the couch in our pajamas, winter coats and shoes, while we waited for the firemen’s arrival.

The fire truck came with sirens for the entire neighborhood to hear.  When they appeared, the crew chief took one sniff of the smoke and immediately said, “I know that smell.  Your furnace motor is burning.  He went to the now infamous basement — smelling smoky instead of mildewy — and turned off the furnace.  The fire crew left saying that we should have no more problems with smoke.  However, we realized that heat might be another matter.

On Sunday morning we took the girls to church while Dad stayed home to call the furnace repairman.  After our guests were off towards home, probably glad to get away from that dangerous family, the laundry was finished and the furnace repaired.  Linda and I seemed healthy and returned to the University.  All hoped peace would reign for a while in the Gilpin household.

On Monday morning, Mom left for work, glad to be done with the holiday and trusting all the disasters were behind her.  She came home to meet Dad for lunch and found the kitchen garbage disposal had backed up and quit.  The plumber was called again.

Three stomach bugs; one trip to the hospital; two plumbers called; one house fire; one flood; one appliance repairman; two scared house guests; one dead furnace; even one call to the morgue!  We have a lot to be thankful for.

Astonished at the Majesty of God

November 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God, Worship | Leave a comment

“And all were astonished at the majesty of God.”  (Luke 9:43 ESV)  These words jumped out during my quite time reading recently.  I wondered how often am I astonished at the majesty of God.  Yet if we comprehend his majesty, his might, his holiness, his grace, then we should be astonished in a major way.  Jesus had just recently healed a woman who had spent her entire 401(k) on doctors who could do nothing for her.  Just the touch of Jesus’ robe brought her complete healing (8:42-48).  Astonishing!  He went to the home of a dead girl and with only two words brought her back to life (8:49-56).  Even more astonishing!  Jesus sent out the twelve and gave them power and authority over demons and disease (9:1).  That also impressed me on the same morning: If Jesus cold give away that kind of power and never lack it himself, what kind of power and authority does he have?  Astonishing!  He took a few loaves and a few fish and fed over 5,000 people – an act of creation (9:10-17).  Even more astonishing!  Then Jesus healed a boy with a demon that his disciples (with their given-by-Jesus authority) could not (9:37-42).  Astonishing!

No wonder all were astonished.  So I had to ask myself, “Does Jesus astonish me?  Or am I so used to these stories that I simply don’t react any more?”  Jesus is astonishingly powerful and astonishingly majestic.  Yet I often miss it.

It was in that context of thought that the next words jumped out to me as well.  “But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.’” (Luke 9:43-44 ESV).  The most marvelous thing about Jesus is not the miracles he performed while walking on earth; the most marvelous thing about Jesus is what he came to earth to accomplish.  Let this sink into your ears, he said; something more marvelous than all these astonishing miracles is about to take place.  I will be put to death by the authorities (9:44, see also 9:21-22).

I should marvel at the amazing power and authority of Jesus, but I should marvel even more at what he accomplished in his death.  He purchased my forgiveness and life in full.  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”  Amen.

An Election Day Prayer, by Aspah

November 6, 2012 at 8:17 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Prayer, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Asaph, the worship leader in Israel during the reign of King David, wrote these words, but they are so appropriate for us today.

O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God!  For behold, your enemies make an uproar; those who hate you have raised their heads.  They lay crafty plans against your people; they consult together against your treasured ones.  .  .  .

O my God, make them like whirling dust, like chaff before the wind.  As fire consumes the forest, as the flame sets the mountains ablaze, so may you pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your hurricane!  Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O LORD.  Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, that they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth. (Psalm 83:1-3, 13-18)

Today, my home country will choose a leader between two men, neither of whom, by biblical standards, is a godly man.  Yet they are so far apart in philosophy and values, that I see this as the most critical election of my lifetime.  Both of these men oppose the Gospel of Jesus, in one way or another.  But whoever gets elected today, God is still in control.  And, like Asaph, we can pray the prayer above.  Ultimately, whatever happens to this temporal and worldly kingdom, God’s kingdom will prevail.  Those who oppose him will someday be put to shame and dismayed forever.  Our prayer for our ruler, whoever it may be, is that he would seek the name of the Lord and know the true God alone as the Most High over all the earth.

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