When Peter announced to the first believers that they needed to fill Judas’s empty position*, he used a phrase that always glares at me. I feel it piercing my heart every time I read it. It’s almost as if those words growl and claw. He prays “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go WHERE HE BELONGS” [emp. added].
To go where he belongs. Ouch. I think we all know where that is.
“To go where he belongs” is the NIV translation. The KJ and NAS say, “to go to his own place” and the MSG says, “to go his own way.”
We all belong somewhere. There is a place where we are going to go. You and I cannot be in two places at once. It is either going to be here or it is going to be there. Only God can be in multiple places. Not even the enemy can do that.
There is no spiritual fence-riding. If you think you are straddling that fence, think again. As Peter prayed, God knows EVERYONE’S heart. He knows which side your heart is really on. We fool others and we may even fool ourselves, but there is no fooling God.
Going where you belong can be a comforting thought or a frightening one.
For a Child of the King, where you belong is in the house of your Father. Where you belong is a place you have longingly envisioned a million times and it will be a million times more magnificent that you ever could dream.
For a child of the world, where you belong is in the house of your father. Where you belong is a place you never ever thought of and it will be a million times more horrifying than you could have ever envisioned.
When I returned from walking our dog last night, there was a moment when she was off her leash. In that couple of seconds she could’ve took off. She’s done it before. There’s a spark of realization: I’m Free!
I was struck with two thoughts during that panic: Please don’t! and Why would she want to?
Why would she want to leave my side and the sanctity of our house? I promise shelter, warmth, food, and love. I want her there.
By my side, I can guarantee her safety. Away from my side, she would have to fend for herself. The night was cold and dark. She would have to find her own food. She would have to find her own shelter. Worse of all, she would be alone.
It’s almost like, “Why in the world, would you ever leave my side, you silly dog? Is that “freedom” worth it? I only tether you because I love you. If I didn’t care, I would just open the door and let you have it.”
It would hurt me deeply if she ran off. But you know what? If she did run off, I wouldn’t be like, “Oh, she left. She’s gone.” No, I would go searching for her. I wouldn’t stop until I knew she was ok.
But last night when that moment came, Annie didn’t take off. Actually she was as eager to get inside as I was. “Good girl,” I said and gave her a treat.
If God is in it, there can be no stopping it. If He is not, it will fail.
This was Gamaliel’s advice to the Sanhedrin when the apostles were arrested in Acts 5:17-42. “Leave these men alone! Let them go! If their activity is of human origin, it will fail. But, if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
Who was this Gamaliel anyways?
Gamaliel was a Pharisee which means He was a teacher of the law. He was honored by all the people. He was smart enough to learn from past mistakes. I can’t say if he was for the apostles or not, but it seems like he was only giving this advice to save his own hide, doesn’t it? He wasn’t saying, “These ARE men of God! Let them go!” He was saying, “IF they are from God.”
Regardless of Gamaliel’s motives, what he said is absolutely true: If God is in it, you will not be able to stop it. You will only find yourself fighting against God.
Fighting against God. Even as I type that line I think just how ridiculous a concept it is. Ha! Good luck with that, pal. You have about as much of a chance as… (what’s the most silly thing I can think of?)… about as much of a chance as the Taco Bell chihuahua would have in a boxing match against Mike Tyson.
The opposite is also true: If it’s just humans, it will fail. I am reminded daily just how frail and flawed we humans are. It is only if we are in step with God’s will that we can ever hope to accomplish anything.
So, I have to thank Gamaliel for putting it so succinctly. He was right on the money.
If I told you that becoming a Christian would make your life harder, would you still become one? The message many are attracted to today is one of sunshine and butterflies. However, this does not align with scripture. The reality is: being a Christian makes your life more difficult.
Let’s look at Acts 5:17-42.
The Apostles are out and about proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s return. What do they get for it? Imprisoned. An angel lets them out and tells them to go right back to proclaiming the good news.
Most of us would have considered ourselves lucky to be out and then find a place to lay low for awhile, right? We probably would not stand outside the very same prison preaching! When the Sanhedrin sent for them, they got the message that the Apostles somehow got out of a locked cell and past the Roman guards and escaped… to outside the prison where they were doing what they got arrested for in the first place. I’m sure Gamaliel did a face-palm at that one.
They are arrested again (nicely this time). Long story short, they are flogged and told not to preach again.
So, what did the Apostles do? They rejoiced. They considered themselves honored to suffer in Christ’s Name… and then they went out and did it again. “Day after day” “They never stopped,” it says.
These were men heavily anointed in the Spirit. They knew Jesus of Nazareth
personally. If anyone should get special treatment, it would be these guys. But they didn’t, and we shouldn’t expect it either. Things will be tough. Life will seem unfair and darkness may overshadow us at times, but that should not deter us from rejoicing about Jesus and His Return.
If we suffer for His Namesake, it should be an honor, not a curse. We are probably not going to arrested. If so, I highly doubt we are flogged. We got it easy!
So let’s stop expecting life to be sunshine and butterflies all the time and realize that to be a Christian is to have a tough go at it. But that doesn’t mean we don’t Praise God for every blessing and every hardship that comes along.
Two of the most beautiful words in the Bible are: “Even now.” The prophet Joel (2:12) uses this phrase when addressing the Old Testament Israelites. He’s starts describing the impending judgement coming to all mankind. You know the drill: The earth shakes. The sun and moon darken. The stars dim. It is a great and terrible day and who can endure it? It is “The day of The Lord.” The End of the whole sha-bang.
And what is God’s personal message to mankind at that moment? It’s still not too late! Return to me!
He will take you up until the last possible nanosecond! Even as the chapter closes, even as the last letter is typed: He will take you!
Every day is another chance to return to God. Every hour is another gift. Every second is another opportunity.
Of course this also means that:
Every day is another day closer. Every hour is another hour closer. Every second is another second closer to “The day of The Lord.” After that, there will be no more calling and pleading to return. After that, it will be over and done. After that, there will not be a “even now.”
Britt and I had to go to Lowe’s to get some things to work on the house. While we were out, I stopped at the pet store to get Annie (our troublesome labrador retriever) a new Kong (a tough red rubber toy that you can put peanut butter into) because she had all but eaten her old one. At this particular pet store, they have these gourmet dog treats that actually look like donuts. I can never pass them up.
I get back to the car and Britt looks through the bag.
“Couldn’t resist, could you?”
“Of course not. She loves these!”
Britt laughs and says, “God is like that. Even though Annie doesn’t deserve that treat, you still think to get her something. In fact, she’s been pretty extra bad lately and you still want to give her a gift. God is like that with us.”
Even though man disappoints God more than he pleases Him, God blesses. Man drops the ball time and time again and God continues to bless.
I can just see God saying with a big grin, “Pat’s doesn’t really deserve this, but I can’t resist. I love him too much. I’m going to bless him anyways. He’ll love this.”
Thank God I have such a brilliant wife. Her servant’s heart is contagious. God knew what He was doing when He planned us. There’s another blessing I didn’t deserve. But God blessed me with it anyways.
I don’t have any money. But what I do have, I’ll give to you.*
Peter said this to the lame beggar at the gate of the temple called Beautiful. The man had been handicap since birth. Every morning he was carried and set down at the gate where he would beg. This was his life.
One morning, He saw Peter and John pass by and asked to recieve alms. Peter stared him down, “Look at us!” The beggar got excited. He thought he was going to get some money! “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – WALK!” In an instant his legs were strengthened and with a LEAP, the lame man walked. I imagine he probably did more than walk too. I don’t have any scripture to back this up, but I figure he most likely moonwalked.
Sometimes we ask God for something and He gives us something else. If God gives you something else, you can bank on that something else being much much better.
Sure, some extra money would’ve helped this man. No doubt about it. But God, through Peter, gave the lame man something far greater than he could have ever imagined: a new life! God is in the business of making things new and better.
One last thought: Could any other name have healed that man? In the name of Moses! No. In the name of Abraham! Nothing. In the name of Caesar! Give me a break. Only the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God has power. Just the name, folks! No other name EVER could done one little thing to help that man.
Be on the look out. If you ask God for something. He may surprise you with something… else. Something Beautiful.
When I was little, I was scared of quicksand. I was absolutely certain I was going to fall into some quicksand and never get out. I don’t have facts on this, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t even any quicksand in West Virginia. Anyways, try telling that to a 10 year old.
Anyone who has ever seen a Western or Indiana Jones, can tell you – don’t struggle! It will only make you sink faster! If you just remain calm, you may have more of a chance… to find a rope, or branch, or call out for help, or something.
2 Cor. 12:9-10 tells us that God’s Grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in our weakness. Boast happily in your weaknesses and then the Power of God may rest upon you. If that doesn’t make your heart burst in praise, I don’t know what will. The weaker you are, the easier it is for God to jump in and blow that hardship out of the water? Sign me up!
Tenth Avenue North has a song called, “The Struggle.” It has a line that really resonates with my wife and I. “We are free to struggle, We’re not struggling to be free.”
Every night at around 10 o’clock, I let my dog out for one last time. The first thing I do is look up to the sky and see if “the stars are out.” I’ll tell my wife, “Man, the stars are really out tonight!” or “No stars out tonight!” Now, I know full well that the stars are not precarious things that are sometimes there and sometimes hiding. It’s just that on certain nights, I cannot see them. I can thank Miss Grewe at East Dale Elementary for that.
There are times when you feel like God is not there. Saint John of the Cross called it “The Dark Night of The Soul.” You walk out into that night and there are no stars. The sky is black. Your gut sinks as you peer into the cold vast nothing. You are unprotected, alone and forgotten.
God has gone out of His way to let you know how ridiculous that is: Deut 31:8, Heb. 13:5, Joshua 1:9, Phil. 4:6-7, and Psa. 55:22 just to name a few. Over and over He tells us we are not alone, He will never forsake us and He protects His children. So when your flesh is weak and when your heart fails, remember – God is there, He has not left you and He alone can get you where He needs you to be.
The stars are ALWAYS out there, it’s just sometimes you can’t see them.
I read somewhere that your brain can always see your nose, but it chooses to ignore it. There is a section in your field of vision that gets continously… deleted.
Sin can be like that. It’s gets so constant, that we just sort of ignore it. We knows its there, we can see it… but we continously delete it from our sight.
Conversely, Good can be like that also. Far too often we ignore what’s so plainly in front of us: good health, amazing riches, and unbelievable blessings. The fact that you are reading this right now means a coulple of things: 1. You can see. 2. You can read (14% of US Adults are illiterate). 3. You have access to the internet (119 million lack broadband internet). How about thanking God for any of those?
Ignoring something doesn’t make it go away. If it’s something bad – address it. Proverbs 3:6 says in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. If it’s something good – give thanks for it. Psalms 95:2 says let us come before Him with thanksgiving. Either way, let’s stop deleting things from our sight and acknowledge our Lord and Saviour!