Monday, June 22, 2015

Guard Your Heart

The daughters of a reality show family "19 and Counting" were victimized by news that related to sealed files of years past.

Both daughters are newlyweds as of the past year or more, and one has a baby. Each was building her own family, spiritually and in relationship, when a media storm of attention broke upon them.

The sisters decided to sit for an interview on FoxNewsTV. I heard and could not help noticing a frequent referral to "our hearts."  

Guarding their hearts, it turns out, was a prime incentive for  seeking to forgive their brother, who took advantage of them when they were very young and he was an older minor. 

In these days, guarding their hearts is part of seeking to react as Christians regarding those who now take advantage of their family's very private history, a "family secret."     

There is an ongoing public excitement over discoveries or confessions of immorality among Christian leaders while they are in positions of moral leadership. That is to be expected. Yet, the innocent need to guard their hearts, too.

Bible commentator Matthew Henry said "God's counsels concerning us and our welfare are deep, such as cannot be known.... As the Lord knows us thoroughly, and we are strangers to ourselves, we should earnestly desire and pray to be searched and proved by his word and Spirit. if there be any wicked way in me, let me see it; and do thou root it out of me.... All the saints desire to be kept and led in this way, that they may not miss it, turn out of it, or tire in it."

A big opportunity lies with Christians to renounce gossip, rejoicing in others' failures, and hate; choosing to pray for those who treat us spitefully is one way to guard ourselves. It forces us to look up. Looking upward not only honors God; through it He guards us from vulnerable and chaotic hearts that can lead us off what C. S. Lewis called "the main road."  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Living in Action

My attention was drawn recently to Christian action and reaction as Jesus' followers lived the gospel: they spoke to "the people"  about Him.

Along the streets of a busy city, a man was healed by God through the apostles of Jesus. He was about 40 years old; and while the apostles Peter and John continued to speak to the people (Acts 4:1,2), "..the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead."

There we see a fear of the name, Jesus; so strong was the threat of that Name that the religious leaders did what they could legally do: they forced those giving testimony of Jesus into immediate confinement (Acts 4:3). 

They were unable to stop the message, however, because those who had "heard the word believed...," about 5,000 men among them. 

The next day, the apostles were brought to them. They were put "in their midst" to give an accounting about the healed man. At the time, "...rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander" and all related to the high priest were also in Jerusalem.

Therefore, having the offenders surrounded, the healed man there, too, and a host of powerful leaders with them, the leaders asked the believers: "By what power, or by what name, have you done this?"  

Peter seized the opening: "If we are being examined," he said, "because of a good thing we have done (the man healed) and how he was made whole, let it be known by you and everyone of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

"The stone (Jesus) that you considered nothing has become the cornerstone." In Peter's words: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."

The inquisitors noted Peter's boldness, along with John and others with them, and recognized them as uneducated men. They considered them to be ignorant, the scripture says. And yet, "they marveled...." These men had been with Jesus. And they saw the man that had been healed, as he stood before them; the leaders "could say nothing against it."

Peter's clear answer was sufficient. When he testified of Jesus in answer to a question, Peter spoke to the heart of the matter: Jesus, whom the religious leaders had crucified, Jesus whom God raised from the dead, was the One by whom the man was healed, the same man standing before them whole. And by that name, Jesus, salvation came, and by no other.

Does it surprise us to hear that some church leaders have become faint in faith, waffling about the truth and resisting the scriptural record about Jesus? He was crucified for the sins of the world and raised alive from the grave by God unto eternal life--resurrection--and this, from the beginning of the church, threatened and angered the powerful. So, too, did the truth that only through Jesus could anyone be saved.   

You may have heard about disapproval of your love and devotion to Jesus or your belief that He is the only way to be sure of heaven. And if you are criticized to your face or questioned, are you prepared to answer truthfully and well? I ask myself this.

I find help from many examples, including this one in Acts 4: I think the early church as praying people devoted to God and His Son. The evidence is abundant that they were faithful in prayer and fellowship with one another. And God strengthened and prepared them. He kept them close.

That's why, I believe, that Peter did not get lost in history, archaeology, or comparative religious philosophies when he answered that morning as he stood, undaunted, surrounded by many powerful men. Peter went to the heart of the matter--Jesus crucified, buried, and raised to life by the power of God, therefore alive and working to save and to heal. 

Peter had come out of a night of confinement, as had the others; and he was ready. Maybe he and the others had spent the night not only sleeping but praying and singing.

If there are times when your words of testimony about Jesus become lost in a haze of your own thoughts or defenses, maybe believers of the past, those who walked with Jesus then, can help you hold onto the center of the message, ready to speak it to people.  

Sometimes, others hear, believe, and are healed...whether one or 5,000.


Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.
(from Psalm 103)