Can’t Be Contained!

Read Acts 12 here.

Being told to keep quiet when you know the truth should be spoken is challenging. Being told not to do anything you think is right is challenging. For some, it is more important not to ruffle feathers or to disturb the status quo or cause a disturbance in the force. But always remember the truth and grace of God will continue to prevail and will not be held back.

In Acts 12, we read about Herod trying to please the crowd. He was violent with anyone who was affiliated with the church (those who followed Jesus Christ). In fact, he had the Apostle James killed by the sword. Herold saw how much this pleased the Jews, so he had Peter arrested too.

Why would Herod be so angry with followers of Christ and do what he could to please the Jews? His control over the region would be lost and severely threatened if more of the citizens believed in and followed Jesus Christ. This is a scary place to be whenever you are used to having control. Isn’t it amazing how much emphasis on our identity is based upon what we do and what we can control?

To keep his sense of running the region, Herod was doing everything he could to stop the people from following another. His actions would have instilled fear in the people who witnessed his actions. It is human nature to go into a mindset of self-preservation. So, acting pleased, even if you weren’t would have been the thing to do. Also, there would have been religious authorities, of the day, most likely pressuring people to not go against Herod.

The citizens saw that Peter was arrested. In the community, he would have been the one seen as the leader, so some may have thought this business of following Jesus was over. But…You cannot contain nor stop what God is doing.

Peter was released, at night, by an angel of the Lord. No one saw him leave. What Herod tried to contain and squish, God released. Is there anything inside you that is “imprisoned” that needs to be released? I am talking about having fear of talking to others about Jesus, going on the “bad/rough” side of town to spread the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ, being the person willing to stand up for those who have no one?

The power of God’s grace can open up doors and cross boundaries we may feel it’s difficult to cross. When we recognize that God is the Creator and is already present, we also should understand there is nothing that humans can do to stop the power of grace.

Yes, fear does keep people laying low and not doing anything; but if we allow ourselves to live into the joy, hope, love, peace, power that God has given us, there is nothing anyone can do.

1 Timothy 2:7 “God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.”

Romans 8:26-39 “26 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans.27 The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. 28 We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son. That way his Son would be the first of many brothers and sisters. 30 Those who God decided in advance would be conformed to his Son, he also called. Those whom he called, he also made righteous. Those whom he made righteous, he also glorified. 31 So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them.34 Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us. 35 Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, We are being put to death all day long for your sake. We are treated like sheep for slaughter. 37 But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us.38 I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.”

December 6: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Luke 1:26-34 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”

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So we finally get to Jesus’ birth spoken of by the angel Gabriel. One of the things that happens is we hear this story every year and know the details. As we’re going through this story segment by segment, I continue to invite you to find yourself in it and hear God speaking directly to you.

I find it interesting that every time, in the Bible, an angel appears, the first thing they say is ,”don’t be afraid.” When your life is suddenly interrupted, how do you feel? Do you feel calm? Most likely not.

Mary was going about her day as normal, and all of a sudden her entire life is changing. God is calling her to this incredible life of being the earthly mother to the Messiah, Jesus Christ himself. I believe God is calling a person reading this today into vocational ministry. To be clear, each one of us is a minister to the world. Where we work, go out, eat, home, etc. are all places we are ambassadors to Jesus Christ.

We often have questions when God says he wants to use us. Why me? There has to be someone of better character. Someone smarter. Someone better off. But God uses people we don’t expect…you and me!

Almighty God, you speak daily. Open our understanding so we know where we are already in ministry and where you are calling us to go to be in ministry. Allow us to see and live into the gifts you have given. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

December 3: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Luke 1:8-13 One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God because his priestly division was on duty. Following the customs of priestly service, he was chosen by lottery to go into the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense. All the people who gathered to worship were praying outside during this hour of incense offering. An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John.

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Zechariah is afraid, at first, of the angel! If you haven’t been able to relate personally to the Advent/Christmas story, this is where we all should see ourselves.

Zechariah was performing his duties and prayer, as he was supposed to do. Many people today think that God will reveal himself in extraordinary ways and in extraordinary circumstances. This passage today reminds me that God is showing us, he is even in the ordinary aspects of life.

This is incredible! We do not have to go very far or really even change our work routine to be in God’s presence or even hear a word from him. Here’s the catch: we should not be so engrossed in what we’re doing that we miss seeing and hearing from God. Even when we’re working, we still should have our hearts prepared to listen and see the Living God.

How will you live differently in your everyday life today? What will you do to prepare your heart to hear from God? When you do hear God’s voice, don’t be afraid. Trust the God loves you and has something to reveal to you that will help you on your path in life.

Thank you Lord for your presence even in the ordinary parts of life. May we remember you this day in all we do and not be afraid when you speak to us. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.