Acts 5:34,35,38,39—A Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was respected by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered the men to be taken outside for a little while He said to them, “Men of Israel, be careful about what you’re going to do to these men . . . And now, I tell you, stay away from these men and leave them alone. For if this plan or this work is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even be found fighting against God.” So they were persuaded by him.
Mark 15:43--Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God, came and boldly went in to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.
It was an amazingly gutsy move. Jesus was crucified through the persistent efforts of the religious leaders determined to rid the earth of the Messiah. At the worst possible time to identify with the slain Savior, Joseph courageously went to the Roman ruler Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Surprised that Jesus was already dead, Pilate gave His corpse to Joseph who promptly went out and bought linen in which to wrap His body before placing Him in the tomb he owned.
Mark 10:47,48—When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out, “Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!” Many people told him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”
I am motivated by this story for many reasons. First, Bartimaeus, the blind beggar mentioned above, was a man of faith. He had heard about Jesus and, when he realized the Son of God was close, he took action and cried out for mercy. Just because someone struggles or is disabled does not mean that person is necessarily deficient in faith.
Dmitri determined to educate his sons from the Bible at a time when Russia was dominated by communism. Soon neighbors began joining the family Bible study which grew to about 75 people crammed into his little house and standing outside in hearing range. Angry at his refusal to stop teaching the Bible, an officer and soldiers pushed inside during a time of fellowship and arrested him. As the authorities were leaving, a small grandmother waved a finger at the officer and declared, “You have laid hands on a man of God and you will NOT survive.” Two nights later that officer died of a heart attack. The fear of God so filled that community that 150 people joined the next time of teaching. Meanwhile Dmitri was sent to jail.
Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s youthful dictator pushes his nation towards the brink of war. Threatening a “‘preemptive nuclear attack’ on the United States, a ‘final destruction’ of South Korea, and a ‘nuclear attack’ on Tokyo” leaves much of the world holding its collective breath. While we should pray that war does not break out, we should also remember that even bullies and police states cannot keep God from revealing His love in amazing ways.
Dr. Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon, spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. Sitting just two seats away from the podium, President Barack Obama listened intently as this godly doctor shared observations about what is troublesome in America and his prescriptive ideas as to what would change the country for the better. It was a bold, uncompromising message delivered by a humble, God-fearing man. Some in the media castigated him for daring to speak openly against policies connected to the president. Prophetically, the Dr. Carson emphasized the dangers of political correctness in his message.
When we arrive in heaven will there be a Hall of Fame? Will we find an interactive display manned by select angels who share the stories of those living legends who served God exceedingly well? Conversely, will there be a Hall of Shame in hell for those who acted in the power of Satan? If Hitler was one of the worst men to walk the planet we might also find that his countryman Dietrich Bonhoefferwas an exceptional saint. This German Lutheran pastor and theologian could have successfully pastored in the United States or in Great Britain. Instead, he chose to go back to his country and preach and teach knowing that his life was in jeopardy.
Whenever Lee takes a new job, one of his first acts is to publically share with those he will be serving his faith in Jesus as his Savior and the priority He holds in his life. There are several reasons Lee does this. First, Jesus said in Matthew 10:32, “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven.” Second, by stating his conviction upfront, Lee makes himself accountable. If he acts or speaks in a way incongruent with Jesus, those who work for him are quick to point out his error. This also helps kill the temptation for him to do anything that might discredit God. Third, by sharing his faith, opportunities arise for Lee to help those who are struggling and who would like prayer, counsel, or information how they too can follow Christ.
On December 8th, Stephen celebrated his eighteenth birthday. I was in Colorado Springs and missed the big day. As I chatted with him on the phone, he shared about how his school would not allow him or his friends to use the words, “Merry Christmas” for an upcoming drama presentation. The reason the teacher gave him was that the school did not want to offend anyone.
David Ole Kereto was born in Narok, Kenya, the Maasai son of a witch doctor. By tradition he was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. One of the highest honors for a Maasai male is to become a warrior. To achieve warrior status, one must kill a lion or a man. To kill a lion, tribesmen will surround the big cat and agitate it by shouting. One of the men then steps forward making himself a target. He holds a spear in his right hand and a stick sharpened to a point on both ends in the other hand. When the lion attacks it usually lunges for the spear hand. Just as it leaps, the Maasai shifts the stick to his right hand and as the lion opens its mouth he thrusts it between its jaws. David accomplished this at age 15 thereby becoming a Maasai warrior!
Most American Christians are familiar with the term “rapture.” The belief that Christians will avoid living through the tribulation is largely attributed to 1 Thessalonians 4:17—“Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.” The fictional series Left Behindglamorizes this view and reinforces the notion that the church will escape the tribulation.
He humbly sits at our head table in his Dress Greens. Around his neck a blue ribbon holds a precious five pointed star that symbolizes the highest award for valor in combat action a soldier can earn. We admire this World War II veteran and he seems genuinely touched that we have made him an honorary member of our battalion.
When I wake up each morning, my first task is to let out the dogs and retrieve the newspaper. Before I read the headlines I wonder what new tragedy has rocked people from their illusive peace. In Israel, yet another Palestinian has blown himself up and taken the lives of bystanders. What propels these martyrs to so willingly die?