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Archive for April, 2016

Verses 21-24: “So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God grew and multiplied.”

Dr. Ray Stantz slowly took a couple of steps up the smoking staircase ahead of the other Ghostbusters.

Ray: Gozer the Gozerian? Good evening. As a duly-designated representative of the City, County and State of New York, I order you to cease any and all supernatural activity and return forthwith to your place of origin, or to the next convenient parallel dimension.
Dr. Peter Venkman: That oughta do it. Thanks very much, Ray.
Gozer: Are you a god?
Stantz: [looks at Venkman, who nods] No.
Gozer: Then… DIIIIIIIIE! [sends the Ghostbusters sprawling with lightning bolts]

As the Ghostbusters slowly get up from being almost blown off the building, Winston Zeddemore says, “Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say YES!”

The previous dialogue was from one of my favorite movies, Ghostbusters (https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Ghostbusters). Of course, Dr. Ray Stantz would never claim to be a god, let alone God Himself. However, some people never learn.

Herod was all set to “soak up some praise”. During his speech to the crowd, they, in a fervent frenzy, called him a god for how he was speaking. Herod could’ve corrected them; he could’ve stopped it. After all, he was the king! But he didn’t; he probably let it stoke his ego.

You don’t claim God’s glory…period. An angel of the Lord delivered the final smack down to Herod, thus ending his miserable life. Here was a man determined to end the spread of Christianity, and in the end, it was he who was stopped. Verse 24 says it all: “But the word of God grew and multiplied.”

Something to think about.

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Verse 18-19: “Then, as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers about what had become of Peter. But when Herod had searched for him and not found him, he examined the guards and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there.”

In the movie No Way Out, Gene Hackman plays married Secretary of Defense David Brice, who is having an affair with socialite Susan Atwell, played by Sean Young. Susan has fallen in love with another man, and they have been recently dating. One night, she ushers him out of the house before Brice shows up. Brice can only see a silhouette of the man leaving, but the man can see Brice clearly. Tempers flare between Brice and Atwell, and in a violent outburst, he kills her accidentally. In an effort to cover up his misdeed, he and his loyal aide plan to state that the girl was killed by “Yuri”, a Russian mole buried somewhere in Washington, D.C. They even transfer a heroic Navy commander named Tom Farrell, played by Kevin Costner, to lead the investigation. In an ironic twist, it was Farrell who was dating Atwell; he knows about the affair, but she promised him that she was going to break it off. Now, he must lead an investigation to find this “Yuri”, all the while trying to cover his involvement AND get evidence to link Brice to the crime.

To quote an old story-telling comedian: “I told you all that to tell you this.”

In the penultimate climax to the movie, Farrell and Brice are confronting each other about the crime. Brice’s loyal aide, trying to help his boss, commits suicide by shooting himself in front of the two, as security breaks in. Brice is able to use his aide as “the fall guy” and to accuse him of being Yuri, bringing the investigation to a close. (Farrell later manages to mail incriminating evidence to the CIA, implicating Brice).

A high-ranking official pinning the blame on an underling…just the stuff of movies? Sadly, no. That is just what Herod did! After finding nothing to explain Peter just “disappearing” from the prison, and with the guards offering no explanation that Herod wanted to hear, he again refuses to acknowledge that God spirited him away. So, he takes the politically convenient avenue and has all the guards put to death. “Not my fault”, he probably thinks.

There are those in our world who wouldn’t stand for admitting guilt, and would rather pin the blame on the innocent; those who can’t accept responsibility for what they did. But wait…Herod has sown the wind, and is about to reap the whirlwind in the next verses.

Something to think about.

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Verse 16: “Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.”

I can’t remember who first told me this joke, but I really liked it. I have found several versions on the Internet, so I will give credit and reference to this version that I found at
http://www.pinetree.net/humor/sherlockholmescamping.html .

This is my version of the joke:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. They laid down to sleep for the night, the fire dwindling nearby. Not too long afterward, Holmes woke up Watson and said: “Watson, look up and tell me what you see”.

Watson said, “I see the night sky, full of countless stars”.

Holmes: “And what does that tell you?”

Watson: “Well, astronomically, it suggests to me that if there are billions of other galaxies that have roughly similar stellar population densities as represented by my view, that, potentially, trillions of planets may be associated with such a galactic and, therefore, stellar population. One may reasonably imply by this that life-and possibly intelligent life-may well fill the universe.

Also, being a believer, theologically, it tells me that the vastness of space may be yet another suggestion of the greatness of God and that we are small and insignificant.

Meteorologically, the blackness of the sky and the crispness of the stellar images tells me that there is low humidity and stable air and therefore we are most likely to enjoy a beautiful day tomorrow.

Why? – What does it tell you, Holmes?”

Holmes: “Watson…someone has stolen our tent”. 🙂

Sometimes, you miss the obvious when you see something. One can observe a scene directly in front of them, analyze it, and still miss something, until someone else points it out. Even some people fail to believe what’s in front of them, as incredible as that may sound.

God had freed Peter from Herod’s prison. Here is Peter, knocking at the door of Mary’s house. The servant girl, Rhoda, is so excited to see Peter, that she leaves him outside the doorway to go tell the believers gathered within! (For some reason, I think of that old humorous ending of the Flintstones, with Fred banging on the door, yelling for Wilma!) The believers wouldn’t believe the first-hand sighting by Rhoda; they said “You’re imagining things!”, “You’re out of your mind!”, or “It must be his ghost!” Weren’t these very believers PRAYING to the Lord for Peter’s deliverance? God answered their prayers…and yet they couldn’t believe it! Even when they saw Peter themselves, “they were astonished.”

So…the next time you earnestly pray to God for something…don’t act too shocked when God answers you as you requested. Remember, nothing is too difficult for Him.

Something to think about.

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Verse 11: “And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.””

“Take this man to prison”, the man heard Herod say,
And then four squads of soldiers came and carried him away,
Chained up between two watchmen, Peter tried to sleep,
But beyond the wall, an endless prayer was lifting for his keep.

Then a light cut through the darkness of a lonely prison cell,
And the chains that bound the man of God just opened up and fell,
And running to his people, before the break of day,
There was only one thing on his mind, only one thing to say.

– 1st stanza of Angels, by Amy Grant

I know that Amy Grant song by heart, and boy, does it sum up this passage!

I’ve always enjoyed watching escape artists and magicians; I know I have mentioned before that my favorite episode of the Columbo TV series was “Now You See Him..”. In that episode, the murderer was an illusionist/magician named The Great Santini. His piece de resistance was an illusion called the Water Tank Escape. Picture this: Santini steps into an air-tight box, which is then latched, chained and locked with several padlocks. The box contains just under 10 minutes of air. It is then raised by a small winch and suspended in a tank of water in full view of the audience. The box is not sitting in the tank; it is suspended so you can see under it. At the end of the 10 minutes, the hooded assistants hurry to get the slowly-lifted box out of the tank and unlocked. However, once opened, Santini’s daughter, Della, emerges and stands to the applause of the audience. Santini himself then removes his black hood, revealing that he was one of the hooded assistants.

Looking at the parameters of that television “inescapable” trap, you have to be impressed. Now look at the real-life escape of Peter. Chained to a prison cell wall, with two guards at the door, and four squads of soldiers assigned to prevent him from escaping. This is real; this is historical. Herod probably would think smugly “there’s no way he can escape”. However, Herod has not reckoned with the almighty power of God! God’s angel wakes him (he was sleeping), the chains just fall off his arms, he is led by the angel past the guards, out of the prison, to the gates of the city, and the gates just open! Now, that is an impressive escape! Up to that point, Peter thought he was dreaming or having another vision. As verse 11 states, when he “had come to himself” (e.g., realized he was awake), he gave credit to the One who made his escape possible!

So the next time you think you’re trapped in some situation that there is no possible hope of escape, you just might want to pray and ask God for the impossible. After all, nothing is too difficult for Him. Remember, Jesus became the escape for Christians from the eternal penalty of sin.

Something to think about.

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Verses 1-3: “Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.”

Enter the villain. Herod the king enters the picture to harass the Christian church. He has James murdered and captures Peter. What strikes me about this is the part of the verses above where it’s stated “And because he saw that it pleased the Jews”.  In other words…Herod was also a corrupt politician, seeking to win over the majority with acts to gain favor.

In this election year, one might say the choices for President aren’t too promising. Each candidate, though they might have some good qualities, also seems to possess bad qualities and extra baggage that make for an old-fashioned, mud-slinging campaign. Promises will be made, and not certain that they will all be kept. One thing all registered voters need to do: make sure you vote, but make your choices wisely. We still live in a land where the right to vote is a privilege not to be taken lightly. If you are a Christian voter, you need to do something before you cast that ballot…pray to the Lord for guidance.

Something to think about.

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Verses 27-30: “And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”

In Genesis 41, we are in the middle of Joseph’s incredible journey into Egypt, as God used him in a way no one could ever see coming. Pharaoh had a dream (a vision, you could say), sent by God, and no one could interpret it. God opened the door for Joseph to be the deliverer of the vision’s meaning; a period of great harvest in the land, followed by a period of great famine. After Joseph proposed a plan of action to Pharaoh, Pharaoh made Joseph the second-most powerful leader in Egypt to head up the program to save the populace from famine.

Flash forward to today’s verse: another vision, this one given to the prophet Agabus. Again, it’s a vision of a coming famine. The disciples (after prayer and discussion, I’m sure) determined to send relief; what we would call a “love offering” today. This gift would help the home church back in Jerusalem.

The story of Joseph came to mind when I read the above verses; here are some parallels from both stories that God revealed to me, that are true today:
1. God does give advance warning of future events, if we are listening. In both cases, God gave visions of the upcoming famines. To coin an old idiom, “forewarned is forearmed”. Like the recent tornado outbreaks we’ve had, the first thing we did was turn on the television, and get the information from the local weatherman as to where the storm may go…this allowed us to be ready. However, we had to listen and to pay attention to the signs (the forecast predictions). The messenger may be different, but God is in control.
2. God provides a way out of trouble. If anyone could echo this statement’s truth, it was Joseph! Seems our problem today is, we sometimes don’t want to use God’s “escape plan”, due to selfish reasons or stubborn pride. However, that doesn’t deny that the way out is there.
3. God uses His people to be part of the rescue. In Genesis, it was Joseph. In Acts here, it was a gift from Antioch to Jerusalem. Today, God uses those who are willing to be used by Him, to be part of the solution, not the problem.

Just as in the past, so it is in the present, and true even in the future. God is in control.

Something to think about.

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