Friday, May 2, 2014

“Truth wears a crown of thorns”

"We don't pray to be better Christians, but that we may be the only kind of Christians God means us to be; Christ-like Christians; that is, Christians who will bear willingly the cross for God's glory." --a note smuggled from the underground Church in Communist Romania

Scripture Text: (ACTS 5:34-42)
A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel,
a teacher of the law, respected by all the people,
stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time,
and said to the Sanhedrin, “Fellow children of Israel,
be careful what you are about to do to these men.
Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important,
and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed,
and all those who were loyal to him
were disbanded and came to nothing.
After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census.
He also drew people after him,
but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered.
So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”
They were persuaded by him.
After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged,
ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus,
and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes,
they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus

In 2011, Italian scientists announced a new finding about the Shroud of Turin, which many have claimed to be Christ’s burial cloth. The scientists stated that the image on the shroud, which resembled a crucified man, was not painted on. So how did it get there? They tried to produce a similar effect on another piece of cloth using lasers. They succeeded only partially, speculating that at least thirty-four thousand billion watts of energy would be needed to produce such an image.

That would make sense if the man on the shroud had really been raised from the dead—for the power of God is certainly greater than anything man-made!

The scribe Gamaliel may have sensed this power when he heard the preaching of the apostles. Why didn’t he simply join the rest of the Sanhedrin in condemning them? He was obviously trying to be objective: If these men were telling the truth, it would be of no use to try to stop them. Indeed, this small group of disciples couldn’t have had the impact they were having without some powerful assistance!

Both the story of the shroud and Gamaliel’s reasoning tell us that Christianity is more than just a set of ideas. It is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). There is a dynamic force in the message of salvation that can reach into hearts and lives and change people from the inside out—you as well as the people in your life who don’t yet believe in Christ!

So don’t shortchange yourself—or God, for that matter—by thinking that only extra-holy people can be effective witnesses for Christ. If you can find just one opportunity today to share something about your faith, you will be making a difference. It’s not about you anyway; it’s about Jesus and his power! Surely you can rely on him as you share your story. And when you do, know that it’s not just you speaking. The Holy Spirit is there, in your words, adding his grace to your witness.

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