Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gethsemane (Easter Story 3) (Matthew 26:36-56, Luke 22:43-44, 51)

"Jesus wrestled with His destiny in Gethsemane"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

After the Last Supper, Jesus took the disciples to a garden called, "Gethsemane," to pray.  Jesus showed the pain and fear of the Son of Man; the strength and power of the Son of God. It was a very lonely night for Him.  He was so upset he cried tears of blood.  For some reason the disciples kept falling asleep so He was alone.

We don't really know when Jesus knew His exact fate or the exact details of these dark moments.  On this night, it appears He was seeing and feeling the horrible pain He would experience for all of mankind's sin.  He became the sacrifice man could not provide; the perfect lamb of God. He was reaching out for comfort, but couldn't find any.  Restless, He was unable to be still.  Perhaps the images of the crucifixion were on His mind.  

We too, experience our "Gethsemane" times.  When all seems without hope.  It's not over for Jesus yet, neither is it for us.  Triumph beyond belief will come.

Matthew 26:36-56
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there."  37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me."

39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."

40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?  41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done."  43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.

In Luke, an angel is described as appearing to strengthen Him.  His anguish was so great, His sweat turned to great drops of blood. 
43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Luke 22:43-44 NKJV

His response is now love. He is the Son of God.
So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then He came to His disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.  46 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand."
Matthew 26:44 

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him." 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed Him.

50 But Jesus said to him, "Friend, why have you come?" Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. 51 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
Tradition shows Peter as the one who cut off the servant's ear. 
51 But Jesus answered and said, "Permit even this." And He touched his ear and healed him.
Luke 22:51

But Jesus said to him, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.  53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?  54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?"
Matthew 26:52
Jesus had a legion of angels at his request.  But He wanted to be the final sacrifice for us. The disciples were chosen to be the foundation of Jesus' Church and not soldiers.   These were men He personally spent time training, teaching, leading by example.  They were very important to God, as are we.  Through the confusion and chaos in the garden, the disciples were not harmed.

55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take MeI sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me.  56 But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled."

56 Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled. 
Statements like this prove to me the Bible is true.  I would be afraid and run too.  If the Bible wasn't full of human stories, I wouldn't read it.  If I were there, on this day, I would cry in despair.  The light, the love of God would be destroyed.  I wouldn't know who to turn to for guidance and help.  Joy disappeared this night, hope became confusion.  I would wonder where is God?

Here's a song by Matt Maher, Lord, I Need You (link).

Monday, March 30, 2015

Last Supper - Passover (Easter Story 2) (Matthew 26:14-35, John 13:5-11, John 17:20-26, Zech 13:7)

"The Last Supper"
Guest painter- Leonardo da Vinci
I did some touch ups...

In the evening, Jesus and the disciples gathered in an upper room, to celebrate the Passover together.  Jews still celebrate the Passover to remember how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt.  After God sent nine plagues to free Israel from Pharaoh, He sent the final, severest plague.  It would kill all the first-born sons.  God spared all those who painted lamb's blood over their doors.  Jesus is the first-born and only Son of God.  He is the lamb that was slain to protect us from our sin today.  God gave His first-born because of His amazing love for us. It is His desire to walk with us like in the Garden of Eden, to restore His relationship with us.  He wants to free us from life's bondage and sin.  There is much symbolism for both Jews and Christians today in the Passover.

14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, "What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?" And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. 16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him." 
Matthew 26:14-16 NKJV
Many people try and explain why Judas did what he did.  Some say that he believed Jesus' purpose was to help the poor. Judas became angry believing He was a fake.  Others say Judas was looking for a leader who would lead people into battle against the Romans to free the Jews.  John 12:6 says that Judas was a thief and took money from the money box.  God knows the truth, He wants us to let Him be the Judge.

20 When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. 21 Now as they were eating, He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.
22 And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, "Lord, is it I?" 
23 He answered and said, "He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me.  24 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born." 
25 Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, "Rabbi, is it I?"
He said to him, "You have said it.
Matthew 26:20-25 NKJV
The interesting thing is that Jesus didn't stop Judas.  It's like He gave him permission.  Jesus was to be God's sacrifice for man's sin, His purpose had to be fulfilled.  If his kingdom was to be on earth, He certainly could have done it; but, it would've only been for one generation.  His kingdom is in Heaven, eternity, for all mankind.

26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." 
John 13:27 

Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him (Judas). Then Jesus said to him, "What you do, do quickly."  

Matthew 26:27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.  28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.  
Today, we partake in the Lord's supper.  We eat bread or crackers.  When I eat the bread I confess my sins in prayer.  I remember Jesus' tortured body, and confess my sins.  When I drink the juice, I remember He has cleansed me of my sin and I am clean!  It's such a joyful moment, I praise Him.

31 Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:

'I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'
Zechariah 13:7

32 But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee." 

Peter is one of my favorite disciples.  He approached things with such enthusiasm and then, well, things didn't go exactly as planned.  I can relate to that.  My other favorite is Nathanael, when he was asked to follow Jesus, he replied, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  Of course, Jesus heard it and admired his honesty.  (John 1:46)  Jesus chose real people to follow Him.  They weren't perfect.  People like us.
33 Peter answered and said to Him, "Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble." 
34 Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.
35 Peter said to Him, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!"
And so said all the disciples. 
Matthew 26:26-35 NKJV
I used red on the text so I could see the tension rising with Jesus and the disciples.  It may be that the disciples thought life would be like this forever.  Jesus would walk with them, they'd proclaim the good news.  Peter, seems to have reacted out loud in his fear and anguish, "What are you talking about Jesus? I'll protect You."

It would have been heartbreaking for Peter to hear Jesus, his hero, tell him he was going to deny Him.  We've all struggled with this at one point or another.  He is the good shepherd and is always open to bringing us back to Him, if we repent (change direction).
It was a custom for a servant to wash the feet of visitors.  Jesus, the Son of God, the King of Kings, washed the disciples' feet.  He took on the role of a servant.
5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 

6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, "Lord, are You washing my feet?" 
7 Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this." 
8 Peter said to Him, "You shall never wash my feet!"
Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." 
9 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!" 
Here's my favorite disciple.  He's telling the Son of God what to do!!?  The disciples had an idea of who Jesus is, but they didn't quite grasp the whole purpose of His life yet.  Without the Holy Spirit, Peter was left guessing.  

10 Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you."  11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, "You are not all clean." 
John 13:5-11 NKJV

Jesus prayed for us!
20 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;  21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.  22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:  23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. 
24 "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.  25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.  26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." 

John 17:20-26 NKJV
Jesus prayed for all of us, as Christians, that we would be one.  On Easter, we put aside our doctrinal differences and focus on Jesus.  May we be a blessing to Jesus, and always seek to be one in Him.  Our differences are so small compared to His great sacrifice.  There is only one Savior, one Heaven, one body of Christ. 

"Wine is the symbol of Jesus' blood, that will cleanse us of our sins.
Bread is the symbol of Jesus' body, broken for us that we might live.
The final sacrifice for man."

© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

Here's a song by Third Day,  King of Glory (link)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday (Easter Story 1) (Matthew 21:1-7)

It's time for me to read the Easter story again.  Today is the day we celebrate Palm Sunday.  It took place around 33 AD.  Jesus and the disciples were on one of their journeys through Israel.

Matthew 21:1-17
1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.  3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them.
4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: 
5 "Tell the daughter of Zion,
'Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.'
This prophecy was first recorded in Zechariah 9:9, and fulfilled by Jesus.
6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 
This is unusual for the disciples.  Usually when Jesus asked them to do something, they were full of questions.  I wonder if they shrugged their shoulders and whispered, "What do you think He's up to?"  Someone might have answered, "Don't know.  We should just do it."  So glad the disciples were people like us.  By this time they knew Jesus wasn't popular with the temple leaders in Jerusalem.  Maybe they simply did it out of faith, full of apprehension as to what came next.
7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. 8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road
9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
"Hosanna to the Son of David!
'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' Hosanna in the highest!" 
This was originally written in Psalm 118:26.  It was fulfilled by Jesus.
10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, "Who is this?" 11 So the multitudes said, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee." 

It must've been a wonderful moment for all who witnessed it.  I can imagine the whispers and the love of the crowd.  People who had heard His teaching and seen His miracles, continued to follow Him.
For the disciples, everything must've seemed great.  All are happy, everything's fine.  They were a part of something so much greater than their imaginations.
12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 And He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'"
Fun's over, Jesus had an important task at hand.  He went into the temple.  The temple that never recognized Him as the Messiah, even tried to kill Him as a baby.  It was no longer God's House like King David had dreamed.  It was now a money making industry.   
Instead of raising a scepter and wearing a golden crown with jewels like I would think a king would do, Jesus healed the blind and lame in the temple.  The children sang "Hosanna to the Son of David!"  Hosanna means, "Save now" or "Praise."  The temple had never experienced this before. It was a solemn place.
14 Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David!they were indignant 16 and said to Him, "Do You hear what these are saying?"
The chief priests and scribes were thrilled?  No, they were indignant.  The only way I can grasp this attitude is to realize the priests and scribes lived in a time when they didn't want a Messiah.  They enjoyed their careers.  They had nice homes and never worried about money.  Perhaps they even had nice chariots.  Maybe they just didn't want to think about God right now, it wasn't convenient.  Kind of like the temptations we face.
I can imagine how wonderful it must've been to see our King in the Temple.  The children started singing with no prompt- they just knew.  The blind and lame had the courage to come to Him.  He actually healed from within the Temple. What a wonderful image of Heaven.
And Jesus said to them, "Yes. Have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise'?" 
This prophecy was recorded in Psalms 8:2, and fulfilled by Jesus.  Amidst the beauty of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, tensions began to rise.  It was all in God's plan.
I love it when He says, "Have you never read?"  The scribes and chief priests were supposed to be extremely knowledgeable about the Old Testament.  Their job was to study scripture and apply it according to God's will.  The definition of a scribe from my Bible dictionary is "class of learned men who made the systematic study of the law and its exposition their professional occupation."  So when Jesus said, "Have you never read?" It would've been like asking a heart surgeon if he knew what an artery was.  Oy!  Think I would blush if Jesus asked me that.  I'll keep reading the Bible.  Truly we all have favorite passages though, guess we should read it all : )

Dear Heavenly Father, 
I continue to pray for peace in Jerusalem.  I know none of us will be forgotten by You.  Please protect those who are in harms way facing persecution.  Send the angels to protect and hide them.  I pray for wisdom for our leaders in the USA.  Grant us wisdom as we seek to elect a new President.  Thank You for hope secured in our hearts like an anchor.  Help us count our blessings, especially in the good times. 

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
10 Set the world right;
Do what's best––
  as above, so below.
11 Keep us alive with three square meals.
12 Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
13 Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
  Yes. Yes. Yes.
(Matthew 6:9-13 Message)

In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen   

Here's Michael W. Smith's song, "Hosanna" (link)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Finding the balance (Acts 6, Genesis 11:1-7 )

"God will direct our paths when we trust Him"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

It's official, I am now 55 : )  I've reached the speed limit!  I've already pretty much forgotten my age.  Back to jumping jacks, and stretching.  If I don't move that's a problem hahaha. My husband took me to the Ringling Brothers & Barnum Bailey Circus for my birthday.  I love to shoot (photograph) and paint animals.  I didn't take my camera thinking they'd be annoyed with the flash.  But when we got there a lot of people were using cell phones with flashes.  I got a nice brochure I can use for reference.  Today I'm working on a watercolor of daffodils.  I love to play classical music while I paint.  So much to do, so little time! Writing with music is a bit more challenging for me though ...

In this part of Acts things take a different turn for the disciples.  It appears the early Christians were still gathering together and sharing goods.  As it is today they also separated themselves by preference.  I don't think there's anything wrong with that.  Some do better with evangelic messages, others prefer modern music, or solemn services.  The end goal always needs to be faith in Jesus, love, worship and prayer (as far as I can see).  Problems start when people look to leadership more than Jesus and criticize others.

As I read this chapter, I realized God doesn't want us to be by ourselves in our faith.  We need others.  The flip side is, He also doesn't want us to only hang out with other Christians.

1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews.
  • Hellinistic Jews prefered the Greek/Roman lifestyle
  • Hebraic Jews were from Israel 
because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.
This is kinda cool it's like a lot of our Churches are today.  There are people who are fantastic at doing good works for the Church.  They vacuum, clean bathrooms, prepare for guest speakers etc.  Then there are people who are great at inspiring others through sermons, leading them to faith in Christ.  Pastors are like Shepherds today.  They look out for us and mine makes sure I'm doing ok.  I started this blog independantly because I wanted everyone to be able to read the Bible.  God's Word has been totally awesome to me.  I've found such love and encouragement in the scriptures.  I attend a Calvary Chapel Church and love the rock music.  Yeah us old folks still love to rock : )  I wanted to be able to use my artwork and just share my experience.  My spiritual gifts are encouragement, and healing through prayer.  

5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

So we have consensus for now anyway.  These are all humans so you know...  I will enjoy seeing Stephen in Heaven.  He is described as:
  1. full of faith
  2. full of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is our encourager and gives us the gifts, knowledge, and abilities we need to serve God.  The result is below: 
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called) —Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia —who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.

Sometimes it seems the greatest miracles are when people are in one accord.  We are all so different.  None of us are perfect.  But it sure is great when I go to Church and see people working together well.  I think our society is more closed now.  We have our own little world with TV, online shopping, radio... all sorts of stuff.  I'm grateful for my privacy, camera and paint, don't get me wrong.  People are actually nice in New Jersey.  We live in a small culdesac. 

11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

This is just sad.  It sounds like what they did to Jesus.  Jealousy, greed and rage are terrible companions.  In New Jersey, we're seeing denominations joining together more.  When we sang at Carnegie Hall a few years ago there wer several denominations.
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

There's something else here that stands out to me. All of these Christians are together in one place.  Where is the rest of the world? These believers were building a community for themselves.  They lived together, argued, worshiped and hung out together.  But what about the tower of Babel?  God never intended us to be by ourselves.  The goal has always been for us to be God's servants to the world.  Here's the story of the Tower of Babel:
1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
(Genesis 11:1-7 NIV)
(Acts 6:1-15 NIV)

Dear Heavenly Father, 
I continue to pray for peace in Jerusalem.  I know they are not forgotten to You.  I also lift up those who have lost loved ones in the terrible plane crash.  I pray for wisdom for our leaders in the USA.  Grant us wisdom as we seek to elect a new President.  Thank You for hope secured in our hearts like an anchor. 
Help us count our blessings, especially in the good times.

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
10 Set the world right;
Do what's best––
  as above, so below.
11 Keep us alive with three square meals.
12 Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
13 Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
  Yes. Yes. Yes.
(Matthew 6:9-13 Message)

In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen   

This is a great song:
Tenth Avenue North, No Man is an Island (link) 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Angel opens prison doors : ) (Acts Chapter 5:17-42, Psalm 122:6-9, Zechariah 4:6)

I don't know if anyone else feels this way but I am very impressed with Benjamin Netanyahu.  He would do anything to protect his nation.  I hope our next president is as committed and loyal.  Maybe I'm missing something but it sounds like the White House wants to take Israeli land and give it to the people who keep bombing them.  Sorta like helping terrorists. The Palestinians today are a product of Arafat's imagination. Fox News did a real good documentary on Israel.

I often think of Israel as having Samson and Moses running around.  But the truth is Roman soldiers, Pharisees, Sadducees all sorts of people wanted to destroy Jesus.  God has blessed Israel it's full of plants and water now.  They were diligent and built roads, jobs and an airport.  Bad guys like free stuff, not hard work.  The Jews are still chosen by God.

As Christians, we accept Jesus as our Savior (the trinity- Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  A lot of us have a soft spot for Israel. The New Jerusalem that God has prepared for us will be permanent.  No terrorists in the neighborhood!  I believe we should still respect and pray for Israel.  Revelation clearly states there will be more bad days to come.  America has been a nation for 239 years.  Israel since the beginning of time.  European nations have stuff dating back to the time of Christ and before.   It's amazing how far the USA has come in such a short time.   I'll continue to pray for wisdom in selecting our next President and for peace in Jerusalem.

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
7 May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
8 For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.
(Psalms 122:6-9 NIV)

Back to the Book of Acts-

17 Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, 18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”
21 And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.

Wow an angel came and told the disciples what to do.  We really don't know if we see angels.  Tradition has them glowing with golden light.  How exciting.

22 But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, 23 saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” 24 Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. 25 So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”
Don't you wish you could've seen this?  First the wow of an Angel, then the look on the guard's faces hahaha.

26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!”
I can hear the disciples thinking, "Well yeah actually we did : ) "  I'm pretty sure at this point the disciples would be more concerned about people getting saved.  They saw Jesus in the Upper Room and listened to His words (Acts 1:13).

29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said:“We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
Many Jews have come to Christ since this time period.  There is a group called, "Jews for Jesus" now.  It's exciting to me to know how much has been accomplished over the years in Jesus name. My main tools are the Bible and prayer but there's something fascinating about real Jewish Christians.

This is also interesting.  If you remember Gamaliel was the top teacher of Jewish Law in the time of Christ.  The Apostle Paul learned from him.  This guy was so smart he could tell you exactly how many inches a proper scroll should be.

Gamaliel's Advice
33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. 34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them:“Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.
  • 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing
  • 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed
38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”
So Gamaliel turned out to be a REALLY good teacher didn't he?  I have no idea how many Christians there are in the world now.  I never really paid attention to this story before.  

40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 
Unfortunately the High Priest of the temple didn't seem to have any regard for Gamaliel's words.  The High Priest had pressure from the Romans, Pharisees, Sadducees all sorts of people.  Sounds like he was so caught up in law he didn't have a heart for God.  This seems to happen to people in our time too sometimes.  Very sad.

6 So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty."
(Zechariah 4:6 NIV)
How would you like to have the name, "Zerubbabel"?

41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Wow they left rejoicing of being counted worthy to suffer shame in His name.  Personally I'm a whimp.  This doesn't sound fun at all.  I tend to believe God will provide the strength we need when the time comes though.

(Acts 5:17-42 NKJV)

Dear Heavenly Father, 
I pray for peace in Jerusalem.  I know that many things have been prophesied in Revelation.  And it is a bit frightening to see things happen.  I pray for wisdom for our leaders in the USA.  I am grateful for our country.  Please help us improve the school systems.  Grant us wisdom as we seek to elect a new President.  Thank You for Jesus, faith and the hope secured in our hearts like an anchor. 

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
10 Set the world right;
Do what's best––
  as above, so below.
11 Keep us alive with three square meals.
12 Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
13 Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
  Yes. Yes. Yes.
(Matthew 6:9-13 Message)

In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen   

Jason Gray, Good to be Alive, (link)