Heroes of the Faith –
Daniel 3:1-18, Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego keep the faith.
Proverbs 27:12, 28:1, 29:25, Proverbs about Bravery
John 11:1-16, Thomas faces death.
Psalm 46, God is our Strength.
Psalm 91, God is our Fortress.
Acts 3:1-10, Peter and John Cure a Lame Man.
Acts 3:11-26, Peter Preaches the Gospel to the Crowd …
Acts 4:1-22, ... and Peter also preaches to the Sanhedrin.
Acts 4:23-31, The Apostles pray for boldness.
More Heroes of the Faith
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Daniel 3:1-18, Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego keep the faith. (1/14/2010)
The problem with Prosperity Gospel is that it makes God into a sort of Holy Stock Exchange. “If we invest $10 in the Kingdom,” it says, “God will reward us with $100.” Folks, even atheists would invest $10 to get back $100! The question is, what would we invest in the Kingdom knowing we might get back nothing?
Two things about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are wonderful and amazing. The first thing is that they ignored all social pressure to bow down to the official idol. They just went about their business of worshipping God. That’s difficult. We always talk about peer pressure on our youth, but peer pressure on our adults is just as strong and more insidious. Do you watch television? Tremendous peer pressure on how to spend your money and time, and it isn’t designed to encourage your support of the Kingdom of God, I guarantee! Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t buy the product of idols, because they knew that God was perfectly capable of rescuing them from the fiery furnace.
The second thing about them is that they recognized that God might not rescue them, but their attitude was, “Oh, well!” Just as I might invest in the stock market and take a financial loss, they recognized that they might worship God, refuse to worship idols, and die anyway. This is the risk they embraced. Very brave men.
Proverbs 27:12, 28:1, 29:25, Proverbs about Bravery (1/15/2010)
The Proverbs offer advice and bits of wisdom about life. They are neither prophecies nor promises. Instead, they are observations that are true most of the time, under most circumstances. Consequently, sometimes they contradict each other, because life is a contradictory business. “Out of sight, out of mind” is true, but so is “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
Our first two proverbs about bravery seem at first blush to be contradictory. “Be cautious and hide,” but “don’t be a coward.” Say again? Reading the rest of each proverb is the key. Don’t do stupid, dangerous things, but rather trust the LORD, and you will be safe. This isn’t a promise; it is an accurate observation that sober, God-fearing people as a group are safer and longer-lived than people who are drunk and disorderly. If you don’t believe Proverbs or me, check out these websites on longevity and religion
and the effect of religion on health in the elderly
And of course, we 21st-century Americans are concerned not only about length of life, but also about quality of life. Quality of life is the topic of our third proverb on bravery. The righteous are as brave as lions, which is more pleasant than being wicked and fearful.
John 11:1-16, Thomas faces death. (2/5/2010)
Here’s an important note about the story of Jesus and Lazarus, which I only realized recently from reading a commentary. Lazarus did not die because Jesus fooled around in Galilee until he died, so that he could bring him back to life. This, I’m sorry to say, is how I had always read the story. However, notice, that Jesus says after only two days that Lazarus is already dead. By the time he gets there, Lazarus has been dead for four days. Apparently Lazarus died shortly after the messenger left.
Anyway, I don’t want to talk about Lazarus; I want to talk about Thomas. I’ve always held a special affection for Thomas, because he is a person who doesn’t believe everything he hears. He knows that much of what you hear is not entirely true or is too good to be true. In another age, he would have made a good scientist or investigative reporter, and his reputation as a doubter is overblown. Moreover, he had a courageous streak that we don’t see in the other disciples. All in all, my hero!
Now, one Lazarus was sick, from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with ointment and dried his feet with her hair – it was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “You see, Lord, the one you love is sick.
Having heard that, Jesus said, “This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God might be glorified through it.”
Now, Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet, when he heard that he was sick, he stayed in the place where he was for two days, and then after this he says to the disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”
The disciples say to him, “Rabbi! The Jews were just now looking for you to stone you, and you’re going back again?”
Jesus answered, “Aren’t there twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the daytime, he doesn’t stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if someone walks at night, he stumbles, because the light isn’t with him.”
He said this, and afterwards he says to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going in order to wake him up.”
So the disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has been sleeping, he will get well.” But Jesus was speaking about his death, and they thought he was talking about ordinary sleep.
Then Jesus said to them frankly, “Lazarus died, and I rejoice for you that I was not there, in order that you may believe. But let’s go to him.”
So Thomas the Twin said to his fellow-disciples, “OK, let’s us go, too, so that we may die with him.”
Psalm 46, God is our Strength. (3/11/2010)
How is it possible to be a hero with the strength and courage to accomplish the task set before us? The psalmist says it’s easy: God is our strength, so we will not be afraid.
Psalm 91, God is our Fortress. (3/12/2010)
I used to say of one of my bosses that he was in charge of unfounded pessimism, while I was in charge of unfounded optimism. Even by my standards, however, today’s psalm seems at first blush to be overly optimistic.
It would be easy to act like a hero if you knew for sure that you would survive some disaster that was about to kill 10,000 people around you. I think it’s a little more difficult to act like a hero when you’ve got a good chance of being one of the 10,000 who die. As near as I can tell, the overall message of scripture is not that God will protect you from having anything happen to you – and a good thing, too, because then no one would believe it. Instead, the overall message is that whatever happens to you, ultimately you are safe with God, and this psalm affirms that position.
Acts 3:1-10, Peter and John Cure a Lame Man (3/29/2010)
This morning in Sunday School we were talking about the parable of the Good Samaritan and how we respond in our own lives to people who need help. This led to the narrower question of what to do about the modern-day “beggars” who stand on street corners with signs that say ”Need Help.” Do they really need help, or is this just their choice of jobs? Do they spend the money they get on food or on booze? Is it our responsibility to give to them without worrying about how they spend it, or would it be more merciful not to finance alcohol or drug or drug abuse? Hard questions, and we didn’t come up with answers.
In the first century, begging was a little more respectable than it is today, and if the beggar was blind or lame, it probably was his regular job. But passers-by still had to decide how to respond. Peter and John didn’t have any money for the beggar, but they gave something much better.
Acts 3:11-26, Peter Preaches the Gospel to the Crowd … (3/30/2010)
Something happened during the 40 days that Jesus taught his disciples after the resurrection. Peter and John - who had been hiding out in locked rooms before the resurrection - become absolutely fearless. The execution of Jesus for insurrection should have taught them to keep their mouths shut; this was the hope, at least, of the authorities. It didn’t work. When they healed the beggar, it naturally drew a huge crowd. Peter immediately took the opportunity to preach the good news.
Acts 4:1-22, ... and Peter also preaches to the Sanhedrin (3/31/2010)
The Sadducees were a Jewish religious sect with a special interest in politics. They did not believe in resurrection (as opposed to the Pharisees, who did). They did not believe in irritating the Romans (as opposed to the Zealots, who did). They especially did not believe in anybody doing anything that the Sadducees said not to do, as opposed to Peter and John, who did.
They were surprised that Peter and John were such accomplished public speakers, given that they had not been to rabbinical school. (Actually, these two had spent three years in rabbinical school with Jesus, but apparently the Sadducees did not think Jesus’ school was accredited. “Disciples” means “students.”) And finally, the Sadducees were irritated that there was hardly anything they could do to Peter and John, since everybody in Jerusalem was talking about their healing of the lame beggar.
Acts 4:23-31, The Apostles pray for boldness. (4/1/2010)
Have you heard the saying that there are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots? You might say this about apostles, too.
Peter and John spoke to crowds of people, in public, only a short time after their teacher had been executed. Then they spoke boldly before the Council, defying them by saying that they weren’t going to obey the order to quit talking about Jesus. And then they went home and prayed for boldness, and then all the believers began to proclaim God’s message boldly.
Surprisingly enough, Peter lived to be about 67, although Church tradition since at least the second century has been that he was martyred in Rome. I have to admit that 67 doesn’t seem all that old to me. John lived into his mid-90s and died in Ephesus.
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Copyright 2010, 2012 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.
Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the
author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the
Bible-study participants. Thanks to the
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for their support and enthusiasm. All
errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.
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