Chapter 7 (continued)

“It’s good to have a pastor who is committed enough to the inerrancy of the Bible to take the time to study microbiology,” Joyce commented to Earl as they left the Church. “I may want to look up a book or two and read it myself. As a matter of fact, why don’t we invite Bob and Evelyn Smith over sometime and let him give us a rundown on what he’s found out about evolution?” She looked down at Cathy as Earl wheeled her toward their car. “I just saw a show on National Geographic that made it sound like evolution was an established fact. I’ll bet I can teach you why you shouldn’t believe in such junk, Cathy. I wonder why people nowadays are so bent on treating God as either non-existent or unnecessary?”

“As George said, it’s nothing more or less than basic selfishness,” Earl spoke up. “People just don’t want any outside interference in the way they want to run their lives. And that’s what makes the problem worse. Once they decide that they are the masters of their own fate, the notion of a God becomes linked with an alien presence. They completely throw out the thought that God was their Creator in the first place.” He thought for a second, and looked at Joyce. “That wouldn’t be a bad idea – to have the Smiths over, I mean. We seem to have something in common with them. I’d like to get to know him better.”

Joyce made lunch for them when they reached home. Afterwards, she brought Cathy into the den and read to her out of a Dr. Seuss book she’d gotten while shopping the past Wednesday. The gurgles of delight coming from her mouth were infectious, causing Joyce to giggle along as she read. In the meantime, Earl went into the study to prepare for his talk.

“Last week we saw the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Peter and John,” Earl spoke to the assembled residents that evening. “We also saw in a small way that with the power of God comes persecution. The persecution gets much worse, but at the same time the Church is growing by leaps and bounds. Tonight I’ll start at verse 12 of Acts Chapter 5:

“’And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. And of the rest dared no man to join himself to them; but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women), insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them who were vexed with unclean spirits; and they were healed every one.’

“Here we see the great power of God being manifest in the Apostles,” Earl interrupted the narrative. “But with it came – guess what.

“’Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. But an angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple all the words of this life. And when they heard, that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.’

Earl interrupted the narrative again. “These religious leaders were very angry with the Apostles for the power of God in them. The leaders thought that this power should belong only to themselves because they were, after all, the leaders. Who was God to take away their position?” Earl made a face and several in the audience giggled. “So they tossed the Apostles into jail. But God, being stronger than any prison, released them through an angel and they continued to teach. When the religious leaders heard about this, they were confused. They knew that the Apostles were in jail, and yet they heard otherwise from some who’d seen them. Not believing in the power of God, they rejected the reports that the Apostles were out and about and ordered the guards to fetch the prisoners from their cell. I’ll continue from here:”

“’But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing outside before the doors; but when we had opened, we found no man within. Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they were concerned about them, how this would grow. Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.’

“In other words,” Earl said, putting the Bible down momentarily and scratching his head theatrically, “they didn’t know what to make of this odd event. But even then, with this open proof of the power of God, they refused to repent. Instead, they tried to figure out how to cover this incident up, lest more people come to salvation in Jesus. You see, the religious leaders didn’t care about the souls of the people they were supposed to serve. They were only thinking of maintaining their own positions. And they refused to consider the possibility that God just might be in charge of everything. Selfish. Extremely.” Earl shook his head in disgust. “To continue:

“’Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence; for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council; and the high priest asked them, saying, Did not we strictly command you that ye should not teach in this name? And, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered, and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him. When they heard that, they were cut to the heart and took counsel to slay them.’

“Here the Apostles are saying that they intend to obey God whatever it takes, even if it means that they must disobey their religious leaders. Faced with the loss of their authority over the people, the leaders discussed among themselves how they might murder the Apostles. Their selfishness was so bad that they’d rather murder than let God take over. But one of them, a brilliant rabbi named Gamaliel, cautioned them about their plans to harm the Apostles, saying that if God really does exist, they would do themselves more harm than the Apostles would get from them. So the leaders beat up the Apostles and told them not to preach any more about Jesus. Nevertheless, the name of Jesus was spoken in a good many households. I’ll leave these adventures of the Apostles for now and resume next week with the testimony of Stephen.” As before, he hugged Cathy as he and Joyce prepared to leave the room. “We had a wonderful weekend with you,” he told the girl. And we’ll come back for you next weekend.”

“Maybe you should have been an actor, Earl,” Joyce told him on the way home. “You can make a pretty funny face.”

He laughed. “As long as they enjoy it, Joyce.” He started to put his arm around her shoulder but remembered that he didn’t have one. She had to struggle to do it, but she made up for it by putting an arm around his shoulder.

There was a message on the phone when they arrived back home. It was Janet, who asked Joyce to call her back as soon as she was able.

“What’s up, mom?” Joyce asked.

“Absolutely nothing, dear,” she replied. “I got my Social Security check today. Now they’ve withheld a tax from it that I knew nothing about. What gets me is the size of it. It’s comparable to the value of the benefit itself. Now I’m not sure that I’ll be able to make ends meet. Oh, I shouldn’t have said that. Under no circumstances will I accept anything from you, let’s make that plain. I was thinking of selling my home anyway. I won’t need it when I marry Henry, who, by the way, also received a very reduced Social Security check. We were going to go on a honeymoon cruise, but that’s out of the picture now.”

“Oh, mom,” Joyce said in shared disappointment. “I’m so sorry. How can the government act so unilaterally? After all, you did earn it. They took it out of your paycheck for years.”

“I guess that the government can do anything it pleases. If a gorilla can do anything it wants to, King Kong has carte blanche.”

“Well, you and Henry are going to go on your cruise. You can’t stop me from buying tickets. If you don’t use them, the money will just be wasted.”

“Thank you, dear. But only if you promise that that will be the end of it.”

“Deal.” For now, she added to herself.


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