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Sunday Playlist – The Challenge of this New Life

I hope you are keeping your spirits up, in spite of the change in weather.

This week’s songs relate to Acts chapter 5 v 12-42, a short passage filled with signs and wonders, fear of violence, challenge to authority, weighing up arguments and fighting against God! Like most of the book of Acts, it’s action-packed!

‘Power of your name’ by Lincoln Brewster

At this point in the story of the early church, this is the second time the apostles have been told not to preach and teach in the name of Jesus. The first time they were given a stern warning. This time they were imprisoned and then beaten. The stakes were being gradually raised. However, nothing could stop Peter and the gang speaking and acting in Jesus’ name because they knew it to be the only name that really changed things; the greatest power on earth – it still is.

And I will live to carry Your compassion
To love a world that’s broken
To be Your hands and feet
And I will give with the life that I’ve been given
And go beyond religion to see the world be changed
By the power of Your name
The power of Your name

Jesus Your name is a shelter for the hurting
And Your name is a refuge for the weak
Only Your name can redeem the undeserving
Jesus Your name holds everything I need

‘Another in the fire’ by Hillsong

Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name.

Acts 5 v 41

I find this verse baffling and extremely challenging. They had just been imprisoned and beaten and they left rejoicing? Really?!

Most of us struggle to rejoice on good days, let alone days like this!

Perhaps, it’s only those who face extreme persecution who discover this level of God’s joy. Perhaps it’s as we see the powers of darkness tremble and kicking out in the hope of discouraging believers that we know we are making a difference. Maybe that’s when we find ourselves rejoicing in battles because we know Jesus is there with us.

There is no other name but the Name that is Jesus
He who was and still is and will be through it all
So come what may in the space between
All the things unseen and this reckoning
I know I will never be alone

There’ll be another in the fire standing next to me
There’ll be another in the waters holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
How good You’ve been to me
I’ll count the joy come every battle
‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be

I’ll count the joy come every battle
‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be

‘Come to us’ by Stuart Townend

It’s one of Stuart’s lesser known songs but it seems appropriate, not only as we think about how the early church continued to advance, despite persecution, but also as we seem to be living in a time of great expectation for change in society all over the world; a longing for something more than we accepted as the norm in our pre-covid-19 world.

For us believers, it’s not just wishful thinking or a call for action but it should lead us to pray for the Holy Spirit to come in power as he did in those post-pentecost days.

Though people mock the church and curse the One who made them,
Your kingdom is advancing every day;
Like living stones we’re being built into a temple,
We’ve seen the glory and we cannot turn away.

Is this the summer that will see a mighty harvest?
A sense of expectation fills the air;
Though sin abounds, Your love is streaming to the nations,
Let mercy triumph over judgement everywhere.

Come to the politician, come to the refugee,
Come to the victim of respectable society;
Come to the mighty fallen, come to the poor oppressed;
We don’t care how You come,
As long as You come to them.

‘Devils and Dust’ by Bruce Springsteen

You’ve got to wonder why the temple authorities felt so threatened by this new Jewish movement and how their hearts had become so hard that they couldn’t see God in it, despite the miraculous healings that were taking place all over Jerusalem. It’s easy to vilify them as power-hungry and proud religious folks but it’s also easy for us to become like them!

No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, you can feel threatened by others, perhaps new believers, believers from a different tradition (or even non-believers who are actually talking more sense than you are!), and find yourself staunchly defending your own position, without really considering the alternative. As Gamaliel wisely says, you might even find yourself ‘opposing God’ himself (and that’s not a good place to be!).

This Springsteen song explores the idea that we all have the capacity for both righteous, Godly living and for evil; acting in self-protection mode with ‘God on our side’ (in our own minds at least) and our ‘finger on the trigger’, ready to shoot someone else down. If only we were a little more like Gamaliel; slow to speak and quick to listen….

We’ve got God on our side, We’re just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive kills the things you love
Fear’s a powerful thing, baby
It’ll turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust
It’ll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust

Now every woman and every man
They wanna take a righteous stand
Find the love that God wills
And the faith that He commands
I’ve got my finger on the trigger
And tonight faith just ain’t enough
When I look inside my heart
There’s just devils and dust

‘Living for your mission’ by Ian Peacock

The first followers of Jesus really were a motley crew weren’t they? Fishermen, tax collectors, tradesmen, doctors, women, men, widows, rich and poor, young and old alike. What they all had in common though was that they left everything to follow Jesus and, for most, it meant, not only sacrificing their career prospects and time with family, but facing persecution.

Today’s passage shows how for the apostles, life meant living and, for some, dying, for God’s mission. Perhaps that’s why Luke writes ‘none of the rest dared join them’ (Acts 5 v 13). It was extremely costly to follow Jesus. I wonder where you would be in this part of the story? Fearlessly preaching along with the apostles or watching from a distance for fear of persecution? Where are you today? Is your first thought for security or for how you might share the gospel in any way you can, whatever the consequences?

Why God would choose to use us, we’ll never know
A motley crew, His truth to share
As Christ’s ambassadors we are called to go and make disciples everywhere

Are you living for a mission?
Are you living for the mission of God?
Will you make a firm decision?
Are you living for the mission?

May you continue to live for God’s great gospel mission this week, whatever opposition you may face as a result.

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