Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Acts 21: 1-14

In today’s reading, we read of Paul’s continued journey’s around the Mediterranean – including an emotional departure from Tyre with a warning not to go to Jerusalem. Again, when Paul is staying in Caesarea with Phillip the evangelist the prophet Agabus prophesies to Paul that if he goes to Jerusalem he will be captured and bound up. Paul goes anyway with the bidding “The Lord’s will be done.” He was ready to face anything that came his way, even being arrested and possibly killed if it was the Lord’s will.

How do we know what the Lord’s will is? How do we know if we are following God. Do we have the courage to follow God come what may always proclaiming “the Lord’s will be done?”

Personally, If I had recognized that a prophet of God was telling me I’d be bound and arrested and even possibly killed if I went to Jerusalem, I’d take that as an indicator that it was not the will of God for me to go. Paul thought otherwise and went anyway. He seemed to accept that as God telling him what was going to happen to prepare him and to make sure he was willing to do what God was asking him to do come what may. Maybe through Paul’s intimate relationship with God, he knew the difference. I only hope that I would recognize the same. It would be really easy in that circumstance to justify doing something contrary to the will of God (by not going, for example) because we had heard it from a couple of sources. So how do you know?

I think the only way we can know what the will of God is for our life, is to have such a deep relationship with God that you recognize when God is speaking and guiding us. If we have a consistant prayer life, if we participate in worship if we are active in the life and ministry of a faith community, more and more that intimate relationship with God will develop so we may have a better way of “hearing” God when he is calling us to go somewhere or do something. If we never engage God, we can’t really follow God. While we may pray “The Lord’s will be done” the only way to know if that is happening is through an ever deeper relationship with the Holy One.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Acts 20:1-16

Been doing a bit of reading lately...maybe too much. What is happening to the world? How can I possibly make sense of it all? What is my place in it? Warning signs are everywhere. Crisis, panic in the markets. Old enemies cannot break from the cycle of war. Would-be leaders trash their opponents with scant regard for the truth.
Well, we have had nearly twenty centuries since Luke and Paul traversed the Empire telling a unique story. We have had impact, on the fringes of the road that is history. Have we captured the road? No. Are we still relevant in the clash of cultures, factions, and economic systems? That remains for us to work out, with grace. Will we become just another Eutychus?
Oh, how tired I'm getting. My head, my eyelids grow heavy. On my desk is a blank sheet of paper. I should write a grocery list, or a thank you note to a dear friend who remembered my birthday. I have work still to do--can't go to bed now. Just need a nap. Wake me at midnight.

Friday, September 26, 2008

1 Timothy 2:1-7

This letter to Timothy from Paul is considered one of the first letters from a Pastor to another Pastor, instructing and mentoring Timothy in how to manage and grow the early church in Ephesus. I think it fascinating that the very first line says “First of all…” and Paul goes on to explain how the people should pray. He doesn’t say, “First of all, here’s how you raise funds” or “here’s how you help the poor” or “here’s how you get the best worship and praise band”. Teaching a parish how to pray, then, would seem to be one of the most important, if not the most important role, of a parish pastor in Paul’s eyes.

Paul then goes on to explain what they should pray about. He doesn’t say that they should pray for themselves, or the creation of more churches, or the growth of the church in Ephesus. He is very specific. They need to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity”. When I think of praying for myself to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity, I don’t think about praying for the President of the United States. I may ask God for more time to read the Bible, or to journal, or more time with my family.

But Paul is thinking about the big picture here, and partially it was a sign of his times, but I think it is still relevant today. “Kings and all who are in high positions” meant a lot more people back then than it does today. Although there was only one Caesar who ruled over the Roman Empire, there were thousands of “kings” at many levels. It was these kings that could ruin a person’s everyday life by charging high taxes, or not allowing a certain trade, or not allowing the freedom of the new church to worship and grow. While we don’t have it so bad these days, we still are affected by many things over which we have little or no control. Perhaps it is an overbearing boss who insists that you work on Sundays, or perhaps it’s sickness and disease, or perhaps it’s an abusive spouse. We all have our “kings” who control whether or not we “may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.”

So, it is our job to determine who or what those “kings” are, and pray that those “kings” not take us away from our desire to follow Christ and his teachings.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Acts 19:11-20

Reading verse 12 of today’s passage, one might justifiably conclude that Christians are a superstitious lot who believe in magic. It seems that people believed the sweat band and apron Paul wore while working (remember, Paul labored at a trade to support himself) carried Paul’s power to heal-- and that these personal items did in fact seem to have a “magical” effect.

The best explanation I've seen of this admittedly difficult verse is that God met people where they were. But that was because God knew Paul would not leave them thinking that Paul himself possessed some magic power. He knew that Paul would be exceedingly faithful in pointing people to the real source of his power: Jesus Christ.

This line of reasoning is backed up in verses 13-20. When people simply tried to use Jesus’ name as a magical incantation to ward off evil spirits, it didn’t work. And whereas magic is self-centered, the miraculous power of God has a very different result: life change and even moral reform. People gave up practices and possessions that were of great value to them in order that they might be faithful to the word of the Lord.

So the real question comes to be—for us every bit as much as it was for the people of this passage: where do you and I place our trust? Money? Our abilities? People? Our job? Things?

Or Jesus Christ?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Acts 19:1-10

Today's reading has a very interesting and important message. It pertains to the meaning of becoming and being a complete Christian.

In this reading Paul meets several men who were incomplete Christians. They had received the baptism of John but not the baptism of Jesus. What is the difference between the two?

The baptism of John was more a sign of repentance from sin while the baptism of Jesus was the promise of a new life. John's teaching was a necessary first step in what I am calling a two step process to becoming a complete Christian. The first step is when we recognize that we are sinners. We become aware of our own faults and realize that we deserve God's condemnation. The second step is when we realize that through the grace of Jesus Christ our condemnation can be taken away. Becoming a complete Christian requires us to turn from repentance and to Christ.

It is next to impossible for us humans to live a life without sin. In our lives we can recognize our sin and try to repent when we commit sin. However, our human limitations almost always prohibit us from never sinning again. In fact, I submit that our nature is so sinful that the only way we can truly repent and reduce our sin is through the help of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is paramount that we, as Christians, turn to Jesus and ask for His help to avoid sin. After all, to be a complete Christian we must accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, ask Him to be a part of our lives, and try to live a life that follows His teachings. If we sincerely do this, the Holy Spirit will come into our lives and help us live a life where we not only say the right thing but we act the right way too. And as we all know, actions speak louder than words.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Acts 18: 12-28

Paul was, at his heart, a missionary. He planted churches all over the Mediterranean and did all he could to continually support, encourage and at times admonish the churches he built even in his absence. In today’s reading we hear of his “companions” for the Gospel – Priscilla and Aquilla – a married couple who journeyed with him, were excellent teachers and fellow tentmakers. They all used tentmaking as a means of income as they moved around proclaiming the Gospel message.

During this time, Gallio was proconsul of Achaia and made his declaration that Christianity is not something Rome is concerned about, therefore, Paul, Priscilla and Aquilla would not be arrested for proclaiming the Gospel. That didn’t mean that Paul and others who travelled with them were not in any danger, they still were met by hostile and even violent people.

This reminds me that we have so many missionaries in our world today working in hostile and even violent lands. In particular, the Diocese of Virginia has a missionary in the Sudan, the Rev. Lauren Stanley. She is a strong woman of God who, like Paul, is a missionary at her core. She travels between the US and the Sudan constantly reminding those of us in the States that there are people in the Sudan in desperate need of the hope we have in Christ. She is also constantly reminding the people of Sudan that God loves them and that we in the US care about them and want to help. Lauren spends her days teaching in a local bible school under the protection of the Anglican Bishop and is often escorted out of the country for her own safety. She has seen and heard of horrific tragedies that we in the US can’t even begin to imagine.

There are so many others like Lauren who need constant prayer and support. Whether they be in Sudan, Iraq, China, Rwanda or Myanmar, there are so many places where the Gospel is desperate to be heard, yet it is dangerous to speak it. Today, we remember those missionaries and the people they serve. God bless each one of them.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Acts 17:1-15

We know from other things that Paul has written how much he loved the Lord. In this passage Paul’s life is in danger, in Thessalonica, but he still perseveres. This is not only time in the book of Acts that believers are in danger. It’s easy to read this passage and marvel at God kept believers safe. But when I read it again, I think how scary it must have been for Paul and Silas to be chased by a mob. Paul then went on to Berea.

In Berea the Jews were more receptive to Paul’s message. What a relief that must have been, and how wonderful for Paul to preach and teach where people’s hearts were open to the Gospel. However, the Jews in Thessalonica, where Paul had been chased from, heard that Paul was teaching in Berea, they came to make trouble for Paul in Berea.

Again, Paul had to flee. It must have been discouraging to have his work in Berea interrupted. People there were eager and learning about Christ. There were new believers.

From these dangerous and shaky beginnings the church grew. It was in God’s hands. Today our lives (in this area at least) are not in danger if we hear the Gospel but the church seems shaky in other ways. Wobbling, we depend on Christ and He will care for us.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Acts 16:25-40

In today’s passage, God acts in an amazing way on behalf of Paul and Silas as the door to their prison cell is miraculously opened and their chains fall away. This in turn leads to the salvation of the jailer and his household, and ultimately Paul and Silas being released (with an apology, even!)

There is so much rich content in this passage: Paul and Silas focus on God (singing hymns!) rather than their unfortunate circumstances (beaten and thrown in jail). The power of prayer and praise. The essence of salvation defined. A household baptized (reflecting Luke’s concern to show that God’s kingdom is for everyone). The encouragement telling their story brings to others. All great stuff!

But here is what really catches my eye. Paul and Silas are free. They can walk right out of the prison, but they don’t. They know if they do, the jailer looses his life.

They refuse to exercise their freedom out of love and concern for another. They refuse to do what they could do, what seems to best serve their self interest, because of what that would cost another.

Personally, I think that concept is at the very heart of Christianity. It is at the very heart of the ministry of Jesus Christ. Christianity is a call to serve.

But it’s not a call to serve ourselves. It’s a call to humbly serve God through serving one another, and potentially at great cost to oneself. It is a call to lay down our rights and privileges for Love’s sake, not to claim those same rights and privileges to enhance our position, possessions, or pleasure in life.

And I think an awful lot of the church—and not just the Episcopal Church, either—has that very, very wrong. But even as I write that—with numerous examples running through my head—I know my focus is misplaced. What I need to concentrate on is not how the church is getting it wrong, but how I am getting it wrong.

What I need to concentrate on is my own willingness (or lack thereof) to sacrifice my rights to my time, my rights to do certain things, my rights to have certain things, and so on, so that I can serve others like Christ has served me. Like Paul and Silas served the jailer. That, I think, is one of the prime measures of my faithfulness to Jesus.

And you know what? For me, at least, it is always an area that could stand improvement.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Acts 16:16-24

Today's reading stumped me. I read it over and over again. What was it trying to tell me? After about the third time of reading it something spoke to me. This is the glorious thing about scripture, it seems to always have something to say on a deeper level that is not obvious when one reads it quickly or the first time. There always seems to be a pertinent message.

The message of this passage for me revolves around the slave girl. This girl is proclaiming the truth about Paul and Silas although she is demon possessed. Why did a demon announce the truth about Paul and Silas? Why did it annoy Paul so much?

Satan, who is the father of lies, will declare the most important truths when these truths can serve his purpose. If Paul accepted the demon's proclamation, he would appear to be linking the gospel with demon related activities. This would severely damage his message about Christ. Much damage is done to the real servants of Christ by unholy and false preachers of the gospel - Paul could not let this demon damage his reputation and hamper his sharing the truth. Truth and evil do not mix.

Once again the Bible shows us an example of how tricky Satan can be. Paul taught people to believe in Jesus Christ, to forsake sin, and to live godly lives. Satan knew what Paul taught was the truth and he wanted to discredit Paul so others would not take him seriously. Thus Satan tried to link Paul, and thus his teaching, to a mystical fortune teller. Satan knew that if he could link Paul to this girl he would discredit both him and his message. Fortunately, Paul knew this too and now so do we.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Acts 16: 1-15

What strikes me most about this passage isn’t the call of Timothy or Lydia, but really verse 6 “[Paul and Timothy] went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.” Forbidden to speak the word? I wonder why? An even bigger question – how did they know they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit?

When I read Acts, I often wonder what it would have been like. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy to have born in the 20th century and am sure I would not have enjoyed the primitiveness of 1st century Israel – or, 1st century anywhere for that matter. But, I do wonder what it would have been like to have been Paul or one of his disciples. To have such a close relationship with God, to have a visible encounter with the risen Christ, to see how God is working in the world around us all the time and seeing astounding miracles every day.

Paul and Timothy were very clear on where God was calling them, to whom they should proclaim the Gospel and where they should stay in each town. They seem to have a conversational relationship with God. They even recognize when God is telling them not to proclaim the Gospel to someone. They recognized that sometimes it’s best to just leave things unsaid and let their actions do the talking.

I sometimes hear people say “God told me to do this” and I wonder how they know – how are they sure? Have they tapped into some secret of holy living that I have yet to find? I don’t know.

What I do know is that God has given us all we need to live lives of faith. He’s given us the Holy Spirit to guide us. It’s our job to cultivate that relationship so that we can recognize God at work in our lives and where God is calling us. We may not hear the voice of God audibly but once we get to know how the Holy Spirit guides us – whether it be through a feeling in the pit of our stomach, a burning need to say something to someone that if we ignore that it just keeps bothering us until we do it or some other way – we can then respond in faith as Paul, Timothy and Lydia did by being attentive to the Holy Spirit and where He is calling us to serve.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Acts 15:22-35

<--Window at Washington National Cathedral depicting James and the Council of Jerusalem

"No Further Burden than these Essentials"

I sometimes wonder whether we, knowingly or unknowingly, set a bar for others to clear before they can join our fellowship (and that fellowship can be a formal thing such as church membership, or other, less formalized, associations within our faith community). Do they need to look like we do? Have families that resemble ours? Speak in the manner that we speak? Dress in the style that we dress?

There is an implicit minimum, now as then, wrapped in that word essentials. But when James speaks of essentials, he refers only to things that are so far beyond the pale as to utterly preclude a faithful gathering. Every culture has certain taboos which have to be respected if one is to join them at a common meal. When we as Christians join at the Lord's Table, regardless of our individual backgrounds, all that we (should) ask is that those who join with us there share in the one purpose, "the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ."

May we extend that invitation daily in our lives, and never discourage anyone, by word or action, from joining us at the table which is not ours, but His alone. Amen.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Acts 15:12-21

Today’s reading reminds me of the inclusiveness of Christianity. These verses are the story of The Council at Jerusalem. Earlier readings told that a big question at that time in the life of the Church was whether or not Gentiles must adhere to Jewish customs to become Christian. So, the question was taken to James, the leader of the largest church at the time, which was Jerusalem. James listened to Paul and Barnabas describe the various arguments. But, the words James relies on, in part (which are from the Book of Amos, from the Septuagint, according to my study bible) were “…that the rest of humanity may seek the Lord…”. From those words, James decided that “we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” Well, he may have been a little bit more inclusive than that, but he decided, nonetheless, that Gentiles were okay.

The only way this can be read, in my view, is total reconciliation with all of humanity. Not just a few lucky folks, but everyone.

So, if God intends for all of humanity to seek His face, who are we to turn anyone away? We are all taught by society various forms of discrimination. We may not think of our actions and thoughts as discriminatory, but there are likely certain groups of people we would just as soon not hang out with. It’s natural to want to be part of one’s own herd, so to speak.

We all have a calling to find these flaws in our make-up and to actively seek out those who are persecuted and discriminated against. We are to share God’s love with them so that they, too, can be part of the miracle.

Isn’t this, after all, what St. Matthews intends as we go on our mission trips? These trips are perfect opportunities to go beyond our safety zones and to test those areas of ourselves that may be unknowingly dividing the world into them and us. But, even without going on a trip, invite someone new to church. Or, in the same way, go out of your way to be friendly to someone new at church. Either way, you are living the Gospel by making it easier for someone else to seek His face.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Acts 15:1-11

Change is often hard, isn’t it? Sometimes it is so difficult to let go of the past, even when we desperately want to do so.

That was the case for some of the believers in today’s passage. We are told that they belonged to “the party of the Pharisees”. It seems clear that they have embraced Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but it also seems clear they were having a hard time letting go of beliefs, traditions, and practices from the past that were not in harmony with the “new” thing God was doing—pouring out his Spirit freely upon the Gentiles.

Peter’s line to these folks is telling: Why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?

Hmmm. Is there anything we cling to from our past , either individually or as a church, that might be a burdensome “yoke” keeping people from knowing the goodness of God’s grace? And if so, how do we find the grace ourselves to let it go, to allow the Spirit to change us?

Change is hard. But if we as a people and a church want to live in harmony with God, then change is necessary, isn’t it? The Serenity Prayer says it so very well:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

To that I can only say, “AMEN!”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Acts 14:19-28

Our reading today is extremely powerful. If you have not read it please do so. I trust you will find it as powerful as I do.

Today's reading begins with the stoning of Paul. Because he was preaching the Gospel, Jews from Antioch and Iconium tracked Paul down, stoned him, and left him for dead. After this Paul got up and went back into the city and continued to preach the Gospel. What great commitment Paul had. Can you imagine doing anything where a group of people hated it, and you, so much that they were willing to kill you for it and after they tried you just continued doing it anyway? Why would you continue to do it in the face of people willing to kill you? It is only because you know it is the will of God that you do it and with God behind you there is nothing on this earth that should stand in your way. After all, compared to the promise to live for all eternity in a peace beyond our understanding, what price is too high to pay in this very short life of ours to gain that promise?

I fully realize that this Bible lesson today is an extreme example. However, God gives each of us tasks to do in our lives. God's will for our lives is not always convenient for us. Many times we feel too busy or have other priorities to do the things we hear God calling us to do. When I am faced with such a situation, it helps me to remember Paul's commitment and to recall his action. Remember to live a life modeled after Jesus, we must walk the talk.

It is true that God's will requires us to do tasks that are not always convenient, easy, and comfortable. However, it was not convenient, easy, or comfortable for Jesus to go to the cross for us!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Acts 14: 1-18

Do we always know God when we see Him? Do we always recognize God at work in our lives? My guess is probably not. We don’t always know or understand the ways of God, nor can we anticipate them. God is surprising. We humans tend to rely on past experiences when we see something new – we go with what we know.

In today’s reading from Acts, that’s exactly what happens. When the people of Lystra witnessed Paul and Barnabas healing the paralytic – they couldn’t understand it. They saw the healing miracle with their own eyes, but it was so far removed from anything they had ever seen before they had to rely on their own experiences to explain it. Remember, Paul and Barnabas were in a foreign land – in a place where Jesus had never been, had never healed anyone. Paul and Barnabas were bringing the good news of Christ to them and were given power to perform miracles through the Holy Spirit. This was completely new for these people.

Also factor in that Paul was a funny looking man … at least according to legend. According to some of the literature of the first and second centuries Paul was not physically attractive. Apparently, he was small and bow-legged, his eyebrows ran across his forehead and met together; and he had a big nose and was bald-headed. He was, however, according to this same source, also strongly built, sort of stocky, and, of course, he did a lot of talking. Barnabas, on the other hand, looked a bit more dignified, and usually was quieter, letting the great preacher Paul do most of the speaking.

In addition there was a local belief of that time, told by Ovid in his book Metamorphoses, about an old and pious couple who had indeed entertained two strangers one time, who turned out to be Zeus and Hermes. This couple was later rewarded for their hospitality. So the people of Lystra were not going to miss out on this opportunity. They were convinced that Zeus (a good looking chief of gods) and Hermes (a small funny looking messenger who talked a lot) had returned to earth in the form of humans again, and this time the townspeople were going to entertain them and be rewarded.

The reason the people were offering sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas was because they thought they were Zeus and Hermes and if they offered sacrifices, they would be rewarded. They relied on what they knew to explain the phenomenon they had before them. They didn’t recognize God because of their old experiences.

How often do we miss out on what God is doing in our midst due to our old habits? How often do we explain away works of the Almighty because there is a “rational explanation” and not acknowledgment of the holy? Lord, open our eyes to see your work in the world around us.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Acts 13:13-25

This summer I read one of those life-changing books. I read Thanks! by Robert Emmons. It is a scholarly work on the science of gratitude. (Remember that old TV show where the man gets conked on the head and says, “thanks, I needed that!)? ” Well, I needed this book.

The book encourages us to change our lives by learning how to be grateful. Elie Wiesel, the Nazi prison camp survivor is quoted as saying that gratitude is the key to open the prison door. This knowledge did not come easy to him. Because of what he suffered he did not write about his time in the camps for ten years after the war. Mr. Wiesel calls it “defiant gratitude” - the determination to change the way we see our life.

If Mr. Wiesel can have defiant gratitude, so can we. Very helpful to me was the book’s suggestion to create a “Gratitude Journal.” This has been a discipline I’ve tried to learn.
An older way of saying it is to count one’s blessings and reflect on what God has given us. I have found that while driving is a good way to commence counting, (but not writing).

In today’s reading Paul addresses Jews at Pisidian Antioch. When asked to deliver a word of encouragement Paul gets them started on a Gratitude Journal. He points out all that God has done for their people; choosing their forefathers, protecting them during the Exodus, enduring their conduct for forty years (that is a long time to endure bad conduct so we can add patience), fighting for them, giving them rulers….And giving them Jesus.

I can recount so many blessings. I can recount my parents’ history and how God reached into their families and chose them, and guided them, and guided my life,…I want to live in a spirit of gratitude and take no blessing for granted.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Acts 13:1-12

I was all set to write one thing about today’s passage when something else jumped out. I was rereading the passage and never got beyond verse 1. In fact, I never got beyond the first few words of verse one. What an incredible line: Now in THE church at Antioch…

Did you get that? Not in the First Baptist Church of Antioch, St. George’s Episcopal Church in Antioch, or even Antioch Community Church. There was only one church, the church, in Antioch.

Of course, we say. The church had just started. They hadn’t grown to the point where they needed multiple churches. Actually, in Acts 11 we saw the before Paul and Barnabas ever got there, “a great number of people” had already “turned to the Lord and believed.” In fact, when the events in this passage occurred, Paul and Barnabas had been in Antioch for a year teaching “great numbers of people” who formed such a vital and healthy community that it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.

We also read that there were at least 6 prophets and teachers in this church. In other words, not only were there plenty of people to form separate churches, there was also plenty of “staff”. But they didn’t. There was only one church in Antioch, and nobody felt the need to go off and start a new one in order to offer their own version of Christianity that was somehow better than the one the church already offered.

Can you imagine how different the world would be if Christians followed this example and concentrated on what we have in common rather than where we differ? Can you imagine the impact if we all were joined together as one in mission and ministry? Can you imagine the scope and scale of what would be possible if all the church’s considerable resources went to ending poverty instead of financing our individual programs, buildings, and denominational boards?

What can you and I do to help make that happen? How can we do a better job of cooperating with other Christians around us? How can we focus on the faith we share with others rather than getting so hung up on our differences?

If the church took questions like these seriously, John Lennon might not have had to write his famous song Imagine as an alternative to the church and what the church has to offer. The reality for which he longed (and I expect the rest of long for that reality as well) would already be present in the world in one church serving one Lord united in one faith.

May it one day be so, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Acts 12:18-25

I struggled a bit with today's reading. I struggled to find something to write about. What is the message in today's reading? After meditating for a while, I think I found one.

I feel the message in today's reading (at least one message) concerns the sin of pride.

Herod gave a speech to the people of Tyre and Sidon. After that speech, per verses 22 & 23, "They shouted, 'This is the voice of a god, not of a man.' Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down ..." In his writing, Luke certainly implies that Herod had the opportunity to deny what the people were shouting. Failing to do so Herod was struck down by God.

Pride is a sin that can cause a person to behave in their own best interest and not in the interest of God. Have you ever done something because you wanted the praise that would come from the act and not because you wanted to advance God's will? I know I have. Sure the act would advance God's will but the motive was wrong. With an incorrect attitude that act may not further God's will as much as it could have. If we divert our attention away from the act, even just a little bit, towards how this act can make me look good, then that loss of attention may result is a less than (perhaps slightly less than) optimum result.

From today's reading pride is obviously a very serious sin. It was so serious in Herod's case that God chose to punish it right then and there. Please, and this is much easier said than done, do not let your pride get in the way of furthering God's will. As the Bible says, if you get an earthly reward for your act, then that is your reward; however, it is much better to receive no earthly reward and thus a heavenly reward.