Sunday, January 24, 2010

Let god Decide -- Acts 5

I continue to be amazed at the number of people who are experts in what God is up to these days. There is no shortage of people who will proclaim something to be of God and not. This seems to be a significant part of our human condition. If there is something we disagree with, or cannot explain, we like to think it is not God at work. If it is God at work, then many decide God is not worthy of being followed. Perhaps the issues is not God, rather it is our human need to jump to a conclusion.

The high priest and the council are facing such a situation. More and more people are beginning to follow the Way, or the teachings of Jesus. The crowds are getting bigger and the disciples are gaining more and more favor with the people of the city. Jealousy is such an evil thing. Just when the council is about to find a way to kill the apostles a voice of reason comes. Gamaliel, not a name used very often any more, says if this is of human origin it will pass by itself, if it is of God, we might find ourselves fighting God.

How many times do I end up fighting with God? There is the scary question. My tendency is to decide what is godly and what is not. God may be making clear the way of salvation in a new way, and I could be standing in the way. There are others who are much more knowledgeable about the scriptures than I am, however, as I read the scriptures I find fighting against God to not be a good plan. From time to time God asks us to fight for God, never against.

Here we are thousands of years after Gamaliel offers sound wisdom to the council. The ministry of Jesus continues on. Through think and thin, explosion and contraction, the work, and resurrection of Jesus continues on. When God is making clear the Way of Jesus through a new means, who are we to stand in the way. Leave room for God to work, and allow god to be the one who decides what is of human origin, and what is not. The things of humanity will all pass away, the things of God will endure forever. Be willing to let God reveal Jesus in new ways.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Strength From The Struggle -- Acts 4

So Peter and John, healed a man who had been crippled for more than 40 years, and the religious leaders of the day were not thrilled about it. Their discontent was two fold, one they were not involved with such a work of God, and two the name of Jesus was being lifted up. Remember these were the people who strategized and planned for months looking for a way to kill Jesus. They thought they had been successful, and the Way which Jesus lead would simply fade away.

Peter and John are brought before the High Priest and the whole council for examination. Peter being himself, boldly proclaims to the council their work is done in Jesus name. Now the council was in quite a pickle. They could not deny the miraculous healing, as people witnessed it, nor could they allow the disciples to continue their work. So, the end result was a severe tongue lashing, and the edict to not proclaim the name of Jesus Christ ever again. Here we have the fist major incident of persecution of the church. The established religious people of the day commanding the Followers to not speak of or in Jesus' name again.

I love the result this has on the people of Jesus. the shout and pray all the louder. They continue their work with a renewed level of zeal and passion. The struggle has seemed to make them stronger. I wonder what would happen if the rulers of our day, religious or otherwise, proclaimed that no one was allowed to speak the name of Jesus? We can see the effect it had on the followers in Acts 4, would we respond the same? There was no court battle, there was not public smear campaign, no boycotts of protests, none of it. The people simply went about proclaiming the name of Jesus. Persecution made the church stronger.

Perhaps it is time for some persecution in our day. Or perhaps the persecution has already come and we are shying away. As a society we are told it is not politically correct, or that we might offend others if we speak the name of Jesus, and we are listening. Just the opposite reaction than those in Acts 4. Oh that the church would once again respond to persecution like those who have gone before us.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Times of Refressing -- Acts 3

Life is hectic for most people. Here in America we regularly display our ability to over schedule our day, so no matter what when the day has run its course we still feel we need to do more. Mix this business with with the general chaos which accompanies this thing called humanity and you have one stress producing mess. Stress produces several things in humanity, included in this is sin. When we experience high levels of stress it is easy to make poor choices with our time. Then we heap guilt onto the pile of life. It can all seem overwhelming.

Peter in Acts 3 instructs the crowd to turn from your sins and turn to God, so you can be cleansed of your sin. It would be easy to stop reading there, however the next verse is beyond important in our chaotic, over scheduled lives. "Then wonderful times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord...". I don't know about you, but I could use some times of refreshing. Life moves at a pretty high pace, and I just plain get tired. I crave times when I can rest in the presence of the Lord and experience refreshing.

Now there are somethings I must do to experience this refreshing. I must first turn from my sins. This is more than forgiveness, this is stopping them. Then I must turn to God. So not just avoiding sin, but turning the the source of life. Once I do that then in the presence of the Lord I will find the refreshing I crave. All too often I seek the refreshing without doing my part. I simply want to feel the release without the turning. As long as I am living life on my terms the refreshing will not come.

Take time today to get with your God. First, turn from the sin in your life. Second, turn to God. Last enjoy the time of refreshing in the presence of God.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Big Day -- Acts 2

Life had settled back to normal what ever that is for the people of Jerusalem. The passover celebration was now 50 days behind them, and the whole debacle of this man named Jesus was out of the minds of most. While the believers gathered in the upper room to pray, and hope to remain safe, the rest of the people when about business as usual. It was the festival of Pentecost, or the harvest. This was one of the three major festivals of the Jewish year and people were gathered in Jerusalem from all over the world. Things were going along just fine until the rushing of a violent wind.

The situation shook everyone out of their mindless pattern, and drew them into focus upon the place where the followers of Jesus were at. As the crowd found their way to the upper room they arrived to find people speaking their language. Some knew God was up to something as the people speaking were known as educated people according to the standards of the day. Others were quick to assume they were drunk, not leaving room for God to be at work. Chaos had settled into the business as usual workings of the city.

In the midst of that chaos Peter steps forward to address the crowd. Many have called this the first sermon of the church. There is explanation or teaching, there is confrontation, and there is a convicting question. Once the crowd seeks what they are to do, Peter delivers the plan of God, turn from your sins and turn to God. Repent, and be baptized. Three thousand were added to the church that day. Can you imagine going from a church of 120 to a church of 3120 in a day?

This is what happened and the believers began to live together in such a way that God was able to use them to continue to reveal the Kingdom. Daily God uses the believers to add to the number of people who were being saved.

I cannot help wonder if it isn't time once again for the church to experience such an out pouring. Is it possible we, the church, have settled back into the pattern of business as usual. We are going about the work of the church and life, without much real connection to the work of God? When there has been an outpouring of the Holy Spirit have we seen it as God at work, or humans who are abusing the flesh? The day of Pentecost is coming. May we hear the voice of God, turn from our sins and turn to God. Revive us of Lord.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Year, New Plan

Thank you to all of you who journeyed with me through last year. I have taken a few weeks off, as many of you know, to regroup and pray about the plan for this year. The result is continuing to look at the Scriptures, but not only the New Testament. This year I will journey through the Bible working from book to book, by selecting my favorites. Please understand, just because a book may be my favorite does not mean I like everything put forward in the book. Challenge is good and helps us grow. With that we begin the 2010 journey in the Book of Acts.

Acts 1 begins the continuation of the book of Luke. In the Gospel of Luke we find the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We can find the major teachings of Jesus and get a clear picture of what it means to follow Jesus in our lives today. While community is always a big part of Jesus following, the Gospel of Luke can be viewed from a fairly individual window. When we turn to the book of Acts the view is broadened and we see the formation of community, and what it is like to be community of Christ followers. By the way, do not not think you can truly be a Christ follower outside of community.

When we pick up the book of Acts we start with Jesus making his resurrection appearances. When he is with the followers, he teaches them about the Kingdom of God. At one of the gatherings Jesus tells them to stay in Jerusalem until the are given the Holy Spirit. Those gathered ask not about the Holy Spirit but about when God was going to restore the earthly kingdom of Israel. In a very polite response Jesus says it does not matter, what matters is going about the business of showing the Kingdom of God in the midst of humanity. Shortly after Jesus was taken up to heaven to begin the waiting game of when the Father deems the time is right.

I cannot get past the scene as Jesus is taken up and the group is there gazing into the sky. As they are there, two me appear who are in white robes, it is not clear if they are angels or not, some have suggested they are connected to the two messengers in Revelation. We can be confident they are not angels as there is not a great deal of fear expressed by the gathered, as there seems to be in most other places of Scripture. Nonetheless they are there, and they challenge the gathered, to get moving on the task they have been given. Don't just stare at the sky, be the community Jesus taught you to be and that God is sending the Holy Spirit to empower.

So their first great work, electing a new apostle. This has always bothered me. They were told to simply wait for the Holy Spirit, yet they felt the need to tend to something so mundane and human as filling out the ranks. Ah but then we can remember, these people were primarily Jews, and the number twelve was very important, especially when all things were being made new. There are twelve tribes of Israel, and while the twelve had been scattered, they would once again be formed and claimed. Each tribe would need a leader, and therefore 11 would not work, 12 were needed.

Once they had their number they went back to praying and waiting for the promise of God. Little did the gathered know that shortly their whole life was about to be radically reshaped by the power of God once more.