Monday, January 31, 2011

HS Moving On Out...

Acts 11:2-3 (NLT)
But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. [3] "You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!" they said.

- Tony Campolo has a book entitled something like Aventures in Missing the Point, which as I recall deals with Christians wasting energy on the wrong issues. Obviously this is not a new phenomenon.

Acts 11:18 (NLT)
When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, "We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life."

- We often miss seeing what the Holy Spirit is up to - at least initially.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lines are erased in Christ...

Acts 10:15 (NLT)
But the voice spoke again: "Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean."

- God begins to show us more explicitly, how all the lines we like to draw around ourselves, to separate ourselves from those "others," are wiped away in Christ.

Acts 10:28 (NLT)
Peter told them ... God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean

Even today many of us Christians fail to see this. We become judges discerning what we think is good and evil in others, (and telling "them" so in no uncertain terms) rather than loving everyone as Jesus loves.

Acts 10:38,47
"Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?"

- From Jesus, to the eyewitnesses (apostles,) and to those of the surrounding cultures and ethnic groups (nations) the Holy Spirit is spreading his presence in the world.

Friday, January 28, 2011

On the way...

Acts 9:13-16 (NLT)
"But Lord," exclaimed Ananias, "I've heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! [14] And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name." [15] But the Lord said, "Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. [16] And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name's sake."

- I'm struck by how difficult and challenging God's call was to both these men. And how fully they both complied.

Acts 9:22-23 (NLT)
Saul's preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn't refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. [23] After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill him.

- This is certainly one of the most powerful conversion stories recorded in the bible... With immediate results.

Paul's life comes under attack now in one way or another until the day when he is finally executed. This sure flies in the face of modern "health and wealth" versions of "christianity."

Acts 9:34 (NLT)
Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up, and roll up your sleeping mat!" And he was healed instantly.

Peter's ministry seems to be based more on great signs and healings compared to Saul's preaching and teaching mission.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Persecution Spreads the Word

Acts 8:1 (NLT)
... A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria.

Acts 8:4 (NLT)
But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.

- Persecution, and the attempt to eliminate faith in Jesus actually is the catalyst for the spread of the gospel.

Acts 8:16-17 (NLT)
The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. [17] Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit

- this is curious, that the Holy Spirit wasn't given at baptism. Doesn't it say elsewhere that he is given as a sort of down payment towards that future day of our complete sanctification? And isn't he normally given to us at baptism? Although I must admit, I've met many Christians over the years who seemed unaquinted with him still - who seemed to be caught up in a spirit exuding things other than love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

So, even today it seems that our relationship with the Holy Spirit is not "automatic."

This requires further study.

Acts 8:26 (NLT)
As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, "Go...
Acts 8:29 (NLT)
The Holy Spirit said to Philip, "Go ...
Acts 8:39 (NLT)
the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. ...

- The active involvement and guidance of the Holy Spirit becomes really obvious now.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Acts 7:57-60 (NLT)
Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him [58] and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. [59] As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." [60] He fell to his knees, shouting, "Lord, don't charge them with this sin!" And with that, he died.

- Jesus warned his disciples that people would kill them, thinking they are doing God's will (Matt 25 - Somewhere?)... And now we see this happening. Stephen is stoned to death for blasphemy, and we meet Saul, who later becomes one of the chief persecutors of Jesus' followers... All in the name of religious righteousness.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Acts 6:1 (NLT)
But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.

- We knew all that community "bliss" couldn't last forever. Human nature is still human nature. I make myself remember this whenever I'm tempted to talk about how our churches today should just get back to "the good old days" of the early church. Uh huh...

Acts 6:7 (NLT)
...and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.

Isn't that an interesting tidbit... Allegience to Jesus is penetrating right into the heart of Jewish religious practice.

Acts 6:9 (NLT)
But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him.

- Inevitably, "pushback" arises in the surrounding religious communities...

Acts 6:14 (NLT)
We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the Temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us."

- It seems that Stephen might have been expounding Jesus' prophecy where he said of the temple that he would tear it down and rebuild it in three days. The implications of what Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection meant were starting to sink in and this message was not welcomed by everyone.

This hasn't changed over the course of two thousand years. The grace and freedom offered through Jesus' salvation, completely undermines religion.

Jesus has destroyed the institutions and practices that try to keep us enslaved to worthless piety and traditions, attempting to make ourselves acceptable to God and one another. And the practitioners of religion have continually tried to divert and pervert that pure Gospel.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Acts 5:1 (NLT)
But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.

- What follows is a strange story. Obviously lying to the Holy Spirit is not cool, but we aren't told exactly why these two people died, or if there is some other theological or historical reason for including this in scripture. If anyone else has some thoughts on this passage, I'd love to hear them.

Acts 5:16 (NLT)
Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.

These must have been exciting days as the apostles now find themselves at the heart of a strange new community that is growing up spontaneously. They are performing miracles similar to those of Jesus, somehow guided by the spreading influence of the Holy Spirit, seeing people streaming in to join them, to be healed, to hear their testimony about Jesus, and to hear Jesus' teachings.

Things Jesus said must have now begun to be repeated - "Love your enemies... The first will be last... If you have seen me you have seen the father..." How strange those teachings seemed when Jesus first gave them. Now they are confirmed and empowered by the fact of his resurection!

At this point the apostles have no developed theology about things like the tri-une nature of God, no creeds or traditions except their Jewish heritage, which they obviously continue to live by, yet they are being forced to re-examine everything in light of Jesus.

This re-examining of everything we live by is familiar even today for it is still what happens to us when we begin to feel and respond to the call of Jesus on our lives.

Acts 5:32 (NLT)
We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him."

- Now we see the beginning of the Holy Spirit in action, witnessing. So despite more organized attacks by the same religious authorities who had Jesus executed, we are told that:

Acts 5:42 (NLT)
... every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: "Jesus is the Messiah."

- and this message has continued spreading throughout the world for two thousand years despite setbacks, persecutions and resistance of every kind.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Acts 4:29 (NLT)
And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word....
Interesting that they aren't praying for safety or "hedges of protection," or that their opponents would be held back - but that they would be bold.
Acts 4: Indwelling Spirit

Acts 4:8 (NLT)
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers and elders of our people,...

This is Peter, the same man who only a few weeks earlier, was afraid that these religious leaders would discover he was a disciple of Jesus, and so denied knowing the Lord not once, but three times.

This power to change our inner natures is one of the greatest testimonies to the indwelling power of YHWH the Holy Spirit.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Peter and John heal a lame beggar...

Acts 3:13 (NLT)
For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob...who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this.

-- We're told several times in scriptue that this is the reason behind miraculous healings - to bring glory to Jesus and attest to his divine nature.

Sadly we often pray for healings today, being told to expect them, which then leads to discouagement and even a crisis of faith when they don't happen. I remind myself that there must have been many other blind, lame and afflicted people who were not healed that day. I wonder how Peter and John knew that God wanted them to heal this particular one.

What a great day for this lame man when YHWH chose him to glorify Jesus this way!

Acts 3:8 (NLT)
He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.

-- I bet he began "praising God!"

-- Also, being lame from birth he would never before have been allowed to enter the temple. This miracle gives us a great physical illustration of how Jesus heals all of us spiritually to bring us into communion with God.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Acts 2:2 (NLT)
Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.

- In keeping with the analogy of God's Holy Spirit as our Breath of Life, He appears as wind. This alludes back to the creation account where YHWH God breathes the breath of life into Adam who then becomes a living soul. And it fulfills Jesus' prophetic actions when he first appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, in the upper room, and breathed on them, saying: "Receive the breath of life."

And as The Light of the world He appears as "tongues of fire." This analogy appears in many other places as well, such as Moses' face glowing after spending time in God's presence, and Jesus on the mount of transfiguration, where Peter, James and John get a glimpse of Jesus' glorified state.

Acts 2:8 (NLT)
and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages!

- Pentecost, being one of the major Holy Days for the Jews, is a time when Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims from all over the known world.

Acts 2:40-41 (NLT)
Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation!" [41] Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day-about 3,000 in all.

- The "turn or burn!" style of Save Yourself From Imminent Destruction message! As time goes on and we see that Christ's return may not be quite as Peter first imagined it, how has our Christian meapssage developed and grown? Or has it? Is this really all The Good News is about? Save your backside!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Acts of the Holy Spirit

I'm reading the book of Acts, and thought I'd post some observations, question and wonderings here for anyone that wants to read along and discuss 'stuff'...

During an earlier study on this book, I saw how the true Central Character of the story is the Holy Spirit. In my own mind, the full title of this book is The Acts of the Holy Spirit.

Starting in Acts, chapter 1 - It doesn't take long until we encounter him*:

Acts 1:2 (NLT)
until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit.

--- This is the first time the Holy Spirit is mentioned, yet the day of Pentecost has not yet occurred in the story sequence. I guess this is an anachronism fitted in by the narrator?

-- As I recall the original term for Holy Spirit is Ruach Hakodesh... Meaning holy wind or breath -- review time:

*As the articles linked make clear, God The Holy Spirit is not male or female. This is merely a limitation in the English language which lacks gender-neutral personal pronouns.

**Here's a good : Online Bible