Christianity isn’t a destination, it’s a journey

Acts 18

The homespun chapter.

There is still much travel. We start out in Athens and then travel to Corinth, Ephesus, Caesarea and Antioch. How can this be the homespun chapter?

The chapter talks about making new friends, meeting Priscilla and Aquila, meeting Apollos. And old friends reunited- Timothy and Silas rejoin the team. Then it also talks about just living life, making tents.

“2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.”

I like this chapter. Maybe because it shows real life. Maybe because it shows friendship and fellowship, maybe because it shows discipleship and inclusion,maybe because God speaks encouragement. But I think mostly because it shows that Christianity isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. It’s a part of a life, a real life.

I know I haven’t arrived. I’m not done learning, growing or failing. I haven’t outgrown the need for grace and forgiveness. Thank you Jesus that you know me and love me and forgive me. Forgive me.

Save, heal, protect and bless my friends and family. Become more real to us Jesus.

The unknown God revealed

Acts 17

Paul Timothy and Silas travel to Thessalonica and preach and teach about Jesus and many people believe but opposition soon lands some new converts, Jason and friends in Jail. They post bond and that night the team is sent to Berea.

“11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.”

Soon the rabble rousers in Thessalonica came and stirred up trouble. Paul was sent to Athens, Timothy and Silas stayed on in Berea.

Athens wasn’t the next town over. It was 250 miles away, a 3 day sea journey or 12 day land journey.

While there he was asked to tell his story. He said this, it’s long but I’m going to post the entire message,

“Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”’

Today We don’t have idols we worship. Mostly We have ideas and philosophies.

Here is what I need to know. Gods plan to save all the people on planet earth is Jesus. Jesus’ death paid the cost of my sin, the fact that he rose from the dead and then went from here to heaven gives me hope of a life beyond death. All of my mistakes are covered by that one act. Those things that I’m too ashamed to even mention, all of that, of those things. All covered and forgiven. And that forgiveness is available to all people.

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Acts 16

We meet Timothy.

Paul is told where not to preach(?)

Paul is told where to preach. (Macedonia)

We meet the lovely (of heart) and gracious Lydia.

Paul is joined by the author, Dr Luke, (“We” & “us”).

Households come to know Jesus.

“15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.”

“33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.”

Paul and Silas are stripped and beaten and still do a prison worship service. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”’

The question still gets asked today, what must I do to be saved? To be free of my sin, all of my mistakes that I drag around with me, like a cesspool on wheels.

The message of Paul is still the same today. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.

That is some good news.

Where division multiplies

Acts 15

One very joyous thing happens and one very sad thing happens. But the sad thing has good results.

Back in Acts 13:13 there is an event mentioned that I didn’t talk about. The helper and assistant to Paul and Barnabas left the mission trip to go back home. His name was John, also called Mark.

Now here in chapter 15 Barnabas wants to let John Mark rejoin the team but Paul refuses.

“37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.”

It’s hard to see partnerships break up. When I was 14 I discovered the dynamic duo of Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon. It was 1974. The group quit singing together in 1970. I was so sad to find out this new thing I found was already over. There would be no new material.

I hate breakups. In show biz Frequently one party continues upward and onward and the other lapses into obscurity. After this split Barnabas is not heard of again in scripture although John Mark goes on to write the first of the four Gospels. The gospel of Mark. We hear of him later in a letter written by Paul.

“Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” 2Tim.4.11 NIV

If fame and notoriety were the goal then Barnabas blew it. He disappeared. But his protege continued in the faith. Fame was not his goal. Telling people about Jesus and encouraging young believers was what he was all about. What we see in the later life of John Mark is a sign that he probably continued doing just that.

Change isn’t bad. The end of one thing in this case is the beginning of two new things. Instead of 1 group of 3 there were 2 groups of 2. Jesus would be preached in 2 areas at the same time.

The joyous thing is that the church leadership got together to discuss what the rules are for gentile believers, (that’s me and probably you) and the list of rules are:

“28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.”

The christian life is simple but it isn’t easy.

Is opposition a rudder to guide?

Acts 14

The cities change but the message never changes. It is the good news that all of our sins are forgiven through the sacrificial death of Jesus.

Jews and Gentiles (we are one or the other) all have the same gift from God. Jesus is the savior for everyone, for every one.

This chapter is encouraging to me. Not just because a great number believed in every town they went, and not just because miracles followed them.

“8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.”

Not just that but also because not everyone accepted the good news, in fact Paul was stoned and left for dead by a crowd who opposed the message of good news.

“19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.”

They just kept preaching. I sometimes determine whether or not I’m doing the will of God with the opposition test. None to little opposition means I am in Gods will, opposition means try something else but that isn’t what we see here. When opposition came they changed locations but not vocations and message stays the same. Jesus came to save sinners.

“21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders[a] for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.”

I don’t think that God is asking me to travel and share his message for a vocation. I think God is saying through this text that the opposition test is not a valid test.

Share the good news everywhere I go and don’t be deterred by opposition.

That’s what I’m hearing.

Woody and Kronk preach the good news.

Acts 13

What did Paul look like? I’d like to think that he looked Tom Hanks, medium build, handsome, friendly, approachable. But what if he looked like Woody, not the doll, but the actor writer, director Woody Allen? It’s more likely. He was Jewish. What about Barnabus?who did Barnabus look like? I think of Patrick Warburton. The voice of Kronk in the emperors new groove.

Now with that picture in mind read the chapter.

“Acts 13:2-5New International Version (NIV)

2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

On Cyprus
4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.”

Saul changes his name to Paul. And he begins to do what he was created for, build and build up the Church.

“9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.”

Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.”

“15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”

16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!”

Paul then goes onto do a very thorough explanation of the person and mission of Jesus.

The Jewish people would reject him and so he immediately began to speak to the gentile population.

I think that Paul was a small man in stature but a giant in intellect, in passion and in purpose.

He jumped into the new role of traveling evangelist with everything he had and everything that he was.

So a guy who looked like Woody Allen and a guy who looked like Patrick Warburton walked into a synagogue….and the world would never be the same.

“49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus use me to change the part of the world that you have set me in.

From persecutor to pastor

Acts 11

Can a leopard Change its spots?

I don’t think so. But that is what is usually asked when there is a question about some person changing their mind or heart or character or position. Can a person really change or is our die cast at birth and we are just living life the way we are designed?

Just two chapters ago this is how Saul is described, “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.”

Can people change? I don’t think we can change ourselves. But that isn’t really the situation here. The real question is, can God change a person once Jesus is their savior? Can people be rehabilitated by Gods spirit living in them?

“19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. “

Can God change a person? From the evidence here in this chapter the answer is YES. From the evidence in my own life and my experience of other people who have received Jesus the answer is YES.

God through the living in us spirit can change us. Saul started pastoring here in Antioch. It’s here that we get the name Christian. It means little Christ. An imitator or clone of Jesus. I like it. It doesn’t always apply to me, I am not always Christlike but I bear the name as something to grow into.

Saul who will soon change his name to Paul and go on to write most of the New Testament is brought into the ministry by Barnabas. Son of encouragement, that’s what his name means. That’s what I want to be. That’s what I need in my life. That’s what role my wife Mary has played in my life. Encouragers, the world needs more of those.

From persecI sum up. Jesus is for everyone. Jesus can and will change people. Jesus is changing me. Jesus can and will change anyone who admits they need forgiveness and accepts Jesus death as payment for their mistakes. Persecutors can become pastors and bible writers. I want to be a little Christ (Christian) who encourages people.

And the rest…like me

Acts 10

And the rest…..

Here is where we come in.

Up to this point in the story Christianity was as a sect of Judaism. God had other plans. God had bigger plans. God had plans that would eventually include me, not exclude me.

“34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”

Jesus had said that they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, the city, Judea, the area, Samaria, the area next door, and the utter most parts of the world, and the rest. I think that they were thinking geographically. That they would travel and tell their story to the Jews in the utter most parts of the world but God wasn’t talking about land masses. He didn’t come to save the land masses. He didn’t come to just save Jewish people. Jesus came to save the masses. Jesus came to save the masses that are messes. I am one one. I am one of the mass that is a mess. I am a sinner. I’ve done things. but more than that, I still, even after accepting Jesus as my savior want to stray away. My heart is self centered and bent on wanting what it wants. Jesus knew all that and he died for me.

Because of Cornelius and his family, and Peters obedience I can be welcomed into the family of God without becoming a Jew first. I don’t know all of the details but The process was not easy and would leave a convert always on the outside.

Bob Denver wanted equal billing for all of the characters on Gilligans Isle. Again I don’t know all the details but after the first season we get to sing, “the professor and Maryanne,”. Because God so loved the world, the masses of people not the masses of land, he gave his only Son that whosoever would believe in Him, would not perish but have everlasting life.

Good news for ALL of us. In Gods song of salvation our names can be included.

Becoming an 11 in 1

Acts 9

Saul/Paul’s conversion.

“9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”

The word ‘tool’ has gotten a new use. We now say someone is a tool and it means something bad. Not in my garage, not in my daily life, (I’m an electrician by trade), not in my vocabulary. A tool is what you use to get things done. I have one tool called an 11 in 1, which is a screw driver with 8 bits a 3 sizes of nut drivers. As an electrician It is indispensable.

Chapter 9 has stories of 4 men who were tools in Gods hands. Each used in specific ways for specific tasks.

Ananias, used to minister to death threatening Saul. To heal him, baptize him and teach him. To accept him and bring him into fellowship.

Saul, who’s heart was changed on the road to Damascus. He immediately began to teach that Jesus was exactly who he said he was, the messiah and there was no turning back for Saul or for anyone Saul would encounter.

There was Barnabas, his name means “son of encouragement”. He was used to befriend Saul and bring him into fellowship in Jerusalem. I imagine him as a Yukon Cornelius type who brought the bumble into Christmas castle just in time to put up the star. An encourager, an includer, a bold and fearless follower of Jesus who knew that Jesus can change the heart of a man.

And then we have Peter. Everywhere he goes miracles happen. The sick are healed, the lame walk and even the dead are raised to life.

I hope that I am a tool. Only in the best sense. Jesus use me to tell about you. You have forgiven all of my sins. You have changed me so much already but I am still in process. Continue the process you started in me and use me.

I want to be a Christian 11 in 1.

Mobility and availability

Acts 8

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.”

Back in Acts chapter 1 Jesus had told his disciples, that they would receive power to be witnesses in Judea, Samaria and to utter most parts of the earth.

The persecution that broke out served to accomplish Just that. Philip went to Samaria and started proclaiming Jesus, healing and teaching. People there began to believe in Jesus.

Philip did two things really well. First, he shared about Jesus wherever he went, praying for people’s needs as he encountered them. Second, he went wherever he was sent.

” Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a] eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake…”

Philip goes on to bring this man to Jesus and then is literally spirited away. “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.”

I can’t explain this. It happened.

Am I available? Am I ready to share the good news that Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost? I have a lot of “but what about..?” Things floating around in my head.

Even with all of that I say “here I am Lord, use me.”

Love in Action

How then shall we live?

Love in Action

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. On the contrary:“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” NIV Rom 12:9-21

This is how followers of Jesus should live. It is the expanded version of “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”

So live like this.

Impossible?

Without a change of heart and mind, yes, impossible.

Followers of Jesus get a bonus guide. When a person makes Jesus their master and believes that Jesus has raised from the dead, they go through a rebirth and at this birth God’s spirit comes to live inside them as a guide, an internal spiritual gps. All of our confessed sin is washed away. We are made clean and new.

When the new birth happens a new heart is transplanted into us, one that loves God and loves our neighbors. And as we grow, and learn how to follow Jesus by reading his word, our mind is renewed.

We get a restart, a new beginning with A guiding Spirit, a new heart which loves and a renewed mind.

From that place we can begin to live this new lifestyle. A life of love, mercy, grace and service.

Who is Jesus?

We are at the point in Matthew 26 where Jesus is going to make a statement that condemns him. He claims to be God.

what are we to do with this information. Here is what C.S. Lewis said about the matter,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Here is the story from Matthew 26:

“57-58 The men who had seized Jesus took him off to Caiaphas the High Priest in whose house the scribes and elders were assembled. Peter followed him at a safe distance right up to the High Priest’s courtyard. Then he went inside and sat down with the servants and waited to see the end.

59-61 Meanwhile the chief priests and the whole council did all they could to find false evidence against Jesus to get him condemned to death. They failed completely. Even after a number of perjurers came forward they still failed. In the end two of these stood up and said, “This man said, ‘I can pull down the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

62-64 Then the High Priest rose to his feet and addressed Jesus, “Have you no answer? What about the evidence of these men against you?” But Jesus was silent. Then the High Priest said to him, “I command you by the living God, to tell us on your oath if you are Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “I am. Yes, and I tell you that in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of Heaven.”

65-66 At this the High Priest tore his robes and cried, “That was blasphemy! Where is the need for further witnesses? Look, you’ve heard the blasphemy—what’s your verdict now?” And they replied, “he deserves to die.”

67-68 Then they spat in his face and knocked him about, and some slapped him, crying, “Prophesy, you Christ, who was that who hit you?”’

It isn’t a crime to claim you are the son of God, if in fact you are the son of God.

Jesus is the son of God, I say is, not was, because he lives, he is alive today. He suffered, he died, he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven and he is returning some day, one day, possibly soon.

Our eternal destiny hangs in the balance of our answer to this question: What do you believe about this man Jesus?

The body growing, diversifies

Acts 6

Some of the widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

The apostles were concerned and decided to divide the labor of ministry. It’s like when a human is formed from two cells, the egg and sperm. They quickly begin to multiply and as they do they cluster into groups. These groups begin to develop into the various organs and tissues that will make up this little person. No group is more important than any other because they are after all just specialized copies of the original two cells.

The church, this living organism is a multifaceted organization with millions of people, we all, all Christians, have a part play in the function, health and growth of the church, which is also called the body of Christ.

Stephan was chosen not to preach and teach he was given the job of distributing to the widows their needs, “3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

And he served. And the church continued to grow.

“7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Stephen Seized
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.”

My body has a lot of different parts and pieces. I need them all to work, to work well, to work hard, to work at their jobs when I don’t even recognize what they are doing. It’s a team effort and all victories and defeats affect my entire body. Every part of me is working together to feed, encourage, bless, protect, aid, and serve every other part. When a part is sick or hurting all parts suffer. I am a type 2 diabetic. Either my pancreas isn’t making insulin or my cells are not receiving the insulin that I am making. It affects all of me. That is the same with the church. When one part suffers all of us are affected.

We all part of one body. One body of Christ. We need to work together. We need to be connected to each other. We need to aid and support each other. One body, one goal: witness to the miraculous work that Jesus is doing in us.

The good news is Jesus loves us and has forgiven all of our sin. He wants to have a relationship with us. He wants to use us to reach the world with his love.

“Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground”

John 8

What if God knew our secrets?

“8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”’

We don’t know what Jesus wrote with his finger on the ground. We can only guess. The Text says that the older men left first. This was a society that esteemed elders and they would’ve been in the front. They would’ve seen what Jesus was writing first. I believe Jesus was writing out the list of each mans dalliances, names and dates.

Who was without sin? not one in that crowd. There is no crowd where the outcome would be any different. No one is without sin.

The one man who lived his life without sinning, Jesus, stood there completely justified to condemn this woman but instead he forgave her.

What if God knew our secrets?

He does.

He knows all of them. He knows all of our past. Here’s the hard part to understand, he still loves us. Jesus knew us and and our sin and yet went to the cross to pay for them all, to pay for us all.

I did some stuff, bad stuff. I was young and stupid. I cannot undo what I did. I recently met an older gentleman who knows part of my story. I can’t see him without thinking about that part of my life and feeling shame and remorse. He only knows part of my story. God knows it all. Every detail. Every motive. Every move I made, he was watching me. He has enough on me to condemn me for eternity but instead he has forgiven it all.

Jesus paid it all. It’s not fair, but it’s true. I walk away forgiven.

Thank you Jesus. You have set me free!

Thoughts about my side job

I was working on some more serving trays this weekend, using old pallet wood for the sides and ends and using up scrap sheet goods, plywood or paneling, for the base.

Some of it was fun, some of it was frustrating, and towards the end I started feeling like it was all a waste of time.

Then this morning I read what Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus who lived in Corinth.

“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 – NLT

I had chosen to use these particular boards because they were hardwood, oak and some other species, so they were dense and strong but they were split and cracked. Not useable as full width or full length so I cut them up below their splits and cracks and made them useful again.

I identify with this in a personal way. I am damaged. Both physically and emotionally. My face was burned when i was 8 and i was left with a disfigured face and ear. God, who deserves the very best, the flawless, the spotless, the whole and the strong, has taken me in and made me his child. My hope is that if you feel too damaged to be loved or useful, that you would see yourself as God sees you, through the lens of his Son Jesus who died to redeem us and to restore us and who came to life again and now lives forever.

God sees us broken damaged people as whole and wholly loved. He doesn’t see our damages necessarily as liabilities, if they are he heals them and let’s us tell others about what he did, and sometimes he uses our cracks and crevices as integral parts of what he is building. Where we see a flaw in ourselves, he sees the key to fit the puzzle of his kingdom together. He is always building his kingdom. Each one of us fits some where. Sometimes the process of shaping us Him making us fit his purposes.

For now I will keep building stuff out what the world has deemed as garbage, as superfluous, as trash and will hope that the objects that I make will someday, somehow symbolize to another broken person, that God loves us and has a plan for us. That they will be used in a new way, to build a kingdom.

“We must obey God rather than human beings!”

Acts 5

Busy chapter.

Ananias and his wife lie to the Holy Spirit and die.

The apostles carry on Jesus’ healing ministry. All who come to them are healed.

The apostles teach openly at the temple about Jesus.

The church continues to grow which make the Jewish leadership jealous.

The apostles are arrested, jailed, set free by angels, teach more, re arrested and told to just quit it. Quit teaching about Jesus. Just stop already.

Peters reply is “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”’

Then a very wise man named Gamaliel says something that gives me hope
“38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”’

Then the apostles are beaten up, flogged, and let go.

“41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.”

This new thing, the good news of Jesus coming and dying for our sin. It’s a new way of living. It’s a heart thing. It’s no longer about external shows. Our heart has to be right inside of us. The Good news is that Jesus can do that. He can make our hearts right.

There is power in this new life. Power to heal, power to be witnesses of what Jesus Is doing in our lives. Power to keep going even in great opposition. The opposition is heating up. It is more visible and more real and more menacing then I have I ever seen.

Jesus strengthen my weak arms and feeble legs so that I can stand and be a witness to the amazing love, amazing mercy, amazing grace, that you have for me. Not just for me but for all people who come to you and repent.

“we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”’

Acts 4

“8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is

“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’[a]
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”’

Jesus had been crucified, was dead and buried. He rose from the dead, taught his disciples, told them to wait for power and then he ascended into heaven.

Now it’s just the disciples carrying on. The church is growing. From 72 to 3000 and now because of this healing it has swelled to 5000 believers in Jesus.

Jesus had warned them about the opposition they would face. Back in Luke 21, “
12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.”

We will face persecution and opposition when we believe in Jesus. In it we will find the power to tell our story. I was lost, but now I am found. I was broken but now I am in the process of repair. I continue to contend for healing for the sick, wounded world I live in.

Jesus thank you for saving me. Help me tell other people about you.

Wonder and amazement

Acts 3.

“6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”

As a child I spent 21 days in a hospital bed. I was a complete surprise to me when I was able to try and walk that my legs would not support me. I just crumpled to the floor.

This healing then is actually two-fold. The beggar was not only given the ability to walk but also the strength to walk.

Then Peter uses the miracle as a platform from which he told everyone there about Jesus.

Jesus said that we would receive his Holy Spirit so that we would be Empowered to be His witnesses.

Are we as a church, the whole body of believers in Jesus experiencing this power now? Where did the power to heal go? What changed? Is wasn’t God. Jesus Christ is same, yesterday, today and forever.

It feels like being late to the party. When you arrive the people there say “oh, you should’ve seen it, wow it was great!” Or when the old timers reminisce about the good old days, “back in my day…”

It is today. I am here now. What miraculous signs will God do through us today? I’m Praying for healing for cancer patients, for babies hanging on for life in crisis pregnancies, for people healing from surgery, for GERD, for rashes that won’t go away, for food allergies and the list goes on. For marriages, ones in bliss and ones on the rocks. God please hear and heal and touch. Show us us your power God. Most important God, save us from our sin. Forgive us and clean us.

A new thing with a new source of power (not a Tesla)

Acts 2.

One of the most important events in the history of the world happened and is recorded here. The birth of something brand new. The birth of an entirely new concept, the church.

“36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”

I have an old truck. I like to imagine back To when it was new. It was a bold new design. The series of trucks were called Task Force Trucks. I like everything about them. Well, almost everything about them. Inside the cab behind the seat is this large metal container. It looks like it would hold about 17 gallons. It does. It holds 17 gallons of gasoline. There is 17 gallons of gasoline riding around with me right behind my seat.

What does the gas tank of my truck have to do with the birth of the church? It’s the power source. When they designed my truck it’s like they mocked up this beautiful shapely form, every curve and corner a total stroke of design genius and then realized after finalizing the design that they forgot a fuel tank and so then they looked around, found a space and crammed it in.

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.

Hundreds of years before it happened God described how he would power a new thing that he would build. He would power it by his Holy Spirit. It’s different than the way things were. It’s a new design and new source of power.

Jesus told the disciples that they would be empowered. Empowered to be witnesses of this new thing.

A New covenant, new wine into a new wine skin. Something different. Something new.

It’s been 2 thousand years of this new thing. To some it has lost its luster. To some it is powerless.

To me it is the frame work of my life. The church has not always gotten it right. It does not always get it right. But the church is a group of sinners following a savior. I must not look to them, I must look to Jesus. I have however joined them as we follow Jesus together.

Luke 25

Luke 25

There is no Luke 25.

What we have instead is the book of Acts which was Luke’s second writing to a man named Theophilus. The name Theophilus means love of God.

It is the last place we will see red lettering until we get to
The book of The Revelation of John. Not all bibles have red letters. Some times the publishers put the words of Jesus in red letters so that the stand out. The book of Acts is the story of what Jesus’ followers did after Jesus ascended into heaven.

The last words Jesus spoke to his followers are:

“After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”

Jesus ascended into heaven to accomplish 2 things: 1) intercede for us his followers and 2) send his Holy Spirit down upon his followers to empower them, power them to be witnesses of what Jesus can do in a human heart.

I don’t believe Jesus wants to change the world. I believe he wants to change a human heart. The heart is where we decide to do good or to do evil. Without Jesus working in us our propensity is to do evil.

I have given my heart to him. He is the boss of me. I don’t always obey… But when I do? Good things happen. When I don’t? Sometimes nothing happens and sometimes I see right away the consequences of going against the better plan that God has for me. I’m thinking of my burn scars right now. I knew it was the wrong thing to do to play with fire but I did it anyway. Not all rebellion carries with it the horrible consequences of my burns. And even my burns have brought good things into my life ( wife and family)

Rambling a bit.

Jesus loves us. He left, but sent his Holy Spirit to comfort and empower us to tell our story of how HE Can change a heart, change a life, change the world.