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In my weekly news magazine, they have a column of sort of quotable quotes. This is attributed to author John Ortberg: “Forgiving means giving up the right to get even.”
Helen reads a lot of John Ortberg. He comes up with a lot of great tidbits.
My devotional reading is currently in Genesis and I’ve just been reading about Jacob and Esau. Talk about a strange relationship! There’s the whole story about Jacob buying and then “stealing” Esau’s birthright that Esau was too casual about. Then Jacob flees for many years; he returns and is terrified because Esau is coming out to meet him and tries bribery. Esau is happy to see him and they plan to meet later. Jacob again dissembles and takes off in another direction. Then they come together again to bury their father and then they separate far enough away from each other so that their vast holdings and herds have enough space. Esau never seems to stay mad at Jacob as justified as that would be. God continues to bless Jacob and speak to him regardless of what he does. Everyone of the Patriarchs has characteristics that are reprehensible. Gives one hope…!
Since the Prayer Study introduced “the name of God” and how we are to revere it, I am struggling with whether this should be taken as a metaphor or literally. Names were very important to the Hebrew (and probably other middle eastern) peoples. That belief has come down to us as the use of someone’s “true” name gives one power over them in a magic sense, but the only place I encounter this is in fantasy readings. I can see God’s name being important as our “good name” is important to us, but literally to praise His name is something I cannot connect with today.
As Grace Church is devoting about two months to prayer about its future purpose and mission, I have felt I was to take on reading the book of Acts in February (at least–maybe longer). My “theory” is that Acts is the story of the Early Church, the time and events and people that we, in all the times since, should emulate. I wondered if reading Acts with that in mind would show me (and maybe us) a message from the Holy Spirit as to how we, in this body of believers, are to move forward.
I first realized that I’ve always viewed Acts as a “historical” narrative, rather than an “instruction” narrative. I’m having to get past that concretized view and try to let the Holy Spirit speak to me through the stories. Today, reading Chapter 8, I think I began to get the feel of what was occurring. My first thought (that actually first came after about Chapter 3) is about the passion the apostles and even new disciples had. They couldn’t keep quiet! Oh, to have similar vitality in Christ! I am praying for that open heart, mind, eyes and ears to hear the Holy Spirit and jump-start my relationship with Jesus.
At a recent Wednesday night prayer and discussion time, I was admonished that God has plenty of money and that money is not an obstacle for Him. Although I feel there needs to be voices of caution about our financial situation, I felt that statement like a stab in the heart. I realized in the back of my mind that I wanted to feel free not to be the voice of woe, but the voice of praise. I hope I am on that track in conversation with Jesus’ Spirit.
As I said, we have been studying Acts in Women’s Sunday school class. We are currently on Chapter 8. Phillip was in Samaria preaching Christ. Phillip was the second of the new Christians doing Miracles who was not an Apostle. Stephen being the first talked about. This shows that miracles are for all believers. Multitudes with on accord heeded the words of Phillip Hearing and seeing the miracles he did. Simon who had practiced sorcery, also believed and was baptized. Yet when Peter and John came and laid hands on believers they received the Holy Spirit. Simon saw and wanted this power for himself. Offered money to gain this power for himself. We could argue whether or not Simon was truly saved. none the less he had not given up completely his old life of sorcery, or his desire for the recognition of people. Have we all put off the old man when we came to Christ. Are we hanging on things that are not Holy and of God! What did he see in the people receiving the Holy Spirit. Many people Myself included believe it was the same kind of miracle that happen with the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. namely tongues and boldness in speaking of God and Jesus. Simon asked Peter and John to pray for him but did he truly repent of his attitude. He should have been eager to pray for himself.
I want to say more about Phillip and the Ethiopian but will do so later. Not used to blogging and hard for me to put my thoughts down knowing that others will be reading this.
Well, Shannon, I read it and your words about whether we have become truly committed are very challenging.
In Chapter 9 we learn first of Saul’s conversion and how those in the area of Damascus and areas outside Jerusalem had just begun to get used to the fact that this terrible person was chosen by God to speak on his behalf. Then he goes to Jerusalem and the fear among the Christians and the opposition from the various Jewish groups is so bad there that he has to leave. Then Peter goes to Lydda and they call him to Joppa to raise Tabitha from the dead. He ends up staying with Simon the Tanner, a person who held an occupation despised and abhorred by Jews.
What I find in these two stories is the incredible mind change that the Jewish Christian leaders had to undergo. In the case of Peter staying with Simon, he was beginning his journey to learn that God loved all types of people, not just “good” Jews. It took Barnabas to “broker” Saul’s integration with the leadership in Jerusalem. Our issues are not the same ones that they had, but our culture has permeated our beliefs just as theirs had and yet we mostly don’t recognize that. We also often use our religious traditions as actual beliefs. I have a lot of sympathy for churches that shun having their own building because they feel it actually hampers them in reaching out to those unlike them.
Well a day behind, but I will eventually catch up. I read chapter 9 today. Saul’s conversion. Read that after his vision was healed hi immideiatly went to the temple to preach the good news but had to leave. After some time (else where it is indicated possible 3 years) He again began to preach. As you said, New Christians were still afraid of him. Barnabas vouched for the truth of his change. A couple of things. He Paul, needed some time of growing in the spirit before he could be used. He needed a witness to show that he was genuine.
I shared about my personal experience with the Lord with you before. Sounds a little confusing to many. Not quite as dramatic as Paul, yet not too undifferentiated. My experience was Faith building. No matter what happened to me from that day, ( i was 14 years old) nothing could shake my faith in God or in Jesus Christ. Understanding came much later for me. And Knowledge came after that. Backward from most people experience I guess. But when I read about Paul I often think about my own special touch of the Holy Spirit at that time.
In Chapter 12 it appears that Herod Agrippa was in Jerusalem when he beheaded John’s brother James and imprisoned Peter. Then in verse 19 we learn that, after losing Peter from the jail, he goes to Caesarea. I wonder if that move was motivated by the humiliation of losing Peter. Then the poor fool “appeared like a god” and failed to deny it, so Agrippa suffered and died. “But the word of God continued to increase and spread.” For me this reading of Acts is providing a lot more information and inspiration about the early church than I’ve perceived before. This faith and belief was spreading like wildfire, unstoppable. I’m beginning to wonder if we are on the brink of another spread of the Word in our time. I also know that–toward the end time–we will suffer more and more discouragement as Christians, but this might only be a “mini” end time. Whatever the time is, our commitment to prayer as individuals and a body appears to be at the RIGHT time. Thank you, Lord.
Chapter 15 deals with the issue of circumcision among the Gentile Christians. As in previous chapters, we find that many Jewish Christians were finding it hard to “let go” of the Jewish laws and simply accept Jesus’ sacrifice. I don’t find this particularly surprising, but I’m encouraged to see that by this time the leadership (read Jerusalem leaders) were in full agreement that this burden was not for the Gentiles. I was especially struck by Peter’s speech (verse 19): “Now, then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?” I realize that he didn’t mean just circumcision here, he also meant the burden of the whole law as represented by circumcision. It’d would be interesting to know how long it was before ethnic Jewish Christians stopped following the full extent of the law–probably a while, but most likely after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
In Chapter 17 Paul and Silas are chased out of Thessalonica and Berea and Paul ends up in Athens, where he has his dialogue with the Greeks who debate about religions. He gains some important converts here, including Dionysius who by tradition became a bishop of the church. Meanwhile in the cities from which Paul fled, the Jews with their mobs make such a fuss that they attract the attention of people who then hear the Word and many believe. Many of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection were smart enough to know that, if they kept quiet and didn’t protest the Way, that maybe it would be doomed. That didn’t work either. The message of Christ–the Gospel–was too compelling to be stifled. Tonight at Bible Study we discussed the fact that the church, at least our church, seems to have lost the sense of compelling urgency to get the Word out to a lost world.
I have never before found Acts to be exciting! Now, I’m on the edge of my seat reading one chapter a day. Today (22nd) I learned that, while we always think of Paul as “Saul of Tarsus” because he was born there, he in fact was raised in Ephesus where he went with Aquila and Pricilla and stayed for some time. This is where he spoke to the riotous crowd of Jews in Aramaic (presumably to emphasize that he was a Jew). The chapter ends with Verse 30 where the Roman Commander wants to find out why Paul is being targeted–this sounds to me like it might be a situation like the movie “Risen” which I am hoping to see soon.
Today in Chapter 10 of Acts I learned that God gave the Holy Spirit to Cornelius of Caesarea and his friends and household BEFORE they were baptized. God is an “out of the box” doer. This suggests that there is no “order” to becoming a Christian–although they presumably did believe first.
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