Acts Chapter 15, Huge!

November 18, 2008 at 1:19 pm (High School's Reading of Acts)

Okay this is of huge importance to church history.  It is here at the Council of Jerusalem that it is decided that Gentiles can become Christians without becoming Jews. Amazing, simply amazing. A turning point, where they decided being led by the Holy Spirit, that you are saved by faith alone.

What stood out to you?

And stolen from the pages of the blog Stuff Christians Like:

(Big thanks to Hucklebuck for providing today’s post, a look into the mysterious world of the church offering envelope.)

As I was reading Curtiseseses‘ post the other day, I suddenly had a flashback to the offering time in my childhood Sunday School class. You see, our church envelope was more than just a container for money; it was a spiritual interrogator. In addition to the usual blanks for name and amount, there were also several blanks to rank your Christianity over the past week. To complete your offering, you would fill in each blank with a number or check mark and then total up your score. The criteria were:

__ Giving offering
__ Brought Bible
__ Read Bible daily
__ Studied lesson
__ Attending worship service
__ Visitors brought

Honestly, I don’t know what those numbers were used for or if anyone even looked at them. The wooden leaderboard in the sanctuary never reported those numbers. Maybe some intern at the Southern Baptist Convention was tasked with developing metrics and came up with this idea. Maybe they were meant to keep you accountable. All I know is that when I was a kid, it was a competition to see who got the high score like the Galaga machine at the grocery store.

A lot has changed in 25 years. If we used those kinds of envelopes today, I imagine we would change it up a bit. Here is how I think it might look:

__ Side hugs
__ Christian blogs read
__ People you told you would pray for them
__ People you actually prayed for
__ Wore a Christian-themed t-shirt, bracelet, cap, or boxers
__ Quoted C.S. Lewis
__ Attending traditional service
__ Attending contemporary service
__ Attending blended service
__ Attending nontraditional, post-contemporary, non-fat, no-whip service
__ Christian fish on your car

So what does your church envelope look like? Is it just a place to spit out your gum before communion? Maybe it’s a place for your grocery list or the recipe for the Casserole of Hope that Sister Sue brought to the Pot Blessing. What blanks would you add?

(For more from mind of Hucklebuck, check out his blog.)

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Acts Chapter 14, Know your audience

November 11, 2008 at 11:43 am (High School's Reading of Acts)

There is a lot of cool stuff going on in Acts chapter 14 and I hope you get the chance to comment and learn from it, but I wanted to point out what stood out to me.

If you notice when Paul begins to preach he never mentions Crucifixion or even Jesus Christ at all.  The heart of the Christian message is Christ and his Resurrection. Paul gave them, basically, a good Jewish sermon.  He did so because he kept his audience in mind.  If they assumed he and Baranabus were gods, they had no real knowledge of who God really is.  The thing that impressed the folks at Lystra the most was that the sight of two men who did something they could not do.  They were prepared to worship Paul and Barnabus.

Because of this Paul’s sermon was extremely basic and talked about how God had revealed himself to man and was alive and had a relationship with his people. A very cool and foreign concept to some Greeks at this time.   Remember when you are sharing your faith to remember who you are sharing it with,  know them and by shaping your message around what applies to them you will show them greater love.

Also remember how easily the world idolizes anything and everything that is extraordinary. We even as Christians do it.  The world idolizes political figures, businesses, brands, family even. Basically anything under the sun that isn’t God  can be made a false idol. Even preachers who are working in God’s name.

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Acts Chapter 12, I don’t want to get eaten by worms.

October 24, 2008 at 4:33 pm (High School's Reading of Acts)

Okay what stands out to me the most of Chapter 12 is that God is supernaturally at work with his church. God is in the process of making his name great and spreading his church. Whether it is in crazily rescuing his servant from jail or if it is in striking down Herod, who was not so cool.
The verse that stands out to me here is verse 24. But the word of God increased and multiplied. Herod in all his earthly power (I mean you are pretty tough, smart and powerful if you can run a kingdom that is propped up by probably the greatest empire of all time.) may have worked against the church with all his might, but he was far from being beyond God’s hand. The bigger they are, the harder they fall kind of thing happened here.

The Apostles and other Christians that were suffering under Herod found something that was far greater than what Herod could throw against them. They kept on worshiping God and sharing what Jesus had done for them. They did what God had called them to do and let everything else take care of itself. And God blessed that mightily, even though the world was stacked against them.
To be honest I don’t carry that kind of faith very often.

So, what do you think? What stood out to you? Am I totally off base on my thoughts?

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Acts Chapter 9

September 25, 2008 at 5:51 pm (High School's Reading of Acts)

It is my hope that some of you will not only log on, but you will feel comfortable enough to put your reflections as a comment.  I think I have decided to not include the entire text of Acts chapter 9, it’s not like you probably don’t have at least one Bible at home…if you don’t please let me know next time you see me.

Okay so obviously chapter nine is kind of a big deal. It’s not everyday that Jesus appears to folks that hate his followers as much as Saul did.  Okay so like the the last chapter there is a ton of stuff going on here, but what I really noticed was the suddeness of his call. I mean he knew it was real and didn’t even try to fake like he was going crazy.  He knew for a fact that Jesus called him away from the path he was headed down.  I’m fairly certain God had this planned all the way down the road (not to get too deep in how much God plans and how much is our choice…now that’s a long discussion).  There are several times later in Paul’s life when he goes through serious stuff and later refers back to the fact that he was called by Jesus to be a witness for him.  This is clearly a touchstone memory for him.  My question for you is then: Do you have a touchstone type moment like this?  Is there ever a time when you feel like in your life that was was clearly doing something in your life. I have mine I remember when I was a senior in high school at a retreat and God called me away from a sin that was eating up my life.  I’ve also shared with y’all about the piece of the Dallas Cowboys stadium that sits in my office that lets me know how much creator loves me. God approves of me to in the same way as if Tom Landry himself told me that I am a good football player.  If Mr. Landry ever said that about someone in his life, it would be an indisputable fact about that person’s ability to play football.  God said he approves of me and loves me.  He loves all of us that way.  That piece of turf reminds me of that fact daily. So my question is, do you have that kind of memory that Saul/Paul has?

Also did anyone notice that they were calling Christianity “the Way” here?  Very sweet and pretty much describes being a believer as an explanation of the “Why?” of life and as a way of living.  It really shows that this relationship we have with Jesus is not just a card to get in to heaven.  It is the way we live our lives here.

I know there is even more here, such as the awesomeness of Barnabas and that whole bringing Tabitha back to life thing…What stood out to you? What did you learn this week? I’m excited that  you opened your Bible this week.

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Acts Chapter 8 From the NIV

September 17, 2008 at 6:24 pm (High School's Reading of Acts)

  • The text straight from Crosswalk.com using the New International Version. Read here if you like or with your own Bible then post your comments once you are done.
  • The Church Persecuted and Scattered
  • 1.And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at 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 men and women and put them in prison.
  • Philip in Samaria
  • 4.Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8. So there was great joy in that city.
  • Simon the Sorcerer
  • 9. Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10. and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” 11. They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. 14. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16. because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17.
  • Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19. and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20.Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21. You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” 24. Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” 25. When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.
  • Philip and the Ethiopian
  • 26. 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 eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28. and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 34. The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35. Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 36. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 38. And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39. 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.

One cool note about this section is that this is the first appearance of Paul in the Bible. Luke is totally using foreshadowing here.

The greatest part of this chapter shows me that God uses everything for his good, I’m pretty sure that if the really nasty martyring of Stephen had never happened than there would only be one sweet church in Jerusalem.  It was from this that you have the spreading of the Gospel through the rest of the world.  It is from this jumping off point that the church becomes viral and spreads like wildfire to the entire Roman world. God orchestrated all this, using man’s sin like the killing of Stephen and Paul being an all-around jerk to completely change the world.

Blows my mind.

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