Archive for April 2011

Acts 4: A Barnabas Spirit

In Acts 4 Barnabas comes upon the scene and is known as the “son of encouragement” (I guess there are worse titles to have).

His name denoted his nature.

His designation was his demeanor.

Throughout the Book of Acts we find multiple examples of Barnabas’ encouraging spirit. Often it involved a young, upstart named Saul. We know him now as Paul the Apostle, but I often wonder if Saul would have ever became Paul if it wasn’t for the encouragement of Barnabas and the interest that he took in the “long-shot” with the dicey reputation.

How many potential Paul’s are there within our sphere of influence that are trapped in the externals of Saul? Sauls have a history, are recognized as troublemakers, and are often misunderstood by the populace?

Who are the Sauls around you that you can be a Barnabas to?

Acts 3: Silver, Gold & Jesus (Repost)

In Acts 3 I think we find an important reminder of how we should approach life and ministry.

Peter and John were confronted by a beggar near the entrance to the temple and he was looking for money. Its unknown whether or not they would have given him money IF they had some. I don’t think it’s inherently wrong to give out money to those in need and nor is the text making that point. However, Peter and John had NO money so they said, “Silver and gold we don’t have, but what we do have we will give.”

They had Jesus. So they gave him Jesus.

How often do we rely upon money as the answer to most, if not all, things? Are we too quick to throw dollars at something rather than the message and ministry of Jesus? In our culture, even within the local church, we have a default propensity towards money as THE answer. Have we perhaps overlooked and/or minimized Jesus? He is the only one that causes a paralyzed man to instantly rise up and begin to walk, leap and worship. That’s someone that money really can’t buy.

I wonder if our ongoing economic realities have forced us to lean harder upon Jesus? When there isn’t much in terms of silver and gold then we gotta go to Jesus. But what happens then when the silver and gold starts to flow again? Does Jesus take a back-burner? Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.

 

Acts 2: From Confusion to Clarity

Acts 2 captures a powerful event that took place during Pentecost. The Holy Spirit poured out upon those that gathered in the Upper Room. Imagine the stir that made. I was quite a moment in history.

And it didn’t go unnoticed.

The Bible says that a “multitude” of Jews had gathered in Jerusalem for the festivities. When they heard  worshipful utterances in recognizable and unrecognizable languages, we read in verses 5-13 that they were bewildered, amazed, astonished, and perplexed.  In other words:  massive confusion.

Many asked, “What does this mean?”

Others mockingly said, “They are drunk.”

Quite often spiritual things can be confusing. Those that are not familiar with what happens in church, such as exuberant worship, prayer, spiritual gifts and the teaching of scripture often scratch their heads in wonderment. There is a lot of mystery in spirituality. Not everything can be summed up in quick, little formulas.  For example, try to simply explain, say, The Trinity.  Good luck.

In most every crowd like this you’ll have pockets of believers, doubters, and mockers. Believers experience the presence of God. Doubters are bewildered by it. Mockers choose to put it down. Thus the need for Teachers.

Enter Peter.

On the Day of Pentecost Peter brought clarity into the confusion. He stood, lifted his voice and addressed those that had gathered: believers, doubters and mockers alike. He brought affirmation to the believers and points of adjustment to those that didn’t understand or stood in opposition. Clarity into confusion.

His words in Acts 2 continue to give us clarity about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives today. We find how this amazing event was rooted in history (ie:  Book of Joel). Peter also draws attention to the Father’s promise and Jesus’ role in the outpouring of the Spirit. As well, Peter calls for a point of response.

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter an the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’  Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” Acts 2:37-38

In all over 3000 souls responded to the message of Christ that day. I love how the Holy Spirit works like that. He uses real people to comfortably move in the mysterious. He invites teachers to stand, lift their voice and address the confusion, with the goal of bringing clarity!

 

Acts 1: Reacting to Traumatic Times

All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers and sisters.” Acts 1:14

I’m always amazed at how crisis brings people together. During pressing, traumatic times watch how folks huddle and find strength and solace in one another.  Many Christian churches found themselves at capacity following the events of September 11, 2001. It was a time to pray. It was a time to draw near to one another.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be together in times such as these. It’s natural. It’s normal.

In Acts 1 we find a confused and conflicted tribe of Jesus-followers trying to process a series of events that any person worth their salt would have struggled through. Jesus’ arrest, trial, beating, crucifixion and untimely death were shocking, to say the least. Now, in this chapter of Scripture we find them working through the implications of a reported resurrection.

What does all this mean?

Was it now possible that Jesus would restore the Kingdom of Israel (vs. 6)?

In times of dismay and trama, one is prone to ask a lots of questions.

Added to the resurrection is the befuddling ascension.This certainly came as a surprise. Just when the disciples thought things were looking up, they literally had to “look up” (vs. 11) in order to watch Jesus disappear into the clouds. Undoubtedly, this had to be confusing and a primary reason why the small band of believers returned to Jerusalem. They had to regroup and seek the Lord for clarity, and also deal with internal issues such as the choosing of a replacement for Judas.

So often in reading the opening chapters of Acts we picture our “Upper Room Prayer Team” as powerful warriors optimistically pumping their fist, crying out for power from on high. Our Pentecostal leanings what to portray them as confident and expecting.

However, we must remember the fear, confusion and trauma that they had experienced of late. These were trying times and their best reaction was to huddle up, handle some important details, pray and wait.  It was then that “suddenly” the Spirit of God came upon them like a rushing wind and tongues of fire.

Is it possible that these are the classic times and scenarios when God’s Spirit shows up “suddenly?” Isn’t God’s strength made perfect in our…wait for it…weakness?

How do you react to traumatic times?