Over 30 years ago my eyes were opened. Being brought up to believe popular and rock music was bad and belonged to the devil and must not be listened too at any cost a friend gave me a cassette tape to listen to.
It supposedly had some Christian Rock music on it. Christian and Rock in the same sentance did not compute in my young brain. But this cassette was by Larry Norman and he screamed out his hit song "Why should the devil have all the best music?" and something about having long hair to make room for his brain. My world was never quite the same again.
Unfortunately Larry died this week aged 60. You can read his last words here.
Friday, February 29, 2008
You have been able to fit your whole music libaray in you hand for some time. Now you can be the band.
Thanks to Digital Sanctuary for the video.
Captivated by God's Vision
V19: I couldn’t just walk away from a vision like that! I became an obedient believer on the spot.
Paul explains his incredible encounter with Jesus. How he vehemently opposed this movement of Jesus and how he was stopped dead in his tracks by him. Jesus broke into his world and hand picked him for a mission. (v16) Since then Paul's life had been captivated with the mission of Jesus, it had become the sole focus of his life and he just could not walk away from the vision of bringing Jesus message to the world.
We talk much in today's world about vision. Companies have vision statements, schools have vision statements and individuals are encouraged to write vision statements for their lives even churches have vision statements. All good to give focus to our lives and connect our day to day activity with what we want to achieve in the long term but too many times there is a disconnect between our stated vision and activity. In effect we walk away from the vision.
Paul was captivated by God's vision and was not going to walk away no matter what.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
A dead man named Jesus
Festus in explaining the situation Paul to his King says in v19:
but their accusations turned out to be nothing more than arguments about their religion and a dead man named Jesus, who the prisoner claimed was alive.
He couldn't quite understand what all the commotion was about. To Felix it was just an insignificant dead man with a very common name. To Paul it was about his master, his model, his saviour who was very much alive.
For a dead man all this argument would have been worthless, Paul's sacrifices wasteful. The thing that makes all the difference in Paul's life and our, the thing that splits opinion throughout history is that Jesus is not just some dead man but that he is very much alive.
I now see the King James Version of the Bible in a whole new way. Warning: If you are easily offended please do not watch the video.
Afterwards here are the scriptures: 1 Kings 16 v 11, 1 Samuel 25 v 22, 1 Samuel 25 v 34, 1 Kings 14 v 10, 1 Kings 21 v 21, 2 Kings 9 v 8.
Thanks to los for the video.
Michael from Oakleaf Church posted this:
Preachers won’t change the world. We don’t need any more celebrity ministers, writing books and putting on more conferences. What we need are people, with jobs, mortgages and kids, to embrace the mission and become a missionary. Preachers won’t change the world…it will happen when people take the mission seriously.
I love preaching, I suppose like most preachers I like the sound of my own voice (maybe not). But to preach Jesus and the hope and life change he brings is the most incredible privilege I can imagine but than can only ever be at best a catalyst for individuals to grasp hold of the message for themselves and really live in this world for Jesus. Only then will people really see Jesus.
God is already present in the most unexpected places. We just need to make God visible. - Philip Yancey, Finding God in Unexpected Places.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
The science/art of interpreting scripture is called Hermeneutics. It is the ability to correctly interpret and apply Scripture to life, across time and culture, and do so consistently.
Prof. Scott McKnight published a, self-diagnostic hermeneutics quiz that can be found here. Try it. It is a quick (5 minutes) test that helps you see how you interpret the Bible to your life. You will receive a numeric score based on your selections that groups respondents into one of three groups: conservative, moderate, or progressive.
My score was 63 at the higher end of moderate heading towards progressive. No surprise to me really.
Find out where you stand and check out more here.
Plans are well advance for the Ultimate Event at Alton Towers on 10th May 2008.
We have just launched a brand new competition. First prize is a VIP package for 2 at the Ultimate Event at Alton Towers in May.
2 Theme Park Tickets with Short Cut passes, 2 Concert tickets & 2 back stage hospitality passes.
For your chance to win this incredible prize visit here.
The Way of Life Change
Paul finds himself before Felix the governor of Jerusalem and subsequently finds himself in prison for 2 years because Felix didn't have the backbone to stand up against the false charges made to him.
It seems like during this 2 year period Felix and his wife had a number of conversations with Paul about Jesus. (v24) It would appear that he had a genuine interest in the Way of Jesus but he just was not prepared to change.
The way of Jesus demanded life change, to live right, with self control. Felix made a choice and he was to connected to his existing way of life including money. V26 gives us an insight into his mind when he still hoped that Paul would bribe him for his freedom. Another factor may have been that sitting beside him in all these discussions was Drusilla, the daughter of Herod Agrippa. She had been induced by Felix to desert her husband, the king of Emesa, to become his adulterous companion. Life change was just too high a price and even though Jesus fascinated him he was not prepared to pay the price.
To follow the Way of Jesus demands life change.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Reading Acts 23 today I was reminded of Psalm 2.
Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, peoples? Earth-leaders push for position, Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks, The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers: “Let’s get free of God! Cast loose from Messiah!” Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing. At first he’s amused at their presumption; Then he gets good and angry.
Some people had an agenda that was opposed to God's agenda. They wanted to kill Paul and put an end to his message of hope for the world. God had other ideas.
(v11-12)As far as God was concerned Paul was going to Rome and no matter how many people made an oath to frustrate God's plan there was only going to be none winner.
No matter how desperate the situation looks God's plan will ultimately take place so we need to take the advice Jesus gave to Paul when he came to him in the night: Be brave.
The fat lady has not sung until God has spoken.
Monday, February 25, 2008
What would you say to a violent crowd after your blood if you had the chance. What eloquent speech could you give? What argument could you put forward? Paul faced with this situation used the most powerful words he could but also most simple. His personal story of a changed life.
This is who I was. This is what I did. Jesus broke into my world and now everything is different. He said you want proof then just look at me.
(v20) And now they see me totally converted. What better qualification could I have?’
Our story of how Jesus changed our life is still the most powerful insight into what Jesus can do. Never underestimate Jesus and your story.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
After saying goodbye to his friends at Ephesus he set out for Jerusalem, stopping along the way to meet other believers, partying on the way. (v5) I love it that the great Apostle Paul knew how to party.
Agabus the prophet turns up and lets other people in on what Paul's already knows Jerusalem is going to be a difficult destination. His friends worried about his safety try to get Paul to change his plan but Paul would have none of it. As I read his reply to them toady it really got inside me I had to stop reading for a few minutes and just let it sink in.
Paul knew he was walking headlong into a whole heap of trouble, maybe a little like Jesus years earlier on his way to Jerusalem, and he says this: (v13)
“Why all this hysteria? Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me? You’re looking at this backwards. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience. Can’t you see that?”
It was not about him and what may happen to him it was about what Jesus could do through him being obedience. Paul knew that the most important thing he could do in his life was to obey his master. Obey when things were great, obey when things were tough and yes obey even when it meant his life. Now that's devotion!
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Encouragement, Friendship & Hardship
Although Paul had experience some incredible difficulties in his ministry he was an incredible man of encouragement. (v2) In the course of his ministry he had been lied about, his words distorted, imprisoned, betrayed, beat up, stoned and left for dead. Think I would have packed it in along the way. Not Paul he inspired people with new hope.
This kind of ministry is so vital at a time when its so easy to quit. Paul refused to quit no matter what.
Paul was then guided by God to go to Jerusalem admitting that he wasn't clear on God's plan but knew it was a difficult time ahead. (v22) This was faith and obedience combined. Too often we want chapter and verse before we do anything. Our normal attitudes is God we want to know where this is going to end up. To obey even when we don't know what is going to happen and even when the ending does not look good is a test.
Its also clear that Paul was a man that valued his friendships. Saying goodbye to his fellow ministers was excruciating for him. He wasn’t just some professional who stood aloof from people they got inside his heart and clearly an wonderful bond of friendship flourished. This picture of friendship is so important. (v37 - 38).
Friday, February 22, 2008
Paul arrives in Ephesus for the second time but on this occasion it was not a fleeting visit he stayed there for nearly 3 years.
On arrival he found a small group of 12 Jesus followers and continued to preach and teach. It would seem that Paul was very successful in his church planting campaign in that it incited a riot by the guild of silversmiths that made statues after its adopted god.
12 people and Paul, full of the Holy Spirit, grew the church in Ephesus to the point where it was closing down idol worship. Effective! In fact the Bible records that everyone in Asia heard the message of Jesus. (v10)
What can happen in our lives if we are open to the Holy Spirit and are committed above anything else to share the good news of Jesus?
Brian Houston is speaking at the C3 conference in the USA. Tony blogged about his session.
This quote got me thinking:
"Live your life honouring the old and promoting the new."
Maybe its because I am now a little over middle age that I think this is so important for me. Maybe because I will soon be old!
Its so easy to write older people off because they have become stayed and stuck in their ways and young people because they are flaky and impulsive.
Maybe it would be better to recognise wisdom, experience and stability on the one hand and enthusiasm, risk and passion on the other.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Craig Groeschel pastor at LifeChurch.tv wrote a very insightful post aimed at church members who want to be friends with their pastor. It made me laugh as well as nod my head in agreement. Point Number 3 made me chuckle and I whole heartedly agree with point 5.
Frustration and God's Perspective
Paul arrives in a new city for him Corinth. God links him up with a couple who happen to have the same skill as he does - tent making. (God is good at planning). It is interesting to note that after his friends Silas and Timothy arrive, he stops tent making and gives his time fully to preaching. (v5) Does that mean that Silas and Timothy found some jobs to pay their way and care for Paul while he was teaching & preaching. Interesting ministry team.
Seems like Paul's time in Corinth was particularly frustrating and success seemed little. He even got to the point where he gave up and wrote the people off. Only thing was that God was not ready to write people off just yet. So he encouraged Paul to keep at it because it didn't look like it at this moment God had many people on his side in the city. (v10)
Even though initial success was limited to one eminent leader and his family it eventually resulted in many people following Jesus.
Out of his frustration a great church was established in Corinth it just took time and obedience to God's word. Be careful who and what you write off and do not give up because God may have other plans.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Paul makes it to the hot bed of philosophy and intellect of the day - Athens. He finally takes his stand over all the idols. After days being confronted with idol sculptures everywhere he come across an idol inscribed to the God nobody knows. Seems like this is the straw that breaks the camels back. He can't stand it anymore and engages in a debate with the Athenians. Showing the one true God.
I have only been in Athens once. A group of us were transferring planes and we had about 8 hours to wait. From about 10 pm till 6 am the next day. Most people tried to catch some sleep on the airport floor. (one even in a McDonalds ball pit) Myself, Andrew and James decided to go into the city centre.
Our taxi driver was kind enough to take us on a bit of a sightseeing trip. After a while he drove up a dark road and the surrounding lights disappeared. We went up a steep hill and he then stopped the car and got out and we followed him up the hill. We didn't have a clue where he was going but we followed any way. When we got to the top we were greeted with an incredible view of Athens and right in front across the valley was the Parthenon.
We remembered the story in this chapter and asked our guide where Mars Hill was. He looked at us quite blank. James then remembered the other name for the same place - Areopagus. We were standing on it.
What an incredible feeling. To be standing on the place where Paul got angry and argued with the Athenians and the church in that city was born with the impressive structure of the Parthenon as a backdrop.
Here he declared the one thing that the people found hard to stomach. They believed in all sorts of god's even ones that they did not know but, they couldn't believe that one died and came back to life so that he could have a relationship with them. It is a bit unbelievable isn't it.
Thank you Jesus!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Yet another character is introduced to us in Acts 16 - Timothy. This was Paul's second visit to Lystra and probably Timothy became a follower of Jesus on Paul's first visit. In the intervening time it is clear that Timothy had grown to be a quality disciple. He was well respected in his hometown and a nearby town. (v2)
This second encounter was to be the start of a life long friendship. Actually more of a father son relationship. When writing to timothy Paul describes him as "his own son in the faith" (1 Tim 1 v 2)
Paul took Timothy with him on this historic mission that was to see the message of Jesus cross over into Europe. Timothy was learning first hand at Paul's side. He would have witnessed the highs and the lows. New cities, new continents, new disciples, new churches, miracles, beatings, prison and deliverance. What an education.
Surely this is the ultimate in leadership development. Instead of taking this bright young man and sticking him in a college or course Timothy experienced life with his mentor and spiritual father.
His love and respect for Paul even meant he went to be with him in prison. History suggests that Timothy finally settled in Ephesus where he found martyrdom just like his mentor.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Coping with Grace
Seems like the church right from the beginning has struggled with grace.
(v11) Don’t we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?”
The Jews having been brought up in a culture of obeying complex and comprehensive laws to gain God's favour could not quite get with the plot. It seems hard for them to grasp that their salvation had nothing to do with their good works and all to do with the sacrifice of Jesus.
They also found it hard to believe that God's grace was for the whole world and not just for them. I suppose it is not surprising that a faith born out of Jewish people still had struggles with converts who fell in love with Jesus but found it hard to leave behind their religious doctrines.
But the battle was on for the heart and soul of this new movement. Would it be sucked into a dead end route of rules and regulations for a select few or would God's free gift of salvation be sent to the world.
Thank God that the Apostles stood up for what they knew was right and Jesus mission was intact.
(v10) “So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too?
Thank you God for your free gift of salvation. I realise that it cost you your son to make this unavailable for me through faith. I will today live a life of thankfulness to you for everything you have given me and try to give you the one thing you are looking for my obedience.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Not an endorsement as I dont know too much about American politics but though this was a great use of video and music.
Missions trip anyone?
If this was the first organised missions trip of the early church what a start. Lied about, rumours spread, chased out of town, beaten and left for dead and pursued by a mob from town to town. I am not sure I would have signed up for this mission’s trip. (I thought a mission’s trip with George Ridley was hard but he has nothing on Paul and Barnabas)
Yet they saw many people become Christians, churches were planted and disciples were strengthened.
Returning home they shared with great joy what God had accomplished through them. (V27) They were so happy that God had used them to open the door of salvation to so many people. The establishment of Gods kingdom was more important than the hardship they faced.
Now however was time for a rest back at their home church.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Antioch had grown into a great church. It had great influence and today would probably have had the fashionable title of a "Mega" church. It probably had great music and certainly had great nationally famous teachers. (v1) Being a pastor teacher it could possibly have been described as the plumb job outside of Jerusalem. It would probably have been the church leadership position to have.
Paul had now been accepted by the church and had "settled" down to lead one of the world’s great churches. Well that was until God explained his plan. Paul and his long time friend Barnabas were to embark on a season of church planting. Leaving the relative safety of the established church and hit the highroad to establish brand new churches and brand new Christians.
The message spread like wildfire across the region at the same time as they were booted out of town. Successes in conversions in the early church were so often accompanied by hardship for the preachers. But these guys were focused. Their joy and happiness was found in the expansion of the kingdom not their own personal comfort. (v52)
Lord help me always to remain focused on your mission to the world and be open to you changing my plans to fall in line with your will and purpose.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Calm in the storm
Seems like a whirlwind of persecution had now been unleashed against the church. Herod, grandson of the Herod we read of in the early Gospels, decided on going after the top men. So about 10 years after Jesus resurrection we have one of the original 12 disciples being taken out of the scene. Next Herod went after Peter, put him in jail and planed to hang him publicly.
The night before his impending execution we get an insight into Peters state of mind:
v6 He was sleeping like a baby.
I am not sure if facing such dire circumstances that I would be sleeping. There are already many things that keep me awake at night and none of them come close to being executed. Peter’s peace does not seem to have been because he expected God to swoop in last minute and perform some miracle of deliverance. We later find him totally surprised by what has happened. As the message puts it (v 12) shaking his head amazed.
Somehow he had found a place of confidence and security in God that no matter what circumstances he faced God was still on his side and in life and death he would trust God.
I remember an old hymn:
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.
It is safely moored, 'twill the storm withstand,
For 'tis well secured by the Saviour’s hand;
And the cables passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy the blast, through strength divine.
It will firmly hold in the straits of fear,
When the breakers have told the reef is near;
Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o'erflow.
It will surely hold in the floods of death,
When the waters cold chill our latest breath;
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the veil.
Help me Lord to trust you even when things are difficult. Thank you Lord that I can trust you because of your great love for me and nothing in this world or the next can ever change that.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Not sure if it is just the UK but cynicism seems to be king. Our media has a build them up knock them down type of attitude. Criticism comes easy but in chapter 11 we are introduced to a great man who goes against the flow. Barnabas was a man whose life was marked by the most precious of gifts - encouragement.
23 As soon as he arrived, he saw that God was behind and in it all. He threw himself in with them, got behind them, urging them to stay with it the rest of their lives. 24 He was a good man that way, enthusiastic and confident in the Holy Spirit’s ways. The community grew large and strong in the Master.
What an incredible description of Barnabas. We all love it when someone encourages us. It makes you feel a foot taller. Sadly so often we (me especially) fall into criticism.
Someone once said we should catch people doing good not just when the do bad. Have a Barnabas mindset today, catch someone doing something right and tell them.
Tony Morgan took a session at Church Solutions Conference yesterday and his long time friend Tim Stevens’s blogged about the session. You can read his thoughts here. (Don't you just love the Internet - you can get the inside track on a conference that happened half way round the world sipping a coffee in Starbucks)
One quote Tim mentioned was "Are you going to focus on changing nappies or potty training".
This really hit home with me. As a church we are going through a Spiritual Life Survey organised by Willow Creek. Many churches around the world are now involved in the survey. I am looking forward to seeing the results for MKCC. (If you attend MKCC click here to complete the survey, you will need 30min or so)
What many churches have found is that instead of developing strong, co-dependent, mature Christians who take responsibility for their personal spiritual life they have helped to produce Christians who don't know how to invest in their own spiritual growth and have become disillusioned and dependent.
I think Tony’s quote gets to the heart of the matter. If all you do for a baby as it grows is change its nappy and you never challenge it or help it to poop for its self the future is not bright. Sure it is easier in the short term to just stick a nappy on and send the baby to bed. The harder route short term is to work with the toddler through bed-wetting and other accidents. It takes time trouble and patience and very often it’s frustrating but we all know it’s the right thing to do.
Discipleship takes discipline but its worth the effort.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Getting God's Attention
(V4) We all like getting the attention of someone who is important to us. If a spouse, parent or friends is attentive to us we like it. Sometimes we will even go out of our way to attract attention. (Even by doing bad things sometimes) To get God's attention surely must be important to us. Here we get an insight into what brought Cornelius to God's attention.
It was not great preaching or an act of heroism it was "Prayers and neighbourly acts".
Traditions or God's will
This is another pivotal point in the history and development of the church. Were they going to hang on to the past and their safe Jewish traditions or were they going to embrace the future and God's mission to all mankind. It would seem that it was a difficult transition to make because God had to do multiple miracles through different people placing all the pieces in the jigsaw to make sure they all got the point. God's mission was for the world not a select few.
What traditions and mentalities do we have to address on our mission to the world? What is God speaking to us about and are we being stubborn?
No hero worship
(v26) Seems like the tendency to hero worship was alive and well in the early church. The church has never been and never will be about a select group of specialists, Senior Pastors, Elders, Ministry team etc. It is about ordinary every day believers who are passionately committed to a relationship with Jesus.
Lord help me to live for you and not for anyone else and realise that you put a high premium on simple kindness.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
As of 21:30 last night my lovely MacBook Pro is broken and I am having to revert to a PC of all things for my blog.
This came as a shock to me and being without my long time friend is difficult.
Thinking of going for counselling!
Lets hope Core Solutions can heal it!
God of Surprises
If you were looking for a top line ambassador, someone who would represent you before kings. (v 15). Who would you choose? More to the point who would be the most unlikely candidate from those we have been introduced to so far in the book of acts. Surely one of the Apostles. Not God!
He chooses the person that seems to have been most against Him. Saul seems to have been on a personal mission to bring disaster to this new movement called the Way. Yet God springs a surprise on the early church by choosing their number one enemy to take the church forward to new heights.
Reading the story with hindsight looses some of its risk. We know now that Saul who became Paul was a mainstay of the church, planting churches, developing doctrine and writing most of what we now know as the New Testament. Back at the start of the story taking a risk on this man was opening yourself to death.
People like Ananias and Barnabas are heroes in church history. Without their attentiveness to God, their willingness to trust and the audacity to take a risk, who knows what would have happened to this great man of God.
Help me God never to write anybody off from your grace. You can reach anyone and everyone even people I think are God haters. Your life transforming power can change any heart. Help me to be attentive to your voice and boldness to take risks
Monday, February 11, 2008
Persecution and power - Acts 8
The martyrdom of Stephen seemed to be a catalyst for more and more persecution of the church. Stephen was the first but it was only the opening to a flood.
Things were really changing. The church up to this point seemed to be one continuous story of growth and development. Now it was entering a dangerous and difficult time, one which the early church met head on.
Someone once said that being in the will of God was the safest place to be. That did no seem to apply to the early church. Dangerous, adventurous, heartbreaking and exciting may be some better adjectives.
The death of this great man Stephen really hit the church hard. So much so that we are told that it was a solemn occasion with not a dry eye in the house. God has never promised to take away the hardship but he did promise to be with us through it.
Sure there were tears in the early church. They faced difficulty and danger the like that I can only imagine but nothing would stop them.
v 4 - Forced to leave home base, the followers of Jesus all became missionaries. Wherever they were scattered, they preached the Message about Jesus.
Thank you Father that you are always with me. You have promised to be with me at all times both the good and the bad. Help me never to forget that when things are easy and when things are hard. Help me always to listen to what you are saying and use every circumstance for your plan.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Just finishing up another great Sunday.
We are in our second week of our series leading up to Easter called What if?
What is what happened in the early church happened in our church and city today.
This week Mark looked at What if ... we met together. One of the highlights for me was when he talked about the accountability of meeting with other believers especially outside our larger Sunday gatherings. We tend to put breaking of bread or communion into our larger Sunday gathering. It seems that at least in the early church in Jerusalem this happened more in homes.
Celebrating communion in your home with your family, friends and social network is actually much more difficult that in a large Sunday gathering. You can't hide in front of these people who know you so well. You just have to be real. With one of the main thrusts of communion being ensuring your relationships are right what better place to do it.
Why wait for Sunday?
A Squandered Inheritance
In Chapter 7 we have an incredible account of the martyrdom of Stephen. The man chosen to be a table servant.
Once again I am struck by the quality of this man. Here we see the first martyr of the church. It was not one of the Apostles it was a guy who served tables in the church. But what credentials he had, he was honest, was respected, full of power, he performed miracles. Most importantly he was a man full of the Holy Spirit. Time and again this week we have read over and over in the first 7 chapters of Acts that the early Christians were full of the Holy Spirit.
The verse that struck me most was v 53. The Jews had God's law handed to them gift wrapped and they squandered it.
What an indictment to squander the gift of God. They had it all but they wasted it.
God I open myself again today to your Holy Spirit. Fill my life again today so I can live a life of boldness totally sold out for you. I realise I need more of you in my life for me to be the person I want to be. You have given me so many gifts to help me, a rich church heritage, your word, a great family and great friends. Help me not to get distracted and live out your promises.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Situations Vacant - Serving Tables
Seems like the explosive growth that the early church had seen at its inception had finally brought some growing pains. We have read over the last few chapters of how the early converts had met together and met each others needs. Here in Ch 6 we have the fist sign of any tension in the church.
Seems like a section of the church felt like they had been discriminated against. Their widows were not being looked after as well as other widows. Difficult to know if their concerns were genuine or not but what we do know is that the Apostles reacted to their complaint.
They did however recognise their role of leadership of the church. At a moment like this it would have been so easy for them to leave their responsibility and get involved in meeting the need. I feel if they had done this the church would have suffered. Their gifting and responsibility was to lead and teach. Too often leaders tend to be working in the church rather than on the church. This means that leadership is lacking.
What did they do? They hand picked some men to do the job of serving at tables. What is enlightening to me is the calibre of the men they chose. We get a glimpse at one of the in this v 5, Stephen.
He was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit. It goes on to say in v8 that he was full of faith and power and did wonders and miracles. And this was the man they chose "just" to serve at tables. Somehow I feel that my CV may not have been strong enough to demand a place in the early church to serve at tables.
Thank you God for the incredible privilege of serving you each day. Give me the strength I need and fill me again with your spirit.
Friday, February 08, 2008
Mark spoke last Sunday from this Chapter particularly on the story of Ananias and Sapphira. You can listen to it here.
The later story in the chapter reminds me of a great movie the Shawshank Redemption. I love it when the guard angrily goes to get Andy out of his cell shouting at him as he walks towards the door only for his eyes to bulge with disbelief when Andy was gone. The cell door had been locked but mysteriously Andy was gone.
I would have loved to have seen the guards faces as the reached the cell to get the apostles and they were nowhere to be seen. Vanished into thin air. Then they had to tell a disbalieving High Priest. Of course Andy's escape from Shawshank owed its self to a hidden tunnel the Apostles escape was all about the power of God. Nothing can stand in the way of God's mission to the world certainly not a few iron bars.
Later in v34 we find Gamaliel coming up with a solution to the priests problems. Basically if this new movement was just some man made idea it would just fade away if it was inspired by God then it would succeed whatever they did so he suggested they leave it alone to see what would happen.
v39 but if it is of God, there is nothing you can do about it—and you better not be found fighting against God!
The determination of the disciples is incredible nothing could stop them in their determination in sharing the good news and of course nothing could stop God.
God keep my mind open today to what you want to do in my life I really don't want to be found fighting against you. Fill me again today with your Holy Spirit so I can see the supernatural past the natural.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Silence is not an option.
God moving always provokes a reaction and it sometimes comes from the most unexpected places. For the religious leaders of the time healing a man crippled for 40 years was not on the agenda. They wanted the status quo and their pious rules to make themselves look God not a kingdom mission.
They wanted to silence this new movement that was bursting on to the scene with 1000's of people starting to follow Jesus each day. I love Peter and Johns answer in verse 20.
"As for us, there’s no question—we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard.”
Once you have met with Jesus silence is not an option you have just got to tell others. His salvation is just to radical a life intervention to go quietly into the night.
One thing I have noticed already in the first few chapters of Acts is that the phrase "They were filled with the Holy Spirit." appears often. You just can not live this life without the Holy Spirit. Its not just a one off happening where somewhere in the past someone prayed for us and we spoke in another language its a day by day experience of continually being filled with the Spirit.
The disciples were together in a room in Acts 2 and they were filled with the Spirit. In Acts 4 v 31 they were in another room (maybe the same room) the same thing happened to at least some of the same people.
Don't look back to some past experience be filled with the Holy Spirit today and every day.
God I am open today to you in my life. I can not and will not stay silent about your greatness and what you have done in my life. Fill my life today with your Spirit so there is no room for anything else.
Rick Warren pastor of Saddleback Church gave an interview to the Washington Post a few days ago where he called for a second reformation in the church. Here is an extract:
Rick Warren, a megachurch pastor and philanthropist who is courted by political leaders worldwide, says he thinks Christianity needs a "second Reformation" that would steer the church away from divisive politics and be "about deeds, not creeds." Read on.
What we believe is important because what we really believe motivates our actions but sometimes it seems so easy to get lost in the theory of our Christian life rather than living this Christian life.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Here we find a wonderful story of how through Peter and John, God stepped into the life of a man who had been crippled all his life. His whole life had existed on the generosity of religious people on their way to church.
He was set for another day of begging pennies from church goers. Only today would be different. He would meet two guys that were as poor as him. (Peter says he had no money, not surprising as he had left the family business to follow Jesus) They could not meet his immediate financial need but through faith, Acts 3 v 16 Jesus was to change his life forever.
I love the way that the message puts v 22, When Peter saw he had a congregation, he addressed them. You just can not stop a preacher as soon as he has an audience nothing can stop him from speaking.
Seriously, There guys were on a mission to see people come into relationship with Jesus. To see God's Kingdom come on the earth. This is summed up in v 21.
"For the time being he must remain out of sight in heaven until everything is restored to order again just the way God, through the preaching of his holy prophets of old, said it would be."
That is our mission with the help of the Holy Spirit to see everything restored to order just the way God said it would be.
God help me not to miss opportunities to demonstrate your power bringing hope into hopeless situations and not to pass up an opportunity to tell someone else about you.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Check out some of our photos from the Ultimate Event in 2007. Don't miss this year on 10th May . Check out Ultimate Events.
God knows what he is doing.
Acts 2 v 23 tells us that Jesus was "following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God" (message). Just hours earlier it probably didn't seem to these disciples that there was much of a plan at all.
This Jesus they had been following had been crucified yes he had risen from the dead but he still had left them with some wierd instruction just to wait in Jerusalem for something to happen. The Holy Spirit was going to come and somehow that was going to make the difference. So there they were in the middle of a Jewish Holiday huddled together the remains of His followers waiting and wondering. Then it happened and everything changed.
God's plan suddenly became clear. He planned to have his followers in Jerusalem at this important time with people from all over the world. Then he gave His followers, through the Holy Spirit, the ability to speak in languages they had never spoken so that everyone in Jerusalem could here His message loud and clear.
Then the same Holy Spirit gave a scared fisherman the ability to preach with great power and in one day the church explodes. We need to remember God knows what he is doing.
Help me always to remember that it is your plan that matters God. I will not always know the way forward but help me to be patient for your plan to come into action.
Monday, February 04, 2008
A bit tired and bleary eyed this morning after staying up till the early hours of the morning to watch the Superbowl between the Patriots and the Giants.
Yes I realise its an American game and it still does not hold the excitement of real football but I am a sports nut and it is their biggest game of the season. If even just for the last few minutes it was worth watching as the nailed on favourites were humbled by a incredible play by a quarterback that was written off earlier in the season.
This has got to be the best play ever in a Superbowl. Seconds to go, under incredible pressure and Eli Manning gets off pass that was unbelieveable caught.
Another highlight for me was the incredible voice of American Idol winner Jordan Sparks.
Reading through the Gospels time and time again you hear Jesus talking to His disciples and the crowds about the Kingdom. He used stories to try to explain what the Kingdom of Heaven was like. It was a kingdom that was growing, full of love, justice, truth and righteousness. Jesus mission on earth was to declare the Kingdom of God.
It would appear that in Acts 1 v 6 the disciples still misunderstood His message of the kingdom. They were still looking for Jesus to set up a physical literal Kingdom in the land of Israel. Even after spending years with Jesus they still hadn't quite grasped the enormity of Jesus mission. A Kingdom that could not be constrained by wall, borders, race or gender. It was a kingdom that was for all people everywhere throughout all time.
Jesus answer in Acts 1 v 8 seeks to set them on the right path. It would seem that the answer to their question was the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would help them get their vision and mission right. Just receiving the Holy Spirit would focus them on and give them power to become witnesses.
Father help me to understand completely your vision and mission for the world. Fill me afresh to day with the Holy Spirit so that I will have the boldness and power to be a witness for you to everyone I meet today. Open my heart to the gifts you want to give to people though me today.
Friday, February 01, 2008
A few weeks ago I preached about Christianity being about a heart relationship with Jesus not a set of man made rules and regulations. View the illustration below I used. By the way I am not that creative heads up to Perry Noble of New Spring Church who I saw do this before.