Sunday, October 24, 2010

Uttermost?


The book of Acts is a descriptive history of what happened after the ascension of Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ walked the face of the earth he was involved with Israel. What would his disciples do after he left? He prepared them:
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Their lives were going to extend farther geographically and culturally. They would receive from God spiritual ability to reach out far beyond the boundaries of Judaism. Every person who believed, believes or will eventually believe would be strengthened by the spirit of God within to carry it out. 
1 Corinthians 2:7-8 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:Which none of the princes (spiritual opposition) of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 
Jesus Christ could only be in one place at one time. After the day of Pentecost, people with 'Christ in' could be anywhere! It started out in Jerusalem then Samaria and Judea and later, we find centers of outreach in Antioch, Asia Minor, Europe and eventually Rome. What does that mean for us today? Rome was not the uttermost part of the earth! Jesus Christ used a truly inspiring phrase in Acts 1:8: 'the uttermost part of the earth'! That is us today in ways that could hardly be imaginable in the New Testament time. They didn't have airplanes, buses or trains then. There were no cell phones (let alone telephones), printing presses, tv, radio, blogs, facebook, skype and whatever is coming next!

Blogger has a new data map that shows in what places someone has read your blog. I looked at my data map and was amazed. Here's a list: United Kingdom, Brazil, Japan, Poland, Ukraine, Finland, Taiwan, Burundi, Canada, Vietnam and the United States. (Burundi? I had to look this one up. It is in the middle of Africa!) On another list the Philippines, Australia, France, UAE, Latvia, Morocco and Russia showed up! I'm not sure how far uttermost is, but I guess when I get one from Antarctica, that will be close to uttermost. Who would have guessed it back in the first century?

Monday, October 18, 2010

'No Respecter of Persons'

‘All roads lead to Rome’ is common phrase used today in our culture.  It’s origin stems back to the time of the great Roman empire that was flourishing at the time of the Book of Acts. It was the time of Pax Romana.  Augustus Caesar set up a secure and functioning framework of government that provided for a strong centralized government while allowing independent governance in local areas. The strength of the central government provided safety, transportation, and prosperity through abundant safe trade routes and laws that protected the Roman citizen. The apostle Paul was a Roman citizen and it was advantageous to him when he encountered persecution for his beliefs.

In addition to the Roman civilization, Greek and Hebrew cultures contributed to the atmosphere and efficacy of the evolvement of the first century church. Naturally the Hebrew religion was a vital part of the changes made in moving from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The Greeks added language, communication, intellectual qualities and navigation to help the spread of the Word. Three uniquely different cultures provided the fertile ground for the seeds of the new administration that was ushered in after Pentecost.

The book of Acts opens in Jerusalem and closes in Rome. Chapters one and two which describe the ascension and day of Pentecost occurred in 28 AD. The record of the book of Acts ends between 61AD and 64 AD. The burning of Rome by Nero occurred in 64 AD.  The time span of the book is 33-36 years.

The new church in the New Testament was made up of people; not mortar, stained glass, and stone. It was a church very different from the cultures of pagan idolatry and the Pharisaical religion of the Judean world. It became the one body of Christ thus tearing down the walls between Judean and Gentile.
In Chapter 10, of Acts Peter referred the unity of Christians regardless of culture:
Acts 10:34-35 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth (respect) him, and worketh righteousness (Romans 10:9-10), is accepted* with him.
* Link - 'respecter of persons'  respecter of-Digging Deeper  

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Birthday!

A change came about as the result of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost. A new church was born and it was not a church made of mortar, stone or stain-glass windows! It was a group of people and how they grew into what God made available for the first time, holy spirit.

The book of Acts is a description of people, places and events in the post resurrection/ascension climate of the early church. There are a lot of people mentioned in the book of Acts. Two major influences in the early church were Peter and Paul.

Peter was a fisherman by trade.  He traveled with Jesus Christ. He was one of the twelve. In Acts 4:13, it is recorded:
Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
 Paul did not travel with Christ.  He actually persecuted the men and women who were filled with holy spirit after the day of Pentecost. His background was quite different from Peter’s. He received the spirit from God later as a result of a huge event that happened on the road to Damascus. His background is recorded in:
Philippians 4:4-6Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Yet they had the same spirit of God in them and commitment to stay faithful despite their human shortcomings. Peter wrote of Paul:
2 Peter 3:15-16And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
Paul wrote of Peter:
Galatians 2:7-8, 7But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
The common denominator for them was the gift of holy spirit.  It was God that worked in them. Some people call the book of Acts the Acts of the Apostles but in reality, spiritually it should more appropriately be titled The Acts of the Holy Spirit.  Holy spirit is available today for all Christians just as it was in later chapters in the book of Acts. Every person has access to the very same power when they declare Jesus Christ Lord and believe in his resurrection. 
As Peter said on the day of Pentecost:
Acts 2:38-39 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.




Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Purpose

In the movie 'The Graduate', Benjamin has the following  dialogue with his father:
Mr. Braddock: What's the matter? The guests are all downstairs, Ben, waiting to see you.
Benjamin: Look, Dad, could you explain to them that I have to be alone for a while?
Mr. Braddock: These are all our good friends, Ben. Most of them have known you since, well, practically since you were born. What is it, Ben?
Benjamin: I'm just...
Mr. Braddock: Worried?
Benjamin: Well...
Mr. Braddock: About what?
Benjamin: I guess about my future.
Mr. Braddock: What about it?
Benjamin: I don't know... I want it to be...
Mr. Braddock: To be what? 
Benjamin: [looks at his father] ... Different.

Haven't we all gone through this thinking at some time or another? Why are we here? What should we do? Haven't we all desired to have some meaning to our existence?  God, our very own Father, has provided some very satisfying answers to this question. 'Satisfying' is a very good descriptive of the following verse: 
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Effective, productive work stimulates the mind. It is the 'meat and potatoes' of life. Are we supposed to guess about this? My earthly Dad (and Mom too!) wanted the very best for my life. Our Heavenly Dad can go beyond 'best', being the designer and creator of the universe. He has all the resources to go 'exceedingly' beyond anything we could ever ask of think (another Ephesians verse!)

To do what?  We enter into a relationship with the most powerful force in the universe to walk in His good works, in things that are satisfying and whole. God does not control us, He offers it to us. The only thing that limits us is the ceiling that we put on our own lives. Man has been around this world long enough to construct many limitations that end up controlling us in some way or another.  These things always end in over-doing and producing flat, dull outcomes.

There are plenty of wonderful things around to remind us of God's desire for man. Look at the sky on a beautiful fall day for example. It's color, crispness and overall immensity reminds us that it is not the limit!


R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend and we got to talking about respect and the current culture. He made a statement to me t...