Saturday, December 5, 2009

Love!


My wife and I go out every Friday on our date night. We have done that for almost 3 decades now.

Last night we saw a preview for a movie that is coming out in February.
FEBRUARY!
It is set to launch around Valentines Day. I don't remember the teaser plot, or if I thought it would be worth going to. But I do remember being astonished at how many big name actors were all in that one preview. Love is big business.

Paul wrote the chapter we now call the "Love Chapter" right in the middle of dealing with the arguments and contentions that the folks in the church at Corinth were having. But what he wrote is priceless, and timeless...

1 Corinthians 13
The Way of Love
1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. 3 -7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

8 -10 "Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
12We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:
Trust steadily in God,
hope unswervingly,
love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Gifts - of the Spiritual Kind


It is approaching Christmas, and folks are out early and late to buy gifts for the ones they love.

It is always wonderful to give just the right gift to someone who wanted it and appreciates it.

God gives us gifts, because he loves and appreciates us.

And like the beloved recipient of your special gift, he wants us to use and enjoy the gifts he gives. They are unique, of course, because they are spiritual, rather than tangible...

1 Corinthians 12
1 -3 "What I want to talk about now is the various ways God's Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often mis-understood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn't know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It's different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say "Jesus be damned!" Nor would anyone be inclined to say "Jesus is Master!" without the insight of the Holy Spirit."

Here is the part about the gifts...

4 -11 "God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:
wise counsel
clear understanding
simple trust
healing the sick
miraculous acts
proclamation
distinguishing between spirits
tongues
interpretation of tongues.
All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when."

So God gives us gifts.
They make us uniquely useful and needed.
And they bring us joy.

There is not a heirarchy.
Some critical. Some laughably silly and useless.
No- they are all needed and purposeful.

Special gifts from God...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Don't Be So Naive...


Don't be so naive...

Those words have been said many times. You may have heard them said to you. I certainly have.

Often they are used to patronizingly alert the Christian to the error of their ways. You believe in faith? You believe in prayer? You believe in God? Don't be so naive...

Today it is used in an entirely different context. The apostle Paul is saying it to the Christians he is writing about.

But he is warning them against buying into one of the strongest beliefs of our modern society. The trust in your own self. The belief in your own self. The confidence in your own self.

"Don't be so naive and self-confident. You're not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it's useless. Cultivate God-confidence.
13No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it.
14So, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can."

Trust God. He is eternal and never changes.

Do not trust in your own self. You are up and down and all around.

There's a message that is counter culture!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Servants!


One of the intoxicating drugs of leadership is having people look up to you. It is natural, but very dangerous at the same time. It becomes a problem when you start to believe all the good things people say about you. Listen to what Paul had to say...

1 Corinthians 4
1 -4 "Don't imagine us leaders to be something we aren't.
We are servants of Christ, not his masters.
We are guides into God's most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them.
The requirements for a good guide are reliability and accurate knowledge.
It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion.
I don't even rank myself.
Comparisons in these matters are pointless.
I'm not aware of anything that would disqualify me from being a good guide for you, but that doesn't mean much.
The Master makes that judgment.
5 So don't get ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with your judgments before all the evidence is in.
When he comes, he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dreamed of—inner motives and purposes and prayers. Only then will any one of us get to hear the "Well done!" of God."

Don't get me wrong. It is great to encourage our leaders, to be theri advocates, to be loyal, to be good followers. That is all good. But they are SERVANTS of God, not God himself!

6 "All I'm doing right now, friends, is showing how these things pertain to Apollos and me so that you will learn restraint and not rush into making judgments without knowing all the facts. It's important to look at things from God's point of view. I would rather not see you inflating or deflating reputations based on mere hearsay.
7 -8 For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn't everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what's the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle. Without bringing either Apollos or me into it, you're sitting on top of the world—at least God's world—and we're right there, sitting alongside you!"

It is comforting (in a perverse sort of way) to know that leadership issues and struggles were evident even in the very early church, with the original apostles and leaders we think so highly of.

Every leader has their own struggles. Our loyalty and encouragement can make a big difference.

Here is something my pastor wrote recently. "I’ve shared with good friends that it’s been a difficult road for me. I feel that the assault has been massive: fear, stress, anxiety, discouragement, depression, temptation, fatigue, exhaustion, feeling alone, developing an eye twitch…these are just a few of the weapons that I feel have been leveled against me. I think it’s like that whenever followers of Jesus attempt to do something powerful for His name’s sake."

Listen to Paul again...

9 -13 "It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We're something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We're the Messiah's misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we're mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don't have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can to eke out a living. When they call us names, we say, "God bless you." When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We're treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture's kitchen. And it's not getting any better.
14 -16 I'm not writing all this as a neighborhood scold just to make you feel rotten. I'm writing as a father to you, my children. I love you and want you to grow up well, not spoiled. There are a lot of people around who can't wait to tell you what you've done wrong, but there aren't many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. It was as Jesus helped me proclaim God's Message to you that I became your father. I'm not, you know, asking you to do anything I'm not already doing myself."

So when you think of your leaders, even more your spiritual leaders, don't forget to pray for them. Don't forget to encourage them...

Absurd!

Human arrogance is an interesting thing!

People born with money look down on the servants they hire to do their bidding.

"Beautiful People" look down on everyone not in their group.

Intellectuals look down on all of humanity.

And petty, tiny humankind looks down on God, and those who sincerely and passionately follow Him!

This experience did not start with Bill Maher. Listen to Paul...

18 -21 "The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It's written, I'll turn conventional wisdom on its head, I'll expose so-called experts as crackpots.""So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn't God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation."
22 -25 While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God's ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can't begin to compete with God's "weakness."
26 -31 Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That's why we have the saying,
"If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God."

All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten

Fifteen years ago, Robert Fulghum published a simple credo — a credo that became the phenomenal #1 New York Times bestseller .

All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
- by Robert Fulghum
"Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in Kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.
These are the things I learned:
Share everything.
Play fair.
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life.
Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work some every day.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
Be aware of wonder..."

The author has been criticized for being trite, and simplistic.

Today we listen to the apostle Paul, giving instructions. These are not inspired by kindergarten, they are inspired by God...

10 "I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I'll put it as urgently as I can:

You must get along with each other.
You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.

11 -12 I bring this up because some from Chloe's family brought a most disturbing report to my attention—that you're fighting among yourselves!

I'll tell you exactly what I was told: You're all picking sides, going around saying, "I'm on Paul's side," or "I'm for Apollos," or "Peter is my man," or "I'm in the Messiah group."

17 God didn't send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn't send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words. "

"You must get along with each other.
You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common."

Wisdom of the ages.
Timeless.
Simple.
Powerful.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Just think - You don't need a thing!


What a great statement just before Christmas!
Just think - You don't need a thing!

Ok, Ok, so I just trivialized a profound spiritual statement...

The letters to the church at Corinth are interposed at this point in Paul's journeys.

1 Corinthians 1
1 -2 "I, Paul, have been called and sent by Jesus, the Messiah, according to God's plan, along with my friend Sosthenes. I send this letter to you in God's church at Corinth, believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life. I include in my greeting all who call out to Jesus, wherever they live. He's their Master as well as ours!
3 May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father, and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours."

No wonder this is Holy Scripture. Such beautiful language. Such exalted thoughts. "believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God filled life..."

4 -6 "Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There's no end to what has happened in you—it's beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.
7 -9 "Just think—you don't need a thing, you've got it all! All God's gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale."

So the life of the Christian is just putting in time until the "sweet by and by?"
Read on...

"And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus."

One of the names of the Holy Spirit is "The Alongsideone". He is with us, ahead of us, beside us, underneath us, over us, and within us...

"God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus."

And then the final burst in this little prelude -

"He will never give up on you. Never forget that."

Just think - You don't need a thing!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Commercialism vs. Christianity

As I visit Christians around the world, I am amazed at the power and passion of Christians in other lands.

And I am constantly hit with the powerlessness and indiference of Christians in North America.

I think the answer is the wholesale acceptance of commercialism by the North American church. No where is that more evident than at Christmas time. Christians try to out do their neighbors in putting up lights, doing the Christmas tree, buying gifts. What does any of that have to do with Christ?

In today's passage there is a clash between Christianity and commercialism. It is severe, and intense. But at least both sides understand that there are irreconcilable differences...

21 -22 "After all this had come to a head, Paul decided it was time to move on to Macedonia and Achaia provinces, and from there to Jerusalem. "Then," he said, "I'm off to Rome. I've got to see Rome!" He sent two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, on to Macedonia and then stayed for a while and wrapped things up in Asia.

Here it comes. If Christianity is the right way, then there is no need for idols. What then, happens to all the idol makers?

23 -26 "But before he got away, a huge ruckus occurred over what was now being referred to as "the Way." A certain silversmith, Demetrius, conducted a brisk trade in the manufacture of shrines to the goddess Artemis, employing a number of artisans in his business. He rounded up his workers and others similarly employed and said, "Men, you well know that we have a good thing going here—and you've seen how Paul has barged in and discredited what we're doing by telling people that there's no such thing as a god made with hands. A lot of people are going along with him, not only here in Ephesus but all through Asia province.
27 "Not only is our little business in danger of falling apart, but the temple of our famous goddess Artemis will certainly end up a pile of rubble as her glorious reputation fades to nothing. And this is no mere local matter—the whole world worships our Artemis!"
28 -31 "That set them off in a frenzy. They ran into the street yelling, "Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!" They put the whole city in an uproar, stampeding into the stadium, and grabbing two of Paul's associates on the way, the Macedonians Gaius and Aristarchus."

It's Christians (followers of "The Way") vs the commercializers.

"Paul wanted to go in, too, but the disciples wouldn't let him. Prominent religious leaders in the city who had become friendly to Paul concurred: "By no means go near that mob!"
32 -34 "Some were yelling one thing, some another. Most of them had no idea what was going on or why they were there. As the Jews pushed Alexander to the front to try to gain control, different factions clamored to get him on their side. But he brushed them off and quieted the mob with an impressive sweep of his arms. But the moment he opened his mouth and they knew he was a Jew, they shouted him down:
"Great Artemis of the Ephesians!
Great Artemis of the Ephesians!"—on and on and on, for over two hours.
35 -37 "Finally, the town clerk got the mob quieted down and said, "Fellow citizens, is there anyone anywhere who doesn't know that our dear city Ephesus is protector of glorious Artemis and her sacred stone image that fell straight out of heaven? Since this is beyond contradiction, you had better get hold of yourselves. This is conduct unworthy of Artemis. These men you've dragged in here have done nothing to harm either our temple or our goddess.
38 -41"So if Demetrius and his guild of artisans have a complaint, they can take it to court and make all the accusations they want. If anything else is bothering you, bring it to the regularly scheduled town meeting and let it be settled there. There is no excuse for what's happened today. We're putting our city in serious danger. Rome, remember, does not look kindly on rioters." With that, he sent them home."

The difference between then and now?
Well, it was clear that there WAS a difference between the Christians and the commercializers...

Naked Exorcists on the Run

This is a dramatic and even funny passage. God's power had always been evident in His followers. It even got to where something that had touched Paul would then cause healing in people!

11 -12 "God did powerful things through Paul, things quite out of the ordinary. The word got around and people started taking pieces of clothing—handkerchiefs and scarves and the like—that had touched Paul's skin and then touching the sick with them. The touch did it—they were healed and whole."
o
Pretty weird! (And wonderful)
That kind of power and the attention and fame it got was irresistible...

13 -16 "Some itinerant Jewish exorcists who happened to be in town at the time tried their hand at what they assumed to be Paul's "game." They pronounced the name of the Master Jesus over victims of evil spirits, saying, "I command you by the Jesus preached by Paul!"
o
So were they legit? I would say not.
They were willing to use the second hand power of invoking Paul's name, thinking that would give them the power too.
It didn't work out so well.
o
This is one of the funniest passages in the Bible to me...
o
"The seven sons of a certain Sceva, a Jewish high priest, were trying to do this on a man when the evil spirit talked back: "I know Jesus and I've heard of Paul, but who are you?" Then the possessed man went berserk—jumped the exorcists, beat them up, and tore off their clothes. Naked and bloody, they got away as best they could."
o
I am very visual. I can see them running for their lives - going in all directions. Not only a botched exorcism, but the ultimate embarrassment. They are powerless, naked and on the run in public view!
o
This little incident hit the tabloids right away! First page stuff!!

17 -20 "It was soon news all over Ephesus among both Jews and Greeks. The realization spread that God was in and behind this. Curiosity about Paul developed into reverence for the Master Jesus."
o
Notice that it didn't lead to "Paul worship." He didn't start wearing $2000 suits and put up his family in $12,000 a night hotel suites...
No. It lead to "Jesus worship."
o
"Many of those who thus believed came out of the closet and made a clean break with their secret sorceries. All kinds of witches and warlocks came out of the woodwork with their books of spells and incantations and made a huge bonfire of them."
"Someone estimated their worth at fifty thousand silver coins. In such ways it became evident that the Word of the Master was now sovereign and prevailed in Ephesus."
o

God did dramatic things.

But the players gave God all the glory.
o
And corralled none of it for themselves.

Did you recieve the Holy Spirit?


It didn't seem like Paul could sit still.
Acts 19
1 -2 "Now, it happened that while Apollos was away in Corinth, Paul made his way down through the mountains, came to Ephesus, and happened on some disciples there."
He is doing evangelism and discipleship. His first question seems odd...
"The first thing he said was, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?"
"We've never even heard of that—a Holy Spirit? God within us?"
These were simple, sincere believers.

3"How were you baptized, then?" asked Paul.
"In John's baptism."
4"That explains it," said Paul. "John preached a baptism of radical life-change so that people would be ready to receive the One coming after him, who turned out to be Jesus. If you've been baptized in John's baptism, you're ready now for the real thing, for Jesus."
5 -7And they were. As soon as they heard of it, they were baptized in the name of the Master Jesus."
So Paul's teaching was Jesus centered. But look what happens next...
"Paul put his hands on their heads and the Holy Spirit entered them. From that moment on, they were praising God in tongues and talking about God's actions. Altogether there were about twelve people there that day."
What a joyful event! They get Jesus. They get the Holy Spirit.
This was 2000 years before the tragic 100 year long split in the Evangelical Church between the Holy Spirit centered Christians and the Holy Spirit averse Christians. This passage is taught as theology by the one side, and a one time event by the other side. Regardless, it is here. And the folks rejoiced in their new found relationship with God.

8 -10 "Paul then went straight to the meeting place. He had the run of the place for three months, doing his best to make the things of the kingdom of God real and convincing to them. But then resistance began to form as some of them began spreading evil rumors through the congregation about the Christian way of life. So Paul left, taking the disciples with him, and set up shop in the school of Tyrannus, holding class there daily. He did this for two years, giving everyone in the province of Asia, Jews as well as Greeks, ample opportunity to hear the Message of the Master."
The big story is that folks continued to accept the Good News, whether they were Jew or Greek.
That is still the big story today...

a living, spirited dance


Here is how we are to live, to love, to work.
Not as an obligation.
But as a living, spirited dance...

1 Thessalonians 4
You're God-Taught
o
Live:
1 -3 "One final word, friends. We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance. You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life.
Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity.
4 -5 "Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God."
o
Love:
6 -7 "Don't run roughshod over the concerns of your brothers and sisters. Their concerns are God's concerns, and he will take care of them. We've warned you about this before. God hasn't invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something holy and beautiful—as beautiful on the inside as the outside.
8 "If you disregard this advice, you're not offending your neighbors; you're rejecting God, who is making you a gift of his Holy Spirit."
9 -10 "Regarding life together and getting along with each other, you don't need me to tell you what to do. You're God-taught in these matters. Just love one another! You're already good at it; your friends all over the province of Macedonia are the evidence. Keep it up; get better and better at it."
o
Work:
11 -12 "Stay calm;
mind your own business;
do your own job.
You've heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts.
We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends."
o
Here is how we are to live,
to love,
to work.
Not a legalistic set of rules to follow.
But as a living, spirited dance...

Private Emails Published


On September 16, 2008, the private Yahoo! Mail account of Sarah Palin was hacked by a 4chan user. The hacker known as "Rubico" targeted Palin because he wanted to "derail her campaign."
o
After reading through Palin's emails Rubico wrote "There was nothing there, nothing incriminating — all I saw was personal stuff, some clerical stuff from when she was governor." Rubico wrote that he used the Sarah Palin Wikipedia article to find out Palin's birthday in "15 seconds", one of the standard security questions used by Yahoo!. The hacker posted the account's password on /b/, an image board on 4chan, and screenshots from within the account to Wikileaks.

John McCain's campaign condemned the incident saying it was a "shocking invasion of the governor's privacy and a violation of law".
o
The FBI and Secret Service began investigating the incident and on September 20, it was revealed that they were questioning David Kernell, a 20-year-old economics student at the University of Tennessee and the son of Democratic Tennessee State Representative Mike Kernell from Memphis.
o
Today we get to read one of Paul's private letters.
His were not published and then deleted and prosecuted as criminal behavior. No, his have become part of the best selling book of all time.
But they started out as private letters to some of his friends...
o
1 Thessalonians
"I, Paul, together here with Silas and Timothy, send greetings to the church at Thessalonica, Christians assembled by God the Father and by the Master, Jesus Christ. God's amazing grace be with you! God's robust peace!"
2 -5Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you're in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father. It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn't just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.
5 -6You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit!—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.
7 -10Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master's Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don't even have to say anything anymore—you're the message! People come up and tell us how you received us with open arms, how you deserted the dead idols of your old life so you could embrace and serve God, the true God. They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of his Son, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescued us from certain doom."
o
I'm so glad THESE private letters got published!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Lawsuit


Things settle down for Paul.
He meets some great friends.
They let him stay with him.
He establishes his business.
Life is good...

Acts 18
Corinth
1 -4After Athens, Paul went to Corinth. That is where he discovered Aquila, a Jew born in Pontus, and his wife, Priscilla. They had just arrived from Italy, part of the general expulsion of Jews from Rome ordered by Claudius. Paul moved in with them, and they worked together at their common trade of tentmaking. But every Sabbath he was at the meeting place, doing his best to convince both Jews and Greeks about Jesus."

A couple of his friends come over to Corinth. Then he can devote all his time to preaching and teaching. Why? Did they take over the business? Doesn't say exactly...

5 -6When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was able to give all his time to preaching and teaching, doing everything he could to persuade the Jews that Jesus was in fact God's Messiah. But no such luck. All they did was argue contentiously and contradict him at every turn. Totally exasperated, Paul had finally had it with them and gave it up as a bad job. "Have it your way, then," he said. "You've made your bed; now lie in it. From now on I'm spending my time with the other nations."

Can you see that God is taking the Good News to all peoples?

7 -8 "He walked out and went to the home of Titius Justus, a God-fearing man who lived right next to the Jews' meeting place. But Paul's efforts with the Jews weren't a total loss, for Crispus, the meeting-place president, put his trust in the Master. His entire family believed with him.
8 -11 "In the course of listening to Paul, a great many Corinthians believed and were baptized. One night the Master spoke to Paul in a dream: "Keep it up, and don't let anyone intimidate or silence you. No matter what happens, I'm with you and no one is going to be able to hurt you. You have no idea how many people I have on my side in this city." That was all he needed to stick it out. He stayed another year and a half, faithfully teaching the Word of God to the Corinthians.

A Lawsuit is Filed...

12 -13But when Gallio was governor of Achaia province, the Jews got up a campaign against Paul, hauled him into court, and filed charges: "This man is seducing people into acts of worship that are illegal."
14 -16Just as Paul was about to defend himself, Gallio interrupted and said to the Jews, "If this was a matter of criminal conduct, I would gladly hear you out."

The lawsuit is thrown out of court...

"But it sounds to me like one more Jewish squabble, another of your endless hairsplitting quarrels over religion. Take care of it on your own time. I can't be bothered with this nonsense," and he cleared them out of the courtroom."

So they beat up Sosthenes...

17Now the street rabble turned on Sosthenes, the new meeting-place president, and beat him up in plain sight of the court. Gallio didn't raise a finger. He could not have cared less."

And the Gospel continues to spread...

Examining the Scriptures

Paul is on the move again. He flees Thessalonica and goes to Berea.
There he got what I would consider the perfect reception.

10 -12 "That night, under cover of darkness, their friends got Paul and Silas out of town as fast as they could. They sent them to Berea, where they again met with the Jewish community. They were treated a lot better there than in Thessalonica. The Jews received Paul's message with enthusiasm and met with him daily, examining the Scriptures to see if they supported what he said. A lot of them became believers, including many Greeks who were prominent in the community, women and men of influence."

They were interested in the message. And they examined the Scriptures they had, to make sure they weren't being decieved. Many believed...
Oh Oh! Trouble again...

13 -15 "But it wasn't long before reports got back to the Thessalonian hardline Jews that Paul was at it again, preaching the Word of God, this time in Berea. They lost no time responding, and created a mob scene there, too. With the help of his friends, Paul gave them the slip—caught a boat and put out to sea. Silas and Timothy stayed behind. The men who helped Paul escape got him as far as Athens and left him there. Paul sent word back with them to Silas and Timothy: "Come as quickly as you can!"

Did someone say the Christian life is dull?

The Cost of Spreading Good News


November 24, 2009
XINJIANG--"Uyghur Christian house church leader Wusiman Yiming was officially released on Wednesday November 18, 2009 (Beijing Time). After serving two years in Laogai (labor) camp, he has been finally reunited with his wife and two young children. Because of his Christian leadership among the Uyghur people, Wusiman Yiming was sentenced to criminal detention "for the crime of divulging State secrets" by the State Security Bureau of Southern Xinjiang, Hetian City, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in September of 2007. He was then secretly sentenced in November, 2007, to two years of 're-education through labor' by the Re-education Labor Committee of Hetian City.
A source who spoke with brother Wusiman informed ChinaAid that brother Wusiman "looks fragile but has a very strong spirit." Wusiman reportedly asked ChinaAid to extend his heartfelt thanks to all those who have been providing care and help to his family members during the past two difficult years.

"We are very glad to hear this news of brother Wusiman's release, " said Bob Fu. "We call upon the Xinjiang government to stop religious persecution against these innocent Christians. We ask the Chinese central government authority to order the release of the other innocent Uyghur Christian brother, Alimujiang Yimiti, who has been illegally detained in the same case without a verdict for over two years already. The persecutors of these two individuals should be held accountable."

There is a cost of spreading the Good News. Even today...

It's ironic. Paul was just busted out of jail and he writes Galatians - about Freedom in Christ, and the New Way instead of the Old Way.

Today some others pay a price for promoting the Good News of Jesus Christ. As you read this think about what it would be like to be Jason, or a member of his family.

Acts 17
Thessalonica
1 -3 They took the road south through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica, where there was a community of Jews. Paul went to their meeting place, as he usually did when he came to a town, and for three Sabbaths running he preached to them from the Scriptures. He opened up the texts so they understood what they'd been reading all their lives: that the Messiah absolutely had to be put to death and raised from the dead—there were no other options—and that "this Jesus I'm introducing you to is that Messiah."
4 -5Some of them were won over and joined ranks with Paul and Silas, among them a great many God-fearing Greeks and a considerable number of women from the aristocracy. But the hard-line Jews became furious over the conversions. Mad with jealousy, they rounded up a bunch of brawlers off the streets and soon had an ugly mob terrorizing the city as they hunted down Paul and Silas.
5 -7They broke into Jason's house, thinking that Paul and Silas were there. When they couldn't find them, they collared Jason and his friends instead and dragged them before the city fathers, yelling hysterically, "These people are out to destroy the world, and now they've shown up on our doorstep, attacking everything we hold dear! And Jason is hiding them, these traitors and turncoats who say Jesus is king and Caesar is nothing!"
8 -9The city fathers and the crowd of people were totally alarmed by what they heard. They made Jason and his friends post heavy bail and let them go while they investigated the charges."
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ps. - The picture is one I took of the Uyghur church in Khazakstan on a mission trip.