Saturday, December 4, 2010

Amazing Words, Amazing Power, Amazing Disobedience

This story is filled with high drama!

The disciples - JESUS' disciples - were doing miracles and healings...

12 "The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them. 14 Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. 15 As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. 16 Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil[f] spirits, and they were all healed."

The folks who had lots of religious power, but no spiritual power, didn't like it one bit!

17 "The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, 20 “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”

21 So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching.

When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council[g]—the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial. 22 But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported, 23 “The jail was securely locked, with the guards standing outside, but when we opened the gates, no one was there!”

24 When the captain of the Temple guard and the leading priests heard this, they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end. 25 Then someone arrived with startling news: “The men you put in jail are standing in the Temple, teaching the people!”

So now the religulous arrest them, confront them, threaten them and beat them...

26 "The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. 27 Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. 28 “Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” he demanded. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”

29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross.[h] 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. 34 But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. 35 Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! 36 Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. 37 After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.

38 “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”

40 The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.

41 The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.[i] 42 And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”

The disciples had amazing power! Amazing words! And never once did they even consider obeying the orders to stop preaching, stop teaching, stop advancing the Kingdom of God!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christian Socialism

Christian Socialism
Permanent pattern or temporary aberration?

In the days following Jesus's resurrection, the disciples were proliferating exponentially. It was an exciting happy time. Here is a description of how they lived.

32 "All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.
36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. 37 He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles."

If you look at Scripture and conclude that descriptions of behavior are mandates to act accordingly, then we should still be doing this.

The interesting thing is that, with small exceptions, this pattern has never been followed on a sustained basis by Christ's followers.

Is it that Christians are greedy? Disobedient? Missing the mark?

Or was this a description of a historical event that was not copied even by those that participated in it? An economic model that is unsustainable??

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Empty Threats

Empty Threats

Today's reading reminds me of a story from China. A fearless Chinese evangelist was put in prison for 26 years, because he would not stop preaching the Good News of Jesus. He continued to preach inside the prison.

By the time they let him out, he was an old man. Everyone in his family had died. So he set up next to the prison gates, preaching fearlessly to everyone who came or went.

They would often threaten him, telling him to stop.

"What are you going to do?" he would say. "Put me in prison? I can preach just as well inside prison as I can outside prison!"

In today's story the Jewish religious leaders were making the threats...

Acts 4:5 "The next day the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest. 7 They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, 9 are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? 10 Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene,[b] the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 11 For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,

‘The stone that you builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.’[c]

12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say. 15 So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber[d] and conferred among themselves.

16 “What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. 17 But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” 18 So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.

19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

21 The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God 22 for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years."

And thus began the explosion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that has continued unabated for 2000 years.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Confronted, Disturbed, Arrested


Jesus created a sensation wherever he went. Even at his birth there was the star, the angels, the shepherds coming in off the fields, the "king" of Israel killing everyone under 2 years old to do him in.

In his ministry he did miracles and healed thousands of people. He cast out demons. But it was his teaching that created the most radical reaction.

Then the mock trial, the illegal beating, the crucifixtion. The earth went dark. The entire area was shaken. The curtain ripped in two from top to bottom, demonstrating that the holy of holies was accesible to men because of Jesus' death.

The resurrection! The massive stone was rolled back. The grave was empty, but the grave clothes were neither cut open or unrolled!! People saw him. He spoke. He did miracles.

Then the assention! He went up into the air before their eyes! Said he was coming back the same way.

The sensation did not end with his death or resurrection. Read today's story...

While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. 2 These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. 3 They arrested them.

Let's see. Killing the leader didn't work. Maybe arresting the followers would...

1 "While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. 2 These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. 3 They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. 4 But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of believers now totaled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children.[a]
5 The next day the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest. 7 They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”

That is an excellent question!

Is what I believe, what I follow, how I live my life - an extraordinary power, with authority from on high?

Or is my life quiet?
My religion powerless?
My beliefs meaningless?

Do I quietly grumble that Christ is not present in government, in education, in culture?

By what power?
In whose name?