DEEP THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Tuesday in our men’s Bible study we had a great thought. It stemmed from our discussion of Acts 9:36-43.FullSizeRender.jpg

First, let’s just talk about how much prettier the name Tabitha is than Dorcas. I mean, seriously. Tabitha is a great name. Dorcas is unfortunate. Click here for more about Tabitha.

But that was not our thought. Our thought came from imagining what Tabitha said or did right after she came back to life. I put forward the hypothesis that Tabitha might have slapped Peter. She was in heaven, with the Lord, perfect bliss, love, and joy. Then she is yanked back to 1st century Palestine. I think I’d hit Peter too.

That was when one of our guys said something like, “Look, guys, if I die, don’t bring me back. Leave me be.”

We laughed.

Then another man said, “I already have one of those, its called a DNR–Do not resuscitate. If I die, no heroic actions to save me.”

That is when I said, “If we really had deep faith, we’d file a spiritual DNR too. The medical DNR for our doctor, but then a spiritual DNR for our church.”

Consider this blog post my spiritual DNR. Don’t bring me back to life. Leave me with Jesus. I’ll see you guys on Resurrection Day.

3/4 OF A YEAR ALREADY?

Every Thursday I post a small taste of the upcoming Sunday sermon.  This week marks  3/4 through the year, so I am spending the time reviewing what we’ve learned so far this year.  Its hard to cram 37 Sunday’s worth of material into a half hour, but here are the high points I”ll try to cover.

1.  Pastor Jamie’s (aka Pastor Greenbean on this sight) new year challenge.  I started the year off by challenging the people in our church to do five things:

  • Feed yourself–take responsibility for your spiritual growth.
  • share your faith–at least invite them to church!
  • Join a small group–it is impossible to grow without a group.
  • Serve somewhere–Jesus came to serve, and told us to do the same.
  • Give financially–where your treasure is, there you heart is too!

2.  PROJECT 68–In February I went through a three week series based on Micah 6:8.  I asked the hearers to engage in a project for each one of the major points.  Do something in the realm of justice, do something in the concept of love kindness (or love-love as we called it after looking at the Hebrew words), and a project to help you walk with the Lord.

3.  We’ve spent a lot of time this year in the book of Acts.  For a large part we examined the different churches in Acts (Antioch, Jerusalem, Ephesus, Rome) and we also did biographies from Acts of people like Stephen and Lydia.  This Sunday I want to remind everyone that all of those great people and great churches were following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and we are to impact our world like they did theirs.

4.  Most of the Spring (Easter onward) we were in a series called “ALIVE” that carried the Easter message over into other areas that need to be resurrected like families that are dying, churches that are dying, finances in ruin, broken relationships, and dead dreams.  All of these things can come back to life in the hands of Christ!

5.  In our 1st Timothy series we learned about the important role that churches play in defending against heresy, proclaiming the gospel, and developing leadership.  Those are important functions for us still!

6.  Finally, we recently completed the series from Mark as it records Jesus later Galilean ministry (Mark 3-5).  A dominant theme in these sermons was the ongoing call of Christ to faith and the varying responses.  The epitome of this is found in the Parable of the Soils (Mark 4).

 
I am really looking forward to Sunday.  I have found that ‘review’ is a powerful learning tool and I regret that I did not use it more in my earlier pastoral ministry.

ACT “ING” OUT: MISSING ITEMS IN THE BOOK OF ACTS

Yesterday (June 17) I promised to blog a summary of the sermon–and right now I am fulfilling that promise.  I finished our sermon series, and indeed our treatment of Acts for the year (About half of the sermons for this year have been form Acts in one way or another) by highlighting what I saw as things that were missing in the book–things we might expect to be there.  It was essentially a list sermon.

  • Nicodemus–You would expect someone who had contact with Jesus at the beginning, middle, and end of his ministry and who helped bury him to be present in the early gatherings in Jerusalem.
  • Joseph of Arimathea–Like Nicodemus, I expect the one who asked for Jesus’ body and who owned the tomb to be a part of that first gathering.  One caveat-what if this Joseph is the same Joseph we know better as Barnabas?  One from Cyprus the other from Arimathea, but maybe a rich man had two homes?  Just wondering out loud.
  • The Other 8–Peter, John, Judas and James are the only ones from the 12 who get mentioned beyond ‘lists’ and James really does nothing except die off camera as a footnote to a miracle story about Peter.  Luke likewise skips missions to Egypt, Syria, India, Ethiopia and everywhere else  these apostles may have engaged in.
  • Mary Magdalene–The faddish figure of mystical, gnostic, and alternate Christianity is absent.  Why?  Because she just wasn’t that important.  She is probably not the Mary from Acts 12, might have been with “the women” of Acts 1 but Luke couldn’t care less.  Other women are more interesting to him such as Tabitha, Lydia, and Priscilla.
  • Convictions–Bluntly put no Roman magistrate ever convicts a person for a crime for being a Christ-follower.
  • Jerusalem Mission–We know nothing from Acts about how James the half-brother of Jesus, who didn’t even believe until after the Resurrection, became the leader of the Jerusalem church.  Nor are we told what happened to the “myriads” of Jewish followers.
  • The Death of Paul–We expect Acts to end in Paul’s death.  It does not.  It ends with him alive and well preaching the gospel freely in Rome.  This is likely done intentionally by Luke to avoid parallels to the story of Jesus.

Luke leaves out a lot from his work.  I believe he does so because it does not fit his agenda.  His agenda is to demonstrate the spread of the gospel form Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the earth.  The outline of Acts is found in 1:8.  Luke begins by emphasizing the empowerment and filling of the Holy Spirit and from there the book takes shape as the gospel’s travel itinerary from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth–Rome!

SERMON DEBRIEFING–THE WOMEN IN ACTS

I began my “Biographies in Acts” sermon series yesterday by surveying the prominent women in the book.  Understandably, Acts is a male dominated text as is most of the Bible.  But if we look hard enough we can glimpse the dawn of a new world in which there is “neither male nor female” but all are “one in Christ.”

1.  Mary and the Women–Acts 1:13-14 lists those who prayed in the upper room after the ascension of Christ.  Included in the list are Mary and the women.  These women were, in my conjecture, actively engaged in the same activity the men were when the Holy Spirit comes in chapter 2.  The evidence is the gender inclusive prophecy of Joel 2 which Peter quotes.

2.  The Grumbling Widows–Act 6 tells us that the first delegation of ministry occurred because the widow women were unhappy.  Thanks widows.

3.  Sapphira–Died because she was equally responsible for the financial lie and subsequent cover-up.  The sordid details are in Acts 5.

4.  Tabitha/Dorcas–Acts 9:36-43.  This woman was a ministry leader in Joppa who died.  Peter brought her back to life (okay, God did it, but you know what I mean).  The evidence indicates she may have been serving in the same way the 7 were in Acts 6.

5.  Mary and Rhoda–Two different women are recorded in Acts 12 as a part of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison.  This “Mary” could be any of the distinct 5 different Mary’s in the New Testament or a completely different Mary.  Rhoda is the servant girl no one believed.  As such she mirrors the Easter story when no one really believes the women.

6.  Lydia–One of my favorite characters in the New Testament.  Lydia’s encounter with Paul and the gospel is recorded in Acts 16 as the gospel spreads to Europe through the portal of Philippi.  She is a traveling business woman who is spiritually minded.

7.  Thessalonian and Berean women–Acts 17 tells us, in both verse 4 and verse 5 that “leading” and “high standing” women were among the early converts.  This tells us about the intellectual appeal of Christianity as well as the favorable disposition it has among women.

8.  Priscilla/Prisca–I’m thinking Acts 18 here, but truly her story is all over the New Testament as she frequently interacts with Paul.  I list her because every time this tent making church planting woman is mentioned it is with her husband, Aquila but her name is always listed first.  I Wonder why?

9.  Philip’s Four daughters–On the fateful journey to Jerusalem Paul and his companions stop at Philip’s house.  We learn he has four unmarried daughters who prophesy.  These prophetesses may have been sources for the information Luke would gather about Philip and he early Christ movement in Jerusalem.

10.  Bernice–Yucky woman who uses sex and politics to climb the social ladder.  She is found in Acts 25 & 26 on the arm of Agrippa.  Agrippa is her brother.  Bernice is the negative example who contrasts all the godly women portrayed in Acts.

There are four summary statements I deduced from my reading of women in Acts.  First, the women seem to act independently of men.  The exception to this are the negative examples (Sapphira and Bernice).  Second, Luke had no advantage in writing about women at all.  That he included them indicates the veracity of the account and the important role women played.  Third, The women in the book of Acts are asexual.  Unlike the  hyper-sexualization of women in sales, fashion, politics, and entertainment these women stand on their own as individuals in Christ, not as playthings.  Fourth, all of these women are “modern” in that they would have fit right into our world today.