Saturday, June 20, 2015

Pray & Share

into   ACTS

Because there's no other way. 

Acts 4:23-37

New International Version (NIV)

The Believers Pray

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.[a][b]
27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

The Believers Share Their Possessions

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Well, it's Father's Day. SO, I have to find a way to tie that in here. Stay with me. 

Some of this might seem like a reiteration from two weeks ago.
We touch on the end of Chap 2 in Acts and then a passage from Chap 3.
We read about the believers sharing their possessions for the good of the community. They were all of one heart and mind together. Then we saw where Peter spoke boldly to the crowd at the Temple after healing a man by the gate called Beautiful. 

This seems very similar. Only last week we noted that the religious leaders get involved.
And, they are not happy. 

John and Peter are held for a short time, but no one can seem to come up with an appropriate means to punish them, so they are released. Upon being released they head back home with a report on all they have experienced. 

Were you ever in one of those "my daddy is stronger than your daddy" arguments when you were growing up? Seems I overheard my boy pulling one of those items out for discussion around the dinner table. He said that he had been talking it up with one of his friends in preschool. Why do we do that as children? Why is there some need to tell everybody else that our daddy is better than their daddy? And, do we ever outgrow that notion? Well, I would suffice to say that the argument just changes shape and shifts. Below the surface of that disagreement is the simple need to be right about something. As children, it starts with arguing about whose father is bigger or stronger or smarter. In high school, it becomes about who has the faster car and what engine is better under the hood. As young men, it becomes about whose sports team is better. And, as we become more enlightened spiritually, the argument can certainly turn to whose theology and philosophy is best understood. 

Peter and John find themselves in the midst of just such a place.
In places like this it is very easy to take on the same vindictive behavior we see the people across from us displaying. Here's what makes the moment easier to handle - accepting that this is how things will be. Jesus said that there would be days like this. People who don't agree with us. People who don't like what we have to present to them. People who don't like the words that Jesus Christ says to us. It's going to happen. Avoiding it is impossible. Since we can't do anything about it the real question should come to us. What can we do about it? 

You might recall the old Chuck Swindoll analogy. (At least, that where I heard it for the first time.)
"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." How did the disciples react to the hardship they came through? Rewind just a month back and you see a completely different mindset. They all run. They scatter. They hide and wait hoping the same travesty that befell their Savior won't come upon them. 

Now where are they? In their souls, where are they in their current situation? They come home. They share what happened. And, then they pray. They don't run and hide. They stand and share. They go through the fire, however brief it might be, and they come out with the resolve to do exactly what their Lord and Savior told them they should do.

What the book of Acts provides us with is an in-depth look at what it means to live out exactly what Jesus said his followers would need to be in order for the Kingdom to take hold and grow. It's rather simplistic. Jesus spoke in the Gospels what his people needed to look like.

Matthew 5

New International Version (NIV)

Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

The Beatitudes

He said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The Holy Spirit comes and makes the impossible real. Read through the Sermon on the Mount. Then move to Acts and see what starts happening with the apostles and the people they interact with as the message begins to spread. Jesus made bold statements about what it meant to live a believer in the Messiah.

Matthew 5:43-48

New International Version (NIV)

Love for Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

So, what do the believers start doing after John & Peter are detained?
Exactly what they should do. They start to pray for those who had a problem with their message.
But, it's what they say that makes the difference. They could have prayed about their enemies and ask that God deal with them harshly. Lord knows many of us have wanted exactly that when we have dealt with people who have treated us harshly. Now, these believers pray for some very specific things. They want to speak with boldness. They want the people who hear their words to actually know that the speakers mean what they say. They want God to perform signs and wonder through them. They want the miracles that they saw while walking with Jesus to be done while they are doing what God has called them to do. 

But, maybe the most important idea is instilled in this simple request. 
They want to heal. "Stretch out your hand to heal..." People all around them need healing. They have already met with a man who could not walk and they restored his legs. Physical healing is a must. But, how far and wide does the need for healing go? In order for people to understand what the message of Jesus is all about maybe there needs to be healing on an intellectual and philosophical level. Maybe that's why people, like these religious leaders, can't understand what it is that Jesus came to do. What will it take for us to communicate the message of Christ to our world? What kind of healing does our world need in order to comprehend their need for salvation in Jesus? 

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
They prayed and got exactly what they ask for.
The idea of everyone being on the same page still holds too.
Jesus had prayed that they would all be of one mind. One truth. One heart.
And, they seem to be just that. People are sharing their possessions. People are selling what they have and bringing it to the apostles so that others might have enough to live on. This is the heart of Christianity. This is the heart of Methodism. Meeting peoples needs as their most desperate level. Giving up what we have in order to make sure that the needs of others come first. 

I recall that old phrase my dad used to say. That thing about priorities.
"You got your priorities all screwed up. When you should be thinking about others, you're thinking about yourself. And, when you should be thinking about yourself, you're think about others." I can't help but ponder if this is what he was talking about. How often do we get our priorities out of alignment? 

It seems that after the Holy Spirit came, these believers get those priorities in the right order. 
They don't seem afraid anymore. They speak boldly. They want boldness and they receive it. 
They were told that they would do greater things than they saw their Messiah doing. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Jesus fed five thousand on a hillside. They saved 3000 in a day. Jesus healed a lame people who could not walk numerous times. They have healed their first. And, there will be many more to come. The hungry will be fed. Physically and spiritually. And, people will give all they have to make sure it gets done. 

They are now trusting and obeying. They don't see any other way to do it.
There truly is no other way to be happy. Praying and sharing. Just like they were taught to do.

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