Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Acts18:12-17

Acts 18:12-17
English Standard Version (ESV)

  Supreme Court rulings are interesting to me -- so much depends on how 9 people are interpreting a case.  People gather around the court and wait to see if something will be allowed or not.  Their rulings truly echo through generations, as they either enable or ban certain activities.
  As Christians, we're called to be good citizens, but we aren't called to sit around and wait for us to receive permission from others to share our faith.  Just imagine if Paul and the apostles had gone through all the proper diplomatic channels to begin telling the story of faith.  They could have followed the approval channel up through the proper delegates before hopefully having a hearing in Rome to get the blessing of the right people.  All along the way, the opposition could have tried to derail the movement.
  Instead, Paul and the apostles went forth and proclaimed the Gospel, overcoming hurdles as they appeared.  They were dragged to court and arrested and persecuted, but all along they followed their conviction and proclaimed the Gospel in love.  They were not violent or cruel - they took whatever was handed out, always focusing on the Gospel, not allowing themselves to be distracted.
  So let us not wait for the time when all is right.  Instead, may we follow the call of the Gospel to spread the love of God in word and deed in all we do.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Acts 18:1-11

Acts 18:1-11
English Standard Version (ESV)

  How persistent are you?
  Here's Paul, who travels the known world proclaiming the Gospel, hated and reviled at most stops, occasionally thrown in jail.  He has his life threatened, and yet time after time he returns to preaching the Gospel.  It's not something he does when he can -- it's part of who he is.  His identity is wrapped up in what Jesus Christ has done for him, and he can't not talk about it.  He's compelled to engage in debate, even when it leads him to dangerous places, because he believes this is a message that the entire world needs to hear.
  And so he keeps going back, unafraid to risk his life, because his life is caught up in what God is doing.  When he is opposed and reviled here, he went elsewhere, but he continued to preach the Gospel, continued to invite others to experience the grace and love of Jesus Christ.  And when opportunities presented themselves, he stayed -- for 18 months here! -- and preached the Good News, teaching and preaching and showing and loving, so that all may know the Gospel.
  So we, too, are invited to live within the Gospel, to show up day after day and look for how God is at work, watching and waiting to see what God has in store for us, loving our friends and neighbors and enemies, telling others of how good God is.  You're part of the story.  When opposition arises, how will you respond?  Will you look for other avenues, continuing to show up?  Will you search for those who haven't heard?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Acts 17:22-34

Acts 17:22-34
English Standard Version (ESV)

  The Cincinnati Bengals, it would seem, are wired to lose playoff games.  It's a yearly tradition, if they're fortunate enough to even make it to the playoffs.  Their identity, at this point, seems shaped by their failure on the big stage.
  Some people are wired to be happy.  No matter what, they look at the world through a positive lens, always upbeat no matter how fiercely the storms of life may rage.  Some companies seem wired to be great places to work, while others might be less so.
  Humans, Paul is saying, are wired to worship God.  There is something inside of us that recognizes that we are not our own Creator, that there is a greater force at work in the universe, that we are loved beyond measure by a God who intends for us to live an abundant and gracious life.  The world is not as it should be, and there is a God at work to restore things to the way they should be.
  We don't always get the worship of God right.  I'd go so far as to say we rarely do, but prophets and preachers alike do their part to redirect our worship away from false gods and back to the one true God.  We go to church and read the Bible and gather together in an attempt to direct our hearts to worship God and our lives to rejoice in the Savior who loves us more than we can ever ask or imagine.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Acts 17:16-21

Acts 17:16-21
English Standard Version (ESV)

  It's so easy to shrink back from conflicting ideas.  You can close a browsing window or just walk away from a person now.  Or, there is the preferred method of making disparaging comments and discarding their entire argument simply because it makes you uncomfortable.  We see this a lot in both political parties -- we use labels to shut down debate.
  Here, 2,000 years ago, they did that as well.  But some people weren't afraid to engage -- they brought Paul in and wished to know more.  They asked tough questions in order to find the truth.  They listened, they shared, and they were changed through the experience.
  One of the things I love most about Christianity is how robust it is.  It has been intellectually challenged for thousands of years.  People have been poking it, prodding it, exposing every weakness and trying to find a fatal flaw.  At its best, Christianity doesn't back down from these challenges, but engages them, willing to listen and be examined because of our confidence -- not in ourselves, but in our Creator and Savior.  We are willing to allow people to ask big questions because we trust that what we believe is true, and we believe that the questions will only make us more amazed at the depth and love of God.
  So let us not shrink back from examination, or be afraid of questions, and even opposition.  For centuries people have been trying to disprove God.  The Gospels are the most examined pieces of literature in human history.  We can engage in debate and conversation, because we trust in the Truth of the message and the One who delivers it.