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Whose credibility do we depend on?

“Fellow Israelites, listen carefully to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you—the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through him are common knowledge—this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned him to a cross and killed him. But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him. David said it all:

   I saw God before me for all time.
      Nothing can shake me; he’s right by my side.
   I’m glad from the inside out, ecstatic;
      I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope.
   I know you’ll never dump me in Hades;
      I’ll never even smell the stench of death.
   You’ve got my feet on the life-path,
      with your face shining sun-joy all around. Acts 2:22-28 (The Message)

There is a lot said about the credibility of Christian people and communities today, most of it less than complementary. You have heard people talk about the way, people who call themselves Christian, behave toward or talk about others. It is a real issue for people who are not Christian whether Christian people behave in the way they expect Christians to behave. Something of this criticism is certainly valid, in my opinion, and other is simply sour grapes. It is a good thing that Jesus’ credibility in the sight of believers is not dependent on whether or not someone who says they follow him is perfect in the sight of others or not. Jesus is credible because of the miracles, and wonders, and signs that God did as he walked the earth. Those who follow Jesus should follow in his ways but the most important thing is that those who look to what a Christian should be like look to Jesus. Then both those already following, and the onlooker, would know what a Christian should be like if they are to truly be a follower of him.

Lord Jesus, help me to look at you in order to be like you and let all others who look at me today see the reflection of you in me. Amen.

Someone has to stand up and tell people when they aren’t right!

That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:  “In the Last Days,” God says,  “I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams. Acts 2:15-17 (The Message)

Peter stood up to tell people what they were witnessing. This was no mere drink fueled party that had started early and got out of control. It was the presence of the Almighty filling the disciples of Christ to speak about Jesus in ways that they could understand. It was the fulfilment of a prophecy given in the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) by the prophet Joel. God would pour out his Spirit and there would be prophecy, visions, and dreams.

I wonder if we give enough room for the Holy Spirit to inspire us with a prophetic voice, visions of significance, and dreams of the kingdom come, today?

This day, Lord I pray, that you will fill my life to overflowing with your Holy Spirit. Let me be bold to speak in a prophetic way, envisage the life that you give to all, and dreams that see your kingdom come. Amen.

When God moves in power we see things in a different light!

Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?” Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

In the message on Sunday morning at my church the preacher said, ‘It is seen as acceptable for people to hear from God but strange and slightly schitzophernic when God speaks to people.’ When God moves in power it is outside of our everyday experience of the religous life. When people are unprepared for a God who moves in power then we want to put some kind of tag on this event in order to help us feel more comfortable. We may talk back and forth about what we see or simply dismiss such occurrence as excess or even a madness. When the first disciples experience the Holy Spirit at Pentecost others looked on with disbelief. Those who experienced the work of the Holy Spirit looked drunk to those who didn’t and they couldn’t understand it. If you have ever felt that the work of God in your life makes you stand out from the crowd and people don’t really understand, you aren’t alone.

Holy Spirit, thank you for the privilege of knowing you, come into my life. As you move me in power and others may not understand or pick fault in me because of you, help me to stand firm and value you in my life all the more. Amen.

Yesterday was the feast of Penetecost, the birthday of the Christian Church. The story is always worth revisiting. 

When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them. There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues? 

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs! “They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

Acts 2:1-11 (The Message)

The powerful presence of God speaks to all cultures and peoples. Seek this in your life today and speak of Jesus to others through his life in you.

Holy Spirit come and fill my life. Let the powerful presence of God be known through me. Let my words and actions speak to all peoples and cultures of the grace of God in Jesus today. Amen.

What it is to be the after thought:

“Judas must now be replaced. The replacement must come from the company of men who stayed together with us from the time Jesus was baptized by John up to the day of his ascension, designated along with us as a witness to his resurrection.” They nominated two: Joseph Barsabbas, nicknamed Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, O God, know every one of us inside and out. Make plain which of these two men you choose to take the place in this ministry and leadership that Judas threw away in order to go his own way.” They then drew straws. Matthias won and was counted in with the eleven apostles. Acts 1:21-26 (The Message)

Most everyone has heard the name of Judas, he is infamous for his part in Jesus’ death. Matthias, however, is a different matter. Chosen from the seventy that accompanied Jesus after he was baptised in the Jordan river, and selected by drawing lots, he became an apostle equal to the eleven remaining disciples. Tradtion has it that he was stoned and then beheaded in Jerusalem for preaching Christ. He is remembered in Christian history but not as well as many others.

What do we think when someone less able, less qualified, less suitable, gets ahead and we seem forgotton. What is our reaction to such injustice of not being noticed? The important thing is not that we are remembered by people. Look at the notoriorty of Judas, remembered for all the wrong reasons. If we are known, and our actions remembered by God for the right reasons of faithfulness in following Jesus, then we can be happy. Being overlooked by people,  like Matthias, is a far better option for the faithful Christian than being remembered by people, like Judas.

Lord, help me to be happy with your choice for me. Help me to be thankful that you remember me and look on what I do even if it is overlooked by people. Amen.

Like we are prone to do, when we show our commitment to a cause, we organize a meeting. 

During this time, Peter stood up in the company—there were about 120 of them in the room at the time—and said, “Friends, long ago the Holy Spirit spoke through David regarding Judas, who became the guide to those who arrested Jesus. That Scripture had to be fulfilled, and now has been. Judas was one of us and had his assigned place in this ministry.  As you know, he took the evil bribe money and bought a small farm. There he came to a bad end, rupturing his belly and spilling his guts. Everybody in Jerusalem knows this by now; they call the place Murder Meadow. It’s exactly what we find written in the Psalms: Let his farm become haunted so no one can ever live there. And also what was written later: Let someone else take over his post. Acts 1:15-20 (The Message)

Judas has been the cause of Jesus’ betrayal. It is conveniently overlooked in history, though, that none of Jesus’ disciples remained with him to the last. When the temple guards arrived with Judas, and Judas planted the fateful kiss on his cheek and the path to the cross was sealed. No one wanted to follow Jesus that closely. When Jesus rose and then taught the remaining disciples for forty days, they returned to favour. Judas, however, took the money he received for betraying Jesus and either committed suicide or was secretly killed. Taking the lead, Peter set out the story of Judas’ betrayal and to fill Judas’ place.

This  passage always makes me thing, ‘Did Peter pre-empt the work of God?’ Jesus told the disciples to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. This action on the part of Peter was filling in the gap, but did God want the disciples to wait for the leading of the Holy Spirit. Reading the gosples, Peter and the others were certainly slow in catching on. Maybe the move to replace Judas was a pragmatic rather then godly act. Not something that offends God but something not directly God given but our human propensity to go it alone (we will see that God made up for this later).

God, when you ask me to do something, like wait, or pray, or act, don’t let me try to go it alone. When I know what you are asking let me do what you want because I know it is the best way. Amen.

How agreeable are you today?

They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his brothers. Acts 1:14 (The Message)

Commitment comes though covenant for the Christian. Covenant means an agreement between people, and for the believer an agreement between God and people. Following forty days of constantly being with the risen Lord his followers were fired up and keen to continue the journey. They agreed that they were all in this for the duration and commited themselves by prayer. Today, we may thankfully take it for granted that the fellowship of faith includes everyone, men, women, and children, alike. In this day it would have been strange for a group that followed a Jewish Rabbi, even one who had died and risen from the dead, to include women. Jesus is no ordinary Rabbi though, his revolution of love has liberated all peoples from the bondage of religious expectation. We are all free to follow him if we choose to. How agreeable are you today? How free do you feel to follow him fully, completely, for the duration?

I agree today to follow, come what may, the way of Jesus Christ. This covenant I make before people and with all believers before God. Amen.

The risen Lord Jesus had told his followers to meet him in Galillee following his resurrection. Forty days later he told them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

So they left the mountain called Olives and returned to Jerusalem. It was a little over half a mile. They went to the upper room they had been using as a meeting place,

Peter,

John,

 James,

 Andrew,

 Philip,

 Thomas,

 Bartholomew,

 Matthew,

 James, son of Alphaeus,

 Simon the Zealot,

  Judas, son of James.

Acts 1:12-13 (The Message)

Take a look at the remaining eleven disciples. A motley crew of fishermen, tax collectors, political activists, and other odd bods. Not the group you would choose to begin a world wide movement for a radical spiritual faith. On their track record in the gospels you wouldn’t gamble on their staying the course. History, however, proves otherwise. Nearly all the early disciples went from their homes and spread the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the Roman empire and beyond. All but one met a painful martyr’s death for their sedition against Rome and their offence against religion.

But what about us. We may be said to be unlikely candidates for a world wide movement for a radical spiritual faith too. But if we were ever to face the charge of spreading the gospel, through our thoughts, our words, our actions, would there be enough evidence to convict us. Martyr literally means ‘witness’ and Jesus calls his followers to be his witnesses throughout ‘Jerusalem, Judea, and to the ends of the earth.’ Will we have courage to be his witnesses where we are, no matter the cost?

Lord, grant me the courage to be a witness to your good news today, in thought, in word, and in deed. Let me display your sacrifical love in my life that others will see how beautiful you are. Amen.

As the first cosmonaut into space Yuri Gagarin was used by the Soviet aethiest propogandists to observe, ‘I see no God here!’ But what should we expect to see when we look up?

These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, “You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.” Acts 1:9-11 (The Message)

The truth from the Bible is not that heaven exists above us, the earth beneath our feet (although it does), and hell below. When Jesus ascended to heaven he did rise, and metaphorically speaking this speaks of the hieght of heaven. We know that Yuri would not see God out in space. He was looking in the wrong place. Heaven is the encompassing presence of Almight God. He made earth to be the place of his creation, and therefore said to be his ‘footstool’ but his head resides as ruler of heaven. Heaven is the spiritual domain created by God, and from which the devil fell to his dominion at God’s feet. When Jesus returns, in the same way as he went to heaven but with the angel host and God’s glory, then  we will not fail to see him. To look after his going, to the skies we will only find them empty. Until Christ returns we will only have glimpses of heaven that is coming on earth. We will glimpse it in each other, the acts of kindness of a stranger, the power of love to overcome all wrong. Until Christ returns we are to seek to bring the kingdom of God in through the power of the Holy Spirit (who comes at Pentecost). Until Christ returns ‘on the clouds of heaven’ we are to live expectantly and seeking to emulate the sacrifical love of God in Jesus. 

Heavenly Lord, show me glimpses of heaven come today. In the world around me show your power. Let the part I play in this give you glory and praise as I live expectantly of Jesus’ return. Amen.

What is our responsibility as followers of Jesus today?

He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.” Acts 1:7-8 (The Message)

Christians have been conned, in the course of recent years, into believing a lie. If we are good, live right, go to church, and pray, then we will be doing what God wants of us. Unfortunately this is a misunderstanding of God’s will for those who would follow Jesus perpetuated by church institututions and a society that is afraid of the truth. What God wills is that every believer should receive the Holy Spirit and be witnesses to the work of God in Jesus at home, through out their nation, and even in other nations. This is not something we can do in our own human strength but only with the sure and certain faith that has experience of God’s intimate presence. Trying to be good alone, and in our own strength, gets us nowhere with God. Living right has its benefits but following the will of God for our lives, through his strength, is better. Going to church serves a purpose if it is that we do so to meet with God and his people to hear from him and follow his will, and prayer is only effective when we do so in the Spirit.

Being witnesses to Jesus means persevering in relationships to bring others to the knowledge of God. Being witnesses to Jesus means speaking truth (in a loving manner) when it would be easier to remain silent. Being witnesses to Jesus means experiencing the tranforming power of God in our own lives in order that it might be real in the lives of those people that God draws us to.

Lord, let my whole life, in the sight of others, in the words I speak, and in what I do, witness your sacrifical love and power to others today. Amen.

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