I’m happy that God allows you to consume “blank”

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Feeling like you have to defend your personal and even parenting choices, to fellow Christians, feels weird. You’d think that everyone would be on the same team. Brothers and sisters in Christ and all that, but nope.

Over the years, I’ve had many of these discussions. Whether I’m telling someone about how I don’t let Wyatt watch Marvel movies due to content OR how I dislike the sexual character designs in Fortnite, I still feel judged. Christians are a weird lot where freedom in Christ seems to mean do whatever feels good to you. Do the pleasurable thing, Jesus surely said, and don’t think too much about it.

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial. – 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NLT)

A big part of our faith journey is dedicated to asking the questions:

  • Can I consume this?
  • Should I be consuming this?
  • What place does this thing have in my life?

We want those black and white answers where God simply says, “YES, YOU CAN PLAY GRAND THEFT AUTO: SINFUL EDITION.” But that’s not how the Christian walk works. The Christian walk is more about reading the Bible, listening to what God has to say, and engaging God AND the Holy Spirit in our decisions.

Have you ever noticed how when we don’t hear from God (He isn’t answering fast enough), we often turn to friends and even online communities for answers? Don’t get me wrong, community is a good thing. Being a part of several online communities, I have learned that what Christians are really looking for is justification for their media consumption.

We’ll say: “Andrew plays DOOM so why can’t I?”

The thing is, God may convict me over something completely different than you. I get that. It’s cool. But this judgement thing, making a fellow believer feel guilty over something God has convicted them over, is not cool. I’m happy that God allows you to consume _____________. I’m happy that you get to enjoy that freedom. I am. But please do not use your freedom to judge, and in effect, enslave me.

Feel Stuck Volunteering In The Church? Stop.

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Sunday mornings you get dressed, eat breakfast, and then head out the door to church. Upon arriving, you check your children into their designated areas. Ah, free childcare!

Navigating halls filled with the smell of fresh brewed coffee, you make your way to your small group. Greet friends. Swap stories. Enjoy a quick Bible lesson before heading off to the main service.

Everyone wants to be served and no one wants to serve. This model of the Body of Christ is broken. Prone to burning out volunteers who become stuck in their volunteer roles, for years. No escape. No growth. All due to someone else not heeding the call, that slight Spirit tug, to be the hands and feet of Christ to the church.

service

Dejected and depressed, these burned-out volunteers fuel our churches. Under the impression that if they do not serve, no one else will. This is a lie.

God calls every Christian to serve in various areas for a season. Seasons change, just look outside the window. The Bible talks about there being an occasion for everything (read Ecclesiastes 3).

I want to challenge those that feel stuck volunteering in the church to stop. Take a step back. Examine where you are on your faith journey, where God is calling you. The Body of Christ cannot function in selfishness. Give another brother or sister in Christ a chance to serve His people. Allow God to help them grow through service; Allow God to help you grow in freedom.

GO: The Groundwork

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19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

Jesus commanded his disciples to tell others about what they had seen, learned, and experienced during their time with him. They were to go and tell others about the Good News, that the Son of God had come and paid the price for all sin; that Jesus had lived, died, and had been resurrected on the third day.

In Acts 1, we find the disciples waiting in Jerusalem as they were instructed by Jesus:

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 1:4-5

The Holy Spirit soon comes, Peter preaches/confirms that Jesus was the Son of God, and the body of believers grows in numbers. One will notice, however, that no one is “going”. Instead, the believers begin to form a tight knit community, sharing everything they had with one another. Little did they know that a storm was coming.

The storm begins with small clouds (Ananias and Sapphira holding back part of their money in Acts 5:1-11) and slowly darkens as the Apostles are persecuted (Acts 5:17-42). Some of the religious leaders of the day write off the growing number of believers as simply a craze:

34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” – Acts 5:34-39

Note: The key verse here is verse 39 – “…But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” Who could argue with that?

Lightening appears on the horizon amongst the darkening clouds as one of the believers, Stephen, is killed for his faith. The storm has now hit. In Acts 8, the new believers who have failed so far to heed Christ’s words and “go”, are forced to move due to persecution:

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. – Acts 8:1

Something odd began to happen as a result of this:

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Acts 8:4

Christ’s command was finally being obeyed, His word was being preached. God was using a potentially evil situation for His good. But how does all of this apply to Christians today? Check-in tomorrow to find out.

Wednesday Night Study: Acts 2

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After a short summer break, my Sunday school class started back up it’s Wednesday night Bible study. This week we read from portions of Acts 2. We picked up right after the Apostles had received the Holy Spirit. Some in the crowd were wondering if the Apostles were in fact drunk due to hearing them speak in different tongues (languages).

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

So, Peter addresses the crowd:

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’[c]

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[d] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’[e]

29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’[f]

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

The Fellowship of the Believers

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:14-47 (NIV)

Thoughts from the study:

1. I love how Peter immediately addresses the crowd regarding the thought that the disciples were drunk (Acts 2:13). They weren’t! Peter quotes to the crowd scriptures found in Joel 2:28-32 which talks about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The day they had been told to wait for, by Jesus, had finally come.

49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” – Luke 24:49 (NIV)

2. My Bible had a side note that talked about how up until the time in Acts 2, all throughout the Old Testament, only select men (some kings and prophets) received the Holy Spirit. Now, all believers have the Holy Spirit in them the moment they accept Christ. We have been clothed with power from on high and sent a helper.

3. I also like how Peter re-accounts Christ’s story. Specifically telling the crowed that:

23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[a] put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

Verse 23 wonderfully reveals that Christ’s death was not in vain but part of a bigger plan. Oftentimes we can’t see God’s bigger plan for our lives. Rest assured that His plan is active and good. I like the following verse as well:

24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

4. We focused a lot on verses 42-47. Specifically on how the early Christians treated one another. A few thoughts hit me that I was unable to voice:

a. Much was made about how the early believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (42).” Our group openly wondered how we could be like this with our own class. We talked about how we could invite others into our homes and how we needed to get together more than just once a week. Something that struck me during this conversation is how we do not need to make a big deal about when we have people over. Reminded me of Matthew 6:3 – “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,”

b. Verse 45 talks about how they gave away their possessions and goods to anyone who had a need. I want to note that this verse says nothing about personal possessions or goods being bad or evil. As our group talked about what it looks like to give stuff away, to fight the American obession with goods, I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 5:18-20:

18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

God is always concerned about the individuals heart. I want to stress that it is a gift from God to be able to enjoy what He has given to you. This means that possessions and wealth aren’t bad! As long as your heart is in the right place, pointed towards God, you are good to go. Anything else is a guilt trip that reeks of legalism that seeks to rob us of a possible area of blessing from God.

In closing, this was the beginning of the early church, believers were excited about what God was doing. The Church still had it’s new car smell. I would argue that it is easy to do things when you are “enjoying the favor of all the people” (47a). Therefore, it would be easy to meet daily and live together when you do not have any conflict. When things are positive, with believers numbers being added to daily, it is easy to be a follower of Christ. What I love about Acts, as a book, is that it shows that things weren’t always easy for the early church and that things won’t always be easy for us. 

Next Wednesday, our Bible study picks up in Romans 1. Should be good!