Justicetabernacle

In the chaos of faith, rebellion and obedience

Archive for May, 2011

What I Learned From Acts Today: Part 2

Posted by justicetabernacle on May 28, 2011

this is part 2 of my thoughts on an interesting part of the book of acts.  like spiritual gifts, God’s sovereignty is something that is very difficult to wrap our minds around- but it is something that paul writes on in his epistles.  again, his experiences along the way most likely shaped his thinking on these topics.

God’s Sovereignty

Acts 23:11
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

at the moment of reading, this little promise to paul might have seemed insignificant- but based on what was to come over the next period of time, it was a statement that paul had to cling to in order to trust that he was going to survive.  it most likely also gave him boldness to speak to rulers and authorities with conviction- knowing that because God had promised he would speak in rome, he would not be killed or held captive for too long.

then, in a sort of prophetic way- and facilitating his own way to rome, he, in his defense as a roman citizen, paul appeals to caesar- which under the law, assured him a hearing in rome.

Acts 25:11-12
If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them.I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

in strange irony though, we watch the behind the scenes banter between the roman governor festus, and king agrippa- basically they talk about how paul ‘could have been’ sent free, if he had not appealed to caesar.

Acts 26:30-32
“Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, ‘This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.’ And Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.'”

this is amazing and should teach us something about what is happening in our ‘lives’ and what God’s plan is.  God’s bigger plan was to get paul to rome to preach the Gospel- yet here, we, in our worldly thinking, may think that paul ‘missed out’ on the chance to be free, which in a real world kind of way, was indeed a missed opportunity.  that was my initial reaction when i read it.  you kind of get this gut feeling of ‘man, if he just had not made that statement about caesar, he could have just walked.’  but paul’s continued imprisonment from that point on, and eventual shipwreck on the way to rome, was all for the greater good of the Gospel.  this is a really great example and reminder to us, that we have to be sure to trust in the greater promises God makes to us- and to seek those out- not becoming distracted with worldly comfort and solutions.  paul was to go to rome, and he was going to get there as a prisonor, on a ship.  he did not ‘miss out’ on anything- he was just on the right track of where God was getting him to go.  if he had been let free, who knows how/if he could have ever made it up to rome at all.  paul was unwavering in his faith of God’s promise to him.  let us all build that kind of trust in the Lord- and not be so quick to judge our current predicaments.

*hasler

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What I Learned from Acts Today: Part 1

Posted by justicetabernacle on May 24, 2011

in many of paul’s epistles that are incorporated in the new testament, he wrote a lot about the gifts of the Holy Spirit as well as the sovereignty of God.  and while these passages are at times difficult to read and understand and cause a lot of debate in the church today, he seems to have been able to write them with ease and conviction.  today, as I read in the book of acts, i think i discovered a little bit of the reason why.

this is going to be a two part post.

Discernment from the Holy Spirit

in acts chapter 23, i was amazed by the way that paul used the Spirit of discernment in the face of grave danger.  around this time, we are seeing that paul is causing quite a ruckus among the religious community of the jews, due to his teaching and preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  in this scene, he is being held in front of a religious council under the protection of the roman officials.  as he examined the angry mob around him, which was trying to have him silenced and killed, he perceived something in his spirit:

Acts 23:6-10
Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.

this is brilliant- because he perceived that the crowd was a mix of pharisees and sadducees, he spoke out a clever statement about the resurrection that ended up causing discord and confusion among those who were gathered to do harm upon him.  he created disunity in the group, distracting them, and in essence exposing their unorganized case against him.  as the crowd got more an more out of hand, the roman guard decided to remove him, thus most likely saving his life.

how often do we have the opportunity to spoil the evil plans of the enemy, merely by being perceptive and listening to the Spirit?  would we not be able to be more effective in the mission we are on if we were to employ the gifts available to us?  let this be a challenge to us to be open, especially in moments of trouble, to the gifts of the Spirit.

*hasler

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The Unbelievable Hardness of the Human Heart

Posted by justicetabernacle on May 13, 2011

i remember once when i was in middle school- i came across the story of the rich man and lazarus in the bible.  i could not believe it!  it agitated me…  after i finished reading it, i immediately called my aunt, who i thought would be the best person to ask about such a perplexing passage.  i recall anxiously grilling her on how in the world this could be true?  how could it be that people would not come to believe the ‘truth’ if a person came back from the dead to explain everything: that there was an afterlife and that there was a hell… and that we need to truly believe and trust in Christ…
i don’t remember exactly what her answer was, but it was something along the lines of understanding the hardness of our hearts as human beings.  that if God does not awaken and soften our hearts, we can never really perceive Him and trust that He is good.

i have never truly been able to be settled on this point.  i believe that it’s true- but something inside of me always wants to think: “if there was just more evidence, people would believe…”  “if they could just really see what is to come, they would turn to God in repenetence…”  but at the end of the day, i have to come to grips with the idea of God’s grace- and how He, in His mysterious plan, grants that to us.  and that it is only  through His grace; not our apologetics and pleas to people, that will cause them to cling back to Him.

and then- in my study on God’s wrath the past few weeks- i ran into this passage below.  and again, the hardness of the human heart was so clearly and hauntingly displayed to me.  the passage sits in the middle of the book of revelation, where the tormenting and plagues are being explained.  and here, right in the middle of intense suffering, and a clear display of God’s power, sovereignty and wrath, we see people still refusing to repent.  in a way it is unbelievable- right?  how could they not be convinced in these moments?  but nonetheless is a poignant reminder for us all- to check our pride, idoloatry, and the state of the hardness of our hearts… and pray for God’s grace.

revelation 9: 17-21
(boldness mine)
And in my vision, I saw the horses and the riders sitting on them. The riders wore armor that was fiery red and dark blue and yellow. The horses had heads like lions, and fire and smoke and burning sulfur billowed from their mouths. One-third of all the people on earth were killed by these three plagues—by the fire and smoke and burning sulfur that came from the mouths of the horses. Their power was in their mouths and in their tails. For their tails had heads like snakes, with the power to injure people.

But the people who did not die in these plagues still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. They continued to worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that can neither see nor hear nor walk! And they did not repent of their murders or their witchcraft or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

*hasler

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Christ in the Middle of it All

Posted by justicetabernacle on May 10, 2011

it’s been a few weeks of moving into my new apartment and something about starting anew in a place like that just seems to suck away your time.  not to mention not having good internet connections, etc.  my lack of writing has been the result, though it is not descriptive of a lack of thought.  i have had more theological pondering in the last 2 weeks than i have had in some time.

most of it has been a result of me helping think through themes and attributes of God for the upcoming ‘God anthology’ series at ncc.  we have been very meticulous about how the songs for the series are being composed- being sure that we are ‘saying’ and ‘teaching’ the right things.  it has been a fun process and challenging for all involved.  in the end the project is going to be a fun composition- the product of many God-inspired voices, and the amazing musical talent of our team.

in it all though- especially the themes that i have been thinking through most- the centrality of Christ has been unavoidable.  and not that this is any real surprise, but in a way, i feel like i rediscovered something about His centrality, that perhaps had been weakened.  in that rediscovery, the most important part of the ‘centrality of Christ’ was the consistent revelation that Christ, the way we think about Him, must go beyond our picture of Jesus on the earth.  while the time of His incarnation was vital- and it is the part that we can perhaps most closely relate to, as He was here as God in the same form, that is human, as us… however, if we only focus on His life on earth and miss his transcendence, in that He was present at the creation of the universe and will be present at the time when all things are recreated in the end- then we miss the complete truth of God.

aside from helping with the theology of the songs- i also had a chance to talk to our ncc greece missions team about orthodoxy.  the great part about the orthodox church is this very point- the centrality of Christ- and specifically the ‘resurrection.’  in searching out the ‘mysteries’ of God, the journey and discovery always begins and ends with Christ.  nothing can be known without Him- and the things that we end up knowing, are Him.  He provokes our curiosity to seek Him, and in the end, the thing that we find, is Him.

in the vein, i will close this post with a quote i came across yesterday.  i love this… it is from-

Mother Maria of Normanby:
“Truth for us is not a system of thought. Truth is not created. Truth is. Christ is the truth. Truth is a person. Truth is not limited within our appreciation of it. Truth transcends us; we can never come to the full comprehension of Truth. The search for Truth is the search for the person of Christ… Truth is the Mystery of the person of Christ; and, because it is a person, the Mystery is inseparably linked with the event; the event of the encounter. Mystery and event are one… The Mystery, for the Orthodox mind, is precise and austere reality. It is Christ, and it is to meet Christ.”

*hasler

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