Thursday, January 31, 2008

Born To Worship

I've been having a blast studying, reading and learning the book of Acts. It's been amazing to me all the things I've never seen before in that book. One of the things that has just leaped off the page for me has been the sense of awe that the early church experienced. It wasn't just the "signs and wonders" but it was the idea that Jesus really was the Messiah and that the penalty for their sins was paid in full. That knowledge was hard to get their hands around because all their lives they had operated in a sacrificial system that never satisfied the penalty for their sin before God. It only delayed or stayed off the consequences. If they missed a sacrifice or broke a rule, they felt as if they were hosed. Here's an excerpt from my observations on one section in the book of Acts:

Acts 2:43-47 (NASB)

43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.

44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;

45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

They kept feeling a sense of awe. God was performing many unexplainable things before their eyes and they were amazed. But these signs weren't presented in order to convince them to believe but to reinforce the decision they had already made. That decision was to acknowledge that Jesus really was the Messiah. They acknowledged that even though they didn't understand everything about this New Covenant, they understood that Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy and they were trying to get their minds around the idea that the penalty for their sins wasn't just delayed, but it was paid in full. They had a sense of newfound freedom and appreciation that resulted in less materialism and more generosity and closeness.

After 2000 years of Grace, sometimes I forget how truly awesome it is to be forgiven!

John Newton, author of the hymn Amazing Grace, had no real religious training as a child and grew up the son of a sea-captain/slave trader. John ultimately became the captain of his own slave ship which met with a fierce storm at sea. During that storm he cried for the Lord to save him in the midst of the storm. God did, and as Newton reflected on what had happened, he believed that God had indeed rescued him. He became a believer and recognized that day, May 10, 1748 as the date of his conversion to Christianity. He later quit his slave trade, met George Whitefield, began to write songs, entered the ministry, and at some point between 1760 and 1770 he wrote:

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)

That sav'd a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears reliev'd;

How precious did that grace appear,

The hour I first believ'd!

Thro' many dangers, toils and snares,

I have already come;

'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promis'd good to me,

His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be,

As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,

And mortal life shall cease;

I shall possess, within the veil,

A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,

The sun forbear to shine;

But God, who call'd me here below,

Will be forever mine.

After his conversion, he managed to never lose the sense of wonder and awe that God had saved him. My prayer is that I and all who read this will recapture that sense of awe and wonder at what an Awesome God has done in our lives!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sincerely Wrong

Sincerely Wrong

Acts 2:36 (NASB77) 36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified."

The news this week has been busy with reports of the new Tom Cruise biography and his involvement in the church of scientology. In those reports it is usually noted that the church is considered by some to be a "cult". Tom and the church have been getting a lot of press. In interviews about his church/faith, Tom is very convinced and very sincere in his beliefs. But no matter how sincere or convinced a person may be about their beliefs, it is entirely possible to be sincerely wrong.

The past two weeks messages have been pretty tough for some of us to deal with because they address areas of sin in our lives. Although those messages are hard to hear and to receive, they are necessary to keep us from becoming overtaken by our own poor judgment and sins. Paul reasoned with Felix of "righteousness, self-control and judgment to come". Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that judgment day will come for everyone. I not only want to make sure that I and my household are saved, but I also want to make sure that others understand the truth of Christ's return and that we aren't being lulled to sleep by the fact that He hasn't returned yet.

Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. I am convinced of that by the body of evidence in the bible and all that creation and life teach me to confirm that it is true. Therefore I preach so that men might believe. Please pray with me that God will raise us up as a standard, light and salt in a dark and dying world. Pray with me that we would separate ourselves from sinful behavior in order that others might see and believe. The child Jesus grew in "wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." In other words, he lived righteously in this present world. We are the most blessed nation on earth today. No one has experienced the level of blessing that we have received at the hand of God. I hope we don't ever forget where it came from!