Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reading Challenge: Acts 15

Welcome back everyone. Great thoughts over the past few days...very insightful stuff. 

Today's reading is from Acts 15

This is one of the most important chapters of Scripture in the entire Bible. The decision being made at this council held the potential to unleash Christianity into a force throughout the world, which it did, or it had the potential to kill the movement dead in its tracks. The decision as to whether the Gentiles would have to follow Jewish customs and Mosaic law was the issue being decided on. If they would have made the decision for the Gentiles to have to be circumcised, follow the food laws, and follow Jewish customs in order to become Christians, my guess is that the movement would not have made it very far; in fact, none of us would probably be having this discussion today. 

Question: what issues today and decisions we are making as followers of Jesus could potentially be a stumbling block for other people to come into the faith? Are we creating unnecessary hoops for people to jump through or are we sharing liberally the grace that has been made available through Jesus? We have to be careful about how our decisions as people and churches can have many ripple effects.


  1. the biggest take away:

    Why are we not rejoicing in things we have to abstain from for the Lord?

    Yes the gentiles didn't have to abide by all the rules but they still had rules if you want to call them biggest thought is this though: why can we not rejoice in things that probably are better that we abstain from...instead of being discouraged by it?

    I know most Christians find it hard to not watch certain movies..or listen to certain music....not that I am saying we have to...but why do we view it as such a sad thing? It seems that present day Christians are always upset about giving up things to follow Christ better....

    Yet the gentiles rejoiced!

  2. Verse 11:

    "No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

    Love this. Ok...I'm about to hop WAY up on a pedestal on this one because it PAINS me how counterproductive so many "Christians" can be. I am not perfect, by any means, but here is what I'd like to say sometimes:

    -Yes, I drink wine AND *gasp* beer and an occasional martini or margarita, but I'm not getting wasted. PUT YOUR FORK DOWN, and grab the plank out of your eye while you are at it, food addict!

    -Yes, I listen to secular music, but I'm selective and try not to listen to stuff that is harmful to my spirit. Worry about you watching the t.v. shows/reality t.v./soap operas/movies that are nothing but a display of behavior that is the OPPOSITE of how Christians are supposed to act.

    -I dance. My whole family dances around the house almost daily. We are happy. We rejoice in all that God has blessed us with. Instead of judging me, perhaps my "judges" could get off their behinds and move, b...get out...rejoice...FIND joy and come off their meds and out of their funks and maybe they won't have the attention span to focus on me dancing?!

    Now, these are blanket statements and unfair. I'm not saying all of the opposites I mentioned are bad. I know sometimes meds are necessary, I know some reality shows are uplifting. I'm just being the "other end" of the argument.

    There are so many "rules" that Christians SHOVE down the throats of their own Christian families, then think that forceful tactic is going to ATTRACT non-believers?

    God's grace is it. It's sufficient. From there it's between me and God. And if God wants to provoke change in my life that is going to cause MY PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH MY ABBA FATHER to strengthen, then he will place people and circumstances in my path to supernaturally and majestically transform me to HIS glory. No one's rules or judgement can do that.

    I think the opening video of who the journey church is says it with mad skilz, "For years, churches have placed a high priority on Jesus as the get-out-of-hell card. At our church we place the highest priority on Jesus as the live-life-to-the-fullest invitation." Word.

    I just wonder how miserable the "Jews" of our current world church are, (who try to live up to perfecting/living the rules and failing every day) vs. the "Gentiles" who simply seek God because they know life just SUCKS without Jesus at the center of it.

    If we simply offer Jesus as grace and tend to our brothers and sisters once they are taking steps towards Him (as a Christian) with ways to live life more abundantly (through choices and behavior) we would have WAY more people interested in giving it a try.

    (Stepping off pedestal now.)

  3. Erik, man you are so right that this is a crucial moment in church history. Could this be why Peter was called be Christ, "The upon which I will be my church?" Peter spoke up and was an advocate for the Gentiles just as Paul was.
    As for the stumbling blocks that keep people from coming to a faith in Jesus? I think "Religion" has created those hoops. There are somethings a christians we cannot compromise such as salvation, death burial resurrection, and water baptism after.
    After that there are many instructions on ways to live a fuller life in Him, but we must be careful to realize where each person is in their faith and use grace accordingly to each situation just as God does with us. He did not paint us with one broad stroke, he created personalities and gave different gifts. However as Paul says, "Do not cause your brother to stumble." "If you have faith to move mountains and have not love you are nothing but void noise." Be careful not to judge, but also be careful not to let your actions cause another to lose faith.
    God looks at the condition of ones heart, not what they show on the surface.

  4. I feel that as Christians the utmost priority should be placed upon spreading the word of Jesus. It is not our place to create the proverbial hoops for others. When someone truly surrenders their life to Jesus, their own convictions will prevail and they will be guided by the spirit. I know my personal experience has been a decline in the desire to participate in behaviors that are harmful to my spiritual growth. Instead, I have a growing desire to do the things I feel led toward. If we constantly bombard those who are blind to the grace of Jesus with so called rules they must follow. They may be pushed farther away because they have yet to die to themselves and live for Jesus.

  5. Have you really been married 7 years already!! Congrads man. We just had our 5th! Have a great anniversary!

  6. Great thoughts everyone...I love hearing all perspective from everyone.

  7. This is one of those BIG chapters in the bible. It's the first example of structure submitting to spirit.

  8. Peter can teach us a lot from these chapters. IN one of his later Epistles Paul says that he had to confront Peter because would eat with the gentiles until "those from James" came, then he would only associate himself with the Jewish brothers.

    It's a good lesson to learn that we can say the right things about inclusion and we can beleive in our heads and hearts that we aren't called by God to put on the "Christian" act...but it's how we behave when our Christian brothers are watching that matters.

  9. " The apostles and elders met to look into the matter, and after the discussion had gone on a long time,,,,,," Jerusalem Bible

    Not a quick decision, but one that was pondered on. The importance of it, caused them to deliberate.

    "This silence the entire assembly, and they listened.." A moment of divide intervention.

    Even though we see the leaders of the church pause to reflect on the importance of their decision. The congregation to have its attention arrested. These moments of solidarity does not mean that all things will be smooth. Because right in the middle of this divine appointment for revelation to all those involved...we have Paul, Barnabas, John Mark, and Silas going their different ways. One translation even called it bitterness. Even though this was sad, the silver lining in what seemed like a storm cloud was the doubling their ministry efforts. Later we will see restoration between these servants of God.

  10. Sometimes we want everybody to be the "same" to make ourselves more comfortable.We want everyone to dress the same,talk the same and have the same ideals as we do.If it's not the same, they must be wrong.
    We want God to love us for what we do.I have had people tell me they loved God more than I did because they spoke in tongues and had visions.Because they did certain things they were closer to God and He favored them.
    Jesus was all about UNITY.We need to examine our perspectives and ask ourselves some hard questions.It may suprise us how set we are in our prejudices.We need to be more concerned about giving up our "rights" to promote harmony and unity rather than saying,I am under the blanket of grace and I can do this and this and such and such.
    Paul addresses this very topic.Sure some things are okay, but having my way in liberty shouldn't be more important than helping to build someone up.
    Christianity is about respect.Respect others by not expecting them to conform to our cultural standards,respecting the differences,and sometimes forgoing our freedom out of respect.That popular phrase could apply here about what would Jesus do and also, would I do this if Jesus was physically standing here in front of me?
    The whole idea of certain Jewish converts wanting to put the Gentiles under the law is addressed in a history lesson in Romans 3and 4.Abraham was given the promise BEFORE he was even circumcised.How was he justified? By Faith.Oh my goodness,an uncircumcised Father of the Jewish nation was counted righteous by his faith, not works?! Gal.3 says,"Ye are all children of God by faith in Jesus Christ...neither Jew nor Greek,bond nor free,male or female,ye are all one".
    The church fathers and apostles came to the correct conclusion because verse 30+31.they gathered the multitude together and read the epistle:which when they had read,they rejoiced for the consolation". Certain people had stirred up hard feelings.How would you feel to be snubbed by fellow christians? They wern't allowed to even sit to eat next to them.They were being treated like 2nd class citizens instead of family.The epistle addressed the issues head on and gave them comfort and peace.We need to examine our motives for doing what we do and strive to be more about others and less about ourselves.