Friday, July 4, 2014

What's Stopping You?

Sometimes we talk about the Apostles as if everything was kittens and rainbows for these guys, as if everything they touched turned to gold. Yes, they had amazing displays of the Holy Spirit power. But let’s not pretend there weren’t obstacles to their mission, which, by the way, is also our mission.

It is interesting how the book of Acts begins and ends. In Acts 1 we have the disciples barely wanting to start their mission.

Do you remember Acts 1? Jesus tells them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. Instead of asking what that might be like, they ask when he’s going to come back. Jesus gives them the equivalent of ‘Don’t worry about it!’ Then He ascends right before their very eyes. Then they stand there with jaws dropped, like a bunch of Gomer Pyle stunt doubles, until an angel has to ask them what they are standing around for.

When the Holy Spirit comes on the disciples in Acts 2, it becomes a line in the sand. Goobers no more, the disciples become a force to be reckoned with.

And as we go through the early chapters, everyone is trying to stop the disciples from preaching about Jesus. Disciples are being arrested and killed. Even some young guy named Saul is taking it upon himself to travel around and arrest Christians from other cities.

Then Saul encounters Jesus, becomes Paul and it would appear all Heaven breaks loose. History tells us of how the disciples went all over the place, with a special focus on Peter going to the Gentiles and Paul travelling all over.

By the end of Acts, Paul is under house arrest in Rome, a long way from Jerusalem (Google Map). Acts 28 tells us he preached the word of God everyday and "nobody tries to stop him."

Going from a message that everyone tried to squelch to a message that nobody even tries to stop is quite a deal. You might even call it an act of God. I want to pause here and make sure you're with me, kind of like a children's cartoon character who asks questions and waits for a response. 

Fast forward to today. I hear lots of people talking about our rights to pray and our freedom of speech. I hear concern that we might once again be shoved to the side of the American way of life and be inhibited from sharing Jesus with our friends and neighbors.

“The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.”
This quote is by John Adams, commenting on the First Great Awakening, a revival that took place starting in the 1730's, before the Revolutionary War.

This quote is used, along with others, to prove that the United States was founded on Christian principles. When contrasted with headlines in more recent history, it would seem that religious freedom is under attack. From being free to refuse certain types of legally recognized marriages to the tax status of Christian schools, hospitals and charities, it appears the ability for Christianity to have an equal voice in the public square is becoming diminished.

Doomsday prophets are pointing to Revelation and assuring us that our basic rights will disappear next and that the end times are upon us. They might be right. What do I know?

But since when did Christians ever depend on what the world was allowing in order to complete our mission?

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