Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Whoosh! Storying through Acts Week 11: Extravagance

God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and love and self-control.
-2 Timothy 1:7

I've been thinking a lot about fear lately.

You might know that back in May, Dennis and I sold our house, the house we've lived in for 25 years, the house where most of our family's life happened.  And it happened much faster than we expected.  This set in motion the whole circus of dismantling that home, finding a new one, moving in and making it over.  We spent our entire summer doing this.  Every. Bit. We got up early and went to bed late and spent every ounce of emotional and physical energy holding on for dear life as we rounded a huge change curve.  I expected to be tired.  I expected to be overwhelmed at times, giddy at times, completely over my head at times.  Grateful.  Surprised.  Challenged.

Here's what I did not expect: fear.

Change, even good change, brings risk.  And that is scary.  Especially if our goal, our destination in life, is to be settled.  To have arrived.  To be comfortable.

I was thinking a lot about this as I prepared the story for this week's Wednesday Bible study. Last week, when we met, we talked about how much fear is involved in telling someone about Jesus and asking them to believe and follow him.  We are asking them to "repent".  That's an old word we've heard preachers say too many times.  When Jesus says it, when his apostles say it, they mean, "Change the way you think everything works.  Go in a whole new direction."

This is asking a lot of somebody, and so it is often met with hostility and fear.  That's certainly what happens in this week's story.  It's the story of Paul & Silas singing in a jail cell, of the Philippian jailer who asks, "What should I do to be saved?"  If you grew up in church, you've heard that part of the story, but you might not have heard the part about how Paul & Silas got thrown in jail in the first place.

Paul & Silas are going about the city telling people about Jesus, and they encounter a slave girl who is possessed by an evil spirit.  Her owners make a lot of money off this girl as a fortune-teller.  When  Paul exorcises the evil spirit, these guys realize they've lost their money-maker.  So they haul Paul & Silas before the city officials and incite a mob.

"These men are disturbing our city!  They're trying to overthrow our way of life!"

The good news of Jesus does overthrow our way of life.  Jesus demands that we rethink everything.  If you want someone to be comfortable, you will not share the gospel with them.  Because you know they cannot stay where they are and go with God.  You know this from experience.

It is scary to share the gospel.

It is scary to hear and believe the gospel.

It is scary to go where God takes you next in life.


God's Spirit beckons.  There are things to do and places to go.  
This resurrection life you received from God is a not a timid, grave-tending life.  
It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, "What's next, Papa?" 
- Romans 8:14-15 The Message

Click here listen to the story and download the Bible study.

Who will you tell this story to?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Whoosh! Storying through Acts Week 10: Discerning

Pick at random any of the saints.... I venture to suggest that the one vital quality which they had in common was spiritual receptivity . Something in them was open to heaven, something which urged them Godward. Without attempting anything like a profound analysis I shall say simply that they had spiritual awareness and that they went on to cultivate it until it became the biggest thing in their lives. They differed from the average person in that when they felt the inward longing they did something about it . They acquired the lifelong habit of spiritual response.

- A. W, Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Bless our Christian hearts.  We who really want sincerely to make a difference for God and do what he wants with our days, we can really bumble along and make a mess of it.  Many of us who have known God for most of our lives are still foggy about the question: "What is God's will?"  

Well, actually it's pretty impossible to spend much time in the Bible and not know God's will is.  The tricky part to figure out is how God wants me to do it.  What is God's way to get done what he wants?  

Here's the formula most of us follow:  I decide to do something for God, and I ask him to respond.

No wonder we have trouble following God's will, because that is not a formula for following.  

This is:  God shows me what he is doing, and I respond.

Ohhhh.  I respond.  Hmmm.

This requires that we develop and practice discernment.  

perceivemake outpick outdetectrecognizenotice,observeseespotidentifydeterminedistinguish;

Spiritual discernment is the ability to notice what God is doing around you, recognize it as the activity of God and determine what response he is calling for from you.  What's your part in what he's doing?
Paul urged the early church to grow in this ability.  He considered it essential for them.
I ask God to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do. - Ephesians 1:17-18
In this week's Wednesday Bible story, we see Paul and his companions learning how to do this.  

Click here to listen to the story and download the Bible study.
Who will you tell this story to?
In this