LIFE IN THE SPIRIT

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Location: Horsham, Pennsylvania, United States

John is a "Tentmaking Evangelist" (Architect). Licensed and set aside for ministry by the Anchor Bay Evangelistic Association (non-denominational). Co-Founder of Kingdom Gospel Ministries, a ministry now in its 36th year with a mission to reconcile people of different racial, ethnic, educational, and economic situations, and the producer of three weekly radio programs - a Sunday morning verse-by-verse Bible Study on Radio Delaware Valley, a weekly message from current events in California, and a weekly radio drama on the Wilkins Radio network. He also has archived many, many radio programs and written articles on the Internet. John is a PA/NJ Architect with his own practice in its 43rd year working on a wide variety of projects including churches, convenience stores, residences, and academies as well as industrial enterprises. He has helped in numerous property acquisitions and worked with real estate investors. Acutely interested in politics since a teenager with many articles published over the last 55 years, he served as a guest on a Talk Radio show discussing race relations and on "It's Your Call" TV show with Lynn Doyle dealing with the subject of interethnic marriage.

Monday, June 11, 2012

BLIND SPOTS

I have been studying the book of Acts.  Reading the first six chapters, we can learn a whole lot.  Some of what I say many challenge your assumptions – but read all the way through, and if you have questions or comments, I truly welcome them.  I want to make four points in this post –

1)    The Apostles were doing amazing things. Pentecost brought a revolution of mammoth proportions into the life of those who desired to follow God.
2)    Even with all the miracles and sharing of possessions, there was a massive blind spot in terms of discrimination in the serving of food.
3)    The Power of the Holy Spirit is essential for EVERY ministry of the church.
4)    When we assign someone to a job and they do it well, they may end up doing OUR job better than we even did it!

First, some background on the amazing accounts in the Book of Acts. We know that both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were written by a medical doctor named Luke.  How appropriate for the Holy Spirit to speak through a medical doctor to document most of the healings in the Bible!   Luke also shares some information that could rock your world in terms of understanding Pentecost. 

Did you know that per Luke chapter 9, well before Pentecost, ALL the Apostles did acts of healing and drove out demons, INCLUDING Judas Iscariot?  There are many instances of divine health (to the Jews in the wilderness) and healing prior to the passion of Christ and prior to Pentecost.  While many now teach that physical healing is in the atonement, I believe differently – Moses healed through the brass serpent, Christ healed, and the Apostles healed all prior to the atonement. Why would God have stripes placed on his Son to bring about something that already occurred without that?  What kind of God would do that? I believe the context in all the Old AND New Testament scriptures is clear that Christ took those stripes for our spiritual healing.  Those stripes were essential in Christ taking the full wrath of God for sin on himself. Oh, how I love him for taking that beating for me! And suffering in so many ways both prior to the cross and on the cross.  Physical, emotional, and psychological suffering beyond our imagination. Amazing Love, how can it be, that thou my God should die for me! 

Beyond that of course, it that the atonement is guaranteed to bring results. Those who come to God will NEVER be cast out.  Salvation is an ironclad guarantee.  While healing should be far more widespread that it is, and more the rule than the exception, it is a fact that not everyone gets healed and not every CHRISTIAN gets healed.  To link physical healing and salvation can lead to gross disillusionment – not only in the love of God, but in wondering about their salvation as well since a false linkage was established.  There are numerous examples in the New Testament of Godly people who were not healed.  That would not stop us from seeking that all be healed, but in my opinion we are dishonest if we guarantee anyone healing, which would in fact be mandated if physical healing were in the atonement.

Nonetheless, even AFTER the Apostles had done many miracles, Jesus told them to wait to be imbued with power.  You see, the apostles derived the healing and delivering power from Christ who dwelt among them.  There are no records of any apostolic miracles from the time Jesus left until Pentecost. Jesus said that he MUST leave in order that the Comforter could come.  Jesus ASCENDED and the Holy Spirit DESCENDED.  The Holy Spirit gave the apostles the same power Jesus had, except now as a Spirit, healing was multiplied worldwide!  In addition to the physical miracles were the spiritual fruits of the Spirit.  Thousands became believers and the growth levels were immense.  I firmly believe that many who  were filled with the Holy Spirit had experienced Christ in person, and responded to the message when they saw the power of the Holy Spirit accomplishing through the Apostles the works they saw Christ do.  In addition, there was a level of care for each other that had not happened under Christ’s ministry because the Holy Spirit had not yet been given.  The sharing of goods and joy and boldness were all marvelous fruits of the work of the Spirit.

Nonetheless, we come to the second point – DESPITE all these wonderful things – gathering daily, breaking bread together, and worshiping together both GREEKS and HEBREWS, people who had previously not had much use for each other, there was INJUSTICE going on. The Greek widows were not being treated the same as the Hebrew widows in terms of getting food.  Many would not want to hear the complaint, but thankfully the leaders in a time of great blessing did not dismiss this concern.

However, the Apostles did not appear to take this as seriously as needed.  They were preoccupied with teaching the word, and saw this as a simply practical matter of “waiting on tables” INSTEAD of understanding the central theme of reconciliation in the gospel. This was left for Paul to explain later.  They did not see the full importance of the issue. It sort of reminds me of a white preacher at a dinner for a mostly black Bible school graduating class. He was obviously on fire to preach and help people, but kept using derogatory racial remarks not heard in many a year. He seemed clueless he was offending just about everyone in the room.  A person can be used of God while still backwards in an area.

The PEOPLE, not the apostles made the choice.  They thankfully did not see it simply as an issue of waiting on tables. They chose seven men, first of all Stephen, “FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”. One of the other six was from Antioch, bringing sorely needed diversity to the leadership.  Stephen and the others SOLVED the problem and we NEVER hear about it again.

That brings me to point three.  Stephen was picked for what the Apostles viewed as a menial task.  I have heard Deacons disrespected by leaders, and it appalls me.  Whether the preacher, the janitor, or an elder or a deacon, all work in the Kingdom is valuable. If you look at the qualifications for an Elder and a Deacon in either Timothy or Titus, the qualifications are very similar.   Stephen ran with it, and was SO effective he drew MORE attention than the Apostles and became public enemy number 1 to the Jewish leaders.

Fourth, Stephen preached a great sermon on the precipice of death with no notes and convicted the leaders to the very core of their being. He exceeded the apostles in preaching conviction.  As the first Christian martyr, he planted the seeds of absolute devotion to Christ in Saul who was standing there watching, and Saul became Paul and spent his life as a living sacrifice unto Stephen’s God.

So yes, there may be blind spots, but just see what God can do.  Do not be satisfied having the scriptures leap out of the pages of the Bible at you, or having a new tongue or a transfixing prophecy. Do not rest on your laurels the first time God uses you to bring salvation, restoration, healing or deliverance to someone.  Keep an open ear for issues you may have missed.  My late mother used to talk about great Southern Christians who were wonderful people who just had this issue about race.   Well, that issue has wreaked havoc in the church, with mostly segregated churches existing to this day.  At the church I was at Sunday, I was the only white person there.  The same is true in reverse many other places.   Be encouraged and know that when we take the hard issues by the horns, choose anointed people of God who are full of the Holy Spirit to solve them, we will see other spiritual blessings come just as they did through Stephen.   

Just be aware that if you tackle the hard places, the core areas of disobedience, you may well have rocks thrown at you as well.  But even if you do, Christ may well repeat for you the standing ovation he gave to Stephen.

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