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Raisins of the Spirit

A week or so ago, I heard a passage that never fails to provoke in me simultaneous feelings of peace and longing. Acts 2:44-46: And those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread together with gladness and sincerity of heart.

“…with gladness and sincerity of heart” grabbed me that day, because my own heart was feeling neither. I was tired, irritable and didn’t want to be there. Unfortunately, this has been a common theme for me of late. I’ve been aware for some time that I am not bearing fruit for Christ; raisins, maybe. While I haven’t felt particularly called to a new undertaking, I have absolutely been called to serve in other, perhaps humbler ways, like showing my family and friends love and generosity. They know that I love them, and while I still go through most of the motions of serving them, my heart hasn’t been in it. It feels like a gargantuan effort.

My husband and I are expecting a baby and I’ve recently transitioned to full-time stay-at-home momhood. These are both incredibly joyful things, but I do recognize the part that these major physical and emotional changes probably play in my current feelings. Nonetheless, I stubbornly refuse to relinquish these things to God. I don’t WANT to serve. Well, no; that’s not entirely true: I want to serve me. While I know that serving Him is infinitely more rewarding, it often feels difficult. What I’ve been mulling over is why it feels that way.

I know that I can’t manage gladness and sincerity of heart through plain old willpower. Fruit of the spirit flows from my connection with God. And it does take work to maintain or reestablish relationship. I’ve never been particularly good at that, even in my people relationships. Over and over again, I fall short. I pray often, but seldom with the kind of abandon necessary. What do I mean by that? If you’ve been there, you know. I hold back from God. Get down on my knees and commit to repentance? Hmmm… maybe tomorrow. The passage above is a perfect example. I read about the disciples of the early church selling all their possessions and giving to others and I think, that sounds incredible. I mean, I don’t know that I want to sell everything I own, but I’d like to have that. Honestly, it sounds more like wishful idealism than a real possibility. How sad! Like the rich man who couldn’t quite bring himself to give everything (Luke 18-30), I hoard my demons. Neither have I been stimulating reflection through Bible study or any other study. It is time to put these things right.

God, please forgive me for stumbling again and again. Please grant me the love, humility and courage to seek your will instead of my own. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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Spirituality

The “A” Part of this Q & A Blog – Indirect Clues to the Nature of God

A few days ago I posted an entry based on a few verses in Acts 16. I talked with someone about that post today and she brought me face-to-face with just how sadly lacking my Biblical knowledge really is! 🙂 If you’re interested in the overall aim of that entry, you can read the entire post here:

https://daretodelve.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/indirect-clues-to-the-nature-of-god/

In Acts 16, Paul cast out a spirit of divination from a girl who had been following him around for days stating that Paul and his companions were “…slaves of the Most High God who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” (verse 17) In trying to understand why Paul would be particularly bothered by this, I conjectured that the word “slave” might have been offensive or a misrepresentation. It was brought to my attention, however, that this word was used by the apostles themselves in reference to their relationship with God quite frequently (See Romans 1:1 for an example). A little historical context helped me to understand how this status would have been accurate and favorable to them. If you are interested in this, Google the word “doulos.”

My educator went on to say that while the Bible doesn’t tell us exactly why Paul was “annoyed,” it would seem that this demon (while not not being deceitful as far as we can tell) was hindering Paul’s work.

Please don’t hesitate to set me straight if I’ve misrepresented you, C! Thanks for your insight and for taking the time to respond!

 

 

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Indirect Clues to the Nature of God

I confess that I sometimes read between the lines more than I should when I study scripture. But at least part of the reason I do this is because I’m searching for more information about who and what God is. While the Bible does give us some very direct statements about that, I think His less-visible presence in scripture deserves as much attention. For instance, if someone tells me about a woman named Jane Doe who is very honest, I might have a good feeling about her based on that. If I read that Jane turned in a stolen purse with hundreds of dollars in it, I might believe in her honesty with greater conviction. Finally, personal interaction and experience with her might fully convince me of her honesty. Today I’m focusing on that middle step.

A couple of weeks ago the pastor at my church gave a sermon based on a passage in Acts 16. It was interesting (as usual) and she went a direction with it that I never would have considered, but a couple of verses stood out to me for different reasons. Acts 16:16-18 reads:

  • 16As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servantse of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

The first thing that strikes me is that Luke (the author of Acts) doesn’t say anything about this “spirit of divination” being false. And then I wonder why Paul would be bothered by her. This girl was actually acknowledging God’s ultimate power. The word “servants” does stand out to me. When I refer to the reference at the bottom of the page in my Bible, it says “Greek bondservants.” The version used at church actually uses the word “slaves.” It makes sense to me that Paul would be offended by this usage, since his message is one of freedom and liberation from sin and death. The word “slave” would be a misrepresentation.

But then I wondered if Paul was upset for a different reason. He traveled performing miracles which benefited people. I’m not aware of the disciples performing any other miracles simply because they were “annoyed” or that didn’t have some humanitarian merit. So perhaps, even though this girl just might have converted people who were not otherwise open to the message of Jesus, Paul was taking a burden from her, relieving her suffering. I can’t imagine knowing things that God was going to bring about. I think that could be very painful knowledge to carry. If this theory has any truth at all, I think it speaks to the idea that God “cares” about us on an individual level. He didn’t use this girl as a means to an end.

There are a couple of other ways I could go with this; I’m just working my way through some different implications. Honestly, the first one rings truer to me. Perhaps both are entirely off-base. My point is that we can glean a lot from the Bible about the nature of God. If we take the time and make the effort to really consider scripture and weigh our ideas against other passages as we read, maybe we can come away with a kernel of truth, or at the very least, come away from our studies and devotions with renewed interest and enthusiasm.

Thoughts?

 

Spirituality

All or Nothing?

Yesterday, I told you that I have a hard time with black and white. Continuing in that vein, I’d really appreciate some perspective on a passage from Acts. I’ve included the scripture selection at the bottom of this post for reference.

First, a little background. If you’ve been reading the blog, you know that I started attending a Bible study that is reading through and discussing the book of Acts. Since I was a late-starter, I decided to catch up and read the first five chapters. Acts begins with Luke recounting the ascension of Jesus. He proceeds to give us the history of the early Christian church. After Jesus ascended, his disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and went out to teach and preach, performing good works and miracles. The number of followers increased rapidly and Luke tells us that Christ’s followers lived communally in that no ones’ possessions were their own. They divided all that they had amongst each other according to need and lived simply.

Acts 5:1-11 introduces us to Ananias and Sapphira. The couple sold a possession, but instead of dedicating all of the proceeds to the cause, they reserved some of it for themselves. Peter confronted them, saying that they lied not “…to men but to God.” When confronted, Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead.

So, what are we to take from this? Is “all or nothing” the moral of this story? I feel like there are a few things left unsaid here. Notably, what was their ultimate fate? Would it have been better for Ananias to give nothing? I wonder – can any of us truly say that we give our all – no holds barred – to anything? I don’t want to read something that isn’t there – the Bible never says that God struck them down or in any way directly caused their deaths, but I feel like that’s the implication. What do you think? I’m really very interested to hear some opinions or educated commentary. Thanks!!

Acts 5: 1-11

Lying to the Holy Spirit

 1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.
7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?”
She said, “Yes, for so much.”
9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.