NTX – Nov 8 – Acts 19-20

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

Paul shows up in Ephesus ready to do his thing for Jesus. Surprise, it doesn’t go well at first. People refused to believe in spite of Paul’s persuasive description of God’s kingdom.  So, Paul packs up and splits! Ah, no that’s not how it happened is it? Paul didn’t bail. He made one small change. One small change can bring breakthrough in our lives. One small tweak can cause a huge difference. Think of how important Paul’s work in Ephesus was…what would have happened if Paul had wiped the dust off his feet and moved on? He certainly seemed to have a right to do that. Instead he switched locations and for two more years he pushed so that all the Jews and the Greeks heard the word of the Lord. Was it a different word than he was sharing at first in the synagogue? Was he more persuasive in his arguments in the lecture hall of Tyrannus? I don’t think so. One small change, let’s try it. One thing, can you think of one small doable thing that you might change in your life to further Christ’s work in you and through you? Two simple steps:

  1. Think it.
  2. Do it.

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NTX – Nov 4 – Acts 10-12

I love the story of Peter’s vision and the conversion of Cornelius the Roman Centurion. It marks a turning point. The text gives us loads of information on the story. The very length of this narrative suggests that it was a vital moment for the early church. There are the chapters here and Peter sort of retells the story in chapter 15 as well. Would this new group reach out to the people around them? Would those who represent uncleanliness and sin be invited into this Jesus movement? If so, what would that look like? Would they need to become Jewish? If not, how would the early believers hold on to their Jewish distinctiveness? What was more important their heritage or the future? God had made them the way they were. God had celebrated their Jewish distinctiveness. God had set them apart. Was it time now to let go of some of that? Could they hold on to it and reach into a world that found it all so strange? The next several chapters deal with these questions and more. I see several parallels between the choices that the early Jewish church had to make and the choices that we are faced with today. Will we change to carry life into the future? Has God given us a vision to do so? Will we cling to our convictions from the past? Can we do both?

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NTX – Nov 3 – Acts 8-9

Today I’m dwelling on tough stuff. The truth is I don’t seem to face too much tough stuff. Oh, don’t get me wrong like just about everyone I know I can point to things that I like to define as difficult and then praise myself for making it through them.

I don’t have any money and last week my TV shows were reruns—ouch. Later today I have to send out a press release promoting our Thanksgiving meal. I’m not looking forward to it—oh, the suffering. We have two exit signs that have to be wired and mounted near the basement doors downstairs—agony, pain. My schedule is full and the denomination wants our statistics from last month—discomfort, misery. Add to all of that the torture of the coming holidays and I may just be suffering more than Job.

I think that sometimes when we live like royalty we are tempted to redefine “tough” so that we feel like we’re suffering. Then we wonder why the kingdom isn’t expanding. After all, look how much we suffer for it!

I’m reading Acts. The names convict me. James. Stephen. Peter. John. Paul. Tabitha.

Have I even seen suffering?

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NTX – Nov 1 – Acts 1-4

So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

This bit from the reading today about replacing Judas got me thinking about casting lots. What’s up with that whole thing? I put some thought into this back in Jonah. You can check it out here.

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NTX – Oct 31 – John 18-20

Sunday Scott did an amazing job sharing with us from John 17. I approached the reading this morning from chapter 18 with serious excitement. At the start we saw that Judas had betrayed Jesus to the officials and they marched out to arrest the Christ. The religious leaders and officials had had encounters with Jesus before. Often they were unable to catch him either physically or with trickery. This time they wanted it to be different so they came in force.

So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. v.3

There were officials from the chief priests with this group. There were Pharisees with this group and there was an entire detachment of soldiers with this group.  So the Jewish leadership and strength was well represented and the Roman leadership and strength was present as well. Certainly one lowly carpenter from Galilee posed no threat to a group like this. The very numbers involved in a “detachment” of soldiers suggests that they showed up with serious might. It wasn’t only a small army of people that this mob brought with them to the olive groove. They were carrying lanterns, torches, and weapons.

What might that mean? Maybe they thought Jesus and his followers would flee? They would need lanterns and torches if it turned into a search.

Maybe they thought Jesus would lead his people into battle? If so the captors would need weapons.

What actually happened is astounding. This giant group representing the collective might of Religion and Government shows up. Are there any two forces in history that have wielded more power?

When that might shows itself with all of its authority, Jesus doesn’t run, he doesn’t fight. He only speaks. He simply reveals himself and his words.

When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. v.6

There is no power greater than the Jesus we serve. His very voice could have melted their eye sockets. Instead, he submits to this group, he oozes love and concern. Even as his followers around him are either trying to fight or to run away—Jesus simply stands, serves, and speaks.

What if we stop running? What if we stopped fighting? Would all those who pose as authorities fall back before the love of Christ?

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NTX – Oct 27 – John 6-8

There is an old Jewish legend that suggests that the Serpent didn’t only tempt Eve with the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden but that he tempted her to join him in a sexual affair. The legend suggests that she gave into that temptation and that Cain was actually a son of Eve and the Serpent, while Abel was the son of Adam and Eve. As we all know Abel came to a murderous end at the hands of his brother Cain. In the apocryphal story the Rabbis seem to also imply that as time went by Cain’s descendants ran amuck and caused all of the ugly that we see before the flood. Noah was different. Noah was descended from Seth (Adam’s son that replaced Abel.)

Noah and his family get on the Ark and they are saved. One problem: The fable suggests that Noah’s wife was a daughter of Lemech a direct descendant of Cain. That leaves everyone in history with this weird mixed up dualism. We want to do right like our fathers (Seth—Noah) but we want to do evil like our fathers (Cain—Lemech.) Which father will we follow?

It’s pretty safe to say that the Jewish story is only a legend but it hints at a spiritual truth that Jesus spoke of in today’s reading. You and I are following a father of some sort. While Christ was arguing with the Pharisees in Chapter 8 he said this:

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Jesus calls us to decide. What father are we following? Do we follow our earthly fathers who can set mixed examples? Do we follow the father of lies? Or do we follow our heavenly Father?

So today’s question is an old one revisited: Who’s your daddy?

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NTX – OCT 25 – John 1-2 (Bonus Guest Blogger)

Tom is our guest blogger today. Here’s how God ministered to him this morning:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…

Wow John starts clear from the beginning all in a great big nut shell about the Glory of God, and His grace. John Testifies that Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

I get chills of excitement when I read this, because I imagine myself one of John’s disciples and hearing him say, “Look, the Lamb of God!” I know I would want to go and check this Jesus out. Find out where he was staying for the night, and go tell everyone, “I’ve found the Messiah! This is the One who has been prophesied about!” (Well over 300 times in the Old Testament and for 1000’s of years prior.)

Then we find out that Jesus knows everything about us. Oh I believe now. And to top it off He asked me to go for a walk with Him!?!?!?!?

I look at my watch and my bubble popped. I’ve to clock back in from my lunch? Nooooooooo!

Wait a second. Jesus is with me everywhere I go. He is with me even after my break is over, and I go home, eat, take a shower, go to bed, and even when I’m too busy to think about Him.

I think about how His heart must be breaking after Jesus gave us everything, so we could live forever with Him. And we do so little to give our all back.

What more could we be doing to invest in our eternity with Jesus.

TJegelhoff

Tom works the night shift full time. He still finds the time to serve at Story Point as our tech minister and in too many other ways to count. He and his wife are raising a family of four. On top of all of that he is diligently seeking ordination through the course of study and actively preparing sermons to be shared with others.

If he can fit the Scriptures in so can we.

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NTX – OCT – 25 – John 1-2

Early in John’s gospel we meet a fellow named Phillip. After Phil’s encounter with Jesus he goes and tells his buddy Nathanael that they’ve found the one they believe to be the rescuer that they been longing for.

At first Nathanael is skeptical when he meets Jesus. Jesus seemed to know him. So Nate says:

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

This could be Jesus simply revealing his power and ability to Nathanael. It could be Jesus miraculously playing the “I know all things” card. Certainly God in his wisdom can miraculously surprise us any time he so chooses. But some suggest that there is even more to see here. I can’t remember where I learned it but somewhere along the line I heard that the term “under the fig tree” was a Jewish euphemism for studying the Scripture.

Apparently when students of the Scriptures wanted to have some quiet time to study God’s word they would go and spend time “under the fig tree.”

So maybe, just maybe, Jesus is saying something along the lines of I learned about you as you learned about me. Maybe Jesus caught Nathanael digging into God’s word.

Jesus knows us. That can be surprising at times but we like Nathanael have opportunity to ask:

How do you know me?

When we ask that question, how will Jesus respond?

Dan, I saw you while you were still…

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NTX – OCT 24 – Luke 22-24

Today you started reading about the crucifixion in Luke’s gospel. That is unless you’ve fallen behind in your reading. Hey, if that’s you no worries, I love what our guest blogger, Patty, has to say today about her reading today.

Hey,

I’m behind in the reading, so this morning I was reading Luke chapter 9.  Here’s what struck me.  It was only in chapter 6 that Jesus called the 12.  It is not until chapter 22 that the whole crucifixion story begins to play out.  Now I’m not certain as to what the whole timeline was, but if the number of chapters following the sending of the 12 is any indication, then there was a whole LOT MORE teaching that took place after Jesus sent them and they returned than before He sent them.  Seems to me this is a good illustration for new believers today…we don’t have to know everything to go out and do what Jesus has called us to do.  We just need to go and do it and continue to learn along the way…I’m just sayin’…

Patty Armstrong is not only our guest blogger today. She serves as the greatest Youth Pastor ever right here at Story Point. Thanks Patty.

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NTX – Oct 20 – Luke 13-15

Mathew tells a parallel account of the parable found in today’s reading. I’ve reimagined it today.

A modern imagining of Matthew 22:2-14

God’s domain is like a CEO who put together a massive office party for is son. He sent inter-office memos and bulk mailings to everyone within the company advertising this spectacular party and offering free tickets to the celebration that he had planned. Surprisingly, his employees didn’t reply, in fact they refused the invitation.

Undeterred the CEO reached out again. He sent everyone emails, and invited the employees through posts on Facebook and Twitter. He was careful to note just how lavish the party would be: “Come for the Filet Minion and Lobster Tail! It’s all set—a feast!”

Sadly, many employees didn’t even acknowledge the invites. Others ignored them all together and went about their business. Some went as far as removing the CEO from their friends list, blocking his emails, or sending Trojan viruses back to the CEO’s computer, attempting to deter his ability to get the word out about the party. At this the CEO was offended and angry. He sent out his downsizing force and fired those destructive and ungrateful employees.

The office party was already set and the caterers had been paid so after restoring his computer network the CEO sent out new invites and free tickets to the event, this time the news went to those outside of the company. The word was spread across the land, billboards, TV ads, radio spots and more told of the greatest party ever. The tickets were offered at no cost to individuals far and wide. People from competing companies were invited, people from industry were invited, and folks from every manner of business and every walk of life were given free tickets to take part in the CEO’s bash.

Finally the day arrived and the party was about to begin. The CEO was surveying all those in attendance. He was surprised to find a person expecting to take part in the party without a ticket. After all, the tickets were free and readily available, but this man felt he didn’t need one. When asked how he got in without a ticket the man could offer no response. He wouldn’t even utter a word.

Then the CEO called security. They subdued the man with a taser gun and cast him out into the cold dark night where others who had refused the free tickets where murmuring and complaining through clenched teeth and tear filled eyes.

The tickets are free, but so many refuse them.

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