- There are 26 names in the list; 16 of the 26 are singled out in some special way, either as deacons, co-workers, apostles, or a relative of some sort, either literal or figurative (i.e., Christian brother).
- Of the 16 individuals commended for specific tasks, almost half (7) are women.
- There are several married couples singled out and what appears to be four separate Christian communities; two of which seem to be house churches, Prisca and Aquila (16:3-5) and Aristobulos (16:10).
- Finally, in the list, there appear to be both Jewish and Gentile names.
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Saturday, March 29, 2014
- Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 1:1-7 NAS)
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Sunday, October 2, 2011
My Bethany friends,
We are now on the “other side” of Spiritual Advancement. We are into the semester routine…and for many of us that might mean we have misplaced some of the realities we discovered just 10 short days ago. On this Sabbath, could we take just a few moments to reflect upon both the profound words that were shared and the effects in our lives of the movement of the Spirit in our midst. Question: Are you the same today as you were before Rev. Clint Ussher came to Bethany? Can you see yourself falling back into some of the same, possibly even more destructive habit patterns as before? May it not be so!
Think with me about John chapter 5. This passage depicts a beautiful story of Jesus’ care and compassion for the disabled of the world. But more than that, it’s a description of the wholeness that Jesus offers to all who hear His voice. Listen to the description of the event, “Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie-- the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. (ESV 5:2, 4)” Traditionally, as story is told, an angel would “stir up” the water in the pool and the first one to get in would be immediately healed. But the story goes on, “One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’”
Now, you might think that the answer to Jesus’ question is obvious. I mean, the man is in the right place isn’t he? He’s here, near the temple, waiting for a miracle, his miracle. But in actuality, Jesus is not simply asking a question, He is holding a mirror up to the man. How could a paralyzed man be the first to get in the pool? And he has been going through the same quasi-hopeful routine for 38 years. Maybe, just maybe, he is comfortable with the situation that he knows.
But what in actuality is Jesus asking him? Several translations word it this way, “Do you want to be healed?” (ESV) or “Do you want to be made well?”(NKJ, NASB, NIV). Neither word choice gets at the heart of Jesus’ question. Listen to my translation of the unusual word, “Do you want to be made whole?” This word occurs 11 x’s in NT; 9 in Gospels (Matt. 12:13; 15:31; Mark 5:34; John 5:6, 9, 11, 14f; 7:23; Acts 4:10; Titus 2:8). Outside of our use in John 5, the most revealing is in the passage concerning the woman with the issue of blood. Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”(Mark 5:34 NIV)
Now, to John, the question Jesus is asking the man by the pool (and us) is this, “Do you want me to free you from what is destroying you?” Now, hear me carefully when I say, it’s not just his physical condition which is eating away at him. The man may not realize it but its more so his lack of faith that there will ever be any remedy. Moreover, we get even more insight into the man’s spiritual dilemma after his healing when “Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well!” (FYI, “well” is the same word we discussed above but this time in the perfect tense; “See, you are restored to wholeness”). But then Jesus goes on and says, “Sin no more that nothing worse may happen to you.’” Jesus explicitly states there are decisions that one can make which can return you to the same situation that you were in before Spiritual Advancement Week. Oh, please do not return but only go forward with the Presence of the Lord.
So, what will each of us do to keep from going back but rather to pursue Wholeness in our lives? First, “Align your lives with the means of grace God has put in your path.” For us here at Bethany, this is place before us every week.
- How about being transparent and utterly open before God and others with your life.
- How about the simplicity of reading a Psalm of Ascent (Psalm 121 for example) as you are walking to chapel. Prepare yourself for the meeting with God. Do not passively sit by the pool…but actively participate with Him. Expect to meet Him even before walking into the chapel.
- Make sure in the busy-ness of your schedule you set aside time for personal Bible study or to meet for public and private prayer. So many people are gathering for prayer walks or times of corporate prayer. Why not engage with them in a pursuit of the high-calling of Christ. Moreover, make D-Group not just another “check” on your Day-Timer but an opportunity to calibrate your spiritual compass in the direction of how God would like to fashion your Soul to look just like Him!
Second, one true shortcoming of many folks today who are trying to overcome spiritual shortcomings in their lives is that they attempt to remain in the grace of God all alone. Just like the man in John 5, “I have no one to put me into the pool for healing.” So why not intentionally align yourself with a spiritual mentor or guide, someone who is farther along the journey than yourself, and knows that wholeness can be attained because they live it before you each day.
May Your wholeness be what we seek.
May Your Spirit guide us on this journey.
May Your Body here on earth assist each of us.
May Your Image be re-created within our hearts.
May the pleasure of Your voice be what we long for, “For you are my beloved child, in you I am well-pleased.”
May we never stop short of anything less.
Monday, May 9, 2011
The Greek word for "complete" is the verb "teleiow" which is often translated as "finished." The initial words of Jesus' prayer are that He wants to bring God glory on earth by "finishing" His work. This prayer is of course a foreshadowing of Jesus' final cry from the Cross in John's Gospel, "It is finished."
Specifically, what is finished? This would include His work of reconciliation, of adoption, of sacrifice, of suffering, of abandonment, of forgiveness. For you as ministers, remember, Jesus is doing this work NOT you.
PLEASE listen to me carefully apply this text to your lives, this was His work.
This is so much more than an exegetical exercise.
For either we learn to live in the "it-is-finished-ness" or you will try to complete what you think or you feel is lacking in the work of God.
If the work that Jesus has completed actually brought Glory to God, should we tamper with it? Should we add to it? Or should me simply marvel in it? Hear me, IT IS Finished.
All of you graduates have completed your internship. And you know only too well that when you take all the cares of the world and the burden of ministry upon yourself; it is exhausting beyond belief. Hear me, IT IS Finished.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Friends, last week we were talking about what it means to simply "listen and obey." But in all practicality, there is nothing simple about this. If so, we would never have an inner struggle of faith plus there would be no disobedience in the Christian world.
So, what is so hard about listening? Maybe I can paint a spiritual metaphor that will define the overall problem. And I will do it in the form of a theological question. "What would make Sponge-Bob Square-pants a poor follower of Christ?" Go ahead, say it out loud. Right, "He has no ears." How can he listen if he has no ears? In essence, he is a spiritual blockhead. But that is nothing like us, right?
Read with me Psalm 40:6-8 …and let's create a "Theology of the Ear."
Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;My ears You have pierced;Then I said, "Behold, I come;In the scroll of the book it is written of me.I delight to do Your will, O my God;Your Law is within my heart."
Several years ago a male student burst into my office with Psalm 40 in his hand. He shouted, "I have all the biblical evidence I need. See, even God approves my ears being pierced." Now, he was trying to find scripture to justify to his parents that they should approve his desire to get his ears pierced. He read the text as if this act would be his offering to the Lord. I tried to convince him that he had unknowingly taken the passage out of context. For the NIV does a strange job of translating the Hebrew word kara. He was assuming this passage was referring to the act of faithfulness that a servant/slave does for his master by making a lifetime commitment by having his ear pierced. (See Ex 21:6; Deut 15:17). His only problem; it's the wrong Hebrew word.
The word "pierced" in Psalm 40 is a rarely used in the OT and it refers quite specifically to a cistern being dug out (Gen 26:26Num 21:18). The noun form of the word actually means "well" or "cistern." What the passage is describing is straightforward; we are human SpongeBobs. We have hands and feet (and are often found to be equally poor dressers). But worst of all, we have no real ears to hear the voice of God. Offering and sacrifices do not help in any way. God's words still falls on deaf ears. Furthermore, it will take a divine act of grace to fashion ears on the side of our heads that will hear anything above the earthly noise that fills our daily life. Our ears are only capable of hearing the within the auditory range of what I would call "daily distraction."
The Gospels report the same hearing disorder to Jesus disciples. After they have witnessed countless miracles and sat under His teaching for years, Jesus sadly says to them, "Do you still not see or understand. Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see? Do you have ears but fail to hear? (Mark 8:17-18)
We are no different. Maybe we are even affected with a worse disease; for they all lived pre-Cross and pre-Resurrection. Our deafness is rejecting the full revelation of God. Plus, what honor or praise are we giving to a speaking God if there are no human ears to hear?
So, may I now ask you a serious question? This very day, will you allow the Lord, the Divine Physician Himself to do a serious act of spiritual surgery on you? Will you let Him fashion a whole new set of ears for you? Will you permit Him to dig out and excavate your old deaf ears and replace them with ones that are capable of hearing even the gentlest whisper of the Spirit? Does your heart long to hear the voice of the Father, with clarity?
We desire to want what You want.
We pray for hearts to be shaped after Yours.
But Jesus, that may only begin when we can hear Your Word.
So begin with me this very day.
Use a divine instrument (Heb 4:12-13) and provide us with the ability to hear You.
We pledge to quiet all competing voices and distractions.
We promise to incline our lives in Your direction.
Now, Lord, heal our ears, dig deep into the recesses of our souls.
We long to hear…and obey.
Now, Go with God