An Alternative Story

Week 6 of The Way: a new series on the Book of Acts

Sunday Passage: 

Acts 4:23-37

Go Deeper Passage: 

Joshua 1:1-9

Reflection:

Roman Catholic Priest and Austrian Philosopher Ivan Illich was once asked, ‘What is the most revolutionary way to change society: Is it violent revolution or is it gradual reform?’ He gave a careful answer: ‘Neither. If you want to change society, then you must tell an alternative story.’

In Acts 4, the persecution of the church begins anew.

Peter and John had just been released from the Sanhedrin's interrogation. Everyone was in awe. God was being praised by all the people who saw The Spirit's miraculous works through the Apostles. This good work left the religious leaders with no choice but to sternly warn the disciples to not continue in the sharing of their good news. They told the officials that they wouldn't stop proclaiming the good news of Jesus. Punishment awaited if they did not stop.

This is the point where we have to look in the mirror.

It is one thing for us to experience God's grace enabling us to skirt social repercussions for being bold about our love for God. It is another thing when the crowd is praising God's people (or us) for the good they (we) are doing. It would be tempting for Acts to end here, wouldn't it? Call it a day. Pack it up. Remember that time that God did a miracle through us, someone was healed, and we proclaimed Christ boldly and somehow got away with it. That would be the beginning of our courage choosing death and not living in to the hope of the resurrection. Their story would have ended and you wouldn't have been reading this blog.  

What did the disciples do? They doubled down. They choose to embrace an alternative story.

As Peter and John reported what God had down, they quickly went back to prayer. There prayers were truth-telling. They embedded themselves in God's self-sacrificial plan. In declaration of God's vision for Jesus to give all of himself for us, they prayed not for safety, church growth, or success. They didn't ask for a life free of suffering. Instead they asked for courage to move beyond safety. For power to keep proclaiming the hope they had. They prayed for power. They plead for boldness. They asked for courage.

And boy did they get it! 

An earthquake shook the ground they were standing on. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the story of Jesus with boldness. They also told the alternative story of the gospel with their lives. They were more than safe. They were beyond comfortable. They weren't just empowered for a minute, but they became boldness personified. They were taken ahold of by God's story and lived life to the full. Selling possessions, they shared everything. They were of one mind and heart and power. They gave to any as they had need.

The church wasn't afraid of consequence but pursued an alternative story of courage.

Will you?

Questions:

  • What was your thinking/reaction in light of the early believers praying just for courage in light of their circumstances being threatened?

  • What causes your world to shake? Do you believe it is difficult or too scary to be honest about these thing? How could you become unshakable in the circumstances in your life?

  • What does it look like to help lead someone to Jesus, the unshakable rock in the midst of a world where people are shaken all the time?

Next Steps:

  • Jesus: Ask God what type of story you are living in relationship with Jesus? Are you living a courageous story of following Jesus or imitating a story that's already been told? Give Him your story and ask the Spirit for power to live courageously with it.

  • People: Make a choice to re-orient your life around community this week. A way that fights off individualism and takes courage to trust others.

  • City: Do you see a need in our city? What would it mean for you and a few Christian friends to be of one heart and mind in powerfully serving this need with God's courage? Sign up to serve our city with us, share a meal with someone on the streets, or sell possessions and give to those who could use a hand up.

Please share what you experienced going through this/how God is moving in your life by emailing us at story@aseattlechurch.com

 

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Ordinary?

Week 5 of The Way: a new series on the Book of Acts

Sunday Passage: 

Acts 4:1-31 (Hear Dan Jacobs' sermon here)

Go Deeper Passage: 

Acts 3:1-26

Reflection:

In Acts 3-4, we see an incredible story of fully alive faith.

Peter and John are gathered in the temple for their daily prayer time. While there, a man who has been lame for over 40 years approaches them to ask for money to help him in his challenges. This was his daily rhythm. Asking day after day after day for help from strangers. When Peter and John saw him, they asked him to look at them and told them that they didn't have money but that they would give him what they did have. By the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus, they reached out their hand to him. They took him by the hand and in trust of God said, "walk". They lifted him up and he was healed. His ankles and feet were strengthened underneath him and he leapt for joy. He celebrated and praised God so loudly that people saw his healed body and recognized him. They were shocked.

The crowd's shock was shocking to Peter.

This group of God followers were gathered at their holiest space to interact with God but couldn't believe when God healed someone in their midst. What were they expecting? The apostles quickly told them that it wasn't their own strength but by their faith in the Jesus who these religious people killed that God healed the beggar's body. They spoke truth to the religiously ignorant. They showed them how they both crucified Christ and believed that God had no power in their world. 

Peter and John invited them to stop believing these lies. He showed them how Jesus was the fulfillment of their entire story as religious leaders and people. He called them to repent and become a people who receive "God's time of refreshing." To be healed and made alive again. To stop living as if God used to do important things, and to start living as if he were their living story today. To let him be the only one who can offer them salvation, because he is the only one who can. 

Does this sound familiar?

It should. Too often it is our story. We settle for so much less than a God who is alive and speaking to us every day. We accept less than life to the full in Jesus. We are contented by our material, consumeristic, and successful comforts. We believe we need to add something to Jesus to find our courage to follow Him. We think that Christ alone will not satisfy us. We refuse his healing for the security of things that are here today and gone tomorrow.

Instead, these Disciples were looked upon as courageous. Yet, they were simply "unschooled, ordinary men" (4:13). The only thing that made them different was that it was evident that they had been with Jesus. Not once, not in the past, but in real time. This stumped the opponents of the good news. They asked Peter and John to stop telling people about Jesus, but couldn't deny the fruit of their healing presence.  Even better, Peter and John said that they couldn't stop telling people about Jesus. They were seeing and hearing God move too abundantly. They had seen God's faithfulness. They had a living salvation. Their whole life was centered on their savior. They had no other securities or fall-back plans. He wasn't an add on or a religious activity. He was their resurrection, hope, and life. Their story offers a hand up to our lameness too.

Peter and John were ordinary like you and me, but knew that their God was anything but average. Do you?

Questions:

  • Do you believe that God's healing presence is alive and at work in your life? In our world? That Jesus is the only way, truth, and life? That he is offering you a hand up from living a lame life or settling for less than His full presence in your world?

  • How could our community become a place where other's experience healing? How could you be a more active healing presence in other's life at ASC? In Seattle? In your workplace? In your home? In your family? In your friendships?

  • How can you give away your faith away in a tangible way like Peter and John did to the man who couldn't walk? How can your faith be more than just "your faith"? Who needs a hand up in your life that you avoid to get back to religious distance instead?

Next Steps:

  • Jesus: Be silent and alone with God. Turn off your devices and distractions. Ask God to give you what you need from him to heal you physically, spiritually, emotionally, or relationally? Receive what Jesus gives you in response.

  • People: Push past your fear and comfort to share your life with others. In your ordinariness, find 1-2 people you know and open up to them about where God is inviting you to healing and new life. Ask them to help you live in to this calling or nudges you are receiving? 

  • City: If you are afraid of sharing Jesus with your neighbors, co-workers, or family, discern one way you can risk in courage and do so. Distinguish the difference between how God is calling you to share Him and how people will respond. Be wise but unafraid. Pray for someone else's healing. Give what you have (Jesus' hope) to those who need it.

Please share what you experienced going through this/how God is moving in your life by emailing us at story@aseattlechurch.com

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