Acts 29: “true love”

The Word for today:
Acts 28:17-31

The book of Acts stops at chapter 28, verse 31. But the reader is left hanging in mid-air, with the definite impression that Acts may have stopped there, but it doesn’t end there:

The book of Acts is still being written. Like the Gospel of Luke, the book of Acts is yet another record of the things Jesus ‘began both to do and to teach.’ Jesus isn’t finished yet. He began His ministry in His human body, as recorded in the Gospels. He continued in His body, the church, through the book of Acts. He continues His ministry today through you and me and every other believer on the planet. The book of Acts will be completed someday. And when it is completed, you and I will have a chance to read it in glory, in eternity, when the plan of God has been fulfilled. When we read it, what will my part be in that great story? And what will yours be? – Ray Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible

Today Stand in the Rain concludes our long look at various aspects of believers’ testimonies–the stories, in-the-making right now, that will someday appear in “Acts 29.”

As we speak of these stories in general, we encourage you to think, in particular, about the tale your own life is telling–and to “edit” (where necessary) before publication!

***

What does a well-told personal testimony look like? In Psalm 23, God (through David) shows us. Psalm 23 is the model, the prototype, for our own stories of faith.

Yesterday, we identified some elements of Psalm 23 that should be applied to testimonies of our own. Today, we’ll find some more…

Psalm 23 outlines the pattern for every believer’s story:

You’ll surely want to relate how you were born again:
He restores my soul.

You’ll want to relate how he has declared you to be as righteous as Jesus!
He leads me in paths of righteousness…(1)

And how the basis of his goodness toward you is found not within you but within him:
…for his name’s sake.

You’ll want to relate how he anointed you with His own Spirit:
You anoint my head with oil… (2)

You’ll want to relate that your Father is faithful to discipline and direct:
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You’ll want to relate that you’re not alone anymore:
For you are with me…

Surely you’ll want to relate that the longer you know him, the closer and closer he gets. (Note the shift from indirect address (“he“) to direct address (“you“) as the poem proceeds.)

***

“Surely you’ll want to relate…”

We relate a story. We relate the story of our relationship to Jesus. We hope that we relate the story of our relationship to Jesus in such a way that other people can relate to it.

Because if they relate to it, they might start their own relationship with Jesus–and then, someday, relate their story of faith to someone else, who might…

I apologize for too many relate / relationship references, but I wanted to emphasize that a testimony is about your relationship, not your reformation.

A testimony, as modeled for us in Psalm 23, is not about how we stopped drinkin’ or druggin’ or chasin’ skirts. There might be some of that, but only to serve as before and after pictures of a redemption wrought, bought and paid for at the cross of Jesus Christ. (The only way we know David knew want is that he acknowledged he knew it no more.)

A testimony is a love story; nothing more nor less. It’s about how you met and how he proposed and whether there was a honeymoon. (I’m still waiting for mine.) It’s about your favorite song and it’s about the time he said just the right thing.

A testimony is a true story, so it might not be all sweet and light. Your testimony might recall some rocky days, if you’ve had them. I sure have; Jesus and I are close to “the rocks” right now. But he’ll come in and save the day, ’cause that’s what he does.

A testimony is about a soul in want on a path to nowhere…until he paid the price for your soul with the wine of his own blood, empowering your new life with the oil of his own Spirit:

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead…

But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine…”

He anoints my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely he can do the same for you.

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(1) see 2 Corinthians 5:21
(2) oil is the most prevalent symbol of the Holy Spirit in Scripture

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Acts 29: “surely”

The Word for today:
Acts 28:1-16

The book of Acts stops at chapter 28, verse 31. But the reader is left hanging in mid-air, with the definite impression that Acts may have stopped there, but it doesn’t end there:

The book of Acts is still being written. Like the Gospel of Luke, the book of Acts is yet another record of the things Jesus ‘began both to do and to teach.’ Jesus isn’t finished yet. He began His ministry in His human body, as recorded in the Gospels. He continued in His body, the church, through the book of Acts. He continues His ministry today through you and me and every other believer on the planet. The book of Acts will be completed someday. And when it is completed, you and I will have a chance to read it in glory, in eternity, when the plan of God has been fulfilled. When we read it, what will my part be in that great story? And what will yours be? – Ray Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible

Stand in the Rain is taking a long look at various aspects of believers’ testimonies–the stories, in-the-making right now, that will someday appear in “Acts 29.”

As we speak of these stories in general, we encourage you to think, in particular, about the tale your own life is telling–and to “edit” (where necessary) before publication!

***

The Bible tells us how by showing us how.

How should we live? God didn’t just tell us how to live. He became flesh and dwelt among us so we could see a life as it should be lived.

How should we pray? God didn’t just leave us with prayer precepts. His word is strewn with models of effective prayer (along with a few models of phony prayer that we should avoid.) Ultimately Jesus, when the disciples asked him how to pray, delivered a profound and memorable pattern for effective prayer: “Our Father,” he began…

What does love look like? He showed us:

What does a personal testimony, well told, resemble? He showed us that as well:
The LORD is my shepherd, it began…

The 23rd Psalm can be seen as the Bible’s prototypical testimony. Like Jesus’ prototypical prayer, it starts with the name of God and “ends” with forever:
The LORD…forever.

It traces a relationship on the move: from faith to faith, from glory to glory, from trust to trust. (1)

It clearly defines the roles–the Savior and the saved–in the relationship. (That sheep didn’t rescue himself!)

It employs milieu and metaphor that are personal and particular to convey the attributes of the universal God:
David’s metaphor was rustic: shepherd, sheep, stream, meadow, and valley. Today, we might choose aeronautic, or atomic, or even athletic terms! Paul described his journey of faith in terms of a runner in pursuit of a trophy:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

***

Your testimony, like David’s, will include conflict: dark valleys and enemies all around.

It will include irony: the rod of discipline and correction brings comfort as well.

It will include, perhaps, a wee bit o’ prophecy as you peek into a future which surely will unfold in fulfillment of God’s Word:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
Forever.

***

We will finish our foray through “Acts 29″–and Psalm 23–tomorrow. See you then.

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(1) see Romans 1:17; (2) see 2 Corinthians 3:18

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Acts 29: “a picture of growing trust”

The Word for today:
Acts 27:21-44

The book of Acts stops at chapter 28, verse 31. But the reader is left hanging in mid-air, with the definite impression that Acts may have stopped there, but it doesn’t end there:

The book of Acts is still being written. Like the Gospel of Luke, the book of Acts is yet another record of the things Jesus ‘began both to do and to teach.’ Jesus isn’t finished yet. He began His ministry in His human body, as recorded in the Gospels. He continued in His body, the church, through the book of Acts. He continues His ministry today through you and me and every other believer on the planet. The book of Acts will be completed someday. And when it is completed, you and I will have a chance to read it in glory, in eternity, when the plan of God has been fulfilled. When we read it, what will my part be in that great story? And what will yours be? – Ray Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible

Stand in the Rain is taking a long look at various aspects of believers’ testimonies–the stories, in-the-making right now, that will someday appear in “Acts 29.”

As we speak of these stories in general, we encourage you to think, in particular, about the tale your own life is telling–and to “edit” (where necessary) before publication!

***

Because your story of faith is the greatest gift you can give today–and will be your most significant legacy–Stand in the Rain has devoted space, here in the region of “Acts 29,” to discuss what makes a testimony well-told.

God must have anticipated our efforts, because he shows us, in Psalm 23, an example of what we’ve been talking about! The 23rd Psalm is the model, par excellence, for our very own testimonies.

David is the Teller of his story, but he’s not the Star–and it doesn’t take him long to say so. He uses the first few words to establish the focus of his poem:
The LORD is my shepherd…

David is not the Actor but the Acted Upon. God initiates; David receives:
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.

At the heart of the story is a relationship. There is a lot of action in Psalm 23, but the action only serves to highlight a relationship, built on trust, that is developing between the lines.

David illustrated the relationship with scenes from his own life.
I would not choose to communicate Jesus with rustic imagery–shepherd and pastures and streams. But David could because they were the authentic background of his relationship with the LORD. He most likely met the LORD in the solitude of the fields, among the sheep under shining stars.

There must have come, one night, the realization that he was to the LORD what the sheep were to him. He was valued, even prized; he was guided and guarded and provided for. But best of all he was in the presence of the LORD. He was in the presence of his enemies, to be sure, but the presence of the supernatural shepherd overwhelmed his natural fears…

***

Psalm 23 is the world’s most famous poem, and for good reason: it’s the world’s best poem. Let its sublime simplicity inspire your efforts to live out a relationship of growing trust with the LORD–and to say so, with style, in the presence of friends and foes.

We’ll return to these fields and streams and valleys tomorrow, in order to glean from David’s story a few more things we can apply to our own.

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Acts 29: Let’s let I AM be who I AM is.

The Word for today:
Acts 27:1-20

The book of Acts stops at chapter 28, verse 31. But the reader is left hanging in mid-air, with the definite impression that Acts may have stopped there, but it doesn’t end there:

The book of Acts is still being written. Like the Gospel of Luke, the book of Acts is yet another record of the things Jesus ‘began both to do and to teach.’ Jesus isn’t finished yet. He began His ministry in His human body, as recorded in the Gospels. He continued in His body, the church, through the book of Acts. He continues His ministry today through you and me and every other believer on the planet. The book of Acts will be completed someday. And when it is completed, you and I will have a chance to read it in glory, in eternity, when the plan of God has been fulfilled. When we read it, what will my part be in that great story? And what will yours be? – Ray Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible

Stand in the Rain is taking a long look at various aspects of believers’ testimonies–the stories, in-the-making right now, that will someday appear in “Acts 29.”

As we speak of these stories in general, we encourage you to think, in particular, about the tale your own life is telling–and to “edit” (where necessary) before publication!

***

The only real Jesus is in the Bible. In fact, he is the Bible; he’s the Word of God — made flesh to dwell amongst us. His triumph over evil was promised in the Garden of Eden, pictured in the sacrificial system of the law of Moses, and clearly portrayed by the prophets.
Because the wages of sin had to be paid in kind – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for life – he divested Himself of heaven’s glory to become like one of us  (born of woman, born under the law) so that he could take my place on a cross I’d earned. Virgin born, the sinless son of God, He was baptized in identification with us as we are baptized in identification with Him. Coming up out of the water, driven by the Spirit, he withstood temptation by wielding the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, against the devil in the wilderness. He performed miracles, personified the grace and truth of God, died at the hands of secular government and organized religion for the sins of the world, then rose from the dead in accordance with, and fulfillment of, scripture. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and of His kingdom there will be no end.

The only real Jesus is in the Bible, the whole Bible, and nowhere but the Bible. Corollary to that fact is that no fraudulent Jesus-es will make their way into “Acts 29.” So let’s pick up our Bibles each day as if we’d never seen the thing before. Let’s not bring any pre-conceived notions of Jesus to the reading. Let’s let him emerge from the pages of his only book. Let’s let I AM be who I AM is. (1)

Jesus is so unique that, ironically, you and I can’t have our very own unique Jesus. There’s only one of him, so mine has to be yours and yours has to be mine.

He’s one of a kind, so we’ve got to share. But, being infinite, there’s enough of him to go around. Remember the feeding of the five thousand? Five thousand, five million, five squintillion; it doesn’t matter. There’s enough Bread of Life to cover the crowd.

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(1) see Exodus 3:14

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Acts 29: “hope is a fact”

The Word for today:
Acts 26:19-32

The book of Acts stops at chapter 28, verse 31. But the reader is left hanging in mid-air, with the definite impression that Acts may have stopped there, but it doesn’t end there:

The book of Acts is still being written. Like the Gospel of Luke, the book of Acts is yet another record of the things Jesus ‘began both to do and to teach.’ Jesus isn’t finished yet. He began His ministry in His human body, as recorded in the Gospels. He continued in His body, the church, through the book of Acts. He continues His ministry today through you and me and every other believer on the planet. The book of Acts will be completed someday. And when it is completed, you and I will have a chance to read it in glory, in eternity, when the plan of God has been fulfilled. When we read it, what will my part be in that great story? And what will yours be? – Ray Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible

Stand in the Rain is taking a long look at various aspects of believers’ testimonies–the stories, in-the-making right now, that will someday appear in “Acts 29.”

As we speak of these stories in general, we encourage you to think, in particular, about the tale your own life is telling–and to “edit” (where necessary) before publication!

***

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)

“Rhyme” and “reason” are both part of the Christian experience. So as you live out the story to be published in Acts 29, make sure that it resonates in the heart and communicates to the head.

As we discussed in yesterday’s article, the subjective elements–the rhyme of your story–are up to you. You can choose the words, the colors, the chronology, the graphics, the special effects, the sound track…

But the objective reasons for the hope that we have–the facts which make our faith true– are not ours to choose. They are only ours to cut and paste from the pages of scripture.

***

Just because someone says “Jesus,” it doesn’t mean he knows the real Jesus. This is illustrated by a remarkable incident in the book of Acts:

A team of Jews who were traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus. The incantation they used was this: “I command you by Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But when they tried it on a man possessed by an evil spirit, the spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul. But who are you?” And he leaped on them and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and badly injured. (Acts 19:13-16)

As this passage relates, the demons would only respond to or avoid the genuine believer. They will not answer to someone who uses the name of Jesus without really knowing who Jesus is.

Thus the name “Jesus,” in and of itself, has no power. It only has power when it points to the Person, known by that name, who is found in the Bible, the whole Bible, and nowhere but the Bible.

Many have forged their own make-believe Jesus. These fraudulent Jesus-es are nothing more than idols, cast in the image of their fraudulent makers. Jesus warned of false prophets. Ironically, but not surprisingly, the most dangerous false prophets are the un-scriptural Jesus-es whom whole “Christian” eras and denominations have followed and are following.

The genuine Jesus wasn’t conceived in the mind of man. In fact he wasn’t conceived at all–until he stepped out of eternity into time, when he was…

conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. (1)

That’s the only Jesus who can save. He’s the only reason for the hope that we have.

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(1) from the Apostle’s Creed

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