Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Acts 2 community: There is no going back.

Let me run an idea up the Flagpole ... Please feel free to shoot it down.

I’ve been pondering the widely-held belief that the “Acts 2 Community” is the ideal Christian community: the one to which we should aspire. Here is what that community was like:
  • They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching; fellowship; to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
  • Everyone was filled with awe.
  • Many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
  • All the believers were together and had everything in common, and they gave to anyone as he had need. etc.

George Barna in his latest [odd] book Revolution basically uses Acts 2 by which to measure all other churches, past and present, saying: "Who wouldn't want to be a part of this?"

And the challenge, of course is that if the Church could get herself back to that, we’d be better off: we’d be more God honouring; less institutional etc. We need real community. And the 'Acts 2 community' is real community we need.

There is no doubt that the text here is describing a situation that is wonderful. That is clear. It’s also clear in Acts 4:32-35. The truth is -- I do want this kind of community. And I think that Acts 2 functions as a wake up call for our often lazy-consumer-driven church experiences.

But I'm not sure that God wants us to go back to this.

I am wondering whether the 'Acts 2 community' is an adequate model for us. It’s not enough. Here are my three reasons why we need to go beyond the Acts 2 Community.

1. They have yet to include a single non-Jewish person.

The Gentile question doesn’t get hammered out properly until Acts 15. God has to give Peter a bizarre dream to get him to move beyond racial boundaries. The Acts 2 community is a racially Jewish community only. It is yet to be inclusive.

Don’t we want the Jew-Gentile community that gets hammered out after Act 15? With all the difficulties that come with reaching out beyond racial comfort zones? I'm glad, as a Gentile, that the community did not remain the way they were.

2. They have yet to be tested under the fire of persecution.

That doesn’t happen until Acts 4 [a 'nibble'], Acts 5 [a flogging], Acts 6 [Stephen arrested], Acts 7 [Stephen murdered], Acts 8 [A full-scale persecution breaks out]. Up until that point, everyone loves ’em.

Don’t we want a Church refined by the fire? One where ‘convenient faith’ is shown for what it really is? Isn’t the persecution and the testing [post Acts 2] one of the most powerful aspects of Acts?

3. They have yet to feel - and work through - disillusionment.

The first ‘problem’ with the community doesn’t happen until Acts 5:1-11. And a major shock to the system it was.

Don’t we want a community that can deal with disappointment in a gospel way? The Acts 2 community had yet to experience the disappointment. Don't we want to be able to cope, without replacing the gospel with inappropriate idealism? I want a Church that reflects Bonhoeffer’s words:

  • "Thus, the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably productive, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by the one Word and Deed which really binds us together--the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship."

I think that I’d prefer the Acts 2 community together with what God does in that community after the ideal is described. God had more blessing for them. And we are the inheritors of that blessing.

There is no going back. Only forward.

Fire away.

Love, Justin.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

At 2, he don't quite know what’s going on.

We haven't had any family news for a while. So for your viewing pleasure, I post pictures of the Boy's second birthday party. It wasn't a fanfare affair [Can those two words be placed together?]. Laurel had been down in Atlanta visiting her parents. I flew from NYC to Atlanta on Saturday morning. We had a little, but lovely, birthday party [maybe the words 'Birthday Moment' is a better description.] Then we all flewback to NYC in the evening.

We know that from the 3rd birthday on, it’s gotta have more Oomph to it. At 2, he don't quite know what’s going on.

But -- for the record -- he adores his Thomas the Tank Engine gift. Playing with it as I type.

Why do some kid's stories and books and toys become universally liked by every child?

Love, Justin.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Making me nervous

Hey. Great to see an Australian win. No longer holding my breath.

But this pic above makes me nervous. :)

Love, Justin.

PS Lunch on Guus

Friday, June 23, 2006

Holding One's Breath...

Socceroos are playing as I type.

Australia V Croatia.

I wish I was at Christchurch St Ives "Joe Burrow's Hall" Upper Level right now.

But I shall be holding my breath here in NYC.

Love, Justin.

Monday, June 19, 2006

"I cast one look at the field, Then set my face to the town".

This is going to be one of those posts where friends send us private emails: “Are you doing OK? Really?” For the record, we are doing great. But Laurel and I both heard a sermon the other day which resonated.

We have loved NYC. There are lots of great things about being here. And at the same time, we have found it difficult living in the Gothom City. Laurel especially has to spend most of her day with 2 kids in a city without a car for escape. We cannot believe how much people spit on the sidewalk here. And the subway is not friendly to anyone who relies on wheels.

We were praying at a Prayer Breakfast for our Church last week, and the speaker recited the following poem by George MacDonald. It convicted us both.

As I quote this poem, I also think of my father, who is assisting with the running of a hospital in a part of Pakistan that must feel like the end of the earth.

NYC and Tank, Pakistan -- Two places where there are "no flowers" [or not many at least].

George MacDonald -- "What Christ Said":

I said, "Let me walk in the fields,
He said, "Nay, walk in the town;
I said, "There are no flowers there,
He said, "No flowers, but a crown."

I said, "But the sky is black,
There is nothing but noise and din.
But He wept as He sent me back;
There is more," He said, "there is sin."

I said, "But the air is thick,
And fogs are veiling the sun.
He answered, "Yet hearts are sick,
And souls in the dark undone."

I said, "I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say.
He answered me, "Choose tonight
If I am to miss you, or they."

I pleaded for time to be given;
He said, "Is it hard to decide
It will not seem hard in heaven
To have followed the steps of your guide."

I cast one look at the field,
Then set my face to the town;
He said, "My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?"

Then into His hand went mine,
And into my heart came He,
And I walk in a light divine
The path I had feared to see!

Love, Justin.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

How is this possible?

Socceroos win!

I have no cable and it’s a work day here. So I had no access to media that may help me grasp how big this is in Australia.

So, two questions:

  • What is the mood in Australia on Tuesday morning?
  • Can someone describe any highlights for me?

Love, Justin.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Cause of this Fire.

Thanks for all who commented in the previous Blog. Good thoughts, all. I shall let you know what happens in the next few weeks.

But in the meantime, I know that some here in the US were asking about the Barnies building that I wrote about in “My Faith was Nurtured in this Building” and “To whom, then, should I return this Bulletin”.

It would appear that arson was not the reason it burnt down. Just electrics.

You can read about it in the Sydney Morning Herald HERE.

I turned those old lights on and off a few times. But , for the record, I wasn’t in Australia at the time of the incident….

Praying for Barnies.

See more of the Photos HERE.

Love, Justin.

PS Go the Socceroos…

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Do I publicly apologise in Church this week?

OK. I’m looking for your thoughts here.

I said two things on Sunday in the Pentecost sermon that was just a little sloppy. I’m not proud of it. I was just two quick, trying to get to my main point.

I claimed that it was only the twelve who spoke in other languages. But I spoke with too much certainty. The ‘they’ in Verse 1 could have been the twelve together with all or some of the 120 believers mentioned in Acts 1. Secondly, I said that it was a wind that came upon the room, rather than a ‘sound like a wind’.

OK -- for some of you, it doesn’t look that bad. But one person in church wondered if I had a doctrinal axe to grind. And for the record, my point was simply that not everyone spoke in tongues that day -- a still valid point even if it was 120 speaking in other languages.

Either way, I’m not particularly looking for advice on Acts 1. [Another post if you want.]

Here is what I want: I want to know if you appreciate it when ministers apologise the following week if they were wrong about the text [or claimed too much].

  • Would you appreciate that?
  • Or would a clarification or apology detract something from the following week?
  • Would you put a note in the Bulletin? Like ‘Corrections’ in a newspaper?
  • Does an apology communicate something good [i.e. all of us have a ways to go when reading our Bible]?
  • Or does it destroy trust?
  • When is a blunder big enough to say something?
  • What was the worst blunder you’ve heard? [Not a bad sermon, but an error in fact] But please don’t name names...
  • Have you heard a preacher apologise?
  • Have you apologised the next week [in a Bible study etc] for something similar?

I have shared my blunder. Please share your thoughts... but be gentle!

Love, Justin.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Pentecost and the Power of Explanation

A reflection after Sunday’s sermon on Acts 2.

I read last week of one particular man's spiritual experience. The encounter did not happen too long ago. It could be the experience of many at dozens of Christian meetings in any city and all over the world. I quote the man:

  • “[At the meeting], I felt as if some active energy were pouring heat, like a warm current into my whole being. I fell into inertia, and my body grew numb; I tried to speak, but my tongue no longer obeyed me and I gradually slipped into a drowsy state as though a powerful narcotic had been administered to me...”

Extraordinary, and powerful, right? Wait until you hear its explanation!

But first, let me make a reflection on Acts 2:

I realised when reading the story of Pentecost in Acts 2 that those present also had an extraordinary and powerful Spiritual encounter. They clearly had a wonderful experience.

The experience itself [without the explanation] left the crowd "amazed and perplexed" [V12]. To tell you the truth, on my first reading [and not having been present that day], it left me more perplexed than amazed!

There were two responses after their amazement. Some were curious: "What does this mean?" Others went down the more cynical path: "They should be at AA if they are going to start this early."

Here is the thing I noticed: The explanation of the spiritual experience was as powerful [maybe more powerful?] than the experience itself.

The amazing experience [quiet rightly] produced curiosity and cynicism. The biblical explanation [quiet rightly] produced repentance and 3000 people becoming Christians that day.

The experience produces an appropriate ‘wow’, but the gospel produces a saving ‘faith’.

When it comes to spiritual experience, is the explanation as powerful [or even more powerful] than the experience? Or ought experiences like this simply be enjoyed, without the cumbersome weight of too many words?

You tell me your thoughts.

Oh, and that spiritual experience I read last week? It was a book on the Russian Revolution. The next words in the account where:

  • “...All I could see was Rasputin’s glittering eyes, like two beams of light drawing me near.”

Hooley Dooley.

Here endth the lesson.

Love, Justin.

PS Don't know Rasputin? Wiki Him. Scary dude.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Boy Dancing in Central Park [Video Included]

If you look at this 90 Second VIDEO [Let the video download fully before viewing], you may see 5 things of value:

1. The Boy has all the necessary rhythm and moves to Dance.
2. The Boy likes to point to dogs. More than anything, he wants to simply share the experience.
3. The Boy uses the word 'Dai' to ask a question or draw your attention to something he likes.
4. The Boy has no fear when it comes to welcoming strangers [at the end of the video]. I think that he is already a member of the welcoming team at our church.
5. The Boy likes our friends Dirk and Heike.

Anyone with any sense of care about Scripture will know that quoting Job 21:11 out of context is both a bad use of text, and, in fact, damnable to me.


But click on that one verse and you’ll agree that using it out of context is irresistible right now.


Love, Justin.