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January 18, 2011

An event puts the Apostles in conflict with the religious authorities: Acts 3

Filed under: biblical studies — Petros @ 9:58 pm
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On our first evening of the 9th of December, we noticed that there were many points of comparison between the Christians in the Acts 1 and us.   They were losing their leader; they needed to wait and to depend on the Holy Spirit; they were dealing with religious authorities who were acting in disobedience to God; they were living in highly chaotic times; they would be empowered for mission.   Then last week, we saw how God used the special event of the Day of Pentecost when Jewish pilgrims from all around the world came to Jerusalem to worship—perhaps the only time in their lives to make this special trip.  That was the day when the Holy Spirit animated the believers to each speak in the different languages of the Diaspora Jews.  That day 3000 Jewish people from all over the inhabited world came to accept Jesus as the messiah and the church had its first big growth spurt—from 120 to 3120.  As an investor that’s pretty good growth (26x).  But it is just about the right size for a group of 12 leaders–each apostle would be responsible for a congregation of 260.  We focused upon Luke’s description of the Spirit-filled community as characterized by signs and wonders, unity, fellowship, breaking of bread, generosity, prayer and adherence to apostles teaching.  The Holy Spirit caused these believers to study, conserve, and obey the apostles’ teaching, unlike the claim of the false bishop Gene Robinson, who said in an article in the Washington Post, that the Holy Spirit causes us to accept the homosexual lifestyle.  No, the Holy Spirit teaches us to remember Jesus’ teaching as it was preserved by the apostles.

In our passage today we see Peter and John entering the temple, passing a beggar.  Thus, for the moment, the apostles remained in a quiet mode.  They continue to worship in the Temple; indeed, they are observing a standard hour of prayer, the ninth hour (3:00 pm) which was also the moment of the evening sacrifice; and thus it appears that they continued tacitly to obey the leadership which had just condemned Jesus to the Romans to be crucified.  Perhaps we too can live in tacit obedience to the authorities, for a time.

Now the man whom God healed was visible to all who entered the Temple.  But now they do something that will put them again into conflict with authorities by powerfully healing a lame man.  This healing put the disciples in a confrontation with the officials of the Judaism, the Sanhedrin.  My question for Emmanuel Church is this:  When should we make our move?  When do we confront the Diocese and what form should our protest take?  When is it clear that the leadership has gone too far and their corruption is intolerable to God?

I was inspired by a story that I read in the American Thinker about a Pastor Walter Hoy; this man has gone to jail violating a bubble zone around an abortion facilty.  Chuck Colson writes (Breakpoint, Jan 14, 2011):

When Dr. King wrote his letter, From a Birmingham Jail, he addressed those who thought his civil rights activities unwise and untimely. In his speeches, Hoy also addresses those who say that his cause is worthy and just but that he should just wait. “I can’t wait.” Hoy says. “You see, my people are dying.”

Since 1973, he notes, over 14.5 million black babies have been killed by abortion. Every, single day, 1,200 black babies are put to death in abortion facilities, making abortion the leading cause of death among African Americans! Nearly half of all black babies concieved [sic] die in abortion chambers today. Hoy says this means that a black child is safer on the streets of the worst neighborhoods in American than in his mother’s womb.

Hoy notes that between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 blacks were lynched by the Ku Klux Klan. Today, abortion kills more black Americans in less than three days than the Klan killed in 86 years! Think of it.

American blacks make up twelve percent of the U.S. population, yet thirty-seven percent of all abortions are performed on black women. This is because eugenic-minded pro-abortion forces target American blacks by putting abortion clinics in black neighborhoods, according to Hoy.

The Rev. Hoy argues that there is a time to stand up to injustice; when is that?  When my people are dying.  But is it the time to stand up to the Diocese of Toronto?  Perhaps so.  When the church no longer upholds the teaching of the Apostles, then the result will be that people will no longer be able to hear the truth of the Gospel—the Gospel says simply this:  We are sinners estranged from the God who created us, and we need forgiveness from God.  God calls us to accept Jesus sacrifice for our sins and to turn back to him and away from our sins.  If people do not realize that they have sinned, then they are living in death.  And they will die; not a death of their body but the death of their spirit.  Our situation is every bit as grave as the genocide of black babies in the US.  Our passage says that God sent Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, to bless us.  But how?  By turning us from our wicked ways (Acts 3.26).  Not by accepting us as we are, and calling our sins not sin.  The Anglican church wants to bless homosexual couples.  Why not bless adulterous couples?  Why not bless murders and idolaters?  These are all things that the Bible forbids?  How can a Bishop begin to bless what the Bible calls a sin?   That is absurd.  God blesses us by turning us away from our wickedness, not by blessing what the Bible calls wicked.  Say I am thief or greedy.  Does God bless my thievery or my greed?  No!  He calls me out of my sin, so that I can be restored to God.  But do you think that the Anglican church even has a concept of sin anymore.  Or don’t you think rather that the Anglican church expects us to bless people in their sins?  My people are dying, lost without God and they don’t even know it because the church is unwilling to teach repentance.

So perhaps we need to follow the example of the Walter Hoy and say enough is enough.  Thus, maybe we should stand in disobedience to the wicked leadership of the Diocese.  Or perhaps we should take the quiet approach of the disciples and continue to worship in the Temple.  But I think that in either case, we need to prayer that God’s Spirit will act: to do signs and wonders and to draw attention to who is standing on the side of the right.

Questions about the text:

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Insights into how the text applies today:

The Descent of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2

Last week, I brought out several points of comparison between the Christians in the Acts 1 and us.  They were losing their leader; they needed to wait and to depend on the Holy Spirit; they were dealing with religious authorities who were acting in disobedience to God; they were living in highly chaotic times; they would be empowered for mission.  Now we see that after 40 days of waiting the Holy Spirit descend upon them, they speak in tongues—languages known to the many hundreds of visitors who had come from Diaspora of the Jews for the feast of Pentecost and 3000 people became Christians

What are the results of the descent of the Spirit in Acts 2?  Should we expect the same today?

1. Speaking in tongues: an extraordinary prophetic gift wherein the disciples spoke in the language of others.  This event took place in the temple, probably in the court of the Gentiles: a large area where many people even Gentiles would be permitted to gather.

A. Emmanuel church belongs to the Charismatic Movement in which the gift of tongues played an important role:  I could recommend some books on speaking in tongues:  Bill and Elisabeth Sherrill, They speak with other tongues; Dennis and Rita Bennet, The Holy Spirit and You.  The experience of speaking in tongues was exciting and helped people to become more focused on God and to deepen their faith.

B.  The gift of tongues in Acts 2 serves the specific purpose of getting the attention of Diaspora Jews who were in Jerusalem for the feast.  The Bible required that they come every year, but many of these people lived so far away that perhaps this was their first and only pilgrimage for a life time.  So the Holy Spirit chose the gift of tongues to do an amazing gift.

C. As a personal devotional language Tongues are far less dramatic.  Paul downplays it in favor of intelligible speech while in church (see 1 Cor 12-14).  But in private devotion, he says not to forbid tongues.

2. Mission and evangelism—The Spirit’s descent on the community immediately resulted in the addition of 3000 new members, mostly from the Diaspora.  The Temples was the likely arena for Peter’s preaching.

3. The Holy Spirit descent created a newly expanded of the Christian community was characterized by: unity, sharing, adherence to the Apostles’ teaching, generosity, breaking of bread and prayer, even signs and wonders.  Many of these meetings took place in homes where meals could be served and not in the temple, though large groups could be taught at Solomon’s portico (Acts 3.11).

Some Anglicans leaders believe that the apostles were wrong and that their teaching needs to be revised.  Recently, Gene Robinson, the homosexual bishop in the US Episcopal church, says that the Holy Spirit is teaching us to accept homosexuality as ok with God.  Here is a quote from his article in the Washington Post:

I do NOT believe that God stopped revealing God’s self with the closing of the canon (officially sanctioned as “holy” and official) of Scripture. Some would argue that God said everything God needed and wanted to say by the end of the first century … They would posit a God who, when the scriptures were “finished” bid the world a fond farewell and went off to some beautiful part of God’s creation (the Bahamas, Patagonia, Nepal?!!), leaving us to our own devices, given that everything had been said that needed to be said. I don’t believe that.

In John’s Gospel, which is largely made up of the conversation Jesus has with his disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus says: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16: 12-13a) I take this to mean that Jesus is saying to the disciples, “Look, for a bunch of uneducated and rough fishermen, you haven’t done too badly. In fact, you will do amazing things with the rest of your lives. But don’t think for a minute that God is done with you – or done with believers who will come after you. There is much more that God wants to teach you, but you cannot handle it right now. So, I will send the Holy Spirit who will lead you into that new Truth.”

So Robinson believes that the role of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into “new truth”, truth that the disciples themselves couldn’t handle at the time.  But we see from Acts 2, that when the Holy Spirit causes people to adhere to the apostles teaching.  And what did the apostles teach:  they taught what Jesus taught and commanded (Acts 1.8; Matt 28.19), and they taught from Scriptures (several are quoted by Peter).  Here is a statement from the apostles about homosexuality (1 Cor 6.9-11):

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Most attempts to say that Christians must accept homosexuals have to dismiss in some manner what the apostles taught and what Jesus taught.  But Jesus said the Holy Spirit came to remind the disciples about what he had taught:  “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14.26).  It is not a new truth, as Gene Robinson suggests.  But the same old truth, that Jesus and the apostles taught.

So in conclusion, I think what we can say is that the Spirit-filled community experiences unity—with fellowship and breaking of bread, adherence to apostolic teaching, evangelism and mission with numerical growth.  If we are not experiencing these things, we should pray that God would once again fill our community with his Holy Spirit and renew our faith.

Questions about the text:

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Insights into how the text applies today:

How we are like the Christians in Acts 1

Filed under: biblical studies — Petros @ 9:37 pm
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Preface:  the following series of meditations on Acts are set within the backdrop of my own church, Emmanuel Anglican.  We have had the recent privilege of seeing our own priest promoted to the position of professor at a local seminary.  But now, bereft of our minister who has guided us through the murky waters of the controversy within the Anglican church we face a new crisis of leadership.  The Bishop Colin Johnson has ordained a lesbian living with her partner to the priesthood.  Now, we must without our priest’s wisdom navigate this storm.  So in response, my wife Cathy and I have chosen to lead a Bible study in Acts on Sunday nights, 7:00 – 8:30 pm, along with worship of God and prayer for our church community–how we might best respond this crisis of leadership.  On December 12, 2010, we met for the first time, and this is the meditation that I offered.

(1) We are about to lose our leader.

The disciples had watched the Roman authorities take Jesus and crucify him–one of the most ignoble ways ever invented to kill someone.  But they rejoiced when he appeared to them alive and physically intact.  Now Jesus had appeared to them and taught them during 40 days was about to leave again.  So they asked, aren’t you going to bring the Kingdom now?  They expected Jesus, the Risen King, to establish his Kingdom.  Instead, he said “Wait for the the Holy Spirit”.  So even though he was not at this point going to establish his physical Kingdom, he was sending them out with the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses in the world.

At Emmanuel we stand at the brink of losing our leader, Peter, who is going on to another task.  But God isn’t leaving us alone.  We still have the Holy Spirit, and as we look to find a successor to Peter, we must remember that the church doesn’t belong to the priest but to God.  Our task remains the same as for the early Christians, to go out and be witnesses for Jesus to the end of the world.

(2) We are dealing with a religious hierarchy which many of us believe is no longer obeying God.

The early Christians were Jews subject to both religious and political hierarchies.  The Romans were in political power, but they ruled through the intermediary of the high priests and the Sanhedrin.  It is with these very authorities that Jesus and the early Christian came into severe conflict.  In Acts chapter 5, we will see that the Sanhedrin even orders them to stop preaching in Jesus’ name.  The choosing of the apostle to take Judas is significant:  For the number twelve is significant. They believed they were choosing twelve person to take leadership over the twelve tribes of Israel.

The Anglican Church of Canada is in the process of changing 2000 years of Christian teaching by ordaining homosexuals and insisting upon the blessing of same sex relationships.  If we stand up to this because of conscience (as Luther, “Here I stand I can do no other—God help me, Amen!”), we would be following in the footsteps of the disciples when they said:  “We must obey God rather than men”(Acts 5.29).  We know that we must remain faithful to God and obey him rather than to obey man.  Therefore, we expect that God will appoint new leadership where the old leadership is failing.

(3) We are facing a time of serious chaos and upheaval

Since the time of the beginning of Roman rule, the Jewish people benefited from Pax Romana.  But high taxation threatened the livelihood of the people and poverty was rampant.  Thus, Pax Romana thus came with a price.   The four decades following the Ascension of Jesus would be a time of serious upheaval to the Jewish nation

We have enjoyed peace on American and Canadian soil for a long time–our wars have been fought largely on the extremities of the our world, just as in the Roman world until the Jewish Revolt.  But can this peace last?  Are we Christian ready for what the future might bring?  We are on the brink of of economic disaster.

(4) Jesus calls on us to wait for and depend on the Holy Spirit.

Jesus instructed the early Christians to wait for the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit would guide them and empower them in the mission.  God knows the future.  So what better guide could we have than the Spirit?  He can even inform us when disaster is about to strike, as God informed the prophets in Acts of the impending famine (cf. Acts 11.28).

If we wait on the Holy Spirit as a community we can expect his guidance for the future:  (1) what minister we should choose; (2) how we may prepare ourselves for impending financial calamities that may come; (3) how we should respond to the religious authorities (4) and political events coming in the future.

(5) We will be empowered for mission.

The main purpose of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit was not merely the survival and edification of the community but mission.  A rag tag group of fishermen, a zealot, a tax collector, a doubter (Thomas)—but all uneducated by worldly standards, not one of these men had a “PHD”.  Jesus called them to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.  And by the last chapter of Acts, we see that Rome had a vibrant community of Christians even before Paul’s arrival there.  Within a century or two the Roman world had been transformed, and the seeds of church had been planted everywhere.

What is our mission as a church community?  How will we transform our world?  Often our focus as a community has been survival—rather than mission.  We look upon the dying embers of the Anglican church as it’s fire wanes.  How shall we respond?  Is it time to quit because God is abandoning the church?  Is it time to fight the fight within the church itself?  How shall we respond?

What I’d like to do over the coming weeks, if its ok with you, is to study the book of Acts and reflect on how the teaching and experiences of the early Christians can inform us in overcoming and thriving in our present set of difficult circumstances.  How do they respond to religious and political authorities?  How did they maintain an honest and faithful witness to God?

Discussion

How we are like the Christians in Acts 1?

May 1, 2009

Debate at City of God rages on

At City of God the battle of words wages on. On one side, John, Dan, and Poserorprophet (a.k.a., Dan O.), who want to allow gay marriage and adoption. On the other side, others of whom I have been the most outspoken. I maintain that Poser is preaching a different gospel because he writes that the poor are a part of the Church by virtue of their poverty; Poser wrote:

I wouldn’t necessarily say that “the poor [are] incorporated into Jesus, the Messiah” but rather that Jesus, the Messiah, incorporated himself into the poor. Therefore, there is now an indissoluble and sacramental link between the poor and Christ. By choosing to identify with the poor, the marginalised, and the damned, Christ revealed to us that these people are priests, administering God’s presence to the world. Not only that, but Christ reveals to us that God has chosen to locate himself in and amongst the poor. … [snip] This means that the poor are counted as members of the Church, even if they verbally deny Jesus and assert that they do not want to follow him.

John responded regarding my comments at City of God:

Here is a comment worthy of consideration:

“P. W. Dunn has continually exploited Porp inasmuch as he has accused him with charges which Porp would never concede to as intentionally executing. His interpretations have often been irresponsible (given his education) and simplicitic; He has cognizantly incited people to anger and has continued to be largely and ignorantly intolerant of other people’s views. When his arguments fail to succeed he subtly abuses his interlocutor. He accuses people for things which he also is guilty, especially the so-called propagandic techniques.”

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March 24, 2009

God's rich wisdom and mercy: sermon on Romans 11.33-36

Filed under: sermons — Petros @ 8:14 pm
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In the Spring of 1991, I organized a memorial service for our friend Sheldon whom our community had known for couple of years.  It started when one of my roommates, Jeff got a hair cut by Sheldon who was a hair dresser.

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March 11, 2009

No right to happiness

Filed under: ethics — Petros @ 5:35 am
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A big part of the argument favoring homosexual marriage is that homosexuals do not choose to be their sexual orientation but are born thus.  Recognizing this, the proponents of gay marriage find that the traditional interpretation of the Bible hinders homosexuals from finding the same happiness that is available to heterosexuals in monogamous marriage.  This is innately unfair in their view.

Dan at the City of God wrote:

If we accept that people now marry for love and not so that your dad can form a business alliance or expand his property holdings or some such thing, then what I have trouble getting worked up about is the need to somehow run around and prevent gay couples from doing the same thing.

I responded thus:

From the perspective Western hyper-individualism, your point of view makes perfect sense. The greatest good is what makes me happy. Andy Crouch writes in Christianity Today (Dec. 2003), “… all of us have a sexual orientation that bends toward self, that tends toward self-justification, and that hides from a God we fear is not good enough to satisfy us.”

One reason that we need to uphold the authority the Bible is that we would otherwise be guided only by the excesses of our own generation and culture. C. S. Lewis wrote that we have no right to (sexual) happiness, and he was right. The happiness in a sexual relationship which the Bible makes exclusively available only to heterosexuals was not itself intended as the greatest good but as incentive towards a greater good, the building of a community whose ultimate purpose was to have fellowship with God. By turning inward to ourselves, we completely miss this point. Collectivist cultures, e.g. most sub-Saharan cultures, do not see the greatest good as lying in the individual and that could be a big part of the reason why they adamantly oppose homosexuality. We misunderstand the Bible when we read and judge it from our own individualistic obsessions; and at the same time we miss the point of God’s intention for humanity.

February 26, 2009

Societal Values undermine Christian Education

At City of God Dan raised (June 5, 2008) the question of why Christians should care about the legalization of homosexual marriage:

Provided that the rights of all religious groups are protected, I cannot fathom what the point would be in prohibiting same-sex marriage on the civil level.

Poser-Prophet responds to Dan that civil marriage is not sufficient, but that Christians must also permit homosexual marriage in the church.  One reason that he gives in opposition to Robert Gagnon, who believes that society will deteriorate as result of the acceptance of homosexuality, is that 40% of the kids living on the streets claim they are homeless because their parents could not accept their homosexuality, and most of those, he observes as a street worker, come from Christian homes.  He proceeds to condemn the behavior of these parents.

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February 21, 2009

Homosexuality and Health II

I received a couple reactions from my post on “Homosexualitiy and Health” at City of God.  The Poser-Prophet did not react, which is in keeping with his express refusal to debate me further.

John wrote:

It would be interesting to see if there are similar studies regarding heterosexual promiscuity and its ill effects on health. …

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February 20, 2009

Homosexuality and Health

Filed under: ethics,science and medecine — Petros @ 10:55 am
Tags: ,

N.B.: This post makes mention of an important article “The Health Risks of Gay Sex” by John R. Digs, Jr., MD (2002).  It is well-documented study by a physician who has first-hand experience treating homosexuals.

The discussion about homosexuality continues at the City of God.

Dan of City of God has solicited the opinion of those homosexuals who were brought up or desire to attend church.  Dan, the Poser-Prophet, has responded that because of the opinions expressed the City of God which are hurtful to homosexuals, they will not feel safe enough to comment.  This led me to make a comment about health issues of homosexuals which is related to promiscuity.  I wrote:

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February 18, 2009

Reclaiming the Bible for the Church, Book Review

Review of Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, eds. Reclaiming the Bible for the Church. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1995 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996).
by Peter W. Dunn

The Anglican Church, as many denominations, is experiencing a crisis of biblical authority. Let us consider the debate over homosexuality: There are those who would promote the acceptance and blessing of homosexuality, saying that the Biblical prohibitions of same-sex relations are based on an antiquated world-view, that the Bible must not be taken literally, or even that the Bible actually promotes homosexuality (Jesus also had a beloved disciple!).
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