As I finished reading this third week of Acts (and 7th week of the Luke/Acts series), I found myself thinking about how much time it was taking every day. The answer was “not much.” That doesn’t mean I managed to squeeze it in every day, of course. Wednesdays seem to be extra jam-packed so they’ve become my most frequent skip day. But I’m old, so Fridays tend to be boring, which transforms it into my make-up day.
When reflecting on how much time was “not much,” I thought it’d be fun to think about things I do daily that take more time than reading a chapter of Luke or Acts.
Look for the remote for the TV.
Find something to watch on Amazon Prime.
Watch something on Amazon Prime.
Search for the perfect playlist to read by. (yes, I can spend more time finding a station or playlist than it actually takes to do the reading).
Find the right podcast to listen to on my drive home from work.
Play PokemonGO (seriously…I could read the Bible in a month if I spent as much time in the Word as I do trying to catch ‘em all).
Read outrage on Twitter (people are even more outraged there than on Facebook).
Try to figure out how to use Snapchat.
Stare off into space.
Watch the local news (seriously…I watch for 45 minutes and see the same irrelevant stories 3 times each and the same set of commercials about 8 times).
Talk around the coffee pot at work.
Laugh at the dogs.
I don’t do every single one of these every day, but I guarantee I do them every weekday and most weekend days as well. Every one of them takes more time than taking a slow and deliberate read through a chapter of Luke or Acts. None are more profitable, though.
We’ve heard that “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) This verse tells us scripture is important, life-changing, and vital to our Christian walk. It does not promise it is intuitive or easy. That’s why Paul is encouraging Timothy to stick with it. That’s why I’m encouraging you to stick with it. The entire New Testament was written almost 2,000 years ago. That’s quite a cultural gap to cross, but it is not impossible. It just takes a bit of persistence. “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
I have one more week in the Acts of the Apostles. We’ve read 24 chapters in Luke and 21 in Acts so far. That’s more than many (most?) Christians ever read. If you’ve stayed with us, congratulations. Well done! If you stopped along the way, just pick it back up again. Start right where you left off or rejoin us in Acts 22 Monday.
In case it’s not obvious, I’m pretty passionate about God’s Word. In the past 12 years I have journeyed from a completely unchurched atheist to a (soon to be) seminary graduate. Obviously God has done an amazing work in me. The tool He has used the most to shape, chisel, mold, and grow me is the Bible.
What’s on your lazy list? Is there anything you can put down in order to pick up the Word?
We’ve finished one week in the book of Acts. I love this book because it takes everything we learn in Luke and shows us the implications. This is what eyewitnesses to the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus did next. This is how the first and second generation of believers formed communities and walked out their faith.
Luke speaks to us as individuals. It confronts us with facts and forces us to answer one question: who was Jesus? As I said numerous times as we read that book, it only leaves two options. He was either God in the flesh, come to reconcile and redeem humanity or he was a raving lunatic. He is either the Lord or a lunatic. There is no in between. There is no wiggle room. As we read Luke, we respond with complete surrender or complete rebellion. If you think you’re walking a tightrope between the two, you are in rebellion.
Acts speaks to us as a body of believers. It shows us that our faith is not meant to be a solo project and is not something we can remain silent about. These early believers shared their faith everywhere they went. The honestly believed that all who weren’t following Jesus were doomed to perish. They had both urgency and boldness. They didn’t see any other possible response.
Three things that we find in these believers:
First, they know, acknowledge, and proclaim the truth about Jesus. They believe He was the promised messiah who came to reconcile mankind. He is the savior. Even more, they believed He was God. His life, death, and resurrection provided the only path of redemption. Like I said last week, reconciliation is simple but not easy. All you have to do is trust Him. Fully. They knew this and lived like it.
Second, they feared no man. With their eyes fixed on eternity, the opposition of this earth was minor. They didn’t worry what others would think. They didn’t worry that their friends would think they were weird or their coworkers would talk behind their back. Their identity was found in the savior and nothing else.
Third, they humbly worked out the implications of the incarnation with unity. Those with political agendas were quickly corrected and removed (see: Ananias, Sapphira, Simon). The believers weren’t seeking their truths, they were seeking His truth. The truth. And they yielded to it. Together.
What’s the big takeaway from this book? It’s in the title. Act. People often criticize the modern church by comparing it to the believers in this book. What’s the answer? Act. Seriously. Shut up and act. Pursue Christ, allow scripture to refine and sharpen you, and live out the faith. Instead of criticizing all those churches that don’t measure up, be the church that does. Find a band of believers that agree then take the Gospel to the world with urgency and boldness.
What’s stopping you?
Note: A bunch of crazy folks decided we would read through the books of Luke and Acts. We started January first and read six chapters per week of Luke, with a day of grace every week. Now we’ve moved to Acts. We’re shooting for seven chapters a week. If you want to read more than that or less, that’s fine too. There are no checklists or daily reminder. If you want to spend time in the Word of God, just do it. I’ve been posting a weekly check-in with a few thoughts and reflections every week.
Today is grace day. As we take a day off between Luke and Acts, it’s an opportunity to take look both back and ahead. In just a few short weeks we’ve made it through all 24 chapters of the Gospel of Luke. Over the next few weeks, we’ll travel through 28 chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. Personally, I have found reading through books of the Bible has been the most fruitful way to learn about following Jesus. If you’ve taken this journey with me so far, I trust that you have found it uplifting, insightful, and challenging.
Looking back, my first reflection is about the book itself. I have loved how detailed and comprehensive Luke is. Luke was highly educated, compiling the Gospel of Luke from numerous eye-witness accounts. He wrote in a way that would be verifiable to the people of his day. These aren’t mysterious, mystical ramblings intended to inspire and enlighten like we find in other religions. This is an ancient biography. Whatever your opinions of miracles may be, the writer and witnesses to these events are simply reporting what they have seen. As far as style, it was not written to a Jewish audience and is somewhat linear in its telling of the life of Jesus. All of this makes it one of the most approachable books in the Bible for today’s audience. Written communication was much different back then, but this book comes pretty close to what we’re used to. Although it takes a little bit of work at times, most of us can get a lot out of this book quickly.
My second reflection is about Jesus Himself. Although much of what He said was misunderstood in its immediate context, He was quite clear about who He was and why He came. He has not left room for anyone (then or now) to call Him a great teacher or miracle worker. He quite clearly and repeatedly claimed divinity…that’s why the religious elite wanted to kill Him. If He claimed divinity and was not, then He was quite mad. But when we see what He did and what He taught, we see that He spent His entire ministry freeing people. He frees them from sickness, oppression, hunger, and even from death. Each of these acts points to the greatest one…He came to save all of us from the power of sin and death. The one form of oppression that enslaves us all is sin. The one form of poverty that touches each of us is spiritual. It is only through Jesus we are freed from the power and penalty that comes from sin. It is only through Jesus we become reconciled to God, which makes us spiritually rich. Some claim the ministry of Jesus is only about poverty alleviation and social justice here on earth. In this one book, we have seen people who are poor, rich, sick, healthy, Jew, Gentile, man, and woman all come to Jesus. We have seen that exact same demographic turn their back on Him. While the ministry of Jesus certainly brings with it justice and liberation here on earth, it is ultimately meaningless without freedom from sin and reconciliation with God. That’s why Jesus came.
Finally, the last reflection about Luke is personal. This time through Luke, I paid special attention to the interactions Jesus had with others. Throughout the Gospel, His invitation was open to everyone He met. Everyone. Throughout the Gospel, we see people continually walk away. I never once noticed Him turn His back on anyone. That is incredible to think about. The stereotype of Christianity is that it is judgmental and exclusionary. Jesus doesn’t model that. But why did so many turn away? In Luke, Jesus invites people to follow Him. It’s more than just belief…it’s a call to trust and follow. That is where new life is found, that is where we find freedom and refreshing. But there is a cost, and Jesus states it quite plainly. When He says “trust me,” He means with everything. For most, that is too steep a price to pay. Yes, we want relief. We want assurance. But we want it on our terms. We’re still stuck in a transactional mindset, negotiating with God…trying to get a small bit of relief in exchange for a tiny bit of obedience. Jesus holds His arms open wide and says, “give me all of you, and I will give you all of me.” He knows He’s getting the bad end of that deal, but He offers it anyway because of His deep love for us. He knows it will cost Him His life. He will die an agonizing death. Even so…His arms are open wide. Following Jesus is simple, but not easy.
We’re clinging to the pennies in our pocket while He’s offering us the keys to a Kingdom.
If you aren’t caught up with us in Luke, read a chapter or two today. Or dive into Acts since that’s where we’re headed next. This is a no-frills, no-pressure, grace-filled journey. Enjoy it.
As you start to dive into Acts, here are a few things to watch for.
Luke wrote Acts, so the writing style, pace, and language is going to be nearly identical to what we just finished. Expect a few historical details along the way. Feel free to Google some of the names and places if you like. There’s a lot of travel in this book, so this will be a great time to visit the maps in the back of your Bible!
Pay attention to the messages preached. Who is the message for? Why is it important? What’s the purpose? Remember, although the Old Testament tells Israel to welcome in the foreigners and sojourners, Judaism was primarily a national religion. Bringing outsiders in was uncommon. This changes dramatically in this book. Notice the role of women in this book. Are they valued or are they outcast? Do they play prominent roles or are they bystanders? A lot of people think the early church was pretty close to perfect. Pay close attention…what do you think? What did they do right and what did they get wrong?
If you’re reading closely, a few weeks in you might notice where Luke joins the story. This is one of my favorite little treasures in the book. If you think back on the Gospel, you’ll notice Luke isn’t in it at all. However, from Paul’s writings and from Acts, we know that Luke was converted to Christianity sometime after the ascension. If you’re reading closely, you’ll spot a specific shift in a specific town. Luke starts using the word “we” to refer to the travelers. Cool stuff.
A couple of final things to watch out for…look for how the Holy Spirit moves, acts, and empowers people. We’ll see it right off in chapter two, but pay attention throughout the rest of the book. Also pay special attention when they speak of the Word of God. What are they talking about? Why is it important? We’ve often heard Jesus referred to as “the Word.” Is that what they mean here?
I hope you’re enjoying our journey through Luke and Acts. I’ve been sharing a few reflections every day on my Facebook page to keep us on track and motivated. Feel free to join the conversation. I love seeing so many people reading along…people seem to be talking about the Word everywhere I go and it’s beautiful. Thanks for coming along with me.