For the longest time I've been meaning to read through the book of Acts. In all my years of attending Christian school and going to church I've spent hardly any time in Acts (except for that infamous chapter 2)
I've learned that I learn things the best in big chunks. I'm a concept person. I am not one of those people who can take one word or one thought or phrase and ponder it and pull deep meaning from it (this is why I'll never be able to write a novel--great novel writers create story from the tiniest detail) so I sat down toward the end of the Christmas vacation and pulled out my parallel Message/NASB and started reading Acts straight through. I gotta admit....I started feeling a little bit disappointed. I think I was hoping for an annointed listing of 'how-to's' -- a great formula for how to work in church ministry and be an all-around-great-Christian.
That's not what I found.
(here's some thoughts from my journal on the subject...)
"...read through the book of Acts this week--pretty fascinating stuff. Donald Miller is right -- there are NO formulas! Even the basic way that people received the Holy Spirit was different. Sometimes they walked away from a talk with an apostle 'persuaded'; other times they needed a couple of actual, physical touches from several of the apostles before they received the Holy Spirit. Amazing...
In fact, I could understand how different denominations can walk away from reading this book believing that certain spiritual exercises are non-negotiable experiences of the Christian walk. (i.e., speaking in tongues, the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a separate encounter, the 'sinner's prayer') I can see how that might happen, except for the fact that no two spiritual encounters appeared to be alike outside of the basic message of Christ's death, burial and resurrection. So I can see how churches might walk away with those thoughts, but then again I really can't.
I am impressed -- albeit, somewhat frustrated by God's insistence on not being put into a box or formula or - even - His own spoken laws! It's crazy...insane! This is a part of God that makes me head over heels in love with Him and mad at Him at the same time!
I want to live with the freedom of my God and the practical daily wisdom of Peter, Paul and the other apostles and church disciples in the book of Acts. To take each phase of life, commitment -even individual moments - into loosely-cupped hands. No grasping or clawing. Head held high in the presence of prisoners and kings alike. The simple message of Jesus' gospel and the way it invaded my life always on my lips...not contrived, not jammed down people's throats, not hidden behind apologetic stammering. Respectful. Diplomatic. Timely.
Happy New Year, everyone!
In case you are wondering...here's what Don Miller says about looking for formula in Scripture.
"You would think some of the writers of the Bible would have gone to a Christian writers seminar to learn the magical formulas about how to dangle a carrot in front of a rabbit, but they didn't. Instead, the writers of the Bible tell a lot of stories and account for a lot of history, write down a lot of poems and recite a great deal of boring numbers and then conclude with various creepy hallucinations that, in some mysterious way, explain the future, in which, apparently, we all slip into Dungeons and Dragons outfits and fight the giant frog people. I forget how it goes exactly, and I mean no disrespect. But because it is so scatterbrained, and has virtually no charts and graphs, I am actually quite surprised the Bible sells.