Click HERE to download our bulletin from Sunday, October 25, 2015.
do you see her?
while bounding from place to place
creating streams of endless motion,
the strangest object
dances around her neck.
a slender triangle of smooth metal,
supposed to be used
along with a hammer
to hold objects in place.
but as Caesar’s Roman warriors
hammered new legacies with it,
it became a part of
their greatest weapon
and deepest shame.
criminals laid bare on
prickly wooden beams
had their hands and feet punctured
by its unforgiving force.
and amidst this acclaimed justice,
one of complete innocence
was voluntarily led to this brutal marriage
of wood and metal.
not for the chance to save those who loved him,
but so the most unforgivable monster,
could find forgiveness and love.
as it swings to the rhythm
of her hectic life,
she recounts this tale
of unfathomable sacrifice
and with a quick upturn of lips,
retells the story for those
who need to be pierced,
with selfless love.
Purpose Statement: To show my excitement when I’m asked what my nail necklace is and the story behind it.
Daphne Matthews – 10/2/15
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
Declaring the Sovereignty of God, the believers greeted Peter and John with prayer after they had left the trial before the Sanhedren (Acts 4:23-28). “Now, Lord,” they pleaded, “consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness” (vs. 29). What an interesting request to make of their Lord! Not “make them stop their threats” or “defeat their schemes” but, rather, “enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” More than that, they asked Him to “Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (vs. 30).
Suddenly the ground begins to shake and once again the Holy Spirit verifies that their request has been heard as He answers their prayer, enabling them to speak the word of God boldly. Jesus had instructed them clearly:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8)
The shaking of the ground beneath their feet verified that their request was in line with God’s blessing and the boldness they requested was granted. But, as if that were not enough, He went above and beyond to bless them with even more than that for which they had pleaded.
This over-and-above answer to prayer is not a new revelation in the kingdom of God. Indeed, God was explicit with Solomon’s request. Confessing his childish inadequacy to fulfill the role of his father, David, Solomon asked for “a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:7-9). Pleased with Solomon’s request, God verifies His affirmation:
So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life” (I Kings 3:11-14).
So, in addition to their request for boldness, the Holy Spirit blesses them with unity: “they were one in heart and mind” (Acts 4:32a). Indeed, this was Jesus’ prayer before his Passion in John 17:20-23:
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Their love for one another would certainly be an identifying characteristic of Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35). Would it be too much to suggest that praying for the right things brings God’s people together in their love and care for one another as they appeal to God for the boldness to proclaim a risen Savior? It only makes sense that added evidence of the Spirit’s presence and God’s blessing is to be found in His people’s generosity!
He blesses them with a spirit of generosity as “they shared everything that they had” (vs. 32:b). Over-and-above, Luke tells us that God graced them to do even more as the apostles spoke publicly about the resurrection of the Lord, moving the more affluent among them to openly sell their property to empower the apostles to distribute the proceeds even further to those in need.
Luke’s understanding of the place of generosity in the hearts of believers stands out in his gospel account as well as here in Acts. The parable of The Debtors (Luke 7:41-43), the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21), the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-8), the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) and the Parable of the Pounds (Luke 19:11-27) all warn of the danger of wealth. Indeed, Jesus was concerned about the wealthy young man who could not part with his affluence (Luke 18:18-23) and God declares the rich man who dreams of bigger barns “Fool” (Luke 12:20).*
This is not new. The principle of tithing goes back to the time of Abraham (Genesis 14:18-20; Hebrews 7:1-10), long before the Law prescribed the tithe (Leviticus 23:20). When God’s people settled for giving less the prophet Malachi told them plainly that God felt robbed. ‘How are we robbing you?’ they asked, and the answer comes back clearly:
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” [And then God challenges them:] “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (Malachi 3:8-10).
I believe this is what Luke is referring to in the first part of his description of the generosity that overwhelmed the church in Acts 4:32. But then there is the over-and-above giving from their surplus that expanded upon the spirit of generosity among God’s people. Paul would make it clear to the church in Corinth that the proper response to God’s blessing was to give what they had decided in their heart because God finds so much joy in the sacrificial giving of His people that He promises to bless them even more. Why? So that they can give more out of their surplus! (2 Corinthians 9:6-15).
In Acts 4:36-37 Luke introduces us to Barnabas who sells some property, takes the money he receives and lays it before the feet of the apostles to distribute to others as the needs arised. It is important to note that this was a public event. Were it not, chapter 5:1-11 would be less clear as we attempt to understand the motivation of Ananias and Sapphira. As it is, they obviously knew of the gifts that were being given, the prayers of thanksgiving and praise that naturally flowed from such selfless acts, and they wanted in on the glory by exaggerating the value of their sacrifice and covering up their own avarice.
When they prayed for boldness and the Holy Spirit made its presence known by shaking the ground beneath their feet, how did they know that they were now empowered to speak boldly? Because they did it (Acts 4:31, 33)! “Be careful what you ask for,” the quote-of-the-day might say, “you may receive it!” In verse 33 Luke makes it clear that “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus….” but what about everyone else? In verse 31 Luke just told us that everyone was doing it.
Perhaps some of them spoke boldly to one another, declaring aloud: “He is risen from the dead! Before I doubted, but now I know! He is truly the Messiah sent from God to save the world from its sins!” Others may have had a different reaction, falling to their knees in tears with the revelation that convicted them deep within their hearts and minds. Maybe others walked out of the room, down the street asking friends, acquaintances and strangers for permission to tell them the story of Jesus. How ever it happened, it was obvious to all and it was reinforced by the powerful demonstration of God’s power in the apostles as they used the miracles and signs they performed to provide the segue into bold proclamation of the risen Lord in spite of the threats of the Sanhedren skeptics.
Put simply, I believe Luke is telling us that when God’s people gather to acknowledge His sovereignty and to ask for boldness to declare His good news in Jesus Christ, He blesses them with a spirit of boldness, unity and generosity. Perhaps one of the reasons for their generosity was the realization that some day soon, as Jesus had prophesied earlier, God’s judgement would be unleashed on Jerusalem and they would be forced to leave everything they possessed behind (Luke 21:20-24). For those of us who have attended a sufficient number of funerals, the truth that ‘You can’t take it with you’ could be incentive enough to realize the present need to demonstrate to others God’s love and His generosity towards us. Perhaps it may present incentive enough to ask our family, friends and acquaintances: “Let me tell you about my Lord….”
*Willimon, William H. Acts. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. (Louisville, KY; Westminster, John Knox Press). 2010, p. 52.