Acting out our faith

A quick run through the New Testament, featuring the book of Acts:

The Holy Spirit

  • The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus first, because the Holy Spirit and Jesus both are God. This is beyond our ability to understand – but it’s true anyway. Our God is that big; in some ways, we cannot understand Him. But because He was as human as He was divine, there are plenty of things we can understand about Him.
  • Living in the Spirit is moment-by-moment fellowship with Jesus. We can pray deep prayers in scheduled “quiet times,” and we also can hold a conversation with Him as the day rolls on.
  • The same Spirit who lived in the apostles lives in you and me today. Which means we have the same power and authority that the apostles did.
  • The same Spirit in Christ lives in me. Since the Spirit is God, and Christ is God, therefore Christ – the same Christ who died on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago – lives in me.

Deception, trials, sin

  • The apostles had no idea Judas would betray Jesus. They asked: Is it I, Lord? Judas, without the Spirit, deceived them. (Later, Ananias and Saphira tried to deceive over material possessions, and were found out – Acts 5).
  • Simon (Acts 8) wanted Jesus and his own magic at the same time. God and … doesn’t work.
  • Trials are like taking our faith to the gym. That’s how we grow. The flood meant Noah and his family could never return to their old life.

The Gospel

  • The resurrection is fact, not emotion. This means our faith is based on fact, not hearsay or feelings.
  • The most hated truth in the Bible is hell. This is what we are saved from.
  • We cannot save ourselves. And the world cannot save us, either. Only Jesus can.
  • We are to share our faith, not consume it. We are not sponges; we need to be wrung out.
  • Christianity is more than doctrine or beliefs. It’s a way of living. Who are you, Lord? – is the most important question we can ask.
  • Salvation requires no action on our part – only to believe. It’s 100 percent a God thing. It’s inward, not outward.
  • Jesus is the message. The apostle Paul, a scholar, claimed to know nothing except Jesus and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).
  • Jesus rose to live forever – not like Lazarus, who rose on Earth for a short time.
  • Christianity is not behavior modification. A changed heart is the result.
  • Why do some people discount the Gospel? For several reasons: We don’t want to face our sins or be held accountable; we want to do something for it; and/or resurrection is not logical.

Living the Christian lifestyle

  • Jesus said rivers of living water will flow from believers’ hearts (John 7:37-39). Living water, by definition, gives life, comforts and soothes. It moves. It quenches thirst, permanently.
  • The first believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (about Jesus), fellowship (sharing life), the breaking of bread (communion) and prayer (Christ-centered). This modeled unprecedented unity, which Jesus prayed for in John 17.
  • No one in Acts prayed for safety or good health – only for courage to share the Gospel boldly.
  • God can use anything – peace or trials. With trials, passion and purpose will come into sharp focus.
  • “Rights” are not for me, but for others, to promote the Gospel (1 Corinthians 8-9).
  • We are to keep ourselves unstained from the world (James 1:27). We are to live in the world, but not be consumed by its values.
  • If my heart is right, my words and actions will come out naturally. I don’t have to “practice” evangelism. I need to know the basics and how Jesus has changed my life. I need to live that way, and talk that way too.
  • Sin distorts the message of the Gospel. We must acknowledge this and seek forgiveness – first from God, then from others. Not just once, but repeatedly.
  • God’s will benefits everyone. Sin is not God’s will. He allows sin so that we can accept forgiveness, then change our lifestyles.
  • We do not follow people who point to Christ; we follow Christ Himself.

Servants of God

  • Abraham and Moses’ ministries began when they were old. God takes the long view.
  • Stephen did not defend himself, but defended Jesus and His crucifixion and resurrection. Unlike the religious leaders of his day, Stephen did not worship the temple itself, but the living God.
  • Stephen had no fear of death – he was already dead to sin and alive in Christ.
  • Stephen personified all of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
  • Cornelius, a non-Jew, and Peter both had lessons to learn (Acts 10), even though Peter was an early church leader.
  • Peter escapes from prison but the apostle James, one of Jesus’ inner three, is killed (Acts 12). The believers undoubtedly were praying for both, with different “answers” from God. We can’t understand all of God’s answers to prayer.
  • Paul valued serving God over his own safety.
  • God allowed Paul to remain in prison (Acts 25) for several reasons: he was safe there (many people wanted him dead), he wrote epistles there, and his friends were allowed to care for him there.
  • The people of Malta judged Paul twice after he was bitten by a viper (Acts 28:1-10). He was a murderer, the gods were bringing justice; then, when nothing happened, they worshipped him as a god. Both judgments were wrong.

Hope

  • Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven.
  • We could lose our wealth or health overnight. Hope in God is not like that; once Jesus changes our hearts, we are sealed for heaven forever.
  • Hope is confident expectation, not wishful thinking.

Who God is

  • The law shows our need. Jesus meets our need.
  • The church fails, people fail, things fail, but the word of God never fails.
  • God sits on a throne of grace (forgiving us for our sins), not wrath (Heb. 4:14-5:10).

Faith

  • Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11). It’s outlandish: Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac, his promised son, on faith that God would keep His promise of many descendants. Abraham obeyed, and God honored that (by stopping the sacrifice before it actually happened).
  • The Bereans tested Paul’s words with Scripture (Acts 17), then believed Paul when they discovered his words matched what they read about the living God.
  • Faith requires some belief.
  • Faith is not knowledge – even the demons know who Jesus is (James 1-2). Faith is living by knowledge.

Equal but different

Once a week, I drive into Cleveland to mentor a fourth-grader at lunchtime. His family situation is difficult and he has issues with a classmate or two. We talk about how to deal with these things.

He has some wonderful gifts and talents, and I encourage him whenever I can.

On another front, I drive for my work, often in city traffic. I frequently let drivers merge in front of me who are waiting to exit a grocery store parking lot or the local McDonald’s.

On yet another side, there are six of us at the “office” where I work – five women and me. The staff nurse is a woman, the boss’ boss is a woman, the boss’ boss’ boss is a woman …

And I get along with all of them just fine. I take directions well, and try to be as supportive and encouraging of an employee as I can.

I also have a social media presence, where it’s easy to hide my introvertedness and encouraging spirit to join the fray like so many people do.

A social media discussion

Quite a few of my closest friends avoid social media for this reason. It’s so negative. That’s all they see.

But social media, like any form of technology, is a tool. It’s inanimate. It’s what we make it. Pornography abounds here, but so do uplifting sites and pages with specific interests that I follow.

Social media is a wonderful place to connect long-distance with friends and former co-workers. But it’s easy for those of you who don’t know me well or haven’t seen me in awhile to misunderstand who I am or where I’m coming from. We hide behind the technology very well.

Social media often is controversial. I pick my battles carefully there.

I picked one last week that sparked an enlightening discussion.

BSA

The Boy Scouts of America announced that for the first time in their century-old history, they would begin accepting girls. On a friend’s post about that, I offered this comment:

Boys are no longer allowed to become young men. That’s what we’ve lost. We are raising a unisex nation, where boys and girls are not only “equal,” they are no longer different – despite their obvious differences. And we wonder why our nation has lost its way. This is the main reason right here.

I’ve seen articles saying the Boy Scouts’ decision to accept girls was a business decision, and not to make a social statement. But they made a social statement.

Different

I brought up a concept I wish this country understood. I first encountered this in college in the late 1970s, and it’s even more prevalent today:

Different doesn’t mean inferior. Or superior.

This is obvious to me, but not to many Americans.

I’m so sorry about the Harvey Weinstein saga and the resulting #MeToo hashtag, which is showing that sexual harassment in all its forms is far more prevalent than we thought it was. In no way am I defending this.

But by saying that different doesn’t mean inferior or superior, I’m branded as a power-hungry white American male who just wants to keep women in their place – a lesser place than where men are, apparently.

Power grab?

In the social media discussion I raised the concepts of love and respect, which several women in the thread rejected as a power grab. Men say they give love and want respect, but only to remain in authority.

I wrote that by love I mean Biblical love, not love as America understands it. The woman whom I had the best discussion with on this topic said she’s not a “believer” and doesn’t know about Biblical love. I said it’s worth exploring, and left it at that.

I felt the discussion was good and helpful, at least to me.

Others chimed in and saw me as the typical white American male who doesn’t understand the struggles of women. I can’t deny I am a white American male.

Does that automatically make me power hungry?

I know many men who do not fit that profile, and we raise sons who love and respect the women (and men – and animals, for that matter) in their lives as well.
But as I said on another thread, the men who truly are power hungry get all the headlines. They rape, they commit other crimes against humanity, they talk and live as ego-driven alphas …

I cannot defend them, nor should I. At times I am ashamed to be a white American male. Far too many of us abuse our positions of authority and leadership. It’s no wonder women are fighting back.

‘Lifestyle evangelism’

But not all of us guys are power-hungry egomaniacs.

How can I convince you of that?

By my lifestyle.

I don’t have to mentor an inner-city fourth-grader. I don’t have to let traffic merge in front of me. I don’t have to donate blood, which I’ve done for more than three decades and which benefits people I will never know.

I don’t do such things for your compliments. I’m not interested in a full trophy case. I don’t need the corner office or the big salary or the job title. If a woman attains those things, I’ll celebrate her accomplishments and do what I can to help her continue to grow professionally. I’ve had a number of female supervisors over the years, and nearly all of them did – and do – their jobs well. It’s not hard for me to respect a woman in authority, or as a peer.

Teammates

Equal but different? Why is that such a hard concept to understand?

On a football team, there are 11 players on offense, but only one is the quarterback. If the “big uglies,” the offensive linemen, don’t do their jobs, the quarterback can’t do his either. They need each other. Their jobs are very different. They have different skill sets and do different things.

But everyone on the offense, all 11 players, has the same goal: to score a touchdown. Each of them has to do his part well for that to happen.

Men understand this. We all dream of being the star quarterback, but in real life, we know better.

A power grab? No. Men and women are teammates in this game called life. Numerous books have been written on the differences between men and women. This is not rocket science.

We – men and women – ignore this to our own peril.

We’re partners in every sense of that word.