Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Acts 2 Church today?

Is it possible to have an Acts 2 Church today?  If it is, what would it look like?  Several months ago someone on facebook asked a similar question, posting this as their status: "I'm throwing this out for discussion: What would an Acts 2 Church look like today?"  Quite a few people responded, but one commenter pretty much summed up what the rest said — "It would be a group of believers totally Spirit-filled and Spirit-directed in everything they did as the Church and as individuals.  Everything would be done out of sincere love for Christ and for each other, not out of obligation.  There would be healings and miracles, and the message would make an impact on their hearts and touch their spirits in such a way that not responding and leaving unchanged would be wrong.  And not only would worship be out-of-this-world amazing, prayer would be absolutely wonderful.  To sum it up, Acts 2 shows us the Church in its purest form; it's what we would be today if we'd but follow its pattern."

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?  The problem is, if the Book of Acts, let alone its second chapter, shows us the pattern we should follow, why does no one consistently follow it?  One reason is that no one can follow it today.  God has made it impossible, and all attempts to do so can only end in confusion and frustration.

First of all, Acts presents a changing program.  It is rightly called a "book of transition," i.e., of transition from God's past program of Law to the present.  So how can we use it as pattern for our practice today if it keeps changing?

And what message should we preach?  Should we call men to "repent...and be baptized...for the forgiveness of their [your] sins and offer them Messiah's return and the establishment of His kingdom, as Peter did (Acts 2:38; 3:19-21)?  Or, should we proclaim the message that Paul later "received from the Lord Jesus": "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24)?  I believe the Church today, using Acts as its pattern, is teaching a confused mixture of both.  How can we preach what Peter preached in Acts 2 and 3 and the wonderful truths of Romans, Ephesians and Colossians without causing confusion?

Also, where and to whom should we preach?  Should we begin at Jerusalem as the twelve did (Acts 1:8; Lk 24:47) or go with Paul "far away to the Gentiles" (Acts 22:21)?  Should we go to "the Jews only" as the followers of Christ did in early Acts (Acts 11:19) or should we say with Paul: "Your blood be upon your own heads...from now on I will go to the Gentiles" (Acts 18:6)?  Obviously, if our purpose is to reach the Jews first, we would now find greater numbers of them in N. America and Europe than in Jerusalem.

And what economic program should we follow; the pattern of Acts 2 and sell off all our investments and have "all things in common?"  Or, should we keep our private possessions and give to the Lord's work "every man according to his ability" (Acts 11:29)?  And if we follow the pattern of Acts 2, can we rest assured that none of us will be needy (Acts 4:34)?  Or, will we end up like "the poor saints in Jerusalem" (Rom 15:26)?

Moreover, if we could use Acts as a pattern and faithfully carry it out, could we count on divine intervention in persecution or not?  Could we expect angelic deliverances like the twelve, or would we find ourselves shut up in prison, delivered to death, forsaken by man and seemingly by God, like Paul?  Don't forget that when Israel sealed her rejection of Christ, God recalled the gifts of miraculous power given at Pentecost (Rom 8:22-23; 1 Cor 13:8, 13; 2 Cor 4:16; 5:2; Phil 2:26-27;1 Tim 5:23, etc.).  I know there are those who maintain they possess these powers today, but the evidence is not very convincing.

The fact of the matter is, it's impossible to follow Acts 2 as a pattern for the Church today, and if attempted, can only result in presenting to the world a confused and incoherent testimony.

(to be continued)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Interesting tidbit - 3

Q:  Why do you suppose it took the laying on of hands for the Holy Spirit to come on the believers who were baptized in Acts 8:9-17?  It's something I've often wondered about.  According to one author I frequently read, this is the answer:

A:  The believers here, who had been baptized but had not received the Spirit promised in Acts 2:38, were Samaritans, members of the ten tribes of Israel.  According to prophecy, these ten tribes must be reunited with the two tribes of Judah (Ezek 37:15-19), for the Lord had promised the 12 apostles that they would reign with Him over "the twelve tribes of Israel" in the kingdom (Matt 19:28).

But it was not enough that the ten tribes of Israel be reunited with the two tribes of Judah.  The ten tribes of Israel had apostatized from the faith centuries before when they made Samaria their capital and set up their own temple at Mt. Gerizim.  They had to renounce all that and recognize Jerusalem as the seat of God's authority.  And so they did not receive the promised Spirit until two apostles from Jerusalem came and prayed for them with the laying on of hands.

Two apostles were enough, of course, since "on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed" (Deut 17:6; 19:15; 2 Cor 13:1).  In fact, the Lord had instructed the apostles that where "two or three" of them were gathered together in His name, they had the authority to act officially in His absence (Matt 18:18-20).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Even Better Recipe...

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.

2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Talk to God about what is going on in your life. Buy a lock if you have to.

3. When you wake up in the morning, complete the following statement, 'I am thankful for______________'

4. Eat more foods grown on trees and plants and eat less foods manufactured in plants.

5. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli , almonds & walnuts.

6. Try to make at least three people smile each day.

7. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.

8. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

9. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

10. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

11. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.  (I love this one.  Ha! :))

12. You are not so important that you have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

13. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.

14. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

15. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

16. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'

17. Forgive everyone for everything.

18. What other people think of you is none of your business.

19. GOD heals everything - but you have to ask Him.

20. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

21. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch!

22. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

23. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statement: 'I am thankful for__________.'

24. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.

25. When you are feeling down, start listing your many blessings. You'll be smiling before you know it.

(Borrowed from an email forwarded to me by my MIL.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Apple Crisp

Here's a wonderful, and very easy, recipe for the fall season.  This apple crisp is a little different than most I've tried because it calls for natural turbinado sugar (often called "raw sugar") in the crumble topping instead of the usual brown sugar.  To me, turbinado sugar is like a cross between regular white sugar and brown sugar.  It has crystals like regular granulated sugar, but they are much larger. Turbinado sugar also retains some of the flavor of molasses, like brown sugar, because it is made at an earlier period in the sugar cane processing method.  You could substitute brown sugar, or even regular granulated sugar, for the turbinado sugar, but you would lose the distinct flavor and texture that turbinado sugar gives. 

I got this recipe from a long-time friend, whom I haven't seen or talked to for quite some time — which reminds me — I really need to call her and catch up!

Fill a 8x8 square pan 2/3 full with peeled, cored and sliced apples.  (IMHO, Empire apples are absolutely delicious in all apple pie and crisp recipes.) 

1/2 c regular white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c butter (do not substitute margarine for butter)
3/4 - 1 c natural turbinado sugar
2 c flour

Pour 1/2 cup regular white sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon over the apples and toss together, evenly coating the apples.  In a bowl, cut together butter, natural turbinado sugar, and flour until crumbly.  Pour over apples and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until top is golden brown.  See?  Easy!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Labels are everywhere.  One can be pigeon-holed a liberal, a conservative, an independent; a beauty, a brain, a druggy; a goody-two-shoes, a dare-devil, a juvie, just to name a few. 

There are labels within Christian circles as well.  There's the Evangelical Free, the Baptist, the Lutheran, the Independent Bible, etc.  The labels don't stop there, however.  There's also the Reformed (or Covenant), the Calvinist, the Dispensationalist, not to mention the New Covenant, Calvin's Calvinist, the Classic Calvinist (TULIP), the Hyper-Calvinist, as well as the Traditional Dispensationalist, the Progressive Dispensationalist, the Hyper-Dispensationalist and I think there's even the Ultra-Hyper-Dispensationalist.  Twenty years or so ago the Dispensationalists supposedly had it right, but the tide has changed and now the Reformed are apparently in the know.  As a friend of mine once described Debussy's etudes — "The tide goes out, then it returns, then it goes out again, then it comes in..."  But if we've placed our faith in Christ's death and resurrection, we're all brothers and sisters in Christ, so why are we all so quick to label one another? 

I realize labels can be helpful when trying to figure out where the other person is coming from, but so often we judge people to be unsound, label them, and then write off everything they have to say from that point on.  I admit I have the same tendency.  But is that the way it should be, especially among fellow believers?  Certainly we should discerning, but I often feel we're just judging one another in order to make ourselves feel superior.

Frankly, because of that, I tend to keep quiet about my beliefs.  Not about the essential ones, of course, like man's utter sinfulness, Christ's death and resurrection on our behalf, the sovereignty of God, and the innerrancy of Scripture, but about how I view Scripture and what it says about prayer, God's physical intervention in the world today (namely miracles), visions, guardian angels, God's will and how He guides us, the end times, the Millennial Kingdom, and the Church and Israel.  I could go on but I won't.  Oh I'm much more vocal on my blog, but even here I hold back.  Will I be branded — labeled — and then possibly written off?  The truth be told, I often feel lonely, like I'm on the outside peering in.

When God gave us His Word, He meant us to understand it.  It's not some kind of complicated puzzle that only theologians can unravel.  In fact, I firmly believe that if fellow believers sit down together, with open minds and Bibles, they will eventually come to the same understanding.  Can we talk?

Monday, October 4, 2010


Q:  How do you put a sparkle in a soprano's eye?

A:  Shine a flashlight in her ear.

Q:  What's the difference between a soprano and a terrorist?

A:  You can negotiate with a terrorist.

Q:  How many altos does it take to change a lightbulb?

A:  Four — one to climb the ladder and three others to complain how high it is.

Q:  How many tenors does it take to change a lightbulb?

A:  One.  He just holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.

Q:  How do you know when there's a singer at the door?

A:  He has the wrong key and has to be told when to come in.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner ("REEKKH-art VOGG-ner") was a German opera composer during the late Romantic era. He stretched the tonal systems of his day by using chromaticism for dramatic effect. He also introduced the concept of the leitmotiv in his operatic plot development, a recurring musical theme associated with a particular person, place, or idea.

Personally, Wagner was an arrogant, dishonest, jealous, hypocritical, racist, sexist, and passionately anti-Semitic man.  In fact, Hitler adopted him as a hero for his beliefs — and until very recently, Wagner's music has been banned is Israel.  And yet, his music is rather pleasant to listen to ... most of the time.  It seems incredible that such a odious man could have composed it.

Richard Wagner (May 22, 1813 - February 13, 1883) was born in Leipzig, Germany, and from the beginning, he loved the theater.  When he was 20, he got a job playing piano for rehearsals for an amateur opera company.  This first-hand look at opera-making inspired him to try his own hand at it. 

That hand was shaky at first.  Wagner couldn't persuade anyone to even put on his first opera, The Fairies.  And his second, The Ban on Love, was an utter disaster.  On opening night, the singers didn't know their parts; the orchestra was out of tune and out of sync; and the prima donna's husband got so upset with the tenor's loving behavior toward his wife in the opera that he jumped up on the stage to punch him in the face.

But Wagner was too persistent to give up.  If Germany wasn't going to appreciate him, maybe another country would — like maybe Latvia.  He also stopped in Paris, then back to Germany.  After all this traipsing about, he felt confident that his next operatic effort would finally be a success.  Unfortunately for him, he'd also been active in political protests — enough to get him fired from his job, get a warrant out for his arrest, and force him to leave the country.  This time he wouldn't return (he wasn't allowed to) for 13 years.

Next he hung out in Switzerland for a while and then returned to Paris to oversee a production of Tannhauser, but the French audiences turned the premiere into a fiasco.  The second and third performances were not much better received either, so Wagner ordered it withdrawn.  It wasn't seen again in Paris for 35 years.

But Wagner's persistence at opera-writing finally paid off when he met King Ludwig II of Bavaria.  He was a huge fan of Wagner's and sent a messenger to bring the composer to his castle, promising to satisfy his every need and publicize his operas throughout the land.  By most accounts, Ludwig, whose outlandish castles you can still visit, was a certifiable nut case.  He eventually went completely berserk and drowned himself in a lake.  So in other words, he was the perfect patron for Richard Wagner.

Flush with funding from Ludwig, Wagner's opera career finally exploded.  In 1865, Munich heard the premiere of Tristan and Isolde, a story of two lovers as tragic as Romeo and Juliet.  Four years later came the premiere of Wagner's hugest creation: the Ring cycle  (or The Ring of the Nibelungs).  This cycle of four gigantic operas, based on medieval folk tales, ultimately made Wagner world-famous.

For your listening pleasure, here's an excerpt from Wagner's opera, The Valkyries (part of the Ring cycle): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V92OBNsQgxU  It will forever and always remind me of the song (Kill the Wabbit) Elmer Fudd sings in the Bugs Bunny cartoon, What's Opera, Doc? — which you can view here. :)