Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Quiet Retreat: Book of Acts

The book of Acts has been a special place for me to camp out in these past months as I especially longed to know more about the church and what the Bible had to say about it. And so on my quiet retreat since I didn't have another specific place to start, I opened again to the book of Acts.

Although I'd already passed the first dozen or so chapters, I started at the beginning again. This time, instead of moving more slowly through one section at a time, I read it out loud and just listened and watched for what jumped out at me.

So many good truths - but the most notable to me this time through were these things:

3:1, "One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer - at three in the afternoon." I enjoyed noticing this because it was just after three in the afternoon as I was reading this aloud in our gray and cozy living room. The thought came to me that this would be a lovely time to implement tea time and prayer maybe even once a week with my children during this coming school year. I like the idea of doing it every day but I know we won't be able to maintain that realistically so I wondered about this idea of once a week. We'll see!

3:2-10, "Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, 'Look at us!' So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, 'Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.' Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him."

It is not lost on me that the name of the temple gate was Beautiful while there was not much beautiful about the situation of this lame man begging endlessly day after day. Don't you think he had grown callous, numb and resigned to his situation and they called him forth to new hope and possibility.

Not only that, but something beautiful did come from this encounter and it was not what the man was expecting. I imagine he was really only looking for the next hand out that would come his way but they offered him a changed life which is what God is in the business of offering. He goes above the temporal need and looks at the true lasting needs of the heart and soul.

The ongoing theme in the book of Acts is how the church flourishes and grows when under pressure and persecution. The believers are scattered because of hardship and regulations yet they carry the seeds of the Gospel with them to new places and the seeds are received in welcoming soil so that tender new shoots spring up and send down deep roots. No matter how many times one or another is commanded to cease teaching in the name of Jesus, we are shown that they never give up, never stop and continue on in the faithful bearing of the message of Christ.

4:32-35, "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need."

At some point, I wrote the following question next to this passage: Is all that I have available for God's use?

This was an especially meaningful question in light of what comes next in chapter 5 when Ananias and Sapphira sell a piece of property and agree to keep back part of the money for themselves. When they separately lie about the amount they paid, it results in death for each of them just a few hours apart. This begged a second question to be written in my Bible: Am I dishonestly withholding part of myself from God?

Acts 5:41-42, "The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ."

If there is another theme in the book of Acts aside from the growth and persecution of the church and how it flourishes under hardship, it might also be the preeminence and importance of the name of Jesus. It is all about being faithful and true to His name and the message we have been entrusted with.

And it is about preaching the good news. Never forgetting the good news and when we have good news we typically don't want to just keep it to ourselves but rather to share it and allow others to benefit as well.

I'll be continuing to read the book of Acts and ruminate on these thoughts in the days to come!


Unknown said...

I love the idea of a quiet retreat day....I'm going to do one in July before the craziness of school starts... I, like you, will have one in HIGH school, one in middle school, and one in elementary...and I am going to work as the school, I'm going to ask myself the same questions: 1. Am I witholding anything from God? 2. What is beautiful/good in my life and how do I practice a heart of gratitude in the midst of busyness and chaos! I love your new blog look, too!! It is soothing to the eye from the minute you open it!!!

Jessica said...

Monica, I loved your insight into the book of Acts today. I'm reading there too right now with the One Year bible. Some of the things that jumped out at you I passed right on by. I so enjoyed going back through these passages. Thank you!