Acts 24 – The Two Year Trial

Read Acts 24

Paul’s first official Roman trial begins with a man named Felix, a governor over the region in which Jerusalem was a part.  When the Jewish religious leaders arrive, they present “charges” against Paul that coincide with his missionary journies throughout the Roman Empire.  Interestingly, though, if we were to read back over Paul’s journeys, we would see very quickly that it was actually the fault of the Jews in each of the cities where Paul was that riots broke out.

One thing that is missing from this chapter is the history of the Jews and the Roman Empire, and why the question of riots was so important.  The Jews were not a willing people when it came to Roman subjugation.  Throughout the rule of both the Greeks and the Romans, the Jews rioted and revolted constantly resulting in a Roman garrison being set up in Jerusalem.  Many soldiers were stationed there in an effort to keep this peace.  Being accused as a “troublemaker” and someone who “stirs up riots” was a big deal; the Romans had no patience for it.

But Paul’s defense leaves little doubt that these charges are, at best, incomplete, and lack the proper witnesses for the accusations that are being brought.

I have to wonder what Paul was thinking as the days, weeks, and months in Caesarea wore on.  He stayed with Governor Felix for two whole years, all the while being questioned in hopes that Paul would slip up.  He never did.

So for two years Paul waited to move on to the next step of the journey that would lead him to Rome.  It must have seemed like an eternity to him.  Yet during this time, God was setting the stage, preparing both Paul and those he would encounter along the way.



Acts 23 – Take Courage

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Even though Paul knew that he was following what God willed for him, I can imagine that he was probably getting a little tired of being fought over and accused by the Jewish religious leaders.  It is interesting, though, that in these moments when Paul was at his weakest and most vulnerable, that God provides exactly what Paul needs.

Have you ever experienced this in your life?  You find yourself in the midst of a battle, something pressing in on you, and it is in that moment that something happens or someone shows up and offers you the very encouragement that you need to help you move forward.  God always provides what we need and protects us; when we are at our weakest, God is at His strongest.

We never quite know how God is going to work in our circumstances either.  Paul’s situation seems rather bleak even though God has assured Him that he would be going to Rome to testify.

Behind the scenes, there is a plot that is unfolding.  This group of people that is planning a trap so that they can kill Paul probably thought that they were doing the Lord’s work by ridding their religion of Paul and his “lies.”  Little do they know how much of the Lord’s work they are actually doing here.

I always love the little ironies that crop up in Scripture.  If it wasn’t for this plot, Paul would have never been moved out of Jerusalem and his trip to Roman likely wouldn’t have taken place.  Yet, once again, like the story of Joseph being sold into Egyptian slavery and then becoming an instrument of salvation, what humans meant for evil, God meant for good, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ might continue to spread throughout the Roman empire.



Acts 22 – Paul's Story

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I have heard it said that all we have to do is “tell our story.”  Leaders and pastors tell Christians this to communicate that there is no fancy degree or qualification that is needed to share your experience with God and what He is doing in your life.  This is incredibly true.

Far too often, Christians remain silent or are afraid to share with others because they feel that they “aren’t educated enough” or “won’t know what to say.”  The fact is that no one knows your story better than you and no one knows what God is doing in your life better than you (except God of course).

Here, Paul doesn’t actually share the Gospel as he had in other places.  Instead, he shares his experience of transformation and how his life was changed.  For this moment apparently, Paul felt that this was what God was directing him to say.

One thing that we don’t often here in the “tell your story encouragement” is what the results might be.  This, actually, is the reason why we don’t readily share things with others anyway; we don’t know what will happen.

In some accounts in Acts, people readily received the Gospel message in whatever form it was shared.  Yet here, the response is profoundly negative.  The crowds call for Paul’s death in a scene that looks markedly similar to Jesus’ trial.

Yet there is something we need to take into consideration here: God’s plan.  Paul’s testimony leads to a conversation about his citizenship.  This conversation ultimately leads to his journey to Rome.  That journey leads to countless people hearing the Gospel.

We may never know where one conversation leads, but we are still called to share and to trust God’s work in that moment and every one that follows.



Ephesians 1:3-14 "Let's Talk About Identity"

Jesus Christ is the foundation on which our faith is built.  He gives us our identity as sons and daughters of God, called out of darkness into God’s light forever.



Acts 21 – Faithful Return

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Paul’s return to Jerusalem was not simply a stubborn desire of his own heart, but a directive by the Holy Spirit that he faithfully followed.  As he made his way home, many people warned him to stay away and begged him to not go.  They all knew that if he did show his face in Jerusalem, his “fate” would be sealed.

This really came as no surprise to Paul, though.  He was very aware of what would happen to him and actually welcomed it.  That is not to say that Paul welcomed death, but that he trusted God to faithfully be with him through whatever he would experience as he followed God’s calling on his life.

So what can we learn from Paul’s actions here?  If we believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to us through all Scripture, which God does do, then even in a historical account of Paul’s travels we can learn something.

Ultimately, Paul’s return set in motion a series of events that leads to his death in Rome.  Yet Rome was the end goal of Paul’s travels, as he attests to in both Acts and Romans.  He felt strongly that God was calling him there to witness, to strengthen the church there, and to present to Gospel to the highest governmental seats in the known world.  He knew that it wouldn’t be comfortable, but he was willing to go the distance for the sake of Christ.

How about you?  Typically God’s calling on our lives ends up making us uncomfortable; more so than we would like.  We talk a good “following God” talk, but in the walk that we walk we avoid situations that are uncomfortable, especially when it involves sharing our faith.  Perhaps we can learn from Paul’s trust and God’s faithfulness here?



Acts 20 – Encouraging Departure

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There is a strong Biblical precedent set by leaders of God’s people to offer words of encouragement and warning at their final departure.  Moses offers this at the end of Deuteronomy, David at the end of 2 Samuel and the beginning of 1 Kings, and even Jesus at the end each Gospel and the beginning of Acts.  Paul’s words here follow this tradition and clearly come from a deep love and rich relationship he has with the church in Ephesus.

Paul’s words here are not just a warning for the church in Ephesus, but one that we can (and should) take to heart each day.  His concern for the church doesn’t come from a perception weak faith, but from a knowledge that the enemy is on the prowl and is merciless.

Essentially he is encouraging them to “hold on to what they have learned,” to “hold fast to the Word of God,” and to “be vigilant for those who would distort the Gospel Truth.”  Paul has seen and knows full well the power of the enemy and the desire to corrupt that Satan has.  Even from within the midst of the body he will exploit, confuse, pollute, and destroy if he has the chance.  We have seen this in our contemporary context, have we not?

Yet even Paul understands that, to hold fast in this fight, the strength of the Church does not rest on its own knowledge, its ability to remain relevant, her great teachers, or sound doctrine.  The strength of God’s people lies in their trust and faith in God.  Paul commits the Ephesian elders “to God and to the word of His grace.”  This too is where our faith and hope must lie if the Church is to weather the storms and attacks that come our way.



Acts 19 – Paul in Ephesus

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Paul spends two years in Ephesus, another one of the major cities of the Roman Empire in that region and a significant place of Christianity in the early church.  As a matter of fact, the Apostle John moved to Ephesus after the church was established there and became the leader of that church after Paul died.  After his time on the island of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation, John returned to Ephesus where he later died.

It appears that, when Paul arrived, there were already believers present in the city.  Luke refers to them as “disciples,” indicating that they were followers of Jesus, yet they seem to have only experienced Jesus through the teachings of John the Baptist.

Highlighted here is the difference between an “old identity” and the “new identity.”  The old baptism, that of John the Baptist, was still part of the old covenant, preaching a message of repentance and preparation for the coming Kingdom.  Everything points to Jesus’ coming; all of the Old Testament points to the coming of the Messiah and the redemption of the world.

In contrast, the Baptism that Paul offers in the name of Jesus Christ is not about redemption so much as it is about identity.  We are no longer waiting and preparing for the Kingdom of Heaven, we are living it right now.  Notice that Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ sees the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the unleashing of spiritual gifts.

More than this, though, is the bold proclamation of the Gospel and the restorative work that is indicative of Kingdom expansion in the name of Jesus Christ.  Miraculous things are done, people are healed, evil is driven away, lives are changed, and the Gospel and glory of God are seen everywhere!



Acts 18 – Paul in Corinth

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The city of Corinth was one of the major trade cities in the Roman empire.  Sitting directly on an isthmus that separated northern and southern Greece, Corinth was the place to stop either for getting supplies for the long journey ahead or for offloading all the trade goods that a ship was carrying.  It was actually easier for them, in that day, to carry a ship full of trade goods across the isthmus and then reload another ship on the other side than it was to sail around the southern tip of Greece.

Corinth was a very strategic city for both the Roman Empire and for the spread of Christianity.  Like Israel’s placement at the “crossroads” of the known world (the area joining Asia, Europe, and Africa), Corinth was the crossroads for trade at that time.  Obviously, God knew this.  He kept Paul there for a year and a half helping to set up the church and strengthening the believers.  Paul develops deep relationships here and a great affection for the Corinthian church which we will see more of when we read Paul’s correspondences to them later.

One thing that struck me here is God’s message to Paul.  God said, “I have many people in this city…”  Paul had never been to Corinth prior to this.  There is no record of any Christians going to Corinth prior to Paul’s visit, yet God already had many people there.  The way had been prepared for Paul long before he physically arrived, and the Spirit was at work before Paul even knew it.

Sometimes we wonder if we will “have an effect” when we share the Gospel.  Remember, God has been at work for far longer and in much deeper ways than we will ever know and we must trust Him.

 



Acts 17 – Observing Religion

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Paul’s travels take him to a number of different places and contexts where he preaches the Gospel.  When he comes to Athens, a place of great idol worship, religious practices, and philosophy, Paul observes elements from this context and speaks to them in a manner that is appropriate to that setting.

This is an important part of preaching the Gospel: knowing the context in which you are speaking.  In today’s cultural context there is far too much mindless talking points that do not take into consideration the people or the stories that are in the background of our lives.  Paul notices a great deal about the lives of the Greeks before ever addressing them.

As he looks around Athens, Paul takes some time to observe and notice things that help him to know the people better.  He sees their “very religious” lifestyle, how they worship, and what impact that has on their lives.  When he addresses them, he takes elements of that culture and “redeems” them as he shares the truth of Jesus Christ.  In doing so, Paul is speaking their language and giving them something to relate to.  Too often Christians share the message of Jesus using “Christian-ese,” lingo that we would use to talk to each other but not necessarily language that the general public would understand.  We can take some pointers from Paul on this.

I wonder, in light of this, what Paul would refer to if he were to come to the United States today.  What about if he were to walk into one of our churches?  Would he observe the body of Christ living out the message of the Gospel, being a light to a dark world?  Or would he say, like he did in Athens, “I can see you are very religious…”?



Acts 16 – Spirit Direction

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Timothy joins Silas and Paul who are on Paul’s second missionary journey.  As they travel about, it is clear that they are seeking God’s guidance and direction as to where it is they should be preaching.  We can see this because there are times when the Spirit actually stops them from going to different places.  Have you ever experienced this?

Sometimes we get it in our heads that we need to go everywhere and preach the Gospel, and we do so with little consideration to where God is actually calling us to go.  Now this is not to say that the preaching of the Gospel will not be effective if we go it on our own; God works through us and often in spite of us as well.

But when we decide to take time to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit (and follow them), great things will happen.  Imagine how different this would have looked if Paul, Silas, and Timothy had not listened to the Holy Spirit and had indeed gone to the places the Spirit stopped them from going to.  Would lives in those places have been impacted?  Sure.

However, what about those to whom God had called them?  Lydia would not have become a leading member of the Church, the slave girl would not have found freedom, and the Jailer and his family would not have found salvation either.

God is always at work, His plans and His ways are higher than our ways.  I’m sure that it didn’t make a lot of sense to Paul why he couldn’t go into the cities that were close by, but in the end, listening to the Spirit brought them to a place where God did great things through them and many came to know Christ.



Acts 15 – Council

Read Acts 15

Throughout the history of the Church, many councils like the one described here have considered issues that arise in the faith.  Many great creeds and confessions have come out of such councils and the Christian faith has been strengthened through them.  It is important to consider, in this council, the intent of the Apostles and the Elders.

Facing the question of whether circumcision, a part of the Law of Moses, was necessary for salvation, there came a point where the Gospel and the Law clash.  Now the Law was written to identify sin and warn people away from it.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that sin is forgiven and there is now freedom from it in Christ.  Paul goes into great detail about this; we will undoubtedly talk about it again.

Freedom, however, can be scary for us, and receiving the free gift of grace has often led people to think about what they can do to earn it.  Here we see a group of people suggesting that circumcision must happen if we are to fully obtain salvation.  This is nothing more than returning to living under the Law; seeking to earn our own salvation, something that is contrary to Scripture.  God’s grace is free to those who believe.

Yet, out of this council there are some suggestions in how to live.  These aren’t necessarily rules, but rather guidelines on lifestyles that are good for believers.

For those who believe in Christ, are we free?  Yes, absolutely.  Does that mean that we should do whatever we want?  No.  There are still things that are bad for us, things that hurt our relationship with God.  We want to build into this relationship, and there are ways to live that help with that.  And when we fail, grace abounds.



Acts 14 – Credit Where Credit is Due

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When Paul and Barnabas get to Lystra they preach and perform a number of signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.  The healing of a crippled man gets the attention of the crowds, but their reaction is not what they wanted.  Rather than giving glory to God, they give glory to the Greek gods who they thought had manifested themselves as humans.  This wasn’t abnormal in this day but was nonetheless disheartening for Paul and Barnabas.

Having been present for the things that had happened when others took credit for God’s work (Herod a couple chapters ago), Paul and Barnabas knew what it meant for the people to give credit to the wrong places, and what it meant for them if they accepted it.  Instead they use this as a teachable moment… even if it didn’t entirely stop the people from doing what they were doing.

God knows the hearts of His people though and it is pretty clear where Paul and Barnabas landed when it came to the desire of their heart to see the Gospel spread.  Their experience in Lystra is contrasted at the end of this chapter with their return to Antioch where they testify to all that God did on their journey.

I wonder if we don’t give God enough credit in our lives.  When we think back over a vacation or even a difficult time in life, do we look to see where God has worked and testify to that before others?  Or do we look to see that everything “just worked out” and move on with our lives.  God is active in every step that we take, not a hair can fall from our head without His will.  Perhaps it is time that we start giving credit where credit is due.



Acts 13 – Missionary Journey

Read Acts 13

Paul was not only a prolific writing and preacher throughout his life, he was also the first “missionary” and church planter.  In fact, these missionary journeys became the source of his writings as all of the books following Acts are known as “Epistles,” or letters to the churches that he planted.

While the Holy Spirit was with him on these journeys, they were anything but a cakewalk.  Paul and his companions faced considerable resistance and persecution in the places that he went and preached.  Where the Gospel is expanding, so to will the enemy be pushing back against the work of God.

Again, I find it interesting how much similarity there is between the records of the book of Acts and how churches often operate in today’s world.  Paul, when he arrives at Antioch in Pisidia (which is different than the Antioch in Syria), begins preaching in the synagogue and many of the Jews there are amazed.  The are so enthralled with Paul and the message that he is preaching that they ask him to come back.

Word of this gets out and the whole city comes to hear Paul speak.  What an awesome response to the Gospel?  Yet, seeing all these people coming out, the Jews get nervous and change their tune and start to criticize Paul.

Isn’t this so typical of us too though?  Yes, of course we want to preach the Gospel and we want the Holy Spirit to work, but isn’t our greatest fear sometimes that it actually will “work?”  All these new people means change… I might not be able to sit in “my seat” on Sunday.

The Gospel of Jesus brings life but it seldom brings comfort, at least physical comfort.  But that isn’t want Jesus’ message is all about… is it?



RCA and Human Sexuality

Recently, a Special Council of leaders and members of the Reformed Church in America met to discuss the issue of human sexuality.  This meeting took place as a result of the actions of RCA General Synod 2015.  Specifically, this council was tasked with discerning a “way forward” in the denomination as it pertains to human sexuality, marriage, and ordination.  The council met on the dates of April 15-18 in Chicago.

The Reformed Church in America has been addressing the issue of human sexuality for several decades now.  However, this discussion has become much more prominent in RCA meetings at all levels as the issue of human sexuality has taken the center stage of cultural relevance.  There has been, in my opinion, the general consensus from those on both sides is that it is time for the RCA to settle this matter.  Therefore, the purpose, at least on some level, for the “Special Council” was to discern and recommend a way to do so within the denomination.

While the council itself was not open to the public, a report from the council’s leaders has been made available for those who wish to read it.  I have made copies of the full report available in here: 2016SpecialCouncilReport and also the mailboxes underneath the staff mailboxes at church.  You are welcome to take one for your reading if you would like.

The council made several recommendations to General Synod that will go before that meeting for a vote.  General Synod meets from June 9 to June 14.  Below you will find these recommendations and some of my thoughts on them.  My thoughts come both from my study of Scripture, my beliefs, and my understanding of what has happened/been happening within the RCA over the past several years.  I also want to encourage you to pray diligently for the RCA right now as this will likely be a crossroads for us as a denomination.  In many ways, we need to get past this issue so that we can return to the mission of the church, rather than quarreling among ourselves.  I firmly believe that both sides want this and the “Special Council’s” work reflects that.  The time for a decision has come and I believe (and hope) that the question will be called this year, whatever the repercussions are.

Please note: in talking about this subject it is important for us to be hospitable and loving toward those who may be struggling with this in their lives, whether personally or through close family or friends.  It is my goal, always, to show this love and understanding in my words, actions, and even preaching, while maintaining what I believe to be Biblical Truth regarding this matter.

On the following page you will see a list of recommendations and commentary that will be in the following format:

Recommendations for General Synod (to be voted on this year)

Commentary from the “Group of 5,” the past 5 presidents of General Synod and the leaders of the Special Council

Commentary from Pastor Jon.

I will be available after church on June 5 and again after General Synod on June 26 for open discussions regarding this subject and what is or may be coming at General Synod next month.  I welcome your thoughts and questions.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION OF GENERAL SYNOD: To reaffirm:

 

  • That authority and responsibility on ordination of ministers of Word and sacrament rests with the classis by adding clarifying words to the BCO.
  • That authority and responsibility on marriage rests with the consistory and classis by adding clarifying words to the BCO.

 

Observation from the Group of Five: This recommendation appears to have a higher level of consensus from among the ten groups. Nine groups mention this recommendation and seven mention the liturgy changes below. The difference is slight, but should be noted.

Classis authority on matters of oversight and judicial matters with both churches and its ordained member pastors has always been part of the governance of the RCA.  We currently work under the authority of the Southwest Michigan Classis, a body that helped to oversee the transition of this church over the past several years.  This is, in fact, how the denomination has been operating for many years in regards to the issue of human sexuality.  This has presented a problem for some as some RCA churches have married same-sex couples and ordained openly homosexual pastors.  As there is no way to bring charges against those in other Classes who violate what they (and I) consider to be the Biblical definition of marriage between one man and one women, and the current RCA marriage liturgy affirms, this creates a rift in the RCA where as a denomination, matters of “Biblical Truth” are subjective to the classis in which they are interpreted.

There are options here, given some of the structures that are in place where, if a church found itself in a Classis affirming something they disagreed with, they could petition to move to a different Classis.  The problem, however, still remains, that elements of the denomination that a church is affiliated with are still disparate from what that church believes.  Is it possible to still “do ministry” in such an environment?  I think so.  Could it cause potential problems?  I think so.

Ultimately, according to our polity (the way our governmental structures are set up in the RCA), the decision of which services of worship are allowed and not allowed within a particular church rests with the Elders of that church.  As far as I know, the Classis cannot determine this for a church except in the case that they deem the consistory, the elders, and/or its pastor to be supporting and/or promoting doctrine that was heretical in nature.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION OF GENERAL SYNOD: To change the constitution through amendments to the liturgy.

 

  • General Synod would approve an amendment to our marriage liturgy defining marriage as “between a man and a woman” and send it to the classes for ratification.
  • General Synod would approve an amendment to our marriage liturgy defining marriage as “between two persons” and send it to the classes for ratification.
  • Candidates for ordination will affirm and embody the RCA’s constitutional marriage liturgy in ministry and practice.

 

Observation from the Group of Five: We believe the council was aware that the first two liturgy recommendations might appear to be contradictory. However, by offering both of them, the General Synod and the church, through its classes, will either declare marriage is “between a man and a woman” or “between two persons.” If neither receives the necessary 2/3 support of the classes, the RCA is not prepared to constitutionally mandate either.

The first two options of this may indeed seem contradictory, but I think it is the Council’s way of “calling the question” as it pertains to this subject.  However, the process for this is long and complicated.  If either one of these amendments to the RCA marriage liturgy are approved at General Synod 2016, the amendment then it sent for the classes of the RCA for ratification.  Two thirds of the Classes must approve it to be ratified.  So, even if General Synod is packed with people that lean one way or the other, it is not a done deal until General Synod 2017, if at all.  This may come as some form of comfort or will be a source of considerable angst for many.

The fact that candidates for ordination will be required to “affirm and embody” the RCA’s constitutional marriage liturgy is also important.  It means that anyone seeking ordination within the RCA must abide by this decision, whatever one (if any) is made.  

Also important to note here is that already ordained pastors have pledged to uphold the constitution of the RCA.  This may present a problem for me in the future should I be “forced” to uphold something I cannot in good conscience, or as a matter of faith, agree with.

One other thing that bears mentioning is what happens if neither of these amendments gets passed.  If that is the case, we continue to live in a place of indecision.  Sadly, I forsee this being yet another way that the enemy will work within the denomination to divide and deter us from ministry.  Whatever the outcome, I think this needs to be defined here in our bylaws.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION OF GENERAL SYNOD: That Synod establish at least one affinity classis that includes people and congregations regardless of their perspective on human sexuality to ensure and allow relationship and mission together.

Observation from the Group of Five: This recommendation did not receive the frequency of mention as the others above. However, it might provide a way for those with differing interpretations of Scripture to remain in the RCA. While we do not see it as having the level of consensus of the others, the idea was frequently mentioned throughout the meeting of the council. We believe it worthy of General Synod attention and would suggest it may also be seen as an issue of implementation.

While I am not entirely sure what an “affinity classis” would look like, this idea is not a new one for the RCA.  There have been Classes formed based largely on similar demographics and mission.  The “City Classis” is one example being a Classis formed by RCA churches in urban settings.  As we often experience here, the needs of churches in Kalamazoo are drastically different from our out here in Hopkins.  Thus, affinity Classes like City Classis are beneficial for the mission of the church.

Having an affinity Classis based on different church’s interpretation of Scripture when it comes to human sexuality, though, is troublesome at best for me.  Would it be a place of inclusion?  Certainly.  However, would it also be a place of division within the denomination?  I think so.  An argument could be made for a number of other Biblical issues that may not yet be solved too.  Should we have an affinity Classis for those who read that the next great cultural issue is either for or against Scripture?  Rather than embracing our brothers and sisters in the midst of disagreement, keeping the unity of the Spirit, we would be dividing ourselves up based on what we “like” and what we “dislike.”  I’m not sure if I can see the wisdom in this.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION OF GENERAL SYNOD: That Synod instruct the General Synod Council to appoint a task force to explore and articulate the options and consequences within the RCA for grace-filled and orderly separation over time, should the different perspectives regarding human sexuality keep us from remaining as one, for report back to the 2017 General Synod.

This is an Additional Recommendation from the Group of Five: In addition to the constitutional recommendations listed above, it was clear to the Group of Five that there was another implementation concern that was voiced by many of the participants and needed to be dealt with in a timely manner. Implicit in the recommendations from the ten assigned small groups was a common concern that if it were not possible for some congregations and classes to stay together with the RCA after whatever actions are taken, there would be a way for grace-filled, orderly separation over time from the RCA. Therefore, believing that we speak to the spirit and intent of the special council participants, the Group of Five offers this additional recommendation.

I think that this is the most obvious recommendation that would have come out of the Special Council.  Whatever the outcome here, there will be people and churches that are unhappy and desire to leave the denomination.  What is actually important about this is not the fact that there could be separation, but that the council hopes for one that is orderly and full of grace.  There are a lot of things wrapped up in the issue of human sexuality, but I believe the hope of the RCA is that, no matter what the course, our actions stand as a testimony to who we are in Christ and that we can indeed love each other through our differences.



Acts 12 – Escape!

Read Acts 12

In that day, when there was a movement that was springing up, rulers often became concerned that it would lead to rebellion against them and were quick to move against them.

So when Peter was arrested as part of Herod’s attempt at putting down the Christian “rebellion,” it meant certain death for Peter.  All the leaders of a movement like this would be hunted down.  Interestingly, this is exactly what the religious leaders were meaning to do all the way back in Acts 5.

Peter’s escape from prison will not be his last, and it is nothing short of a miracle.  Placed in the care of “4 squads” of soldiers, approximately 100 men, Herod was taking no chances that Peter would somehow get sprung from his custody.  Yet it only takes one angel to make this happen.

I find it humorous how this all took place.  Peter is asleep despite the angelic light pouring into his prison cell.  Imagine the angel sighing and whacking him on the side to wake him up.  Even though Peter has just recently experienced a vision from the Lord in Acts 10, he isn’t quite aware of what is going on now, nor does it seem that he believes it.

Eventually he comes to, and then has to deal with the same bewilderment of others whilst standing outside waiting for someone to open the door for him; it was quite a night.

Unlike many of the other movements of that day that were actually against the government, and failed when their leaders were killed, the movement of the Gospel would not be put down.  It could not and cannot be stopped by human effort, nor can its leader be killed.  They already tried that… and it was actually the catalyst that led to where we are now.