Posts Tagged ‘apostles’

If you’re wondering, there are lots and lots of blog posts about the “seal of apostleship.” Go figure. What’s the appeal of the seal? Authority and proof.

I Corinthians 9:2
Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

Ever since we were little kids and got sticky stars pasted onto our attendance sheets or report cards, we have understood the power of the “seal.” This was the symbol of a job well done, of success, of completion. It didn’t stop with childhood, we are still getting seals. Look at any diploma or plaque. Don’t they carry the same power and authority? I always check the doctor’s office walls for his/her credentials. (Of course, I’m not sure what I would do if I couldn’t find the requisite diploma or it was from the Internet School of Medicine.)

When my husband and I were in the adoption process, we had to jump through a zillion hoops to get the right seals on the right pieces of paper for our home study: a seal from the county to verify that our notary was legitimate and then another seal from the state to verify that the county verified the notary (and so on) . . . for every piece of paper (at a cost of $5 per page – those gold sticky stars must get more expensive as they get bigger).

Paul’s seal is not a star or a “good job” sticker. Paul’s seal is the people whose lives were touched in a meaningful way. Paul worked among the people in Corinth, told his story, shared his faith, and people’s lives were changed. His seal was the fruit of his labor. That’s all. So simple.

Can I be content with that seal as well?

Several years ago, out of the blue, I got an email from a young woman who had been one of my students in a series of acting classes I taught in Indianapolis back in the 80’s (age hint). She was contacting me to let me know that she had become a theater professor and that it was my influence, my time with her, my teaching, that made her decide on this profession. She wanted to thank me. That was lovely. That was a seal.

When we truly touch a life and that touch makes a difference, what else is really needed?

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Acts 8:9-10a, 13a
Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great … Simon himself believed and was baptized [by Philip].

I believe there is power and magic outside the faithful in God, otherwise, why would it be included in scripture so casually? Simon did not just practice “magic tricks” but true sorcery. And yet, this very man, Simon, who already had a great following and could manipulate his environment with personal power, recognized truth in Philip’s message. He recognized power greater than his own.

I think Simon also recognized intent.

The apostles, now leaders in espousing the story of the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, had one goal: tell … and show… the power of Jesus. They lived Jesus through their love and actions.

Actions that manifest from trust are easy to do. And confidence in those actions comes from security in the knowledge of the source of power. (…Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Luke 8:46)

Simon had one up on me. Simon knew that miracles could happen every day. Simon knew the world around him was malleable. Simon knew people could be healed, situations transformed, and power tapped. Simon knew all of these things … he knew without doubt.

But still, after 30 years of faith, my doubt corrodes my courage.

It all goes back to intent. Why are we counted among the faithful to labor on His behalf?

Back then, everyone knew there was to be a savior … a messiah. The apostles’ primary message addressed it: the Messiah has come. The kingdom of God has touched the human race through this savior. We can be different.

But does our culture wait for a savior? No. If anything, we are waiting for a judge.

The message of Christ is not just about “eternal salvation.” It’s about change… changing ourselves… changing our world. Touching, healing, loving, speaking, and believing in the power of the Messiah, in the kingdom of God within and without.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” [John 14:12]

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Acts 6:3
Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility [feeding the poor] over to them.

We each have unique abilities and it’s important to know what they are and how they can be used to serve the greater good. But have we narrowed our vision too much?

Some have used this story about the apostles calling for the choosing of the seven as an excuse for leaving the mundane tasks of service to others. In some churches, these are the “deacons,” whose task it is to handle the day to day needs of the church: they are the worker bees.

This mindset has created hierarchical structures and divisions. The apostles, although concerned about their own call to teach and proclaim the gospel, were also concerned about the needs of others. They knew it was their responsibility, as leaders, to ensure that the needs of all were met. This is how they came up with selecting/anointing seven additional leaders whose criteria for leadership was the same as their own: wisdom and the full presence of the Holy Spirit.

These seven were not “below” the apostles nor was their job description less important. They were filling an important role in the body. If there are people going hungry in our congregations, our neighborhoods, or even our cities and towns, then this role has been lost. And of course, we know that’s true.

If every church cared for the poor, the widows, and the orphans within its geographical reach, all of their basic needs would be met. Instead, the church is more concerned about the mortgage on the building, the color of the carpet, and the cost of benefits for the staff, etc.

Leaders in the church: make sure all of the needs of your poor are being met and if they are not, then stop what you are doing and get it done. And if the body of believers in a particular church are well off, then it should adopt a church family in the poorer area and meet the needs of their poor, their widows & orphans, together.

Idealistic? maybe. I would love to see a map where every church is pinpointed, large or small. I think, at the very least, the U.S. population would be well-covered with such an abundance that there would be enough for others around the world.

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Acts 5:38-39
“Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men [the apostles] alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” [Gamaliel speaking]

There are really two messages here. One is for the believers, to trust that projects and plans, if truly within the will and anointing of our God, will remain. They will survive and even thrive. But if not, then it’s important to let go. There are plenty of good things to do. There are plenty of ideas. Move on.

Years ago, I had developed two shows that I toured to churches and para-church organizations. They were a labor of love but somehow, not of the right time. In that era, churches were not set up well for theatrical performances. Both of my pieces had to be adapted constantly in order to make them work in a traditional sanctuary setting. Just the idea of having theater lights was foreign to most church goers or to ask that everything be stripped from the altar area. Those who saw the shows, were moved by them, but it was an uphill battle to find churches willing to open their doors. In today’s more modern settings, my shows would have fit in perfectly. It was simply not the right fit and in the end, I retired them.

When I let go, it was hard. I felt I had failed and totally missed God. But, now, in hindsight, I think they achieved what they were meant to achieve. I learned so much from that process and my immersion in the scriptures during the research and preparation time has served me continually.

The second message of this story about Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin is critical for everyone. An anointed person or group cannot be stopped by “human” pressures or verbal attacks. An authentic faith and presence of God in a life is a bulwark and will prevail. Faith of this magnitude sustained people like Mother Teresa among India’s poor, Elie Wiesel in the concentration camps, Hudson Taylor in China, David Livingstone in Africa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Billy Graham in the U.S., to name a few.

But this is also true for well-meaning Christians who try to silence the voices of others in the name of “protecting” the faith. The Sanhedrin also felt they were protecting Israel from heresy.

Currently, there is a movement rising up called Emergent Worship and post-modern thought … some are flaying against these trends. Most of the people who are involved with these movements are under the age of 45… they are of a generation that needs and wants to ask questions, to have their faith be an intrinsic part of their culture and their lives. Personally, I think it’s a good thing. This same kind of ground swell happened when the charismatics and Pentecostals started up 20 and 30 years ago in the face of great consternation. And yet, those movements have been integrated into many churches and church traditions.

My message is simple: be wise and remember Gamaliel’s advice: “…if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

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