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Politics (Acts 12)

Acts 12 begins the transition away from the Jerusalem church and to the missionary stories of Paul. That makes this final image fo the church so significant. The world around them moves under the control of political manipulation, but the church gathers in prayer. By their prayers, they are more in touch with reality than all the kings and crowds.


Led by the Spirit (Acts 11)

Acts makes it clear that it was the Spirit that pulled the church into the world. The challenge the church faces is how to recognize what God is doing and join in that work. Paul will describe this process as "walking in step with the Spirit." But that process isn't easy. To recognize the Spirit means facing our prejudices honestly. Peter and Barnabas become models to help us learn that process.


Clean (Acts 10)

Peter and Cornelius could not be drawn in stronger contrasts. One a devout Jew and leader of the Jerusalem church who had never broken the food laws; the other a military man, a cog in the occupation force of Rome. Yet both receive visions from God and drawn together under one room by the Holy Spirit. As they talk, it becomes clear that neither Peter nor Cornelius is leading the conversation. God is. It is our prejudices—our pre-judgments—that often keep us from recognizing how the Spirit is...


The Way (Acts 9:1-22)

The conversion of Saul on his way to Damascus is one of the most famous passages of Scripture. But tucked into the story is another man, Ananias. His story, like Saul's, shapes not only the way we think about the initial moment of our conversion but also how we continue in the way of Jesus.


Go (Acts 8:26-40)

Philip is given the command to go. He isn't told where. He isn't told why. Only go. He obeys. His obedience leads to the conversion of an Ethiopian on his way home. Through Philip alone, the gospel has gone to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The call feels absurd, but often it is the miraculous opportunity of the Spirit's leading.


Amazed (Acts 8:1-25)

With new persecution in Jerusalem, the church began to spread and as they went they continued to preach. Philip was just one of those who covered the Judean and Samaritan towns with news of the Gospel. In Samaria, Philip met Simon, a magician who dealt in amazement. But Simon's faith is more complicated than it first appears. Simon's faith is not interested in change but in the acquisition of control and power.


Defense (Acts 6-7)

The death of Stephen is the culmination of an escalating tension in Jerusalem. The religious leaders had finally had enough. Stephen would become the first martyr of the Christian church, but not before he could deliver one of the most important speeches in Acts. Stephen's speech is the largest portion of Acts 7, but it was more than his words that are remembered. Stephen was given a vision of Jesus Christ. His vision is a powerful word to the church.


Truth (Acts 5)

Luke offers us two examples of life inside the church, Barnabas and Ananias with his wife Sapphira. We are most familiar with their story as an example of financial giving. But close attention reveals more going on. Acts 5 is a warning that the greatest threats to the church are not external but internal.


Boldness (Acts 4)

Storm clouds of persecution are blowing in on Jerusalem. The threat Jesus had posed to the political establishment was now being found in his followers. You would imagine prayers for favor and protection, but the first Christians prayed for boldness. What is unique about the boldness of the apostles and the first-century church.


Restored (Acts 3)

With God's spirit poured out at Pentecost, a new truth was settling in. God was on the move. The healing of the crippled man, outside the temple gate, was proof. God was not waiting, he was meeting and restoring brokenness. The kingdom was coming and with it the restoration of all things.


Devoted (Acts 2:42-47)

Luke doesn't end the Pentecost events with the miraculous salvation of 3,000. Instead, he ends with a picture of the church's common life together. It is a passage that has been abused by many, but it's image challenges all of our ideas and expectations concerning community.


Witness (Acts 2:14-41)

Peter stood to bear witness to what the crowd was experiencing. This had always been Jesus' promise; they would be his witnesses once they had received the Holy Spirit. Jesus doesn't give them the command to witness but knows that they will having experienced his presence through the spirit.


Spirit (Acts 1:15-2:13)

When Pentecost came so did the Spirit. Thick with layers of Biblical imagery, Luke's picture of the church's spirit baptism is a powerful depiction of God's presence with his people. It was a crucial moment for the church and a necessity in fulfilling their purpose. The disciples needed 40 days of education from the resurrected Lord, but knowledge was not enough. They needed an experience of God that would compel them into worship and witness.


Waiting (Acts 1:1-14)

The book of Acts is a story of action—miracles, riots, persecution, Spirit-empowered speeches, missionary journeys, and explosive growth. The story is epic, one of the great stories of all times. But it doesn't begin as we might expect. Jesus last command to his disciples before his ascension was to wait. Waiting is the opening stance of the church and waiting is the action which drives forward the events of the early church.


The Final Image of David

Chapters 21-24 provide us with the final image of David. Like so much of his life, it is a mixed bag. Complicated stories, deep friendships and honest prayer before God. At the center of this image are David's final words, a psalm. And in that psalm four titles which have come to define David: psalmist, anointed, exalted, and son. Those titles walk leave us with the final image of David; a life of integrity; a man after God's own heart.


The End of David's Story

Chapters 19 and 20 bring the chronological story of David to a conclusion. David, having defeated Absalom's rebellion makes his way back to Jerusalem. Our expectations are of fanfare: victory parades, speeches of reconciliation, and the restored hope of a divine throne—a man after God's own heart. But the story takes a bizarre and unexpected turn. Your expectations are dashed as the story unravels into ambiguity and chaos. What do we do when there is no "happily ever after?"


Absalom's Death

The conflict has been inevitable; David and Absalom will face off in battle. But David's men won't let him join the fight. David is dismissed from his own story. He is forced to acknowledge that his own future is not in his hands. Worse, David faces an impossible situation. To save his life will mean the death of his son. To save his son will mean the loss of his life.


Absalom's Decision

Thomas Paine famous expressed, "These are the times that try men's souls." The crisis doesn't make the man, it reveals him. David's faith was immerging through the conflicting advice he was forced to navigate. Now we turn to Absalom. Absalom with face a critical decision between his two advisors. It will prove to be a time that will, in fact, reveal his soul. Absalom chooses foolishly.


David and the Cursing of Shimei

As David flees Jerusalem, he encounters various individuals. Some speak of faithfulness, others violence, and Shimei comes with words of condemnation. As David passes, Shimei shots down curses. We don't like to surround ourselves with people like Shimei. In looking for advisors, we prefer affirmation and positivity. But David is willing to hear Shimei's words. As one commentator put it, Shemi's curses "stripped off the royal veneer" of David's public image. Shemei's curses forced David's...