Well it took me way too long to float this reach of river, but I finally finished the book of acts. It was a much harder reach of river than I anticipated. I am not sure why it was so difficult to stay on the water, but I started this book back on April 4 with a post called “Easter Gift“. If I were to summarize the entire book into a few sentences I would say it was about: 1) Peter and other early followers realizing that the Good News of the gospel is for everyone; 2) Paul weathering many trials and spiritual squalls in order to “catch up” with the disciples who spent more time with Jesus; and 3) Faithful following is much more effective with the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit.
Acts begins with an assurance that the opportunity to follow the way of Jesus is open to all God-lovers (theophilus). Our baptism with the Holy Spirit is not a single act of commemoration like water baptism, but rather an immersion in a new way of being and seeing the world. It is a partial cure for the spiritual blindness that seems to afflict us here in the land of oblivion. It is also the fulfillment of a promise that Jesus made to give sight to the blind, in this case the spiritually blind. All those wandering and wondering about God are invited to use this set of night vision goggles to navigate the spiritual darkness that can threaten to envelope us if we let it. It is really a matter of making room in our hearts.
This early guidance is followed by a reality check when we learn that we are all free to follow our own path both as people and nations. Stephen and followers like Philippe learn that following Jesus can be both hard and dangerous. Peter receives some important lessons by the sea about who can follow God and then the Holy Spirit is poured out to help them find the way.
Acts moves on from Peter and the early followers instructions about inclusion to Paul and Barnabas learning that being a leader requires ongoing lessons in humility. Their efforts to heal and care for people in Jesus’ name created confusion for some followers about who they should follow and how they should lead while following.
Paul and others learn that reaching people with the Good News requires that we practice our faith in public, not in a street corner evangelist sort of way but in an open conversational way so that curious God seekers have something to be curious about. Being in places where the lost are to be found includes some pretty hard places, and sometimes Staying in Jail to Set People Free.
Ongoing conflict with the religious leaders in Jerusalem leads to much humility and tears and eventually to an extended sabbatical at sea for Paul. The trip will require much of the sailors, soldiers, and Paul as they lose their cargo and almost their lives. Paul’s faith in God and public proclamation of that faith leads to the building of some serious metaphysical muscles for Paul and eventually chains of freedom in Rome.
The take home from the book of acts for me is that God following is open to all God lovers and we need to be willing to practice our faith in public with the help and leading of the Holy Spirit. We may be called to do this in places that may seem very inconvenient or hard like a ship in the process of wrecking or in prison. Jesus certainly warned his followers that following Him would be hard and I think the book of Acts provides some excellent examples.
Prayer: God help us to be willing to go into the places that you need us to be regardless of how hard or uncomfortable they might be.