Thursday 29 December 2011

Acts: Part 1 of 3

This is the first of 3 blogs that have been written by Declan Doran. All 3 are based around the book of Acts. Parts 2 and 3 will be posted over the next few days. Enjoy!

The Book of Acts in the bible starts with a storm and ends with a storm, and all in between it speaks of how the Kingdom of God “violently” took root across the face of the world at that time. Now that I have just finished reading this amazing book of the bible it reminds me of the verse in Zechariah 2:5 “and I myself will be a wall of fire around it,' declares the Lord, 'and I will be its glory within”. This a book full of the fire of the spirit and glory within.

The book starts with a violent wind at Pentecost in Acts 2:2. It introduces as Paul himself says in 1 Timothy 1:13 “a violent blasphemer and persecutor” in Acts 8-9. It tells us of a violent earthquake in Acts16:26. It is followed by violent disputes one recorded in Acts 23:10 and then ends with a violent storm in Acts 27:18. Just a tiny background on violent men in Matthews’s gospel adds to the picture of immense excitement and hope that the gospel spells out for mankind. In Matthew 8:28 there was a violent man in the hands of the evil one and all were afraid of this man, Jesus encountered this man in the countryside and the man’s life was changed forever, it’s interesting that it was then Jesus that the people feared. In Matthew 11:12 we are told that from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been violently advancing, and violent men lay hold of it, the word violent in this verse is also translated as “forceful” and therefore could read the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful men lay hold of it. And lastly as way of an introduction the one violent act that displayed hope for you and me is spelled out in Matthew 28:2 “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it”. There for the world to see the tomb where Jesus was buried lay open and empty, the Christ had risen as Jesus Christ himself said he would and death itself was defeated.
Have you ever wondered where the violence above that the scriptures speak of has gone? Has our Christian culture lost sight somewhat of the “violence” spoken of above and run with a line “meek and mild”. Grace and love are two words that describe correctly attributes of our faith but “violence” and “power” were also attributes of the first Christians. Early believers gave their all, today so many of the western church give so little of themselves. I include myself in the “so many”. When I point my finger at others the funny thing is my finger turns back and points at me. I have a sense that today like back then God is looking for men and women who will stand like in Ezekiel 22:30 “I looked for one who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap, on behalf of the land so that I would not have to destroy it, but I found none”. I wish I could write differently and say that I can stand in the gap, but I can’t. In recent years I’m growing tired of playing “church” of playing “Christianity”, I’m not saying I’m tired of what I experience in my church, I’m saying within the wall of my being I’m tired of not “being in Christ”

Most of the years since I came to believe Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour, I have not managed to lay hold of the Kingdom of God, in fact for me the Kingdom of God has been stuck in the clouds, up there and not down here. In the past three years I’ve been battling in my mind accepting what God has been saying to me about who I am and the authority he has given me in his Kingdom here on earth. I’m not saying I’m special or anything at all, who I am and the authority he has given me is no different than that which you are and the authority you hold in this same Kingdom of God on earth if you are “in Christ”. My God is a gracious God and he answers the cry of a broken heart (Psalm 3:4) and reveals himself to those who fully seek him (2 Chronicles 16:9). Over these last three years I have been engaging in a painful process of moving my beliefs down that small journey from my head to my heart. As my world (my intellect / my need to have everything figured out in my mind) is being torn apart by Gods and His Word, I have noticed the kingdom of God is also being lowered from the clouds to the earth. I would like to ask “could there be a connection” but I’m unable to ask it like that, I can only say it as follows “there is a connection”.

Now back to the book of Acts and this book of the bible more than any other has been speaking to me powerfully this past few years. The word “violent” has been prominent as I read along and the last two chapters of this book has excited me much more than the two first chapters and this probably surprises you as the first two chapters are noted as major landmark chapters throughout the church down the years. Acts 1 & 2 tells you what’s available to you and me once you have accepted Jesus work on the cross. Acts 27 & 28 tells you how to engage this Kingdom of God. Put another way the cross of Christ opens the door, Acts 1 & 2 tells us what’s on the other side when we step through the cross, Acts 27 & 28 tells us how to grasp hold of it. All this is held together through the Holy Spirit who enables. I want to share with you what God has spoken to me as I read these last two chapters and it has encouraged me greatly to press on into our amazing God and to journey in Him and pull heaven down onto earth. Yes I mean pull it because it’s not Gods plan to force it on us on the earth, we have to want it and contend for it. Then and only then is God pleased to give his Kingdom to us here on earth as it is in Heaven.

Declan D

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