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Archive for February, 2011

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.

Hi!  My name is Jim Crooks and I am a recovering Southern Baptist.  All of my life I have only see life through the eyes of “fried chicken and ‘tater’ salad and sweet tea”.  All good Southern Baptists are against killing babies through abortion, killing senior citizens through euthanasia, however, have no trouble committing suicide a chicken leg at a time.  They put the chicken to their mouth and pulled the trigger.  It just takes you a few more years to die.   Drinking alcohol, drugs, divorce were in the top ten “bad sins” that one avoided.  We made sure that we did not get any of the dirt of those sinner people that were not perfect like us on our religious garments.  We had 20/20 vision when looking at their sins, but we operated most of the time with one eye closed to our mess.  Funny though, popular deacons and church leaders could smoke and still be allowed to serve.

For those of us in the church I grew up in there were “us” and then there were the rest of the people who were going to hell.  You did not consider spending a moment with people who were different than you were.  We had sterile places we could go.  Hanging out with the “lost” people was not on the agenda – unless you liked being talked about – excuse me – prayed for…

Paul shows up in Athens and discovers that they were worshiping idols.  He noticed that they were very religious.  He went to where they were.  He started confronting them kindly about their idols…Shared the gospel as he discovered one with the title Unknown God…just in case they missed one.  For a second there I thought that they were in a Southern Baptist Church – religious – idols – still looking for the unknown God – busy – active – focusing on themselves.

For some reason the religious people became all messed up when he started sharing the Gospel Message with them.  Religious people cannot stand it when you talk about Jesus Christ.  I have seen it change the dynamics of a lunch table, clear out sections of men at Bojangle’s, and have listened to people who thought that a group of us at a lunch table talking about the Bible had five heads…and they were not “lost folk” – they were offended religious people.  The religious people will run you out of town when you start this “Jesus story” up.  They are captured by what they have done for God rather than blown away by what He has done for them.  They can stand up as religious people and show off…all you can do with the gospel is to bow down before God in a heart of gratitude.

Paul had the eyes of God.  He saw what the Athenians could be if they met the Unknown God.  He set out to tell them and surprise, surprise – some became believers.  He was frustrated at what he saw the enemy doing keeping these people from the freedom that they could be enjoying in Christ.  He was driven to share the gospel.  He was greeted by a few.  He was persecuted by a great number of jealous religious people.  But when he saw the lives change – it was worth it all.

God, there will be people I do not know today.  Help me to meet them and care for those who are not inside my little Southern Baptist Box.

I wonder where Athens will be for me today?

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21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

Today was Leviticus and Acts.  Monday morning is not the day to be grinding through endless details of the law of God (I said to God, “Not Leviticus”…just purely honest…He left nothing uncovered in His laws…they were perfect…I guess if that many people are walking through the desert and living as a nation there would have to be some kind of rules to govern the joint…maybe this morning is a lesson in how the government cannot do what only God can do…earthly law can’t begin to hold a candle to the governing power of the Moral Law Giver…)  In Acts I did not want to stop on the verse where they stoned Paul and drug him out of the city for dead as they would any dead or dying thing…so they could die.  It’s Monday and a reminder that there are men and women all over the world who are dying for their faith…I was wondering about my new friend Nathan in Egypt…his wife and children who are in the middle of the riots in Egypt with all the upheaval…It has been my experience that the way Muslims resolve conflict is not by smoking a peace pipe but by wielding a sword and watching your head fall off…some things in history never change.  So it started out with rules and stoning.

Coffee! (not part of Scripture…just an explanation of how thankful I am that God allowed the stuff to be discovered and that at the present time I am drinking a cup of coffee…since I have up to this point in my life not chosen to smoke cigars or a pipe or drink liquor, I will settle for moderate leap into the dark of drinking coffee – caffeinated that is…I know that there are Fuhrman-otonians – that can tell me how caffeine and all the ingredients in the Starbuck’s roasted process will cause me future problems…however, I choose to stand on the edge of the medical cliff and risk it all and drink away…probably a totally unnecessary comment or two…however ’tis evidence of where my head is on Monday morning…now back at it)

It is amazing to note that all the aggravation and outright attacks and near death experiences did not keep Paul nor his friends from “returning to…strengthening…and encouraging them to remain true to the faith…”  Nothing qualifies you for teaching on a topic than experiencing the need to stay strong and stay true to the faith.  Monday’s are a day where a great number of pastors need to be reminded to stay strong and true to the faith…sometimes they need to remember that on this side of God given Glory it is expected at least by Paul and his friends to “…go through may hardships to enter the kingdom of God”…

If trouble comes for my faith…then I will expect it…and it may cost me.  If I see disciples this morning I will assume that it is my role to strengthen them and encourage them to remain true to the faith.  I will say that there has never been a more vital time for those two instructions…especially in a Christian world where folk are walking away from the Truth and exchanging the Truth for the lie…

It is interesting to note that the disciples gathered ar0und him (after the stoning…no one stood in front of the rock throwers…)…but they did show up…gather around him…pick him up from among the dead and dying…up and better now and back to preaching…all because he believes in Christ…

God help me to be faithful to you today!

 

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