Sunday, June 15, 2003


When they [the Sanhedrin] heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them [the apostles] to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel stood up...He addressed them: "...Leave these men 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."

This is a scary passage. Looking back 2000 years, I can act superior about this whole matter. How could this little group of religious leaders been thinking of killing people like Peter and John and James and the rest? I mean wasn't it really obvious which side was the right side?

But as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Up close, right in the present, our vision can get mighty blurry.

I think of World War II. (I think of World War II a lot because I am forced to. My husband is a fanatic about it.) I think of the Nazis and their propaganda films. Thousands and thousands and thousands of soldiers marching to stirring music, in dramatic lighting with huge swastika flags flapping overhead. Hitler providing a scapegoat, the Jews, for all that was hard, and then promising, promising, promising to give more and more good things to this group, to that group, to every group and make it all easy. What could have been stupider than to oppose all that?

You might think this only happens on a national or international level. But I've seen the same right down to the family and individual level. I think of a client I had many years ago whose husband really pulled out all the stops to put on an "I'm Right. I'm Might" show, all designed to prove that she was oh so wrong. He wrote letters to influential friends and showed her and others copies of their sympathetic replies. He accused her of some terrible acts and shamed her in court. He roped in their grown children, softening them with his money and carefully redefining the past for them. He actually went to the very top of their church hierarchy to bring more pressure to bear against her.

This husband wasn't an original in this way of going about things, and neither was Hitler. They both borrowed their tactics from Our Enemy who has always done it this way. And yes we do have an enemy who constantly disguises himself as a good guy, as a winner. He parades around, dresses up as Mr. Right, and makes big, big promises. He looks very, very strong, as if he will surely have the last word. He makes it as clear as he possibly can that we would be very, very stupid not to join his parade, not to choose his side.

Truth on the other hand goes about things in a very different way. Truth, with no fancy garb, no trappings of power, stands alone before the authorities, before those who say "You're wrong", and simply replies, "It is you who say that I am."

I know that I and every single person reading this is in the midst of a battle. There is not an hour that goes by in our daily existence that we are not having to take sides, and there are always only two sides to choose from. Only two. It's either appearance -- or Reality. It's either the low way, the way of momentary power and pleasure -- or the High Way, the Way of Everlasting Love.

Lord, help me to make the right choice.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

"WHAT DO I NEED?" -- ACTS 5: 29-32

Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead... God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins... We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

If you were to do a survey and ask 500 average people here in the USA "What do you most need in your life?", what response would you get? My guess is that some of the top answers would be "more money", "better health", "security", "more time", "a loving spouse", "children", "more and better friends", "a good education", "a good job", and so forth.

But I have a feeling that you would find very, very few people who would say that what they needed most in their lives was "repentance and forgiveness of sins."

Yet when the Holy and Exalted One, the Everlasting Heavenly Father, the Creator and Sustainer and Redeemer of all that is and ever will be, The Beginning and the End of our history and of all of history, sent Jesus to earth to save me, it was not to save me from poverty, ill-health, taxes, government oppression, accidents, bad relationships, isolation, ignorance, or joblessness. He didn't even send Jesus to save me from or physical pain and suffering, sadness, anger, loneliness, or grief. No. He came to save me from my sins.

That's right. He didn't come to save me from any of the assaults, afflictions and demands of the physical, natural world or of the social, human world. No. He came to save me from myself.

This is just not your 20th century, modern American way of thinking about life.

So, I better face it. My problem is not anything that I have and don't want. My problem is not anything that I want and don't have. My problem is me. Oh dear, it's me. It's really me. And if I am the problem, then I'm really stuck, because I can't be both a problem and a solution.

And that's why God sent Jesus, who accepts and loves me as the problem I am, and who promises for all my yesterdays, all my todays, and all my tomorrows, to be my Solution.

Friday, June 13, 2003

WHY SAY IT? -- Acts 5: 22- 28

... Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said, "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching..." (vs. 28a)

There was danger back in those days for those who taught in "this name." And there still is today.

All you have to do is go to www.persecution.com to confirm how very dangerous it is in many parts of the world to speak "this name." There are people who have been arrested, tortured, burned alive, or decapitated for speaking it, all within the last year.

But it's not like that for us Americans, right? Umm... Well, here if you speak out about "this name", you may not be arrested. You may not lose your life -- but you can certainly lose your means of living. No physical violence, just economic violence. If you, in certain situations, let your allegiance to "this name" be known (wear a cross, hand out a Bible, object to certain public policies, etc.), you can be sued, sued for everything you own and more. If you have a certain kind of job (perhaps you're a teacher, professor, social worker, nurse, psychologist, doctor, school bus driver, government worker, etc.), you can lose that job, along with the money and the health benefits that go with it.

It's dangerous to say it. Dangerous.

So, what is there about this name? What is there? What is there about it that so many, many people -- then and now, there and here -- in the face of so much peril, keep on, and keep on, and keep on saying "Jesus"?

NOT RAW RECRUITS -- Acts 5: 21

At daybreak they [the apostles] entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.

Isn't this a challenger? After all, John and Peter had been brought before the Sanhedrin once and had been released. They had gone back to their previous "subversive" activities (that is healing people and telling them about the incredible things they had seen and experienced). Then they, along with the other apostles, had gotten arrested again and thrown into jail.

An angel came and opened the doors and let them out. Now, if at that point, I had been me let out of jail, I would have wanted to think that the miraculous escape meant that God wanted me to be nice and safe and comfortable. Even if that angel had told me otherwise, I would have been tempted to think that I couldn't have heard that right, that I must have misinterpreted the angel's words, or something. I mean, wouldn't it make sense for me to change tactics, get quieter, maybe go underground?

But the apostles didn't do that. They took the angel's words, just as spoken. They accepted the fact that God had something more in mind than their own personal comfort and physical security. The angel had said, "Go, stand in the temple courts ... and tell the people the full message of this new life." The temple courts -- of all places! Right back into the enemies' camp! And repeating the very same crime! And not at a half-baked level either -- "tell... the full message." And that's just what they did.

It's one thing to go into a dangerous situation when you think you might get hurt. It's quite another to dash into one where you can be absolutely sure you'll get hurt. According to what my husband has told me, when the Allied leaders were planning the D-Day invasion, they purposely did not send in seasoned soldiers. They sent the raw recruits, the ones who had never been in battle before -- for only in ignorance of the horrors of combat could a man be bold enough to step out of a boat into an icy sea and, with Nazi guns from the high cliffs blazing fire at him, cross those wide Normandy beaches.

The apostles at this point were not "raw recruits." They had seen what the authorities had done to Jesus. They had been arrested twice themselves. But out they went, onto the temple courts, onto the beaches...

GET A LIFE -- A NEW LIFE, A PARTY LIFE -- Acts 5: 17-18

Then the high prist and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducess, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. "Go, stand in the temple courts," he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life."

I love this -- "the full message of this new life." Seems to me this is where we "Christians" have been messing up bad. We've been making this whole thing ("Christianity") out to be a set of comprehensible beliefs. (and if they were small enough to comprehend they'd be too small to die for or live with). You can argue about it. You can turn it over in your mind. You can intellectualize and rationalize and conceptualize it right into the ozone. And all the while, completely, completely miss the point.

The picture we get in this Book of Acts -- which is our historical record of the early Christian community -- well, it sure isn't a head trip, something you can list out or pin up or pin down. No! This is LIFE ! Life lived to its fullest. Life full of action and passion and conviction and caring and courage and drama and intensity and creativity and movement and excitement and breakthroughs and meaning and surprises and light and fire and wind and voices and beauty and always, always people, people, people, with Love, Love, Love all around them. It's an ongoing,come-as-you-are, everyone's invited -all-day, all-night party!

Think of it this way. You hear a party going on down the street. You go to see what's happening and you find there loving people, plenty of food, true fun (no one just looking like there having fun while there actually just numb from drugs or alcohol), battles and games for you to be a part (where winning is assured), party favors that are better and neater and greater than anything you now own or could ever hope to own -- and Someone is standing at the door and saying, "Come on in, you're just the person I wanted to see. I've been sending you invitation after invitation and I guess you just haven't opened them or maybe didn't understand them, but now you're here and I am so, so glad! Please, come right in! Just take off that dusty old ego you're wearing (die to yourself) and then make yourself at home! In fact, this is your home, the one you've always dreamed of. This is your family, the one you've always ached to be a part of. Just come and take my hand and we'll walk in together."

Now at that moment. You don't ask for books or position papers or agendas or explanatory memos about the party. You don't analyze criticize and study the party. It's all much, much simpler than that. You either turn your back and walk away --- or -- you put out your hand, take the Someone's hand, and you jump into the party.

Saturday, June 07, 2003


The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streeets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.

This has to be one of my favorite of all passages in Acts. What could be more exciting? And to add to the excitement, we have the fact that all the kinds of miracles and healings that happened then and there are happening here and now, in places all around the world. If some of you haven't had a chance to hear or read about these miracles of the 2000's, just start looking on the web with some search engines. I've seen some of these miracles with my own eyes. Bill, who was just in India, says that being among those believers was Acts, Part II, the New Testament revisited.

This passage tells us that all the apostles were performing signs and wonders, but that Peter stood out from the rest in healing and miracle power. Wouldn't you love to be Peter in this story? To see suffering people around you, and by a word, a touch, just the fall of your shadow watch as they were made whole and well? What joy, what amazing joy! How did Peter get to do that? To be like that? And is this something we can aspire to?

We tend to immediately say no. And why? Well, we say, Peter was closer to Jesus. And Peter was a saint kind of person, a holy man, an apostle, all kinds of things that we're not.

But wait a minute. Let's take this piece by piece. Was Peter closer to Jesus than you are? Or, to reverse the question, was Jesus closer to Peter than he is to you? Ummm. Wait a minute. Isn't Jesus the one who is the same yesterday, today and forever? The one who said that he would be with us always to the end of the age? And then there's the fact that God created time and space, that time and space are his creatures. 33 AD or 2003 AD, Jerusalem or New York City -- it's all one to him. So to say that Jesus was closer to Peter than he is to you is ridiculous.

Well, then what about Peter's being a different kind of person, holier, saintlier, etc.? That doesn't fit the facts either. Peter had the glorious chance of walking with Jesus for three whole years, of seeing him face to face, of hearing not just what Jesus said, but even the tone of his voice when he said it. And what did Peter do with all that? Wouldn't that make anyone holy? Yes, he bragged about sticking with Jesus no matter what, but when push came to shove, when Jesus could have been so comforted by someone standing up for him, Peter denied even knowing him, three different times.

And that what's so amazing, so beautiful, so hopeful for all of us. Peter became a man who's very shadow carried the power of Love not IN SPITE OF the terrible sin he committed. No, it was BECAUSE of the sin --- and the brokeness that followed. When Peter denied Jesus and awoke to what he had done ("And he went outside and wept bitterly." Luke 22: 62), he knew right then, absolutely for sure, that he actually had nothing to brag about, nothing at all, that he was not a brave man, a loyal man, a good man. He knew then that, on his own, he was nothing but a wretched mess.

And that's when God could use him.

Jesus, remember, preferred sinners to "good people." After all, he knew that the "good people" could keep going on their own, acting good, doing good, looking good -- and that such self-sufficient goodness would be a huge blockade. It would keep them from the Best. God, because he won't violate our free will, simply can't make anything out of holy winners. He can only make something out of sinful losers who realize that that's exactly what they are.

And so, we have our chance...

AM I A HYPOCRITE? -- ACTS 5: 1-11 (in part)

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet.
Then Peter said, "Ananias, how it it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? ....What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God."
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened...
About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?"
"Yes," she said, "that is the price."
Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! the feet of your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also."
At that moment she fell down at his feet and died... Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

John Powell, a priest and author and speaker, says that sometimes people tell him that they don't want to go to church because there are so many hypocrites there. And his response to them is this: "Well, come on in, there's always room for one more."

Isn't that the truth? I like to think that I am not a hypocrite --- but, you know what? That's really hypocritical. Because I'll bet you that not a day goes by that I don't try to make myself look better than I am -- that is, try to convince myself and/or other people, either consciously or unconsciously, subtly or overtly, that I am nicer, or surer, or more generous, or more successful, or more honest, or more unselfish, or more together, etc. etc. than I really am.

And here in the story of Ananias and Sapphira, we can see that to the Lord, this is a very serious matter. I feel like in this passage, He is saying to me, "Ellie, that song and dance you're trying to pull off is dangerous, highly dangerous. You may be fooling yourself, but most people can see through it, and one thing you can know for sure --- I always see through it, all the way through. It is sinful, a waste of precious time. It blocks the light I'm trying to shine on you and through you. It works against truth. In the end, it can mean death. Yes, this is a big, divine, ultimate issue between you and me. ."

And so my hypocricy is dangerous. And pointless. After all it's not me or the people around me who will determine the ultimate fate of my life; it's the Heavenly Father. And he doesn't buy my act. He's got my number. And He still loves me, and loves me so much that he would die to show me how much. He would and he did. Same for you.


All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabus (which means Son of encouragement) sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet. ---

"There were no needy persons among them... " -- How does that apply to us, in the time and place we're in? Thinking locally -- for the passage here is a local deal -- ( "among them") -- we don't have needy people around us at all. Even the poorest people in our country are rich compared to the people of the ancient world or the people of the rest of today's world, (as in India and the Dominican Republic). And in our local settings (say the suburbs) we are all immensely wealthy. We live like kings and queens.

So then I think of : Needy for what?? And then I can see how this passage makes sense for us. Because it looks to me that when it comes to the non-material, we are among the poorest of the poor. We are surrounded by starving masses. By hundreds, by thousands, we have people with no inner peace, no sense of meaning, no joy of purpose --- We have broken hearts, anxious minds, fractured lives, shattered families, enslaved spirits (think porn and drugs and alcohol and workaholism) and they're everywhere. Have you ever been to the mall and just looked at peoples' faces? Largely the range of feeling is from self-absorbed boredom to outright desperation.

That says to me that it's time for me to be more generous, generous with what people around me are starved for --- THE GOOD NEWS !!. I just got a new image of that. The good news is like an unsolicited telephone call you get that's like none you've ever gotten. The caller says to you, "I'm getting ready to send you everything you ever needed, everything you're hungry for, everything that will not only taste good to you, but will be good for you, all designed especially just for you, with as much as you want, from now until forever. And the catch is ---that there is no catch. All you have to do it receive it. And why am I doing this? Just because I love you. And I'm out to show you that I mean it. This is serious business. It's the business of Love."

And then, on top of that beautiful message, comes the package itself. THE Care package of all Care packages. And when you open it up, everything inside looks beautiful and delicious. And it is delicious! Every single thing in there tastes better than anything you've ever tasted. Eveything is nourishing and makes you healthier and stronger and more energetic. In fact, once you start to feed on its contents every day (the box never gets empty), then you begin to want to do nothing but become a Care package representative. You want to make those calls, and then deliver the packages -- because there is nothing better in all the world to do.

JUNK THOUGHTS OR... -- Acts 4: 31

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

May seem a little weird to have just one verse, but what a thought-provoking verse it is.

Four things happened:
1. The believers prayed
2. Then the place was shaken
3. The believers were filled with the Holy Spirit
4. They spoke the word of God boldly.

Prayer set the stage. That's what we can do, and it's all we can do -- for after that, it's God who acts... He shakes the place up. He fills them (they were filled, they couldn't fill themselves)... and as a natural result of what God did, they spoke his word boldly (his word, not their own word.) --

We've got another Pentecost experience, with the same order --
1. prayer
2. Holy Spirit comes with visible power (wind/fire/shaking)
3. fills/touches/flames those present -- they are acted upon
4. they respond by speaking the word of God -- boldly, having just seen persecution (the first time it was Jesus' arrest, crucifixion and this time Peter and John's arrest)

On a personal note, I think of how I woke up this morning. What was I filled with? I wish it had been the Holy Spirit. Instead it was a big tangle of negative thoughts tinged with a bit of despair and desperation. How were Bill and I going to work out the personal life direction dilemma we were facing? What about Bill's medical problem? How was I going to deal with this group idea when it seemed to be falling apart? etc., etc., etc. So I was all filled up with junk thoughts and junk feelings.

Yes, my life is sometimes difficult and confusing. Everyone's life is. But then I think about what the believers had been through. Yes, they had seen Jesus raised, but before that they had also first seen him sadistically beaten, tortured and killed... Then one of their fellow disciples and friends, Judas-- had gone and committed suicide in a gruesome and horrendous way ("his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out...) Then, Peter and John, having done a good deed for a poor crippled man, had been arrested, questioned and threatened. And after all that, who knew what was coming next?

But they didn't despair. They didn't sit around and think negative thoughts, and ponder their problems. They didn't complain about how unfair things were, how rough they had it, how confused they were about what to do next. No, instead of looking at their problems, they turned their eyes to the Problem-solver. They prayed -- and look what God did in response!

Ummm, I think there's a lesson in here for me...


Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great bodness. Stretch out you hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

What strikes me here is what the early believers prayed for :

Boldness --- "enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness." -- Yes, yes, that is what I want. Boldness. I feel I can be bold once I'm in a situation that requires it. But where I lack boldness is in getting there. On that very point I feel stuck, stuck, stuck. Feet glued to the floor. Don't know what the glue is composed of. Don't know what's the solvent for it. But very, very tired of being stuck. I keep thinking that I would be bold if I were somewhere else but would I? How can I practice boldness right where I am??

Makes me think of John Wimber (who founded the Vineyard) saying that the way you spell faith is R-I-S-K.

Miracles -- "Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." -- This seems to be where modern evangelism and missions broke down, breaks down. We are hesitant to ask for miracles, not even sure if we should. And the general tenor of cynicism and sophistication and materialism which hangs over our society makes miracles very hard to come by. Even the Lord himself found that there were places where he couldn't work miracles, places where unbelief blocked them.

And they asked this by starting out with "Now, Lord, consider their threats..." In other words, a miracle had initiated the persecution but all they wanted to do was ask for more miracles knowing they would lead to more persecution. Now that's boldness! Sometimes I don't even want to do things that lead to discomfort, much less persecution.


On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: "Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One."

I guess we're seeing here again how the believers drew strength from the words the Lord had spoken in the olden (even for them, yet older for us) days which helped to explain the persecution and to let them know that God was in on this deal from the beginning, had intended and foreseen it all along. And if God is in on the plan, what is there to fear???

It reminds me of Corrie ten Boom having that vision of being arrested and put in the back of a truck long before the Nazis had even come into Holland. Or even on a personal level of the vivid dream I had only a few months into my first marriage which was a predictor of the shattering conclusion of that marriage. God knows what is coming and He does all that is needed to prepare us for that time. He knows that at the moment of trial we will need more than anything else is to know that He was, He is, and He will be with us every step of the way.


After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

What strikes me here is how good overcomes evil which leads to more good... Peter had done a good thing when he spoke out in faith to heal the lame beggar. God responded by doing a miracle and healing the man. And then lots of people responded to what God had done by praising him.

So then when the Sanhedrin wanted to punish Paul and John, they just couldn't do it because of all that positive pressure of public opinion. So Peter and John were left free to go on spreading the Gospel and doing good and building up the followers of Jesus, which led to more and more good, on and on down through the years until.... now.

So, because of that beautiful, long, divine chain reaction -- here I am today knowing Jesus and having every chance for the good news about God to live in my hearts.

MY SPIDER WEB LIFE -- Acts 4: 18-20

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

Simplicity. Oh, I hunger for it. My life seems so, so complicated.

I remember in 4th grade a girl in our class had a "spider-web" birthday party. Her mother (going way, way beyond any mothering I've ever done!) had taken string, one strand for each of us. The strings were all tangeled up and interwoven across the room, and we traced our particular one to a prize. Well, the way that room looked is the way my brain feels most of the time. Follow one string of thought ... and then that one is tangled up with another one which in turn is tangled up with another one... and so on.

And then when it comes to decisions... Eeck! I mean what string, whose string do I follow?? If I go this way for myself that knots up with that way for my husband, but then his way is snarled with the way of my daughter and her way doesn't work with my father's way... Everybody's got a different string, a different viewpoint, starting from a different place, heading a different way.

But here are Peter and John who have found the secret of simplicity. For them it wasn't Peter's viewpoint vs. John's viewpoint vs. the Sanhedrin's viewpoint, etc... No. Just one viewpoint.
God's viewpoint. Not my sight vs. your sight vs so-and-so's sight. No. Peter and John followed and obeyed the One who has over-sight. After all, He's the string-maker! He sees every string and how one string interweaves with another and what's best for every string -- And then, on top of all that, He's the one who provides the prizes!!!

SPREAD THE "THING'? -- Acts 4: 13-17

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that thse men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. "What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle., and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name."

Isn't this something? Tells us more than me more than I want to know about my human nature.

Now Jerusalem must have been in many ways like any big city in that day or ours -- that is full of people and life -- and therefore also full of crime/sin and disease. We can understand the leaders of the day being worried about stealing and adultery and false witness (read for our day-- phony law suits), or cholera or plague or venereal disease. Wouldn't putting a stop to those be enough to occupy anyone full time in any habitation where there are more than 10 human beings present?

But here we have the Big Shots (church/political leaders) of the day putting a great amount of time, effort and their personal power to bear against the spreading NOT of crime or disease but rather against the spreading of the "thing"... And what is the "thing" ??? -- Well, it's the Holy Spirit, divine Love-on-the-Move with all the empowering and healing that come with it. ("Oh, no", they were saying, "The powerless are getting courage from this 'thing' to speak up to the powerful and eloquently at that, and from the 'thing' to heal a cripple, and maybe there's even more of this kind of shocking kindness and truth to come!"

Well, it's a warning to me about how easy it is to get not just a little way off from God's will, but rather WAY off, as in opposite to. --- Let's just take for example another city -- the city of my mind. Today I was actually working on spreading something in my mind -- a whole bunch of negative, whiny, doom-laden thoughts. I was spreading junk in the name of me-me-poor- little pitiful-me, thus actually increasing internal crime and disease, which of course leads to increasing external crime and disease -- for of course what's in my mind always comes out in one way or another, spreads from me to those around me and then to those around them, etc, etc.

And, as I can't have both good and bad thoughts/ways running at the same time, this meant that I was also actively working to STOP the spread of good -- that is God -- thoughts/ways. So I have been acting just like the Sanhedrin. In fact, I just had to call Bill to apologize to him for all my whiny talk to him as he was heading off for work. I am praying now to God to forgive me and give me a fresh start.

Lord, help me to stop spreading disease and crime from the city of my mind to the cities of the world and to start instead to spread that "thing", that is your Divine Love, everywhere, in the Holy Name of Jesus. Amen.

THE REALITY FLIP -- Acts 4: 8-12

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindnesss shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He [Jesus] is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

Once again we see that our human perpective on things is totally flipped over from reality, from the way things are in God's kingdom. We see it one way, and He lets us know it's totally the other.
1. Jesus the crucified criminal becomes The Name above all names for all of history and for all the universe.
2. The rejected stone is actually the cornerstone.
3. And the rulers, elders, etc -- the Big Shots of that day are of no significance now, while the simple fisherman's name adorns churches, cathedrals, and all sorts of other places, and thousands and thousands and thousands of people have been named after him, person after person, in language after language -- Peter, Pedro, Pierre, and on and on.

Meanwhile, how many Caiaphases do we know???


The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?"

I started to think how easy it is for me to start judging the high priests, assuming my superiority to them, "I'd never have done that" etc.

But am I really so far from them? Not really. In fact it seems to be my automatic tendency to establish nice high walls around my personal kingdoms (power and control centers) and to resent any one encroaching on them. I have two in mind like that --

One of my kingdoms is my home with family. Many times I don't like it when someone encroaches on it -- even (or maybe especially) when they do something good. I remember not being happy about our neighbor on Brook Road who used to invite Jenn over and teach her some things about cooking. Her good work for my daughter I felt as a threat to me and my relationship with her. My fear and my jealous response to this really hurt Jenn, who was only a little eight-year-old, trying not to upset her mommy. Lord have mercy. --

Or how about my client kingdom? I was once trying to persuade a husband to not leave his wife and kids. When I found out that his pastor had convinced him to at least give more time for the decision, my immediate response was, "Well, I guess my prayer for him helped that along, " --- Like I just had to be in on the action. If the husband had called a divorce lawyer right after seeing the pastor, would I have been so eager to take part of the blame? -- Silly question.

So am I any better than the high priests? Does the smallness of my kingdoms make my sin smaller? I don't think so. In the spiritual realm, it isn't the size of the territory that matters -- it's the size (or lack thereof) of my heart.

So, in reaction to this passage, I am asking the Lord to help me tear down the walls around "my" kingdom areas, and see them all as rightly part of HIS kingdom. And that I might then give up my rights, my credits, my control -- and simply rejoice about every good and perfect thing that comes down from above bringing more light and more love into that very darkness which
I share with those high priests and that only the Lord himself can overcome in me.

FUTURE FOR US HUMANS? -- Acts 4: 1-4
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and ... threw them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to be about five thousand.

Interesting here that the priests were disturbed and disturbed enough to send these Jesus follower guys to jail. Why? Because they were the teaching of the resurrection of the dead (in Jesus) -- not just that Jesus was raised -- but the general picture, that we will all be raised. So the big issue here was the vision of the future, that is our future as human beings.

So, what about the future of us humans ? Off the top of my head, I can think of two main views of the future in our current day which are in big conflict with reality as we know it from Jesus.

1. That this is all there is -- just the material level. Death is final for us. So the visible world is all that lasts -- and hence we have the Earth First, Save the Planet, etc. viewpoint -- that we better try to save SOMETHING but who knows why or for how long ? Meanwhile, here on earth , we might as well go for the gusto, pile up money, stay thin, look out for #1, take our vitamins, have regular check-ups, keep up the appearance of ___ (niceness, athleticism, church position, etc. whatever happens to look good in our particular social circle) , fortify our retirement accounts, build up an impressive resume/obituary of our life, and leave it at that.

2. That there is a spiritual realm, but it pretty well operates according to our desires (Muslim view -- men will have all the women sexual partners they want, etc) -- or according to our values, which in our current day means that the only real virtue and god is TOLERANCE -- so that this heaven will be a place where the ultimate is Acceptance, where the rule will be "Whoever" and most of all "Whatever", where we will not worship God together but rather will tolerate each other together, all staying pretty much the same sort of folks we are now (can you imagine wanting that for eternity?) forever and ever.

But knowing Jesus, THE fact of human existence, we realize that neither of these viewpoints is true, but rather that there is a resurrection for us all, and Jesus has taught and shown us what it is all about --
-- That we will all be raised (we won't decide about this or do it ourselves) in judgement to live forever in one of two ways -- either with the Heavenly Father or away from Him.
-- By a holy God who is all Light, in whose presence any kind of darkness or meaness or selfishness doesn't have a chance.
-- Who would have us be the same, to be like Him, to be light, yet at the same time keeping our unique true selves, so precious to Him
-- Who wants more than anything for each of us to be with him in His Heaven where all and everything will be Love, in a divine and joyous (rather than "fun" and "pleasant") existence which will so far surpass our desires and our values that our eyes cannot imagine and our ears have never heard what this new existence will be like.

Thank you, Heavenly Father for being who you are. Thank you, Jesus, for showing us what our future is all about, And thank you, Peter and John, for being willing to go to prison that day back in Jerusalem in 33 that we here in 2003 might know of the true Heaven and the true Way to get there.

WEIGHED DOWN BY... ME! -- Acts 3: 24-26

"...When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."

That is such a switcheroo from the way we naturally think of things. That this is the great blessing/happiness/joy --- to be turned from all my selfish, self-indulgent, self-satisfying, self-gratifying, self-focused, self-esteem-raising, self-serving ways -- .

What a paradox, for that is not what I think will make me happy. In terms of good old worldly cause-and-effect and my All-American do-it-myself efficiency, I think that the natural result of trying to make myself happy will be that I will become more happy. But in fact, the way it works out is that the more I seek to make myself happy, the more miserable I am (and the more miserable I make everyone around me as in this morning when I got so snappish with my husband.)--

And here is Jesus who comes to me very personally ("each of you") and says "El, you think that you are heavy-laden with your problems. You've got it wrong. What you are heavy-laden with is your SELF. So give it up, give it over to me. When you turn from all your wicked self-ways, then you will get my blessing. That's what I came for. To show you how and why to this, and then to just take that self-stuff from your hand and put Me in its place and bless you with My Presence which is real life and real peace and real joy. "

THE CAR YOU DON'T SEE -- Acts 3: 17-23

"Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance..."

As they say about traffic accidents, it's always the car you don't see that you hits you. That's the really scary thing about driving on the highway.

Works the same way with sin. It's always the sin that I don't see at all or don't see rightly -- which is going to hit me -- and which is going to hurt me and others a whole lot worse than I had ever thought possible. That's the really scary thing about walking through life

Sin always causes pain. In the long run it causes even more pain to the sinner than to the one sinned against. So why do we do it? --We do it because we are blind. Just as when Jesus says, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

I can see here the need to be constantly aware that I am not aware enough -- that my ego is so big and encompassing that it makes blind spots all around me, all the time.

For example, I have gone on and on about the sins that a certain person has committed against me, but only in the last couple of months have I thought about some of the sins that I have committed against that person. In fact, I am now sorrowfully realizing that I was the one who started the whole painful sin cycle between us several years ago. ... Oh, help me, Lord. Be my my Vision, my Perceiver, my Sin Beeper, sensing what I can't sense, beeping and beeping loud to warn me when I am drifting toward sin territory.

HANG ON TO WHAT? -- Acts 3: 11-16

While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them...When Peter saw this, he said to them, "...Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus... "

There is something so real and endearing and understandable about the beggar here, who "held on to Peter and John." Just like me so many times. Holding on to the people or ministries or churches, or whatever, where I've experienced a real touch from God. And in one way or another, every time I've held on like that, the Lord has made it very, very clear to me, "Ellie, listen to Peter here. Don't hang on to the people, ministries, or churches. You can see that doesn't work. Hang on to ME. ..No person or ministry or church you've run into has, by its own "power or godliness", done anything that made a difference. I AM the ONE who makes a difference. And I will never, ever let you down."


... Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate...When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Sometimes we are begging God for something and we really want it, and we really think we need it. And we're asking and asking -- but meanwhile, we're not not even paying attention to the One we're asking from.

And God hears us begging, and He says, "Look at me! Silver and gold -- or whatever other thing you're after -- I may not give you at this instant -- but what I do have -- and what I can give you because now you're actually paying attention to me --- is something much, much better --- something you weren't even dreaming of in your wildest dreams. And when you get it, you're going to be jumping all over the place with joy, praising me. And those around you are going to be really, really surprised and filled with awe because before you were just a crippled beggar at the gate and now you're jumping for Me !!!"

Lord, with all my needs and worries, may I stop and pay attention to you, and wait with an eager heart not for what I want, but for what you have in mind to give me, because you know better than I know what's going to be best in the long run and all the way around -- because, after all, you are God. Amen

PARTY WITH JESUS -- Acts 2: 42-47

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraclulous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Well, here, I just feel like listing this out (literate, linear style....), the picture here of life for an early follower of the Way...

1. Learning from the apostles, 2. Fellowship (friendship with other believers?) 3. Breaking of bread (meals as communion) 4. Filled with awe 5. Witnessing wonders and signs
6. Were together (lots of time), living together I guess 7. Had everything in common 8. Sold their goods 9. Gave to those who needed 10. Met in the temple court
11. Had meals at home, eating together 11. Glad and sincere hearts 12. Praising God 13. Enjoying the favor of the people.

You know this has such a festive, fun feel about it. A party with Jesus, going on and on, everyone invited.

CUT TO THE HEART -- Acts 2: 37-41

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off -- for all whom the Lord our God will call." With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

What struck me here was this; "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart..." Which reminds me of, "Take... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." in Ephesians 6.

Peter's words alone didn't cut anyone to the heart.. I imagine these words have been read in 100,000 - 1,000,000 + church services by now and in most of these services few people have been cut to the heart, and surely not 3000. The words alone don't do it. It was the Spirit, the word of God, speaking in and through Peter's words, which became a sword, giving them the immense surgical power of the Great Physician.

Wouldn't it be a great thing to resolve that all the words that come from my mouth would be accompanied by the Spirit? Mmmm... I should be using that sword at every opportune moment --- and watch for the effects of people being "cut to the heart."

I just noticed too that it's not the heart itself that gets cut. It's what lies over the heart. All that which covers and muffles it, I guess -- distractions, shame, sinful desires, selfishness, ego, etc, etc. like thick old slabs of lard on top of my heart. Cut though them, Lord -- Cut through to my heart.


..."Therefore, my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices... You will fill me with joy in your presence. "

This is what it is to be in the Lord's presence -- all this sheer happiness. So why in the world do we go after anything else but Him?? -- And yet we do.

I want to have a glad heart and a rejoicing tongue and all the rest of me filled with joy. Yet I'm always striving and always settling for something less. Now in this life it gets confusing because there's so many demands and distractions around us, and so much pain and strife within us within us.

So think how heavenly Heaven will be.
No more demands.
No more distractions.
No more pain (a new body!)
No more tears
No more fears.
No more strife.

And even here and now we can pray for little "heaven moments" and "heaven corners" in the midst of the mess. Jesus-joy in the eye of our hurricane. Thank you Lord.

LIVING WITH THE FACT -- Acts 2: 29-36

... God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact...

And that surely was and is and always will be THE FACT for every human history, and all of human history. It tells us the purpose of our life, the way of our life, and the end of life. Oh, that I might live more fully in that fact! --

I feel so drifty sometimes, so nervous about things, so unsure, so self-conscious, so incompetent, so utterly selfish. What is the fact, or rather distortion of fact, that I am living under in my mind ?? Right now I can't even put my finger on it. If it were put into words what would they be???

Maybe something like this...
"Well, It's all up to me (that "all" being my fate, and somehow, in my egocentricity, the fate of the world.) Obviously I'm failing at my job of holding my life and the world together. What I see is a mess, and this mess is all there is. And it's my fault, my responsibility, and therefore -- because of how both bad and pathetic I am -- hopeless."

This is so stupid!! I want to stop living under my thoughts, and start living under THE FACT. I don't want to be like me. I want to be like Jesus.

IMPOSSIBLE FOR DEATH... -- Acts 2: 22-24

"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him..."

What a statement! Not "it was possible for God to raise him" but this --- "it was impossible for death to hold him." There wasn't a question mark here at the end of Jesus' life on earth, a struggle with an uncertain outcome. Instead, we hear this quiet, firm assurance that it couldn't have ended any other way. Death never even had a chance. Jesus, his life, his life of utter, pure love poured out, this Jesus came forth -- and the full weight of sin, of betrayal, of cruelty, and of death was as nothing, nothing at all, before this man, this love, this God.

Today, this is such a comforting word for me. Too many hurting people. Too many sex addicts. Too many lies. Too much oppression. Too much of the devil having his way. I don't want to be overcome by the thought of all this evil, but sometimes its hard. And in this passage, the Lord is saying to me, "Ellie, fear not. All this evil, within and without -- Hate it. Fight it. But don't waste your time worrying about it. Because I have already shown you in Jesus what the outcome is to be. It's absolutely impossible for things to come out
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?? -- Acts 2: 14-21

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ... Let me explain this to you, listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people, Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days...I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below...before the coming of the great day of the Lord..."

We human beings --- creatures of meaning that we are -- we just naturally seek to understand. A totally overwhelming event had just occurred and everyone who was there wanted to know what it was about, why it had happened, and what it meant for the future.

How loving and tender of the Lord, that long before Pentecost happened, He had spoken about it to Joel, one of his prophets, for He knew then that some 500 years later Peter would desperately need to make sense of this wind and fire and tongues experience for himself and for everyone else, and make the right sense of it. And the right sense could only come from the Lord himself.

We're told that there were people there who wanted to make The Event fit into the Mundane Model (They're drunk). And it's easy to imagine that others probably fit it into the Medical Model (They're insane). Either explanation would have been cozy, mangaeable, safe... and, of course, totally wrong. Either explanation would have been small, mere human-size -- rather than All-Holy, All-Loving, Almighty God-size. And either explanation would have had it all wrapped up quickly (wine would wear off, craziness would pass, etc.) -- while, in fact, here we are 2000 years later, still living in the divine fall-out from that Pentecost Explosion and still looking forward to the final culmination of "the great and glorious
SCARY OPTION -- Acts 2: 5-13

Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" ... Some however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine.."

Here we have two very different reactions to a totally unexpected and unimaginable event.

I take this as a warning to me. -- When something happens that doesn't fit into the nice little categories of my brain, I can react in one of two ways:

1. I can be open-minded, questioning, awestruck, humble, "Maybe I don't understand everything in the universe after all... Maybe He's God and I'm not...", etc.
2. Or, I can try to nail the thing down immediately, put it in my language, make it understandable on my terms -- and then mentally stand above it all, crazily imagining that I am actually in control, with a self-satisfied and mocking attitude .

The scary thing here is that if I go for Option #2, I may not have the least idea of what I've done. In fact, I wonder how many times I've taken option #2, say with a friend, family member or client. Something is occuring, some words are being said, and I all too quickly label the experience, place it neatly in a familiar mental file, and altogether miss what the person is saying to me and what the Lord Himself is trying to communicate to me through the situation.

LOVE ON THE MOVE! -- Acts 2: 1-4 --

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

I'd been thinking today about God's kind of Love, which is not a passive, sit back kind of deal. It's Love on the march, Love on the road, Love out seeking and searching, Love piercing hearts, Love embracing souls, Love endlessly creating, Love that's after us, after us, after us. And then here in this passage is that Love made visible in its effects -- sound, violent wind, fire, filling the house, filling the people, speaking through them, charging them with power.. And the spark from that explosion can still be seen, and the echo of that sound can still be felt. Right here. Right now. By us.

Then something else
1. "They were all together in one place."
2. "tongues of fire... separated... rest on each.
3. "All of them..."

It goes here from the collective, to the individual and then back to the collective. Oneness, Individuality, Oneness. We're all together, and yet we are each one of us unique, and yet we are all together and yet we are unique... on and on. Totally connected, and totally still ourselves -- I guess that's what heaven will be like. And there it is, right there at Pentecost, Heaven made visible, Holy Spirit coming to all of us, and coming to each of us -- you, me, everybody. Oh, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

HEART LEAPS -- Acts 1: 15-26

In those days, Peter stood up among the believers... and said... "Therefore it is necesssary to choose one of the men who have been with us..."... So they proposed two men... Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart..."

Yes, Lord, you do, and you know my heart too. And I'm so glad you do, because I feel it leaping. But the problem is that first it leaps in one direction and then in another, so I don't know when to follow it. Is this leap the real one, or or was it yesterday's, or maybe will it be tomorrow's?

Help! If any of you have any thoughts on this -- that is how to know which leap is the real thing, the one from God, and which is not, I'd love to hear from you.

NEED THAT RADIO! -- Acts 1: 12- 14

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives...and ... they all joined together constantly in prayer.

Not only am I not constant in prayer, I am rarely in prayer for the issues that are really tangling me up -- I'm too busy stewing and brewing over them in my mind. I pray best when I'm with my clients; that holy sense of God's heart and purpose overwhelms me there. But elsewhere?...If God's love were radio waves, you'd say I only have a radio over at 9200 Chamberlayne, and it's so obvious that I need to put one here at home, one in my car, and one in my pocket for wherever I go.

I think of the French resistance workers during World War II under Nazi occupation. They had to have radios or they couldn't get the messages -- the info and the orders -- they needed to engage in their work. They were listening for that coded message in the dark hours just before "L'Invasion", D-Day, (like Madame Gondret at Pegasus Bridge I imagine) -- and that made all the difference. The Nazis would torture and kill those with radios, but still the resistance workers kept them, still they listened. Why? Because they knew that the outcome of the conflict was totally dependent on that air wave connection to the outside world.

Am I valuing my prayer radio as it should be? -- No, I'm not. But I better start, because I, too, am a resistance worker, in occupied Enemy territory, in the midst of the War of all Wars, with the Supreme Commander of the Allied Angel Troops seeking at every moment to invade with the power of His Love that He might overcome all that is not of Him.

I'M SO GLAD -- Acts 1: 9-11

"Men of Galilee... why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

All I can say about these verses for today is that I am so glad that Jesus left those particular people and that particular place -- so that He could come to be with all people, with you and me, -- in every single place.

NO GAS IN MY CAR -- Acts 1: 6-8

So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
He said, "It is not for you to know the times or dates... But you will receive power ... "

I really identify with the disciples here. I'm always wanting to know when... when, when, when, please Lord, tell me the time. --- And Jesus makes it very, very clear here that I'm not to worry about that, that I'm just to be very ready and very thankful to receive power from Him to do what He wants me to do whenever the time comes. It's like I keep asking WHEN -- and he says I better be more concerned about HOW.

Sort of like He's saying, "You want to do my will? Well, you've got time --What you don't have is any means. You want to know when the trip starts --- and what good will that do you, when you don't even have any gas in your car -- and you won't have any, either-- unless I put it there?"

THREE WORDS JUMP OUT -- Acts 1: 1-5 ---

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach ....
[Jesus] gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised..."

Three words jump out at me.

The salutation "Theophilus" -- Some say this was a particular person, others that it was just " God-lover" -- but whichever way, Luke doesn't address it to "God-lovers" with an "s" on the end, but rather to just one God-lover. So the book of Acts from Luke is directed not to everyone, all in a bunch, but instead to EACH ONE, TO YOU, TO ME. Just like God's love, a very personal, individual deal.

And then the word "began"--- I tend to think Jesus wrapped it up and we're just into an echo phase, but here is Luke saying "I wrote about all that Jesus BEGAN to do and to teach .... " And the word "begin" has so much promise in it.... It's like a present all wrapped up in pretty paper and bow, but we've barely opened a corner of it, and can scarcely imagine what else He has in there for us, what else He has to do through us....

And then "the gift" -- the gift of the Holy Spirit. Oh, what a gift and is it ever the gift that keeps on giving!!!!

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