[forthright] The Early Church's Family Album / Wise Men Still Seek Him

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Wed, 1 Apr 2009 06:13:01 -0700 (PDT)
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: HANDS-ON FAITH

The Early Church's Family Album
 by Barry Newton

While pictures can reveal any moment frozen in time,
family albums tend to preserve only the momentous
milestones, beautiful moments, and perhaps an
occasional humorous event. In some ways, Acts is like a
family album of the early church. However, unlike the
typical family pictorial history, this story reveals a
realistic portrayal of both the church's highs and
lows.

Like ripples emanating from a rock's impact upon still
waters, Acts chapter 8 provides a snapshot of God's
approval that the benefits of Jesus' death and
resurrection should expand beyond the Jews to include
even the Samaritans.

That moment when the Holy Spirit fell upon the new
Samaritan converts provided divine confirmation that
this expanding Christian community wave across the Jew-
Samaritan chasm fulfilled God's intention.

The next photo, however, reveals darkness lurking
within the Lord's community. Earlier when Philip had
arrived and the Lord performed miracles through him,
Simon’s sorcery had been swept aside and with it his
prestige.

But Philip did not bestow the Spirit upon anyone after
they were baptized. Then two apostles had come. Simon
had witnessed the results of the Spirit falling upon
the new converts through their hands. His previous
wonder at the miracles now transformed into a new
opportunity. Perhaps he could purchase the apostles'
special role thereby reclaiming his lost position in
Samaria.

These ancient snapshots sometimes can function like an
introspective mirror on today's church. God wants the
benefits of Jesus' death and resurrection to flow to
all peoples and groups of society. Do I hang on to a
chasm between myself and those whom I'd rather not call
brother and sister?

While Simon had been baptized, his subsequent actions
revealed that he had not fully died to himself by
picking up his cross daily to follow Jesus. It is easy
to criticize him for his self-serving consumer
arrogance. But as a member of the Lord’s community, how
completely am I serving God's will, rather than my own?

The good news is that the Lord continued to be at work
and the church grew. The sobering news is that our Lord
desires to use us.

"If a man cleanses himself …, he will be an instrument
for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and
prepared to do any good work."

2 Timothy 2:21 (NIV)
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COLUMN: REALITY CHECK

Wise Men Still Seek Him
 by Stan Mitchell

"Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?
We saw his star in the east and have come to worship
him" (Matthew 2:2).

How do you find somebody in the Roman Empire during the
first century? There are no phone books, no ancient
Babylonian Google, and no automated voice on the
information number.

Instead, the "Wise Men" of the Jesus' birth story had
to search for him.

The most important things in life do not simply fall
into our laps, you see; sometimes we must put out the
effort to search for them!

They had spent their lives peering into the crystal
clear skies of Babylonia, searching for clues. From the
sweet date palm trees of the Tigris Euphrates Valley,
across the stony desert, they had traveled till they
found themselves in the strange city of Jerusalem,
inquiring of Jewish citizens where the newly born king
of the Jews would be.

Apparently the people of Jerusalem weren't searching
for him, which was probably a major factor in their not
finding him. These days, too, we search for practically
everything else but the King - happiness, wealth,
fulfillment. We hunger for these things, searching
empty cupboards high and low for answers to life. We
feel the burden of not having found these answers, we
feel no release from our burdens, and it never occurs
to us that we are searching for the wrong things.

Wise men, you see, still seek him. 

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