Archive for October 18th, 2007

It Still Works After All This Time!

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

Today’s scripture: Acts 8:4-25 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Ben Lamb):

Today’s reading includes four simple points that really jumped out at me. They’re kind of “well, duh!” ideas, really, but they are just as true now as they were during Biblical times.

Show goodness to all people even if it’s a stretch.

“I don’t wanna go to the Samaritans!” might have been tempting for Philip to say. “After all, they’ve been enemies of us Jews since, well… who knows how long?!” But, he didn’t. There is no mention of Philip whining or trying to get out of his mission: “[he] went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them.” Plain and simple as that. And consider the marvelous results. In addition to sharing the Gospel, he performed miracles, “so there was great joy in that city.” Does God still want us to show goodness to people today with whom we have difficulties?

Measure personal actions by God’s standards

Simon was a magician. In biblical times, “magician” didn’t mean harmless pull-a-bunny-out-of-the-turban entertainment. Magicians were people who called upon forces opposed to God in order to obtain their powers. Plus, he said “he was someone great.” How boastful! Before Philip came, the local people believed Simon. Well, why wouldn’t they? There had been nobody beforehand to share God’s good news about Jesus. Once the people heard “the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized…” Is it possible that God still wants us to share his good news today with people who otherwise might not know about Jesus?

When you have to point out other’s errors, include a plan of constructive action.

“Even Simon himself believed… and stayed constantly with Philip.” Talk about a career change! Simon had to have given up his livelihood (and prestige in the community) in order to accompany Philip. Simon must have witnessed numerous wonderful actions that God granted to the Samaritans via the willing Philip. Perhaps the greatest event he witnessed was when the apostles Peter and John (recently arrived from Jerusalem) “laid their hands on [the Samaritans], and they received the Holy Spirit.”

For reasons that defy logic, Simon decided to try to purchase the ability to fill others with the Holy Spirit: “He offered [Peter and John] money, saying, ‘Give me also this power.’” Why? Maybe he was extremely enthusiastic about sharing. Perhaps he wanted to start a side business called “Let me pimp your soul with the Holy Spirit.” Was he craving the prestige and fame he had once known in his previous career? Beats me. Do people today still do unexplainable things?

Peter wanted to get Simon back on track. Today’s reading shows that Peter had a very straight-forward method, but he also included a plan: “…pray to the Lord, that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.” Do people even today need to be redirected at times? At those times, do we merely point out the problem, or also offer a realistic solution?

It’s okay to ask for help.

Simon decided to get his act together (again) and wasn’t too proud to ask for help: “Pray for me to the Lord…”. Are we, today, still willing to ask for help at appropriate times? How do we respond to others who ask us?

In this age of “Good until date stamped on bottom of carton,” the Bible certainly has no expiration date!

Thought for the day: God, help me to understand ways in which your word is just as useful today as when it was originally written.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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