The country is slowly reopening. Georgia has opened malls, beaches, and restaurants. I had to go grocery shopping yesterday and I was one of the few that still had a mask on. How quickly the privileged have forgotten the fear most of them had just weeks ago when they bought all the non-perishables out of the stores and horded all the toilet paper because they were scarred they would not be able to leave their house for months. If many are so quick to return to a new normal, will it really be a new normal? Or are we going to go right back to our old ways of misguided priorities? When sports start up, are we going to return to obsessing over the wrong idols? As malls and shopping centers reopen, are we going to return to buying up useless things that only rust and gather moths? Have we just allowed the last two months of opportunity slip through our fingers? How many actually used the extra time they had to do something productive and life changing like read the Bible?
I have said this COVID Crisis was a great paradox in my life. For me, nothing stopped. I was beginning a new career in a field that is deemed “essential.” Ironically, I had left an old career field that I never felt was “essential,” and that field ended up being the most important in helping America have a little sense of normal in the grocery store business. Associates of my old company faced danger and the risk of exposure every single day as they had to carry on to ensure America had access to the food they needed. I made sure I constantly thanked the associates of our favorite grocery store (even though they still can’t keep toilet paper on the shelves). My wife started a new job after staying home with our son for the last three and a half years. Our son started a new daycare/school. The only major change our family faced was our daughter having to finish her 3rd Grade year through virtual learning. That was hard on our daughter, to not be around her friends and her amazing teacher, but it gave us even more time to spend with our precious, sweet 8-year-old, so I loved it. It got me involved in her school more than I had been all year. And this helped me realize how much fun we can have at home by doing a few simple science experiments from items lying around the house. My family has not known anyone that has been infected with COVID-19, thanks to the goodness of God, so we had to constantly remind ourselves of the suffering and death that was happening all around us. And as a Christian, I know death is nothing to fear, but something to welcome as long as we are living Christ-centered lives. So even in death, there should be great joy. And the weather, let me tell you about the weather in southeast Georgia the last two months! This has been the most pleasant April and May that I have seen in the last eight years.
So COVID has made me come to the following realization: isn’t this how we as Americans have functioned in the last fifty-plus years? We have had our ups-and-downs as a country, but for the most part, America has been living in a golden era of prosperity and peace since the end of the Vietnam War. The Gulf War and War on Terrorism has only involved the brave few that have voluntarily stepped forward to fight for America’s safety abroad. Most of the country had seen economic fortunes and stability the last twenty years. We have all lived within a great paradox where we have forgotten that the rest of the world is not as fortunate as us. We might sponsor a child in a far away country, we may even get involved enough to go on a mission trip, but is that really making the change we need as Americans to make this world a better place for everyone. We are supposed to be the great Christian Nation and instead we are just obsessed with ourselves. We waste our lives away watching show after show after show on endless streaming services. We let hours of our days disappear hooked to our phones, scrolling, trolling, and tweeting. Our children stare at us as we sit on our phones and allow viewing someone else’s day to be more important than us living our own life. So do not return back to the old normal. Emerge from this crisis changed forever. Focus on what is truly important. Focus on Christ, focus on family, focus on friends, focus on the hurting, the hungry, the poor and the sick.
6The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”…
…19”It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:6-21)
During the second part of this month, many of the verses I will be highlighting from the Book of Acts I am selecting because they reference important figures in the New Testament and the birth of Christianity. The history of “The Way” shifts more to Paul’s actions soon, and less of Peter and the other Apostles. In the verses above, all the major players have gathered in Jerusalem to convene over the Gentiles and what the Christian Church should ask of their newest conversions. I like how Peter reminds the Jewish Christians that holding the “yoke” of all the Mosaic Laws had been impossible for the Jewish to follow for thousands of years, why should these new Christians be weighed down with the same impossible expectations? Peter states that salvation is found through the grace of Jesus Christ. That is why it is called grace, after all, because it is a gift paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. Following Peter, Jesus’ blood brother James speaks. I cut out his opening statement in the verses above, but if you do not remember from a few days ago, James quotes the Old Testament book of Amos Chapter 9, verses 11 and 12. Doing my due diligence and researching this, I was surprised to see that James actually miquotes the verses from Amos! The lines from the Jesus Bible are:
11“In that day
I will restore David’s fallen shelter-
I will repair its broken walls
and restore its ruins-
and will rebuild it as it used to be,
12so that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations that bear my name,”
declares the Lord, who will do these things. (Amos 9:11,12)
James quotes these verses and states:
“‘After this I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord who does these things’
things known from long ago.” (Acts 15:16-18)
Do you see the difference between the two? The original verse from Amos states: God will rebuild the Temple (David’s fallen shelter) and so that the Israelites may possess the remnant of”Edom” (which is an area between modern day Israel and Jordan) AND “all the nations that bear my name.” The verse in Amos, as I read it, is a verse of Israel’s conquering past. This has nothing to do with the Gentile nations coming to follow God or Jesus. So I am surprised, not only that James miquoted it, but that this mistake made its way into the Book of Acts. I like James’ version, which would be fine, but when taking an Old Testament verse and twisting to fit a different narrative, especially when the reference is in context of prophecies regarding Jesus Christ, this threatens the validity of other Old Testament verses. And then the only advice the Jerusalem council gives the Gentile Christians is about what meat to eat and avoiding sexual immorality?! What about the rest of the Ten Commandments? I guess lying, coveting, disrespecting their parents, stealing, even murder are okay, but don’t eat the food polluted by idols…
When I first chose these verses, I was picking them to only point out the fact that James is mentioned here because James is one of my favorite authors of the New Testament. He is the only author to argue the fact that we cannot be saved through faith alone, but with faith and works do we earn grace. Now this sets up a great debate that we will dive into when we get to the Book of James, but until then, I want you to consider how YOU need to read the Bible for yourself, continue on this journey, see the big picture, pay attention to the minor details. The misquote above is a small mistake in the big picture of the message of the Bible, but it leaves room for those seeking to destroy the truth of who Jesus was, the truth of the prophecies of the Old Testament, and the truth of where salvation is found. Tell me what you think? Maybe I am being too critical.
Reading plan: Acts 18
Deeper reading plan: Job 1, 2, 3
Prayer and meditation: Pray for the sick, pray for the lost and their loved ones. Pray for redemption for this lost world. Pray for a reviving rattle to shake COVID off this planet. Pray for all those in medical professions, grocery stores, supply chain operators, first responders, and the amazing teachers still doing all they can to teach the students they love so much. Pray for all the businesses trying to recover and keep their associates able to provide for their families. Pray that the world reopens without a surge of new COVID outbreaks. And pray that the world has undergone a lasting change and the flame of revival has been lit!
Fitness challenge: Calisthenics day. I want to stick with this circuit for the month of May, so today, let’s bump up the reps all the way to our max of 25, and keep it easy with just one round. But get ready, we’ll be stepping this up these last two weeks of the month.
- Hand-release Push-up
- Jumping squats
- Diamond push-ups
- Supine Bicycle (4-count)
- Pistol squats (25 each leg)
- Burpees (as many as you can, but 25 is the goal)