October 3, 2013 - Re-Acts
By Scott Harrup
It seems lately I can't get away from the New Testament Book of Acts.
Months ago, I accepted a writing assignment for three curriculum lessons on Acts. That overlapped with registration for a class on Acts at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary here in Springfield, Mo. Both coincided with the scheduling of the fall Kids Edition of the Pentecostal Evangel (Adventures in Acts!). All of the above were in play at some level when Pastor Jeff Peterson at Central Assembly set aside several Sundays for sermons on Acts.
When I detect a providential echo in life, I take it to heart. I figure God is trying to tell me something. People of a nontheistic frame of mind could argue my Acts writing assignment influenced my choice of an AGTS class and the Pentecostal Evangel editorial team's discussion of the Kids Edition theme.
But I needed a New Testament class that fit my work schedule. "Speeches in Acts" filled that bill precisely. Our editors offered plenty of other ideas for the Kids Edition before everyone agreed "Adventures in Acts!" worked best.
I had no input whatsoever in Pastor Jeff's sermons.
What I call "orchestrated coincidences" don't have to proclaim life-altering guidelines; a simple reminder to pay closer attention to fundamental biblical values may be all that is intended.
With this personal focus on Acts, I'm taking a renewed interest in how God used everyday people to communicate the world-changing message of the gospel across the first-century Roman Empire. I'm seeing afresh the repeated call for unity among followers of Christ. I'm noting the Holy Spirit's guidance can be as simple as timely counsel from another Christian or as dramatic as a supernatural vision.
But I allow for a more sobering explanation of my repeated intersections with Luke's Early Church history. The Church flourished throughout Acts' narrative arc, but it did so amidst persecution and deep opposition. Perhaps opposition and persecution lie beyond the horizon for my faith community.
Most of my life I have lived out my commitment to Jesus Christ within a culture that prioritizes personal freedom, including the freedom of religion. Yet, there have always been challenges posed to that freedom. In years to come, the challengers may take center stage in our nation's government and judicial system.
Should that happen, I pray the lessons of Acts take root in my life. That the example of an apostle Peter, missionary Paul, or even martyr Stephen may prove congruent with my expression of faith.
For however long I'm blessed with continued freedom of expression, I pray I make full use of it for the benefit of those around me still viewing the gospel from a distance.
— Scott Harrup is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and blogs at Out There (sharrup.agblogger.org).