Archive for February 2nd, 2006

About 2500 years before Kirk says this, there is a slightly different occurrence of a beam-up: Philip had just baptized the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts8:38), and is then (v39) “snatched” away by the Holy Spirit, and transported to Azotus!

Now this day and age, we don’t typically observe such things, but these days of the early church were extraordinary times. It seems that the Holy Spirit was just getting things done in a fast and efficient way. Philip had helped another person become a disciple, and then he was needed elsewhere.

This seems trivial, but sometimes I wish the Holy Spirit would do this today. Wouldn’t it be nice if things happened with such obvious rapidity that stuff just “got done” rather than us having to wait, patiently?

But let me recap the reading, because I’ve started at the end, when I should have started at the beginning. Because of the way the NET Bible is layed out, the “beginning” here is actually the end of Chapter 7, starting at v54.

Only things is, the beginning is so sad, I hate to think about it. Stephen’s death disturbs me greatly, because of the pain he has to go through. His passionate speech in the previous chapter enrage his accusors. But even as he must know his fate by this time, he can actually “see” heaven from Earth! That’s incredible! Even to his last breath, he is asking God to forgive those who are stoning him. What an example Stephen is. What a hero of the faith!

Stephen continues to pray, even as he is being stoned to death. Can you imagine!

We meet Saul, who is one of those condoning this horrible act. Saul goes on in Acts 8 to become quite the villain, persecuting Christians and dragging people out of their homes and jailing them (8:3).

Next, Philip goes to Samaria, preaching and performing miracles of healing (8:4-8). There he meets Simon, who is a huckster and trying to impress people with magic tricks. Then, with news coming back to the Apostles that the Samaritans were taking the gospel message quite well, and many were becoming followers, Peter and John came to join Philip. The two apostles helped convey the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans. This is a difficult passage for me… the parenthetical of 8:16 which explains that Peter and John had to visit the Samaritans, because “the Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Peter and John had to place hands on them for them to receive the Holy Spirit. I’m still unclear why they had to do this… unless it wasn’t necessary for the Holy Spirit’s sake, but for the impact this miracle had on the witnesses!

As a result of this, Simon (the huckster) offers them silver to share their secret with him, so that he too could convey the Spirit with his touch. Of course, not only was he bribing them, but his intentions were wholly selfish and prideful. They tell Simon he needs to repent, and pray for forgiveness for his sin of envy, but Simon asks them to pray for him (8:24). The scripture doesn’t say whether they actually do this, and what effect it has on Simon, though. But the message is clear that, though we might want these supernatural powers, it’s up to God to decide who gets them. Hear that, kiddos, playing around with magic?

Along these lines, I did a little ESP test with my son yesterday. I had one of those fortune cookies with the “good luck” numbers on the back of the fortune. I looked at the first of the six numbers and asked him to guess it. The first one he got after two tries! The next one took him three tries. After that it took more guesses to the point he gave up. I told him that once he started caring about his “performance” he started doing worse. Then we all had a good laugh, because we don’t really believe he was psychic, it was just random chance. But,… it’s interesting that he got so close so quickly. These were all two-digit numbers.

Anyway, 8:26 picks up with an Angel of the Lord instructing Philip to go south to Gaza, which is where he meets up with the eunuch, which is where I began.

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Restitution for Sin

5:5 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 5:6 “Tell the Israelites, ‘When a man or a woman commits any sin that people commit, thereby breaking faith with the Lord, and that person is found guilty, 5:7 then he must confess his sin that he has committed and must make full reparation, add one fifth to it, and give it to whomever he wronged. 5:8 But if the individual has no close relative to whom reparation can be made for the wrong, the reparation for the wrong must be paid to the Lord for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement by which atonement is made for him. 5:9 Every offering of all the Israelites’ holy things that they bring to the priest will be his. 5:10 Every man’s holy things will be his; whatever any man gives the priest will be his.’”

I think we have gotten away from something very important in our modern criminal justice system and even our disciplining as parents. We have gotten away from the concept of restitution. Of course, there are some parents who have not forgotten this important concept, but many have. I am sure there are also criminal justice systems that have not forgotten this concept, but most have. Instead of throwing non-violent criminals behind bars and giving children punishment that does not really fit the offense, lets reconsider what we can do to bring the wronged party back to wholeness. Could we have found a better punishment for Martha Stewart than a few months at a country club prison? Instead of grounding a child couldn’t you have them do odd jobs to earn the money to pay back a store for something they shoplifted, but only go caught by the parent. If the store will not take the money (and many will not) them have your child give it to a charity that helps keep other young people following the right path. I don’t have all of the answers, but I wonder what positive affect we could have if our system of punishment for both adults and children focused on restitution.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for teaching us to right the wrongs we commit. Thank you for calling us to confession and restitution. It is not easy for us to do, but it truly teaches us to not make the same mistake twice. Help me to be a person of integrity and honesty. I love you Lord. Amen.