The Many Faces Of Arrogance

Lately I have been thinking about the nature of pride. Pride is significant in my life because, admittedly, it is one of the things I struggle with the most. However, the more I have thought about it the more I have come to realize that pride looks different for me than what I have been taught it should. Since becoming a Christian in late high school I have been taught that pride means having an over-inflated view of myself and thinking myself more important than what I actually am. I have been taught that I am ugly in the sight of God and to see myself as good means that I am taking a prideful view of my life.

In my life this is not how pride plays itself out. I think I have come to hold a pretty healthy view of who I am as God’s creation. I think I am good in the sight of God because I have the ability to reflect a God that is good. I am broken, yes, but not utterly depraved. The danger pride holds in my life is not that I think myself too important but that I fail to see this goodness in others. I forget to recognize that others bear the image of the same God as I do. In failing to see the goodness in others at times I am robbed of the beauty and fullness of God’s people. This is the effect of pride on my life.

Ben Kulpa – Area Coordinator for South Houses and Apartments

Who is listening (earbuds out)? (Isaiah 6:9-10)

When I read this passage, my initial thought was “Oh no; more fodder for those who think Paul was anti-Semitic.”  I read it again slowly with attention to the context.  Paul was speaking to Roman Jews.  Some believed his declaration about Jesus.  Some did not.  It was to these that he spoke the words of Isaiah.

Scripture is difficult because it takes a little imagination to figure out a writer’s tone.  Are they being sarcastic, angry, humorous, or just sad?

Paul was deeply committed to the Jews.  Whenever he came to a new city, his strategy was to connect with the Jewish population.  However, he was also deeply committed to those who were not part of the People of God.  In this passage, I think what happened was this:  he preached to a gathering of Jews.  Out of sadness and weariness, he recalled the passage in Isaiah and spoke directly to the Jews who chose not to believe.  This response provided Paul and others with the opportunity to tell “Gentiles” about the mercy of Jesus.  If some Jews would “hardly hear,” then God’s salvation would be “sent to the Gentiles, and they [would] listen.”  For me, as a Gentile, this is a great Advent hope.

- Dave Johnstone - Associate Dean of Students

Go The Final Mile Together (Acts 28)

The entire book of Acts is this saga of how the Holy Spirit acted through the early church, with multiple chapters chronicling Paul’s missionary journeys. It’s like the writer of Acts wanted us to know that “This happened, and then this happened, and just when they thought it couldn’t get any worse, this happened.” So when my first reaction upon reading Acts 28:11-16 was “Wow. A whole lot of nothing happens,” I knew I needed to look harder. Here’s what caught my attention: in verse 14 it says, “And so we came to Rome.” Fairly boring sentence, but it’s the culmination of the journey. It’s where God keeps the promise made to Paul in Acts 23:11 and 27:24. It’s like the writer is saying, “And this is how we got there.” The point is in the journey, in the getting there. Paul couldn’t have done it without his fellow believers. In verse 13, Paul and his entourage hung out with some other Christians in Puteoli for a week. Then in verse 15: more Christians in Rome had heard that Paul and his entourage were coming, so they formed welcoming parties that hoofed it 30-40 miles to meet him along the way. By the time they reached Rome, the entourage had become more like a processional. Paul, the criminal entered the city like a heralded dignitary. And his heart was strengthened.

Who is coming your way today? Who could use a welcoming party? What would it look like to celebrate someone’s presence in your life? What’s a metaphorical 30-40 miles that you could go out of your way in order to encourage a sister’s or brother’s heart? God is in the business of keeping promises, and we get to help along the way.

- Martha Wood - Area Coordinator: Houses and Apartments North

Trust God’s Faithfulness (Acts 23)

When I first began reading this passage, I have to admit, I was somewhat shocked. Yes, I know Paul’s story doesn’t end “happily-ever-after,” but it was still hard to see how Paul was being treated before the council. Had he not been faithful to God? How did he end up in this situation?

He’s thrown in prison and still, there is the Lord, speaking to Paul. The Lord encourages Paul and praises him for what he’s done. The Lord tells Paul that His plan for him is not over; he must continue on to witness to Rome.

Paul is in prison and God is still placing a call on his journey. I can only imagine the place of even deeper surrender Paul must have come to in that moment; to look beyond his situation and trust God’s faithfulness in His call.

- Jen Dalziel – Area Chaplain

React Or Respond? (Acts 23:1-23)

As I read chapter 23 in the book of Acts, five verses in particular jumped out at me:

“And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”  Acts 23: 1-5 (ESV)

Paul reacted after being struck, and within moments Paul responded in a much different fashion.  What I find odd is how quickly Paul’s attitude shifted. Which got me thinking, how often do I react instead of respond? I am prone to react when I feel offended, humiliated, or simply put am walking in the ways of the flesh. In the above passage Paul essentially curses the high priest only to later acknowledge his wrongdoing. Paul respects God’s word, going as far as to publicly quote the very scripture he just violated. How many of us could ever say we have done the same?

- Becky Weber – Area Coordinator Houses and Apartments East

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: http://pinterest.com/pin/229401963/

Tug-of-war (Acts 22:1-21)

I am a hater of injustice. I am passionate about equality. I am a people pleaser.

Among my friends and family I often find my heart heavy with desire for them to feel the same need for equality and freedom I do. However, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and I sadly often keep my mouth closed.

A good friend of mine asked recently, “have you ever thought that maybe the Holy Spirit has given you these passions and a voice for the very reason of being a witness to those around you, even those that know God?” This question terrified me.  What does it look like to be a witness to those around me? Won’t I hurt people’s feelings if I disagree or point something out they don’t want to see? Is it worth it to speak up?

In Acts 22, Paul upsets a large group of people from his hometown, many which were probably some of his childhood friends and family. In this passage, there are principals practiced by Paul that are good tools for us to use when witnessing to others.

1. Be relevant. There is a riot that breaks out among the Jews against Paul. The Jews go silent when Paul begins speaking to them because he chooses to use their native language of Aramaic (22:2). He addresses their commonality of Jewish heritage and utilizes it. Where are the people we are witnessing to from? What was their upbringing like? What similarities do we have with them

2. Gain credibility. Paul starts off telling the Jews that he grew up like them, he tells them about his education and how he cared about and sought to uphold the law just like them and even understands how they currently feel. He was a leader in persecuting followers of the Way and had killed many (22:5). He mentions the name of a respected leader of the Jews who was also part of his healing and transformation (22:12-13).  Have we ever believed or felt similar to the person(s) we are witnessing to? What experiences have we gone through in the past that relate to this situation? Who are people we both respect and that have been influential in our journey? 

3. Share your story (even the parts that sound weird).  Paul explains his mission to the crowd by sharing the details of his own journey. Even though some of the details of his testimony seem unbelievable – like meeting Jesus and going blind and being healed – he shares them (22:7-13). The crowd listens intently even as he shares the not so believable details. How can we practice and become more comfortable sharing our story? What parts of our story do we leave out because we are afraid others will reject it or think we are weird?

4. Speak truth and take risks.  As Paul addresses this group of Jews, residents of Jerusalem, he shares that the Lord told him to leave Jerusalem and go to their enemy’s, the Gentiles, land to tell them about the Way (22:19-21). Paul could have left this part out of his talk but he believed so strongly in God’s heart for equality amongst all God’s people that he shared it. After Paul spoke about God’s heart for the Gentiles the Jews became irate and hated him more. What truths do we leave out of our conversations because we’re too afraid of being hated? What are things we believe in and need to speak up for?

The tug-of-war of being a witness for justice and truth is worth the fight. My prayer is that I/we learn that pleasing those around us is not more important than sharing the passions God has illuminated in our lives.

- Kayin Griffith – Spiritual Life Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: http://www.turnbacktogod.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/lifes-tug-of-war.jpg

Humility to Listen (Acts 21:27-40)

I can only imagine the scene in Jerusalem as Paul is seized at the temple.  It only took “some Jews” to stir up the whole crowd.  If I were to place myself in this place and time, what would I have done?  I don’t think I would have been one of the Jews to stir up the crowd as that’s not in my nature.  I don’t like being the center of attention.  But … I could see myself easily following the crowd and being caught up in the uproar – the agenda – of those around me. The Roman commander could not get at the truth of the situation, who Paul really was, because of the chaos and the different words that were being spoken by the crowd.

I’m challenged by this scripture to examine how I respond in situations where I might think I’m right, where my (or “our”) way is the only way. Am I willing to humbly stop and listen to another perspective that is different than my own, instead of reacting and causing “an uproar”? This can be a daily challenge for me: even if I don’t outwardly “cause a scene,” my heart can be in the wrong place. Do I give that other person the respect they deserve by listening to their perspective even if I don’t agree? I would encourage you to examine that place or those places where you need to “humbly listen” and then respond with respect for others.

Still learning,

- Andrea Crenshaw MacLeod – Director of Outreach and Service

Risk. (Acts 21:1-26)

Comfort is the goal. Look at marketing where themes of “It’s so easy a caveman could do it” and “Have it your way” explode into our consciousness that not only should life be easy, but that we deserve it to be as such. We are offered ‘it’ fastest, cheapest, best, lightest, newest, safest, coolest, and the most fun. This mentality, unfortunately, is not anywhere near that of Jesus. Life is more than what we believe, it’s about how we let what we believe affect us. In this passage Paul is begged by those around him (his friends and family) to stay and not go to Jerusalem because of the prophecy of how he was to be treated. I don’t think Paul was surprised to hear this prophecy. I mean, he wasn’t exactly the most loved figure in society at the time. I wonder why God gave Agabus this vision. Obviously it wasn’t to deter Paul. Could it have been to prepare him? Maybe visions like this should be seen as modes of grace and not modes of fear.

Paul knew what he was getting himself into before he started. He counted the cost long ago and was well aware of the pain, loneliness, sorrow, and heartache that was to come. But he believed that these present sufferings “were not worth comparing with the glory that would be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). What does this mean for us?

|1| We must count the cost. Are discomfort and sorrow worth healing and purity? Are we willing and ready to deny ourselves and our desires for the sake of the redemption that Jesus wants to do in and through us?

|2| We must take risks. Paul was convinced that the Lord was good. Not comfortable, but good. Risks might include moving to another country where the gospel is illegal. But chances are it’s not. But maybe it’s having a chest-cracking, vulnerable conversation with a good friend. It might be seeking healing from personal shame in the awkward, uncomfortable realms of community. Maybe it is living today as if it was a gift to be taken seriously.

|3| Take Jesus at his word. We must believe that the heart of God is good, and that we serve a God who wastes nothing. When he calls us to risk, he is calling us to life. If we are listening, there will be an answer. We are never called into the desert alone. In fact, we are never called to a desert (or a paradise). We are not called to anything. We are called to Someone, to God.

- Gavin Bennett – HMS Chaplain

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture via Pinterest via cazadoresdelamanecer.blogspot.com

There Is Nothing In This World That Can Satisfy (Acts 20:18-36)

When I think of my relationship with God, I often describe it in terms of my intellectual or theological commitments; I believe!  I have enjoyed reading once again the book of Acts this term with the entire community.  I have been reminded that our commitment to Christ — certainly rooted in belief – must be lived out in community with others.  We are presented with the Gospel of Jesus so that we can become new creations resulting in a restored “relationship” with God that redeems our soul and satisfies our deepest longings.  Paul noted in Acts 20 “You yourselves know how I lived among you the entire time from the first day I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and tears, . . . to testify to the good news of God’s grace.”  We are called to this generation to bring the Good news to our world.

 

 

- Robin Baker – George Fox University President

 

 

The Presence Of God (Acts 20:20-24)

Although I have to admit that I have some disagreements with Paul of Tarsus, I have to respect and admire him.  When you consider what he was up to we first meet him in Acts, to the way his life ended, I’d call him a hero for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul did not shrink from this trouble.  In fact, he welcomed the conflict for he knew that his purpose was divinely given.   Paul’s heart for his ministry was so strong that even when faced with extreme circumstances his focus was to share the power and life of Christ to everyone who crossed his path.  When he was discouraged, tired, exhausted, bone weary, his mission was clear.

When God gives us a task, a mission, he also gives us the means to accomplish this task.  God met him right where he was at and then turned his world upside down.  All along the way the Holy Spirit gave Paul the courage he needed to complete his mission.  Even unto death.

God does the same with us.  He gives us what we need to accomplish the task.  When I look back at the journey of my life I recall time and again the support that God gave me to accomplish what he has called me to do.  Just as it was with Paul, this support came in different forms. Strength when I couldn’t take one more step.  Hope when the situation seemingly had no solution.  Friends to walk along side me.  Courage when fear overwhelms me.  Peace when the winds of uncertainty swirl me here and there.  The magic of nature to remind me that he is with me.

I love that about God.

Several years ago my husband and I faced a very dark and scary time.   Each morning when I walked my dogs I prayed and spent time with God pleading with him to give me courage and strength. Once, while praying on a cool but windless morning, at the exact time I was sobbing my heart out, the wind kicked up to a blusterous state.  In my heart I heard God tell me that even in the face of a storm he was with me.  Another time I headed out just after a heavy rain.  The warmth of the sun began to heat the water on the roads and steam rose from the pavement.  Again, while crying out to God I looked up and saw a rainbow.  My heart warmed and the presence of God eased my worry.  I knew God was walking this journey with me.

And just as he did with Paul, God gave me courage to face another day.  I love that about God.

- Jere Witherspoon - Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Student Life