Wow – what started out as a great idea fell a little by the wayside. The story of our blog kind of parallels the story of Renovatus. Renovatus was young adult innovation at its best! What an amazing idea. It just made good sense. A multi-sensory approach to an experience with Jesus Christ. After all, the Bible is full of really experiential encounters with the divine. And it started off amazingly, but like this blog, it turned out to be a lot of work to continue. But after more than seven years it was still going. That was quite a feat. There has been some incredible Friday nights like the Middle East Feast we had sitting on the floor with cushions. There have been plenty of incredible nights! The Survival Quest was original as was celebrating football season. But there has been some nights when we had a total of six people turn up, the sound system go down, with a slightly off key singer (don’t worry, I don’t mean you.)

But the question remains – is it worth saving? If you ask me: absolutely! I know that Renovatus still has life in her. Maybe she needs just a shot of adrenaline. But the original vision is still there and is still as relevant as ever. Experiencing Jesus. “The truth as it is in Jesus can be experienced, but never explained” (Christ’s Object Lessons, 129). We desire to know Jesus and experience Him in a living way.

When I went to the Middle East I visited a number of places claiming to have some connection to a Bible Story. There is a strong debate between two possible sites claiming to be the tomb of Jesus (another one just announced its candidacy too). The traditional location is within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. A controversial site is called the Garden Tomb and is outside the Old City. Which ever place where Jesus was buried isn’t the point of this anecdote. The Church location venerates Jesus as if He was still dead. People come to pay homage to the crucifixion site, the tomb, and even touch and prayer upon the slab where they *allegedly* laid his body. It’s as if people would prefer it if they could see a body still there in the tomb. However, the Garden Tomb merely creates a place of reflection. Reflection on the idea that Jesus is not longer in the tomb, but is alive. Jesus is alive and is pursuing us so He can have a friendship with us. That friendship with Jesus is where Renovatus finds its purpose.

Renovatus exists to provide an experience whereby people may come into a relationship with Jesus Christ. We don’t explain Jesus, we experience Him. As we continue the renovation lets keep this at the forefront of our mind.

Jesus. Is.
Jesus. All.

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Acts 2:42-47

Lets go on a word journey through Acts 2:42-47 and see if we can find anything new that will help us understand the New Testament Church.  Below are some key words that I have given extra Greek definitions for.  Read the text, then read the definitions and see if light is given to the text.  I’ve put the Greek word in too, with the pronunciation.  See if you can pronounce the word out loud.

Devoting (προσκαρτερουντες – pros-kar-ter-oun-tes)  –  to be steadfastly attentive unto,  to give unremitting care to a thing,  to continue all the time in a place, to persevere and not to faint, to show one’s self courageous for.

Fellowship (κοινωνια – koy-nohn-ee’-ah) –  communion, joint participation, social intercourse, participation, intimacy, a collection, a contribution.

Bread (αρτου – ar’-toe) – food composed of flour mixed with water and baked, the Israelites made it in the form of an oblong or round cake, as thick as one’s thumb, and as large as a plate or platter hence it was not to be cut but broken.

Prayer (προσευχαις – pros-yoo-khais’) –  prayer addressed to God, a place set apart or suited for the offering of prayer, a synagogue; or a place in the open air where the Jews went to pray, outside the cities, where they had no synagogue, such places were situated upon the bank of a stream or the shore of a sea, where there was a supply of water for washing the hands before prayer.

Awe – (ψυχαι – psoo-khai’) – the breath of life, the vital force which animates the body, a living being, a living soul, the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions

Miraculous Signs (σημεια – say-mi’-a’) – a sign, mark, token; that by which a person or a thing is distinguished from others; wonders by which God authenticates the people sent by him

To gather together by common consent (ομοθυμαδον – hom-oth-oo-mad-on’) – with one mind, with one accord, with one passion; A unique Greek word, used 10 of its 12 New Testament occurrences in the Book of Acts, helps us understand the uniqueness of the Christian community. Homothumadon is a compound of two words meaning to “rush along” and “in unison”. The image is almost musical; a number of notes are sounded which, while different, harmonise in pitch and tone. As the instruments of a great concert under the direction of a concert master, so the Holy Spirit blends together the lives of members of Christ’s church.

Glad – (αγαλλιασει – ag-al-lee’-as-i) – exultation, extreme joy; alludes to Hebrews 1:9

Humble – (αφελοτητι – af-el-ot’-eh-ti) – simplicity, singleness

Good will – (χαριν – khar’-in) – grace; that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness;  loving-kindness; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues; the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace.

Saved – (σωζομενους – sode’-zom-en-os’) – to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction; to save a suffering one from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health;  to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment

What jumps out at you that you have never seen before?  Why not put a comment below and share it?  For me it is the word Awe – it’s like they were ‘high’ on life.  They were really living and experiencing the true essence of life.  I thought that was a beautiful picture.  My prayer is that you have been touched by these verses in a new way.

New perspective

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

In God’s time. We rarely want to wait. We want to do. Sitting still and allowing God into our lives is probably the most difficult thing we can do. Stillness. What will and does enter into our minds and lives? Are we ready to do God’s work? Will we like the work he wishes us to do? It may be too difficult or scary or … Oftentimes we are so busy doing, that God has no chance to come in as he often does, quietly. Will we hear him with all the noise we make?

We ask ourselves: “Are we prepared?”, which too often translates into: we do not really trust that God will prepare us for the task. Letting go is mighty hard. We feel uneasy when we have to fly. Psychologists tell us that we have difficulty letting go of the controls we seemingly have. If we were the pilot we would have no trouble flying, because we are (seemingly) in control. Just think of when you drive your car. What could happen? You are in control… Statistics however tell us otherwise. Giving control to God, trusting him with our lives seems naïve at best, but is that not what we are seeking? If we live our life too busy doing something, which seems safe at the moment, we may never feel the power and the joy of God acting through us.

Excitement Continued

So here is a recap of our Friday night Pow-wow.

10 Things We Loved about Renovatus:

1. Multisensory and experiential/interactive
2. Creativity involved in planning
3. Team work needed each week
4. Dynamic, intimate, and purposeful worship space
5. Community/social/fellowship – hanging out!
6. Challenging the status quo, themes, different perspectives and messages
7. Knick Knacks paddy whack – tangibility of God in objects
8. New faces and intimacy, trust – vulnerability
9. Participatory music from Chris Rave and the Band
10. Special events like our Middle East Meals

10 Things We’d Love to See in the Future:

1. Drama more central
2. Service opportunities, facing injustice
3. Multi-generational
4. More Multi-media, not just on the screen
5. Greater inclusion, everybody a volunteer
6. Greater ownership
7. Wholistic approaches to spiritual life throughout the week
8. Greater Discipleship
9. Contemporary issues, openness
10. Small groups, discussion, team building

Why not add some of your favorite experiences with Renovatus in the comment section below. And as you continue to pray and ponder, allow God to speak to you in the silence. Find a quiet spot and just listen. What is God telling you, where is he taking you?

Sabbath Thoughts

Today I’m thinking about the church that would have been meeting in Antioch.  The city no longer exists as Antioch, but is the modern city of Antakya.  Neither does the church still exist, but they were one of the first Christian churches in the world.  In fact, it was the place where the name “Christian” originated, but now the most common religion there is Islam.  What is fascinating about this church is that it owes its existence to inadequate food distribution to widows.  We are still on that story!  You see, the food distribution problem led to Stephen being made a deacon, which led to him preaching, which he got stoned for.  His stoning precipitated a great outbreak of violence against the soon-to-be-known as Christians and caused them to scatter around the Mediterranean.  That scattering merely helped the message of Christ spread quicker as churches were planted all over the place and one was in Antioch.  Paul even spent a whole year there when he was still called Saul.  The Bible says in Acts 11 that a great number of people were brought to the Lord in this city.  Pretty impressive that this was all brought about from a problem with giving out food in Jerusalem.  That is what happens when the Spirit is in control.  Let him take control.  Trust him, he knows what he’s doing.

Thursday Prayer

"Casting lots" or sortition is still used in some common law jury selection procedures.

In at least two occasions in Acts, the Spirit was heavily depended on when selecting additional leaders and helpers – or that is what you’d think.  A first time was in the first chapter of Acts where two men were nominated to replace Judas.  It came down to Joseph and Matthias.  As was common in those days even in politics they used sortition to  make the final decision – that is to say they cast lots.  The idea being that God would have the final say.  So they cast lots and the lot fell to Matthias and he was added to the twelve.  However, it is interesting to note that this occurred before Pentecost.  With such an important decision, one would think that they would have waited, but they did not.  In effect, they made a key leadership decision without the Spirits guidance.  What was the result?  Well we don’t know – there is no Biblical record of Matthias again.

Conversely, when selecting deacons to take charge in the daily distribution of food it was all about the Spirit and occurred after Pentecost.  It is really a fascinating story in Acts 6.  The apostles request seven men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.  These were not prerequisites for choosing a new disciple, but were for choosing a warehouse manager!  Read what happened:

“They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.  They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Wow!  Because of their decision regarding food distribution the word of God spread rapidly.  What a contrast to Matthias – poor guy, he was set up to fail.  They leaned solely on the Spirit and He revealed the right people for the job and crazy things happened that went far beyond the original intention of distributing food.  Stephen became a fulfillment of Daniels prophecy when he was stoned for preaching (not giving out food) and Philip became famous for baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch (was that in his job description?).  Today, as you continue to pray for Renovation, pray that God will reveal to us people full of the Spirit who will help in spreading the word of God. We aren’t looking for a Matthias (a warm body), but Stephens, Philips, and Timons – people on fire with the Holy Spirt (super hot body – you know what I mean!).

Wednesday Prayer

“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” Acts 4:31.

What can you say about that? Amazing!  The Spirit came and the result was the speaking of the word of God boldly.  The purpose of the Spirit then seems wound up in our ability to share the word of God with boldness.  Have you ever felt timid about sharing the word of God?  I sure have.  And for the church in Acts speaking the word was certainly a huge part, but it went beyond that.  In Acts 6 we discover a dispute rose up concerning the daily distribution of food.  In a fascinating response, the disciples said “choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).  The power of the Spirit is necessary to share the word of God boldly through food distribution also and if you have ever been involved in such a ministry you know that it requires boldness.

So today pray that you will be filled with the Spirit so you will be enabled to speak the word of God boldly and pray that God will help identify what he is calling you to do.  We are all called to speak the word of God boldly.  As you can read by today’s verse, they were all filled with the Spirit.

“Holistic ministry overcomes this long-standing divide [between evangelism and social justice] by reaching out with the whole gospel in both word and deed” (Churches That Make a Difference, 45).

Tuesday Prayer

Jean II Restout, Pentecost, 1732

How patient were the apostles and believers in the early church! Acts 1:5 reads how “in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  They had to wait until the Spirit came before they could take the Word out to the world, the Word that was burning bright within them.  But when the Spirit did come they were enabled to be “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  They literally holed up and dug in until the Spirit came upon them.  During that down time they still prayed, studied, went to the temple and encouraged each other.  But when the Spirit did come, at Pentecost (Acts 2), they spoke in tongues, looked like they were drunk, Peter preached with power, and 3000 repented and were baptized.  That’s incredible!  And what is more incredible is in the middle of Peter’s sermon when he quotes from the prophet Joel.  It is incredible because unbeknownst to Peter at the time, he was talking about us – listen:

“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.”

I end with a quote from Acts of the Apostles, “The Jewish leaders had supposed that the work of Christ would end with His death; but, instead of this, they witnessed the marvelous scenes of the Day of Pentecost. They heard the disciples, endowed with a power and energy hitherto unknown, preaching Christ, their words confirmed by signs and wonders. In Jerusalem, the stronghold of Judaism, thousands openly declared their faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah.”  That power and energy given to the preaching of Christ is exactly what we need going forward in our Renovation.  We need the Holy Spirit to enable us to preach Christ with power, we need only preach Christ, and the Spirit even does the work of convicting people so they acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah.  The Spirit came on the apostles and believers when they were together in unity and may our prayer today be one of unity with a desire to preach Christ above all.

Monday Prayer

As we go through this process of Renovation our first step (and a constant step) is prayer.  Today, spend some time praying for the outpouring, inspiration, power and direction of the Holy Spirit.  Genesis 12:1 recounts the conversation between God and Abram and starts like this:  “The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”  Abram responded in faith and went out into the unknown, into Terra Incognita.  That is what we are doing with our renovation.  Stepping out into the a land that the LORD will show us.  The early church had a similar experience once Jesus had ascended to heaven.  We read in Acts 1:14 that the apostles and other believers “all joined together constantly in prayer” and they waited for the Spirit.  So let us be patient us we step into the unknown, waiting on the Spirit, and praying together constantly.  Although we may not be in the Upper Room together, let us be together in purpose.

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