Tag: acts of the apostles

Summary: The book of Acts depicts daring communities of faith. They dare because, in various ways, they open themselves up to defying or surpassing the limits imposed by the status quo. Preachers who work with Acts during Easter might look at the lectionary’s assigned texts as examples of how believers bear witness (following Jesus’ words, “You will be my witnesses,” in Acts 1:8) to the new realities that God makes possible as a result of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers

Summary: The Acts of the Apostles often proves to be a challenging book for preachers. Acts contains so many larger-than-life stories that it can leave congregations incredulous and dismayed. In this article I offer advice for preaching from Acts. Preachers do well to embrace the wonder, adventure, and hyperbole that pulses through Acts, for those features are part and parcel of the book’s attempts to celebrate God’s commitment to bringing new realities into being. Acts is a book whose mood matches the magnificent claims of Easter. It is a book that aims to unleash imagination. In doing so, it provides a vital counterbalance for our more cautious and prudent tendencies. It corrects us when we mistake the status quo for God’s true intentions for humanity’s flourishing.

Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers

Summary: The book of Acts tells a story about two traveling evangelists, Paul and Silas, as they encounter severe resistance in Philippi, a Roman colony. After the pair are dubiously accused, savagely beaten, and shamefully incarcerated, an earthquake miraculously frees them from their chains and cells. What might look like a story of supernaturally aided escape is really a story about vindication, a means of God exposing the futility of Roman attempts to obstruct the preaching of the gospel. The whole scene has a burlesque quality to it, for its aim is to expose the powerlessness and peevishness of an imperial culture that sets itself up to resist God’s presence, with violence if necessary. The passage speaks about more than ancient Roman realities, however, for its portrait of imperial abuses looks uncomfortably similar to the ways in which modern societies protect their interests and prerogatives. In the end, the story suggests that God offers a different reality, one beyond our ways of suppressing outsiders and clinging desperately onto our attempts at self-preservation.

Read the full article, which is part of the ON Scripture–The Bible project, on The Huffington PostDay1, and Patheos.

Bible commentary: general audience ON Scripture--The Bible

When I think about the church and all its flaws, I’m often prone to be cynical. The book of Acts urges me to take a second look, though. Acts depicts Jesus in relationship to the church in ways that challenge me and sometimes inspire me. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote the book Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel: Encountering the Divine in the Book of Acts. Follow this link to read a short excerpt from the book, in which I talk a little about Jesus and his church.

Books and films

My new book will be available on Tuesday September 22. You can read an excerpt of it now, if you click here.

This book guides readers through one of the most colorful books of the Bible, illuminating passages from the Acts of the Apostles. It examines passages that show the Christian gospel expressing itself through the lives, speech, struggles, and adventures of some of Jesus’ first followers. The book emphasizes the disruptive character of the Christian gospel and shows how Acts repeatedly describes God as upsetting the status quo by changing people’s lives, society’s conventions, and our basic expectations of what’s possible. Suited for individual and group study, this book asks serious questions and eschews pat answers, bringing Acts alive for contemporary reflection on the character of God, the challenges of faith, and the church.

Books and films

Summary: The story of Ananias and Sapphire, about two people who attempt to defraud the church in Jerusalem, raises a number of questions. It’s an extremely disturbing and problematic story, because their punishment (death) exceeds the severity of their misdeed. Why does Acts treat their fib as such a big deal? One reason is because their deceit reveals more than greed or financial duplicity; it shows a willful disdain for the community’s generosity and mutuality, a disdain able to wreck the fragile, new church. In the end, this isn’t a story about money and lies as much as a story about God’s intimate relationship with the church.

Read the full article on The Huffington Post.

(Portions of this article are adapted from a chapter in my book Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel: Encountering the Divine in the Book of Acts.)

Bible commentary: general audience The Bible and Christian practices

Summary: It’s easy to expose and mock the lies behind the so-called prosperity gospel. The New Testament does not teach Christians to grow their faith by donating money with confidence that it will be repaid in greater wealth or improved health. But what, then, does the New Testament say about being generous with money and possessions? Why should we? One of the most interesting perspectives we find in the New Testament concerning wealth is in Acts 4:32-37, in which members of the early church sell their possessions and land and use the proceeds to support their whole community. It’s important to notice that this passage’s primary focus is on depicting the church as a community of unity and belonging. People give money to support and express that identity. Community and care for the neighbor come first.

Read the full article on The Huffington Post.

(Portions of this article are adapted from a chapter in my book Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel: Encountering the Divine in the Book of Acts.)

Bible commentary: general audience The Bible and Christian practices

I was honored to be asked to deliver the address at Luther Seminary’s commencement service on May 17, 2015. The text of my remarks is available here.


Summary: In this biblical passage, the Acts of the Apostles describes a difference of opinion that emerges when Paul is traveling back to Jerusalem, believing that he does so in obedience to God’s intentions for him. A group of Christians in the city of Tyre implores him “through the Spirit” not to follow through on his plans. The difference of opinion does not result in a fight or a sense of failure. It reminds us that disagreements can prompt us to reexamine our perceptions together and perhaps to recommit ourselves to the well-being of those with whom we disagree.

Read the full article, and listen to an accompanying podcast, in the “Everything You Wanted to Know about the Bible but Were Afraid to Ask” section of Enter the Bible.

Bible commentary: general audience

Summary: Pentecost, which falls on the fiftieth and final day of the Easter season, is the day when Christians celebrate the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. The story of Pentecost, as related in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, tells of the Holy Spirit coming to fill and inspire Jesus’ followers. This Spirit makes the community of Jesus’ followers a community of prophets, people who dare to describe what God makes possible for the world.

Read the full article on The Huffington Post.

Bible commentary: general audience The Bible and Christian practices