From now until the end of the month we will be re-releasing highlights from our Wake-Up Call Acts journey together. Join us on December 1 when we begin our new series celebrating Advent—Protagonist by Matt and Josh LeRoy.
PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Acts 1:1–5 (NIV)
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Let’s begin this journey with a celebrated story from the tradition of the Desert Fathers.
One day Abbot Lot went to see his teacher, Abbot Joseph, and Abbot Lot said, “Abbot Joseph, the best that I am able, I keep my little fast, my little rule, my little devotions. To the best that I am able, I keep my meditation and my prayer, I try to cleanse my heart of earthly desires, but Abbot Joseph, it is not enough. I still haven’t found what I seek.”
Now Abbot Joseph listened closely to his student, and when Abbot Lot was done speaking Abbot Joseph got up out of his chair, and he reached his arms and his hands up into the air until he stretched out each of his ten fingers and out of the tips of each of his fingers shot pure flame—ten burning candles there in the middle of the desert—and Abbot Joseph said to Abbot Lot “Why not be completely changed into fire?”
Theophilus. The name means “God lover.” We begin this journey into the greatest story ever told as Theophilus. To the best that we are able we are keeping our little fast, our little rule, our little devotions; reading our little meditations, and saying our little prayers. We are trying to cleanse our hearts of earthly desires, yet we struggle. Abbot Lot is Theophilus. Only one thing remains, and no it is not “sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” Here is the invitation of Acts:
Why not be completely changed into fire?
No, it’s not about becoming a religious fanatic. It’s about being fixed on Jesus and filled by his Spirit. This is the story of Acts. And what an interestingly misleading name for the story—The Acts of the Apostles. It gives the impression the apostles did something. Well, they didn’t, and yet they did. They did the only necessary thing. They became fixed on Jesus and filled by his Spirit. And thereby, they became completely changed into fire.
In doing so they show us a journey, blazing the trail from Theophilus to theophany; from Abbot Lot to Abbot Joseph. Now there’s a word, theophany, that means a visible manifestation of God to humankind. That is exactly what happened. The apostles, through consecration and transformation, became a demonstrative manifestation of the presence of God to the world. This, dear friends in Jesus, is the ancient cartography of Acts—the map from Theophilus to theophany—from Abbot Lot to Abbot Joseph; from our little candle-lit devotions to blazing beacons of the illuminating fire of divine love.
THE PRAYER OF TRANSFORMATION
Abba Father, let consecration now become transformation. You know I love you, and yet you know also my love is measured. I hold on to myself, because I am broken, which is why I remain broken. I want to be transformed, yet I know this will not come by my effort, but my effort is all I really know. I hear Jesus saying to me, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” I want to receive, Jesus, yet all I really know is how to achieve. Come Holy Spirit, and break my brokenness that I might be filled with your fullness and so live the life of your wholeness becoming holiness. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.
Are you ready for the journey from Theophilus to theophany? From a cozy life of casual and compartmentalized devotion to the consuming life of the love of Jesus filling up the whole?
Let’s open this week, each day, with a Holy Spirit hymn of transformation, “Spirit of the Living God.” It is hymn 299 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt