The Attempt: Day 1

IMG_2074attempt |əˈtem(p)t|
verb [ with obj. ]
make an effort to achieve or complete (something, typically a difficult task or action): she attempted a comeback in 2016; try to climb to the top of (a mountain); the group’s next plan was to attempt Everest.

an act of trying to achieve something, typically one that is unsuccessful or not certain to succeed: an effort to surpass a record or conquer a mountain: we made an attempt on the southwest buttress.

late Middle English: from Old French attempter, from Latin attemptare, from ad- ‘to’ + temptare ‘to tempt.’

Hi guys, Steve here. We’re making several attempts all at the same time.

We’re attempting to collaborate on a musical that tells an inspiring biblical story about what ordinary people like us did when they remembered the Lord 2000 years ago.

We’re attempting to make a live audience in St. Louis laugh, cry, sing, and leave the theatre inspired to turn their world upside down.

We’re attempting to compel people all around the world to join us and for a few hours know that in other countries, cities and homes and churches and theaters they are sharing an experience that harkens back to the first century; a time when men and women who had been with Jesus couldn’t help but share what they’d seen and heard. Today, as I sit and launch a relaxed bible reading time together, our #upsidedownmusical team is announcing our plan to attempt and turn the world upside down on July 8th with a live stream broadcast of our musical “Upside Down”. Ah heck… here… https://www.upsidedowntheatre.com/live

But for a just a few minutes let’s be quiet and calm and remember the Lord together. And remember that all of our attempts are in vain unless He blesses our work. Let’s attempt to find insight and inspiration from words recorded by a man who saw the gospel spread through his world in his life time.

First, to read Acts, you need to start in Luke. There are many resources, but I like to use the NIV for Acts and the Gospels. And I like to use biblegateway.com. For you convenience, if you’d like, click here and read Luke chapter 24 and then come back… https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2024&version=NIV

This is going to be the only time I’m going to encourage us to take some extra time and read 2 chapters. For the next 28 days, if the Lord permits, we’re going to go chapter by chapter through the book of Acts. Most of the experience we are trying to share is as simple as the fact that we’re reading the same scriptures during the same period of time. So understand, the most important part of these devotionals is the part where you read the bible.

But today let’s stretch just a little bit and read Luke 24 and Acts 1 back to back; two whole chapters. Come on, you can do it. We’ll begin our 28 days by seeing how the New Testament flows and works together. We’ll get to Acts 1 in just a minute.

Luke was the only gentile author in the New Testament, as far as we know. I say as far as we know because there has always been some debate about Luke actually being a Greek Hebrew. But it’s generally accepted that he was gentile, a physician, and in Catholicsm he’s the patron saint of artists. Bet you didn’t know that. Coolest early legend about Luke… the dude could draw and paint! Add writing and bleeding a feverish person with leeches and he was a renaissance man about 1600 years before there was a renaissance.

The strongest legend about Luke’s later years has him going home to Greece and being arrested. Whether he wrote and died in jail or lived to preach more and then died, we don’t really know. We don’t really know for sure that Greece was home. We’ll see later just when he comes into the story and if any clues come to light from that. But the way the book ends has made me wonder for years:  was the book of Acts really intended to be ‘Part 1’ of something bigger…?

But the bible does flow. Reading from Luke 24 to Acts chapter 1 is like reading act 1 and act 2 of the same play. Act 1, the gospel of Jesus, ending with his ascension after teaching for 40 days… a month and a half… after they’d seen him crucified and buried; but now raised and explaining things about the kingdom.

Acts 1

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 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. 4 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. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk[c] from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:

“‘May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,’

“‘May another take his place of leadership.’
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

And, again, if you see Luke – Acts as a two act play, the second act of the play picks up right where we were before intermission.

Luke said in the opening of the gospel of Luke that he’s writing to Theophilus. He addresses the same name in Acts 1. For centuries there’s been discussion, debate and wonderment about whether or not Theophilus, which means ‘lover of God’, was a real person or a generic address Luke used to indicate that he was writing to anyone, everyone… all of us… who seek to be lovers of God. Of course some of you already know how I play it in our show. When no one knows for sure, I feel free to make up what I want as long as I know it’s not contradicting something we know to be true. As I said in 1987, “if you’re upset with liberties I took, just go back and read the book..” or something like that. I can misquote me if I want to.

But back to chapter 1 of Acts.

When Jesus ascended, the apostles probably thought he was going to come back down immediately. They’d already seen him feed multitudes, heal the blind, the lame. For goodness sakes, they’d seen him walk on water! So, uh, he’s flying…? Of course he’s flying! Look at him go! And when he disappears from sight they just keep gazing up into the clouds waiting on him to come back down. How long did they keep looking? Waiting? Were they thinking, “Ok Jesus. That’s great. That’s enough. Come on back, ok? Nice job! You can come down now!” How long did they wait? However long it was the angels, ok, two men dressed in white; tapped them on the shoulder… standing beside them and said, and yes I paraphrase, “Why are you looking up there? He’s gone for now. But he’ll come back just like he went.” Then the gang went back into town, Jerusalem, the other side of the Kidron valley about 2 miles from the point on the Mount of Olives where they watched Jesus ascend; and they picked another man to take the place of Judas. They needed 12. Anyone working with an ensemble group knows there’s a number you just have to have.

Two things I hope we can take away for today and apply as we work toward a common goal:

1). We don’t always know what God is up to, but be sure you know he’s always up to something. I doubt the apostles were any more ready for Jesus to leave than any of us are to see a dear friend whom we need and trust move away from us. In the text we read that the apostles had a number of misconceptions about what was about to happen, or what ought to happen. And yet, these are the people who would day at a time, a step at a time… a chapter of the book of Acts at a time… do the best they could to follow in the steps of Jesus and before they were finished they had spread the story of Jesus all over the world. And they couldn’t LIVE STREAM! A piece at a time we are going to work towards our goal; scene by scene, song by song, step by step… and the time will come that we look up and see that all of our labor was not in vain. God was up to something all along even if we were often clueless.

2). This is our turn. This is your turn. God is working through you in ways you don’t even know. The apostles chose Matthias and got on with it. Got on with what? Well, at first, just waiting. Just waiting on the Lord to do whatever it was he said he would do. Something about sending the comforter, the Holy Spirit,  to explain everything to them.

Sometimes that’s what we need to do. Just take a moment and wait. It’s ok. Because when ‘it’ starts, there’s no stopping ‘it’. The apostles waited and then the spirit came… but that’s the next chapter… but we end this chapter with an ensemble of believers waiting on the Lord. They didn’t have to wait long and you seldom see them waiting after this. There’a a whole lot of going but very little waiting.

When we first wrote Upside Down almost 30 years ago the goal was pretty simple: to go chapter by chapter through the book of Acts and write songs, string them together; a country song here, a rock and roll song there. Even a rap. Ha. I kinda painted us into a corner with some aspects of the show because we still have some people who saw the ’87 version and they sometimes act like changing the musical is like changing the bible. But it was just the right time for that show. Just like it was the right time for the apostles to launch out from a backwater crossroads of the ancient world and take a message like none ever heard before to a lost world.

And now it looks like God has given us another act. Another time to do it again. God is like that. He’s always up to something and looks like now it’s our turn to take what we’ve been waiting for him to give us and make a valiant attempt to share it with the whole world.

Maybe we’re the ‘Part 2’ that Luke was never able to write…


slj june 1, 2016

Steve has been a minister for almost 5 decades; and for more than 40 years married to the wife of his youth and partner, Lisa. Steve has spoken in Madison Square Garden. He's swam the Hudson River to raise money for his favorite charity. He’s the writer, producer and director of an award winning short film. He’s an author, speaker, and father whose messages are hilarious, soulful and life changing. When he's not trying to sell, ride or make friends on a motorcycle, you can find him in Portland, Oregon where he is happily serving with the https://portlandchurch.org

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