Archive for : February, 2017

Acts 27

This chapter is an amazing chapter for many reasons! The detail of this journey makes you feel like you are on the ship. Here the fourth “we” section of Acts appears, indicating Luke accompanied Paul across the Mediterranean and could, therefore, give us an eyewitness report. The expedition was under the command of Centurion Julius of the Imperial Regiment, a group particularly useful to Caesar in times of military intrigue. They were in this storm for two weeks! One or two days would have been hard, but two weeks, I can’t imagine the terror that must have flooded that ship! God made a promise to Paul that he would stand in the courts of Rome but the path that took him there was not easy, each day required him placing his faith in the hands of the Lord. For even in the middle of a two week storm our Lord was still working His plan!

Acts 26

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”  Jesus when He encountered Paul told him that when he persecuted Christians, he was persecuting Him! Just think we are so closely connected with Jesus that when we suffer because of our proclamation of faith, Jesus takes that personally! Paul explicitly noted this time that the Lord Jesus spoke to him in Aramaic, and that the words he heard included the statement: “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” This ancient agricultural proverb referred to the pointed sticks used by farmers to move animals along.”Kicking against the goads” was also a Greek proverb about fighting against a god. It is not cited in the other accounts of Paul’s conversion, but it is appropriate in an address to Agrippa, who had an ample Greek education. Clearly Jesus wanted Paul to understand that his war against the Christians was not just against some sect, but God Himself!

Acts 25

Festus was sent by Nero to succeed Felix as procurator of Judaea, probably in the autumn  A.D. 60. Paul was summoned before Festus and asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem; but the apostle, knowing full well the danger that lurked in this proposal and conscious of the rights he possessed as a Roman citizen, refused to accede and replied boldly to Festus, concluding with, “I appeal to Caesar.” As a citizen of Rome Paul had that right and Festus granted Paul his request. Festus after a procuratorship of less than two years died in the summer of  A.D. 62. Just think if Felix was was still procurator Paul might have sat in the prison until his death. Festus was a piece of the puzzle that needed to be in place so that Paul would have the opportunity to proclaim the gospel in the courts of Rome before the Emperor.

Reflections

Today is a day to reflect in what we have read. Paul this week had an opportunity to testify before the Jews in Jerusalem and the ruling Roman authorities in the region. These have not been easy years for Paul, but all that is unfolding is being used by God to spread the gospel! The key is that in good times and in bad times we are called to remain faithful.

A reflection to consider

“People go through life trying to find the doors of security, significance, and satisfaction, but they never do. Be honest with yourself. Are you secure in who you are, what you have, where you are going? Do you feel significant? Are you giving your life to things that matter and make a difference? Are you satisfied? Is there a settled peace in your heart when you go to bed and rise in the morning? If you are honest and transparent enough to respond no, here are four words Jesus said that you need to hear: “I am the door” (John 10: 9).”
52 Weeks with Jesus

Acts 24

Who is this Felix? He was originally a slave and for some unknown service was freed by Claudius Caesar. He was appointed by this emperor procurator of Judea, probably  A.D. 53. He was the husband of three queens or royal ladies (he had 3 wives). Tacitus in his History declares that during his governorship in Judea he indulged in all kinds of cruelty and lust, exercising power with the disposition of a slave; and in his Annals he represents Felix as considering himself licensed to commit any crime, relying on the influence that he possessed at court. This was the person who Paul is standing before in chapter 24! During the time that Paul was in prison there in Caesarea the political state of Judea grew more embarrassing. “It was during the two years of Paul’s imprisonment that disturbances took place in the streets of Caesarea. In the end Felix was summoned to Rome, and the Jews followed him with their accusations. Thus it was that he was anxious “to do the Jews a favor” and “left Paul imprisoned” (Acts 24:27). At Rome he was saved from suffering the penalty due his atrocities by the influence of his brother Pallas.” (The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary) For two years Paul sat in prison knowing his fate was in this man’s hands. It did not look good for Paul – these were dark times and yet God had told him that he would stand in the courts of Rome and have the opportunity to declare the gospel … Paul had to remember, as we do, everything will unfold on God’s timetable, not our timetable!

Acts 23

Our Lord told Paul that he would testify about Him in Rome as he did in Jerusalem. I wondered if Paul had any idea how that was going to take place? Here he was in Jerusalem in chains and there were men that hated him so much that they vowed to kill him! How does one go from being a prisoner in what was known as the arm pit of the Empire to standing in courts of Rome testifying about Jesus? As we see God work out His plans in the chapters to come it reminds me that often when I face the task of doing God’s will and yet how it will all work out seems so unclear – I need to trust the Lord and just keep doing His will. My journey with the Lord has taught me over and over again don’t worry about the how – just be His person in the present and when it is all said and done you will look back be surprised at the journey you have taken. A journey you most likely would have never been able to plan or foreseen!

Acts 22

The scene in our reading is worth noting, the very steps that Paul now stood as he made his defense – is the very spot Jesus stood on when He heard the crowd yell “crucify him!” They both had the same view of Jerusalem, they saw the same look in the face of their countrymen, and they heard the same angry voices that wanted them dead! There was a day when Paul was in the crowd and he was among the angry voices, how things have changed in some amazing ways! See it is this scene and this change in this man Paul, which stands as a witness of a risen Savior!

Acts 21

In reading this chapter this time I was struck by the detail that Luke recorded the journey to Jerusalem! Luke could have just told us that they left the elders of Ephesus at Miletus and sailed on to Caesarea but he described the journey to us in such a way you knew you were reading the account of someone who had actually took this journey with Paul. No matter what you think of Christianity, scholars have agree that What Luke wrote is a masterpiece of historical literature.

We also see in this chapter how Paul viewed the Law. He observed the Law as part of his culture but he did not depend on the Law for his salvation. Which gives us an insight of what legalism is all about. Legalism at it’s heart is about using the Law to achieve our salvation, which can’t be done for we will always fall short, but this not mean God will not hold us accountable for doing His will. I thank God everyday for His grace!

Acts 20

Paul arrived in Troas waited for the time the church would come together on the first day of the week to “break bread.” The term “break bread” in this context is understood by most scholars as a reference to partaking of the Lord Supper. So the church gathered to take the Lord Supper on the first day of the week. By all indications they met on Sunday evening – for it is clear in the text that Luke was using Roman time not Jewish time, for Luke calls the following morning – “the next day.” So here we have a clear example of the church coming together on the first day of the week, with the intended purpose of taking the Lord Supper – together. When compared with 1 Cor 16:2, and other similar allusions, plainly indicates that the Christian observance the first day of the week-afterward termed “The Lord’s Day” – was already a fixed practice of the churches. Why did the Christians worship on the first day of the week? Of course it was the first day of the week that our Lord rose. On successive Sundays, Jesus appeared to the apostles on the day he arose from the grave (John 20:19), Thomas being absent; and again on the following Sunday (Thomas present) (John 20:26) he appeared to them again. When the church began it was on Sunday – for Pentecost always begins on the first day of the week. For many reasons the first day of week became an important focal point of the Christian community!

Reflections

Today is a day to review and meditate on what we have read this past week. The gospel is now spreading throughout the Roman Empire. The churches that were established were now maturing spiritually. This movement called Christianity that started as very small group in a far corner of the Empire is a growing force, a force that Rome will soon recognize. It is now around 54-56 AD in our readings, just think this all took place in just 25 years or so! How?

A reflection to consider

“Light is useful only when it encounters the darkness. The place to shine your light and show your light and share your light is not inside the church, but outside the church. Jesus tells us to do what he did: go find dark places and start shining. When you’re in the darkness, Jesus shines his light. But if you are living in the light, Jesus calls you to shine into the darkness.”
52 Weeks with Jesus

Acts 19

Paul encounters some who claimed to be disciples, so Paul asked them if they received the Holy Spirit when you believed. Paul question seems to be in connection with spiritual gifts that were given by the laying on of the apostle’s hands. Theses gifts had to be imparted (Rom. 1:11) and Paul made it a practice of sharing these gifts with other Christians. The response to Paul’s question caused him to realize that something was not right. For it was clearly taught that one receives the Spirit when you obey the gospel by being baptized into the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. So Paul questioned their baptism and they told him that they had only received John’s baptism. There is a good chance these disciples were taught by Apollos before he was taught the way of the Lord more accurately. So standing before Paul were those who professed to believe in Jesus (for Apollos taught accurately about Jesus) and had repented of their sins (for John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance) but had not obeyed the gospel! What made their obedience incomplete was their baptism! So if they were going to be true disciples of Jesus they needed to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins they would receive the indwelling of the Spirit as a seal of their salvation. They obeyed the gospel by being baptized into Christ! Paul then laid his hands on them and imparted to them some spiritual gifts.

Acts 18

“He (Apollos) began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” Apollos was teaching about Jesus but only knew about the baptism of John. It would seem that he was a disciple of John the Baptist and he left Jerusalem before Pentecost. For it was at Pentecost that Peter proclaimed the keys into the Kingdom, (when one believes) that one must repent and be baptized in the name Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins and you would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. So when Priscilla and Aquila encounter Apollos they realized that his teaching was not complete and they taught him the way of God more adequately. Often we encounter people who believe in Jesus but they need to be taught the way of God more adequately.

Acts 17

This reading is a good example of how convince people that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God! Paul in Thessalonica and Berea used the scriptures to show how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the coming Messiah, focusing on how He died and the resurrection. Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 would have been key passages that he would have used. In Athens he talked about the purpose and order that exists in creation and in their lives, reasoning that this was a sign of a plan and a Creator. Then he spoke to them of the resurrection, for the the resurrection is the most powerful argument that Jesus is the Son of God!! Where do you start with someone who does not believe – the resurrection!

Acts 16

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Here Paul and Silas had been striped, beaten, and then they were placed in stocks deep within the prison. They were most likely in total darkness with backs bleeding knowing they did not deserve what they were going through! They could have chose to be angry with God, for they were serving Him and yet He allowed them to be treated this way. Yet, they chose not to become angry and bitter but to worship! For when one chooses not to center on themselves but on God’s purposes and glory, they entrust their fate to God and glorify His name. I suggest what Paul and Silas chose to do in that prison was a very powerful witness of the true transforming power of the gospel they proclaimed.

Acts 15

After the decision was delivered to Antioch Paul and Barnabas continued their very fruitful work there. After a period of time Paul and Barnabas felt it was time to revisit those churches they had established on their first missionary journey. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark but Paul did not want to take him along because he had deserted them in Pamphylia. We not told why John Mark left – just that he leftand returned to Jerusalem. It would seem that John Mark rejoined Pauland Barnabas and returned with them after the council in Jerusalem. So heated was this dispute between Paul and Barnabas that they parted ways! Keep in mind the text does not say that they hated each other – just that two leaders in the church had two different opinions about how they should proceed with their ministries! In my own ministry there was a time when I disagreed with a partner in the ministry and we needed to part ways as we continued to serve the Lord, we still loved each other – we just had different opinions on how the ministry should be conducted. Who do you think was right – Paul or Barnabas? What is interesting is that Barnabas’ investment in John Mark, despite is failure, paid off in his spiritual development!

Reflections

Today is a day to meditate on our readings this past week. The gospel has now spread to the Gentiles and Paul is now playing a major role in spreading the kingdom.

A Reflection to consider

“Like Hansel and Gretel, Jesus drops bread crumbs along the path to knowing him. He offers us symbols, images, pictures, and clues to remind us that he is more than skin and bones. Though he is human, he is not like your next-door neighbor or cranky landlord. He is far different—better—than they. Jesus uses seven “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John to share the intricate folds of his personality and identity. They help us understand not only who he is but also what he wants to be for us.”
52 Weeks with Jesus

Acts 14

We see in our reading dealing with both the Jews and the pagan Gentiles created an environment that was dangerous for one to proclaim the gospel! Yet the charge has always been for us to stand and proclaim Christ no matter the cost!!! What took place at Lystra leaves a lot of questions that causes one to wonder! Paul’s physical condition, because Luke tells us they thought he was dead and yet he gets up and walks back to town. Did Paul’s rising constitute some form of miracle? Was the deliverance from the angry Lycaonians and Paul’s reentry to the city a miracle in itself? Questions, questions! Yet we see Paul’s love for the Lord put on full display for even after they stoned him and left for dead, he did not stop proclaiming the gospel!