Archive for : November, 2018

11/30/2018 — 1 Corinthians Chapters 5-8

In Chapters 7 and 8 we see Paul address questions from the Body in Corinth in what must be a “lost letter.”  And while Chapter 8 is about “food offered to idols” Coffman comments that Paul establishes four principles of Christian behavior among believers that still apply today:

(1) that what is permissible behavior for one man may, in certain circumstances, be dangerous and sinful in another

(2) that no Christian conduct should be evaluated solely from the standpoint of knowledge, but in the light of the love of brethren

(3) that no Christian has a right to practice anything, however innocent it may be to him, if in so doing he shall damage the faith of another; and

(4) that whatever is done, even to the weakest member of the body of Christ, is also done to Christ himself, and that weakening or destroying the faith of even the least and weakest of Christ’s members is a sin of the greatest magnitude against Christ himself.

 

 

11/29/2018 — 1 Corinthians Chapters 1-4

Only one verse into 1 Corinthians and a possible example of God’s grace struck me.

1 Corinthians 1:  Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes

So, do you see the grace revealed in the fist verse?

If not, refer back to Acts 18: 16 So he drove them off.  17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.

We do not know for certain that this is the “same” Sosthenes, but there is some evidence that it is.  This Sosthenses was also known to the people in Corinth.  If this is the same Sosthenes as the man who opposed Paul it would be yet more evidence of the transforming power of the gospel and the grace of God.

11/28/2018 — Acts Chapters 18 & 19

Acts 18:   There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla,because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them,and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah

As we read of Paul’s ministry in Corinth we see a change in approach.  So what was the cause of Paul’s “devoting himself fully” to preaching?

Well, we see in verse 3 that Paul was working at least “part-time” tent making with Aquila and Priscilla.  Then, as we will read in 2 Corinthians 11:9  And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed.  

Silas and Timothy apparently brought the free-will gifts of the people from Macedonia which allowed Paul to minister full-time.  And the church grew.

We should always remember that when we give our gifts, through the power of God, can also be used to help spread the gospel and minister to God’s family of believers.

11/27/2018 — 1 & 2 Thessalonians

When I read these letters my thought was how much as a Body I would like to hear the same words spoke of us.  For Paul is mostly very pleased with the work of the Body in Thessalonica. Just for a few examples:

1 Thessalonians 1You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.

1 Thessalonians 2And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe

2 Thessalonians 1We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters,and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

11/26/2018 — Acts Chapter 17

As we have been reading Acts I hope you have been tracking Paul’s journeys on a map.  (If not it is not too late to start.)  Knowing where is he located and the heritage of the people helps us understand his method of teachings.

Acts 17:  As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,”he said.

Acts 1716 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.

Paul is in Greece — a culture known for “enlightened thinking.”  And we see him, “become all things to all people …” — a philosopher (we’ll read that verse shortly.)

Our lesson — model Paul in our witnessing.  Understand the background of the people we are encountering and without changing the message align our approach.

11/25/2018 — Galatians Chapters 4-6

A short passage in Galatians 4 caused me to reflect a bit.  How many times have we set-off with plans of adventure or mission that were not fulfilled and, yet, what we encountered was marvelous once we accepted where we were?    I’m sure you can remember a few examples.

Galatians 4: 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself

The illness?  No one is really sure — some scholars guess, perhaps malaria?  But the actual illness is not as important as the example.  When re-directed Paul took the opportunity to serve the Lord — no matter when, no matter where.

 

11/24/2018 — Galatians Chapters 1-3

Inspired by the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul is a remarkable author.  Through his writings we will see many “faces” pf Paul in his letters — Paul, the teacher; Paul, the debater; Paul, the mentor; Paul, the disciplinarian; and Paul, the friend.

In today’s reading I saw another face — Paul, the lawyer.  With great logic he deftly makes his point to the church in Galatia that the Law is not the pathway to salvation — salvation is only achieved through Jesus Christ.  For example:

Galatians 3So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

In Galatians 3 I note that his “legal” mind referenced & expanded Old Testament writings roughly 11 times.  What better way to highlight to the Jews the reality of what the Lord intended for the entire world?

11/23/2018 — Acts Chapters 15-16

Acts 15:  Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

But we know the “end of the story.”  The Gentiles were not required to be circumcised and to place on their necks  “a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear.” (v. 10.)

I was taken by Acts 15:5 detailing that there were believers who were of the “party of the Pharisees.”  Remember, the Pharisees were the “letter of the Law – full compliance with all of the oral traditions of the Jews” crowd. They vehemently opposed Jesus and participated in His crucifixion.  Acts 6:7 tells us that a great company of priests believed.  And we now see that some brought their “baggage” with them — former beliefs that needed to be addressed.

Within this blessing of church growth I also see a warning to us.  Do we read and study the inspired Word to determine God’s will or are we, like these believers, bringing our “baggage” with us?

To avoid that “trap” never, never stop reading and questioning — “is it my belief or God’s will?”

 

11/22/2018 — The Book of James

First, I am sure you noted that we are leaving the Book of Acts for another book – we will do this several time.  Remember that the developers of the reading plan are making their best effort to keep us in “chronological order.”  Of course the books are not dated, so in their opinion the Book of James could have been written at about this time in the history of the church.

Several times I have mentioned that I consider the inspired words of the John to be lyrically and poetically.  To me James’s inspired words are more like an instruction manual or procedure.  He clearly gives the reader practical and simple  instructions for living a Godly life.

And there are no more practical instructions than the control of one of our smallest but most difficult to manage organs, our tongue.  And I have used a version of these & other instructions in management training classes:

James 1: 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry .

James 3: 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one of the chief leaders in the church at Jerusalem, James wrote from that city prior to the meeting of the Jerusalem Council, which Luke recorded in Acts 15. At that council, James, along with Peter and Paul, affirmed the decision to take the gospel message to the Gentiles. This council met in AD 49, meaning James likely wrote his letter in AD 45–48. Such a significant event as the Jerusalem Council warranted comment from James, as he was writing to a Jewish Christian audience. But James made no mention of Gentile Christians at all, making an early date for the letter most likely. In fact, it was likely the first New Testament book written.

11/21/2018 — Acts Chapters 13 – 14

When we look at the logarithmic growth of the church I am amazed because it occurred during a time without “social media,” electronic media and even the printing press.  Yet, through the Lord the church grew!

Acts 13:  4As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. 44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord

11/20/2018 — Acts Chapters 11-12

I think most of us recognize that even out of unimaginable tragedies the will of God can be seen if we only take time to look.   While this may not diminish the pain we feel at the time the long-term result may offer us comfort.  I see this reality fully shown in the following passage:

Acts 11: 19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene,went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

As you can see — the Word is spread among Jews and Gentiles due to the persecution following the killing of Stephen.

11/19/2018 — Acts Chapters 9 – 10

OK — folks in New England certainly know who Bill Belichick is, the Head Coach of the New England Patriots.  As Head Coach he is the focus of and  most often quoted by the media.  I doubt if he could walk through the streets of Hyannis without being recognized.  But what about Josh McDaniel, Dante Scaranecchia, and Brian Flores?

Well they are the offensive coordinator, offensive line coach (responsible for protecting Tom Brady,) and linebacker coach.   We seldom see or hear from them but the “team” would not be the same without their contributions.  You are probably asking – why are we reviewing a football team’s coaches?

Acts 9:   26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

Without the gifts and contributions of Barnabas (the Son of Encouragement) Paul’s ministry at that time may have been different.

We need to reflect – are we willing to humbly get in the “side seat” and just encourage/support the servants who appear to be receiving more “attention?”

 

 

11/18/2018 — Acts Chapters 7-8

Acts 7 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.

Stephen’s reiteration of Israel’s history and God’s ultimate plan for His people has always been inspiring & a terrific review of the Old Testament.  In the margin of my Bible I had scribbled a note beside the above verse.

Can you not almost replace the name “Moses” with “Jesus” & see the same result?

11/17/2018 — Acts Chapters 4-6

In these first six chapters we read about the tremendous growth of the church — from just a few hundred believers to possibly as many as 20,000 when the “seven” to serve were chosen (Acts 6.)

A key to the growth is expressed in an observation made of Peter and John, two Galilean fishermen, by the Sadducees and the Sanhedrin:

Acts 4: 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

They were “ordinary” men but they had been transformed by being with Jesus.  What about us — we may be “ordinary” in the eyes of the world but we can draw into His presence through the power of prayer and the reading of His word.

As with Peter and John and the other disciples — we can be changed.

 

11/16/2018 — Acts Chapters 1-3

The magnificence of the power and teachings contained in these two chapters is inspiring.  But did you note one important aspect of the teaching:

Acts 1:   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,’ [Psalm 69:25] and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’[Psalm 109:9] 

Acts 2: 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: [Paul then references Joel 2:28-32]

Acts  2: 25 David said about him: [Paul then references Psalm 16:8-11]

Acts  2:   34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord:  “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies  a footstool for your feet.”

Even though the Lord had been rejected and executed by the “Leaders of the Jews” Peter and the other apostles continued to reach-out to the Jews.  And in doing so they quoted the Scriptures to continue to highlight that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

I find this another example of how God continues to look after His people — just as He had thousands of years earlier.  God’s plan continues.

11/15/2018 — Luke Chapter 24 & John Chapters 20-21

Luke 24:  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ 

I can think of no words expressing greater hope, promise and inspiration than the very simple statement by the “men” in the tomb.  For they summarize the very basis of our faith.  William Barclay wrote:

There are many who still look for Jesus among the dead. There are those who regard Jesus as the greatest man and the noblest hero who ever lived, who lived the loveliest life ever lived on earth and who then died. That will not do! Jesus is not dead; he is alive! He is not a hero of the past, but a living presence today!

 

 

11/14/2018 — Matthew Chapter 28 & Mark Chapter 16

In addition to today’s readings we will continue to share in the wondrous occasion of Jesus’s resurrection tomorrow.  There is no greater miracle that we read — and all part of God’s ultimate plan.

One detail I share today:

Matthew 28:  10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.

Mark 16:  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.

Galilee is roughly 70-80 miles from Jerusalem & even walking briskly a 4-5 day journey.  So, why Galilee and not Jerusalem?  Scripture does not tell us directly, so these thoughts are just my opinion.  First, Galilee would have been much calmer than Jerusalem, especially after Jesus’s execution and resurrection.  And, secondly, Galilee was the home of most of the disciples & within Galilee Capernaum was the base of Jesus ministry.  And in my mind I can almost hear Jesus say — “Go on back home and I will meet you there.”

11/13/2018 — Luke Chapter 23 & John Chapters 18-19

As I read these chapters I was reminded of a study I had done years ago.  In that study I summarized that Jesus was actually “tried’ six times before being sentenced to death.  The trials were before:

1. Annas                    (Jewish – found guilty)

2. Caiaphas               (Jewish – found guilty)

3. Sanhedrin             (Jewish – found guilty)

4. Pontius Pilate       (Civil – found innocent)

5. Herod Antipas      (Civil – found innocent)

6. Pilate again            (Civil – found innocent)

An excellent study is to examine all of the ways that Jesus’s trial and conviction were illegal under Jewish Law.  But the power base of the Jewish Leadership was so threatened by Jesus’s authoritative teaching of God’s true will that any law would be violated to remove Him from their earthly kingdom.

 

11/12/2018 — Matthew Chapter 27 & Mark Chapter 15

I can never read the descriptions of Jesus’s co-called “trial” and execution without being disgusted at the physiological suffering he incurred.  No matter what I may read about the horrors of crucifixion I cannot begin to envision the suffering inflicted upon the only Son of the Living God.

And this does not include the emotional abuse:

Matthew 27:  28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

In reading commentaries on these verses one in particular humbled me.  From Coffman:  The knee bent not in sincerity, the glib salutes, proper as to form but damnable in their intention – all these things somehow ring a bell in our own hearts.

Have we ever bent the knee but not in worship; have we ever called him Lord, Lord, yet failed to keep his word? Is it not a common practice that Christ’s disciples repeat the mockery of Pilate’s soldiers, not of his physical person, to be sure, but of his spiritual body?

 

11/11/2018 — John Chapters 14-17

I have commented before on the lyrical and poetic language the Holy Spirit instilled within John when he penned his Gospel.

These three chapters are filled with this poetry — 14:1-3 Jesus going as a bridegroom to prepare a home for His bride (the church;) 15:1-8 Jesus as the true vine; 16:15-17 Jesus as a “friend,” not a master; 16:22-24 our grief will turn to joy;  16:33 believers are promised peace because Jesus has overcome the world.

The passage that sticks with me from today’s reading is the numerous promises of what the Holy Spirit brings believers:

John 1613 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”