Toss It Out If… – Bible Blog #15

The Scripture:

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

The Commentary:

The Jewish work day began at 6:00 a.m. and ended at 6:00 p.m. During this 12 hour stretch devout male Jews whould pray three times – basically morning, noon and night. They could pray anywhere but believed that their prayers were more precious and effective if offered in the Temple. They believed God answered prayer!

It is interesting that they were, as Jewish Christians – Jewish by ethic group and birth and Christian by belief and faith – still holding to the customs and traditions in which they were raised and trained. It should be stated that Jesus was not against tradition as if it was, in itself, a bad thing. He was against any tradition that took the focus off of God and in any way denied the real power of the Word of God. If a tradition robbed God of His position or His power Jesus would speak against it.

It seems apparent that the disciples and first apostles recognized and knew that the new faith and the old disciplines could walk hand-in-hand.

The beggars would sit at the entrance to the Temple because it was a good place to beg alms (money for them because they were poor and unable to work). Those coming to pray and worship came to impress God with their pious good works – so a lucrative place to beg for funds.

The miracle of the healing of the beggar was quite a miracle because he had been lame from birth and so had never walked. And, it was a terrific and instant testimony because every Jewish male would know who he was having seen him three times a day as they entered the Temple courts to pray. God knows how to make an impression.

APPLICATION:

It was obvious throughout the Gospels that Jesus upheld the Jewish traditions. He did, however, speak against any man-made tradition that took people away from their focus on God or that eliminated the power of God as found in faith and the Word of God (example: Matthew 15:6).

I believe that what is most important in our walk with God as found and given to us through Jesus Christ is to have His life (zoe) flowing through us. Whatever helps that life to flow (daily prayer, Bible reading, corporate worship services) should be encouraged and anything that takes life away or does nothing to keep life flowing needs to be removed.

When a baby is conceived there is no structure just life in the mother’s womb.As the life grows then structure comes along to help that life thrive and continue to exist – hands, feet, toes, a nose. Structure supports and encourages life.

When the structure is no longer needed to support life it is dismantled and removed. Otherwise the tendency is to focus on the structure to maintain it and not to flow with the life. As a result – you would have dead traditions.

So, when a baby is born the cord that attaches it to his or her mother – that has fed the baby for 9 months and kept it alive – is no longer needed. So, this structure is now removed (cut). If it is not – then it endangers the life of the child.

Any tradition or structure that supports the flow and grow of spiritual life should be maintained and is good. Any tradition or structure that does not support the continued growth and flow of life needs to be removed and thrown away as something that was once ‘of God’ and beneficial but no longer needed.

It might be a good time to examine the things we do as routine (tradition) on a daily basis in our spiritual walk to see if they are still supporting and encouraging “life” or whether they are now simply nice traditions that either are neutral or that actually harm the life flow in the Spirit. If the latter then we need to remove them as these ‘traditions’ are harmful to your relationship with God.

The Christian Faith – Crucial and Costly- Bible Blog #13

The Scripture:

Acts 2:37-42 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Commentary:

Peter is preaching from the prophet Joel about the key truth of the Christian faith – the resurrection of Jesus as Messiah – Lord and Christ.

The result of this short first sermon of the Christian Church is that those listening were “pierced to the heart” The Greek here means stabbed – so it was sudden, unexpected and they were simply stunned that they had killed Messiah. Connected to this word ‘pierced’ is the idea of grief, remorse, and intense spiritual conviction. This was definitely a supernatural encounter with the living God for those in Peter’s audience.

They ask Peter a question: “What shall we do?” When the Word is preached people must repond to it as James states that we must be hearers and doers, not just hearing it and walking away.

The answer: Repent“. In the Greek this means to have a change of mind and thus a change of purpose that literally turns a person from sin and towards God. The book of Proverbs states that “as a man thinks, so is he”. (Proverbs 23:7) and 1 Thessalonians 1:9b states that when they are truly repentant – “how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God…”

Genuine repentance means:

1> You recognize the evil of sin
2> You realize that you must forsake all sin
3> You embrace the person and work of Christ totally

If there is no genuine repentance then there is no genuine conversion. So, people who just say a sinner’s prayer without godly sorrow and repentance are not saved – just deceived.

So, Peter tells them they must repent. And, secondly, that they must be baptized by immersion in water. He is following the direct instructions of Jesus who told His disciples that they were “to go into all the world, make disciples…baptizing them…” (Matthew 28:18-20). Baptism is important as a first step of obedience because in baptism by immersion you are identifying with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Those being baptized would understand the signifigance of the act. They may have already personally experienced John’s baptism as the disciples in Acts 19 had. Some most certainly would have seen gentile converts to the Jewish faith (proselytes) baptized.

To be baptized “in Jesus name” was very crucial for the early Church as they tried to differentiate themselves from the Jewish faith – for many considered them simply another sect within the Jewish religion. As well, baptism was costly – as this public declaration of faith in Jesus Christ often cost them their lives.

Peter says you “are baptized for the forgiveness of sins”. This is not theologically correct. Really, you get baptized because of the forgiveness of your sins. Forgiveness does not come through baptism but through accepting Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Saviour at which point your sins are forgiven. The act of baptism does not forgive nor cleanse. It is simply a public recognition of the forgiveness and cleansing that has already taken place (1 John 1:9). Paul writes and tells us that genuine repentance (see above for the definition of repent) brings forgiveness. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

When you repent and are forgiven – thus born again – the Holy Spirit is given to you as a gift. This is what Peter is saying when talking about “the gift of the Holy Spirit”. This gift and promise is not just for those listening to Peter but for those “afar off”. I believe that refers to generations still to come. Some think Peter is referring to the Gentiles. If this were correct then there would be no need of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 where it finally dawns on Peter that non-Jews are accpted into the Kingdom. If those who believe this were right there would also be no need for the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 when they struggle with how to intergrate Gentile believers into what had been, up till this point, a Jewish religion. Peter is commenting that this gift of salvation and the Holy Spirit is available now and for generations to come.

Those hearing Peter preach reacted to what he was saying. Some walked away in disbelief. Others (3,000) received forgiveness and new life and were baptized. The baptisms could have taken place in a nearby river or in the Jewish mikvahs which were the ritual baths built right into the sides of the temple court.

This section of scripture ends with Luke telling us what these newly baptized believers did. They became involved in four things:

1> Learning the apostle’s doctrines (foundational to the Church)
2> Fellowship
3> Breaking of bread – eating together ansd celebrating the Lord’s Supper
4> Prayer – private and corporate.

All of these activities would have been dangerous to be participating in as the Roman Empire and the Jewish religion were not in favour of this new movement that was beginning with quite an explosion.

Believe It or Not – Bible Blog #12

The Scriptures:

“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”‘ “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

David prophesied that Jesus would not stay in His grace and could not be kept in hell (because He lived without sin) – Psalm 16
David himself, however, was one who died and weas buried and you can visit his burial tomb even today, Peter states … Thus, David was not the fulfillment of Psalm 16 as quoted by peter, Jesus was!
David, being a prophet, knew that God would keep His promise and put one of his descendants upon the throne. He states in 2 Samuel 7:11-16…

I have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. “‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'”

Peter, having said all this, relating and connecting to his Jewish audience at the time, turns to Psalm 132 and quotes it as part of his sermon…

Psalm 132:11 The LORD swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke: “One of your own descendants I will place on your throne

Peter states that David prophetically looked forward to the resurrection when saying “He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay” (Psalm 16:10) … which Peter then requotes.

Peter then leaps to his central message: This Jesus whom you crucified – God raised Him from the dead – we saw this with our own eyes.

“Here is the logic,” Peter says:

1> Jesus has been raised from the dead
2> Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God (place of honour) – Ephesians 1:20
3> Jesus received from the Father what the Father had promised – the Holy Spirit
4> So then, this (that you see) is that promise in action and being fulfilled

The proof that this is right…

1> David did not ascend into Heaven but prophesied that the Lord would (Psalm 110:1)
2> Peter declared this understanding of the psalmist’s words
3> Peter was an eye-witness of this resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:9-11)

Therefore … the second one … and we must always find out what it is “there for”…

Here is the summary of the sermon: Listen us and learn. Let all the House of Israel know FOR CERTAIN (Greek: a powerful certainty) that God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ. Jesus is God as well as anointed Messiah already (Romans 1:4; 10:9; 1 COrinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:9,11) and is now Lord and Christ

And, folks, YOU crucified Him!

APPLICATION:

Here you hear the heart of the Gospel that we believe and are to share with everyone who will give us opportunity… Jesus is alive and well, seated in Heaven. He has sent the Holy Spirit who empowers and enables believers to be witnesses for the resurrection – both with words (the message of the resurrection) and in miracles, signs and wonders (power deeds) that prove He really is alive.

So, Christians, we have the greatest message and all the power we will ever need to tell the world and show the world that Jesus is alive and thus Messiah, Lord and Saviour. But do we believe it? Do we believe Jesus is the only door – Living Door – into Heaven and that without Him you do not enter Heaven but chose for yourself Hell as a place to live for eternity?

If we truly believed it we would live our lives differently than those who don’t kknow Jesus. And, secondly, we would leave how to share this truth effectively and efficiently as well as biblically. Thirdly, we would be out there doing it.

The only parts of the Bible that we truly believe are the parts we apply and live.

Validation and Approval – Bible Blog #11

The Scriptures:

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know – this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. “For David says of Him, ‘I SAW THE LORD ALWAYS IN MY PRESENCE; FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, SO THAT I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN. ‘THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE; BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY. ‘YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.’

Commentary:

This passage is part of the main body of Peter’s first sermon. He is presenting and maybe defending Jesus as Israel’s Messiah. He addresses this first sermon to the “men of Israel” who are assembled in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Festival of First Fruits.

He starts with the simple admonition: “Listen”. “Hey guys, what I am about to say may be new to you and even sound strange at first but listen up.” He jumps immediately into talking about Messiah but uses Messiah’s early names adn one of His earthly titles: “Jesus of Nazareth” (Matthew 21:11).

This was a Name used by many to describe Jesus. It was a Name which indicated His humble beginnings and that Jesus was not one of the original powerbrokers and in-crowd. He came from humble beginnings and the wrong side of the tracks.

God the Father showed His approval of Him and His ministry – or validated Him and His ministry – through “…miracles, wonders, and signs…”. God performed these supernatural events through His Son Jesus. Interesting Peter would put it this way. This is because Jesus who is God was born as a man and functioned as a man while ministering on earth. Imagine that! He needed the anointing of the Holy Spirit to minister the same as we do today. He says in Luke 4:

“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.” (Verses 18 and 19).

This is why He can later say in John’s Gospel (John 14:12) “that the works He (Jesus) does we will do also….”

Jesus did everything He did under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and so do we when we minister today.

Peter goes on … “This man…” – Jesus of Nazareth – He was fully human although also totally God. This is known as the mystery of the Incarnation that we celebrate every year on December 25th – and should remember daily. For “God took on human flesh and dwelt (tented) among us” (John 1:14). That should cause us to sit and ponder daily!

Now this, Peter states, was all done according to “God’s predetermined plan…” The Father pre-ordained that Jesus would die an atoning death for each one of us.

2 Timothy 1:9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity

Revelation 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.

This is a recurring theme in the early Church as witnessed through the book of Acts…

Acts 4:27-28 “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.

Acts 13:27-29 “For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him. “And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. “When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb.

BUT – the scriptures go on to say that this was all accomplished “by the hands of godless men.” As we know, this was accomplished by a combined working of the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman authorities – and so both the religious and the pagan worlds worked together to see Jesus crucified – and both are called, by God Himself, “godless”. What an indictment on the Jewish religious establishment.

Here is a good point, however: As we will see in Peter’s call, to the Jewish men listening who were called “devout” earlier in the Book of Acts, to repent … just because it was predetermined and planned by God does not absolve the guilt of those who caused it and carried it out.

Now the KEY WORD…and this is really exciting:

Acts 2:24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 15 that death has power over us because of sin. And, death had absolutely no power over Jesus – He gave His life up – “Into Your hands I commend My Spirit”. No one took it – He gave it. And, Hell could not hold Him because He had never sinned. When you have no sin then death and Hell lose their power over you. It is then “impossible to hold Him.”

Some commentaries will tell you that Hell could not hold Him because of His divine power. Wrong! As a human being He was anointed just as we are and walked in what we are able to walk in today. The lack of death being able to hold Him was not because of His power but because of His lack of sin. That is the only reason.

Peter then ends this part of his first public ministry opportunity be quoting David – king and prophetic psalmist – (Acts 2:25-28) where God is speaking prophetically about His Son’s resurrection from the dead. This became the key teaching of the early Church and is often lost to the Church (many groups no longer believe in a physcial resurrection from the dead) and in the Church today (it is seldom preached on).

APPLICATION:

Just as God validated and approved of Jesus’ ministry – letting others know by “miracles, wonders and signs” so He wants to validate the five-fold ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers by confirming His Word with a supernatural move of the Holy Spirit.

Why do we not see this happening most of the time in North America? I believe it is because we are not, in general, preaching God’s Word – we are preaching our own opinions as well as preaching what people want to hear. Of course, we preach so as to make people feel good about themselves in spite of the sin and disobedience that exists in their lives. We don’t want to upset people as we will not grow a big church that way and people may withhold their finances. We also interpret the Bible to suit our theology and back up our experiences. Thus, from the pulpits of North America we seldom hear what the Lord would say or what the Bible really states.

It is the Word of God that He blesses. Isaiah tells us that “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11). If we will preach God’s Word then we would see, as five-fold ministers, miracles signs and wonders following the declaration of the Word.

I also believe that we do not see the supernartural because we don’t expect to and don’t anticipate it nor prepare for it. So, we settle for Church as usual and when God does show up we get all excited and call it a “revival”. It should be the norm.

Wherever Peter went – people got healed (even through his shadow touching them)
Wherever Paul went God confirmed the Word for Him (see Romans 15:18-19)
When Philip preached the word in Samaria miracles, signs and wonders took place all over the city
When we preach or share God’s Word then it should move mightily and the anointing and power upon it should accomplish what it is sent forth to do. Let’s begin to believe for that today!

Not a Direct Quote – Bible Blog #10

The Scriptures:

Acts 2:14-21 But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. “For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy. ‘AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. ‘THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. ‘AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’

Commentary:

The last verses we looked at yesterday said that there were generally two reactions to what was happening since the Holy Spirit decended into the Upper Room – some were amazed and yet greatly perplexed, others simply mocked.

The Holy Spirit has come and people are not sure what this is all about or what is really happening. So, Peter is about to stand up as one of the leaders and give his first sermon. The Holy Spirit has already done some major work in him while Jesus was with them between His resurrection and His ascension. But, it is also obvious that Peter is walking in a greater understanding of the scriptures then ever before.

When the Holy Spirit comes, Jesus said, He will lead you into all truth. Peter is seeing truth supernaturally, by revelation – as he connects the Upper Room experience with the prophet Joel. Great revelation. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would bring revelation – He did for Peter. And, Jesus said, the Holy Spirit will convict the world (not believers) of sin, righteousness and judgment. That is about to happen.

Peter stands – a little nervous as this is his first sermon – THE first sermon of the Christian Church. The Holy Spirit has done His work. Peter links the current situation, noise and activity to what Joel stated would happen in the last days…

Joel 2:28-32 “It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. “Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. “I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire and columns of smoke. “The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Will be delivered; For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem There will be those who escape, As the LORD has said, Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.

Peter states (as John Wimber made famous) “This is that”. This that you see and hear is that which Joel the prophet spoke of many hundreds of years ago. Peter has had a revelation through the work of the Holy Spirit about Holy Scripture and presents that revelation. Apostles teach from revelation and release life. Peter does just this.

Peter addresses them formally – and responds to those who mocked. “They are not drunk as you think,” he states, “it is only nine o’clock in the morning.” He then goes on to explain what has taken place and is currently happening right before the crowd that is gathering -connecting current happenings to past prophetic words that they would be more than familiar with being “devout Jews” as we saw yesterday.

As we will see in the next few days – it was a smashing success – it smashed the strongholds of Satan and freed 3,000 people from bondage and brought them into the light (Colossians 1:13). Three thousand became “new creatures in Christ” that very first day of the Church as a result of the first Christian sermon ever spoken.

Let’s look at what Peter quoted and the quote itself in the original from Joel for they are not the same when examined closely.

The Last Days is a Bible way of saying this present era – the Church age in which we live and which is now over 2,000 years long. It is the time between Jesus’ first coming as a babe in Bethlehem and His second coming as King of Kings and Lord of lords.

Joel (and Peter) tell us that the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh – not just Old Testament high priests, prophets and kings. Now there is “a priesthood of all believers” (1 Peter 2:9). The result of the Holy Spirit being poured out on all believers (who ask for the Baptism) is that they will prophesy, have dreams and visions and see supernatural things. Let break that down a bit…

Prophecy is (a basic definition) knowing the heart of God the Father towards someone else – hearing the voice of God for that person – and then speaking what you hear or sense to that person. It is not, as many branches of the Christian Church tell us, ‘inspired preaching’.

You cannot take your experience – or lack of an experience – and then rewrite the meaning of words from the Holy Bible to fit your experience. You first find out what the Bible word means (in context) and then adjust your experience. The Bible is the absolute – not the experience. This is one of my major concerns with Lakeland, Florida and what people are calling a “revival”.

There are a number of ways that God speaks and reveals His plans and purposes for people – dreams and visions being two of them. These are available to all who are Baptized in the Holy Spirit. These are not a new gift to the Church as both believers and non-believers in the Old Testament received dreams and visions (Pharaoh in Genesis 41:1-8 and the prophets in Numbers 12:6)

The natural wonders in the sky, the signs on the earth and the sun turned to darkness have not happened yet. This prophecy from Joel and repeated by Peter is divided into two time frames. The first half of the prophetic word took place on the birthday of the Church and continues to operate. The second half will take place during the tribulation and onwards (the Book of Revelation). For example (and there are many references – I only list one for each):
“Blood” is from Revelation 6:8
“Fire” is from Revelation 8:5, 7-8
“Smoke” is from Revelation 9:2-3
“Moon turned red” – Revelation 6:12

So, we live in the time zone between the fulfillment of the first half of Joel’s prophetic word and the start (and fulfillment) of the second half of Joel’s inspired prophetic word. And, they are exciting times in which to live.

From the beginning of the Church God always backed His Word up with miracles, signs and wonders. Paul was able to say that he fully preached God’s message – with words and with the power of the Spirit (Romans 15:18-19). We need, in the Church today, to have a revelation of what that means for us. We need to see the release of miracles, signs and wonders – the power of God – in the Church today.

Peter states that in the latter part of the era we are in – during the Tribulation – those who repent and call on the Name of the Lord in the midst of all these natural disasters and signs in the heavens – they will be saved. Of course, those who repent today after hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ need only cry out and they too will be saved or born again.

Romans 10:10-13 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”

APPLICATION:

Take the time to compare Joel’s prophetic word and Peter’s quote of Joel’s original prophetic word. If you have a computer Bible program pull up the Joel and Acts references side-by-side and compare the two – the original and the quote.

In doing so you will see that the Holy Spirit added, through Peter, another reference to prophecy. This was to be the key for the Church. God wanted and wants the Church to be prophetic. We have, over the last 1700 years made it pastoral. This means we counsel people (I thought the Holy Spirit is the Counsellor) and, in some ways, babysit people throughout their Christian lives.

Instead, we should see the prophetic set people free from bondage and curses and the like empowering them and releasing them to do the will of God and to seek and save the lost right after their salvation experience. As long as we pastor the Church we will not win the world. We need to go back to the original plan and allow the Church to be prophetic – instantly obeying the Word of the Lord and the leading of the Spirit as we reach out with the Gospel to the world.

God is, I believe, beginning to transform the Church so that it will actually become an organism and no longer an organization – so that it can be a living, breathing prophetic body of Spirit-filled sent-ones.

Going International – Bible Blog #9

My apologies for this being late – the hotel in Calgary was having trouble with their internet connections for the last 30 hours

The Scriptures:

Acts 2:5-13 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs – we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” Commentary:

We continue our look at the events on the Day of Pentecost – the start of a new harvest of souls on this annual Jewish celebration of the Harvest Festival. The Holy Spirit has been given to the disciples in the Upper Room which was evidenced by visible tongues of fire resting on or over the heads of each person present in the Upper Room. Tongues of fire loosen the tongues of the disciples and they proceed, in their excitement, to praise God and we see one aspect of the gift of tongues in action.

The noise of the Holy Spirit which was like wind attracts those in the streets. These were very religious men (devout) who had come to Jerusalem to worship at the temple and to celebrate the Jewish feast of Pentecost as part of the Jewish religious calendar.

Exodus 23:14-19 “Three times a year you shall celebrate a feast to Me. “You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. “Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in the fruit of your labors from the field. “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD. “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread; nor is the fat of My feast to remain overnight until morning. “You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God. You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother.

Now, each of them in the crowd heard the disciples speaking their language. Think this through now:

1> God could have chosen to speak Temple Hebrew which was the common language among these devout Jewish men but He did not

2> God chose, instead, to have His disciples simply praise Him and have it come out in numerous known languages from around the Roman Empire. This could have been the disciples simply praising God in their own language (Galilean dialect) and having their words translated by the Holy Spirit as they hit the ears of the listeners. Or, all the disciples literally speaking different languages that were new to them and not learned by them. This option would be somewhat more confusing just due to so many languages flowing from the ‘platform’ at the same time.
Either way – a tremendous miracle sent to literally impress those who heard.

The reaction to the noise like the wind and the tongues – they were amazed and astonished. Great! But, as we will see later, the reaction soon changes to one of being amazed, greatly perplexed, and then some even mocking what is going on.

The initial reaction was not just that they heard the praises of God and the telling of God’s great exploits from Old Testament times; the reaction was also to the fact that these various languages were coming out of the mouth of Galileans.

Galilee was a rural area of northern Israel around the Sea of Galilee. Those from this district (in our case, as noted a week ago – all the remaining 11 disciples were from Galilee) spoke with a distinct and heavy regional accent and were considered to be unsophisticated and uneducated by southern Judean Jews. So, a double surprise that led to their reaction – astonished and amazed.

This is a good time to bring in a comment from Paul who later would become a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul states:

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

This God certainly did by having His Son choose his apostles from Galilee – fishermen and tax collectors. Great representation for the Kingdom as they stood before the crowd worshipping God in tongues.

Let’s look at the audience – those attracted by the noise and the worship…

Pathians – people from modern Iran
Medes – in Daniel’s time these people ruled with the persians but settled in Parthia (modern Iran)
Elamites – Southwest part of the Parthian Empire
Mesopotamia – literally means “between the rivers” (Tigris and Euphrates). Many Jews still lived there as they did not come back with Ezra and Nehemiah to repopulate Israel during Daniel’s time (2 Chronicles 36:22-23)
Judea – all the region once controlled by David and Solomon – including modern day Syria
Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia – all districts in then Asia Minor and now Turkey
Egypt – Alexandria, a city in the north of that country, had 50,000 Jewish settlers and the country was just about the same as today’s modern Egypt.
Libya around Cyrene – west of Egypt along the coast of North Africa
Rome – the capital city of the empire which also had a sizable Jewish population from 200 B.C. onwards
Proselytes – Gentiles who converted to Judaism. INTERESTING – that the Jews in Rome were really serious and very active in seeking converts
Cretans – Men from the Island of Crete (off of the southern coast of Greece)
Arabs – Jews living south of the country of Damascus among the Nebatean Arabs (Galatians 1:17)

They all heard the disciples praising God in their own languages – a miracle in itself. They heard words describing the mighty works of God – God’s wonderful deeds.

The disciples were probably rehearsing (as Old Testament leaders did) the things that God had done for His people (see Exodus 15:11; Psalms 40:5; 77:11; 96:3; and 107:21). Such praises were normally heard in Jerusalem during festival times – even on the streets as was the case in our story.

As we close our look at these verses – we see that Luke again notes the reactions of those listening … Amazement and greatly perplexed. They really did not have a clue what all this meant and so they ask “What does this mean?” This creates an open door for Peter to answer that question by explaining the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament and their religious system. (tomorrow’s blog begins a look at this ‘sermon’.)

But there was also a second group having a reaction – mocking what they see and hear and don’t understand. They don’t ask a question – they make a judgment call -“They are drunk” and yet, as we will see, it was only nine o’clock in the morning.

APPLICATION:

Let’s go with the obvious application. We are to be out in the world (neighbourhood, work situation, and every other place on the planet called Earth) letting others know of the great things that God has done. God has called us to be His witnesses and He has empowered us to do that in a supernatural manner – with words and power which He then backs up with miracles, signs and wonders.

Now, we need training to do this effectively, efficiently and biblically. And, if you were trained a decade ago the way you now witness is outdated as society has changed so drastically that methods must be constantly upgraded and updated. Remember the message never changes – but the methods we use to proclaim that message must.

However, having said that – the training that Christians need should include how to articulate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Most Christians know enough Gospel to be saved or born gain but not enough to tell someone else the story and lead them into salvation. So, believer, find a church that will teach you to present the Gospel and take you out to do it until they are sure you know how to do it right – and without all the cultural baggage.

As well, believers need to learn to speak the language of the people. Christians spend so much time talking to themselves that they really have little clue how to talk normally with non-believers. With my work on the streets and in business establishments I found, at the beginning, that I needed to switch my language away from “Christianese” to the language of the people I am talking to – business language, street lingo, whatever.

Of course, for me personally, I have since had trouble keeping some of this language out of my sermons on Sunday because I spend more time talking about Jesus to non-believers than talking to believers most week. So, on Sunday my ‘dominant language’ naturally surfaces. I get some fairly negative reactions from the Christians when this happens.

And, here is the trick – keep doing this regardless of the reaction. That’s what the early disciples did. If they receive the message work with them. If they reject the message (remember they are not rejecting you) then move on and find someone else to share with. Your task – my task is to fish. God’s job is to convict and bring them to the foot of the cross.

So, I need to be constantly upgrading my skills as a “fisher of men” and becoming the best fisherman I know how to be.

Tongues, Tongues and More Tongues – Bible Blog #8

The Scripture:

Acts 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Commentary:

The day of Pentecost was part of the HARVEST FESTIVAL (Leviticus 23:16) also known as the Festival of Weeks (Exodus 34:22-23). It is celebrated 50 days after the Passover. On the Passover Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples giving the Passover Meal from their days in Egypt new meaning under what was to become known as the New Covenant. Jesus then is crucified (Good Friday) and raised from the dead physically (Easter Sunday) and appears a number of times to a number of people for 40 days. Then He ascends into Heaven and 10 days later we are at the Day of Pentecost – 50 days after Passover.

It is significant that Pentecost was part of the annual celebration of the HARVEST FESTIVAL. Jesus said that His disciples would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them – and He does just that in this passage from Acts, Chapter 2. The purpose of the power was that the disciples could become witnesses to the resurrected Jesus. Power to witness means souls being saved in the Name of Jesus and thus a new harvest being celebrated here on this special day. The Holy Spirit comes upon them and the harvest of souls for the Kingdom begins.

The disciples are effective and efficient in soul winning right from the start. Wow! And remember, Jesus said: “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men”. So, here is the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise made three years earlier.

They are still gathering together in the Upper Room where they had first met the resurrected Jesus and where the last Supper had been celebrated. They are “staying in Jerusalem” until they receive the “promise of My Father”. They are holding a prayer meeting which is now in its tenth day. The Church was birthed out of a prayer meeting.

Heaven opens and the Holy Spirit is sent. He comes into the Upper Room first like the sound of a rushing mighty wind. Wind had long been a symbol of the Holy Spirit and a way, inadequate as it may be, to understand the Spirit (Ezekiel 37:9-10; John 3:8). The whole house (not just the Upper Room) heard the wind and felt the effects of the wind. You can always tell when God is in the house. Then tongues of fire fall on each one. These are not literal tongues of fire – but, again, a representation of the Holy Spirit’s presence. This second supernatural indicator touched each person (rested on their heads) to let them know that the Holy Spirit had been sent to every believers – not just an anointing for the prophet, priest, or king as it was in the Old Testament.

Fire also represented, in the Old Testament, the presence of God. We see this in Exodus 3:2-6 for example.

The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

There are a number of other symbols or representations of the Holy Spirit – the dove (as when Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan) and oil, just to mention two others.

Everyone in the Upper Room was touched by the fire and empowered as He came upon them. This is known as the baptism in the Holy Spirit – a second encounter with God after your initial encounter of salvation. The Holy Spirit comes to live “in you” when you are born again; the Holy Spirit comes “upon you” when you are empowered through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This should be the norm for all believers. Sadly it is not!

The disciples also prayed for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit daily. We see this in places such as Acts 4:8; Acts 4:31; Acts 6:5; and Acts 7:55. Paul talks about this a number of years later:

Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit…

The disciples – now empowered – spoke boldly of the resurrection of Jesus and the Kingdom of God and the need to repent and turn to the Lord. And the harvest began – 3,000 souls were added to the Church that day. But, we get ahead of ourselves and the verses we are looking at.

They all spoke in tongues. A supernatural utterance in a language they had never learned and did not know. In this case it was known languages. I suspect Peter spoke in his native language of Aramaic and as it reached the ears of the men listening that day the Holy Spirit’s power translated into each person’s own local language. This is what we refer to as proclamation tongues – where you are proclaiming the resurrection and Lordship of Jesus and a language other than your own is spoken and/or heard.

There is also the gift of “public tongues” as listed in 1 Corinthians 12 which is used and heard in worship services – always followed by an interpretation. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:1-7 that this tongue needs to be interpreted (also a gift of the Holy Spirit). When a tongue with an interpretation is spoken you have heard God’s heart for the people assembled – just as you would if someone stood up and prophesied in the language of that group. Tongues and interpreation of tongues is equivalent to prophecy.

There is a third “tongue” and this is your own personal, private prayer language. Paul comments – pray in the Spirit, pray with my mind – and so we can allow the Holy Spirit in us to pray through our spirit to God who is Spirit (John 4) and thus pray according to the will of God without interference. Every believer who is baptized in the Holy Spirit receives the gift of a private prayer language. This can be a known language or a heavenly language – Paul writes: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

APPLICATION:

It is interesting to note that the Church was praying when it was birthed or brought into existence. Prayer must be the foundation of everything the Church does and is… Prayer must surround all our activities and our work for the Lord.

And, Jesus has now empowered His followers to “go fishing”. He said, right at the start of His ministry, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men”. Here He is empowering them for just that. I once read, in a book by Bill Hull (a Nazarene pastor) this statement: “If you are not fishing, you are not following!” I believe that with all my heart.

Christian – you need to find a Church that will train and disciple you in the skills needed to witness to the lost. You need to learn how to give your testimony in a relevant and practical way. You need to learn well the Gospel – so well, that it flows naturally from your heart in every opportunity you are given. You need to be about your Father’s business of “seeking and saving the lost” (Luke 19:10). No more excuses for you follow Him who was and still is THE Fisher of men and wills that all men, everywhere, be saved!

There are two things you can do on earth that you cannot do in Heaven when you get there. Two things – sin and win the lost. Guess which one the Lord would have you do while still here on the face of planet Earth?

Casino Jerusalem – Bible Blog #7

The Scriptures:

At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. “For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘LET HIS HOMESTEAD BE MADE DESOLATE, AND LET NO ONE DWELL IN IT’; and, ‘LET ANOTHER MAN TAKE HIS OFFICE.’ “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us – beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us – one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Commentary:

There are 120 in the Upper Room – far from the maddening crowd or multitudes that use the follow Jesus when He was ministering, feeding those who followed Him, and performing miracles and healings. How fast the crowd disappears as soon as the going gets rough. First, when His teachings became a bit “strange” and demanding of commitment (John 6:60); secondly, when He was arrested, tried and crucified thus leaving the disciples open to arrest and being put to death.

Peter is taking the lead. Jesus had earlier appointed him to do so and to encourage the others during these tough transition times. He stands and tells the others that the scriptures that they knew only so well had spoken clearly of this situation – where Judas betrayed the Lord.

Psalm 69:25 states: May their camp be desolate; May none dwell in their tents.

Psalm 109:8 states: Let his days be few; Let another take his office.

These were applied to the situation of Judas’ death and thus a vacancy in the total number of original apostles… Peter makes a point of declaring that this was all foretold (prophesied) ahead of time by David but really by the Holy Spirit through David. “The Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas”. David did the writing but the Holy Spirit told him what to write. Paul tells us that “all scripture is inspired by God…” and Peter would agree with his soon-to-be partner in the ministry, Paul.

Was Judas saved? Well, most say “no” and I would agree. However, most say “no” because he is described as a “son of perdition” in Matthew 26:24 and Luke 22:22. But, I would say that none of the disciples were saved at the point that Judas took his own life. No one was saved because the means of being saved was not yet available. To them and us to be saved – Jesus had to die, shed His blood, be buried, be raised from the dead and ascend to the Father to offer His sacrifice and have it accepted. None of this happened till a few days after Judas died. So, no, he was not saved – but neither were the other eleven at that time.

Judas returned the 30 pieces of silver that he had been paid to betray the Lord (Matthew 27:3-10). This 30 pieces of silver is described as ‘the price of his wickedness’. The price received for betraying Messiah was used to buy the Field of Blood. Traditionally, this field is located south of Jerusalem in the Valley of Hinnom, where that valley crosses the Kidron Valley. The soil there was excellent for making pottery so Matthew’s Gospel calls it ‘The Potter’s Field’ (Matthew 27:7-10).

The troubling spot in the story…

In Matthew 27:5 we are told that Judas hung himself. In Acts (above) we are told he fell and split himself open on a rock and his insides spilled out. Dr. John MacArthur states that “apparently the tree … overlooked a cliff; the rope broke or the branch broke, or the knot slipped – and thus a hanging body fell down the cliff, hit the rocks and split open”. He is trying hard to reconcile two stories about the same situation. However, I don’t think we need to do this – two different eye witnesses to the same accident or crime will have somewhat different stories. The same is true here – Matthew and Luke have different accounts and details of the same happening. I don’t have a problem with that.

Peter stands up and quotes Psalm 55:12-15:

For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, Then I could bear it; Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, Then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, My companion and my familiar friend; We who had sweet fellowship together Walked in the house of God in the throng. Let death come deceitfully upon them; Let them go down alive to Sheol, For evil is in their dwelling, in their midst.

Using these verses Peter reassures the believers that Judas’ defection and the choice of his replacement were and are in God’s plan and purpose. They decided that the “replacement apostle” must have participated in Jesus’ ministry from the beginning and also have been an eye witness of the resurrection. This is because they were going to be representing and continuing Jesus’ ministry on Earth now that He has ascended – and, more importantly, the resurrection was central to apostolic preaching.

Two men are nominated –Joseph who seems to be having an identity conflict. He was also called Barsabbas (Son of the Sabbath) and Justus (Latin for ‘the Righteous’). The second man put forward was Matthais which means “Gift of God”.

They prayer – and drew lots. This was an Old Testament way of determining God’s will in any situation (Leviticus 16:8-10; Joshua 7:14; Proverbs 18:18). Matthais was picked. Eusebius, an early Church historian, claims Matthais was among the original 70 of Luke 10:1.

APPLICATION:

The means of picking Judas’ replacement is not something that was continued pass this spot in the New Testament. This reference to the Old Testament way of determining God’s will is the last mention of this form of “gambling”. Immediately after the Day of Pentecost – Acts, Chapter 2 – they no longer needed to ‘gamble’ to determine the will of God. As soon as the Holy Spirit came upon them and empowered them they were, from that point onwards, guided and directed by the Spirit of God. He is the one Who from this point onwards would direct the Church and individual Christians into the will of God for their lives. They shut down Casino Jerusalem.

Today Christians still put out a “fleece” before the Lord. Remember the fleece in the Old Testament? Gideon in Judges, Chapter 6, puts a fleece (piece of sheepskin) outside at night … in the morning if the dew is on the grass and not on the fleece then God wants him to do such-and–such. Well, he was hard to convince so he reverses the fleece the next night. God met both conditions and so Gideon knew the will of God.

Christians– you don’t need to put out a fleece before the Lord (or draw straws – lots) to determine God’s will for your life. If you are truly born again you have a personal relationship with the Lord and He, by His Holy Spirit in you, is guiding and directing you at all times. Simply, believe this truth and listen to His voice.

Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain – Bible Blog #6

Thanks for joining me in this daily study of God’s Word. I hope and pray that you are benefiting as much from reading them as I am from researching and writing them. Let me know!

The Scriptures:

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Commentary:

This is a somewhat “dry” section of scripture where it is more ‘simple information’ and little that is profound or life-changing. However, all scripture is inspired of God so we do need to look at these three verses and let the Holy Spirit work the truths contained in them into the very fiber of our being. We never know when He may reveal something to us that will be applicable to our individual lives.

Jesus has ascended from Mount Olivet (yesterday’s Bible Blog) with the promise spoken by the angels that He will return to that very place on His second coming. Mount Olivet is located in Kidron Valley east of Jerusalem and, at its top, is 200 feet higher than the city of Jerusalem. The disciples walked from there back to Jerusalem and the Upper Room. Luke tells us it was a “Sabbath Day’s journey”.

The Jewish Sabbath is from Friday night sundown to Saturday night sunset. During this special 24 hours there were rules to follow that did not apply the other 6 days a week. One was that devote Jews were allowed only to walk as far as a “Sabbath Day’s journey”. This was the distance of about 1/2 a mile or 2,000 cubits. This distance was set out in Exodus 16:29:

“See, the LORD has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”

This distance was derived from tradition based on Israel’s encampment in the wilderness on their way out of Egypt and into the Promised land. When the pillar of fire or the pillar of cloud stopped and they set up camp – the tents farthest out on the camp’s perimeter were 2,000 cubits from the center of the camp where the tabernacle was located. So, the longest distance anyone had to walk to reach the tabernacle on the Sabbath was 1/2 a mile (from the outer rim of the camp to the center). [See also Joshua 3:4 and Numbers 35:5]

Well, they have walked the distance and are now in the city of Jerusalem. More specifically – the Upper Room. This is the same room where they had eaten the Last Supper with the Lord on the Thursday before Good Friday. The same room where Jesus had approached His disciples after His resurrection with one of the first proofs that He was alive.

Then the leaders (apostles) are mentioned by name… Interesting to note the list of names do not match the other lists as found in the Gospels. Here is why:
1> Batholomew – was also known as Nathanael (John 1:45-49 and John 21:2)
2> Judas the son of James – was also known as Thaddaeus (Mark 3:18)

Several other things to note:

James was known as James the Younger or as James the Less so that he would not be mixed up with James, the brother of John who came to be known as James the Greater. (Mark 15:40)

Simon is described as a Zealot. This is probably a reference to his political allignment before he became a follower of Jesus. It was an actual political party (similar to what you find in Palestine today) made up of militants and ‘gorillas’ whose prime purpose was to overthrow Roman domination in Palestine.

It was a “mixed bag” that the Lord had hand-picked to represent Him on the face of the known Earth.

Along with this group of leaders who formed the first leadership team – Luke tells us there are a number of women…
1> Mary Magdalene – the first to see and talk to the resurrected Jesus
2> Mary, wife of Clopas
3> Mary – and her sister Martha (sisters of Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead)
4> Mary, the mother of Jesus – the last mention of her in the New Testament
5> Salome
6> Maybe some of the apostles’ wives

Then there are a few others named… the brothers (half brothers) of Jesus (Mark 6:3)…
1> James – who became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem and authored the Book of James
2> Joses
3> Simon
4> Judas – a/k/a Jude – who wrote the book that bears his name

These four were fairly new believers. Eight months previous to this day in the Upper Room John, in his Gospel, mentions their continuing unbelief (John 7:5). So, they are newish converts who are there in the Upper Room praying with the women and the Lord’s apostles.

They are praying – and will be for 10 days (time between The Ascension of Jesus and the decent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost). One might think this was the first occasion when believers would be “praying in the name of Jesus”.

Jesus had told them to use His Name when praying…

John 14:13-14 “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

So, I am sure that as the early Church gathered to pray that they would be praying in, for them, a whole new way. They now had immediate access to the throne room of their God through the shed blood of Jesus (Hebrews 4:16). They now had a powerful new weapon for their work – the name of Jesus. What a revolutionary experience summarized in one simple verse of Chapter One of the Book of Acts.

APPLICATION:

Today we need to be careful that we are not breaking one of the Ten Commandments and taking the Name of the Lord in vain. I believe this is possible to do when we pray. We go wih our list of needs and wants – and pray them out to God and then tack on “In the Name of Jesus” at the end of the prayer time.

In our relationship with Jesus we need to recognize that He is not a magic genie that must do what we ask simply because we tacked His Name on the end of our prayer. He is God and He knows best. He is the “senior” in this relationship we have with Him.

So, when we talk to Him (pray) we should “be still and know that I am God” and listen to what is on His heart and on His agenda for the day. Then, pray according to what you heard and not according to your wish list. Then, praying according to His will and His Word you have every right to add “in the name of Jesus” to the end of that prayer as it truly was something that Jesus asked you to pray and so you know He will be accomplishing it.

1 John states this truth very clearly (1 John 5:14-15):

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

First we listen – then we ask for those things He has spoken to us about. This means we are asking “according to His will”. Doing this will leave us with a 100% assurance that what we just spoke to God about is going to happen. Afterall, it was what He prompted us to pray for. It is His will.

To pray anything else or anything less – is using His Name in vain and thus breaking the 3rd of the Ten Commandments.

Just a thought!

Up, Up, and Away – Bible Blog #5

In our daily (except Sundays) Bible Study Blog, currently covering the Book of Acts, we are talking today about THE ASCENSION. Although this is usually not celebrated by Born Again Churches and is celebrated by the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic (Anglican) Churches – it is a valid part of the ministry and life of Jesus.

The Scriptures:

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

Commentary:

Jesus has now finished giving His last minute instructions to His apostles. We are assuming these words spoken were the most important for these men and the early Church. Afteralll, Jesus knew He was about to ascend into Heaven where He would remain until the Second Coming (as the angels confirm in today’s scripture). His commands and instruction are the ones we have already looked at in the last couple of days.

This is not His first “ascension” since His resurrection. Just after Mary had her encounter with Jesus in the Garden on Easter Sunday morning He went to the Father. Jesus, in fact, tells her not to touch Him because He has yet to go to the Father (John 20:17).

As far as I can tell after His decent into Hell to preach the Gospel to all those who had died between Adam and the Cross – 1 Peter states that He preached and then ‘took captives captive’ removing these new believers into heaven as He left Hell having defeated death and Hades. (1 Peter 3:19). You see, there is only one way for everyone who has ever been born to get into Heaven – Jesus! So, He had to speak this Gospel message to those in Abraham’s Bosom (Paradise, Purgatory) so that they could chose life and Heaven or death and Hell.

Then He began His physical appearances on earth by being there for Mary early Easter Sunday morning.

I also believe that He ascended a second time just after this to present His blood to the Father as the necessary payment to begin the New Covenant. He tells Mary not to touch Him until He goes to the Father – some say this is in reference to His ascension 40 days later. If that were the case, why then does He reverse that ‘policy’ and tell Thomas to reach out and touch Him? In the short time between those two situations I believe Jesus went to Heaven to present His sacrifice to the Father to have it approved and accepted.

Now He has finished instructing His disciples and is going to ascend into heaven where He will remain at the Father’s right hand until the Father tells Him it is time to return and set up the Kingdom the apostles had just finished asking Him about. They all witnessed His departure knowing it was to their benefit. Jesus had told them (in John 16:7) that He had to leave them and that when He did He would send them another Conforter called the Holy Spirit. In fact, He said that it was ‘expedient’ that He go!

As He is leaving – I am sure their hearts are breaking in spite of knowing this was for their own good and within God’s plan – they are looking up as He disappears into the clouds. Two angels appear and say: “Men of Galilee”. The eleven apostles who remain are all from Galilee. Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was the only one of the original twelve apostles who was not a Galileean. The angels encourage them that just as Jesus has left – He will return one day.

Now, this Ascension was “bodily”. Jesus’ glorified physical body ascended into Heaven. And it will be His physical body that returns – not some disembodied spirit as some teach (heresy). He will return “just as He left”. That means on the clouds, to the Mount of Olives, to set up the Kingdom that He is to rule and that they had just spoken together about.

APPLICATION:

Today, in the Church, we are seeing a flurry of teachings based on the appearance of angels and things the angels are saying or doing. We need to be really careful with what we believe and what we are basing our Christian walk on.

The Mormons’ founder, Joseph Smith, talked with angels and received the revelation upon which that cult is founded. Roland Buck fell into heresy in recent years because – even as a born again, spirit-filled pastor – he based his beliefs and teachings on what two angels said and did when they visited him numerous times. Todd Bently (Lakeland, Flordia) is another among many who teaches from revelations that angels (and visits to the ‘third Heaven’) bring him.

I believe that angels still minister today and, as the book of Hebrews states, they are ministering spirits to those who are to receive salvation. But, I also believe that when the Holy Spirit came upon the early Church in the Book of Acts, Chapter two (we start there Tuesday – Blog #8) that He is now the One who brings revelation and leads us into all truth. He has not retired (in the search engine of the blogs type “Holy Spirit Retired” to read an older Blog on this topic) and has not been replaced by angelic messengers. We have the Bible and the Holy Spirit Who will, according to Jesus, “lead us into all truth”. So, careful about those who reference angels and revelations that angels and ‘third Heaven’ experiences bring to them. The Bible states
that even the Devil can disguise himself as an angel of light. The Church and individual Christians need great discernment.