Beware of Fabrics, Frolicking, and Friends

October 18, 2010 at 9:36 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical friendship, Genesis | 7 Comments
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Joseph was sold into slavery at about age 17. He reached the throne of Egypt at around 30. The narrative account of Joseph is put on hold for a little while in Genesis Chapter 38.

Garments or raiment or clothes or coats are a big deal in Genesis. Judah was deceived by his daughter-in-law Tamar while he was at Timnath for sheep-shearing. Getting fleece for garments, he was deceived by a garment. Isaac had been deceived by a garment when Jacob dressed up like Esau. Jacob was deceived by a garment at least once (Joseph’s torn coat), and maybe twice (his first wedding night). There is often a discernible symmetry when God applies his principle of reaping and sowing. God Law says that our coverings should be distinct, and He is the only One Who is never truly fooled by outward garments, which He establishes early on in the account of Adam and Eve (fig leaves versus animal skins).

Genesis 38 also gives us the account of the infamous “sin of Onan.”

And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.

Genesis 38:6-7

This brought into play what is called the “levirate” (Latin for brother-in-law) marriage. The sin of Onan is difficult to discuss in mixed company, although the text makes it plain enough. When people who are supposed to be spiritual and faithful to God get involved with the world, the result is often some kind of sexual sin.

And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.

Genesis 38:1

“Turned in to” is a helpful play on words. The Hebrew word for “turned” is natah. It means more than just to change directions; it means “to incline to;” “to bend to the will;” “to pervert.” Judah “turned in to (into) a certain Adullamite.”

“Hirah” meant “a nobleman” of the Canannites.

And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.

Genesis 38:2

“Shuah” meant “wealth.”

And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.

Genesis 38:3

“Er” meant “awake.”

And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.

Genesis 38:4

“Onan” meant “strong.”

And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah [a petition]: and he was at Chezib [false], when she bare him.

Genesis 38:5, bracketed descriptions added

Judah’s family was getting more and more worldly as he looked for wealth and strength and influence and deception.

God killed Er because He did evil in the sight of the Lord. He was “awake” – aware of what he was doing and he did it openly. All evil is done in the sight of the Lord. He sees everything, but some people take special pleasure in wickedly defying Him.

Judah ended up being deceived by his daughter-in-law, Tamar, thinking she was a harlot – a prostitute. He tried to buy his way out of it when she got pregnant, and his sin was ultimately exposed.

Tamar delivered twins, and they struggled in their birth the way Jacob and Esau did. The baby with the scarlet thread came out second.

I just want to make one other point before we move on to Genesis Chapter 39 next time.

And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

Genesis 38:12, emphasis added

And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not.

Genesis 38:20, emphasis added

And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man. And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.

II Samuel 13:2-4, emphasis added

Choose your friends carefully.

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Proverbs 13:20

Comparisons, Calculations, and Christophany

July 30, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Daniel | 6 Comments
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Daniel Chapter 8 contains a vision which comes about 12 years before the handwriting on the wall incident. This is the vision of the goat and the ram, and here it extends into a comparison of Antiochus Epiphanes (whose name meant “revelation of the gods”), the ruler of Syria after the death of Alexander the Great. There are comparisons between Epiphanes and the Antichrist. They both begin modestly but increase in power. They both blaspheme God by speaking great things. They both persecute the Jews. They both claim to be gods and put images in the temple. They both impose their religion on the people. Both are opposed by a believing remnant that knows God. Both are energized by the devil and are great deceivers. Both appear successful and invincible. Both are defeated by a redeemer (Judas Maccabeus in the case of Epiphanes and Jesus Christ in the case of the Antichrist).

The events in Daniel Chapter 9 take place right after the handwriting on the wall incident – in 539 B.C. Daniel read the Word of God to prepare for prayer and worship.

In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:

Daniel 9:2-3

Daniel’s prayer was interrupted by the angel Gabriel.

And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God; Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.

Daniel 9:20-21

Gabriel gave Daniel the prophecy of the 70 weeks.

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

Daniel 9:24

These “weeks” are seven-year periods, so the 70 “weeks” or 70 “sevens” are really 490 years. The first period is 49 years (7 X 7). This is the period of time found in Nehemiah 2:5-8 when Nehemiah was authorized to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and the gates, not just the temple.

The second period is 483 years (445 B.C. to 29/30 A.D.): the time of Christ’s ministry on earth. Daniel 9:27 deals with the final 7 years, known as the Tribulation – the pronoun “he” refers to the Antichrist, not the Messiah: “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

Daniel Chapter 10 shows us that the “70 week prophetic calendar” given in Daniel also had prophetic applications which have already become history. In the big picture, the 70 “times” are 70 periods of 70 years, but in Daniel’s time, there were two separate 70 year periods of fulfilled prophecy. The first Jews were deported to Babylon in 605 B.C., and the first captives returned to their land in 536 B.C. (70 years). The temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. and was rebuilt and dedicated in 515 B.C. (70 years).

Daniel was going through a period of three weeks of fasting and praying and using no ointment, probably in order to get more understanding about the visions and prophecies he had already been given. Daniel received a vision of what may have been Jesus Christ. Then he received knowledge of the battle between Gabriel and Michael and the demons who were the princes of Persia and Greece. Persia is modern Iran. (Modern Iraq is Biblical Babylon.)

Lord, Leader, and Ladder

June 15, 2010 at 9:53 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Genesis | 8 Comments
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In Genesis Chapter 28 we see the account of “Jacob’s Ladder.”

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

Genesis 28:12

This was Jacob’s exclamation when he awoke from that dream:

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.

Genesis 28:16

Why was Jacob so surprised at the presence of God? I suspect, like most of us, Jacob had an intellectual understanding of God’s omnipresence. However, also like most of us, he tended to get distracted by circumstances and forget about God’s presence.

For one thing, Jacob had left his family for the first time. He was on a long trip to the home of his father’s people. He probably did not expect to encounter another Yahweh-worshiper during the whole trip. Christians who do not attend church regularly, and who work with nonbelievers during the week, may tend to miss out on the reminder of God’s presence that comes with being around God’s people.

For another thing, Jacob had left behind his earthly father, and his earthly father’s altars and tents. As Christians we must not forget that the house of the Lord is not the only place we can meet with the Lord. We can make an altar and experience God’s presence anytime, anywhere.

Finally, Jacob may have been too focused on his own fears to focus on God’s presence. Jacob’s mother had told him, before he left,

Until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?

Genesis 27:45

For all he knew, his brother, Esau, might have been hot on his heels, ready to take his life. This would have been quite a reversal of roles, because Jacob is known for sneaking up on his brother throughout their lives up until this point (Genesis 25:26-34). Christians today must remember that fears, dire circumstances, and the possibility of our past catching up to us, should not cause us to forget the Lord’s presence. Our Savior, Christ Jesus, compared Himself to the ladder that Jacob saw in his dream (John 1:51). Jesus, fully man and fully God, is our Gateway into God’s presence. He is the only One who can put one hand on us and one hand on God the Father, and bring us into mediated fellowship.

Jacob's ladder

Falling, Flooding, and Facing Facts

December 21, 2009 at 11:46 pm | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Genesis | 13 Comments
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Last time, we learned that there is a clear separation between the lines of Seth and Cain. At least the separation was clear until:

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

Genesis 6:1-2

When the Godly line of Seth intermingled with the ungodly line of Cain, which side influenced the other? The Godly did not influence the ungodly for good. The ungodly dragged the Godly down into sin. This happens even today whenever Christians become participants with, instead of witnesses to, the lost.

The majority of commentators disagree with me, but I believe that the “sons of God” in these verses were men, not fallen angels. Angels do not procreate.

And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.

Genesis 4:25-26

There is a clear distinction between men who called upon the Lord – and were known for doing so – and those who began to be “mighty” in their own eyes, and began to make light of their need to call upon the Lord. Lamech is a good example. There was a “Seth-Lamech” and a “Cain-Lamech.” Seth’s Lamech called his son Noah, and believed in the promise of God that a redeemer would come and reverse the curse. But look at Cain’s Lamech:

And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.

Genesis 4:23

He was the first bigamist, and possibly the author and performer of the first sinful poem or song. The “and” in Genesis 4:23 does not denote two separate killings. It is an example of Hebrew parallelism. A modern English example would be: “I went to the store, and I went with my shoes on.” That does not mean I went to the store twice. The “and” in Genesis 4:23 is the same kind of “and” that connects Genesis 1:1 and 1:2: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Emphasis added.) There has only been one world-wide flood (Noah’s). There was not a “flood of Lucifer” during a “gap” between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.

Lamech not only celebrated his killing with a little ditty, but he made a mockery of God’s mercy to Cain:

If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

Genesis 4:24

Several centuries later Jesus would make a mockery of Lamech, though, when He said that we are not to avenge seventy times seven; we are to forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22).

So, in Genesis 6 the sons of God mixed with the daughters of men, and the remnant of Godly descendants of Seth started becoming corrupted. The devil wins converts by forming relationships.

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 6:5

In just a few generations man became completely deteriorated. (See Romans 1 and II Corinthians 10:5.)

And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

Genesis 6:6

God does not repent from sin, because He can not sin, but He has feelings, including grief and the excitement of fellowship with His creatures.

And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

Genesis 6:7-8

We do not praise Noah for being found righteous. We praise God for making Noah righteous.

These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

Genesis 6:9

Noah was not perfectly sinless, but he was without blame in his complete devotion to God, in comparison with everyone else. Noah lived his life in the awareness of being in God’s presence.

And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

Genesis 6:10-13

And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

II Peter 2:5

For 120 years Noah and his sons built and preached. They preached righteousness: Get right with God. And they preached truth. The devil’s way is to defile by forming relationships, but God’s way is to cleanse by preaching righteousness and truth.

1. Noah built: He built the ark.
2. Noah believed: He believed the Word of God.
3. Noah brought: He brought his family into the Ark.

Jesus did the same with His redeemed family, and we are to do likewise:

1. We are to build His church.
2. We are to believe His Word.
3. We are to bring a spiritual family into the safety of the Body of Christ.

We can be sure that the flood of Noah’s time was indeed a world-wide flood.

And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.

Genesis 6:17 (emphasis added)

That is God’s Word – not Noah’s or Moses’s viewpoint. It was God’s Word then – and it is His Word now.

And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

Genesis 7:21-23 (emphasis added)

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

Genesis 7:11 (emphasis added)

This was more than just rain. It was an event of cataclysmic, geological changes – changes like the formation of the Grand Canyon. Possibly a water or vapor canopy fell from around the Earth – which would help to explain why men and animals lived so long prior to the flood. God really shook the whole earth. If not for God’s mercy, no one would be alive today to make up false “scientific” theories to refute it.

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

II Peter 3:3-10

Talk about a “big bang!” Men have a problem with a God who destroyed the earth, but Heaven has a problem with a God who would save one man and his family – knowing that his descendants would later mock and deny the event. Heaven solved this problem in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Porcine Predilection Predates Powerful Prevailing Pardon, Prompting Personal Purity

November 11, 2009 at 9:30 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Salvation | 23 Comments
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I am not one of those people who think that the entire New Testament after the Book of Acts is just one long test to determine whether a person who has called upon the Lord by faith to save him, has in fact really been saved. I believe the vast majority of the writing in the New Testament epistles is directed toward believers so that they can glorify and serve God as they understand more about their salvation, and so that they can get the victory over more and more of their unredeemed flesh as they grow in Christ-likeness by the power of God.

However, it is true that a person who has been truly regenerated by God’s Spirit does in fact have a new “heart:” a new “nature,” a new ontological “self.”

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Titus 3:5

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

II Corinthians 5:17

Although regenerated Christians will still sin, they should have a new relationship with sin. Before my “new birth” (my spiritual birth into the family of God), I was a slave to sin.

For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.

Romans 6:20

And there was much about sin that I enjoyed. However, when Christ Jesus saved me from the power of sin, He set me free, and, while I did not become sinless, my love for sin was no longer greater than my love for God and His righteousness.

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

Romans 6:22

If you have had some experience which you believe counts as being “born again,” but you still have no hatred for sin, and no real love for God, it is imperative that you examine yourself according the Scriptures.

Charles Spurgeon gave us a helpful illustration. He described a pig which was faced with a gourmet meal on one side, and a rotten pile of filth and garbage on the other side. The pig raced for the garbage, and disregarded the gourmet meal, because that is what pigs do.

pig slop

The “nature” of a pig is to root and wallow and indulge in filth. Suddenly God miraculously transformed the pig into a man. The man was disgusted to find himself wallowing in, and consuming, filth. He was also extremely embarrassed. He immediately scrambled out of the garbage pile, and started cleaning himself off. The next day, the man (who used to be a pig) was faced with the same two dining alternatives, and he went happily to the gourmet meal, and spurned the garbage. This happened almost every day, but once in while, the man (who had been a pig for a very long time before his transformation) forgot he was now a man, and compulsively immersed himself in the filthy heap of garbage. The difference now, though, was that when this happened, the man began to gag, and to vomit out the garbage, and he remembered he was now a man, and no longer a pig, and he once again felt embarrassed and dirty, and quickly left the garbage pile.

I hope that we see a picture of ourselves in this illustration. The salvation which God grants believers in Christ Jesus not only secures their home in Heaven, but it breaks the power of sin.

If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

Ephesians 4:21-22

Insincerity, Inaccuracy, or Incompletion?

October 12, 2009 at 8:51 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Acts | 5 Comments
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In Acts Chapter 18 Paul goes from Athens to Corinth. Corinth was a very unlikely place to start a church. Since Paul went to Corinth alone, it was clear that, if he was to be successful there, God would have to intervene. Corinth was the Las Vegas or New Orleans of its day. It was a place of vice, greed, and wicked spiritualism.

God knew that many of those in Corinth who pretended to be involved in spiritual pursuits were actually trying to manipulate people out of greed. So He allowed Paul to be distinct by earning his living making tents.

And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.

Acts 18:3

God took care of the problem of Paul being alone in Corinth by providing Aquila and Priscilla, a married couple. Paul worked during the week and preached on the Sabbath. Then God sent financial help with Timothy and Silas, which allowed Paul to preach full-time.

When Paul encountered opposition in the synagogue, God sent Titus Justus to open a place for him to preach right next to the synagogue.

And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

Acts 18:7-8

The chief ruler of the synagogue was saved!

Paul carried out the Great Commission, and he received the assurance from Jesus that is attached to it.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:19-20

And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:

Acts 18:8-9

Paul never quit; opposition only strengthened his commitment. The blessing of the Old Testament is prosperity; the blessing of the New Testament is persecution.

When the Jews tried to take the Christians to court, God intervened, and caused Gallio, the Roman proconsul, to declare the preaching of Christianity a Jewish religious matter, and not a matter of Roman law.

Paul was in Corinth for about 18 months. Then he went back to report at Antioch, and then back to Ephesus. This would be his third missionary journey.

Ephesus did not have Corinth’s reputation for wickedness, but it had a population of about 300,000 people, compared to Corinth’s 200,000. Ephesus was steeped in idolatry. It was the capital of Asia. The temple of Diana there was one of the “seven wonders of the world.” Paul stayed in Ephesus about three years.

In Acts Chapter 19 we see a historical oddity: people who sincerely professed to be Christian disciples, but who were lacking the Holy Spirit. Their testimony was not insincere, but it was probably inaccurate, and it was it was definitely incomplete.

The ministry of John the Baptist – probably through Apollos – had a big influence in Alexandria and Ephesus, so these men were disciples of the teaching of John the Baptist.

Here is what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit in connection with salvation:

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Romans 8:9

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

Ephesians 1:13

The requirement today for Holy Spirit baptism is not water baptism. It is not the laying on of hands. It is salvation. These men in Acts 19 knew that John the Baptist had prophesied about the giving of the Holy Spirit, but they did not know at first that it had already happened.

Preaching, Pressing, and Pushing On

August 4, 2009 at 11:48 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Acts | 8 Comments
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Acts Chapter 12 starts off by telling us that Herod the king killed John’s brother, James, and had Peter arrested. This Herod is the third Herod – Herod Agrippa I. Herod the Great was the one who had killed the babies in Bethlehem right after Jesus was born. The Herod in Acts 12 is that Herod’s grandson.

King Herod the Great had killed his own son, Aristobulus, who was Herod Agrippa I’s father. Herod Agrippa I (the Herod of Acts 12) had an uncle named Herod Antipas who had beheaded John the Baptist.

As you can see, the Herods were evil, and they practiced nepotism. Warren Wiersbe says nepotism is when a father, being evil, knows how to give good gifts to his children. (Luke 11:13)

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.

Acts 12:5-6

Peter was so dangerous that they put two guards on him, but God freed him anyway.

And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.

Acts 12:7

We meet two other important characters in Acts 12: John Mark, who would write the Book of Mark, and James (not the same one killed in Verse 2), the sort of “half-brother” of Jesus.

But he [PETER], beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.

Acts 12:17

This is the same James who wrote the Book of James. It seems that he was also the pastor or the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country. And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

Acts 12:20-23

Herod’s last days seem to foreshadow the Antichrist.

In Acts Chapter 13 God called missionaries when His followers were seeking to glorify Him.

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

Acts 13:1-4

Six men, including John Mark in Verse 6, were ministering in Antioch: Barnabus; Simeon (who was probably from Africa because his nickname was “black”); Lucius (whose name meant “light”); Manen (a friend, or maybe the adopted brother of, Herod Antipas who killed John the Baptist); and Saul/Paul. These men were prophets and teachers. At times they did foretell the future, but primarily they were prophets in the sense that they proclaimed God’s Word. We need this type of prophetic ministry today more than we need seers into the future or “words of knowledge” or “fresh revelation.” We need men who will stand up, as elder prophets, and say, “This is what the Bible has to say about that…”

Antioch was in Syria, and from this point in the narrative of Acts, Antioch and Paul replace Jerusalem and Peter as the focal points.

Barnabas and Paul are sent, and they take Barnabas’s cousin, John Mark, with them. They go to six different cities in Chapters 13 and 14. Satan packed up his bag of evil tricks and went after them, or, actually, it appears that he may have gone before them in some instances.

They went to Paphos.

And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,

Acts 13:6-9

In Paphos, Satan had sown tares among the wheat. The devil is a planter of counterfeits. (Matthew 13:24-25)

Next they went to Perga.

Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.

Acts 13:13

In Perga the attack came by way of backsliding. We do not know what caused John Mark to turn back, but he was restored later. It could have been his discomfort with the Gentiles. It could have been a fear of danger in these new areas. Maybe he was jealous concerning Paul’s leadership over his cousin, Barnabas. (Note Verse 13 where it says, “Paul and his company…”)

The first sermon of the Apostle Paul which is recorded in the Bible begins in Acts 13:16, and it was preached in Pisidia. His method was to proclaim the Gospel (Acts 13:28-30), and to press hard for a decision (Acts 13:38-41). This method has come under attack lately by those who claim that pressing for a decision means that men are being deceived into trusting a “decision” rather than trusting Christ. Indeed, it may well be that the method has been abused, twisted, warped, or incorrectly worded, but the fact is that the preaching and pressing which Paul did was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore, it is the Bible way of evangelizing.

At first Paul and Barnabas were invited back to the synagogue.

And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

Read 13:42-44

But the Jews stirred up a desire to have them thrown out. They stirred up the leading men and women of high society.

But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.

Acts 13:50

Here is a brief rundown of Paul’s first recorded sermon:
1. He reviews the history of Israel.
2. He accuses his listeners of killing the Messiah.
3. He proclaims the Resurrection.
4. He reminds them of the promise of a King on the Throne of David. (Habakkuk 1:5; Isaiah 49:6)

In the Old Testament, God used Gentiles to punish the Jews. At the beginning of the Church in the New Testament, the salvation of the Gentiles is coming through the Jews.

Some people think that the restoration of Davidic worship is the sign of Christ coming back to reign on the Throne of David. I tend to disagree because the Jews were used by God in early Christianity, but for the most part, as a people, they have rejected the message. So now the message has gone primarily among the Gentiles. I do not think that the sign of the coming of Christ will be enthusiastic worship. I think it will be false worship and apostasy and falling away. (II Thessalonians 2:3)

And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

Acts 13:48

This shows the sovereignty of God.

And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.

Acts 13:49

This shows the responsibility of man.

The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man always go together.

In Acts Chapter 14 the Christian missionaries leave Pisidia and go to Iconium. There, Satan opposed them by stirring up Jews. There were signs and wonders along the trip through the different cities, but, despite the signs and wonders, they preached the Gospel (Acts 14:7), and went down into Attalia (Acts 14:25), and:

… when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many,

Acts 14:21

They never ceased to preach the Word.

They went from Iconium to Lystra (home town of Timothy). I suppose they would be called divisive and insulting in today’s politically correct climate for what they did when people wanted to worship them and call them false gods.

And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

Acts 14:12-15

Paul didn’t preach from the Old Testament this time because these people were mostly pagans. Instead he preached the God of creation.

Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

Acts 14:17

The devil and his followers from Iconium and Antioch kept showing up.

And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

Acts 14:19-20

They stoned Paul, but either he survived, or God raised him from the dead. He and his fellow-servants went right back to Antioch, through some of the same places they had been thrown out of. They not only evangelized, but they trained new believers and established churches. Paul’s first missionary journey (there would be two more) lasted about one year.

From Frequent Formal Faithful Following, Flows Full Foundational Fellowship

July 16, 2009 at 11:50 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration | 10 Comments
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We might wonder if the boldness of the Apostles would find the same reception today that it did in the earliest days of the Church. Imagine a preacher, pastor, evangelist, or Christian elder exhorting new Christians to, “Be a follower of me!” The response would likely be, “What do you mean, ‘Be a follower of you?’ What about being a follower of Christ?”

However, the 1st Century Christians were commended for being followers and imitators of their spiritual leaders. The key to this is that the leaders themselves were following Christ, and encouraging their followers to do the same.

And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:

I Thessalonians 1:6

The philosophy of the world is that times of affliction mean an absence of joy. But the philosophy of the Bible is that Christians who receive the Word of God in times of affliction, and who submit to their spiritual leaders and to the Lord, and who do not forsake faithful attendance at church (Hebrews 10:25), will experience the joy of the Holy Ghost. This joy is not dependent upon circumstances or externals. Instead, it comes from His indwelling presence.

It is all well and good to warn and encourage others about the coming of the Lord, but as the day of His coming approaches, we have a specific command from Scripture to be diligent about assembling together frequently, formally, and faithfully.

Pouting Pastoral Pathetic Pity Party Permanently Postponed

June 29, 2009 at 10:32 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration | 5 Comments
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When the children of Israel entered into the promised land of Canaan, the Lord divided up the land among the various tribes. However, He singled out one tribe to minister directly unto Him.

At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, unto this day.

Deuteronomy 10:8

The tribe of Levi was to be “separated.” As the special priests and ministers unto the Lord, they were to be set apart by special ceremonial and behavioral rules from the rest of the people. They were supposed to live “different” lives. They were also set apart unto God, devoted totally to standing before Him, and to blessing His Name.

Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, according as the LORD thy God promised him.

Deuteronomy 10:9

While the other tribes enjoyed great material blessings and wealth, having been given bountiful land and opportunities for worldly prosperity, the Levites were to live a comparatively Spartan existence. Our spiritual leaders today often adopt a “woe-is-me” point of view concerning this aspect of full-time ministry to the Lord. They complain about members of their flock, who seem to be free from the inconveniences of daily ministry. For a church leader to say, “Oh poor me, I must spend time toiling in Bible study and care-giving visits, while my congregation can seek career advancement and material gains,” is to miss the point of the blessing of the tribe of Levi.

Sure, the other tribes had been given a great inheritance, but can there be any greater blessing than having the opportunity to devote one’s life to doing the Lord’s work on a full-time basis – of being free from the pressures that prohibit the lay-person from spending more time in personal worship with Christ, and from interceding on behalf of others directly before the throne of God? We must not make the mistake of feeling sorry for our spiritual leaders, nor must they make the mistake of wallowing in self-pity.

From Power to Proclamation to Prayer

June 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Acts | 16 Comments
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When God used Peter to heal the lame man in Acts Chapter 3, this man had a wonderful reaction.

Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

Acts 3:6-8

Note that the Scripture says he was praising God, not the Holy Spirit. God is triune. He is one God in three Persons. However, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to bring praise to Jesus, not to the Holy Ghost Himself. (See John 16:12-15.) There are probably some local churches today which place too little emphasis on the ministry of the Holy Ghost, but there is no doubt that there are many charismatic and Penteocostal local churches which unbiblically sing praises to the Holy Ghost to the exclusion of God the Father and Christ the Son.

There is a sense in which this leaping, praising man is a picture of all Christian believers. He was lame. All of us came into this world lacking the ability to walk in a way which was pleasing to God. When Adam sinned, we say he “fell.” When Adam fell, we all fell, and, like the lady in the medic alert commercial, we had fallen and “could not get up” under our own power.

This man was begging alms because he was poor. We were all poor in relation to our inability to pay the debt we owed God – the sin debt.

This man was seated near the temple, but he was outside the temple. All of us were born “outside.” We were outside of the righteousness of God. And no matter how close we came to believing the Gospel message, until we did in fact believe, we were still “outside.” Like the lame man, there was a period when some of us were “so near, yet so far.”

But when this lame man was healed, he was healed instantly. Salvation, the fact of being “born again,” happens in a moment. One moment, you are lost, a child of the devil, bound for hell – the next moment you become a child of God, indwelt by His Spirit, with a home in Heaven. Like the lame man, we should all publicly identify ourselves with God when this happens.

Note that Peter did not use this miraculous healing episode to start a “healing and deliverance conference” focused on curing diseases and healing infirmities. Instead, he used the occasion of God’s power exhibited toward this lame man to convict the hearers of their sin.

And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.

Acts 3:17-18

These verses show God’s marvelous blending of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The rulers were accountable for crucifying Jesus, but God had ordained that the Crucifixion must come to pass, and had even foretold it in the Old Testament.

Our finite minds can not comprehend much about God’s divine sovereignty and the concept of human accountability. Both are taught clearly in Scripture. When Charles Spurgeon was asked how he reconciled the two, seemingly contradictory, ideas, he said that he never tried to reconcile good friends.

We get the impression that the first Christian church consisted of a very busy group of individuals. They had a passion for the Word of God, and they were empowered by the Holy Ghost. When these things concur among believers who are in strong unity, many miraculous things happen. It’s just a shame that they all had to share one Honda. (“And they, continuing daily with one “accord…” Acts 2:46) Okay, I know that’s corny, but I couldn’t resist. It’s Joke # 3 in the Official Preacher’s Joke Book. (Joke # 2 is telling everyone in the congregation to turn to “Hezekiah” Chapter 3.)

Acts Chapter 4 contains what might be my favorite Bible verse. It was one of the verses read at my ordination service:

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Acts 4:12

The verse not only shows the power and exclusivity of Jesus’s name, but it highlights the absolute insanity of rejecting the only name in the universe that can truly help a lost person.

And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.

Acts 4:14-17

There was the proof of the power of Jesus’s name standing right in front of them! But these Jewish leaders still did everything they could to deny it!

Facing persecution, the early Church members turned to prayer. This is the beginning of a prayer that is based on Psalm 2:

And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:

Acts 4:24

It is a prayer that is remarkable for the way in which it seeks to glorify God, and for its unselfish nature. Notice that the Apostles did not ask God to change their circumstances.

And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,

Acts 4:29

Instead of asking God to change their circumstances, they asked Him to change their reaction to the circumstances. I love this submission to God’s power and providence. The Greek word translated as “Lord” in Acts 4:24 is despotes – what we would call a “despot” or “tyrant.” When is the last time you humbled yourself before Christ as your LORD, and not just as your mechanic, doctor, therapist, or ATM?

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