“I have kept the faith.”

I often try to sort of visualize some of the people of the Bible. These were real folks, they just lived a long time ago. You can tell from reading God’s Word that they were in many ways just like us. Paul in prisonThey faced obstacles; they had personal problems which sometimes were the results of their own weaknesses or even sins. Of course one of the most significant people in the Bible was Paul of Tarsus. If you want to think about something, think what would have become of Christianity and the cause of Christ if there’d been no Apostle Paul.

But sometimes it’s just little things in the Scriptures that can give a glimpse into some unknown areas of someone’s heart and soul. To me, an example of this is in what was probably the last thing Paul wrote before his execution, in the last chapter he wrote. paul writing in prisonIn II Timothy 4:7 Paul wrote to Timothy, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” I’ve always felt this was Paul, looking back over his life and summing it up, as his execution drew near.

But what summed it up? “I have kept the faith.” That was precious to Paul, what he seemed to consider perhaps his greatest accomplishment. It’s easy for us to think, “Well, how about all those cities he preached the Gospel in? What about all the writing he did which we’re still reading today?” But if Paul had wavered, if he’d succumbed to doubt, if he’d been defeated spiritually, there would have been none of those other things. Or his testimony would have been besmirched.

Doubt is such an awesome, heinous and often successful foe of us all. So much of the Devil’s power is in fear. But the same could also be said for doubt. Paul said at the end of his life, “I have kept the faith.” How often was Paul hit with doubts? Probably every single day.

With Paul, it didn’t have to be those subtle little things that often try to creep into our minds and get us to wonder and question God’s Word or His ways. He was face to face, confronting evil spirits inhabiting some of the people he witnessed to. But much more often Paul was battling with unbelief, heathen darkness, ingrained worldly mindsets and systems of thought that were the most respected and exalted in his world. He was confronting his own people to tell them that “the law was given by Moses but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17), or to put it in his own words “the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Or he was teaching about “the unknown god” (Acts 17:23) to the philosophers of the Greeks. Paul was probably the most robust conqueror and fighter for the Lord’s cause from the times of the Early Church and perhaps of all times.

Lot flees Sodom, his wife looks back.

Lot flees Sodom, his wife looks back.

What does it mean to us? I personally want to be able to say at the end of my life, like Paul did, “I have kept the faith.” Because, honestly, as we all know, quite a lot of folks are not really able to say that as their life goes forward. They “look back” (Genesis 19:26), like Lot’s wife. They “put their hand to the plow and look back” (Luke 9:62), like Jesus talked about. They “cast away their confidence” (Hebrews 10:35); they fail to “hold on to their crown” (Revelation 3:11).

I read a lot of Christian writers and some of them talk about what they see as “the evils of the Catholic church”. A perhaps even larger group is vehement about what they see as “the evils of Islam”. But I never hear of some young Christian who was once strong in their faith but now they are Jesuit priests or Carmelite nuns. Neither do I hear of formerly strong Christians who are now jihadist, training in Yemen. But we certainly hear of some, even many, who were once Christians, even what seemed to be strong Christians and they’ve now renounced the Lord and are overcome by doubts, confusion or bitterness. They’ve effectively left the light of the Lord and are now, seemingly willingly, in darkness. Do you know some like that? I know a lot of folks like that.

I feel that’s the greatest danger to faith in our times. Not Catholicism or Islam but doubt, confusion, the pride of man and the devices that Satan’s been using against the people of faith for thousands of years.sharing the Word with joy What’s the solution? We are to be “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, abounding with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:7) We are to “exhort one another, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13) We are to be “not ignorant of the enemy’s devices” (II Corinthians 2:11). We are to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…”(Colossians 3:16)

In short, we are to keep the faith. And going beyond that, we are to share the faith with others , not just preserve ourselves in some kind of defensive war. We’re to be a fruit bearing bride of Christ. “Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, so shall you be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

Every single day the enemy of God tries to slip in his gas of deceit under the door of our minds and lives. He sows doubt, confusion, seeming-to-be “facts” to try to cause us to be “shaken in mind” (II Thessalonians 2:2). May we all stand “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as you know that your labor is not vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:58) “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

Acts Chapter 8 Live Class Audio

In our class on Acts chapter 8, we begin to move on from the time of the foundation of the Early Church in Jerusalem. [The live audio class can be heard here.] As often happens, God had to use persecution to push His people onward to what He had originally called them to do. We talked about what the Lord had told His disciples in Acts chapter 1, verse 8. “But you shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.

“You shall be witnesses…in all the world” (Acts 1:8)

“You shall be witnesses…in all the world” (Acts 1:8)

But now we’re at Acts chapter 8. Had the disciples obeyed Acts 1:8? Well, somewhat. They’d certainly been faithful to witness in Jerusalem. But what about the other areas? They weren’t called to bunch up there in Jerusalem but to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) But like all of us, it’s sometimes not totally clear to our minds what the Lord meant, even when He told us plainly.

“Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30)

“Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30)

Someone said one time, If you don’t Acts 1:8, God will Acts 8:1! What does that mean? Well, the Early Church had stacked up huge numbers of converts and new disciples in Jerusalem. But, in the big picture, God had told them to go into all the world. So ultimately God had to send persecution their way in order to force them out.

Acts 8:1 says “And in that day there was a great persecution on the church at Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” That could sound bad and I suppose in some ways it was. But then the really good news is Acts 8:4 “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.

That was really what it was all about. Why should anyone hear the gospel twice when so many have not heard it once? So the persecution in Acts 8 resulted in a spreading abroad of the good news, many new souls were won and people outside Jerusalem were witnessed to for the first time.

Again we talked in our class about “old bottles and new bottles” (Luke 5:37-39). Even for the evangelists going to the Samaritans, that was something that could “break the bottles” of the religiously conservative and devout from the circle of the Jewish priests. “The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” (John 4:9) But in Acts 8 the Lord was having them reap a great harvest there. Probably it was controversial to some of the Hebrews of those days, even if they had come to believe in Jesus.

But Peter said to him, “repent". (Acts 8:22)

But Peter said to him, “Repent”. (Acts 8:22)

One of the biggest conversations we had in our class was about salvation. Actually we talk about that a lot, basic things like that. In Acts 8 there was a man who, the Bible says, “believed and was baptized”  (Acts 8:13). But later he told the apostles he would give them money if they would give him the power to lay hands on people so that they could receive the Holy Ghost. Then Peter said to him, “repent; for you are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of inequity”  (Acts 8:22 & 23). So we had a pretty rousing discussion about that. Was the man saved and needed to get delivered from some major sins? Or was he not saved in the first place? I won’t go into it all here but it’s in the recording of the class

And at the end of the chapter we zeroed in on some of the more esoteric verses in the book of Acts when it sounds like Philip the evangelist, after wining and baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch, was caught up or translated, moved physically from one place to the other, by the Holy Spirit. That opened up the kind of conversation you don’t usually find in church on Sunday morning.

We had a good class. And again, overall it was about witnessing, winning souls, obeying the voice of the Lord through the Holy Spirit and just plain frontier, Early Church Christianity. And that’s really the best kind. [The live audio class can be heard here.] I hope these are a blessing to and that you are as thrilled as we are to delve into these chapters and to have your vision refreshed in Him. God bless you!


Daniel chapter 9 video progress

Thanks for your prayers, things are going well. Over the last month I’ve been able to work on the first of two videos on Daniel chapter 9. When talking about that chapter, it’s really hard to do the subject justice. Here are a few thoughts.

The prophet Daniel, reading the prophecies of Jeremiah. Daniel 9:2

Daniel, reading the prophecies of Jeremiah. Daniel 9:2

There are perhaps two chapters which are the most significant and important prophetic chapters in the Old Testament: Isaiah 53 and Daniel chapter 9. Or so it’s always seemed to me. The chapters in Daniel that I’ve done videos on till now, chapters 2, 7 and 8, all lay the groundwork for and lead up to the truth revealed in Daniel chapter 9. The remaining chapters in Daniel 9, chapters 10, 11 and 12, all build upon the foundation of revelation made plain in Daniel  9.

But then, is it really right to say that things are “made plain” in Daniel chapter 9? What if you tried to get the main points of history for the next two or three thousand years compacted into three or four verses? That’s how Daniel 9 is. Actually, there are only four verses in the chapter that are prophetic. In the video I’m working on now, I’m focusing on the first three of those, verses 24 to 26.

The beasts of Daniel 8. No beasts in Daniel 9.

The beasts of Daniel 8. No beasts in Daniel 9.

This chapter is somewhat advanced. And it is concentrated. There’s a tremendous amount of information conveyed in very few words. In Daniel 7 and 8 there were visualizations of beasts, representing nations or kingdoms. There aren’t any beasts in this chapter. The angel Gabriel is just giving the prophet Daniel the straight Word of God.

Many believers, of whatever denomination or even faith, know next to nothing about the truths revealed in this chapter. Personally, I believe that God has a foreknowledge of events in our world. God has a destiny foreordained for mankind and it’s going to be fulfilled. We individually have free choice and we’re responsible for our choices. But God has an overall design for mankind. Daniel chapter 9 is one of the clearest examples in the Bible of God’s foreknowledge and involvement in the ultimate destiny of mankind.

For those of you who don’t know anything about the chapter, here’s a brief synopsis. Around 539 BC, Daniel is reading the prophet Jeremiah and he comes to realize that Jeremiah’s prophecy of a 70 year captivity of the Jews is just about to be finished. Daniel then prays a long and desperate prayer for God to forgive His people and to act on their behalf.

At the end of this prayer, the angel Gabriel again appears to Daniel, as he had at other times. But Gabriel’s message was not about the 70 years prophecy of Jeremiah. God had something far greater and more important in mind, the salvation of all peoples and the bringing in of God’s Kingdom on earth.

Crucifixiion of Jesus for blog postGabriel proceeded to tell Daniel of an exceedingly specific length of time between a future decree to rebuild Jerusalem and “Messiah the Prince” (Daniel 9:25), a period of 483 years. Gabriel went on to say that after “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself” (Daniel 9:26), that the future temple and the rebuilt city of Jerusalem would again be destroyed. As is brought out in the video, Jesus of Nazareth was crucified around 33 AD.

Fall of Jerusalem, 70 AD

Fall of Jerusalem, 70 AD

In 70 AD, the Roman legions of Titus surrounded Jerusalem and destroyed the city and the sanctuary. Israel was effectively ended and the Jews were scattered among all nations for nearly 1900 years.

I hardly know of another prophecy in the Bible that’s so all encompassing, so historically based and so profound in its evidence of God’s hand in the history of mankind. And yet, as I said above, it’s virtually unknown, even to most sincere and devout Christians. Perhaps it’s because this chapter is rather dense and compacted. There are numbers, dates and historical facts involved which can get to be a bit hard to chew and digest. That’s what I’m really working on right now, to try to make this as easy to understand as possible. I’m also including a good deal of visual aids in this video, as I have in others.

If things continue to go well, I’m hoping to have this video available to view by the end of May. Of course I can’t be absolutely sure about this but that’s my goal. It’s primarily focusing on verses 24 to 26; the ones that cover what’s called “the 69 weeks”, for those of you who already know a little about the chapter.

Then the next video after this will zoom in on just one verse, the last one in Daniel 9, verse 27. That verse is pretty much the crux and the keystone around which all future prophecy, still yet to be fulfilled, is based. I’m very focused and inspired to be working on these things right now. So, the end of May; that’s the date I’m shooting for to make this first Daniel 9 video available. Thanks for your prayers for this project, God bless you, Mark

The Book of Acts Chapters 6 and 7 Live Class Audio

In our class on Acts, we went over the short chapter 6 and the much longer chapter 7. Acts 6 in many ways was about fairly practical things. The number of the disciples had increased so much that just managing the physical side of things got to be too much for the apostles. [The live class audio can be heard here.]

The Apostles pray for the 7 deacons in Acts 6.

The Apostles pray for the 7 deacons in Acts 6.

So they said, “It is not fitting for us to leave the Word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren appoint seven men from among you that we can set over this business. But we will give ourselves to the Word of God and prayer.” (Acts 6: 2 & 3) Everyone felt right about that; then the apostles laid hands on the seven who were chosen and prayer for them.

Well, in our class that we had, we got into a rather big discussion at one point about Acts 6:7 where it says “a great companion of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Some in the class put forward the idea that this didn’t say or mean that the priests had become believers in Jesus but just was commending them for their obedience to Judaism and the laws of Moses.

"A great company of the priests were obedient to the faith."

“A great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”

I certainly don’t teach it like that. A good number of the priests in Jerusalem were moving out of the circle they had been in and into the circle of the Christians. But there’s the rub. It’s like Jesus said about “old bottles and new bottles”  (Luke 5:37-39). A continual question at  the time of the Early Church was how much of the old ways and traditions of Judaism should be carried over into the new moment and society that was being formed. “No man having drunk old wine straightway desires new.”  (Luke 5:39). This is a continual theme as we go further through Acts. And like some said in the class, this is still a big question for many believers in our times.

The siege of Jerusalem, 70 AD

The siege of Jerusalem, 70 AD

All these events in Jerusalem, around 35 AD, were against the backdrop of Bible prophecy. In Daniel chapter 9, the angel Gabriel had forewarned that after the Messiah was cut off, the city and the sanctuary would be destroyed again. God knew that this was going to happen in the lifetimes of many of those people. And it did happen in 70 AD when the Roman legions of Titus invaded Israel, surrounded Jerusalem and destroyed the city and the temple. Israel was effected ended as a nation, over 1 million were killed and the Jews were scattered among all nations for the nearly the next 1900 years.

So, considering all that, it’s amazing  to see the intense work of the Holy Spirit to win the hearts of the people of Jerusalem at this time, that they accept and receive their risen Savior and get on board with the way God was moving, even to the saving of their own physical lives in the next few decades to come.

The climax of all this was in Acts chapter 7. One of the seven men who’d been chosen in Acts 6 to be deacons and to oversee the physical side of things was Stephen, “a man full of faith and the Holy Ghost” (Acts 6:7), who also worked miracles at that time.

In the same way that Peter and John had been hauled before the religious authorities, Stephen was brought before them after they couldn’t stop his preaching and miracles. Stephen, in his witness to this religious council, gave a long and learned account of the history of his people to those assembled to judge him.acts 6 Stephen and the priests But as he recounts the history of Israel, Stephen doesn’t exactly glorify the Jewish people. He glorifies God, but he brings up incident after incident in the history of Israel where the people had rejected the messengers God had sent to them.

At the end of his speech to his accusers, Stephen said this to them.  “You stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You do always resist the Holy Ghost. As your fathers did, so do you!”  (Acts 7:51 & 52) His accusers rushed on him and the Bible says they even bit him with their teeth. Next they dragged him out of the city and stoned Stephen to death.

The stoning of Stepen

The stoning of Stepen

Thus ended the first phase of the history of the Early Church. Stephen’s martyrdom in Jerusalem precipitated a huge persecution against the Christians there and the Bible says very many of them fled the persecution, moving out to other nearby cities and towns. And “they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4)

So it’s an amazing, significant, griping chapter in the history of Christianity. The live audio class is 48 minutes long and you can hear it here. I hope these classes are a blessing to you if you’re listening to them. For me, it’s such an inspiration and a check on my heart and spirit to read these things again and to let the Word of God search my heart and draw me towards the acts and deeds and commitment of the early Church. God bless you!


Acts Chapter 5 Live Class Audio

Annanias deadWe’re continuing our study of the book of Acts in our weekly classes here and recently we did Acts 5. [Here you can find the link to the audio of the live class.] One of the big things we talked about in relation to this chapter was fear, the fear of God and the fear of man.

To those who are not familiar with Acts chapter 5, I’ll copy in here the first 11 verses of the chapter and this will help you to understand why we talked about fear in the class.

(Act 5:1)  And a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.  (Act 5:2)  And he kept back part of the price, his wife also knowing, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Act 5:3)  But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart for you to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? (Act 5:4)  While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own authority? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God. (Act 5:5)  And hearing these words, Ananias fell down and expired. And great fear came on all those who heard these things.(Act 5:6)  And the younger ones arose, wound him up, and carrying him out, they buried him. (Act 5:7)  And it was about the space of three hours afterward, when his wife (not knowing what was done) came in. (Act 5:8)  And Peter answered her, Tell me whether you sold the land for so much? And she said, Yes, for so much.Annaniass wife (Act 5:9)  Then Peter said to her, How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door and they will carry you out. (Act 5:10)  Then at once she fell down at his feet and expired. And the younger ones found her dead, and, carrying her out, buried her beside her husband. (Act 5:11)  And great fear came on all the church and on as many as heard these things.

Pretty heavy stuff. And like someone said in our class, “This isn’t from the Old Testament, it’s from the New!”  Ananaias and his wife dropped dead after being confronted by Peter for their lying to God. “God is not mocked.” (Galatians 6:7) You can’t play games with God. At the beginning of the early church, the standard had to stay high and there was no place for hypocrisy or deceit. But the people magnified them. And no one joined themselves to the church but the Lord added daily.

And even the shadow of Peter passing by brought healing to some. (See Acts 5:15) Someone in the class said that sounded almost like something Catholic. But then we talked about that and how for hundreds of years, there was nothing but the Catholic Church. And God had ones like St. Patrick, Columbanus, ColumbaGellért in Budapest and so many more who were apostles to peoples across Europe and around the world, many of whom died a martyr’s death. Some would tell us that all those folks will go to hell because they were Catholics. I certainly don’t think that’s the way it is. God worked with the faith that people had then. Many people had no knowledge of God at all and could not read or write before the apostles of their day came to their land. So God did some things back then in the way of unusual miracles that are not normal any longer in our times.

The chapter continues with more persecution. Peter and John were thrown into prison (again) but this time they were released by an angel who told them bluntly, “Go, stand and speak in the temple, to the people, all the words of this life.” (Acts 5:20) peter and priestAnd when Peter and John did have to face the religious authorities (again) they again didn’t shilly-shally or pull their punches. They told the high priest that they had killed their prince and their Savior. When the religious authorities commanded them not to teach in the name of Jesus anymore, Peter and John told them, “We ought to obey God, rather than man.” (Acts 5:29)

When they had beaten them, they let them go.

When they had beaten them, they let them go.

So this is a strong, emphatic chapter. Of course it’s just so good to get in the Word together with others, to see how God worked in those first days of the Christian era. God is love, Jesus is pictured as the gentle Lamb of God, and the fruits of the Spirit begin with love, joy and peace. But also, life’s a serious business. In the early church era, it was a wonderful, but also an awesome and perhaps even a frightening experience at times.

Many equate fear with something bad. And often that can be true. But there’s a verse that has always spoken to me, “The fear of the Lord is clean.” (Psalm 19:9) Acts 5:11 says “And great fear came on all the church.” But it wasn’t a debilitating, hindering fear. It brought wisdom, sobriety, and Godly caution. This all resulted in a time of tremendous growth and reaping. “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” (Acts 5:14) The chapter ends with another stirring verse which may capture the spirit of those times. “And daily in the temple and in ever house they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” (Acts 5:42)  [You can find the link to the 40 minute audio of the live class here.]

The movie “Noah”

I just saw the movie “Noah”. I’m glad I went, it was good.Noah first picture

“Oh, Mark, how can you say that!?”

Well, there are a lot of reasons. When I want the pure truth of God’s Word, I of course read my Bible and believe the account of Genesis. But I part company with all the strident folk who think that a movie has to be 110% Bible-based before it can have some strong redeeming features. Tell me a movie that’s been 100% perfect in the eyes of the guardians of the faith and I’ll probably tell you of one that is cheesy, slick and possibly trying so hard to be true to the Scriptures that it ends up being shallow, poorly acted and possibly with some denomination’s baggage included in it.

Methuselah with his great grandson, Seth

Methuselah with his great grandson, Seth

Some Christians remind me of the princess and the pea. She was so refined she felt a pea under the 100 mattresses she slept on. But the Bible says, “To the hungry soul, ever bitter thing is sweet.”  (Proverbs 27:7b) Instead of being critical, maybe we should think of the multitudes worldwide who’ve basically never heard anything of the story of Noah. Most of us would have to admit that there’s quite a lot of truth portrayed in this movie which may turn out to be pretty “sweet” to all those “hungry souls”. That’s who we should be thinking about anyway, not some pea under the mattresses that offends us.

Tubalcain, leader of the forces of the earth against Noah

Tubalcain, leader of the forces of the earth against Noah

Yes, some parts of the Noah movie use a large amount of “artistic license”. Like others have mentioned, it includes things from the book of Enoch, an apocryphal book that delves into fallen angels and quite a lot of deeply spiritual stuff that in several places falls outside the way the Bible presents our world, God and the spiritual world.

But on the other hand, it was just a thrill to see a modern movie try to do justice to the time before the Flood. The very first time I ever read a Bible, a few days after I had nearly died and been carried to hell by the devil, I read the first pages of Genesis and it was the story of Noah that touch my heart.

“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. And it repented the Lord that He had made man on earth. And it grieved him at His heart.”  (Genesis 6: 5 & 6)

When I first read that, I remember how my reaction was that I just felt sorry for God. It certainly wasn’t a surprise to me to read what was written there. I knew in myself what a depraved person I’d become and I knew how our world is today, not too far different from the days of Noah.

Noah and familySo it was great to see professional movie makers try to do justice to this incredible subject. To see that time depicted as it must have been, to see Noah and his family trying to make their way in that world and to have God, in His special way, to communicate to Noah His intentions, was a very fascinating and fulfilling thing.

Noahs familyThere’s so much that could be written about. Yes, the plot has some major parts that are not found in the Bible. But the abiding message of the movie is summed up in a wonderful verse from the New Testament. “He will have judgment without mercy who has showed no mercy. And mercy rejoices against judgment.”  (James 2:13) That’s the message. Love and mercy when it seems there’s every reason for judgment.

Like I’ve read of the story of Napoleon, when one of his young soldiers had run away from the battle for the second time. He was to be shot but his mother pled with Napoleon for mercy. “He doesn’t deserve mercy”, Napoleon told her. “Sir,” she cried, “If he deserved it, it wouldn’t be mercy.” So true. In the end, even Noah in the movie had to learn of mercy and love.

So this movie, for all the points that the literalists can quibble about, really has a lot of solid meat from the truths of God in it. Some complain, “Oh it doesn’t say God! It says ‘the Creator’!”

So what! I’ve been a disciple of Jesus for over 40 years but I still remember well what it’s like to be a stone cold atheist. This movie can do a real work on the unbelievers. Isn’t that a good thing? I don’t think it’s going to stumble any Christians. Or Jews or Muslims for that matter. But it might really make an impression on multitudes of those who are in the darkness of unbelief. Isn’t that what we should be thinking about?

Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in “Ghost”

Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in “Ghost”

Can’t we use it as a springboard for witnessing to people? Like I wrote about in the blog post about the movie “Ghost”, I was witnessing to a young man 20 years ago in Budapest and at one point, in agreement with something I had said to him, he said, “I know, I know. I saw “Ghost”. That movie had witnessed to him and opened his eyes to the spiritual world. I think this movie also can get a lot of people thinking or wondering or just considering the whole thing that they maybe never even heard of before.

In I Corinthians 7:31, Paul said, “And they that use this world as not abusing it…We need to learn how to use the world but not let it use us. We can use this movie, and the large measure of good and positive truth that is in it, as a springboard to our witness.

LIke someone has said, “Some Christians are so afraid of everything, they don’t have nothing!” Some Christians were famous 100 years ago for saying, “We can’t use the radio because the Devil uses the radio!” “We can’t use the piano because the Devil uses the piano!”  And they often ended up spiritual barren and forgotten as fearful, narrow-minded religious extremists.

God forbid that that should happen to any of us. Go to the movie, enjoy it. “Chose the good and eschew the evil.” (I Peter 3:11) And then use it to enhance your witness and tell people about the awesome, just, but also loving and merciful, God of Noah.

Acts Chapter 4 Live Class Audio

Acts 4 arrestedThis is the fourth class on the book of Acts that we’ve had a group study and discussion on here. In the class before this we went part of the way into Acts 4. But this time, we started again at the beginning and went through the entire chapter. (The full audio of the Acts chapter 4 class can be heard here.)

A few subjects we touched on even before we got far into the class are:

  • How does the future church of the Last Days related to or learn from the foundational church in the book of Acts?
  • Will the body of Christ in the final End Time return full circle and end up being similar to the Early Church? Without material power or ostentatious ceremonies and assemblies?
  • Who exactly were the Pharisees and the Sadducees and how can you easily remember the difference?

One thing we delved into was what Peter told the religious council that had summoned him. In this chapter, there are a cluster of verses  that are like a brilliant constellation of major “stars” of Scripture.

Act 4:10  Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.  Act 4:11 This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.  Act 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.  Act 4:13  Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

In verse 10 there, Peter and John just could not have been more straightforward in pointing out that the Jesus they’d recently crucified there in Jerusalem was the power behind the healing of the lame man. Then, to further their point, they quoted a well known verse from that time from the Old Testament, Psalm. 118:22 “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner.” Jesus Himself had quoted that verse to them months earlier in relation to their rejection of Him as their Lord and Savior. (see Matthew 21:42)

Bu there was more. The next verse famously says, “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) This is one of the most well known doctrines concerning Christianity and one of the ones that seems most difficult for many people. But then Jesus said the same thing of Himself in His lifetime in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no many comes to the Father but by me.” We spent some time in the class examining the implications of these verses and how they still impact people today.

Acts 4 Priests rageSo when the priests commanded Peter and John not to teach or preach anymore in the name of Jesus, did they obey the priests? You probably know the answer. We talked about that in the class and what it still means to all Christians.

At the time of Acts 4, the entire Christian witness and Christian church of God was centered in Jerusalem. It was a time of intense reaping. The sowing had been going on for all the 3 years of Jesus’ ministry but the time of decision had come and many did come over to the side of faith in Jesus. Acts 1-7 is all about this extremely important time in the history of the Jewish people when the gospel was preached to them in Jerusalem.

And then at the end of the chapter we hear again of the economic plan and program that was an integral part of the Early Church at that time. We saw this first in our class on Acts chapter 2. Here it says something very similar.

Acts 4 32-35Act 4:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.  Act 4:33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.  Act 4:34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,  Act 4:35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

For many modern Western ears, especially Christian ears, this sounds decidedly like Marxism-Leninism. But was it? Were the early Christians Communists? This was what much of the last part of the class was about.

I’m just seeing more and more how the Lord makes it so that things can be shared in these small group circumstances that just don’t seem possible to be said in large churches on Sunday in these times. I hope this summary is a blessing to you and that you’ll get a chance to listen to the full class.

Yours in Him,