Acts 17 Live Class Audio

Acts 17 is a beautiful and triumphant chapter, showing obedience to the commandment Jesus gave His disciples after His resurrection when He said, “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you. And you shall be witnesses unto me …unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Paul preaching in Athens

Paul preaching in Athens

In our live class on Acts 17, we saw the Apostle Paul as he witnessed both to the Jews and especially to the Greeks of Athens. The audio recording of our Acts 17 live class can be heard here.

We talking about how this chapter shows so much of the character and heart of the Apostle Paul. In the second half of Acts 17, at one point he is witnessing to fully pagan Greeks. Did he tell them they were all worshiping devils and that they’d all burn in hell? No, he didn’t. His purpose was to win souls.

But at the beginning of the chapter, when he was witnessing to the Jews, it says in Acts 17:2 & 3 “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.”

We talked about how Paul must have used Isaiah 53, the chapter that so clearer foretells the suffering of the Messiah to come. It’s one of the most astounding prophecy chapters in the Bible and the one that perhaps encapsulates the life of Jesus, more than any other chapter in the Old Testament.

But, just as happened to Paul in Acts 13, the Jews, “moved with envy” (Acts 17:5), gathered a mob and accused Paul and his friends of “turning the world upside down”, “doing contrary to decrees of Caesar”. (Acts 17:6 & 7)

If they’d come with religious accusations to the authorities, they wouldn’t have listened to them. So they had to try to make it something political. But actually it was religious envy at the core of it all. “The time will come that whoever kills you will think they do God service.” (John 16:2)

In Athens, Paul passes by the altar “To the unknown god”

In Athens, Paul passes by the altar “To the unknown god”

So this pattern we see here in this chapter is something that had happened before and would happen later in Acts. And it has been repeated in history for centuries when radical discipleship Christians stand up for the Lord and refuse to be cowered by the jealousies and power of the older church which no longer was moving with the white hot fires of the Spirit of God.

We went over that in our class how many denominations have come out of once “on fire” groups of believers. The Church of England came out of the Catholic Church back in the 1500’s. John Wesley led the Methodist Revival movement which eventually came out of the Church of England. And England was swept with Christian fervor and revival at the same time as nearby France was suffering the terrors of the French Revolution. Then later, after Methodism began to cool, William Booth led the Salvation Army out of the Methodist 150 years ago.

And of course we paused at Acts 17:11, which says, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so”. That verse is often remembered and quoted, about the Bereans who didn’t just listen to Paul but went back home and checked with Scripture on whether what he’d been telling them was the truth. Just one verse, but it’s famous for being how all of us should be in digging into the Scriptures personally to be certain of the truth ourselves.

Paul witnessing in AthensAnd then we have the beautiful, deep witness that Paul gave to the Athenians on Mars Hill, as he told them about “the unknown god”, the Creator. If ever there is a witness to us Christians of someone’s love for the lost, even the intellectual lost, this is it. No condemnation, no ranting and talk of the devil, just expounding and explaining to them about something most of them had maybe never heard of, the God of creation.

It’s a beautiful and significant chapter, not just as history but an example to us all of how, as Solomon said, “a true witness delivereth souls”. (Proverbs 14:25) God help us all to be more like that. The live audio of our Acts 17 class can be heard here. I hope you’ll be able to listen to it and that it will be a blessing to you.

 

A tender heart

too old to cry-flattened-croppedIt was a continual source of embarrassment for me, growing up, that I would from time to time cry. Young men in Texas just didn’t cry; in fact men overall just didn’t cry. It was a serious sign of weakness and a lack of manliness. But I was appalled with myself, as I became a teen, that I would still cry from time to time. There’s more to the story, I was in a situation that I won’t go into. But at the time, it just seemed like there was an overwhelming amount of cruelty and hopelessness that continually broke my heart. I was deeply embarrassed by it all.

Then in my twenties I met some people a generation older than me who were for me, at the time, a real sample of Christianity. Prodical son pictureAnd I strongly noticed that they cried rather easily. They cried for the heartbreak of others. They cried for the young people of that time who were lost and wandering around the nation. It was like what the Bible says about Jesus, “But when He saw the multitude, He was moved with compassion upon them, for they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:26)

And having recently come to the Lord, I learned that Jesus Himself cried. It says in John 11:35, “Jesus wept”. I learned that King David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, oh God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) So God does not despise a broken heart. In fact it says, “The Lord is near to them who are of a broken heart and saves such as be of a contrite spirit.”  (Psalm 34:18) I began to feel a little better. Maybe this tendency I had to cry rather easily was, in God’s eyes, perhaps more an asset than a liability. I was beginning to think that it could be good to be tender-hearted.

Its your problem-flattenedOf course in the ways of the world, “the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2), nothing can be further from the truth. The only way to be is utterly and complete heartless, unmoved by anything. This is the way of “a true man”, the goal for every male on the planet. So would the godless of this world say and have it.

But not in the eyes of God. You don’t find too many times in the Bible where it specifically says that Jesus was angry. And if you know anything about the Bible, you probably know that it doesn’t say Jesus went bursting into a brothel or a bar with a whip He had made. But it does say that He did that in the temple in Jerusalem to confront the merchants who were commercializing the worship of God there. But another time it is even clearer. Here’s a passage in Mark chapter 3 which perhaps shows how He felt about having a hardened, cruel heart.

man with weithered hand“And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the Sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And He said unto the man which had the withered hand, “Stand forth”. And He said unto them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill?” But they held their peace. And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He said unto the man, “Stretch forth your hand”. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. (Mark 3:1-5)

Jesus of Nazareth was angry at the hardness of their hearts, that they were more concerned about dutiful law-keeping than they were about the needs of the crippled man.

If you have a tender heart, if you cry easily, don’t worry about it. Maybe it’s a gift. Maybe you should thank God that you don’t have the demonically cold, compassionless heart that is the goal of so many in our world today. Maybe you should ask God to help you “keep your heart with all diligence”. (Proverbs 4:23)

We can’t just go around all the time, blubbering along in our tears and being a total basket case emotionally. But if you bring your tender heart to the Lord and ask Him to fill it with Himself, His Spirit and perhaps especially with His Word, you may be able to grow into a compassionate, healthy human being, healthy not only in the physical but also in the things of the heart as well as the mind and the spirit. He’s promised to give us a “sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7). But another great promise is, “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart.” (Psalm 37:34) God bless you and keep you broken, compassionate and full of love for God and your fellow human beings.

Acts 16 live class audio

Paul Acts 16In Acts 16, Paul was back out “on the road”, obeying what the Lord had told him would be his future and destiny, “to bear my [Jesus’] name before the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15). (You can listen to our live class on Acts 16 here.)

Paul and his companions, first Barnabus and then later Silas, had already experienced severe, violent persecution in our earlier chapters. But in Acts 16, at one point they seemed to have a new dilemma: struggling to find the direction God was leading.

They were back in the area they’d been in before, what is today modern Turkey, and they were visiting regions they had been in before. But then it says, “They were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia.” (Acts 16:6) OK, they might have said, “Let’s just head off this direction”. But then it says, “They attempted to go into Bithynia. But the Spirit did not allow them.” (Acts 16:7)

I don’t know about you but I think at this point they might have gotten confused or perhaps even angry or discouraged. “Jesus, we’re out here in virtual “enemy territory” and then everywhere we turn, your Holy Spirit keeps telling us no! What’s up, Jesus?

Probably they didn’t exactly say that or react that way but maybe it was a temptation. But it all turns out to be an incredible lesson on following the leading of God and God’s direct revelations. It says next, “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A certain man of Macedonia stood, begging him, saying, Come over into Macedonia and help us!” (Acts 16:10)come to Macedonia

That was it! That was why they weren’t supposed to go to those other places! So immediately they got going that new direction, on toward Macedonia and the beginning of Christianity on the continent of Europe.

God wanted them to go to the major cities and centers, rather than getting off somewhere in the boonies, which is what Bithynia, along the coast of the Black Sea, was in those days. He wanted them to win leaders and people He could raise up to reach their own people in their area. And that’s what happened.

The rest of the chapter is a classic example of the Lord opening doors for Paul and his friends as they “pioneer” a new city, Philippi. The Lord raised up new friends and converts who became disciples as well as hosts and helpers there for the disciples.

And it’s an example for modern missionaries of how you can find people at different levels of belief.Paul by the river It turns out that Paul and Silas met up with some women who came together by a riverside to worship. It says one woman in particular was touched by their witness, Lydia. This woman believed in God, but Paul and his friends were able to share with her the whole council of God. It’s a similar situation to the ones later in Acts 19:2, they knew the baptism of John but that’s all they knew and had heard about. In our Christian witnessing, quite often we find ones who know some about God, they believe some. But then the Lord brings you along so you can share with them truths from the Word and from the life of faith that they’ve never before seen or heard about.

And it seems that in nearly every chapter Paul and his companions are suffering one kind or another of physical persecution. Later in Acts 16, after casting out the spirit of divination from a young woman, her handlers were furious because their source of income had been ruined. So they caused a riot that made it so that Paul and Silas ended up in prison or jail again.

Paul and jailorAnd a famous salvation verse is found in this chapter. Paul’s jailor came to him after an earthquake in the night had opened the prison doors, and the jailer asked Paul, “Sir, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

So Paul said, “Well first you have to get circumcised and keep the laws of Moses. You have to be accepted into a local synagogue and complete 50 years of training in the Talmud.”

Do you think Paul said that? Maybe he gave him a long lecture on his sins and a list of do’s and don’ts to keep? Nope. Here’s what Paul said to the man, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, and your house.” (Acts 16:30)

Mark! It’s all too easy! Come on, anybody can do that! The bar is too low, Mark!

I didn’t write this, I just read it and believe it. And actually, maybe that’s the whole point. The bar is low, it is easy and anybody can do that.

But sadly so many don’t. Their pride, their intellect, their own understanding, their upbringing, their background and a 1000 other things keep people from simply doing what Paul said to that man right then: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.

So it’s another wonderful chapter and we had a really inspiring class as we discussed these and other aspects of all this. I hope, if you get a chance, you can listen to the live class audio on Acts 16 which can be heard here. God bless you and yours as you witness and win souls for Him, like the ones of the Early Church did.

Acts 15 Live Class Audio

Acts 15 pictureAfter two chapters of real “action” in Acts, our chapter 15 study showed us another aspect of the Early Church, but such an important one. (You can listen to our live class on Acts 15 here.)

Acts 15 seemed a little bit to be a repeat of what happened back in Acts 11. If you read that chapter and read or listened to our live class on Acts 11, you’ll remember that the Apostle Peter basically kind of got in trouble with the brethren back in Jerusalem after he had obeyed the leading of the Holy Spirit in chapter 10 to go and witness to the large group of Roman gentiles who’d been gathered together to hear him.

What will they say-flattened

From Acts 10 and 11

As Peter spoke to the friends and family of Cornelius the centurion, “the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word” (Acts 10:44) and they had a similar experience to what the first Christians had on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. But this didn’t go over well with the brethren back in Jerusalem who at that time were still more than a little conflicted about their own identity and how much they were still required to keep their Jewish traditions and customs.

I hate to say it. And some might censor me for it. But it almost seems like Peter’s following of the Holy Spirit in Acts 10 led to a case of “Old Bottle-ism” with the brethren in Jerusalem, somewhat like what I wrote about in the blog post “New Wine and Old Bottles”. God at times can be a radical God. Following Him can “break your bottle” and shake your foundations, if they are rooted in traditions of man, rather that really being founded on the Rock.

This seemed to have all gotten worked out in Acts 11. But in Acts 15 it all comes up again. This time, instead of the question being, “Do the Jewish followers of Jesus have to stay away from the Gentiles?”, the question is, “If they are to be saved and be Christians, do the Gentiles who come to Jesus have to convert to Judaism?

Here’s where you could think, “Who cares?! This is all just ancient history stuff and theological arguments!”

Ah, but some of you, perhaps many, know how much this whole question is still right on the front burner of millions of Christians’ hearts and minds, 2000 YEARS LATER! That’s why, in our live class, we had a major discussion about the significance of this chapter and what was disputed and discussed within the Early Church. Because, to this day, these things are disputed and millions of fundamentalist evangelical Christians are taught that their diligent observance of Jewish laws and customs will be pleasing to God.

Is it all really by grace? Don’t we have to keep the laws of Moses also? This is not ancient history; this is an acrimonious discussion that goes on daily among Christians in our times. But the answer is still the same as it was in Acts 15. Here to me are the two most important verses in Acts 15, where again the Apostle Peter is having the last word and laying down for the Early Church the facts and reality of what they had learned in Christ, regardless of how well it was received by their Jewish countrymen.

In Acts 15, verses 10 and 11 Peter said,

Peter Acts 15“Now therefore, why do you tempt God to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear. But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved, even as they.”

Can it be clearer than that? Do we need to find a more trustworthy source than the Apostle Peter? This should be the end of it. Here in Acts, it was the end of it, at least for a few chapters. But it’s back; and it goes on still to this day.

Well, I could share the whole chapter here in this post but maybe that’s not necessary. The live class on Acts 15 can be heard here. You can listen to it there or download it so you can listen to it later or share it with others. Acts 15 is one of my favorite chapters in Acts. I love it when you can see brethren “earnestly contending for the faith” (Jude 3) and hearts united in really trying to “search the Scriptures” (John 5:39) and find the truth in them. I hope you enjoy the class and that you’ll find in it the things we did when we studied this chapter. God bless you.

 

 

Acts Chapter 13 live class audio

Acts 13 marks a new beginning in the book of Acts. From here forward, the narrative is primarily about the Apostle Paul, his three missionary journeys, his subsequent arrest in Jerusalem and his trials in courts after that. [You can hear an edited version of our Acts 13 class here.]

Believe it or not, I read a few days ago a Christian web site that questioned whether Paul was really an apostle of God or not. Can you believe that?! Primarily they didn’t like how Paul moved the early church so much towards the gospel of grace, rather than the Mosaic Law, and that the church was less observant of Jewish rituals and traditions as a result of Paul’s teaching and influence. Can you imagine Christians in this day and age thinking, believing and teaching that? Sadly, it’s not highly unusual here.

On their way to Cyprus

On their way to Cyprus

But the book of Acts only gets better, once we enter this stage of where Paul and his companions begin to go even further “into all the world” (Mark 16:15). The chapter starts out at a good place: hearing from God. Verse 2 says “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.’” (Acts 13:2) One of the first things you can see is how the early church was set up, with prophets, fasting, counseling together and really being led of the Lord and the Holy Ghost. And at that point it was still “Barnabas and Saul” but before long it was “Paul and Barnabas”.

Acts 13 map

Paul’s 1st missionary journey

They started out by sailing to the island that Barnabas was from, Cyprus. A lesson that many missionaries have drawn from this chapter is who they first aimed to reach: the governor of the island, Sergius Paulus. They went to the top first.

But when they met him, they found out that the devil had already got there first. A sorcerer, the Bible says, a Jewish false prophet, Elymas, was already Sergius Paulus’s guide and councilor. And Elymus “withstood them, seeking to turn the deputy away from the faith.” (Acts 13:8)

Paul rebukes

Paul rebukes the sorcery

Oh my gosh! The devil is attacking them! What did Paul do? Did he choke up with fear, turn tail and run? Let’s read it. “Then Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, ‘O full of all subtlety and all mischief, you child of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a season.’ And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.” (Acts 13: 9-11)

Don’t you just love the Bible?! No political correctness there, no namby-pamby beating around the bush and politely asking the devil if he would be so kind as to move along now. Just plain, outright spiritual warfare, in the extreme.

rebuke the devil-flattenedIn this case Paul recognized by the Spirit that this Elymas was nothing but an evil “sorcerer” as the Bible calls him and the only solution was to rebuke the devil and the man who was inhabited by the devil.

The results? “Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.” (Acts 13:12) The governor saw the raw power of God, exposing the darkness of Elymas and confirming that Paul and Barnabas were the true apostles of God.

But this isn’t even the best part of the chapter. From Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas sailed north to what is today the Mediterranean coast of modern Turkey. Have you ever heard of the book of Galatians? Well, this is where Paul and Barnabas first preached the gospel to the people of Galatia.

They ended up going into the synagogue on the Sabbath and were invited to speak. As was often the custom of those days, Paul rehearsed the history of Israel to them, similar in many ways to what Stephen did in Acts 7. And when Paul got to the place of David in their history, he told them “Of this man’s seed has God according to His promise, raised unto Israel a Savior.” (Acts 13:23)

It’s just a clear and simple example of witnessing and trying to reach people for Jesus , the Jews in this case, through means and things that they could relate to and understand. Later, when Paul was talking to the Greeks in Athens, his method was totally different

Paul in synagog

Paul in the synagogue

In Acts 13, he told them, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, to you is this word of Salvation sent” (Acts 13:26) and went on to tell them how the Jewish rulers at Jerusalem, “because they knew Him not” (Acts 13:27) had killed their own Savoir.

In our live class, we talked about how Paul witnessed to this people and the similarity and difference we have with what he did. In Acts 13, Paul was not witnessing to Greek philosophers, he was witnessing to solid believers in the God of the Jews. He was reasoning with them, he was sharing the Word with them and in many ways he was showing a great deal of respect to them.

And our class developed into a very good and rousing discussion on witnessing, how to witness to believers in God, whether they be Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox or whatever. Find the points you agree on first. There’s much that we can see in this chapter that can be a lesson to us as to how to witness even in our times. I hope the live class audio [here] will be a blessing to you and that you too will be finding avenues and open doors to witness your faith and to share the gospel and love of God with others, God bless you!

 

Acts Chapter 12 live class audio

Acts 12 is the last chapter where the Apostle Peter is the primary character. After this, from chapter 13 on, the Apostle Paul becomes the central figure. In Acts 12, Peter was continuing to witness and to spread the good news to his brethren the Jews that the long awaited Messiah had indeed come. [You can hear an edited version of our Acts 12 class here.] And because it’s a short chapter, we included the last 8 verses from Acts 11 which sort of set the stage for chapter 12.

An angel awakens Peter in prison

An angel awakens Peter in prison

The chapter nearly starts out with the martyrdom of Peter. It does start with the martyrdom of “James, the brother of John. (Mark 5:37) This man was definitely one of the main disciples as often in the gospels it talks about “Peter, James and John” (Mark 9:2). This James was the brother of John the Beloved who later wrote the gospel of John and the book of Revelation. There’s not a whole lot in the Word about James, the brother of John, except that he evidently was one of the most trusted disciples.

But after the death of James, Peter himself was kept in prison under heavy guard. It was great in our class to go over how this miraculous release of Peter must have actually been. We’re all so used to “instant replays” and 20 different video angles on everything that it could be a little rough to not have all the visuals that must have just been amazing in all this.

The angel commands Peter to follow him

The angel commands Peter to follow him

I’ll let you read it or listen to the class but it’s a remarkable, almost funny story of what happened and what the Lord did to get Peter out of prison then. It just wasn’t God’s time or place for Peter to go to be with Him. So the angel of the Lord, probably quite a few angels, worked out Peter’s release the night before what was most likely going to be his death.

Peter at the gate

Peter at the gate

All the while, prayer was made without ceasing  (Acts 12:5) by the Christians in Jerusalem for Peter. But it seems the situation was so bad that, when Peter actually got to the gate of the house where he knew the brethren were, they wouldn’t even open the gate at first. They just could hardly believe it was true that he had escaped or been released.

To me, one of the main things at this place in the book of Acts is the introduction of three new characters. They’re not really major players in the scheme of things here. But, on the other hand, they are important and will become increasingly so as the book of Acts continues.

One of those mentioned is an early prophet of the church at that time, “Agabus(Acts 11:28). We don’t hear a lot about him here but we certainly will hear more about him later. Another person mentioned is “John, whose surname was Mark: (Acts 12:25). We first hear of him here in Acts 12; it sounds like the main body of the disciples were staying at the house of his mother in Jerusalem.

Church history tells us that this is the man who eventually wrote the book of Mark. And basically it could be considered that the book of Mark is like the gospel of Peter. It seems that Peter was not a man well versed in Greek. But John Mark wrote down what Peter told him of the life of Jesus and that’s what developed into the book of Mark, which is considered by some to have been the first of the four gospels written. We’ll hear more about John Mark in subsequent chapters.

The third person that we first begin to hear more of in this chapter was “James(Acts 12:17). This is not James, the brother of John, who was martyred at the beginning of the chapter but “James the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). For our Catholic friends here this gets difficult. Because, according to Catholic teaching and tradition, Mary and Joseph had no children together after Jesus was born.

But in Mark 6:3 it says, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. We also hear of Jesus’ brothers at the beginning of John 7 and it says of them at this time, “neither did his brethren believe in him”. But according to the Bible, after Jesus’ resurrection “He appeared unto James” (I Corinthians 15:7), one of His brothers. And from what we can read, this James eventually became the leader of the Christians at Jerusalem for the rest of his life. According to church history he was martyred there just one year before the armies of Titus destroyed the city in 70 AD.

In some ways Acts 12 is more action than theology. But it is also a transitional chapter and several new characters we see there will come more to the fore as we go forward in Acts. I hope these classes are a blessing to you and that the live version of this class can help those of you in far off places and without so much Christian fellowship to, at least a little, feel a part of our activities and fellowship here, GBY.

 

Text for “The 69 Weeks” video

[This is the text version of the video, “Daniel Chapter 9-a ‘The 69 Weeks’.]

the commandment to rebuild-flattenedHi again, I’m Mark. For years I’ve been looking forward to this moment when I can be doing what I’m doing right now, sharing Daniel chapter 9 with you.

Because it changed my life. As I’ve mentioned before, I was an unbeliever but then, through a series of experiences, I came to faith in God. Later, when someone shared Daniel chapter 9 with me, I’d never seen anything like that. There’s nothing in this world can tell you, in advance, specifically, “This is going to happen and this is going to happen” and then it happens. But we have a God like that, the God of Abraham.

The first part of Daniel chapter 9 can be called “the 69 weeks” or perhaps more accurately, “the 69 sevens”. This chapter is concentrated. There’s a tremendous amount of information conveyed in very few words. In fact, there are really only 4 prophetic verses in the chapter and we’re going to look at the first 3 of those in this class. To start with, we need to know where we are in Daniel’s life and in the history of the Jews.

Daniel, as a young teenager, had been led away with some of the first captives that had been taken to Babylon from Jerusalem around 604 BC. Dan & Neb for D9 postThen, though a miraculous series of events, Daniel ended up telling Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, his dream, when the king couldn’t remember it.

But Daniel chapter 9 is near the end of Daniel’s life. In his 80’s now and has been working as a government official throughout his life. By this time, it’s not Babylon anymore; it’s the Medes and the Persians. So we’re looking at around 539 BC; the Jews are still in captivity, now under the Persians. Daniel chapter 9 starts like this.

Daniel at desk for D9 blog post“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans, in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years which came by the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” (Daniel 9:1 & 2)

In our times, we look back to the prophecies of Daniel to see our future. But Daniel is looking back to a prophet before him.  We’re finding Daniel reading the prophecies of Jeremiah. Here are the verses Daniel was reading, Jeremiah 29:10 through 13.

“For thus says the LORD, after seventy years are completed at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.” And then the next verse says,For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

That’s a beautiful, comforting verse. God has their best interests in mind. So He’s thinking thoughts of peace and not of evil. Then verse 13 says,And you shall seek Me and find Me when you shall search for Me with all your heart.”

The prophet Jeremiah was perhaps around the age of Daniel’s parents. God had told Jeremiah many years before that Israel was going to be taken captive and carried away to Babylon. And they were going to be there for 70 years. That’s what it says in Jeremiah 29:10, the verse that Daniel was reading. Let’s look at that verse again.

“For thus says the LORD, after seventy years are completed at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

So Daniel understood by reading Jeremiah, “Our captivity is going to be for 70 years.” And do you know how long it had been? It had been around 68 years. So the same way we read Daniel and we go, “Oh my gosh! We’re in the endtime!” Daniel read Jeremiah and he felt almost the same way. “Oh my gosh! Two more years and that 70 year period is up!” So Daniel starts praying. God had told them,And you shall seek Me and find Me when you shall search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

Daniel kneeling for D9 blog postSo Daniel begins to seek God with all his heart. And he’s going to pour out his heart to God, in sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repentance and desperation. He’s praying for his people, he’s praying for his country, prophecy is just about to be fulfilled. This prayer is actually 16 verses long so maybe we can read the first three and last three verses.

“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.  And I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession and said, ‘O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your commandments and Your judgments.'”  (Daniel 9:3-5)

And the last 3 verses of the prayer were

Daniel hands raised for D9  blog post“Now, O our God, hear the prayer of Your servant and his requests, and for the Lord’s sake, cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary which is desolate. O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our ruins and the city which is called by Your name. For we do not present our prayers before You because of our righteousness but because of Your great mercies.O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, hear and act. Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”   (Daniel 9:17-19)

Daniel was seeking God with all his heart. He was confessing his sins and the sins of his people. He was desperate for God to forgive, to heal, to answer the prayers of His people and to fulfill His prophetic Word. So we can go to verses 20 & 21.

Daniel smiling with Gabriel for D9 blog post“And while I was speaking and praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and presenting my cry before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, yea, while I was speaking in prayer, 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 sacrifice. And he informed me and talked with me and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come to give you skill and understanding. At the beginning of your prayers the commandment went forth and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved.'”

There are not too many times in the Bible where an angel says that to someone, “You are greatly beloved”. In fact, this was said twice more to Daniel in Daniel chapter 10. Daniel must have been a really special person. He was greatly loved because he greatly loved the Lord.

“Therefore consider the matter and understand the vision:”

This has been our preparation for those 3 prophetic verses we’re going to be looking at in this class. There aren’t going to be any visions of beasts here, like in the earlier chapters. The angel Gabriel is going to give Daniel the straight Word of God. What if you tried to get the most important things in the history of the world for the next 2 or 3 thousand years into 3 or 4 verses? That’s what we’re going to have right here.

X plus Y underlined flattenedSometimes when I teach this, I use the analogy of Algebra, where you have things like “X” plus “Y” equals 5. So “X” and “Y” are unknowns. At the beginning of this, there are going to be some “unknowns”. The challenge for you is going to be to try to not figure it out right away. Because we’re going to have to wait for it and we’re going to have to put it together. So if you don’t understand this right away, just wrap it up in a bundle of faith and put it on the shelf for the moment. Because we’re going to work on it and we’re going to find it out. So Gabriel was telling Daniel,

Daniel leaned back on stool for D9 blog post“…therefore consider the matter and understand the vision:”  Verse 24 “Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up the vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy.”

Now if you don’t watch out, you’re going to go, “Seventy weeks? Let’s see; 52 weeks in a year…” So you do your math and you get “a year and a half…that doesn’t make sense!”  And you’d be right.English week Hebrew shabua flattened But here’s the first thing you need to know. The English word week in the Hebrew is “shabua”.

That’s the Hebrew word for week. And in Hebrew that didn’t always mean 7 days. We have the word in English “a dozen”. It could be a dozen eggs, a dozen houses; it means 12. I’ll give you another example of this word shabua in the Bible. The most important verse in this chapter for people in our times is Daniel 9:27.

Genesis 2927 and Daniel 927 flattenedOur next class is mainly based around that verse. But an interesting cross reference is Genesis 29:27. Daniel 9:27 connecting with Genesis 29:27, interesting coincidence. It’s talking about Jacob, nearly 1500 years before Daniel. Jacob had to work 7 years for one wife, then 7 for the other wife; then 7 more years for the other things. Genesis 29:27 says, “Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you shall serve with me still another seven years.”

70 Sevens of Years flattenedThat’s another place in the Bible where the Hebrew word “shabau”, “a week”, is used as 7 years. So when it says “70 weeks”, it’s not talking about a year and a half. It’s talking about 70 sevens of years. If you do your math, you go 70 times 7 equals 490. Gabriel is telling Daniel that “70 weeks”, 490 years, are determined  “To make an end of sins”, “to bring in everlasting righteousness”. (Daniel 9:24)

Do we have an end of sins right now in our world? No. Do we have everlasting righteousness right now in our world? No. Maybe in our hearts, we have the kingdom of God within us. But in this world we do not have an end of sins and we do not have everlasting righteousness. So already, from what we can tell so far, this 490 year period has not come to its conclusion, even up to our modern times.

But, we were reading about Daniel praying desperately because that 70 years prophecy of Jeremiah was just about due to be fulfilled. It was just about time for the Jews to be allowed to begin to return to the land they’d been driven from so many years before. But then, the angel Gabriel here seems to start talking about something different. Nothing about that prophecy but about a 490 year period  “to bring in everlasting righteousness.” (Daniel 9:24)

return1final for D9 blog postWhat about that 70 years prophecy of Jeremiah, did it get fulfilled? Yes it did. Two years after this prophecy of Daniel 9, King Cyrus of Persia signed a proclamation allowing the return of the Jews to Jerusalem. And they began to do that in fulfillment of the 70 years prophecy which had been given to Jeremiah.

But it seems God had something else on His mind. Gabriel’s message here to Daniel was about something far, far greater and more important. Gabriel’s message was at the heart of God’s overall plan for all nations, the salvation of all peoples and the bringing in of God’s rule and reign on our very earth.

One thing about these verses, they’re so packed with significance that it’s difficult to make this into a somewhat brief class, especially for those studying this for the first time. There’s much here that could be explored and looked into which I’ll need to pass over for now in order to focus on the most important elements of this message from Gabriel to Daniel.

490 years for D9 blog postSo Gabriel first gave the big picture “Seventy weeks are determined… to make an end of sins to bring in everlasting righteousness”. (Daniel 9:24)  We’re told of “seventy weeks”, a period of 490 years. But then in the next verses, he begins to break those seventy 7’s of years into smaller periods. Verse 25 says

“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again and the wall, even in troublous times.”

The angel Gabriel is talking to Daniel somewhere in Persia, around 539 BC. At this time none of the Jews had even gone back to their homeland yet; they were all still captives. But as I was saying earlier, two years later, they were allowed to begin to return to Jerusalem. But that’s not what this “commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem”  (Daniel 9:25) is talking about.

return2final-fixed-for D9 blog postThe Jews who returned to Jerusalem back then went back to a city that was ruins. They were allowed to go back but they couldn’t really rebuild. Because in those days, to fortify a city, you had to get permission to do that. Because if you have built up a city, you can begin to defend yourself, you could be independent from the Persians.

reworked Throne Room 1 for D9 blog postSo it was actually nearly 100 years after this time,  when Nehemiah poured out his heart to king Artaxerxes of Persia about the sad condition of the Jews who’d returned to Jerusalem, that this commandment to restore and build Jerusalem took place, around 444 BC. That’s what Nehemiah 2:5 records when Nehemiah said,

And I said to the king, “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I pray that you would send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, so that I may build it.”

the commandment to rebuild for D9 blog postThe next verses in Nehemiah are about where Artaxerxes gave a decree to Nehemiah to go back and build. And that’s when the commandment went forth to restore and to build Jerusalem.

So let’s look at verse 25 again in that light. “Know therefore and understand that, from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince,…”

I didn’t believe in God until I was nearly 21 years old. And the first time I read this and saw that it’s speaking specifically about “Messiah the Prince”  in the Old Testament, I’ll tell you, I was really stunned. And I found that there are so many places, in the Old Testament, that specifically foretell a Messiah who would come. This is one of the most amazing ones right here.

new 483 years box for D9 blog post“From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks…”  (a week is seven years) 7 times 7 is 49 so 49 years  “and 62 weeks”. Seven weeks plus 62 weeks equals 69 weeks which would amount to 483 years between “the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem” and “Messiah the Prince.”

It’s almost hard to believe that the angel Gabriel, over 500 years before the birth of Jesus, gave an exceedingly specific prophecy to the prophet Daniel about a 483 year length of time before the arrival of “Messiah, the Prince.” But, you probably wonder, “Was it really exactly that length of time, 483 years?

Let’s look at that. First, it’s beyond the scope of this video to present to you the many historical details of all this. There have been some amazing studies to find the exact year of “the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem”.The Coming Prince photo

A book that has helped me in the study of all this was published in 1894,  “The Coming Prince” by Sir Robert Anderson. Through much study, Robert Anderson found that the king that Nehemiah served, Artaxerxes, gave the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem in 444 BC.

476 years flattenedAnd since Jesus’ years of ministry looks to be between 30 and 33 AD, this would at first glance not fit, since the amount of time from 444 BC to 33 AD equals 476 years, not 483.

But here’s a factor that changes that. Throughout the Bible and in ancient societies, a year was calculated as 360 days, not 365¼ as we know now. Here’s something Sir Isaac Newton, who was an ardent student of the prophecies of Daniel, wrote about this fact

“All nations, before the just length of the solar year was known, reckoned months by the course of the moon, and years by the return of winter and summer, spring and autumn. In making calendars for their festivals, they reckoned thirty days to a lunar month, and twelve lunar months to a year. From this comes the division of the path of the sun’s annual rotation into 360 degrees.”    

Here’s a chart to show this.

69 weeks main chart -11-flattenedThe angel Gabriel said there would be “7 weeks” and “62 weeks”, 69 weeks or 483 years between “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” and “Messiah the Prince”. Historically between 444 BC and 33 AD there are 476 years. (Just to note: we go from 1 BC to 1 AD since there’s no year “0”.)

173880 days-flattenedSo it seems to not quite fit. But let’s do the math. The 483 Jewish years of this prophecy, each having the 360 day year of ancient times, would amount to 173,880 days.

173859 days-flattenedHistory says that 476 of our modern years past between these two periods. 476 years multiplied by 365¼ equals 173,859 days. So 483 years in the ancient world would equal the 476 years that modern history computes between these two key points in this prophecy.

Revelation 11 3D-d for D9 blog postThis same thing can be seen in the book of Revelation. Talking about a future period in the endtime of 3½ years, the length of time is called “42 monthsin chapters 11 and 13. But in several other places in Revelation, the same period is called “a thousand, two hundred and sixty days”.

A period of 42 months, mentioned twice between Revelation 11 and 13 and a similar period of 1260 days, also mentioned twice in those chapters. 42 months divided by 12 months equals 3½ years. And 1260 days, divided by a 360 day year equals 3½ years. These references in Revelation are talking about the same length of time reckoned with years being 360 days.

Let’s look at this all again from a larger view.second main chart for 69 weeks -13-flattenedFirst we are told of “70 weeks”, 490 years, “to bring in everlasting righteousness.” Then within the 70 weeks, a period of 69 weeks, 483 years, from the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince. The 69 weeks are then broken down into periods of 49 years and 434 years. And it says, “the street shall be built again and the wall, even in troublous times.” And the beginning of verse 26 says,And after sixty two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself…”

History shows that it took the Jews 49 years to complete the rebuilding of Jerusalem. In fact, around the time of that completion, about 400 BC, was when the last Jewish prophet, Malachi, received God’s Word for the people. After that, for the next 400 years, there were no more prophets.  For believers back then, this part of the prophecy may have been a real beacon and light to their future. It could almost have been like a road sign, during a long desert crossing, that from the completion of the building of Jerusalem, there would be “62 weeks”, 434 years before the Messiah.

You can read the historical and prophetic books in the Bible from the time after the Jews had come back to Jerusalem and you never hear them saying that they were expecting the Messiah at any moment. But then, in New Testament times, there are repeated references to people who were expecting to see the Messiah in their lifetimes. Perhaps these verses from Daniel chapter 9 were talked about during that time. The Living Bible, says this in Luke chapter 3 verse 15  Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and eager to know whether or not John [the Baptist] was He. This was the question of the hour and was being discussed everywhere.

Wisemen2-fixedMany of us have heard about “the 3 kings of the east”, also called “the 3 wise men” who saw His star in the east at the time of Jesus’ birth and came to worship Him. These wise men, “the magi” or magicians of the east may have known of this prophecy in Daniel 9. We read in Daniel 2 that after Daniel had told Nebuchadnezzar his dream, “Then the king promoted Daniel, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men [the magicians] of Babylon.” (Daniel 2:48) So it’s quite possible the 3 wise men from the east knew the time had come for the birth of the Messiah from this prophecy of the ancient chief of the wise men of Babylon, Daniel himself. They didn’t ask when the king of the Jews was to be born, just where.

Jesus on Cross for D9 blog postBut it even says, And after sixty two weeks shall Messiah be cut off,  but not for himself…”  (Daniel 9:26)  We can look back at this and truly be at a loss for words. The prophecy says  “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself“. The Messiah would be killed, but not for Himself.  And for those of you who know the message of Christianity, you know that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus of Nazareth willingly went to his crucifixion. He was cut off, not for Himself or his sins (He didn’t have any) but to give His life as an offering and a ransom for many. You may not believe that. Certainly I didn’t at all. But then, what can we do with this prophecy? We can doubt it, we can dismiss it, we can wish it wasn’t there. But it is. Not in the Christian writings of the New Testament but in the Hebrew writings of the Old Testament.

But there’s still another equally amazing part to verse 26. Let’s read the full verse and focus on the last part, “And after 62 weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself, and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood. And unto the end of the war desolations shall be determined.”

Most of you watching this are not Jewish and this may not stand out to you. But for a Jewish person, especially one from those times back then, this would shock them very much. What they would notice is that Gabriel says here, that, after the Messiah shall be cut off, “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary…” (Daniel 9:26)

At the time Gabriel gave this message in, 539 BC, Daniel and his people were in prayer and expectation that they’d be allowed to return to Jerusalem and hopefully to rebuild the city and even the Temple. But Gabriel is telling them that, at a future date, Jerusalem would be destroyed again. And the future Temple.  “The people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary…”(Daniel 9:26)

Jerusalem-fixedDid this actually occur in history? Yes it did. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in Jerusalem in 33 AD. In 70 AD, the Roman legions of Titus surrounded Jerusalem and destroyed the city and the sanctuary. Israel was effectively ended; over 1 million were killed and the Jews were scattered among all nations for nearly 1900 years. But when does the angel Gabriel say that this will happen? “After Messiah shall be cut off. (Daniel 9:26)

So, 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.

I’m going to go over this once more.

third chart tenFrom 444 BC till 33 AD, from “the Commandment to build JerusalemuntilMessiah shall be cut offshall be7 weeks” (49 prophetic years)  and62 weeks” (434 prophetic years) which make a total of 483 prophetic years. And it says, after the Messiah is cut off “the people of the prince who shall come [the Romans] shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.

We can look back and say, “Oh, yeah”. But who can do what we’ve just seen here? Nobody can do that, nobody. No religion, no philosopher, no scientist. Only the God of Abraham can so clearly and explicitly tell us the future. And He did it. It’s so powerful. It’s just unique. But you know what?

That’s only 69 weeks. The angel said, “70 Weeks

fourth main chart for 69 weeks 9-flattenedSeventy weeks are determined …to bring in everlasting righteousness.69 weeks were fulfilled at the crucifixion of Jesus. So, there’s one “week” left. One last 7 year period is yet to be fulfilled in this prophecy in order to bring in God’s Kingdom on earth.

That’s what’s called “the 70th week” or “the Last 7 years” and that hasn’t happened yet. You could think, “Well, maybe 7 years after the death and resurrection of the Messiah, that would be the other 7 years and that would be the fulfillment, wouldn’t it?” But then, is that when there was  an end of sins? A bringing in of everlasting righteousness.

One of the most famous things Jesus of Nazareth ever taught was when His disciples asked Him how they should pray. His answer to His disciples has come to be called, “the Lord’s prayer”. One of the first things taught in that prayer is that we should pray to God, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

We only have to look at history and our own times to know that isn’t how it has been or is now. We don’t have God’s Kingdom on earth right now. That last “week”, the last seven years of this prophecy is yet to come, yet to be fulfilled. That’s what the final verse in this chapter is about, verse 27

When He was asked by His disciples about His return to the earth, Jesus referred to things mentioned in Daniel 9:27 and other verses we’ve not yet read in Daniel. Our next class is going to be centered around Daniel 9:27 and those other verses. We’ll find that this verse is the crux, the keystone, fitting together so much of what we’ve read already in Daniel and what can be found in the book of Revelation. I’ve already started on the next video on this subject and I’m eagerly looking forward to sharing that with you soon, God bless you.

Daniel Chapter 9-a Video: “The 69 Weeks”

This is the first of two videos on Daniel chapter 9. It focuses on the parts of the “70 Weeks” prophecy, revealed by the angel Gabriel, which have already been fulfilled, focusing mainly on verses 24 to 26. An incredibly specific 483 year length of time was revealed to Daniel that would pass between “the commandment to restore Jerusalem” and Messiah the Prince” (Daniel 9:25). Daniel leaned back on stool-updated-flattenedAdding to that, the angel Gabriel told Daniel that “after… Messiah shall be cut off”, the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple would again be destroyed again (Daniel 9:26). This all came to pass precisely as this prophecy said it would, in the centuries to come.

It’s always seemed to me that the two most significant, important prophetic chapters in the Old Testament are Isaiah 53 and Daniel chapter 9. Chapters 2, 7 and 8 in Daniel lay the groundwork for and lead up to the truth revealed in Daniel 9. The rest of the book of Daniel builds upon the foundation made plain in chapter 9.

It would almost be difficult to overstate the importance of this chapter. Jesus of Nazareth, when asked by His disciples when He would return said, “When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the Holy place, whoever reads it, let him understand.” (Matthew 24:15) It’s in Daniel 9 and later chapters in Daniel that this reference to the mysterious “abomination of desolation” is found.

But this is not an easy chapter to understand. I’ve tried, therefore, to make this as simple as I could in order to reach people who’ve never before read or understood this chapter.

As I mention in the video, this chapter is another one in Daniel which is personal to me. Reading and understanding the remarkable truths in this chapter had a profound impact on my life, my view of reality and the world we live in. I hope this video will be a blessing to you and that you’ll be able to see and grasp the astounding truth that’s revealed in Daniel chapter 9.

Acts Chapter 11 live class audio

What will they say-flattenedAs I’ve mentioned before, it’s seemed to me from time to time that some rather humorous situations happen in the Bible. I’m not sure there was much laughter during the events of Acts 11. But perhaps if a movie was made of Acts 10 and 11, then things happening in both chapters at some points could really bring a smile. [The next class in our series on Acts was on this chapter and you can hear an edited version of that class here.]

It’s not a chapter full of doctrinal disputes… well, I take that back. That’s exactly what the first half of Acts 11 is about. In Acts 10, Peter had had the mind-blowing experience of witnessing to the Gentile group that the centurion Cornelius had gathered at his house to hear Peter. It was “bad enough” that the Lord had led him there in the first place. But “to make matters worse”, the whole group of Gentiles was filled with the Holy Ghost! And the brethren “heard them speak in tongues and glorify God” (Acts 10:46). Uh-oh. Now Peter had to go back and “face the music” so to speak. And it really seems like he knew what was coming.

Peter you ate

Acts chapter 11, verse 3

When Peter got back to Jerusalem, “they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men  and did eat with them!'” (Acts 11:3). Some people in my classes have asked me if this was the Pharisees contending with Peter about this. No, folks, this was the Christian body of Christ in Jerusalem at that time. And it just shows how deeply entrenched old mindsets and “old wine” can stay with us.

But Peter had seen this coming. He’d “rehearsed the mater from the beginning” (Acts 11:4) which means he’d thought it over in advance how he was going to explain this “big mistake” to all the brethren who were still thinking that they were still obligated to keep all the Mosaic Law and traditions that they had before the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Who was I-flattened

Peter back in Jerusalem

The whole first half of the chapter is Peter just giving a personal testimony of what happened. Basically he was saying, “You can’t blame me, guys; I was just obeying God!” He ended it by saying, “Who was I to try to stop God?” (Acts 11:17)

God is pretty smart, isn’t He. He knew He had to do something like this through Peter as he was the head disciple. So the reaction of the disciples when they heard Peter’s testimony? “They held their peace.” (Acts 11:18) Ha! It sounds like many of them would have liked to say something but, under the circumstances, “They held their peace.”

There’s just so much here that’s going on, the almost struggle of God to bring His people further into the fuller understanding of His Will and His grace. And a parallel struggle of the weakness of human nature and frailties, to hold on to legalism, “old wine”, the past and traditions of the past. Thank God for the brave pioneers of history who’ve dared to obey God, usually against the onslaughts of, not intentionally evil people, but often “religious” people who just can’t accept that God is moving a new direction and calling for a change from how things have always been.

Weve always-flattenedWe went over a lot of this in the class we had and pondered the implications of it all for our own times, how we instinctively resist change and are highly suspicious of anything that might be a new move of the Lord or a better way to do His will that He is leading us toward.

The second half of the chapter is about the continuing move to more missionary work as Barnabus, who we first heard of in Acts 4, headed up to Antioch where he went to search for Saul (Paul) who was not far away in his hometown of Tarsus. It was their teaming up in the chapters ahead of us that produced Paul’s first missionary journeys in chapters 13 and 14.

One other seemingly insignificant thing in this chapter, it says “And in these days prophets from Jerusalem came to Antioch” (Acts 11:27).  The early church had prophets? It says so there. Does your church have prophets? That’s ok; hardly any churches have prophets anymore unless they are of the Charismatic persuasion. I could go off on a very big discussion about that but won’t do it here and now.

But it’s a little like a movie where some character is introduced who, as it turns out later, is very important. So a specific prophet is named, Agabus, who prophesied that there would come a famine in their times. And the Bible says this happened. So the brethren in Antioch took up a collection to send to the brethren still in Jerusalem. We’ll hear more about Agabus.

I hope you’re studying along with us as we go through Acts and are listening to the classes on line. The edited version of the Acts 11 class that we had can be heard here.

I love to read history because there’s often so much to learn about people and about life. Certainly this is true of the book of Acts, where we can read about the founding of our faith and its progressive advancement in the first years after the Lord’s resurrection. It’s thrilling, inspiring and feeding. I hope you are enjoying it too.

Acts Chapter 9 live class audio

We’ve continued our weekly classes on the book of Acts and the next one was Acts chapter 9. [You can listen to the full 35 minute class here.] There’s a famous phrase that is associated with this chapter, “a Damascus Road conversion”. Even in secular circles this is a common phrase and it relates to what happened to “Saul”, later called “Paul” in this chapter.

Paul on the road to Damascus

Saul confronted by the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus

On the road to Damascus from Jerusalem a young Jewish zealot was traveling in order to round up members of the growing movement of Christians who worshiped Jesus of Nazareth as the Jewish messiah. Saul was adamantly against these people, as was the Jewish Sanhedrin in Jerusalem who had sent him on his journey.

But at noon a light shined about Saul. He fell from donkey and heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) And so, on the road to Damascus, this man who later became the Apostle Paul had one of the most dramatic turnarounds in history, which is why that phrase is still used today.

Sometimes God has to use drastic measures. God is love. He is gentle, longsuffering, patience and all that and more. But there comes a time when “His Spirit will not always strive with man”. (Genesis 6:3) When Paul saw the light on the road to Damascus, he ended up on the ground, as he spoke to the light, “Who are you Lord?” And the voice said, “I am Jesus who you persecute.” (Acts 9:5)

The Lord didn’t give Saul a big list of things to do. At first He just said to “go into the city and it will be told you what you must do“. (Acts 9:6) There’s just so much there about the basics of obedience to the leadings of God and how He will just lead us step by step most of the time.

In our class we talked about the importance of Paul to the progress of the spread of Christianity in the first century and discussed what might have happened and how things might have gone if he hadn’t hadn’t his conversion and then took up such an important place in the history of Christianity. Paul seemed to be the fire-starter, the catalyst, the pilot light on the stove that provoked even the original 12 disciples to go further and to do more than they were doing at the time.

So our class this week was on the events of Acts chapter 9. You can listen to the full 35 minute class here. I hope these are a blessing to you, Mark