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!

 

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.]

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,

Mark

Acts Chapter 3 Live Class

lame healed Acts 3- flattenedHere’s the third posting on the live classes I’m doing here with friends on the book of Acts. I really look forward to this time each week. [The audio of the live class on Acts 3 can be heard here.] There’s just such a satisfaction in being together with like-minded brethren and really getting in the Word with them. It’s one of the high points of my week.

Acts 3 scene 1In this class, we not only read Acts 3 but went some ways into Acts 4. Actually, in the continuity of the story line, Acts 3 and Acts 4 are part of the same narrative. All the apostles are still there in Jerusalem, involved in the follow-up of the huge reaping of souls from the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 2, three thousand souls came to the Lord and the early church at that time. Then at the beginning of Acts 3, Peter and John were going up to the Temple and a lame man asked alms of them, as beggars do everywhere.

Acts 3 scene 2Perhaps the most famous verse in the chapter is Peter’s reply to the man, “Silver and gold have I none. But such as I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6) And he did. In fact the Bible says he “went walking and leaping and praising God.” (Acts 3:8)

It didn’t end there. A huge crowd quickly gathered. So Peter again, like in Acts 2, spoke to the crowd and told them (as he had in Acts two) that this healing of the lame man was not done by their power but by the power of Jesus Christ, who had been slain there in Jerusalem just a few weeks or a few months before then.Acts 3 scene 3

Well, this is all in the class we had and again I was able to record it for those who want to hear it. The audio recording can be heard here. It’s also possible to download the file from the site and evidently some are doing that.

But just to summarize the rest of Acts 3, Peter’s preaching again really had huge results. We don’t hear about it till the beginning of Acts 4 but “many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.” (Acts 4:4) And by this time the commotion had aroused the attention of the religious authorizes. We read at the beginning of Acts 4 that the Sadducees had Peter and John arrested by the Temple guard and they were put in custody till the next day.Acts 3 scene 4

One of the things I mentioned in the live class is how amazing this whole episode must have been to those who experienced it. The lame man, who was over 40 years old, probably had heard of Jesus before since He was extremely well known to the people of Jerusalem before His Crucifixion. Could that lame man have hoped to meet Jesus all during that time but have felt that, now that He was dead (as most folks figured), then it was too late for him to receive healing? Maybe that all figured into that moment when he received healing through Peter and John? What was the atmosphere like in Jerusalem during those 24 hours or so when so many lives were changed forever? What was it like to hear Peter and John come back and explain to all the believers their experiences, after they’d been released by the religious authorities? The Bible tells us so much that is essential. But there’s so much to think about how it all must have been for those there and how the Holy Spirit was working so mightily on so many during that time.

God loved those people so much. The Bible says, “to the Jew first”.(Romans 1:16). And since God in His providence knew that in the lifetime of many of those people, Jerusalem was to be conquered and destroy again in less than 40 years from that time, His Spirit must have yearned and plead in the hearts of each one of those people who knew His Word so well that they would receive the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus and the complete change of heart and life that was available to each of them through faith in His Name.

The live class on Acts 3 and the first part of Acts 4 has been edited down to around 50 minutes. If this is something that you are interested in, I hope you’ll have time to listen to it. I know that for many nowadays, it’s difficult to find Christian fellowship that’s anything more than a light ceremonial hour on Sunday with people you don’t know and in a place where you come away still spiritually hungry and unfulfilled. So many are looking for something more, something deeper, something more total and complete. My hope is that these audio classes will provide some view into God’s Word and a feeling of a small group of believers gathered at His feet which will be a blessing and fulfillment those who are looking for more from Him at this time.

Acts Chapter 2 Live Class Audio

Things are continuing to go well with the live classes on the book of Acts here in Austin. Recently we did Acts chapter 2; boy, that chapter can shake you up!Peter and crowd It certainly did for the ones who were there in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, to say the least. Like I said in the class on Luke 24 and Acts 1, you just wish someone with a good understanding of the things of the Lord could do a really good movie of these things.

Well, I’m tempted to tell you the whole story of Acts 2 right here but perhaps you know it already. As I did with the first blog post on these classes on the book of Acts, I’ve made an edited audio recording of the Acts 2 class and it can be heard here. It’s 50 minutes long.Peter preaching

In our class recently, there were so many fundamental, exceedingly important subjects that came up in the class that we had to make a real effort to keep going back to the text in the chapter. Basically, Peter the apostle (along with around 120 people who were in the upper room in Jerusalem) were there on the morning of Pentecost, 50 days after the Lord’s crucifixion. Suddenly they were very dramatically all filled with the Holy Spirit and were even speaking in unknown tongues and languages that they themselves didn’t know how to speak. This attracted a huge crowd from among the Jewish pilgrims who’d come to Jerusalem from all over for the feast of Pentecost.

crowd listensPeter then stood up and preached a riveting sermon to the huge crowd, using prophecies from the Old Testament which all the Jews knew, plus the testimony of Peter and the others that God had raised Jesus from the dead there in Jerusalem just weeks before.

"What must we do?"

“What must we do?”

The result was that multitudes of the Jewish pilgrims asked Peter and the others, “What must we do?”  (Acts 2:37) To which Peter said, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

And the result? Three…thousand…souls got saved right then! (Acts 2:41)

It’s just an incredible chapter and basically it’s the beginning of the Christian era that so many of us are a part of. But in our Bible study we could hardly read the chapter for all the questions that kept coming up. That’s one of the really nice things about having these home church Bible studies: people can ask questing and get involved.

If you go to church on Sunday, probably you don’t get involved. You don’t raise your hand while the preacher is preaching, that just really isn’t done. Maybe it might work out that your church will have some kind of adult Sunday school before or after the church service. But those can often be pretty stuffy or just so social and secular that there’s really nothing spiritual about them at all.hawk&dove-flattened I wrote about my experience with this in a blog post called “Hawks and Doves”, about my sad experiences in visiting a large evangelical church in Houston.

But in our Acts chapter 2 class, we just were bouncing from one subject to the other. For example,

“Do you have to receive the Holy Ghost to be saved?” “How do you know if you have the Holy Ghost?” “Is speaking in tongues required to be saved?”

(Don’t laugh; in some congregations and even denominations, a failure to speak in tongues is an indication that your salvation and future place in heaven is very questionable.)

“And how about water baptisms? Is that essential?” “And by the way, were all those people in Acts chapter 2 Communists?!”

It says they lived together and shared all things so it could seem that way.

As you can probably relate to, almost everyone had some very serious questions about all this and we took time to go over these points at least to some degree. But the very fact that we friends could meet together on a week night and really delve into the Word was one of the best things of all. Think of all the millions of Christians who may go to some church or assembly once a week but never really get into the Word deeply. So many are seldom in an atmosphere where they can talk freely about questions they have and can bring up things on their heart that can be discussed among friends from a Biblical viewpoint.

So I’m just really happy for these classes that are going on now and I hope you’ll find that the Acts chapter 2 audio recording can be some kind of blessing to you as well. Join with us in a time of feeding on the Word, even if you’re thousands of miles away. “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the Word of His Grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance…”  Acts 20:32

Luke 24 & Acts 1 Live Class Audio

In a recent blog post, I wrote about the series of live classes I’ve started here in Austin on the book of Acts. That’s off to a good start; recently I’ve edited the audio recording of the first class and you can listen to the class here.

The Apostle Peter, speaking to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost

The Apostle Peter, speaking to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost

A few months ago I went through the books of Daniel and Revelation with the same group of friends. That series was so heart gripping as we were able to see again, not only all the fulfilled prophecies of the past, but the ones yet to be fulfilled. It seems to me at least that current events in our world today dovetail so clearly with the conditions described by the prophecies which are yet to be fulfilled in the lead up to the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth.

But it’s not good to get so caught up in Bible prophecy that we lose sight of our own call to Christian discipleship that’s at the heart of the New Testament. That’s why for me the book of Acts is perhaps the best book in the Bible (after the four Gospels of course) which can make plain what it should mean to be a Christian.

In opening this series, I wanted first to set the stage and the background for the beginning of Christianity after the resurrection of Jesus. So we started the class with Luke 24, the last chapter in the book of Luke. It’s clear from the first verses in Luke 1 and the first verses in Acts 1 that they’re written by the same man, “Luke the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). Luke 24 just tingles with the atmosphere of the time between the Lord’s crucifixion, His rising from the dead 3 days later, and His ascension 40 days after that.

I just wish some movie could or would really do justice to that time and how it became clear to the disciples that Jesus had actually risen from the dead. In our class on this chapter, we also covered how that Jesus made clear to them that He wasn’t a ghost when He appeared to them, saying “handle Me and see for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see Me have.” (Luke 24:39)

From Acts 1, verses 10 & 11

From Acts 1, verses 10 & 11

Then in the class we went on to the book of Acts, which sort of overlaps the last verses of Luke. And Bible prophecy even comes into the picture. The two angels who were with the disciples on the Mount of Olives as they saw Jesus ascend up into heaven told the disciples that “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven”. (Acts 1:11) This is what was said in the Book of Zachariah 500 years before, speaking about the Lord’s ultimate return to the earth, “His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with You.” (Zachariah 14:4 & 5)

But perhaps the biggest thing in Acts chapter 1 was the promise of the Holy Ghost which Jesus said the disciples would receive in a few days after He had ascended. Such a ringing verse, “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 Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8) The Holy Ghost was not to be given as some kind of virtual toy for Christians to be proud about. But it was to be given as a source of power to increase their effectiveness in their primary purpose and duty: to witness to others about the Lord.

The class has been edited down to just under an hour. Since it was a live class, it isn’t the same type as the videos on the book of Daniel have been. Those are all scripted beforehand while this one was just given as it came and so there are more “rabbit trails and ramblings” than are in the Daniel videos. But several people abroad have asked if these could be made into some kind of audio class so that they can have the opportunity to be in on the classes and the atmosphere of a live Bible study.

Here’s a link where the audio can be listened to. I hope this class and the ones to come will be a blessing to you. With love, Mark

 

PS  In the last few days here we’ve had the funeral for my dad. There have been more relatives here than at any time since my parents 50th wedding anniversary in the late 90’s. It’s been a sad time but also a very nice time that so many have been together again. My four kids from Europe have been here and one of my grandsons.

Famous Failures of Prophetic Interpretation

I have been able to complete another supplementary video to Daniel chapter 8. That chapter is a pretty controversial chapter in the history of prophecy and there have been many things published, as well as misunderstandings experienced, on this chapter. In the main video on Daniel chapter 8, I aimed to not bring in those various views as some of them have stumbled a lot of people or at least confused many. But in these supplementary videos, it’s seemed good to briefly touch on these things so that everyone can be aware that there are these questions and controversies.

This video has to do with times in history when someone has pointed out something they thought was just about to happen, because they felt Bible prophecy was just about to be fulfilled. That happened twice, rather famously, over 100 years ago as a direct result of misunderstanding something that’s in Daniel chapter 8. And yet these misunderstandings and these  mis-taught interpretations of prophecy are happening in our times just as much if not more than it did back then. For those who are truly seeking to learn the truth and to delve deeper into Bible prophecy, these confusions and false teachings can do tremendous damage.

Stuck

Sometimes we just get stuck. God allows it and knows it, but He doesn’t want us to stay there. One of the greatest examples of this to me is what happened to the prophet Elijah, during the time before the fall of northern Israel in 722 BC.

Elijah calling down fire on Mt. Carmel

Elijah calling down fire on Mt. Carmel

Elijah is perhaps best remembered for standing on Mt. Carmel, literally calling down fire from heaven to confound the prophets of Baal, 450 of them in fact.(See I Kings 18) Israel at that time was ruled by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Ahab comes across as a weak character and it seems Jezebel was the one who wore the pants in the family.

And they were serious Baal worshipers. This wasn’t some little innocent misdemeanor. Baal worship involved cruel, disgusting sacrifices to demonic idols and was just completely forbidden by the laws of Israel. But it sounds like it had pretty much taken over the hearts and minds of the Israelites, en masse.

After Elijah had called down fire from heaven in front of the prophets of Baal (after they’d tried and failed for hours to do the same thing), there was one detail Elijah had to attend to. The Bible says he slew the 450 prophets of Baal while they were all still up there. ( I Kings 18:40) The multitude who’d come to see the showdown sided with Elijah at that time and helped round up the Baalites in order to help facilitate all this.

So far, so good; right? But Queen Jezebel was definitely not impressed. She sent a message to Elijah basically saying he was toast. Or, more specifically, that he’d be dead within 24 hours.

Elijah running from Jezebel

Running from Jezebel

What did Elijah do and say? “OK, baby! Bring it on! You and me: high noon!” No. the Bible say that Elijah “arose and fled for his life” (I Kings 19:3), way down into southern Israel, or Judah as it was called then.

This is where we see that Elijah got stuck. He actually ended up down in the Sinai, in a cave at Mt. Horeb. At this point it’s always seemed to me to be one of the perhaps few places in the Bible where there’s a touch of dry humor. The Bible says that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the cave saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:9)

Yahweh, the mighty God of Abraham, has to ask someone what they are doing?! Doesn’t He know everything?! But maybe Elijah was really not doing very good right then. He may have needed some company and conversation. Could that question even have brought a brief smile to Elijah?

Elijah replied to God, “I’ve been very zealous for God. The sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, slain Your prophets and I, I alone, am left. And they seek my life.” (I Kings 19:10)

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah was stuck. He wasn’t totally wrong in what he was saying. But he was totally defeated and had come to the end of himself, thinking it was all over for the Lord’s cause.

But God told him to go and stand on the mountain before the Lord. Then comes the famous event of the wind, the earthquake and the fire that manifest themselves before Elijah. And afterwards, “a still small voice” (I Kings 19:12) says the same thing again to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:13) Elijah answers again the same way.

All Elijah had was the voice and presence of God. He felt utterly alone, without a friend, without a follower and possibly an utter failure in bringing his nation back to God.

What an incredibly poignant moment that must have been. So often I wish there could be some inspired movie maker who’d begin to do justice to some of these Biblical events. On this journey to the mount, the Bible even says that Elijah prayed that God would take his life as he said, “I’m no better than my fathers.” (I Kings 19:4) Stuck, depressed, seemingly a failure, overwhelmed, utterly hopeless.

Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) And that was totally true of Elijah at that point in his life. Also, as it says in I Corinthians 10:13, “There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful, Who’ll not allow you to be tempted above that you are able. But will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Elijah really needed to find “a way of escape” and God had one. First, He told Elijah what to do next: anoint a new king in Syria, a new king of Israel and to anoint a new prophet, Elisha, to be trained to take the place of Elijah. (I Kings 19:15-17)

So basically it was a “You need to get busy, son” message. Sometimes that’s exactly what we need. We need to get moving with what God wants us to do, rather than to wallow in our extreme difficultly. But then there was a final thing the Lord said to Elijah, concerning his earlier heart cry. God told him, “I have yet 7000 in Israel who’ve not bowed the knee to Baal or kissed him.” (I Kings 19:18)

It really must have been pretty bad at that time. Out of a nation of one or two million, God Himself told Elijah that there were only 7,000 Israelis who were not given over to the demonic god of the surrounding nations.

No wonder Elijah was distraught. It sounds like well over 99% of his people at that time had fallen away from faith in God. But Elijah kept on believing, kept on obeying and was faithful in his generation to the uttermost.

I’ve been stuck sometimes, actually many times. Maybe you have too. Utterly, utterly boxed in. Hopeless. Basically ready to give up and just die. Defeated, forlorn, forsaken by friends, mocked, persecuted, “running from Jezebel”.

I guess we need to remember Elijah and the many other stories from God’s Word that give us hope and strength. Keep on believing. Like someone said one time, “If your will power doesn’t work, try your ‘won’t’ power”. Elijah couldn’t go forward. But at least he didn’t really go backwards. He’d just come to the end of his rope. But God hadn’t. God doesn’t come to the end of His rope. So we all just need to remember to keep holding on.

What’s it to you?

Jesus and Peter-1 flatHave you ever said that to someone, “What’s it to you?”  Or maybe someone’s said that to you? It’s usually not considered a real warm, friendly way to talk to someone. But Jesus said that one time to Peter, one of His top disciples. Why would Jesus talk like that to someone? Let’s look at the context and see if we can find out.

This all happened after Jesus’ resurrection. In another blog article, I wrote about “He Said It Three Times” and this is part of the same conversation where Jesus said “What’s it to you?” (John 21:22) to Peter. He’d just told Peter three times to “Feed My sheep” (John 21:16), to teach and minister to the disciples and followers of Jesus.

And the very next thing the Lord said to Peter was, “When you were young, you fastened your belt and went where you wanted. But when you grow old, you’ll stretch forth your hands and another will carry you where you do not wish.” (John 21:18) And the Bible goes on to tell us that the Lord was signifying to Peter that, when he was old, he would “stretch forth his hands”; in other words, Peter would be crucified.

So this was a very important, significant conversation Jesus was having with Peter, all taking place after the Lord’s death on the cross and His resurrection. What was Peter’s reaction? The Bible says that the next thing was that Peter saw John, another of Jesus’ closest disciples, and so he asked Jesus, “What about him?” (John 21:21)

Sometimes you just wonder and marvel at all this. The love and patience of Jesus. The all-too-humanness of some of His disciples, perhaps especially Peter. Peter had just heard some precious, personal words from Jesus for himself. But it doesn’t come across that Peter really relished the moment and its significance. Instead he asked the Lord, “What about John?”  In His mercy and longsuffering, the Lord even partially answered Peter’s question but then also added a chiding reproof.

Peter and JesusJesus answered Peter’s question about John this way: “If I will that he remains until I come back, what is that to you? Follow me.” (John 21:22) In that one sentence, Jesus left open the possibility that John the Beloved would remain alive till the return of Jesus at His Second Coming. History tells us that John lived perhaps another 60 years after this time, to extreme old age. And here Jesus was foretelling that John would remain long after the Lord had returned to heaven.

But then Jesus asks Peter directly, “What’s it to you?“Why should that matter to you, Peter? Just follow Me.” Of course it should be said that there are different ways you can say that. You can say that phrase in a cocky, challenging way or you can say it in a kind but somewhat chiding way. I’m sure the Lord spoke that in a kind way. But why would the Lord talk to Peter like that, even if it was kindly said? Was Jesus finally getting fed up with all the boneheaded things Peter had done and said over the last 3 years? Patience was wearing thin? I think not.

which greatest flatHere are a couple of things that Jesus might have foreseen that He was trying to prevent happening to His disciples as He was about to leave them: comparing and jealousy. Even before His crucifixion, His disciples were coming to Him to ask Him which would be the greatest of them in heaven. (Matthew 18:1)

There’s just an inborn sinful nature of man to “compare ourselves among ourselves and measure ourselves by ourselves” (II Corinthians 10:12), as Paul later warned the Corinthians. Getting our eyes on each other, “which is the greatest?”, “who gets most?”, “do I get enough?”, “will someone get more than me?”, and “is that really fair?” It’s just so ingrained in us but is so contrary to God’s ways.

Basically Jesus was telling Peter to not look too much on how others were doing or what was happening or going to happen in their lives. “Just follow Me”, was Jesus’ bottom line to Peter. And perhaps this reproof hit home for Peter. It seems like Peter and John got along well and were never recorded in the  later parts of the Bible as ever having any strife or competitiveness, although I’m certain that Satan would have loved to stir that up.

But what about us? There’s a message there for everyone, not to feel we have to measure everything against our own personal standards of what’s fair and “am I getting what I deserve?” Maybe you’re even in an “unfair” situation right now. Maybe people are treating you unjustly or you’re being taken advantage of. “What is that to you; follow Me.” The Lord said one time, “Vengeance is Mine saith the Lord, I will repay.” (Romans 12:19)

It doesn’t have to be fair right now. The Lord sees it all and we can be utterly sure, “all things work together for good to them that love the Lord.” (Romans 8:28)

Joseph sold 4 blog postTo me one of the greatest samples of this in the Bible is Joseph. If ever anyone was mistreated and “it wasn’t fair”, it was Joseph. His brothers actually sold him as a slave! But years later, when he’d been shuffled and reshuffled by God to end up being “second in Egypt” (Genesis 41:43), he met up with his brothers again and they were certain Joseph would now pay them back for the evil they’d done.

But he didn’t. His heart was so right with God that he could say to them about what they’d done, “You meant it for evil. But God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20) One of the most amazing examples in the Bible of keeping your eyes on the Lord and not on people and circumstances and conditions. Seems like Joseph had already learned that lesson that Jesus shared with Peter nearly 2000 years later, “What is that to you? Follow me.” Joseph did that. And he ended up saving his family and nation. Lord help us all to keep our eyes on Him and not on anything else.