Acts 1

acts-1.jpgGreetings!  The Book of Acts picks up where the Gospel of Luke left off. 

Theophilus means “one who loves God” and may have been a real person or just a generic salutation.

Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven

1     In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Even after all of Jesus’ teaching, the resurrection and more teaching over forty days the Apostles still needed to wait for the Holy Spirit.  He would come ten days later and the world would never be the same.

6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Geographically speaking Jesus described how the Gospel would spread outward until it went to the whole world.  The truth of the Gospel has been passed down to us and we are the ones the Holy Spirit has empowered to be his witnesses.  What are we doing with the power of God that we have received? 

Jesus did not divulge precise dates for future events.  Otherwise it would probably distort our behavior – either going too quickly or too slowly or just missing the point altogether.

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

We don’t know exactly how the ascension worked, but Jesus is now physically in Heaven.  He is fully human and fully divine with a resurrected body and will remain that way.

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

They were in constant prayer together.  We belong to a vibrant church but the times of group prayer are lacking.  It often feels formulaic or tacked on.  I am guilty of this as well.  This seems like something we’ve lost from the early church.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus— 17 he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.”

18 (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

Matthew 27 records that Judas hanged himself, apparently on Good Friday.  At first glance it appears to conflict with this account, but there is no reason these can’t be reconciled.  The Jews would not have taken his body down on the Sabbath so it might have decayed somewhat and then fallen.  Or perhaps the branch broke after he died.

Judas was part of Jesus’ ministry yet wasn’t a true believer.  Still, if he would have repented like Peter did after denying Jesus three times Judas could have been forgiven and restored.  Note how Peter is back in a leadership role.

20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms,

“‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

23 So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

It is interesting that they replaced Judas.  Matthias is mentioned in verses 23 and 26 but it is the last we hear of him in the Bible.

Acts overview

acts.jpgGreetings!  This begins our study of the Book of Acts.

The Book of Acts is fast-paced and full of action.  It chronicles the early church, from Jesus’ ascension into Heaven through Paul’s imprisonment shortly before his death in Rome roughly 30 years later. 

I used to not like this book, but I think that was because I read it too quickly and got mixed up with all the people and places (My study Bible listed 20 “key” cities in this book alone).  Now it is one of my favorites. 

The author is Luke, who also wrote the Gospel of Luke.  If you’ve read the Gospel of Luke you’ll notice the similarity in style.  Luke was a very detailed historian.  He was a Gentile (non-Jew) who was a close companion of the Apostle Paul.  He gets every detail just right and his writings have been repeatedly validated by archeology.

It was probably written in the early 60’s AD (not the 1960’s) since it ends without documentation of the Apostle Paul’s death in Rome in roughly 65 AD.

Also see Love in the Book of Acts.  It starts with a trivia question: Roughly how many times is the word love mentioned in the book of Acts?  Then it addresses the theme of evangelism in Acts. 

There are many powerful and exciting stories and lessons in the Book of Acts.  We’ll cover the ascension of Jesus, the coming of the promised Holy Spirit, Peter’s ministry, Paul’s conversion and ministry, the first martyr (Stephen) and much more.

I hope you will join the study! 

Proverbs 12

prov-12.jpgGreetings!

Solomon didn’t pull any punches in v. 1!  It convicts me of the many times that pride keeps me from wanting correction.

V. 4 emphasizes character as the trait of a wife (or, presumably, a husband).  It is more important than fleeting beauty.  What could be worse than a decay in your bones?

12     Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,

but he who hates correction is stupid.

2 A good man obtains favor from the Lord,

but the Lord condemns a crafty man.

3 A man cannot be established through wickedness,

but the righteous cannot be uprooted.

4 A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown,

but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.

5 The plans of the righteous are just,

but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.

6 The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,

but the speech of the upright rescues them.

7 Wicked men are overthrown and are no more,

but the house of the righteous stands firm.

8 A man is praised according to his wisdom,

but men with warped minds are despised.

Sadly, our culture has turned v. 8 upside down, where warped things like most rap music are admired and promoted.

9 Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant

than pretend to be somebody and have no food.

10 A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal,

but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

There are many pro-animal passages in the Bible. 

11 He who works his land will have abundant food,

but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.

Chasing your dreams it good, but tempering them with a little reality is important.

12 The wicked desire the plunder of evil men,

but the root of the righteous flourishes.

13 An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk,

but a righteous man escapes trouble.

14 From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things

as surely as the work of his hands rewards him.

15 The way of a fool seems right to him,

but a wise man listens to advice.

16 A fool shows his annoyance at once,

but a prudent man overlooks an insult.

I’m always glad when I overlook insults and take the high road . . . I just need to do it a higher percentage of the time now.

17 A truthful witness gives honest testimony,

but a false witness tells lies.

18 Reckless words pierce like a sword,

but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

19 Truthful lips endure forever,

but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

20 There is deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil,

but joy for those who promote peace.

21 No harm befalls the righteous,

but the wicked have their fill of trouble.

22 The Lord detests lying lips,

but he delights in men who are truthful.

23 A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself,

but the heart of fools blurts out folly.

24 Diligent hands will rule,

but laziness ends in slave labor.

25 An anxious heart weighs a man down,

but a kind word cheers him up.

No matter how much progress I make spiritually, some kind words always make a difference.  I try to be intentional and specific in encouraging others as well.  When I do prison ministry visits I always look for ways to encourage the believers individually and as a group. 

26 A righteous man is cautious in friendship,

but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

27 The lazy man does not roast his game,

but the diligent man prizes his possessions.

28 In the way of righteousness there is life;

along that path is immortality.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Psalm 30

ps-30.jpgGreetings!  There are two main possibilities for the writing of this Psalm – either for the dedication of the site for the future temple (build by David’s son, Solomon) or after God stopped the plague He sent in response to David’s call for a census in 1 Chronicles 21. 

A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.

1 I will exalt you, O Lord,

for you lifted me out of the depths

and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

2 O Lord my God, I called to you for help

and you healed me.

3 O Lord, you brought me up from the grave;

you spared me from going down into the pit.

4 Sing to the Lord, you saints of his;

praise his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a moment,

but his favor lasts a lifetime;

weeping may remain for a night,

but rejoicing comes in the morning.

6 When I felt secure, I said,

“I will never be shaken.”

7 O Lord, when you favored me,

you made my mountain stand firm;

but when you hid your face,

I was dismayed.

8 To you, O Lord, I called;

to the Lord I cried for mercy:

9 “What gain is there in my destruction,

in my going down into the pit?

Will the dust praise you?

Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me;

O Lord, be my help.”

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;

you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.

O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Verse 5 above reminds me of this passage in Hebrews.  We don’t like to hear this, but God loves believers enough to discipline them.  As the saying goes, He is more concerned about our holiness than our happiness.  But we can trust that his favor and forgiveness for eternity. 

Hebrews 12:5-11 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Psalm 29

ps-29.jpgGreetings!

The Bible Knowledge Commentary mentioned something I’d never heard before:

David witnessed an awesome thunderstorm moving across the land of the Canaanites, and attributed it to the power of the Lord. He called on the angels to glorify Him who sits as King forever over nature. Psalm 29 is a polemic against pagan beliefs in false gods who were credited with being responsible for storms.

Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

A psalm of David.

1 Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones,

ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;

worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

the God of glory thunders,

the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.

4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;

the voice of the Lord is majestic.

5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;

the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,

Sirion like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the Lord strikes

with flashes of lightning.

8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;

the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks

and strips the forests bare.

And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;

the Lord is enthroned as King forever.

11 The Lord gives strength to his people;

the Lord blesses his people with peace.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

David mentions the LORD once or twice in every verse.  He relentlessly gives God his rightful credit for having sovereign power over everything.  This is refreshing.  So many Christians are too bashful to claim that Jesus is God and the only way to salvation.  May we all be more bold like David!

Busy busy busy

Hi – I’m going to be rather busy the next couple weeks so I’ll be doing a limited amount of commenting here and at your blogs.  I just didn’t want you to think I’d forgotten about you.

I have posts set to go every couple days.  Have fun!

Psalm 28

ps-28.jpgGreetings!

David has an urgent prayer, and God answers it. 

Of David.

1 To you I call, O Lord my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me.

For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.

2 Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help,

as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.

3 Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil,

who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts.

Note how it is considered evil to be cordial with people yet want harm to come to another. 

4 Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work;

repay them for what their hands have done and bring back upon them what they deserve.

5 Since they show no regard for the works of the Lord and what his hands have done,

he will tear them down and never build them up again.

6 Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy.

7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.

My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

8 The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

9 Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

V. 9 has one of the many uses of the shepherd metaphor in the Old Testament.