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.

The Purina Diet

dogs-06-004.JPGI’m not sure who the original author was, but thought this was worth sharing:

—–

I was in Wal-Mart buying a large bag of Purina for my dog Lola and was in line to check out. A  woman behind me asked if I had a dog . . . Duh!

I was feeling a bit crabby so on impulse, I told her no, I was starting the Purina Diet again, although I probably shouldn’t because I’d ended up in the hospital last time.  I’d lost 50 pounds before I awakened in an intensive care unit with  tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IV’s in both arms. Her eyes about bugged out of her head.

I went on and on with the bogus diet story and she was totally buying it. I told her that it was an easy, inexpensive diet and that the way it works is to load your pockets or purse with Purina nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry.  The package said the food is nutritionally complete so I was going to try it  again.

I have to mention here that practically everyone in the line was by now enthralled with my story, particularly a tall guy behind her.

Horrified, she asked if something in the dog food had poisoned me and was that why I ended up in the hospital?

I  said no . . . I’d been sitting in the street licking my butt when a car it me.

I thought the tall guy was going to have to be carried  out the door.

—–

Thanks to Woz for passing this along (he’s my #1 source for good email jokes). 

My oldest daughter was sharing this with a friend at school.  The teacher overheard it and thought it was hilarious, so she read it to the class.  We ran into the teacher at a restaurant and it took all my restraint to keep from asking her if the menu accommodated the Purina diet.

The Book of Acts

acts.jpgThe Bible Study Blog begins our study of the Book of Acts today.  All are welcome to join.  Here’s an introduction.

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! 

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! 

Which is it?

question-mark.gifWhenever tragedies happen (9/11, Virginia Tech, etc.) people often ask, “Where was God?” as if He were asleep at the wheel.  (Oddly, we usually ask that question for our tragedies and not for those endured by others, but that is fodder for another post.)

Yet many people – Christians included – tend to be repulsed by the doctrine of Hell, even though it is thoroughly and clearly taught in scripture. 

So my question for those people who hold both of these views is, “Which is it?”  Do you want God to judge evil or not? 

When Christians object to the doctrine of Hell I wonder if they are as familiar with the holiness of character of God as they should be.  God will punish all evil.  People will either pay the penalties for their own sins, or they can trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. 

It seems that God has three options with respect to evil:

1. Restrain all evil.  But to eliminate all evil in the present world would require eliminating every human being or our free will.  As the saying goes, if God eliminated all evil at midnight tonight, where would you be at 12:01 AM?  Be careful what you ask for.

2. Permit all evil – I think it is pretty obvious that we don’t want this one.

3. Restrain some evil, and eventually judge it all.  That may seem tough in the short term, but I think it is the best scenario.  For all we know, the 9/11 attacks may have been restrained by God for his own good purpose. 

If someone had described the circumstances of the attacks before you knew the death toll, would you have guessed that it would have been around 3,000?  I would have estimated it to be much higher.  And what if nuclear weapons had been used?  Perhaps it was good that a serious attack happened so that we would work more effectively to prevent an attack on a much larger scale.  I’m not trying to put a happy face on 9/11; I’m just offering a perspective.

God is not asleep, and He will eventually judge all evil.  We may not understand everything that happens, but He is sovereign over the universe. 

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.