Critical times

“So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12:5 NASB).

Nothing focuses our attention more surely than emergencies. Whether they are global, national, local or merely personal, when we are confronted with great need or danger, we tend to give our complete efforts and energies towards meeting and overcoming whatever the challenge is that we face. Counselors term this approach “Crisis resolution.”

Crisis itself may be a little tricky to define and identify. Several years ago I was given this definition of the term. A speaker said, “You are diagnosed with serious illness; that is not a crisis. You go into depression because of the diagnosis – now that is a true crisis.” In other words, crisis says more about one’s reaction to a situation than it does about the situation. Continue reading “Critical times”

What makes for a strong church

Between teacher Humberto’s comments in Bible class, as he covered Acts 4, and my notes, here are five points on what makes for a strong church.

#1. It preaches Jesus, Acts 4.18-20.

No message can transform lives but Jesus. No message can save eternally but that of the Cross of Christ. The issue between the Sanhedrin and the apostles was speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus. The Name made everything happen. The Name made men walk, united warring factions, caused new birth, gave hope to the hopeless. There was no talk of politics, of social change, of financial gain, of mission strategies or church resources. Jesus was the sum of their message. The strong church stays on message. Continue reading “What makes for a strong church”

Monday editorial flitter

Great day yesterday with the saints in Taubaté and Urbanova (SJCampos). Here’s the skeleton outline of the message I shared in both places, on the death of Christ as the creator of unity.

¶ If a writer should wait until he’s in a good mood to write and has only positive things to say, Jeremiah would never had said a word to Baruch. Of course, it helped that he was inspired.

¶ “For who scorns the day of small things?” Zech 4.10a HCSB. May God burn this into our foreheads, mine especially. Not a good idea, such scorning, when God is in it. Continue reading “Monday editorial flitter”

What happened next?

“Paul lived there two whole years in his own rented quarters and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete boldness and without restriction” (Acts 28:30-31 NET).

When we get to the end of a very exciting, enthralling book, we often want to know what happened next. This is what makes book series so popular.

I don’t know about you, but when I get to the end of the book of Acts, I want to know what happened next. Did Paul have to appear before Caesar? If he did, what happened? Was he set free? Did he travel further?

Gareth Reese, in his commentary on Acts (New Testament History: Acts, Joplin, MO: College Press, 1976), suggested that the Greek verb tense of Acts 28:30 implies that when Luke wrote this, a change had occurred in Paul’s situation. According to Roman records, if the accusers did not show up to press charges within two years, the prisoner was freed. Notice that Luke recorded that “Paul lived there two whole years…” Continue reading “What happened next?”

When Christians disagree

The names “Paul” and “Barnabas” seemed to go hand in hand during the early years of Christianity. It was Barnabas who took time to find out about Saul, the former persecutor of Christians, when he was trying to join the Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-27). Later, when he saw such a great opportunity in Antioch, he went to Tarsus to find Saul.

For the next year they worked together and “taught a significant number of people” (Acts 11:26 NET). They became part of the group of “prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch” (Acts 13:1). The Holy Spirit told this group to “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Barnabas and Saul sailed to Cyprus and later went into the Roman province of Asia proclaiming the good news of Jesus, before returning to Antioch. Continue reading “When Christians disagree”

Two Corrections for Truth and Reason

In the breathless account of the gospel’s progress throughout the world, the author of Acts sometimes slows down the pace to focus on needed fine-tuning. In chapter 15 he tells about the big meeting in Jerusalem to settle the question of circumcision. In chapters 18-19 he clears the way by dealing with John’s baptism, in what appear to be two related stories.

Though separated by a chapter number, the two events show similarities in vocabulary and content that tie them together. Both begin mentioning that Apollos and Paul “came to Ephesus” (Acts 18:24; 19:1). Both Apollos and Paul speak boldly in the Ephesian synagogue (Acts 18:26; 19:8). In the former narrative, Priscilla and Aquila correct Apollos; in the latter, Paul leads the 12 disciples to a proper obedience. In both several themes appear as well. Continue reading “Two Corrections for Truth and Reason”

Starting To Trust In Jesus Is More Than Just Symbolic

by Barry Newton Luke’s quill scurried across the surface of some parchment leaving a trail of black markings. Do we take his message for granted because we have become so accustomed to it? The message that unfolds recounts an incredible and timeless message for all peoples that is capable of transforming lives. God was at work through Jesus to release all peoples from the power of the devil. Repentance and forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ name should be preached to all nations. As Luke recounted some selected stories illustrating how God began to build his community, we discover sometimes large groups … Continue reading Starting To Trust In Jesus Is More Than Just Symbolic