As we see the kingdom of God expanding in the first century, we are amazed at how the good news of Jesus was spread as well as the people who became Christians. Although most of the teaching was initially in Jerusalem and Judea, with the increased persecution from the Jewish leaders, Christians began to enter areas farther away.
“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralysed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:4-8 NIV)
The precise town where Philip went is not specified in the text. Scholars have suggested at least two possibilities including Sebaste and Gitta. Sebaste was the main city of Samaria at this time, having been rebuilt by Herod the Great. This was a few miles northwest of Shechem, Jacob’s Well, and the burial site of Joseph. Gitta is said to have been the hometown of Simon the Magician according to Justin Martyr. Continue reading “Actions and words”
The new garden bench got a lot of use today. A young couple showed me photos of the new house they just moved into, and the plans they had to take the barren yard and fill it with flowers.
As about ten different people filtered in and out of the garden today, I heard stories of how the small redbud tree could grow along with a granddaughter, and it filled my heart with joy that the plants I sell will have a story.
I, too, shared some stories. This is the optimum time to transplant irises, the state flower in Tennessee and my personal favorite. My customers smiled as I reminisced about the “Lost Iris” and my quest to fill the void left by a simple garden accident. Continue reading “Tell me the story of Jesus”
Although the writings of the prophet Isaiah were given for a specific purpose, in particular, of calling the people of the northern and southern kingdoms back to following God, there are many lessons we can learn today. The information about the coming Messiah springs readily to mind, but we also find other passages that cause us to think and evaluate what we are doing. Notice this passage about farming.
“Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say. When a farmer ploughs for planting, does he plough continually? Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil? When he has levelled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field? His God instructs him and teaches him the right way.” (Isaiah 28:23-26 NIV) Continue reading “Preparing for a harvest”
Volunteering to step up and become involved seems to be getting less popular in Western society. Often it seems that people do not realise they have any responsibility to do anything – after all, we pay taxes so let the government take care of it! And this can often been seen in Christians – let the preacher or elders do it. Yet this is not the way God has worked throughout history. We see this clearly in the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah was a man who volunteered to step up when God needed him to give his message to the Judah and Jerusalem. We might be quick to state that Isaiah didn’t really volunteer but that God selected him. While this might be true, it wasn’t that God forced Isaiah to be a prophet but that he presented an opportunity for Isaiah to volunteer to serve. Continue reading “Here am I, send me!”
Jesus cited Isaiah 6.9-10 to explain why people didn’t understand his parables. Paul cited the same passage, and Luke uses it at the end of Acts, to explain the rejection of the gospel by the Jews.
What catches our attention about the Isaiah passage is that it follows directly the account of the prophet’s vision of God’s holy glory and his calling to go speak to the people. Continue reading “Hear his voice”
The church needs more evangelists. I’ve said it before, and I say it again: The church needs, more than anything, more personal evangelists. It doesn’t need better buildings. Nor does it need more pulpit preachers, which puts me in a category of almost one. Nor does it need more mass media — this from one who works both in print and online, in both Portuguese and English.
Yes, what the church really, really needs is more evangelists.
That’s what the Lord told us to pray for.
We don’t need slicker and prettier programs, either. We need the people of God talking to the people of the world. Continue reading “The convert is teaching me”
“On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NKJV).
An old country ballad (“Picking Time”) includes the lyrics, “Last Sunday morning when they passed the hat, it was still nearly empty back where I sat.” I don’t remember an assembly of the church in the United States where an actual hat was used to gather the collection. However, not long ago in Asia we visited a small congregation where, when it was time for the offering, it was discovered that there was no bag or pan or other vessel suitable for the purpose. I did however have a hat with me, so it was used. I enjoyed sharing with them the expression “passing the hat” and its tradition in our country. Continue reading “Passing the hat”
Those worker bees in the yellow hive were not taking as many “orientation flights” as they used to do. Hmm … that’s suspicious.
Yes, we keep bees. Or as some of the more experienced (and skeptical) beekeepers put it, we are “bee have-ers.” We have bees. Whether we can keep them remains to be seen! There are parasites and diseases now that were unknown when my Grandpa kept bees. He just kept them; up there on the hill, in front of the pink rambling roses, out of our way — until we stepped on them with our bare feet in the clover-filled lawn. Continue reading “The queen is dead!”
Let us never speak of the requirements of the gospel without speaking, in the same breath, of the power of the gospel, not only to save, but to sustain.
Many in the world are power-seekers, Jeremiah 9.23. It gives them a sense of worth and purpose. From the school-yard bully to the national dictator, not a few want to be the winner of the fighter’s ring. Their glory is the knock-out. Continue reading “The gospel of power”
To a church confused about the use of spiritual gifts, the apostle Paul wrote, “But you should be eager for the greater gifts” 1 Corinthians 12.21. And again: “Pursue love and be eager for the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” 1 Corinthians 14.1.
Paul urged them to desire some gifts more than others. He was speaking, of course, of miraculous gifts, such as prophecy. But if saints in the first century could pursue certain gifts, since they were more important than others, it stands to reason that today saints should value certain non-miraculous gifts above others. Continue reading “This gift is direly needed in the church”