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.

Kids and Quicken

quicken2.gifWhen teaching Junior Achievement classes I always point out that while money can’t buy you happiness (really – studies show that aside from abject poverty money won’t make you happy), mismanaging money can buy you unhappiness.  So we’ve tried to teach our kids how to esteem money properly (give 10% or more back to God, save 10% or more for retirement, avoid all debt except a mortgage and pay it off when you can, etc.)

When the girls were young we went the classic savings account route with them.  But when interest rates kept dropping the message became counterproductive.  The Credit Union interest was 0.2% – not two percent, but point-two percent.  As in 20 cents per year on a $100 account balance – hardly an incentive for savings. 

I closed the accounts and set up accounts for them in my Quicken database.  I started paying them a 10% annual percentage rate and added it to their account once per quarter.  It was a simple way to encourage savings.

It also had the benefit of introducting them to Quicken and tracking their spending.  They now have separate accounts for spending, savings and clothes.

Earlier this year we gave them credit cards to use.  This was a little bit of a concern, since studies show that people spend 18% more when using credit.  But both girls (currently in 9th and 11th grades) watch their savings balances like hawks so they see the balances go down as soon as they buy anything.

The girls use their credit cards for all their purchases then code them into the appropriate accounts in Quicken (clothes, spending, gas, groceries, etc.). 

They also learned how to reconcile the credit card statements in Quicken so they know how that process works.  And they see that credit cards are for convenience and that we only buy things when we have the cash in the bank already.

We give them a normal allowance plus a clothes budget, so they have learned to monitor their spending and make trade-offs (i.e., buy more clothes that are less expensive or fewer clothes that are more expensive, or a mix).  They are terrific shoppers and work hard to get good deals.  We have baseline you’re-part-of-the-family chores (dishes, laundry) though we’ll pay them for extras sometimes.

This process might not work for everyone, but it has been very useful for us. 

Do you have any money management tips to share?

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.

How to find a good church

church.jpg

Click here for a good checklist.  I should have used a checklist like this 10 years ago when we were switching churches.  At the time I was a little naive about such things and didn’t think there was much of a difference between Protestant denominations. 

Things have worked out fine, because the church has generally become more orthodox over the years. 

Weekly roundup

microphone.jpgCARM Radio Show Podcasts is one of my favorite new Podcasts.  The host is Matt Slick (his real name) and he covers a variety of topics, including conversations with atheists, Mormons, etc.  I’ve mentioned the CARM website before (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry).  It has a wealth of easily accessible information.

Sting only has seven opulent homes to maintain, so he’s the perfect spokesperson for conservation. 

A nice summary of the problem with Hillarycare.

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!

The human condition

dna2.gifMany great works of literature such as Crime and Punishment, Macbeth and the Tell-Tale Heart explore the truth that no amount of rationalization will drive away guilt.  This works on big and small sins.  And as Romans 1 points out, rejecting God is a big sin.

All people sin, and they know it.  This leads to guilt, which leads to fear of being punished.  Sin ==> Guilt ==> Fear.

There are three main options people choose to deal with this fear:

  1. Outward denial of God’s existence, ranging from ignoring him to “in your face, God!” words and actions.  Because if there is no God, then there is no eternal judgment.
  2. Make up your own religion
    • Pick the rules that are least tempting to you.  Convince yourself that these are the ones that really count and that you are a good person for obeying these rules most of the time.
    • This will ultimately fail because deep down you know it is your own creation.
  3. Accept what Jesus did on your behalf and have forgiveness of your sins and reconciliation with God.

P.S. Here are two things that didn’t happen when I became a Christian:

  1. No one said, “I told you so!”
  2. Humbling myself to admit I was a sinner and not in charge of everything wasn’t as bad as I feared.  In fact, I knew it deep down all along, so it was refreshing to be honest about it for once.

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 really appreciate all the loyal readers and visitors, and I enjoy reading your blogs.

I have posts set to go every day or so.  Have fun!

Off to prison (ministry) follow up

kairosjesusbehindbars.jpgI blogged previously on the Kairos Prison Ministry weekend program that I participated in.  We also do follow up visits once per month and I enjoy those even more. 

We visit with the inmates for a couple hours.  There is some singing (it is a good chance for me to play my guitar), small group sharing and various testimonials.

I won’t romanticize this endeavor because it is still a bunch of imperfect people trying to live out their faith the best they can.  But I see and experience a lof of things that churches outside the prison could emulate.

On average, the inmates we visit with are heavily in the Bible, praying, practicing forgiveness, not retaliating the way they used to, supporting each other and more.  I am not exaggerating to say that on average these guys know the Bible better than the people in my church.

I witness many dramatically changed lives.  They truly love Jesus and are passionate about sharing the Gospel.  They are working hard to prepare themselves for release so they can stay out this time.  As mentioned on the previous post, this program dramatically reduces the recidivism rate.

The thing I like best is encouraging them.  One gentleman who is over 50 got his GED and seemed very pleased that someone acknowledged how challenging and scary that must have been, was proud of him and rejoiced with him in his accomplishment.  Even little things like telling them you missed them or that you prayed for them or their families seem to make a big impact. 

Prison ministry isn’t for everyone, but if you have any questions then please leave them in the comments section or check out the previous post.