Monthly Archives: October 2017

Pivot-Point

I LOVE meeting new friends.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, we have the privilege of meeting yet-another. A standout individual. A stellar human being. Though given his humility, I am sure that he would not be comfortable with my characterization.

His name is Stephanos. Significantly, a Greek name. (As we learned last week, a not-so-trivial factoid.)

A man affectionately known to us as Stephen.

A name that means “crown.” In Stephen’s case, a well-deserved crown that he is no doubt wearing in Heaven as we speak.

A man who stood as—and at—pivot-point of history.

There haven’t been many of those throughout human history. But the event about which you will hear certainly rises to that level of an event after which our world, let alone our lives, would never be the same again.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Problem Solved!

It was a scandal in the making.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, a vast cultural divide threatened to rip asunder the fragile fabric of unity these first believers in Jesus earlier enjoyed.

As we learned last week (Podcast #27), the story begins,

“But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.”

That was, as you will remember, a dire situation for these precious widows. Dire in the extreme. Women who had lost their husbands, and who were now among the most vulnerable in that male-dominated society. Females forced to live in a world that diminished women to a subservient status. One that rendered them uneducated, unskilled, unemployable, utterly without resources. Totally dependent.

Now that they had become followers of Jesus, they could not return to their synagogues for support. Not to worry. We read earlier in Acts 2 that

“(These first believers) would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it… and shared their food happily and freely.”

Not any more.

Last week, we went into much detail about the collision of cultures faced by these early believers. A vast cultural divide between the Greek-speaking (Hellenistic) believers who were in the minority, and Hebrew-speaking believers who were in the majority. A cultural divide of church-splitting potential.

So wide a divide that the majority discriminated against the minority to the risk of the lives of Greek-speaking widows.

This was serious. So serious that the Apostles (all Twelve of the Apostles) were forced to drop everything in order to address problem.

Their solution was nothing short of brilliant! For them. And for us!

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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More Than Just a Food-Fight. So.Much.More

It was a matter of life and death. Literally.

Make no mistake about this: As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, these “rumblings of discontent,” as Luke characterized them, represented anything but some small-time, garden variety, trivial church-squabble.

What happened here in Acts 6 exposed a clash of cultures that tore asunder the awe-inspiring oneness heretofore enjoyed by the Jerusalem Christian Community.

You might remember what we observed as recently as at the end of Acts 4.

Verse 32, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

Not any more!

Now, sadly, at the beginning of Acts 6, that blessed unity coupled with their selfless generosity Was.No.More.

Something had changed.

Their fellowship fractured. Their unity dissolved into disunity. A rift developed that literally rent the fragile fabric of unity completely in half.

Again, at the risk of sounding redundant, I must stress two vitally important points before I immerse you in the nitty-gritty of what exactly was going on here.

FIRST: We make a grave error of interpretation and application of Acts 6 if we view this not-so-exemplary episode as just the first of the kinds of common conflicts that characterize so many church squabbles and skirmishes today.

This was not some intramural argument about what style of music we should have in our worship services, or the color of carpet we should install in the new Fellowship Hall. You know—the kinds of stuff over which churches so frequently split these days.

Again, this was literally a matter of life and death. The lives of the most vulnerable of these first committed Christ-followers were in jeopardy, not because of external persecution.

SECOND: Please understand that this church fight exposed an internal underlying clash of cultures that was far more serious than we might realize.

On the surface of things, a casual reader might merely relegate this Acts 6 kerfuffle to growing pains—too many people added to the church in too short a time. Rapid growth that resulted in a first-of-its-kind food-fight within hallowed halls of that first century church. Because conflict certainly does involve growth and food. But dig a little deeper and we’ll discover that growth and food were merely symptoms of a potentially deadly disease that threatened to rot the soul of this newly-founded church.

Now listen carefully: Believe it or not, this conflict involved the exact same clash of cultures that we as committed Christ-followers are attempting to navigate even today.

It is Today as it was Then.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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THE Man who was God’s Reward

He is the unsung hero of Church History.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, I would not be overstating the case to suggest that if it wasn’t for this individual, there would be no Church History.

Indeed, if it wasn’t for him, all twelve apostles would have been executed, summarily stoned to death on the spot.

Hear it for yourself in Acts 5:33, “When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill the apostles.”

And they surely Would.Have.Killed the apostles—all of the apostles—if it wasn’t for this one man. This one man who wasn’t even a believer in Jesus. This one man who stood as a buffer between the High Priest and the Apostles.

His name was Gamaliel. And whether you have heard of him before or not, he factors prominently in the development of the New Testament Church in multiple ways.

Gamaliel, a man who certainly lived up to the meaning of his legendary name: “The Reward of God.” For God surely rewarded the faithful obedience of the twelve apostles by sovereignly superintending Gamaliel to be an honorable member of the dishonorable High Council.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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A Fury Unleashed

“The apostles (rejoiced that) God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.”

As you will hear in this PODCAST, a most-interesting word, “disgrace.” Both the NKJV and the NASB translate it “worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus.” In the ESV? “Worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus.

It’s a word that means to render infamous through insult, innuendo, and/or intimidation; to strip someone of their honor and dignity; to sully one’s name and reputation.

This is the exact same pattern that we saw with Jesus—a gradual escalation of opposition against Him, that we are now seeing intensify against the Apostles.

In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested, imprisoned, warned, and threatened.

Here in Acts 5, all twelve Apostles were arrested, imprisoned, and flogged. They were publicly disgraced, purposefully stripped of their honor as well as their skin, insulted, rendered infamous, their reputations sullied before the watching world.

It should therefore come as no surprise that come Acts 7, the situation will have escalated to the point to where Stephen will be stoned to death.

So what happened now to cause this next step in the escalation of opposition and intimidation? Fact is, it’s really quite a story! One that give to us a heartwarming insight into the thinking and feelings of this first generation of committed Christ-followers. A window both into their world and into their souls.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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