Posts Tagged With: apostles

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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A Sin Unto Death

Acts 5:1(NLT)—“But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.” Hmmm…

Just try to imagine for a second this otherwise unimaginable scenario, as related in this PODCAST:

A highly-respected individual walks into the cozy confines of Safe Haven, only to drop dead on the spot.

Some time later, his unsuspecting wife walks in, and she too keels over, stone-cold dead.

That is exactly what happened here in Acts 5, one of the most mysterious and misunderstood narratives in all of the Bible.

For starters: That word “But,” δ—as in “But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property”—is ominous in the extreme.

In the technical grammar of the passage, δ is an adversative particle, signaling something that could be translated: “On the other hand”; or, “Contrary to what you just read”; or, “By way of a startling, scandalous, and jaw-dropping contrast”…

Alerted by that pesky particle, I can tell you that we are about to hear a strange story, a sobering saga, a troubling tale that sounds totally out of character as far as God is concerned.

Or is it?

A head-turning happening that prompts us to ask three questions:

1. Why did this happen?

2. Could this happen today?

3. What does it all mean for us?

Since context is everything, let me begin by first giving you the backstory.

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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Your God-Given Prayer Language

As you will hear in this PODCAST, I stand in awe of our ancestors in the faith, the very first community of Christ-followers ever to walk this planet.

By way of introduction, do you remember when, so very long ago, we studied the Sermon on the Mount?

Let me remind you that Jesus introduced His signature sermon with 8 pronouncements of God’s blessing—We call them the Beatitudes. The most enigmatic of the 8 being Beatitude #3 that goes like this:

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

You are about to see in full color, in High Definition, exactly what meek looks like, courtesy of our earliest brothers and sisters in the faith.

Before we get to that, there is one additional Beatitude to which I want to direct your attention. It happens to be Beatitude #8, the last of Jesus’ pronouncements of God’s blessing. It reads:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10).

Did you know that the words persecute/persecution/persecuted occur in the Bible a combined 142 times? In the minds of the biblical writers, it was a foregone conclusion that they and all of God’s people would be persecuted for our faith.

Jesus certainly understood this, He being the ultimate example of someone who was continuously hounded, hunted, and finally executed—persecuted—for His faith.

Persecution, Jesus repeatedly reminded His disciples, was the price tag for becoming one of His followers.

Perscute—to pursue in a hostile manner, to harass, to trouble, to molest, to mistreat.

Well, Jesus’ many warnings were now coming true for these very first committed Christ-followers. Indeed, what we are about to learn here in Acts 4 was only the beginning.

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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On Trial!

Let me take you back to Tuesday of Jesus’ final week.

On that Tuesday, as you will hear in this PODCAST, Jesus made a most-remarkable promise to His disciples, and by extension, to us.

Allow me to remind you of what happened in Luke 21:

“Some of his disciples began talking about the majestic stonework of the Temple and the memorial decorations on the walls. But Jesus said, ‘The time is coming when all these things will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!’”

Now listen to His promise: 

“But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!”

At the time, the disciples had no idea what Jesus meant by all of that. Now, here, in Acts 4, just 8-ten or so weeks later, they suddenly knew exactly what Jesus meant by all of that.

For first time in the now-nearly two thousand year history of Church, an earsplitting thunderclap of persecution now sounded throughout the Holy City, Jerusalem. So true to Jesus’ prediction made in Luke 21, Peter and John were unceremoniously dragged into prison, and held in there there overnight.

The next morning they were hauled before the highest levels of their religious hierarchy to stand trial.

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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One Little Word That Makes ALL the Difference

Ironies abound, in the four verses I just read to you. A full compliment of ten ironies by my count. Ten!

The most soul-stirring and hope-producing irony being this—the takeaway of this PODCAST:

“Your most influential, inspirational, impactful life-message—greatest chapter of your story—will come not out of your successes, but out of your failures.”

To invoke Jesus’ masterful metaphor — “You ARE the light of the world.”

That being true, your brightest beacon of light will shine forth from the depths of your darkest hour.

And no, I am not referring to the failure of the thousands who gathered at the Temple on this day in Acts 3 to hear Peter indict them for their greatest failure, as stunning as that failure certainly was.

There is buried within the syllables of this story an even greater failure.

An absolutely epic fail, one that hinges on exactly one word—one word about which I will tell you as you get into this podcast. A failure that underscores the blessed reality that…

“Your most influential, inspirational, impactful life-message—greatest chapter of your story—will come not out of your successes, but out of your failures.”

Call it the backdoor blessing of this amazing story. A God-blessed reality that stands in stark contrast to the what was without a doubt the weirdest experience I have ever had when speaking in a seminary chapel…

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 God of the Surprise

We may not know his name.

But as you will hear in this PODCAST, we surely know his story. As did some 5000 men plus countless women and children, whose lives—after hearing this man’s story—would never be the same again.

This one story—the first of fourteen separate and specific miracles recorded in the book of Acts—exemplifies why I sometimes refer to God as “The God of the surprise.”

Both then and now, God can and will—when we least expect it—apply His divine touch to our circumstances that seem to us to be impossible.

Trust me, to this man who had been lame from birth for now more than forty years (Acts 4:22), his tragic circumstance was definition of impossible. Yet, as Jesus once declared to His watching and wondering disciples (this in Matthew 19),

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

He is, and ever shall be, “The God of the surprise.”

Here’s the point. A grand and glorious point indeed: Within the boundaries of God’s perfect will, there is no such thing as a hopeless situation.

Once God enters picture,

“Hope always burns eternal.”

If we learn nothing else from this man, learn this: God can and will insert Himself into our most impossible-seeming situations any time He wants to.

For over forty years, this desperate man had no idea that this day would ever come. But come, it did! In God’s perfect timing, for God’s eternal purposes—including the eternal salvation of literally thousands of people.

Such is our hope! Our hope that with God there is ALWAYS hope. A glorious theme echoed throughout the entire Bible.

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 Dazzling Day of Astonishing Amazement

“For more than forty years.”

As you will hear in this PODCAST, five simple words, easily missed if we hastily read the account as recorded for us by Dr. Luke.

Five astonishing words that unlock this entire episode in the life of the first early church in Jerusalem.

“For more than forty years.”

For more than forty years, everywhere this man went someone had to carry him.

For more than forty years this man never knew the simple pleasure of standing on his own two feet.

For more than forty years this man knew nothing of the joys of going for a walk, let alone a jog.

For more than forty years he could never once kick a soccer ball, hit a baseball, throw a football, or run through the waves as they lapped upon the shore of the Mediterranean.

For more than forty years this man never knew a healthy day—never knew for even a minute what it would be like to have two legs that weren’t as limp as dishrags.

For more than forty years this man had in his legs no feeling, no movement, no sensations of any kind.

For more than forty years this man could go up to the Temple courts to beg, but never into Temple to worship since he was prohibited from doing so in Leviticus 21.

For more than forty years this man knew nothing but the prospect of yet another day spent stretching out his arms, reaching out his hands, and begging for alms.

For more than forty years he was forced to endure being ignored, refused, looked down upon, and judged as a sinner.

Such was the life of one man for more than forty years.

This poor beggar, bereft of health, robbed of any hope of self-respect, devoid of any semblance of a life.

Until this day when Peter and John showed up.

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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