Posts Tagged With: persecution

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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It’s So Sad-You-See (as in the Sadducess). It really is.

As you are about to hear in this new PODCAST, a new day dawned upon these first committed Christ-followers.

If that metaphor of a new day seemingly overstates the case, then at least we can say that a dark cloud now-shadowed the sun for these first committed Christ-followers. Not quite on the level of our eclipse; but portentous just the same. An ominous bellwether that signaled for these early believers a change in the temperature of Holy City.

For the first eight-12 weeks following Crucifixion and Resurrection, these early believers were able to bask in the glow of their newfound faith unmolested.

Not any more.

Persecution was about to break out for first time in the now-2000 year history of Church. Relatively mild at first. No one died. No one was beaten. It was limited to Peter and John.

But as you will hear, it did involve intimidation, incarceration, and threats of greater reprisals if the apostles refused to cease and desist as far as their preaching in Jesus’ name was concerned.

Refuse they did.

This was a harbinger of things to come. A dark cloud heralding a storm. A storm that continues to rage unabated to our day. Not here in America so much. But certainly in many parts of our troubled world, where committed Christ-followers today attend gatherings at great risk of life-threatening peril to themselves and their families.

As is becoming increasing clear in our ongoing study of Peter in HD, we stand in awe at the strength and resilience of these very first believers—our ancestors in faith, to whom we owe so much, and who have SO MUCH to teach us. As they will do here in this week’s study.

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 Day in the Life of the (First) Early Church

These were exhilarating times indeed for that original company of committed Christ-followers.

In this PODCAST, and in the upcoming weeks, it will be our privilege to relive these salad days of the first ekklesia—in Jerusalem—as we join in a virtual sense these first precious believers, our ancestors in the faith.

Last week, we looked at the four foundational dynamics that characterized this first early church. Foundational for them; foundational for us. You will remember that we considered each of these in some detail—that marvelous biblical blueprint for every local church, both then and now! The elegant simplicity and sincerity of which was breathtaking for us to behold.

Now, we will consider a day in the life of these very first committed Christ-followers. The precious and precarious first hours of this first church’s delicate-if-exuberant infancy.

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 Mysterious Member of the Trinity (Part 1)

4498a57b106ad907c282c57889fc2dc5Welcome to the Upper Room Discourse.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, we are now standing on the precipice of Jesus’ passion — Judas’ betrayal, Jesus’ arrest, Peter’s denial, Jesus’ incarceration, His trials, His Crucifixion, climaxing of course in His glorious Resurrection.

What should have been a night primarily of celebration  — of the Passover, and all of its rich meaning — quickly morphed into an evening of last-minute and desperate instruction. Jesus had to prepare His men for the tumultuous and turbulent events of the coming hours, culminating in the crucifixion, the tipping point of redemptive history, after which human history would never be the same again.

As you might suspect, Jesus in the so-called Upper Room Discourse (You’ll understand why I say “so-called” as you listen.), Jesus hit on the themes most important to Him.

There are three principle themes in the Upper Room Discourse. The first of which we will discuss now and next week. The remaining two we’ll dissect and discuss in the coming weeks.

The discussion of tonight’s theme — the Ministry of the Holy Spirit — was so immediately practical for them and for their spiritual survival; so equally vitally necessary for us and our spiritual survival.

A theme triggered by this sad-but-certain reality (John15:18):

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose U to come out of world, so it hates you.”

Now listen: I am not given to pessimism. I am, however, very much attuned to realism. What I am about to tell you in this podcast is very real, so real that this will hardly come as a shock to you. Yeah verily, in the deepest darkest recesses of your mind and heart, you know this to be true.

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 Signs of the Times (Part 2)

maxresdefaultBirth pains. It’s all about the birth pains.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, as we enumerate the final three of the six “signs of the times,” both Paul and Jesus made it crystal-clear that we are to think of these signs in terms of birth pains.

Paul, who borrowed this most-meaningful metaphor from Jesus, used it most-appropriately when he in Romans 8 declared, “For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

It would not surprise me one bit to hear that some of you — Or should I say some of us? — have been groaning a little more than usual this past week.

It is all about the birth pains, that increase dramatically in frequency and in intensity as the moment of birth approaches. This troubled planet of ours is undeniably in the later stages of its own labor pains, as it waits in breathless anticipation as the moment of Jesus’ return approaches.

So said Paul.

So said Jesus.

Here in Matthew 24:8, spoken in the Olivet Discourse, on the Tuesday afternoon of His final week, in reference to these “signs of the times.” Jesus said, “All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

That is precisely where we are today. Groaning, watching, and waiting for the climax of human history as we know it finally and mercifully to dawn upon us.

In Luke’s abbreviated account of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus said in reference to these same “signs of the times,” “When these things (these birth pains) begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Stand up; and lift up. Those are phrases that speak of victory, not defeat!

We don’t sit down in defeat; we stand up in victory!

We don’t hang our heads in dismal distress; we lift up our heads in victorious anticipation.

We are not defeated. Not by a long shot. We are encouraged.

These “signs of the times,” these birth pains, have indeed begun to take place. Our redemption is indeed drawing nearer, every single day!

Yes, these six “signs of the times” have always characterized our world. Yet, these is no denying the acceleration of their frequency and intensity.

Let me briefly remind you of the first three, and then we’ll discuss in some detail the final three. All with a view to standing up and lifting up our heads, not in defeat but in glorious victory.

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 Key That Unlocks the Doorway to God’s Blessing

right:wrongIs it really true? 

That the gateway to God’s blessing in my life opens wide when people say hateful, hurtful, spiteful, or malicious things about me? Or when they treat me in a hateful, hurtful, spiteful, or malicious way? Simply because I desire to live a righteous life, rather than an unrighteous one?

In this PODCAST, you are about to learn how blessedly true that really is.

Please note that depending upon your web browser, it might take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

HAPPY LISTENING!!!

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