Sunday, April 28, 2013


Sequence of events: 
Death, burial, resurrection - 40 days to Ascension - Pentecost

Pentecost = coming of the Spirit with promise - Acts 2:38-39

NEXT????  Great movement of God/Holy Spirit - Acts 2:41-17
Conversions, church growth, miracles, favor with people - all take place immediately after Pentecost.

AND.....  Opposition!!! - goes hand in hand with great movement of the Holy Spirit
Sanhedrin --> Synagogue --> people    Acts 8:1-3 - Stephen stoned - great persecution began

Then moved to civil leaders --> gentiles --> Roman State
So.... the next 300 years was full of off and on intense persecution in the empire.  Until 313AD - Constantine passed the "Edict of Milan" making Christianity a legitimate religion.  So persecution stopped immediately, and later in that century, it became the preferred religion of Rome

So......... did persecution end????  No - off and on for the next 2000 years!!!

341/614 - Persians/Muslims/Medieval - Catholics persecuted non-conformists
                 Reformation - persecuted Catholics
China - (17th to 20th centuries)
Japan - (mid 17th century) - 37,000 Christians beheaded in on day
France after the French Revolution - persecuted anything to do with the monarchy
1842 Ottoman Turks - Killed 2 million Christians
Soviet Union - 1917 - 1953 - millions of Christians died
Nazi Germany - "Protestant Reich" formed by Hitler vs.Confessing Church which wouldn't go along with Hitler
Uganda - 1971 - 1976 - 400,000 died, disappeared, displaced

Grant this:
1)  Not all of these persecutions focused on Christians only
(French Revolution, Soviet Union, Vietnam), but Christians included because they stood in the way

2)  Not all persecuted specifically for being Christian .. example:  Ottoman Turks - persecuted for NOT being Muslim.  (included Christian, Jew, Hindu, Pagan, Atheist)

3)  Not all were 'faith based' - persecutions.
Often were political.  Example:  Rome - if were not supportive of the Empire, were considered subversive!!

4)  Other faiths have also been heavily persecuted - not Christians alone.  Also, Muslim, Hindu, etc.

5)  Too often A) Persecution has been by "Christians"
                     B)  Christian persecution is by other "Christians"!!!  Example:  Reformation - Catholics, Reformers, Anabaptists

Point - since the days of Stephen, Christians have (off and on) experienced a lot of persecution.

TODAY???  "Open Doors Ministry" estimates:
-- about 100 million Christians are persecuted worldwide today.
-- the church faces restrictions and hostility in 111 countries
-- Christianity is the largest religion - also the most persecuted
-- as much as 25% of the global church meets underground (in hiding)
-- approximately 163,000 die for their faith each year

2 Tim. 3:10-14 - focus on 2 Tim. 3:12 ("...all who live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution..")

Question #1.  Is this true?  for all times?
Answer:  Yes, BUT with qualifications.
1).  Recognize degrees of persecution - contrast Paul and us!
(opposition, discrimination, difficulties --- snubbed, slighted, ignored, denies)

2)  Recognize significance of "live Godly" - versus "claim Christianity")  world of difference between the two.

Question #2.  Why?  Why will we "suffer persecution"??
3 Reasons: 
1)  the Offense of the Gospel.  It says:  you are a sinner and separated from God. 
Redemption is found in the substitute sin bearer. 
And, HE is the only Way!!!  - narrow, offensive.

2.  the Offense of the Bible.  It says:  the Bible is the Revealed Truth. 
If you are not in agreement, then you are in error.
Not only in error, but in sin!!
John 3:19-20

3. The Opposition of Satan - Eph. 6:12
Compare Jesus:  Matt. 4:1   Seducing spirits - 1 Tim. 4:1  Rev. 12:17
Summary:  John 15:18-27

Question #3 - What to do???
A.  Don't get a "persecution complex"
B. Be Aware - "count the cost"
C.  Be steadfast/faithful/continue on. - 1st. Pet. 4:12-16, 19

Our persecutions are so minor, teeny, but if trying to live a Godly life and share the gospel, we will be offensive.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Evil and Suffering

3 events this week - Monday - Boston Marathon bombing - (3 dead, 170 injured)
                             - Wednesday - Explosion in Waco - (14 dead, 200 injured)
                             - Friday - suicide death of young man from Watson

NOTE:  not all suffering is immediate/direct result of Evil - example:  Waco - just a tragic accident
But, naturally, they often go together, therefore, addressed together.

First/most asked question = "Why?"  - IF God is all good and sovereign.
But today we're looking at the practical side..... ie:  our response.

Divided into:  I.  Our Response to Sufferers
                    II.  Our Response as Observers
                   III.  Our Response to Evil

I.  The Christian (immediate) Response to Sufferers
Compassion         Prayer         Aid and Assistance

1.  Compassion - heartfelt concern, hurting in heart) - Rom. 12:15  "who is my neighbor?"
We should hurt when others hurt
2.  Prayer - James 5:16 - because prayer is effective/to heal!!  We believe prayer makes a difference.

3.  Aid & Assistance  1 John 3:16-19
Obviously - this equals money, material - when God has placed it within our means to help.
Also means love/comfort/encouragement, etc.  We need to give what we have to meet needs as they come up.

II.  Our Response as Observers - from a distance - while we watch
         Two extremes - 1)  Indifference
                                  2)  Despair
Another option:          3)  improvement - seeing suffering in such a way that it affects in a way that improves life.
Compare the Biblical concept of personal suffering leading to personal improvement (if we choose to let it)
1 Pet. 1:6-7  James 1:2-4

Quote by Waco fire survivor:  "It is not what happens to us, but how we handle it.  We will overcome this."
Life is not determined by what happens to me; but by how I respond to what happens to me.

Point:  needn't be only our personal suffering that achieves this.  We can benefit from the sufferings of others as well.

The tragedy of others can drive you to your knees, to God, to introspection, adjustment, correction, improvement, to commitment, to service.

Often say:  "Don't waste your sorrows".  Can include "Don't waste theirs".

III.  Our Response to Evil
Could be denial, indifference, defeat.
Biblical response?  - Eph. 6:10-13
Recognize, stand firm, fight against = broad, general terms

Add:  defiance - ie:  Resistance with an attitude - boldness, stubbornness, combativeness against a stronger foe!!!   Suffering affirms faith. 

From a poem by John Donne - English poet, lawyer, cleric - 1572 - 1631

'Death be not proud,
though some have called thee

Mighty and Dreadfull, for,
thou art not so....

One short sleepe past,
wee wake eternally,

And death shall be no more;
Death thou shalt die.'
(re-written here in the old English)

NOTE:  Defiance of evil is presumptuous and futile in own power - WITHOUT CHRIST!!!!
But, with Him, Rev. 12:9-11, 13:10 - hang in there!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Promised Holy Spirit

Death -->Resurrection-->40 days-->Ascension-->???

Pentecost - festival of harvest, feast of weeks --> 50 days.
Celebrated by many Jews as the anniversary of the coming of the Law

Pentecost was a Pilgrim festival - one of three - where Jewish males in particular are encouraged to come to Jeruselem - at least once in a while.

Acts 2:1-24, 32-33, 36-41

Question:  What is this? - leads to question in Acts 2:12 with the answer in Acts 2:16-17 - Promised Holy Spirit

This is The Coming of the Promised Holy Spirit
2 parts:  I.  The Promise and 2.  the Person

I.  The Promise of the Holy Spirit
On one hand, A)  hints in the Old Testament (Joel) - Ezek. 36:26-27, 39:29
BUT, B) clear teachings from Christ in the New Testament - John 14:16-18, Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8

NOTE:  This doesn't mean that there was NO Holy Spirit activity or indwelling in the Old Testament.
But, Now the Holy Spirit is with us in a New, Powerful, Personal way.

II.  The Person of the Holy Spirit - who, what is this Holy Spirit??
A)  the 3rd. Person of the Trinity
B)  the primary manifestation (appearance, evidence) of God among us today!
John 16:5-7   John 14:16-19  - maybe not better for the 12, but better for mankind as a whole - every believer @ every time, everywhere.

So.... The Holy Spirit came upon them - AS promised... with great Power.  Clearly validating Christ as the Son of God, His message, His messengers!!

This = the Spectacular Side of Pentecost    --  Acts 2.  BUT NOTE:  The Promise is also for us!!  For you and me - Acts 2:37-39

Although we are not given a promise of the Spectacular, we are promised:  The Person, The Presence, the (potential) Power of God's Holy Spirit

(switch from then to you..)
When you receive Christ as Savior and Lord, His Holy Spirit comes:
1)  to dwell within you - 1 Cor. 6:19
2)  to achieve/accomplish/perform God's work - ON you, IN you, FOR you, THRU you

Objection!!!!  I've never experienced anything like Pentecost!!
Answer:  Few have, Few do.

The Spectacular Manifectation was (is)
#1.  for verification - (of Christ, His message, His messengers)
#2.  AS God directs/chooses!!!  We don't decide what gift we will have or use.
It is HIS place to manifest Himself.  OUR place to be available and usable!!

So....No experience for me??!!
Scripture wording is often more than intelligent response.  Often = emotions, feelings, sensations, desires, experiences, promptings, etc.
words - "teach, guide, lead you" = personal
Prohibitions, warnings = "don't quench, grieve, offend, insult..."

NOTE:  Phil. 2:1 - "fellowship with the Spirit" is more than an intelligent response, but is personal, inter-personal, interactive

So..... 1)  Be Aware that the purpose of Pentecost was to make people aware of Coming Holy Spirit
2 Tim. 2:15

2)  Be Open - to His leadership, direction, Promptings
     A)  Initially (to salvation)
     B)  As a Believer (growth, development)
     C)  As a minister - that He might teach others through you.

3)  Be Careful - not to stifle, not to mis-interpret, mis-represent

4)  Be Available

5)  Be Satisfied - with how He uses you, manifests Himself provided you've given yourself totally to Him.

Example:  Jeremiah - 40 years - no converts

Sunday, April 7, 2013

After the Resurrection

The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ - most important event in history.  (Therefore, widely celebrated)

Next on calendar - Ascension - 40 days after the resurrection.

Question:  the 40 days from resurrection to ascension - anything on consequence??

Answer:  were the last days with the disciples - bodily.  Therefore, very important.
Obviously - to them.  Therefore, to us.  The resurrection changed things and the disciples immensely.

So... we're going to look at the 40 days to find any application to US.  They were not just important to the disciples.  Acts 1:1-11   The book of Luke - what Jesus began to do.  Book of Acts - what He continues to do.

After the Resurrection - and it's relevance today.

#1.  Jesus appeared to His disciples.   1 Cor. 15:3-8  Acts 2:32 - so the disciples became "witnesses".  Have seen Jesus visibly and bodily on many occasions.  Paul also met the risen Christ visibly and bodily.

Question:  Does the resurrected Christ have any witnesses today?
Eyewitness - NO.   Heart witness - Yes - personal testimony.  We are the witnesses that are alive today.

#2.  Jesus continued to teach the disciples. - His teaching did not end at the resurrection.
Example:  Sunday afternoon - Luke 24:25-27    Sunday evening - Luke 24:44-45

And, He still teaches:  the promise of the Holy Spirit - John 14:25-26, 16:12-13
This not only for the disciples - still opens minds today.  So... 1 Cor. 2:9-12

To be a follower of Christ (disciple) is more than just a student of the Word.
Also, must be a student of the LIVING Word and open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Can't be a follower on academics alone.

#3.  Jesus re-stated His authority. 
Claims before the Resurrection - John 5:22   Mark 2:5
But, after the Resurrection, His words bear much more weight.   Matt. 28:18

Important that His authority was recognized, because

#4.   Jesus commissioned His disciples.  Matt. 28:18-20  Acts 1:8

Definition:  Commission = a.  a charge/command - "go"
                                    = b.  with authority behind it - "all authority"
                             and = c.  which carries authority with it. - "baptizing in MY Name!!"

AND, the commission still stands.   When go, go in His name.

#5.  Jesus promised His continued presence.
Matt. 28:20 - means more than with you in presence only.  Means with you in assistance and support 
Old Testament examples:  "go AND..."  Compare Col. 1:29  Phil. 2:12-13

#6.  Jesus ascended into heaven.  (visibly and bodily)

#7.  He left with the assurance of His return.
Acts 1:6-11

All this is confirmation of His presence and His presence with us.
Also, confirmation of our duty.
Also, confirmation of our hope.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Authority of the Christ

Opening picture of "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee" painted in 1633 by Dutch artist, Rembrandt
From the story told in Matthew 8, Mark 4, and Luke 8

3 Unusual Things:
1.  The boat = Christ plus 13 people
2.  One person is looking at us
3.  We know who he is!!!  (the author/painter - Rembrandt himself)

NOTE:  facial expression is more than fear.  Seems to be questioning.  ie:  "Can Christ save ME?"

We know that:
1.  Christ saved the disciples (from the storm)
2.  He exercised authority over many other 'storms' - ie:  healed sick, cured blind and lame, turned water into wine, bread into abundance, cast out demons, raised the dead, walked on water, calmed the sea, etc.
John 20:30, 21:25   And the question is the same for us:  Can He save me, help me, from and through storms of life.

BUT ....then He died!!
He appeared to be helpless before the Sanhedrin, powerless before Rome.
AND finally succumbed, yielded, surrendered ... to that ancient, undefeated enemy of all mankind - DEATH!!!

SO... as good and great and powerful as He was ..... there was one greater!!  (death)

And SO... the disciples were devastated and scattered - Luke 24:21

and SO ... Rembrandt asks "Can He save ME?"

Therefore, you see the importance of the Resurrection, and how we needed it to understand the extent of His power and authority.   Matt. 28:18 - "....all authority.... is given to Me...."
If He hadn't raised, how would we know that He could save us.

Question:   If He was resurrected, what does He have power and authority over?

Answer:  ALL THINGS!! 

Question:  IF He was resurrected, what can I trust Him with?

Answer:  ALL THINGS! 

Note/Observation:  IF He resurrected, there are 3 possible scenarios for a person's life:

A)  Pre-Christian - ie:  self on throne of heart (in control), Christ not in heart at all.
B)  Errant (prodigal) Christian - ie:  self on throne of heart, Christ at the FOOT of the throne.  (Saved but not surrendered to Lordship)
C)  Practicing Christian -  Christ in heart, on throne, and self at the foot following His leadership

IF He is resurrected, there are 3 reasonable responses....
#1.  Pre-Christian - Receive and Surrender - invite him into life (heart) - yield, relinquish, abdicate.  A one time thing.

#2.  Errant Christian - Recognize and RE-surrender - continual need for this.   Re-instate, re-enthrone.  He gives us free will to nudge Him off the throne if we choose to do so.

#3.  Practicing Christian - Continue to surrender (realistically, practically) = daily struggle

Reasonable????   2 Tim. 1:12 - persuaded in all things.

There is much to be said about His power, authority, position.  Let's summarize with a  simple, ancient declaration of faith ....... "Jesus is LORD"