27 May 2017

Stone 52 - Revelation

So here we are at the final post in this series of stones: Revelation. It has been a journey that has taken a bit longer to take than expected but well worth the trip. So let's lay out some thoughts on this book.

The book of Revelation seems to have a particular reputation for being the book that describes the end of the world and how it will happen. Many have tried to interpret and connect the imagery in the book to something in modern day times. I appreciate the video for Revelation for pointing out that this book is not some sort of code to be broken and pointing us back to the original context in which it was written.

That being said, do not expect me to try and reveal the secrets of this book. Just my thoughts about it.

The beginning of the book is structured like many of the letters that we have already read. The author identifies themselves and to whom they are writing. In this case, John is writing to seven churches in the province of Asia (Rev 1:4). To me, this means that there is a great deal of information here that might be more clear to the audience than it is to us today.

Verse 19 states that the Lord spoke to John and told him to write what he has seen, what is, and what will take place after this. I think this is an important verse to consider. I think it says something about the structure of the text to follow. Perhaps it hints that the text will point to events of the past, events that are currently happening, and events that are yet to take place.

What comes next are the letters to the seven churches.
  1. Ephesus
  2. Smyrna
  3. Pergamum
  4. Thyatira
  5. Sardis
  6. Philadelphia
  7. Laodicea
The churches each have a different message that applies to them specifically but we can certainly learn from what was spoken to them. I found it interesting that for five of the seven churches it was written, "I know your works." To the remaining two it was written, "I know your tribulation and poverty, yet you are rich.", and "I know where you live-where Satan's throne is!" For all seven churches there is a statement of what the "victor" can expect.

At this point we find the first of three major things that seem to be constantly debated from Revelation: The Scroll. The sealed scroll comes out and it is clear that  information within it is hidden to us since no one can open it (Rev 5:3).

But Wait! Along comes one that can open it! It is the slaughtered lamb (Rev 5:5-6). The lamb is Jesus. Verse 9 is an example of an event that has already taken place. The time of the opening of the seals, however, is debated.

*I do not intend to enter that debate.

Chapter 7 talks about the 144,000 of Israel who are sealed. It seems to flow that they are sealed up prior to the opening of the seventh seal in chapter eight which ushers in the seven trumpets and a great deal of destruction and devastation.

The first six trumpets are mentioned right away, followed by a short break similar to chapter seven. During this break there is another scroll that comes out and John is asked to eat it. This seems odd but we have seen this before (Ezek 3:1-3). Ezekiel was asked to eat a scroll as well and it was sweet like honey as well. Just as Ezekiel was asked to go and prohesy after eating the scroll, so was John. (Rev 10:10-11). We also read that John's stomach became bitter. The bittersweet experience known as ministry...

Later, after a description of two witnesses, which seems to illustrate the work of Jesus on the cross with a death and resurrection, we have the seventh trumpet going off which seems to signify the Day of the Lord.

Then there is a description of a woman, child, and dragon that seem to mirror the account of Genesis followed by some more descriptions of the "Beast".
*I have often heard various theories about what the horns on the beast represent. Many have tried to associate the horns with different countries or perhaps specific ones that have a role in the "End of Days".

I resonate, however, best with the idea that every country seems to become a Babylon in its own way where the idols of sex, money, self, and pride infect the population. This is also where we read about the mark of the beast being 666. Again, many theories have developed around this to the point of trying to identify the beast using a plethora of code deciphering techniques. Many have also tried to identify the mark itself. One such theory is the use of RFID tags being placed just under the surface of the skin and used as a way to track medical history etc.

Pursue God. Know Him.

Then come the bowls which appear to share a description of the plagues of Exodus with the trumpets. In the end, the same is seen - the Day of the Lord - the destruction of Babylon, or at least the modern day equivalent.

On one hand, I admit that I fear America is one of the Babylons - on the other, I dismiss that fear in knowing that I am on the side of Christ.

I hope that at least one of these posts was helpful in some way for someone. Please take a moment to view the two videos on the book of Revelation from our friends at the Bible Project.

Thanks for joining me.
Have an awesome day!

In Christ,

20 May 2017

Stone 51 - Jude

In this post we will go over the book of Jude which is another really short book with only 25 verses. Nonetheless, the book contains some wisdom that we can learn from.

Jude begins his letter by indicating that his intent was to write about something else but instead found it more important to write about contending for the faith (v3).

Jude reminds his readers about some examples where the end result is destruction. He reminds of the deliverance from Egypt and the death of those who did not believe, the fate of the angels who decided to desert their positions, and the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah as well as others for their perversions (v5-7).

Verse 10 says, "But these people blaspheme anything they don't understand, and what they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals-they destroy themselves with these things."

**How many times have we witnessed that... someone attacking something they do not understand? The acts of sex, sin, and rebellion - which are things that we all know by instinct are things that will end up destroying us if we do not learn how to deal with them. We will share the fates of those examples that Jude gives us in verses 5-7.

Jude desires to warn the reader of these people and continues to describe them as dangerous people and using some vivid imagery to do so (v12-13).

Verse 16 also shines some light on the hearts of those people as self-centered and goes on to remind us that it has been said that there will be scoffers who walk around according to their own desires (v17-18).

Jude tells the reader to keep in the love of God (v21).

So - beware the natural instincts, do not be quick to dismiss and ridicule that which you do not understand, and remain true to the unfailing love that is God.

Please enjoy the video about Jude from our friends at the Bible Project.

Until next time,

13 May 2017

Stone 50 - 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John

In this post we will be putting the books of 1, 2, and 3 John together for what I think is an obvious reason.

1 John
My initial thoughts in reading 1John is that we have an appeal to firsthand experience. Right away, the author speaks of "what we have heard, seen with our eyes, observed, and touched with our hands (1John 1:1). This is shared so that we might also have fellowship with God and Jesus (1 John 1:3).

This fellowship with God means walking in the light (1John 1:7). I see this as having multiple points.
**I think of it in this way - To walk in the light is to be seen as opposed to walking in the dark where we can easily hide and not be seen. As Christians, we ought to be visible. As another point, God is light. We need to bask in it. Grow.

John makes many statements about saying one thing and doing another (1:6, 2:4, 2:9, 4:20) and also provides examples of those who are in Him and those who are not.

John gives a piece of advice that is perhaps more difficult than it may sound at first. Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world.
**What a challenge! I admit that I am frustrated by the world but there are plenty of things that I enjoy. But wait, God created the world and the people who inhabit it. Am I not to love them and His creation? Hmm... so of the "world" must have another meaning as it is used here. Perhaps even love has a different meaning in this context. Perhaps I ought not to worship the things that are born of this world - man-made stuff. That seems to fit more logically.

Much of what I take away from this book is that words are empty. Consider 3:18 where John says we must not love in word or speech but in deed and truth. Clearly this applies to Jesus as well. We should do more than simply give lip service to Him but to live out the commands of Jesus. The lifestyle apologetic.

We are called to beware of the false teachers and to test everything - we saw this in Paul's letter to the Thessalonians as well (1Thess 5:21).

In the end, a bold statement (1John 5:12) - "The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn't have the Son of God does not have life."

**Do you have the Son of God? The most important decision you will ever make.

2 John
This very brief (13 verses) letter shares a warning not to beware of false teachers who do not remain in the teaching about Christ (v9).

3 John
This letter is also very brief (14 verses). John sends a warning to Gaius about Diotrophes and praises him for his helpful aid to those who have come as an encouragement to continue doing so.

Please enjoy the excellent video about these three books from our friends over at the Bible Project.

Until next time,

29 April 2017

Stone 49 - 1 Peter and 2 Peter

In this post we will take a quick look at two letters from Peter.

1 Peter
Peter reminds the reader that they a part of something huge - a living hope and an inheritance that is imperishable (1Pet 1:3). We are encouraged to hang on to this future hope despite the persecution that we might suffer.

In addition we are called to live holy lives (1Pet 1:14-15).
We are called to run from our worldly ways (1Pet 2:1, 2:11, 4:2) and to submit ourselves to authority (1Pet 2:13).

**I think it is worth noting that we are not to submit with blind ignorance nor are we to engage in activities perhaps mandated by human law which would violate God's Law.

In essence, we are to be good examples living in the world for others to follow. Of course, what I find interesting is the fact that a good example by God's standard would be thought of as a bad example by a non-believer. That should not dissuade us though. (1Pet 2:19)

So we are called to submit to government (2:13-14), slaves to their masters (2:18), and wives to their husbands (3:1).

**Before we get all up in arms over this - submission does not mean inequality nor does it hint at lesser worth. God ordained the institution of marriage but not slavery - Humans came up with that one. God's word addresses the issue but does not endorse it.

1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us. This is a favorite verse of mine.

We are to model God's grace and love (1Pet 4:10). So much easier said than done, right? If I could but muster what I consider a fraction of that...

2 Peter
Peter writes that we should make every effort to supplement our faith with goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (2Pet 1:5-7).

Peter states that they were eyewitnesses to the declaration from God that Jesus was his beloved Son (2Pet 1:16-17). He also makes clear that prophecy does not come from man but from God (2Pet 1:21).

We must be wary, however, since there are false teachers among us who will distort the truth (2Pet 2:1, 3:16-17).

Continually pray, my friends, that God will reveal to you the false teachings. That you would be aware and not tricked by them. May he open our eyes to the truth and thereby protect us from the lies of this world.

Please enjoy the videos about 1 and 2 Peter from our friends at the Bible Project.

 I really like the statement about love at 1:28-1:35 in the video of 2 Peter.

Love is... "devoting oneself to the well-being of others, no matter their response or the cost."

Here is my reminder of how I think we get there. Not easy. Still working on it.

Until next time,

22 April 2017

Stone 48 - Hebrews and James

In this post we will take a brief look at Hebrews and James in which there is quite a bit going on.

The book begins by placing Jesus on a pretty big pedestal. A well deserved one, however. Jesus rightfully belongs in a position superior to all else.

Interestingly, the text specifically states that he was higher in rank than the angels (Heb 1:4). My understanding here is that a comparison is being made with old and new methods of communication. Where communication once took place through angels, Jesus came to communicate and is better (Heb 1:1-2).

The takeaway is that the angels brought an extremely important message and therefore we ought to pay even more attention to the message that Jesus brought (Heb 2:1-3).

Hebrews then goes on to make a comparison with Moses and how he was faithful (Heb 3:2). As you recall, Moses helped to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into the promised land. Jesus has come to lead us into a new creation and how much better that is than the promised land! We ought to then take heed and remain faithful, not rebelling, and missing out as the rebellious Israelites did.

Next we have a comparison of Jesus to the priests of old. Jesus is our high priest. Just as the old priests made sacrifices on behalf of the people, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of all of us and is a superior priest (Heb 7:27).

Then we read about the old covenant and the new covenant as well as the superior sacrifice that was made - the new covenant established in blood (Heb 10:9-12). Jesus - the better messenger, guide, priest, and sacrifice - establishing a better covenant, we ought to listen and follow Jesus! The many warnings found in this book are valid and wise.

**As I watched the video (see below) and read through the text, it made me think about it all in a different light. So often, as I have read through the Bible, I miss that bigger picture. Each book points to Jesus or shows evidence of the "fingerprints" of God in some way. It was so good to see it this way.

How often as I reflect on my own life do I find parallels! How difficult it is to let go of the old and cling to the new! How challenging it is to break old habits. How powerful the lure of the flesh! I am a broken, tired, and selfish man in need of a savior!

This short book starts out by telling us to essentially be grateful for the trials that we endure (James 1:2, 12). We are then given counsel on not treating others differently based on their status or wealth (James 2:1). James then reminds us that faith without works is dead (James 2:17, 26).
**I think it is important to reiterate that it is not our works that save us. There is not a checklist of things that one must accomplish in order to be saved. We need only to have Jesus. The point here is that if we truly have Jesus in our lives that works should be a natural outpouring of that faith. Without the action - our belief is merely a set of empty words.

James then talks about controlling our mouths. We should not praise God and curse men with our mouths (James 3:9-10). Such a small part of out bodies but whoa, how it can guide us to trouble (James 3:6, 8)!
**Over the years, I have always thought of "taming the tongue" when I think of the book of James. Seems like this is always the topic when there is a sermon from James.

Oh, but James has much more to say! He really hits us hard with the comments in chapter four! We are called to submit to God and resist the Devil (James 4:7-8). By drawing near to God, He will draw near to us. We ought to operate based upon His will and not our own (James 4:15-16).

James reminds us that our wealth and material possessions are nothing and yet we cling to it (James 5:2-3). Instead, we ought to remain patient (5:7), truthful (5:12), and devoted to prayer and praise (5:13).

**If you are looking for a little conviction, James is the book to read.

In the meantime, please enjoy the videos about Hebrews and James from our friends over at the Bible Project!

Until next time,

08 April 2017

Stone 47 - Titus and Philemon

In this post we will take a brief look at the books of Titus and Philemon. These were actually letters that Paul had written to them. Let's find out what he had to say.

In his greeting to Titus, Paul mentions God and adds, "...who cannot lie..." (Titus 1:2).

**As a side note, I had also read that this part comes from the Greek word apseudes meaning incapable of falsehood. I then thought of the parts of that word which are recognizable in the English language such as pseudonym which refers to a false name. Think of pseudo-anything and it implies that the anything portion is not genuine. Then I thought of the prefix a- as in agnathan which refer to fish that do not have a jaw or amoral referring to a person without morals. Putting these two together - a/pseudo - we can infer "without false". So this Greek word apseudes makes sense when looked at that way.

God does not deceive - and he is trustworthy - we can be assured of the eternal life that He promises to us.

Paul writes to Titus that he is to appoint elders in every town (Titus 1:5). The characteristics, as I understand it, describe the opposite of the prevailing majority in Crete at the time. He also mentions the Judaizers who insist that new believers be circumcised and follow Jewish traditions from the Old Testament. He calls on Titus to set them straight. Titus 1:16 is Paul basically saying that their actions speak louder than their words.

Moving into chapter two, Paul shares with Titus about sound teaching and talks about how people should behave.

This seems to tie into the meat of chapter three and doing good works. It is worth noting that while the subject of good works comes up often, we are not to attempt to gain entrance into the presence of God through them. It is through Jesus that we will make our way to the Father. That being said - as a result of having Jesus as a part of our lives, good works ought to be a natural outpouring of that.

So Philemon is a rich guy who has a church that meets in his house (v2). He has a slave by the name of Onesimus. Turns out that Onesimus runs off for some reason and eventually runs into Paul and becomes a Christian.

As I understand it, Roman law at the time would allow for the death of Onesimus as punishment for running off. As such, I can imagine that Onesimus was likely afraid to go back.

Paul writes this letter to Philemon as a request to accept his slave back - not as a slave but as a dearly loved brother (v16). Paul cashes in a few chips as well by saying that he will cover for Onesimus but that Philemon owes him one as well (vv18-19).

**Slavery comes up often in the Bible. That does not mean that God or the Bible endorse the institution. The Bible records history. In this letter to Philemon, Paul encourages a proper Christian response to Onesimus.

Slavery in those times was not necessarily like the oppressive negative stigma that we place upon it today. If you owed money and could not pay it back - you might become a slave. The law was also that you were to be released after seven years. Those who had kind masters could choose to remain a slave in lieu of going back on their own and falling into poverty or trouble. In a similar way we could think of our own employment as being slaves to our employers. We are willing workers and those for whom we work can be both good and bad. Paul encourages a proper relationship between master and slave, employer and employee.

Please enjoy the videos on Titus and Philemon from our friends at the Bible Project

Until next time,

25 March 2017

Stone 46 - 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy

In this post we will take a look at the two letters to Timothy.

1 Timothy
Paul writes his first letter to Timothy and calls him to work in Ephesus since there is some strange teaching going on there (1Tim 1:3).

**Clearly this is something, then, that has gone on for centuries! Nothing new here. We must be vigilant even to this day about false teachings and misuse of the gospel.

This was Timothy's charge. To correct the bad teaching going on in Ephesus.

**As with other portions of the Bible - we must keep the writing in context to determine the true meaning. Paul was not writing to us. He was writing a letter to Timothy and it had specific instruction for him. It referred to things going on in a specific place -  things that Timothy no doubt experienced first hand while he was there. Because of this - we must strive to understand what was happening there at that time and how the words Paul wrote should be interpreted based upon that. Then we might come to an understanding of how these words might also be useful for us today.

One of the takeaways from 1 Timothy might be from Paul's reference to himself (1Tim 1:12-17). Paul notes his past in verse 13 as an arrogant, blaspheming, persecutor of the gospel and that despite these awful attributes, he was shown mercy anyway.

In verse 15, Paul states that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. By substitution, that means everyone as we are all guilty of sin.

Paul urges Timothy to be an intercessor for the people there through prayer. Paul states that it is good and pleases God (1Tim 2:3). This would hold true today. It continues to please God when we pray on behalf of others for their well-being.

Paul then makes some statements in his letter to Timothy that many people might struggle with.

Now, I do not proclaim to know every detail or have every answer but I will suggest to you that perhaps what we read is not as it may appear when we take the words from their original context.

Here is a great resource called Never Read A Bible Verse.

Consider 1Tim 2:9-10. If these are the only verses we read, one particular meaning seems to stand out. Is this really a commandment from Paul to all women of today? No. It is a letter to Timothy about what was going on in Ephesus. Is it possible that the women in Ephesus were dressing provocatively or perhaps that more wealthy women were "outdressing" the poor women?
Remember - something was amiss in Ephesus - that is why Timothy was there - to correct it all.

Does that mean we cannot take something from this in today's time? No. I do not see anything inherently wrong with the statement about dressing modestly and with good sense. Verse 10 seems to make it clear that DOING good is more important than DRESSING good - as it were.

I think we can apply the same thinking to the verses about the role of women. Something was happening in Ephesus - something messed up enough that Paul sent Timothy to go and fix it. Ephesus was already known for distorting scripture and false doctrine. Could this have been what the women were up to? Is it possible that the correction was specific to the Ephesian women? I do think it is possible to have equality of all persons who are created in the image of God while maintaining different roles.

Paul then speaks about the qualifications of the elders. The idea is that they are to be good examples of Christ followers. As leaders of God's household, they should first be recognized as good leaders of their personal household. That seems fair to me.

The enemy is eager to distort the truth and lure God's children down the wrong path.

Paul has advice for dealing with widows, other elderly, and slaves as well since it matters how the church deals with them or doesn't.

In 1Tim 6:10 Paul writes that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. I mention this since it is a pretty familiar saying. Unfortunately, I often hear it as simply "Money is the root of all evil." Notice the subtle but very significant difference in meaning...

Not -money- but the -love of money- and not -all evil- but -all kinds of evil- Notice how the original refers to an attitude towards an object rather than the object itself. Money in and of itself is not evil and much good can actually come from it when used wisely and in accordance with God' plan. Not to mention that lots of evil comes from many other sources so money cannot be the root of it all. This is just one example of how easily things can be distorted to mean something different.

2 Timothy
Paul writes again to Timothy and encourages him not to be ashamed. Again, looking at the context of what is going on...

Paul wants Timothy to come and visit him but he is in prison. As such, there is a negative connection in the eyes of the people in many cases when it comes to Paul. Associating with him could look bad for Timothy as well. So in essence, part of this is a plea to Timothy to come anyway and not be ashamed of him for being in prison since he is there because of his work for Christ. This is important for us too. We also should not be ashamed to be associated with Christ even though we may be persecuted as a result. Ultimately we are saved through Christ and should not abandon that.

Paul urges Timothy to remain strong and faithful and to share in the suffering as Christ suffered. The expectation is no different than a soldier, athlete, or farmer who strives for excellence (2Tim 2:1-7). The message is to run away from fleshly desires and to strive to be holy and special, set apart for God's work (2Tim 2:20-21). This does not come without a cost, however. Living a Christian life is not a simple one. The enemy lurks around every corner waiting to devour us (1Pet 5:8-10).

**So let us be strong in the scripture! Test everything against the Word and hold onto what is good (1Thess 5:21). The Word is good and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2Tim 3:16-17).  This is why we must take up the full armor of God (Eph 6:13), to resist evil! We must be prepared.

**1Tim 4:3  -  "For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new."
This is in effect now. People around the world are trying to craft their own truth and it is harmful to them and those around them.

Go forth and be strong!

Please enjoy the videos about 1 and 2 Timothy from our friends at the Bible Project

Until next time,

11 March 2017

Stone 45 - 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians

In this post we will take a quick peek at 1 and 2 Thessalonians. These two relatively short books are actually two letters written by Paul to the church at Thessalonica.

1 Thessalonians
After a short introduction, Paul begins to recall the time when he was there with them. He states that their exhortation did not come from error, impurity, or an intent to deceive and that they were not there to please men but God (1Thess 2:3-4). It was also very clear that they had developed some very positive and close relationships (1 Thess 2:7-8). Paul makes an appeal to their conduct when they were there. He even tells them that they were going to suffer some persecution and that he wanted to find out about them because he was worried about whether or not their faith has held up (1Thess 3:4-5).

Paul then encourages them to remain sexually pure and to not worry about those who have died. Those who have died will also be with the Lord. Paul comforts them in regards to the Day of the Lord reminding them that Christians are 'of the day'.

One of my favorite verses is 1Thess 5:21 - but test all things. Hold on to what is good.

**This always brings me back to defining that which is good. How do you make that determination? What criteria do you use to decide if something is good or not? Is it a selfish or pragmatic examination? Is it one that simply says if it doesn't hurt someone it is not bad and therefore good? Something else? Jesus says that no one is good but One - God (Luke 18:19, Mark 10:18). What makes us think that we are good at all? We are all sinners in need of saving. I realize that is difficult to swallow. I believe it is difficult because we are all guilty of associating good with being nice to others, not getting into trouble with the law, and avoiding culturally set standards of morality. However, it is God that sets the moral standard and I know I, for one, fall miserably short of meeting it.

Test all things... Hold onto what is good. Compare to the standard.

Please enjoy the video from our friends at the Bible Project on 1 Thessalonians.

2 Thessalonians
In this second letter, Paul addresses some concerns that are still affecting the folks in Thessalonica. The first of which is the severe persecution that continues to plague the people. The concern here is that the persecution would drive the people away from Christ as a way to escape the persecution.

Don't give in, friends! There are some today that would walk away from Christ due to simple scare tactics or just common ridicule. This pales in comparison to the violence that the Thessalonians endured in the first century.

The second is about the second coming of Christ. The people are worried that they might have missed it. No, says Paul. It is gonna be way more obvious than that. We must first experience the revelation of the 'Man of Lawlessness'. This person is described as one who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship publicizing that he himself is God (2Thess 2:4).

The third is to work as to not be a burden to others. We ought to work hard, (3:8), and provide for ourselves (3:10, 12).

 Again, please enjoy the wonderful videos that the Bible Project has provided.

**Do not grow weary in doing good (2Thess 3:13)!

Until next time,

04 March 2017

Stone 44 - Colossians

In this post we will take a look at Colossians, the letter which Paul wrote to the church at Colossae.

Paul wrote a lot of letters to different groups of people for a number of different reasons. In this case we have the church at Colossae which had been started by Epaphrus (Col 1:7) - my understanding is that Epaphrus  sought out Paul for help because he was not sure how to deal with the Colossians and the struggles they were facing there.

Paul reminds the Colossians that they were once apart from God because of their evil actions but the work of Jesus on the cross cleared that up (Col 1:21-22).

As I read verse 27, "...which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." I was reminded of the song 'Everything'.

Paul addresses the false teachings to which Colossae has been exposed. He does this through a warning not to be deceived by persuasive arguments, human tradition, and forces of the world (Col 2:4, 8).

*Indeed the world is ripe with false teachings and it is extremely difficult at times to parse out the truth. Paul brings it all back to Christ - Everything - it is in Him that we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). Therefore, bring it all back to Him and test for that which is good.

Paul reminds them that they no longer belong to the world (Col 2:20) - or really questions why they still behave as if they did. Our focus should be on Him. Paul tells them to put to death all that which is worldly (Col 3:5).

*A tall order, no doubt. Even today our culture struggles with the compartmentalization of our people - labeling. Col 3:11 puts an end to that. We are one body in Christ. We are to accept and forgive one another just as Christ forgave us (Col 3:13).

Some good words at the end of this short letter.
Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should answer each person." (Col 4:6)
Easier said than done, right? Remember to keep Christ in everything and this becomes easier. He will be a natural outpouring when He permeates all you do.

Please enjoy this video about Colossians from our friends at the Bible Project.

Until next time,

25 February 2017

Stone 43 - Ephesians and Philippians

Today we will take a look at two books which were both letters that Paul wrote to the churches in that area: Ephesians and Philippians. Let's start with the letter to the church at Ephesus.

Paul begins the letter by pretty much laying out the gospel. As I read Eph 1:8 I was reminded of a song that I enjoy called "Hello My Name Is" by Matthew West. The connection was simply due to the word 'lavished'.
...that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding"
In the song, Matthew sings, "What love, the father has lavished, upon us, that we should be called his children."

Isn't it amazing?! The gospel story...! So much love that He would give His one and only perfect Son in an effort to reclaim sinners like us. What love the father has lavished upon us! To top it off, as 1:8 states, it was done with all wisdom and understanding! God knew what He was doing!

The word lavish is defined as bestowing something in generous or extravagant quantities. So much undeserved love He has lavished upon us that we might not perish but would have everlasting life. As with any gift, however, it must be accepted. It must be opened.

Paul reminds the Ephesians about this amazing gift.

In verse 18 Paul prays that the eyes of our hearts might be enlightened which made me think of another song called Open the Eyes of My Heart. Many people have sung this song but the one I remember and am fond of is the version by Michael W. Smith.

I also pray that our hearts might open up to the message of the gospel. I just think of sitting in a hot tub and imagine the warmth of the water surrounding me. In the same way, I desire that all of us might enjoy the warmth of God's love filling our hearts to overflowing. Lavish.

Chapter Two observes that we were dead in our flesh - children under wrath - and that we were made alive in Christ because of His great love for us (Eph 2:3-5). Lavish.

However, although we were once gentiles of the flesh (Eph 2:11), we now, through Him (Jesus *1*), have access by one Spirit (*2*) to the Father (*3*) - (Eph 2:18)

We are now called to live new lives in Christ according to the gifts we have been given to build up the church (Eph 4:11-12). We are to no longer walk as the gentiles walk (Eph 4:17). Lord, help us to walk in the light as Paul encourages (Eph 5:8-10).

**It is sort of funny, I think, that Ephesians 5:19 talks about music and I have multiple songs that I have thought about while reading this.

Paul then makes a comparison with Christ and the church to husbands and wives. Just as Christ gave His life for the church, husbands ought to give their lives to their wives in an effort to build her up. Wives ought to willingly allow their husbands to guide them they they may fulfill that responsibility.

**I know that I am in need of improvement in that area. Ironically, the battle against the flesh is a difficult, spiritual one (Eph 6:12). My flesh is a selfish sort. Each of us have our tendency towards sin. Mine is in the area of selfishness. While at times, I feel as though "progress" has been made - whatever that is - I know that really just fall flat on my face in this area. Paul describes the armor of God and admittedly, I have always enjoyed the imagery of this. You know, I am a guy that likes fighting and battle movies so picturing this some sort of futuristic version of Camelot makes me smile. Unfortunately, I feel as though sometimes when I want to suit up and go to war, that my suit doesn't fit right and my shield is too heavy making me look like just a kid in an adult uniform. Then I am crushed. The journey is long and no one ever said it was easy.

Please enjoy the video on Ephesians from our friends at the Bible Project.

More thoughts on music... (Php 1:6) An old song by Steve Green - He Who Began A Good Work In You.

Have you started developing a relationship with Jesus? Regardless of where you are in that relationship - Jesus began a good work and will be faithful to complete it. Will you be faithful to Him as well?

Paul writes about how it would be better to die and live with Christ (Php 1:23) but acknowledges that to stick around is better for others (Php 1:24).

Verse 1:27 calls us to live our lives in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. That is a pretty tall order. Are we willing to live a life of suffering for the sake of the gospel (Php 1:29)? Will we remain steadfast despite the heat? The power of the flesh is strong.

In chapter two, Paul writes about Jesus and his death on the cross and encourages us to live like Christ (Php 2:5, 14-15). Paul warns us to beware of those who would mutilate the flesh and to not put any confidence in the flesh (Php 3:2-3).

The value of Christ is such that all things are filth and their loss is actually gain in comparison (Php 3:8-9).

It is for this reason that we rejoice! Of course, I could not miss mentioning the song based on Philippians 4:4 - Rejoice in the Lord Always. This one is how I remember it from years ago but I enjoy this newer modernized version.

One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:8.
Finally Brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable - if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise - dwell on these things.
Such a great encouragement, but remember that our battle is a spiritual one and the enemy is more than happy to make you think that morally evil things are good. This is why we must be grounded in scripture - in God's Word. He alone knows all about that which is good.

Enjoy the Philippians video from our friends at the Bible Project.

Keep fighting the Good Fight!

Until next time, 

18 February 2017

Stone 42 - Galatians

This week we take a look at Paul's letter to the Galatians. Let's find out what he had to say.

False Gospels
Paul starts off quickly by addressing the people on the issue of turning to a different gospel (Gal 1:6). Even subtle differences from the message of Christ can be a false gospel and we must be diligent in our testing against scripture.

Galatians 1:10 asks, "For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God?"

**Such a powerful question! I know I am guilty of trying to please people. If we are honest, I think all of us are at some point. The question for me is where the line is drawn between people and God. What I mean is that it seems reasonable that pleasing God at some point could have the effect of pleasing some people as well. Is it not a heart issue? What is the motivation for pleasing people versus pleasing God? Is it for selfish reasons - for some personal benefit? What if these things collide?

In Galatians 1:11, Paul writes that the gospel he preaches is not based on a human point of view. Paul shares of his former life when he persecuted the Christians. Paul states rather plainly that his radical change of heart was not a result of hanging out with the Apostles but it was because God set him apart (Gal 1:15-17).

So, as I understand it, Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians because some Jewish Christians were insisting that the gentile Christians must be circumcised and begin to follow the laws of the Torah. Paul worked hard to debunk that by telling the people that circumcision is not a requirement.

**I like what is said in chapter two verse six - "...God does not show favoritism." The gospel message is for everyone! Then in verse 16 - "yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ."

Paul wants them to know that it is not by following the law that one is saved but by following Christ. Paul writes, "...if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing." (Gal 2:27). Wow! It seems clear that Paul recognizes the futility of people trying to follow the law. All of us are hopelessly lost in our sin and inability to follow the law. Now, in Christ, we can have hope.

Paul asks a great question - "After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh? Our flesh is not capable of doing what is necessary to gain everlasting life. This is why we are in need of a savior who is capable of making us complete.

Paul goes on to write that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of failing to live under the law. Jesus took on the curse in our stead that we may be free to live in Him. Paul talks about the law being a guardian until Christ came such that we would no longer be under a guardian but rather justified by faith (Gal 3:24).

The Pain of Truth
As I was reading through Galatians, I took note of Gal 4:16 where Paul asks, "Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?"

The truth can be quite painful, even when it is delivered with gentleness and respect. This is especially true when the truth speaks contrary to what our flesh wants to corrupt within our hearts. Paul speaks often to the Galatians about circumcision and that it is not a requirement any longer since it was under the law. Rather, we are called to circumcise our hearts (Deut 10:16, Jer 4:4, Rom 2:24-29, HCSB).

Do you seek the truth? If you do and are serious about it, be prepared for some shocks to the system, as it were, as truth does not care about your feelings. Truth stands independent of what anyone thinks.

Paul calls out the works of the flesh as obvious (Gal 5:19-21).
Isn't that interesting? These things run rampant in our society and there are many that would label these things as "normal". Do these things not have some sort of inherent dissonance within us? Do we not write off the dissonance for the sake of pleasing people rather than God? Peer pressure is a powerful force. I pray that we are given the strength and wisdom to stand up against those forces when faced with them.

On the flip side, Paul indicates what the fruits of the Spirit are as well (Gal 5:22-23). I think it is fair to say that these things are universally accepted as good and many would legitimately lay claim to evidence that demonstrates having exhibited any of them.

Cast away the works of the flesh and tire not of doing good as Paul encourages (Gal 6:9). Boast not of yourselves but of Christ, who makes you a new creation and through who all things are possible (Gal 6:14-15).

Please enjoy the video on Galatians from our friends at the Bible Project.

Until next time,

11 February 2017

Stone 41 - 2 Corinthians

In this post we take a look at some random thoughts I had after spending time in the book of 2 Corinthians.

I found this to be a somewhat challenging piece to work through. Partially this was due to my inability to fully grasp the context of what was going on. I found myself reading and re-reading this book multiple times over along with utilizing some other resources.

I found it helpful to take a look at the video for 2 Corinthians and to try and see if I could find how some of the statements had been arrived at.

In the video, the writers point to chapter 2b and declare that true Christian leadership is not about status. What I found was 2Cor 2:17 which states "For we are not like the many who make a trade in God's message for profit, but as those with sincerity, we speak in Christ, as from God and before God."

**Just sit and ponder that for a moment. How often have you heard or even thought for yourself the disgust surrounding televangelist scams? I will not go so far as to claim that I know the motives of those folks but nonetheless, I admit that I also have some skepticism on that.
...we are not like the many who make a trade in God's message for profit...
Even at this early stage it appears as though there were those individuals who would seek to line their pockets with gold.

**Consider our own culture... who are the ones most often lifted on a pedestal and dare I say "idolized"? Is it not the wealthy ones? Rock stars, movie stars, professional athletes, etc. or is it simply those professions which have the breadth of reach which we pay excessive amounts of money? Is it envy of the wealth and success that they have which is the source of that idolization? Interesting thoughts, but Paul declares that they are not like that - they "speak in Christ, as from God and before God."

This stood out to me as possibly having a dual meaning. One to simply declare that they were sent from God and therefore before God in terms of recognizing that their actions will be reviewed by God. Two is the flip side of that in implying that those who are seeking to profit from the message are neither from God nor do they recognize that their actions shall also be under scrutiny.

What I have been reading is that Paul, since he did not fit the wealthy, successful profile, was viewed as less credible than those who did. (Why is that?)

Then in chapter three, we read about Paul addressing the idea of letters of recommendation and/or statements of credentials. As Paul does, so do I find this to be absurd. It seems to me to be somewhat akin to me getting a job and being successful at it for several years and then being asked to provide a list of my qualifications to do the job. Should not the work performed already be evidence enough of my skills and experience? So it seems an odd request that Paul should provide this to the people he helped to bring to a saving knowledge of Christ.

**I have often said that the degrees do not have the value that our culture places on them. Consider the high school graduate with eight years of experience working as a successful technician and a man with eight years of schooling and a Master's degree in the same field? I find these to be two very different profiles but while I understand the effort that goes into obtaining a Master's degree, I feel it pales in comparison to the effort of actually doing the work.

One of my favorite passages comes in Chapter 5, Verse 20.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ's behalf; "Be reconciled to God."
In the next couple chapters, Paul moves on to talk about the aspect of giving. I have often heard others sort of complain about the giving, (or lack thereof), habits of other people. I usually hear this in judgment of defending a position but not giving financially to the cause. All this as if to say that your argument means nothing unless you put your money where your mouth is. Of course, as finite beings with finite resources, one can only give so much. (And... since when did the amount of money spent or given become a reliable way of determining the truth?) I struggle with this as a person who does not have a great deal of money to share while limping along from check to check. We do try to help as both opportunities arise and as God leads us to participate.I enjoyed reading 2Cor 8:13 in light of that which says, "It is not that there may be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality." To share each other's burdens.

Paul talks about the false apostles and warns the Corinthians about believing in a false gospel. Paul points out that these "super-apostles" (2Cor 11:5) were not superior because of their skill in public speaking (v. 6). So again we have this idea that the more eloquent speaker is the more qualified speaker. How does eloquence determine truth...?

**We must all be diligent to test what is being said or written against the biblical narrative to distinguish that which is good. We must question our own motivations for why we believe what we believe. We must then hold on to what is good. (1Thess 5:21)

Please enjoy the explanation of 2 Corinthians in this video from our friends over at the Bible Project.

Until next time,

04 February 2017

Stone 40 - 1 Corinthians

In this post we will take a look at the first of two letters that Paul wrote to the Corinthians. Let's see what kind of message was in that letter.

At the beginning of the letter, Paul addresses the division within the church. Turns out that the people of Corinth were forming loyalties, if you would, to different leaders (1Cor 1:12). Paul urged that there should not be this type of division within the church since Jesus is the one they should follow as opposed to the church leaders.

Paul then moves into addressing some matters of sexual immorality. It would appear that relations were taking place between a man and his stepmother (1Cor 5:1) eww. To compound the issue, it appears that they are even proud of this (1Cor 5:2).

Paul then writes in 1Cor 5:12 "What is it for me to judge outsiders? Do you not judge those who are inside?"
**It seems reasonable to me that this is a way of saying that we ought to judge those who are in Christ as a means of helping them get back on track. However, for those who do not know Christ, we ought not do that. I believe the idea is that, as non-Christians, they are not bound by Christian rules so to speak. Our focus then should be to lead them to the cross that they might discover Christ and accept His gift.

Paul then gets after the Corinthians for going to court with each other all the time rather than taking care of matters within the church (1Cor 6:5-6).

**1Cor 6:12 states that everything is permissible but not everything is helpful. It also makes a claim about not being brought under the control of anything. Addictive behaviors. The text goes on to say that the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord.

Next, we move into some discussion about food. There has often been controversy over the types of food that Christians should or should not eat - bacon being a hot contender. The idea that is presented here is that all of it is OK - however - if the food has been offered up to some other god - it should not be consumed by the Christian. If eating the food should cause my brother to fall, I should not eat it (1Cor 8:13)- otherwise it is fine to do so.

The words of 1 Corinthians 9:24 ask if we know that all the runners in a stadium all race but only one receive the prize and then encourage us to run in such a way that we might win. Paul makes a connection here with our following of Christ. We should live it in such a way that we excel, or as Paul puts it, he "does not run aimlessly or box like one who beats the air." He performs as one with purpose.

**I find it interesting that the words from 1Cor 6:12 are repeated in 10:23 - Everything is permissible but not everything is helpful. We are encouraged to seek the building up of the other person. We also go back to the whole meat idea here as well with verse 25 stating rather clearly that we can eat everything that is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience sake. Verse 31 then tells us that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we should do it to the glory of the Lord.

Moving forward to chapter 13. This is probably one of the more well known passages of the New Testament. The Love Chapter. We have very likely heard these words spoken at multiple weddings. You know the words... "Love is patient, love is kind..." Love is the greatest of the gifts. God is Love. He is the embodiment of all these attributes assigned to love in this chapter. I was reminded of a song (surely one of many) that is built around this passage - Love by Petra - here is a link to it.

Love must be viewed in light of the gospel message, otherwise the original intended meaning is distorted to become what each individual thinks that love is.

Then we come to the issue of the resurrection. Some were still against this idea of a resurrection. However, we need to recognize that all of Christianity rests on the resurrection of Jesus. 1Cor 15:17 speaks plainly in stating that our faith is worthless without the resurrection. The beauty of this sort of thing is that the death and resurrection of Christ on the cross is a historical event that can be investigated. It is a truth claim that can be validated. I encourage each and every one of you to investigate for yourselves and determine if it really is reasonable to believe that Christ died and rose again.

As per usual, I will close this by sharing the video from our friends at the Bible Project.

Until next time.

28 January 2017

Stone 39 - Romans

This week we will take a look at Paul's letter to the Romans.

So much going on here. Getting started, Paul addresses his audience and lets them know that he is eager to come and visit (Rom 1:10-11) just before he dives in and declares that he is not ashamed of the gospel (Rom 1:16).

**This 2017. Depending upon the culture or community that you are in, there is a subtle and not so subtle attitude that is held towards the Christian that dare I say would cause many who believe to want to hide the fact that they are followers of Jesus. I am brought back to the post on the book of Esther. Remember Mordecai and Esther? One of the arguments is that Mordecai chose only to reveal that he was a Jew when there was a recognition of something "in it for him".

Romans 1:18-19 talks about people who suppress the truth despite the evidence while verse 22 declares that they became fools by claiming to be wise. As a result, God delivered them over to the cravings of their hearts (Rom 1:24).

**God will not force us to love Him or to follow Him. God gave us the freedom to choose whether or not to follow Him. I have often considered my own military experience. I served to help support the many freedoms that we enjoy here in the United States even when some of those choices are not good for those who make those choices. Although, as of this post, we have not looked at Corinthians yet, I am reminded of 1 Cor 10:23 that says everything is permissible but not everything is helpful.

**Just because the choice is available, the law does not prohibit it, and culture encourages it does not make it a good choice.

Romans 2:15 talks about the law being written on our hearts. The idea being that a person does not need to be a believer in God in order to do something that is right. People have an intrinsic sense of what is right and wrong already. The question is that if you do not believe in God - how do you ground that sense of morality?

Then we have Rom 2:24...! "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." Ouch!
Referring to those who follow in word but not in deed. I have often said to friends that as Christians, we are our own worst enemy and have done more to hurt than help. And here it is folks.

Such a convicting chapter as I reflect on my own heart. 2:29 talks about circumcision of the heart. Cut away and discard the evil flesh - Thinking back to Joel 2:13 that encourages us to tear our hearts and return to the Lord. I like the ESV translation on this one that says to rend our hearts. Break it open. How well do I do that? I must do better. So much cleansing yet to do.

Romans has some very popular verses, and rightfully so! One such verse is Romans 3:23 which states that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.


Another is 6:23 which states that the wages of sin is death.

So I recognize that I have sinned and deserve to die. Don't mistake that statement. I am not contemplating suicide. However, as I originally wrote this thought down about mistaking the statement as some sort of announcement that I am in a downward spiral that requires intervention. I realized that it is exactly that. The human fleshly condition has fallen and intervention is required. It is a recognition and affirmation that what I need is a savior. Fortunately, Jesus has already come to intervene and rescue us from that fate. He presents us with the gift of life.

We have but to accept that gift.

Is that it...?
I think not.
Open it!
Note that this gift does not give license to sin (Rom 6:1-2).
Flee from sin! Let the Spirit reign in your heart and make it new.

Again we see this charge to love our neighbor as ourselves in Rom 13:9 and in verse 14 we are called to put on Christ and to make not plans for satisfying our fleshly desires.

Easier said than done, isn't it?
May we join together in support of one another.

Please enjoy these videos on Romans from our friends at the Bible Project.

Until next time,

14 January 2017

Stone 38 - Acts

The book of Acts details the movement of Jesus' message from Jerusalem to the rest of the world. It is the beginning of the church. The book is sometimes called the Acts of the Apostles but more accurately it is an account of the Acts of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Let's take a look at what goes on.

We begin Acts with Jesus telling the apostles not to leave Jerusalem (Acts 1:4), but to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. After this they would become witnesses not just locally but to the ends of the Earth (Acts 1:8).

Shortly after Jesus ascended came the day of Pentecost which actually comes from the Greek word pentekostos which simply means '50'. I am no scholar but I guess I could roughly estimate the time in this fashion to see where they get it...

  • Jesus dies on the cross
  • 3 days later He is risen
  • 40 days Jesus spent with them (Acts 1:3)
  • *7 days later Holy Spirit comes (Acts 1:5) *not many days from now
That would be 50 days. If you have spent some time in the Bible, you might notice that the number seven seems to be a favorite. Notice also that seven weeks would be 49 days.
**Anyway- as a side note, I am OK with this layman's description of where the word Pentecost came to be used for this beginning of the church.

So the Holy Spirit comes on the people and they began speaking in different languages (Acts 2:4). Peter then preaches to many of the people who had come to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover (Acts 2:14). As a result, about 3,000 people accepted and were baptized (Acts 2:41).

Not only did the apostles witness to the people but they also performed some miraculous things through the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus. Chapter Three gives the account of the healing of a lame man who would sit at the gates and beg for money. I love what Peter says to the man.

I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!" (Acts 3:6)
More valuable than silver or gold. Jesus.

Peter and John later addressed the crowd that gathered and gave credit to Jesus for the man's healing. The guard came and arrested them (Acts 4:1-2) for proclaiming in the person of Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

Since the beginning of the church, people have been trying to silence the name of Jesus. Consider some of the reasons for this...
In this case, the Sanhedrin acknowledge the healed man and that the people did as well meaning that they could not deny this event, (but seems to me that they would if they could), so they decided to threaten them not to preach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:16-17).  The religious leaders of that time felt threatened by Jesus and they did not like having their authority in question. Does this not also apply today...? Is it not the "authority" of our own hearts and to some extent as well, the government that we struggle with? We have this urge to "do what we want" and to not have a superior moral authority trying to deny us the cravings of our flesh.

Ananias and Sapphira sold some property and lied about the amount they got for it so that they could keep some of it for themselves. They both immediately died right there on the steps of the Colonnade for what they had done (Acts 5:3-11).

**Imagine the fear indicated in verse eleven... like, whoa! better not screw this up! God is not playing games here, this is for real! Don't lie to God, you fool! What were you thinking? It had to have been a wake up call for many who witnessed the event. Not so much a fear to run away but to recognize the truth. More preaching and healing took place at the Colonnade and many more were added to the church.

They were arrested again and placed in jail to be brought before the Sanhedrin. An angel released them in the middle of the night and ordered them to go and preach (Acts 5:19-20). They were reported and then brought peacefully to the Sanhedrin who were like, "Hey, didn't we tell you not to preach in the name of Jesus...!?" (Acts 5:28).

The Sanhedrin wanted to kill them but they were encouraged not to so simply beat them and told them again not to speak in the name of Jesus but it didn't work (Acts 5:40-42).

Enter Stephen
Stephen is also preaching in the name of Jesus and encounters a rather belligerent group of men who when they were unable to defy the logic and truth being spoken through Stephen decided to bear false witness against Stephen before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:11-14).

When asked if the accusations were true, Stephen gives them some history of Israel, citing the scriptures they followed, but when Stephen convicts them in 7:51-53, they get extremely angry and drag him to the streets and stone him to death. Apparently the truth hurts.

We are also introduced to Saul here (Acts 7:58), who agrees with killing Stephen (Acts 8:1).

**I find it amazing although I am not surprised... 8:3 talks about Saul going from house to house and dragging people off to prison... that people are imprisoned simply because they believed differently. Then I compare that to our culture today... perhaps we do not always go so far as to imprison people but the court system does impose some pretty hefty financial penalties for those who may believe differently. If not that, perhaps a debilitating social stigma.

**One need only go so far as the comments section of a YouTube video or Facebook post to see this same level of hatred played out over differing views. Instead of taking a rational look at the ideas or views, the comments quickly break down into nasty attacks on the opposing person's character in a way that attempts to convey the notion that "if you don't believe the way I do then you must be wrong" - only in a much more destructive way. Acts 13:45 illustrates that this was what people did 2000 years ago as well.

So after Stephen's death, the people scatter - and the message of Jesus spreads.

Back to Saul
Remember Saul, who we met just a moment ago? He was a big-time persecutor of Christians and witnessed the stoning of Stephen. He is still on the rampage trying to imprison others who believed in Jesus (Acts 9:1-2).

Jesus has another plan. He confronts Saul personally, and when asked "Who are you, Lord" by Saul, responds with "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." (Acts 9:5).

**Whoa! What a moment for Saul. Imagine. That which you vehemently deny to the point of imprisoning those who don't deny it - personally speaks to you. Wake up call. How do you continue to deny Him after such an encounter?

So Saul, in short order, gets baptized and begins to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. What a turn around! Naturally, folks were skeptical of this conversion (Acts 9:21). It did not take long before they tried to kill him too (Acts 9:23). The guy they all looked to for doing this work was now the guy they wanted to kill too. Sigh.

Some time later Peter has a dream about a sheet full of animals (Acts 10:11-12). A voice calls out to Peter to get up, kill and eat. The voice also calls out that what God has made clean we must not call common. Hey, that is good news for all the bacon lovers out there.

It was a two-fold message as it also related to the Gentiles. Jews did not associate with them as they were viewed as unclean. God, however, meant for the work of Jesus on the cross to cover them as well. Peter was to accept and spread the gospel to the Gentiles as well.

We are now slowly transitioning over to Paul and much of his adventures. We see the spread of the good news beginning to spread across the landscape and while there are many who are coming to know Jesus as the Messiah, there are still many who oppose the teaching.

Paul actually spends a great deal of this time in prison. (Looks like the persecutor was persecuted himself quite heavily - the irony). Nonetheless, this time allowed Paul to write up those letters that are now a part of the New Testament.

Take a peek at these great videos that give an overview of the book of Acts by our friends over at the Bible Project...

Until next time...