February 4


Acts 9-10

We are in the Church Stream reading from the book of Acts. Today is our final day to read from The Message translation this week. Last week, we left off as Philip explained the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch and then disappeared and reappeared in Azotus and continued walking to Caesarea. What exciting turn of events regarding the early church will we read today in Acts 9 and 10?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, lives were finished today, and tasks were begun today.  May be about completing YOUR task of sharing your Name.  Amen.

Commentary

Peter has just had encounters that shook his soul and turned Christian history onto a very wide corridor.  The faith, and the Holy Spirit has just been opened further and it was reaching all facets of society.  The Savior was successfully offered to the highest and lowest in society.  In the prior chapter, a Roman Centurion had just encountered the gospel.  These men were tough beyond tough.  They had virtually unlimited power in society.  It would be even spooky for us to understand how feared and revered and respected a centurion was.  Also a tanner encounters the gospel through Peter.  Tanners were culturally so low in society that if a tanner’s wife wanted to walk out/walk away from him, he had no authority to stop or even try to hinder her from leaving.  So while it was taboo to fellowship with a tanner, it was culturally unacceptable for a Jew to dine or relate with a Roman Centurion.  Peter has related to and blessed both of these men back to back.  And Luke, in writing Acts, has deliberately compressed these stories back to back to prove a wondrous point about the gospel; it was for everyone.

11 – So the gospel, by reaching both ends of the cultural perspective has proven effective to all levels of society as Peter plays the pivotal figure here.  Yet not everyone is pleased with this development, and Peter receives criticism upon arriving back in Jerusalem.  Peter explains the whole series of stories: his dream about kosher meat, the brothers who visited him because of Cornelius’ orders – Cornelius had had a dream; a visit from an angel, Peter being in their residence, Cornelius and company being at Peter’s, the Holy Spirit working in new realms …  And Peter realizes that to hesitate regarding this new development would be opposing God.  The ethic of not eating with another race had been in play.  The same rule was in play almost 17 centuries prior when Egyptians will not eat with Hebrews; Genesis 43:32.  That was to change now.  The “light to the nations” that Isaiah 51:4-5 spoke of over 700 years ago was occurring!  The Gentiles were receiving the Holy Spirit, repentance and salvation.

The persecution of new Believers in Jerusalem mentioned in Acts 8:1-2 continued to spread Christians across the eastern Mediterranean.  The buzz in Antioch was Christendom.  Gentiles are being evangelized en-mass as people are there from Israel, Cyprus, and Cyrene North Africa.  Jesus, the Resurrected Lord, is the topic and force at work in Antioch; 315 miles straight north of Jerusalem.  The phrase, “Christian”, still used today, was coined here at this time.  Do you realize that your faith was named so in the country of Syria?  Intriguing stuff!  Agabus prophesies a famine – and as we see in other places in scripture – famines serve to move people.  And the gospel is definitely moving people.  The coming famine will merely move even more people for the gospel’s sake.  For reasons of timing and historical context, Emperor Claudius is mentioned here.  He came to the throne in Rome 11 years and 9 months (give or take a week) after Christ was crucified.  He died exactly 58 years after Christ was born in Bethlehem – to the day.  Have some fun with those dates if history is your thing.

12 – King Herod went on a spree arresting Christians.  This is a different Herod than the one trying to kill baby Jesus.  This is his son Herod Agrippa I.  His mother was Mariamne; a Hasmonean princess.  His niece (later a step-daughter) is the one who asked for John-the-Baptist to be killed as was rigged by her mother, Herodias.  So this is the Herod who was in on the whole “kill-the Baptist” scheme as well.  That being said, he also had the leaders in Jerusalem kill the Disciple James.  Luke writes that James was killed by ‘the sword’.  They had resorted to the sword because throwing him off the highest point from the Temple Mount (150′ drop!) didn’t succeed in finishing James.  Yes, these painful incidents were what striped the early days of the church’s explosive growth.  Needless to say, the Herod family was no friend to the Christian Church.  Peter was next in line to be killed by Herod but God intervened.  One may wonder why Peter is saved while James is not.  We can ask the Lord that when we all meet up “on the other side”.  Peter’s Divine release from prison and then arriving at a prayer meeting is the stuff of stories that we need to keep telling to our children and our children’s children.  And of course their interceding for Peter’s release but not expecting such a quick answer is virtual comedy.  Needless to say, Herod’s penchant for killing Christian Jews comes to an end.  Herod’s death and the concurrent events surrounding his gruesome departure are things that the Herod family endured.  They were 1/2 Jewish, 1/2 Arab in origin.  Their commitment to Judaism was late in coming and duplicitous.  Their deeds in history that secured their commitments with Rome are insidious and lurid -though not in the Bible.  So when we see a Herod dying a creepy death (Acts 12:23) it seems to be what comes with the territory.  Search “Herodian-family-tree” if you want to look at it further.  They are four generations of dubious and polygamous leaders -one with 10 wives!- that are coincidental leaders within the biblical story.

13 – The first missionary journey of Saul commences here from Antioch in Syria.  Look at your map of “Paul’s first Journey” while reading this text and it makes even more sense.  Saul and Barnabas are on Cyprus while John is there assisting in the ministry.  They encounter sorcerers (warlocks involved in witchcraft) who followed Saul and Co. attempting to dissuade new converts.  Saul turns up the heat, calls evil what it is, and declares blindness upon the agitator.  This had its effect and the gospel prospered.  That concludes the scripture content for today –

A word that may as well be mentioned here as anywhere.  Do you notice who is getting killed and who is related to whom?  And what of this information?  James, son of Zebedee is killed in a scam job hatched in Herod’s mind but executed in Jerusalem.  One chapter later we see John, his brother on mission with Saul going across Cyprus.  Why doesn’t John drop this ‘gospel thing’ and start a coalition for Abused Disciples Seeking Justice?  How about demanding Phairness from Pharisee?  But John doesn’t do this.  He is intent on sharing the gospel and nothing distracts him from this.  It had to hurt to press on in Jesus’ Name but John opts to stick to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Remember when Jesus starts His ministry?  During that same season, His dear cousin, and bosom buddy John the Baptist is imprisoned as the clock is ticking toward his execution.  Should Jesus have disbanded his ministry to seek “Justice-for-Johny”?  That would have been a disaster for the world, the history of religion, and Christianity would have been irreversibly stinted.  People today think they are doing the noble thing when they abandon responsibilities to distribute signs, gather a mob with too much time on their hands, hand out their jargons and slogans, then march in a circle around some strategic structure chanting obnoxious phrases thinking this is administering justice.  It makes news, yes, but what gets accomplished by this will be debated without solution for the remainder of time.  A lot of the tomfoolery will be eliminated and justice will be served permanently if we all just continue in the focused work of sharing the gospel.  It may take more time for solutions to present themselves than we may be willing to wait for but it will be proper solutions.  Many of the solutions from endless protesting simply transfers the problem to something else yet solves nothing.  Just putting in two cents here –

sevenstreamsmethod.com is the homepage as we sailed the Eastern Mediterranean from Syria to Cyprus today.  The gospel goes forth.  Let’s do our part evangelizing; in seeing this great task to its completion.  Know that nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Week 5 Thread

We read through many endings or proclamations of endings.  God is basically saying, “the cycle is done now.  This comes to an end.”

Genesis 18-21 Abraham and Sarah are longing for a son. Peril is coming upon Sodom/Gomorrah as God will end that city forever.  Abraham does another cultural blunder as he pawns off Sarah as his sister … again.  We are nearing the end of his bunglings -God bless him.  Abraham and Sarah’s longing ends as Isaac arrives.  And with Sarah’s new sentiment for Isaac, she sends Hagar and Ishmael away.  They are gone now.

In Joshua 21-24 the Levites finally walk into their homes, and the tribes east of the Jordan can go home too.  The wanderings and the wars (for now) are overwith.  Joshua’s farewell speech and renewing of the covenant is one for the history books.  His death is a painful end; a huge loss that hurts more than was immediately realized.  Judges 2:10 reminds of how much Joshua is missed.  Glory would not return for centuries.  Remember our Savior is named after “Joshua”; the Aramaic version of “Joshua” is “Jesus”.

Job 18-20 rings out ‘weariness’ on many angles.  Bildad wants Job’s speeches to end.  Job basically replies, “Can you stop tormenting me, already?!”  Zophar’s perspective is that Job is not to be alarmed, “for allll the godless perish in misery”.  He clearly insinuates that Job is among the dishonoring n’ere-do-wells who is getting his due.

Isaiah 15-20 echoes the same strand this week prophesying that Moab will end as will Damascus, Cush, and Egypt.  Yes, these kingdoms will do their shenanigans and cause troubles for others.  But it has been declared that desolation is coming and a millennia later we read history and know that destruction has come for all of them. 

Daniel 04 tells the vision that things will come to an end for Nebuchadnezzar.  God will end his arrogant rule; his greatness, his time in the limelight.  It all stops within a year. King Nebuchadnezzar was humbled to a beast-like state for seven years before God gave him occasion to be restored and to praise Him.

Matthew 11-12 John the Baptist’s common sense and spiritual perspective seems to have departed him by now.  He would not live long after this point.  Jesus pronounced that unrepentant cities would be decimated.  You can see these cities today.  They are rock piles that cannot be rebuilt.  Lord Jesus declares that the Sabbath Laws (that have turned into lunacy between 500 B.C. and His day) were needing to be greatly reformed.  Jesus declared that the corrupt leadership structure in Jerusalem was due for judgment.  And judgment day for them was coming in less than four decades.  It’s unfortunate that the leaders and the liars of the city were the same people! 

Acts 09-10 Saul’s conversion marks his end of being in the Sanhedrin.  He has wrought so much havoc upon the young church that the new Christians are incredulous as to Paul’s sincerity.  His preaching in Damascus and Jerusalem proves that he is done terrorizing the Christians.  Peter goes on a healing spree as his hesitancy is officially a thing of the past.  He meets a paralyzed man.  Soon that is healed.  Then there’s a dead woman.  Soon she’s alive.  Each difficulty Peter encounters is solved quickly.  The Cornelius/Peter encounters are a pure fascination that tells the tale of shifting world.  God is not isolating his blessing to Jewish souls any longer.  The Holy Spirit ended, or rather augmented the kosher laws.   And the evangelism that bursts from this development is impressive.

So the reading this week was full of endings that needed to be executed and declared so.  We too in our pilgrimage, when we end the things that need to end, we are able to commence upon the new horizons that God opens for us as well. 

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