7.05.2015

Acts 12

Herod sees an opportunity to get favor from the Jews, by persecuting the church.  (This means hostility from Jew to Christian was getting intense and widespread.)  He kills James, brother of John (not of Jesus, not the author of the book following Hebrews), and imprisons Peter.  God frees Peter, with lots of Passover overtones (angel, door, sandals and cloaks, death of enemies).

Herod later dies, receiving idolatrous worship without stopping it.
The Word of God grows while its enemies are left in the dust.
Barnabas & Saul are a new Moses, mediating a new covenant to a new people, after a new Passover.

Proverbs 28

Verse 4 - "Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive against them."
The Supreme Court just forsook the law to praise the wicked.


Verse 7 - "The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father."
Though gluttony is seldom a crime, it's paralleled with keeping the law.  We aren't just talking about criminal and legal law, but moral law.
Having understanding isn't talking about knowing a lot of Bible facts or worldview theology - it means knowing when to restrain yourself.
Your lack of restraint brings shame on those associated with you.


Verse 26 - "Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered."
Notice that wisdom is outside of your mind.  You can either trust your own smarts or walk in wisdom.  In our pride we convince ourselves that they are the same.  But if wisdom comes from a multitude of counselors, we will learn wisdom from outside our skull more often than from inside it.

Acts 11

When Peter gets back to Jerusalem, news of baptizing Gentiles had beaten him there, and those zealous for the law in the church criticize him.  He retells the story, highlighting that Jesus baptized the Gentiles with the Spirit just as He baptized them.  This silences the criticism.

Most of those who scatter after Stephen's persecution go preach to Jews, but in Antioch lots of Gentiles believe.  Barnabas is sent there from Jerusalem, and he encourages them all.  He recruits Saul to help, and believers in Jesus are first called Christians there.

When the Spirit warns of a coming famine, the Antioch church sends financial aid to Jerusalem by Saul and Barnabas.


How this is about Jesus
What settles the controversial action of including Gentiles in the church is the Lord's work.  HE is the one baptizing Gentiles into their midst - they have the same faith in the same Lord and the same promises.  Torah-keeping is no longer the distinguishing characteristic of a Yahweh-worshiper, now it is faith in His Son Jesus, and submission to His apostles who are setting up a new order of God's people.


Application
When you hit conflict, you need to talk it out, and submit to the Lord instead of push your own agenda.
When new and unexpected things happen that aren't unlawful, be ready to encourage like Barnabas, and give like the Antiochians, instead of criticize.

7.04.2015

Acts 10

While Peter is staying in Joppa, an angel appears to Cornelius, a Roman soldier who worships the God of Israel.  The angel tells him to send for Peter, and he does.  God shows Peter a bunch of unclean food, Levitically speaking, and tells him not to reject as unclean what God accepts.  The Spirit still needs to speak to Peter for him to get it, and accept Cornelius and his story and go to him.

Peter preaches Jesus to Cornelius, his family and friends.  The Spirit comes on them, they believe and speak in tongues.  The Jews there are amazed and can't object to baptizing them.


How this is about Jesus
He arranges for the gospel to extend beyond the nation of Israel to the Gentiles.


Application
  • This passage proves the food laws of Leviticus pointed to something bigger - the distinction between Israel and Gentiles, God's people and unbelievers.  Health may have been a side benefit, but it wasn't the main point.
  • Be on the lookout for the Lord to lead you to someone who needs Him, and needs you to tell them about Him.

Ecclesiastes 10-12

10
Folly ruins things.
Perfume, a country, your body, productivity, a conversation, a journey, and a house.

11-12
Work diligently at a diversity of things, for you don't know what God will prosper.
Enjoy life while you can, before old age sets in.

I tried hard to find good words, they are from the Good Shepherd.
Don't study too much, it wears you out.  The summary is: "fear God and keep His commandments."


How this is about Jesus
He is the Shepherd who gives inspired words through His Spirit.
He restores what our folly ruined.
He does not grow old and decrepit like we do - He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Book Review: Catherine

Catherine, Called BirdyCatherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cushman writes as a 14 year old girl in 1290, whose father is negotiating her marriage to a local baron, a "beast."  Spunky, fiesty and imaginative, Catherine refuses marriage and doesn't understand why anyone would want to marry at all.  Her developing maturity comes painfully slowly.

Cushman colorfully shows what Medieval life was like, from church and festival customs, to the Jews and the crusades, to marriages, births and home life.

Great reading for a 12-15 year old girl.


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Sing the Psalms!

150 Questions about the Psalter150 Questions about the Psalter by Bradley Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This neat little book extols the Psalter.

Clocking in at 65 pages without appendix material, just 150 short questions and answers, it is a quick read-through.

But it's value probably lies mostly in its application to devotions at home or a church class setting.  Read 1-3 questions just before singing a Psalm and you're reminded of the value of such singing just before doing so.  Other questions will guide you to what is most fitting to sing right now, by laying out categories of Psalms and where to find them.

I was a bit thrown off at the encyclopedic nature of the info, at first, but toward the middle he turns to exhortation as well.  A full index would be a welcome addition to a future edition.

This is published by exclusive psalmody folks (who think we should only sing the Psalms in worship).  I don't hold that view, so I applaud them for muting that assertion here and instead pointing the general reader to use the Psalms more for spiritual benefit.

Highly recommended, for family devotion leaders, and church sunday school teachers or prayer meeting leaders.


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Abortion allowed in cases of rape? / Asking and answering the homo-affirming Christian

Doug Wilson makes a solid case against allowing abortion when rape or incest are involved.

Kevin DeYoung asks 40 good questions of Christians now affirming same sex relationships.

Doug also gives good answers to Matthew Vines' 40 leading questions for Christians who won't "affirm" same-sex relationships.

Ecclesiastes 7-9

7
Keep a long term perspective, on death, wisdom and an inheritance for the next generation.  Short term thrills and frivolity will pass - don't seize them, but get wisdom instead, for it preserves life.  Life will hand you joy and sorrow; don't go crazy pursuing one - sorrow gives wisdom, too.  No one is without sin and completely wise.  Women can be a trap, while men scheme all kinds of things.

8
With men in power, the course of human events will be frustrating; "keep the king's command."

9
Death comes to everyone, no matter if we've been good or bad - this is a frustrating evil.  Justice will have to wait, though wisdom is better than strength and fame.  I commend joy, since God has already justified you.


Solomon has an earthly perspective here, with no insight into what it's like in hell or heaven.
Without a belief that justice and joy will come in the morning, there would be no basis to sit back and enjoy your portion under God's sovereignty.


Eccl. 9:7-10a
"Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.
8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.
9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might"

Proverbs 27

Verse 11 - "Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him who reproaches me."
Every parent wants to see wisdom in their child.  Deepest joy results!


Verse 20 - "Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man."
Our appetites are never satisfied, if we let them run a muck.  This is compared to Hell - gorging yourself on food, sex, drugs, etc.


Verse 21 - "The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise."
Two things especially test people: affliction and success.  What do you do with that little extra money you come across at the end of a month?  It reveals a lot about your character.


God our Father has a wise Son, and everlasting love, joy and peace are theirs.
Practice heart contentment with what you have, instead of seeking more to consume.

7.03.2015

1 Kings 8-9

Solomon moves the ark into the temple, with lots of sacrifices made.
The glory of God in a cloud fills the temple so the priests can't even stay in it.
Solomon blesses Yahweh in front of everyone, and recounts David's desire to build this place.  God kept His promise!

Solomon prays in front of everyone:
  • no one is like You, keeping covenant promises to us.
  • Keep Your promise to keep David's descendants on the throne.
  • We know this temple can't contain You, but hear us when we pray from here, for justice, forgiveness, reconciliation, victory, or rain or anything else.
  • Hear us, since You chose us to be Your people.
Solomon blesses the people:
  • God has kept His promises to you
  • May He be with you
  • May you obey Him and all the earth know Him
142,000 animals are sacrificed and a 7 day feast is held.  Israel goes home very happy!

God appears to Solomon, and says He will keep His covenant.  Solomon must stay loyal to Yahweh or Israel will go into exile and the temple be destroyed.

Solomon built and fortified strategic cites.  He enslaved the remaining Canaanites that hadn't been killed, but made no slaves of any Israelites.  He joined Tyre on a successful sailing expedition for gold.


How this is about Jesus
Like Solomon, Jesus brings us to the Father in worship.
Jesus is the greater temple, whom the Spirit/glory cloud inhabits and fills so that we know the presence of God.

Application
Our worship should focus on God's promises kept and outstanding, as Solomon focused there.

Ecclesiastes 4-6

4
I've seen unchecked oppression and life's work done from envy and with no helpful end.
Companionship and wisdom help, but even wise kings will pass away and be forgotten.

5
Fools talk a lot; the wise shut their mouths before God.  Don't make lots of promises you can't keep; it angers God.
Bureaucratic oppression and greed abound.  Riches come and go.
18-20 - God gives us the ability to enjoy our work and food.

6
The rich and powerful often can't enjoy it.  Such misery is worse than never being born.
It's better to enjoy what you have than always be craving more, but "do not all go to the one place?" (6:6).


How this is about Jesus
He alone has the ability to satisfy us.  Time does not sweep Him away, His words do not make Him guilty later.  He has overcome the frustrating effects of death.


Application
Accept your limits and restrain your appetites to always pursue more.

Proverbs 26 - the Fool and His Folly

This whole chapter, almost every verse, describes the fool in some way.
He is a sluggard, wise in his own eyes, won't listen to rebuke or even painful punishment, repeats folly, meddles in quarrels not his, speaks nicely but with hatred underneath.

Folly flies away and is of little consequence (vs 2), though it can do plenty damage (vs 21, 10).


Jesus calls those who don't do His words foolish (Matt 7:26).  The Pharisees are fools for their focus on outward cleanliness while their hearts are defiled (Matt. 23:17).  The man who builds bigger barns to take life easy is a fool (Luke 12:20).  He even calls the Emmaus road disciples foolish for being slow to believe Him after the resurrection (Luke 24:25).  But we may not call someone a fool out of anger or insult or hatred (Matt. 5:22).

Legalism, license and liberty in preaching

From Kevin DeYoung's site, quoting John Witherspoon in 1768:

"If you preach the free forgiveness of sin through Christ, without at the same time showing the necessity of regeneration and sanctification by his Spirit, it will either not be embraced at all, or it will be turned into licentiousness. 
"And if you preach the duties of the law, without at the same time displaying the grace of the gospel and the vital influence that flows from the head to the members, you will either build up men in a destructive system of Pharisaical religion and self-righteousness, or bring them under the Egyptian bondage of making brick through they are not furnished with straw. 
"The privileges and duties of the gospel stand in an inseparable connection; if you take away the first you starve and mortify the last. (“Ministerial Fidelity in Declaring the Whole Counsel of God” in Works, 2.518)

Proverbs 25

Verse 15 - "With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone."
Persuasion and force don't usually go together.  When someone gets pushy with you, you tend to raise defenses.  Patience and soft answers work better than repetition and "I told you so's."
Jesus was very patient in His teaching to people who misunderstood and rejected His message.  He kept coming back with repeated warnings and did not lose control in anger.


Verse 28 - "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls."
Self-control is a defense against many losses.  Indulgence of pleasure leaves you open to financial and moral ruin.  How are your city walls doing?