Chapter 1
Introduction - the revelation God gave Jesus... to His angel... to John... to you.
Greeting to the 7 churches, from the eternal, all-seeing, ruling, Triune God.
Glory to Jesus who redeemed us by His blood and made us into a kingdom.
Vision of the majestic, death-conquering Jesus among the 7 lampstands.

Chapters 2-3
Letters the 7 churches: I know you, your faithfulness to me, your suffering for me. But you must repent and put away the sin you are harboring, before I come and punish you for it. I will reward he who endures.

Chapter 4
Heavenly vision of God on the throne, worshiped in glory

The Lamb alone is worthy to open God's scroll, for He redeemed us. He is worshiped.

Chapter 6
Six seals are opened: 4 horses of woe, martyrs crying How long?, heaven and earth shaken

Chapter 7
The saints on earth are sealed and protected before the final calamity; John sees the saints triumphant in glory.

Chapter 8
7th seal opened; silence in heaven for 30 minutes, as the saints' prayers rise to God; 7 trumpets will order the coming calamities. The first 4 bring destruction to one third of creation.

Chapter 9
Trumpet 5 looses Satan to unleash hell on earth for 5 months.
Trumpet 6 looses horsemen from the east who plague and wound one third of man.
No repentance results.

Chapter 10
John eats the scroll from the angel who stands on earth and sea and who speaks like thunder.

Chapter 11
John measures the temple, which Gentiles will trample. Two witnesses will speak against it, die and be raised to life and heaven.
Trumpet 7 announces that all earthly kingdoms are now given over to Christ's kingdom; He reigns.

Chapter 12
Eve/Israel/Mary/Church gives birth. The dragon tries to destroy the child, but it is caught up to heaven. The woman flees to the desert and is preserved there. Satan fights in heaven and is exiled from it to earth, where he pursues the woman and her children for a limited time.

Chapter 13
The dragon gives his power and authority to a beast from the sea and one on land, who everyone worships, except believers.

Chapter 14
Those believers will stand on Zion with the Lamb worshiping Him in purity with a new song.
3 angels declare the gospel, Babylon's fall, and the result of loyalty to the beast. Death in the Lord is better than life with the beast. The earth is harvested of its men.

Chapter 15
The saints sing the song of Moses as they have come out of the beast's Egypt, while 7 bowls of plagues are prepared for the earth.

Chapter 16
Like Pharoah, their hearts remain hard as similar plagues as Exodus come. Evil gathers at Mount Megiddo, while the worst natural disasters ever come and Babylon falls.

Chapter 17
John sees a blasphemous, immoral woman, Babylon/Rome/Jerusalem, devouring the saints. Jerusalem? Yes. Compare Rev 12 with Matthew 2 and Acts 8:1.

Chapter 18
An angel declares her fall into desolation, and the merchants who lose her business lament her destruction. Again, this applies both to Rome and to Jerusalem (18:24).

Chapter 19
The saints in heaven rejoice at Babylon's fall - they are avenged. The rejoicing turns into a wedding invitation as another woman appears, totally opposite in character to Rome. The groom goes out to war on His white horse, able to punish, defeat and rule the nations. The birds have their own feast - on the bodies of those slain by the groom.

Chapter 20
Satan is bound for 1000 years so as not to deceive the nations. Those who die in the Lord reign with Christ from heaven during this time. Satan makes one last attempt on the saints, but is destroyed with fire. The dead are judged by their works and cast in hell, if their names are not in the book of life.

Chapter 21
A new heaven and earth come, the old passed away. The bride comes down from heaven, ready and pure for the wedding. There is no more death, crying, pain, tears or sorrow, because God dwells with men. The faithful enter it, while the wicked go to the lake of fire. The Lamb's wife is Jerusalem, a city replacing the garden of Eden on the mountain. She is a precious jewel. She is pure and in the immediate presence of God.

Chapter 22
The river of life flows through the city; the tree of life yields fruit to be eaten. Jesus is coming soon, with justice, to give the righteous the tree of life, to throw the wicked out into the darkness. The Spirit and the Bride call us to come to Jesus. Come Lord Jesus!


2-3 John

2 John
I rejoice to find you walking in the truth. Love each other, for there are deceivers who say Jesus didn't come in the flesh. Such a one does not have God; don't receive or support him. I hope to see you face to face soon.

3 John
To Gaius, I rejoice to find those among you walking in the truth. You've done well to support fellow believers you didn't know. Diotrophes is blocking and blacklisting us in the church. Don't imitate him; Demetrius is a good example. I hope to see you face to face soon.

1 John

Chapter 1
We proclaim Christ to you, who we saw, heard and touched, so you can have fellowship and joy with us and Him, too. God is light; we must leave our darkness and walk in His light, confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness.

Chapter 2
I say this so you won't sin, but if you do, you have an atoning sacrifice in Jesus, as does anyone who believes, not just us. But you can't claim His forgiveness if you don't seek to keep His commands. (Some object to adding "seek to" in there, but if you don't, you don't NEED forgiveness.) If you love the world and its desires you don't love God. False teachers have left us, denying Jesus is Messiah, showing they were never really with us. They don't know God. But you do, Jesus anointing each of you with His Spirit into knowledge of the truth.

Chapter 3
God loves us so much he has made us His children! And He is making us like His Son. Those who go on sinning aren't of God. The world hates you because you do righteousness. We know Jesus loves us because He died for us. Our love acts, too. His commandment we must keep is to believe in Him and love each other.

Chapter 4
The litmus test for discerning a true teacher/believer is if he says Jesus came in the flesh as God's Messiah. Love is our trademark, given us by God, who is love. We can't say we love God if we can't love our neighbor.

Chapter 5
God gave us life in His Son Jesus; the Spirit, the water and the blood testify to this. I write so you will know you have life. Those born of God don't go on in sin as before. We are in Christ, who is God and life.


Jude, to those God loves,
I wanted to write you about our salvation, generally, but I need to contend for the faith against false teachers who pervert grace into sensuality and deny Jesus as Lord. Remember that Jesus destroyed Israelites who fell away after the Exodus, imprisoned the disobedient angels, and rained fire on Sodom. Like them, He will punish these false teachers. They irreverently blaspheme angels, like Cain, Balaam and Korah. Enoch and the apostles of Jesus prophesied their judgment. But you stay in Christ. Deal wisely with those partially taken in, being gentle or assertive.

God can present you faultless before Himself, through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory!

2 Peter

Chapter 1
Peter, to the faithful in Christ: grace and peace in knowing Christ. He has given us all we need - His promises - to escape worldly corruption. Make your election sure by exercising self-control and godliness. I'm reminding you of things you know already; I'm passing away soon. We aren't passing on fancy stories; we saw Jesus' glory at His transfiguration, and now we have an even more sure witness: the revealed Word of God from the Spirit, moving men to write.

Chapter 2
But you will have false teachers among you, usually following their sensual passions. God knows how to judge and punish the wicked, and how to rescue in mercy the faithful. The false teachers are blasphemous, deceitful, greedy loose canons, wallowing in filth like pigs.

Chapter 3
The day of the Lord will come, contrary to scoffers who ridicule it. He is patiently waiting for and wanting your repentance so He doesn't have to come in judgment against you. He will destroy the heavens and lay bare the earth with fire before bringing in a new heavens and new earth in righteousness. Be diligent to abide in Christ so you are saved when He returns. Read what Paul says about your salvation, though it can be hard to understand. Don't be carried away by error but grow in the grace of Jesus.

2 Timothy

Chapter 1
Paul to Timothy: guard the trust and fulfill the ministry given you. Fan it into flame!

Chapter 2
Be a hardworking, patient, dutiful workman. I also am suffering for the gospel and the elect. Don't fight over trivialities, or allow eror. Correct and teach gently and patiently.

Chapter 3
There will be many ungodly in these last days, but you must imitate my life and hold to my doctrine. Continue in the Scriptures you have learned, which are effective to edify all.

Chapter 4
Preach the Word! I'm passing away, having fought the good fight. Come before winter if you can, with my cloak and books. Watch out for Alexander; he opposes the gospel strongly. I had my first hearing, and no one stood with me. But it's all right; I was delivered for now.

Hebrews 11-13

Chapter 11
Faith is being sure of things you haven't seen yet.
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Israel, Joshua, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets all acted in amazing ways that showed they had faith in God.

Chapter 12
With such witnesses, and looking to Jesus, endure in your faith. You haven't suffered to the point of physical harm yet, as Jesus did. God is disciplining you as His children, so don't run away from Him. His discipline will yield fruit in you after a while. Don't stray into bitterness or immorality, or despise your heritage, as Esau did. Your heritage isn't coming to an earthly mountain (Sinai) of fear and dread, but to the heavenly one of Christ. They who forsook God's first covenant were lost; you will certainly be lost if you forsake His second greater covenant with you. You've received a kingdom that can't be shaken, unlike Sinai, which was shaken, but God remains a consuming fire, so fear Him.

Chapter 13
Love each other. Entertain strangers; visit the imprisoned and mistreated. Stay pure and content. Study how your leaders live and imitate them. Jesus stays the same, so don't get derailed by the "new and different" teachings. Grace is more compelling than physical sacrifices; and Jesus was the sacrifice taken outside the camp to bear our sin away. So offer the sacrifice of praise to Him. Help your leaders oversee you with joy. May the God of peace equip you to do His will, as He raised Jesus according to the eternal covenant.


Hebrew 7-10

Chapter 7
Melchizedek was even greater than Abraham, and greater than Aaron and Levi by far. The Aaronic priesthood was not able to perfect us; a change of the law and priest was needed for that. God gave an oath with the second covenant; He didn't with the first. The first covenant required many priests, for they keep sinning dying; the new and better covenant only need the eternal Jesus.

Chapter 8
Jesus' priesthood is based on a better covenant, which the first covenant itself taught us to look for in Jeremiah 31:31-34.

Chapter 9
The first covenant taught us that access to the holy was still closed. Its earthly temple was just a copy of the heavenly presence, into which Christ entered with His own blood, and purified us once for all.

Chapter 10
First covenant sacrifices didn't deal with sin, or they would have stopped. Jesus' sacrifice was a one-time deal, because it deals completely with sin. So approach God with boldness through Christ. If you violated the first covenant, the death penalty awaited you; how much worse if you violate the greater second covenant in Christ's blood? You have suffered mightily for Christ; don't shrink back now. You aren't of that sort; you will persevere in faith.

Hebrews 1-6

Chapter 1
God spoke to us by prophets in the past, but now most fully by His own Son, who is exactly like Him, and far superior to angels. Angels serve those saved. Jesus did the saving.

Chapter 2
The first covenant with Moses was mediated by angels, so how much greater is the covenant brought to us by Christ? God didn't subject the coming kingdom to angels, but to His Son. Jesus' suffering doesn't demean Him, but He became like us to save us.

Chapter 3
Jesus was faithful, as Moses was. But Moses was just a servant in God's house; Jesus is the heir. WE are the house! Be careful your heart doesn't become hard without realizing it; sin is deceitful. You can share in Christ and then rebel and fall away; it happened to many in Israel after the Exodus.

Chapter 4
Enter God's rest by believing the Gospel you heard. Many failed to enter before; God holds it open for you to enter now. The Word of God can discern whether you have entered God's rest in faith, or whether you are just faking it.

Chapter 5
Jesus is a greater high priest than the high priest in the temple in Jerusalem. He prayed for His people while on earth, and was anointed directly by God for the office, in Melchizedek's line, greater than Aaron's. I'll have to skip over some of this since you aren't mature enough to hear it yet, though you should be by now.

Chapter 6
If you forsake Christ, having once partaken of His Spirit, you can't be saved. But we trust that you will persevere and inherit God's promises to save you in Christ. Our anchor of hope holds within the heavenly veil, where Christ is at God's right hand.


1 Peter

Chapter 1
You have an inheritance waiting for you in heaven, even if you go through trials here on earth for a time. Prophets and angels have searched for a long time to figure out the salvation you have received. So be holy and fear your God who is holy, for He redeemed you with the blood of His Son. So love each other sincerely.

Chapter 2
You are like stones being built into one spiritual house of God, Jesus the cornerstone. God has called His people, nation, race into existence from the darkness and brought you into its light. So abstain from worldly passions, and be honorable among outsiders. Obey earthly rulers. Don't abuse your freedom, but live as free. No sympathy for those who suffer for doing evil. And if for doing good, then you are following Jesus. His suffering brought your healing.

Chapter 3
Wives, obey your husbands, even if they aren't believers - you may win them without any words, but only by your respectful and pure actions. Don't adorn yourselves with a showy outside but with a virtuous inside. Husbands, understand and honor your wives, co-heirs with you in Christ. In your suffering be ready to explain your faith and hope. Christ also suffered, then preached His victory to the dead from Noah's time. He was saved through water, just as you in your baptism. Jesus has gone into heaven with all authorities subject to Him.

Chapter 4
Use your gifts to serve each other. When you suffer for doing good, you glorify God, and bring needed judgment/discipline on yourselves.

Chapter 5
As an elder, I tell you elders to shepherd the flock willingly, not for profit or power. Be humble to one another, and wary of the devil, who is out to kill you. Many of your brothers in Christ are suffering similarly, throughout the world. Stand firm in God's grace. The church in Babylon/Rome greets you. Greet each other.


Chapter 1
Titus, my son, you are in Crete to appoint elders who have integrity and can teach and correct doctrinally. Silence the Judaizers who teach error for their own profit.

Chapter 2
Teach sound doctrine: the older to be reverent, the women to train the younger women to help and love their families, the young men to have self-control. (Note: this is doctrine!) Be an example yourself. Employees: no complaining or embezzling. These things also adorn true doctrine. God's grace saves us from our passions and purifies us. Use your authority to assert and advance these things.

Chapter 3
Be submissive and peaceable to earthly rulers. You were saved from malice and discontent, not by what we did, but by the Spirit who washes us, by Christ who saves us. Teach these things while avoiding unprofitable arguments. Leave and reject a divisive person. Be fruitful in good works..

1 Timothy

Chapter 1
Timothy, my son, you are in Ephesus to correct bad doctrine that distorts and misuses the Law and is contrary to the Gospel. I received grace to show God's patience and mercy to future believers, to whom He sent me. Fight this good fight.

Chapter 2
Pray for rulers to bring peace and quiet. Jesus is our one mediator with God. Have the men pray with hands raised to God. Have the women dress and act modestly, not showy and loud, nor having authority over men, for it was not so since the beginning.

Chapter 3
Elders must have integrity, be able to teach, and lead their families well, if they are to lead the church. Deacons must have integrity, hold to the truth, and lead their families well. This is how the church should be set up, which is God's household. This mystery of Christ is marvelous: Christ was revealed, vindicated, proclaimed, believed upon, and exalted.

Chapter 4
Reject those in error; forbidding certain food or giving credence to silly myths. Teach truth boldly, not letting people dismiss or pooh-pooh you because of your youth. Read and teach the Word. Watch your own life and doctrine.

Chapter 5
Treat the church as family, but have family care for widows first, so the church isn't burdened. Honor your elders, especially those preaching, with reward for their labor. Don't suspect them quickly, but when they are sinning, rebuke it publicly, since they are examples. Be impartial, not letting sin go among elders because you are friends. Drink some wine, not just water - it's good for you. Some sin is obvious, others show up later.

Chapter 6
Don't use your common faith to take advantage of others in work relationships. False teachers and contentious people are discontent, but godliness brings contentment. Keep the faith and fight the fight until Jesus appears - the king of kings. Don't let the rich get snooty or trust in their wealth, but call them to use it in doing good. Guard the truth and avoid the enticements of "secret knowledge."


Honestly tired of crafting

Now that (almost) all the gifts have been given, here's the run-down of what I made this year for gifts:

1 footprint reindeer shirt
1 handprint necktie
2 knitted button-on neckwarmers

1 knitted pair kid mittens
1 potholder (from felted sweater)
1 "Margaret" sling bag
15 felt cardinal ornaments
1 felt penguin ornament
2 canvas tote bags
1.25 pairs knitted socks
1 knitted balaclava
2 pairs pajama pants (from old plaid flannel shirts)

1 cork board

and best of all... I finished the quilt I started 10 years ago! King size, hand-quilted, machine pieced on my grandma-in-law's antique Singer that only did straight stitches. Whew!

I honestly hope not to see another needle, thread, or skein of yarn for a while!

2nd Day of Christmas

Our family celebrates the 12 days of Christmas (1st day is Dec 25) which lead up to Epiphany (Jan 6). This allows us to spread out the Christmas season without all the "pressure" being on Christmas day. It's a good thing for us this year considering the water damage we had to deal with, which left us little or no time for Dec. 25 preparations.

Each night after supper the children hunt all over the house to find the wise men which go with our nativity. Every day the wise men get closer and closer, finally finding the baby King Jesus on Epiphany. To make things a bit more fun, there is usually a note to the kids from the wise men, along with a little gift or surprise for the day (trip to a museum, etc). For the frugally-aware among us, you'll quickly recognize this as a chance to take advantage of after-Christmas sales too!

Today the camels forgot their toothbrushes and had to go back for them, so the wise men were very close to their point of origin (storage closet). They gave light-up toothbrushes to the children. They're more excited about their flashing toothbrushes than any other gift they've received so far!


Chapter 1
I thank God for you, and long for your presence with me now, and your purity on the last day so you are ready and fit for Christ. My imprisonment has advanced the Gospel. My possible death doesn't faze me, but I think I will live through this one. Imitate me, having no fear of your opponents, which is a sure sign to them of their condemnation and of your salvation.

Chapter 2
If Jesus means anything to you, be like-minded and humble as He was, even to death. God exalted Him because of it. Obey God without complaining, so you stand out in a sinful world. Rejoice, instead. I send Epaphroditus to you, for you were rightly worried about his illness; I hope to send you faithful Timothy soon.

Chapter 3
Rejoice! Watch out for Judaizers. I could be one, having all the credentials they care about, but it is all junk next to knowing Jesus, being known by Him, and having His righteousness by faith, not works. But I'm not pefect yet. Do as I do: press on toward the goal, keeping your focus in heaven where your citizenship is, from which comes the power to transform and glorify you, to be like Christ.

Chapter 4
Tell Euodia and Syntyche to agree. Everyone else: help them come to agreement. Rejoice! God is near. Don't worry about anything; pray about everything. God's peace will guard you (Numbers 6:24-26). Thanks for your gift, though I've learned to be content in our all-sufficient Lord. God will meet your needs as you have met mine. Greet the saints. Those with me greet you. The grace of Jesus be with you.


Chapter 1
Bless God for blessing us in Christ. He lovingly chose us to be holy, adopted and forgiven heirs, with an inheritance waiting for us in heaven sealed by the Spirit.
I pray that you know the greatness of Christ and His salvation. He has all authority in heaven and earth, and we the Church are His body!

Chapter 2
We were all dead in sin, captive to Satan. But God made us alive with Christ, and seated us with Christ next to Himself. You didn't do this, God did.
You Gentiles had no hope before this, without God, His people or His covenant promises. But the blood of Jesus reconciles you to God and bringsyou near, with the Jews, all citizens of God's house, one holy temple with Jesus as the cornerstone. The Spirit makes this all possible.

Chapter 3
I (Paul) am a steward of this mystery: Gentile inclusion in God's plan. My mission is to preach Christ to Gentiles, so God's wisdom will be shown to heavenly powers.
I pray you will be filled with God's wisdom to know the deep love of Christ. To God be glory, in the church and in Christ.

Chapter 4
Keep living as you were called: bear with each other in peace, in one body. Jesus gives His church gifts: apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers - so we grow up into a loving-truth speaking body, fit for Christ.
Don't live as the Gentiles do, in ignorant sensuality. Speak edifying truth from a kind and forgiving heart. Work honestly.

Chapter 5
Don't be sexually impure. Sing to one another and to God. Wives are to husbands as the Chursh is to Christ. So wives respect and submit to husbands, and husbands love them sacrificially, purifying and beautifying their wives, as Christ is doing with his church.

Chapter 6
Children are to obey and honor their parents, and parents must not exasperate and provoke children, but train and enculturate them into Christ. Slaves/employees: work hard for your earthly masters, as for your heavenly Lord. Masters/employers: don't threaten or exasperate or play favorites among them. Put on God's armor to fight against Satan and his tricks: truth, righteousness, readiness of the Gospel, faith, salvation, the Spirit, the Word of God and prayer. Pray for us, too. Tychicus comes with this letter to tell you how we are doing.


Thanks for all you have done for the church in Colossae.
I'm returning your runaway slave, Onesimus, to you. I could keep him and compel you to do the right thing (releasing him), but I want you to do so willingly. So here he is. Return him to me.
Any wrong he has done you, impute the guilt to me. I will repay any money, and it pales compared to the spiritual life you have received through me. I want some benefit (Onesimus, in Greek) from you.


Christmas surprise

We visited family in MI last week - and enjoyed having 24"+ of snow fall on us while there! We drove in during a snowstorm that gave about 4-6", four days later 8-10" fell, then 2 days after that a day-and-a-half long blizzard dumped another 12". We snuck out inbetween snowstorms. With all that snow, Steve got some snowmobiling in but I didn't get a chance to go XC skiing (apparently it's still muzzleloading season, which could definitely put a damper on things, especially since I'm given to ski with my hands on my head like antlers.)

We returned home, looking forward to a relaxing Christmas week, but found our washer had leaked a TON down to our dining room. Ugh. Wet. Stinky. Mess. Scrap those last minute pre-holiday plans! We did manage to buy and decorate a small tree (only 3 left in the lot!) between clean ups. Five gallons of water were vacuumed out of the carpet, then we got smart and just cut it out and drug its sorry stinking self out of the house. Very little was ruined outside of the ceiling and carpet; just the dining table and chairs, my (favorite!) bible, and a book I borrowed from a friend (sorry Christa!).


Chapter 1
We thank God for your faith and pray He strengthens it. He has put you in the Kingdom of His Son, who is the image and fullnes of God, the reconciler of all things by His death on the cross. He did this so you would be holy before Him.

Chapter 2
This is what I'm working toward, praying you aren't led astray by false teaching. You have all you need in Christ: wisdom, circumcision, new life, forgiveness of sins. Don't worry about others' religious abstinence from foods or observance of days. They won't advance your piety.

Chapter 3
Fix your heart and mind on Christ in heaven, your source of life and hope. Get rid of every sort of sin. Put on every virtue, and Christ's peace and word as you encourage each other. Live in a godly way in your family and at work, serving the Lord, not others.

Chapter 4
Pray for us. Be careful how you act toward unbelievers. I send my Tychicus and your Onesimus to you. Jews - Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus - and Gentiles - Epaphras, Luke, and Demas - all greet the Colossian believers. Greet Nympha and the church that meets at her house. Tell Archippus to carry out his ministry. Grace be with you.

Acts 27-28

Chapter 27
With allusions to Jonah, the Old Testament prophet to the Gentiles, Paul sails to Rome but his ship is caught in a storm. The sailors wind up doing as he says, which saves their lives, though they lose the ship.

Chapter 28
They crash on Malta, and Paul heals many there. They winter for 3 months before going on to Rome, where Paul meets believers, and calls together the Jews. They hadn't heard from the Jews in Judea or elsewhere about Paul. He preaches to them, and the same thing that always happens happens: some believe, some don't. Paul tells them he is going to the Gentiles next.

Acts 24-26

Chapter 24

Felix holds a hearing of both sides. The Jews accuse Paul of instigating unrest, the one thing Rome can't stand. Paul defends himself ably: he's done no such thing, but believes the Law and Prophets as every good Jew does. Felix stalls, hears Paul more often, is convicted by him, but leaves him in jail as a favor to the Jews.

Chapter 25
Festus also wants to do the Jews a favor by handing Paul over to him. Paul argues correctly, and well, that Festus has no right to do that as he appeals to Caesar. Herod Agrippa arrives and Festus talks shop with him, about Paul's case, wondering what to tell Caesar about Paul. So Agrippa hears Paul, too. (Perhaps a sly move on Festus' part: pretending to seek Agrippa's wisdom, while sloughing off responsibility for what to tell Caesar to Agrippa.)

Chapter 26
Paul again grounds his defense in the orthodox Jewish Pharisee's resurrection hope, fulfilled in Christ. He also describes his mission to the Gentiles, preaching forgiveness of sins in Jesus. Agrippa and Festus are both somewhat convicted. Agrippa's words are a rebuke to Festus for making Paul appeal to Caesar when Festus offered (threatened) to hand Paul over to the Jews.


Acts 20-23

Chapter 20
Paul's retinue is divided after the Ephesus riot, reuniting at Troas in a few months. Paul writes Romans meanwhile, on his way to Jerusalem for Pentecost. He raises Eutychus from death on the Lord's Day. He summons the Ephesian elders, charging them to shepherd the church, as he would not see them again - he was heading into danger in Jerusalem.

Chapter 21
The Spirit prophesies Paul will be bound in Jerusalem, but he goes on anyway. Paul pays for some Jews' ritual vow-keeping in the temple, as a sign that he doesn't teach Jews to forsake Torah. James gets his buy-in to their council letter (Acts 15). The trouble starts with unfounded accusations, as it often does. Like Jesus, Paul lays his life down before the Jews, who charge him wrongly, which spotlights his message before Jew and Gentile/Roman alike. Paul uses his Tarsus citizenship to get an audience with the Jews, through the Roman tribune.

Chapter 22
He tells his story, but they riot when he talks about going to the Gentiles with the Gospel.

Chapter 23
The Roman government gets Paul before the Sanhedrin to figure out what's going on. After a misstep with the high priest, Paul appeals to his Pharisee convictions - which he still holds, or he's lying - to divide the council instead of having all against him. Jesus guides him to appeal to Caesar, saying he will testify in Rome. This appears to have been Paul's strategy all along: to the Jews first in Jeruslaem (Acts 22), then to the Gentiles, when the Jews are hardened (Romans 1:16; 11:25). We find a microcosm of this in every city Paul comes to. The Jews plot to kill Paul. He hears of it through his nephew, and sends him to the tribune, who is apparently favorable to Paul, and inclined to believe him. The issue has gone beyond the tribune, so he hands Paul over to the governor Felix, who is in Caesarea.


Warning the zealous theologian

This little 40-page booklet is Thielicke's prologue to formal theological study, given as a warning about the temptations such study bring to a student's soul. I loved it. Here are some of the best excerpts.

On the difference between knowledge and maturity.
"There is a hiatus between the arena of the young theologian's actual spiritual growth and what he already knows intellectually about this arena. So to speak, he has been fitted, like a country boy, with breeches that are too big, into which he must still grow up in the same way that one who is to be confirmed must also still grow into the long trousers of the Catechism. Meanwhile, they hang loosely around his body, and this ludicrous sight of course is not beautiful." (pg 10)

On the disease of pride
"In us men truth and love are seldom combined.... [We think] I am... more than the other man who does not know this and that.... In his reflective detachment the theologian feels himself superior to those who, in their personal relationship to Christ, completely pass over the problems of the historical Jesus or demythologizing [or Calvinism vs. Arminianism, etc.] This disdain is a real spiritual desease" (pg 16-18).

On science not proving faith, but being used IN faith
"In no way can there be anything like scientific co-operation [reason, archaeology, logic, etc.] as a support or exoneration of faith, but that every theological effort is bound up with the act of faith itself" (pg 24).

On speaking about Him, instead of TO Him
"The first time someone spoke of God in the third person and therefore no longer with God but about God was that very moment when the question resounded, 'Did God really say?' This fact ought to make us think. In contrast with this, the crucified Jesus, out of the uttermost darkness of abandonment by God, does not speak to men, does not complain about this God who has abandoned Him. He speaks to Him at this very moment - in the second person. He addresses Him as My God and even expresses His complaint in a word of God" (pg 34).

On the deeper right than being right
"Theology... can be sacred theology or diabolical theology. That depends upon the hands and hearts which further it. But which of the two it is cannot necessarily be seen by the fact that in one case it is orthodox and in the other heretical. I don't believe that God is a fussy faultfinder in dealing with theological ideas. He who provides forgiveness for a sinful life will also surely be a generous judge of theological reflections. Even an orthodox theologian can be spiritually dead, while perhaps a heretic crawls on forbidden bypaths to the sources of life (pg 37)."

On Scriptural ballast in theology
"A person who pursues theological courses is spiritually sick unless he reads the Bible uncommonly often..." (pg 40).


2 Corinthians 1-4

Chapter 1
God comforts us in our afflictions, through fellow believers. I (Paul) boast in you, and hope you boast in us, even though I couldn't come to you. God has kept all His promises to us in Christ, and sealed them with His Spirit.

Chapter 2
I didn't write before to hurt or offend you, but out of love. If the offender has repented, then forgive him, and I too forgive. Christ always goes before us, wherever we go.

Chapter 3
The church of Corinth itself is our commendation of us. We need not write a letter. The ministry of the letter (the Old Testament) is surpassed in glory by that of the Spirit, anyway: more glory, more boldness even than Moses, more permanent than the first covenant. We are transformed from one glory to another.

Chapter 4
We don't veil or spin the message, but preach Christ, who shines as a treasure within the clay jar of our selves. We are afflicted with suffering and death while we minister life to you. He will raise us to life again, while grace increases to you, bringing thanks and glory to God. The affliction is light and temporary compared to the eternal weight of glory coming.

2 Corinthians 5-8

Chapter 5
Death will just be swallowed up by life, being home with the Lord. We are ambassadors for Christ, through Whom God reconciles Himself to the world, not counting our sins against us.

Chapter 6
Don't receive God's grace in vain. We are suffering for you, in Christ; open your hearts to us as we have to you. Dont' fellowship with unbelievers - separate from them. Cleanse yourself of every defilement, body and spirit.

Chapter 7
I don't regret my letter grieving you, for it bore fruit. Titus has comforted us with news of your faithfulness, and I am confident of you.

Chapter 8
The other churches of Macedonia have given generously. Since you excel in everything else, do so here, too. Christ was rich and became poor for you. Return the favor in His Body, the Church. Share the burden and blessings equally, as they did when manna fell from heaven. Titus is coming to you with this letter, and others.

2 Corinthians 9-13

Chapter 9
I stuck my neck out saying you would give, so don't embarrass me. When I come, give willingly. If you sow generously, you will reap generously.

Chapter 10
Our ministry is spiritual warfare, taking all thoughts captive to Christ. We are of Christ as you are. Our authority over you is for your good; our appeal to you is not overdoing it, for we came to you with the Gospel first. Recommendations from others don't matter; only from the Lord. Don't seek approval from men, but from the Lord.

Chapter 11
Put up with me for a while; you put up with other speakers who preach a different gospel, just because they speak well. I may not speak as well, but I have knowledge. Should I have charged you, so you felt you were getting a top-notch conference speaker? They claim to be under our auspices, preaching the same gospel, but they preach a different message. This makes them Satan's servants, not God's. If you think me less wise than others, let me speak as a fool for a minute! I'm more debased than anyone. I excel in suffering more than all. I serve more than all. I'm in danger more, I'm weaker than all!
Chapter 12
I've had more amazing visions - caught up to 3rd heaven of paradise. It ain't bragging if you do it, and I did. But I don't boast anyway - it doesn't do any good and brings pride. To keep me from boasting God gave me a thorn in the flesh. I asked Him to take it away, but He didn't - giving grace in it, instead. This shows God's power in my weakness. I'm afriad when I come I will find some of you unrepentant.
Chapter 13
I won't spare the unrepentant when I come, since you want me to be strong. Test and examine yourselves, so I don't have to exercise my authority to do so when I come. Aim for restoration, peace and fellowship among your selves, through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Vacation reading

1 Corinthians 1-4

Chapter 1
I thank God for enriching you with gifts of speech and knowledge. Don't get divided by following earthly men. I preached Christ to you without eloquence at first. Christ is folly to the world, but is God's wisdom. He didn't call many with worldly wisdom, so that we wouldn't boast in it, but only in Christ.

Chapter 2
This is why they crucified Jesus - they couldn't and can't understand Him.

CHapter 3
You are still in the infancy of the flesh, jealously following personalities. We are all working toward the same harvest, and the last day will reveal the value of each one's work. Also all things are yours, so don't be jealous of others.

Chapter 4
You brag of being rich and strong while your spiritual betters go about weak and poor. What are you thinking?

1 Corinthians 5-8

Chapter 5
Don't boast when sin goes unchecked among you. Remove the leaven of sin from your house/church.

Chapter 6
When you take each other to court, you prove you can't judge among yourselves. You ought rather be wronged. You are inheriting a kingdom of purity, so act like it.

Chapter 7
Staying single is good. Marriage is also a good provision against temptation. Don't leave an unbelieving spouse unless they leave you. Stay as you were called before believing. There is no official Christian status: single, married, free, slave, circumcised, uncircumcised.
Chapter 8
Eating food offered to idols is no big deal, since an idol is nothing. But if you are with someone still untaught about this, don't scandalize him on purpose.

1 Corinthians 9-12

Chapter 9
Paul has a right to be paid by the Corinthians, but he didn't ask for it, to not stumble them. So why are you glorying in things that will stumble others? Run as an athlete straining to win the prize.

Chapter 10
After Israel was saved they fell back into idolatry and sexual sin, too, just as you are doing. Watch out! You participate in idols' feasts and Jesus' feast, both. Do what builds others up, not just whatever you may do. You MAY do what you want (vs 39), unless others perceive you endorse idolatry, or unless you will offend them. Imitate me (Paul) in this.

Chapter 11
Maintain male/female distinctions in worship, according to culturally appropriate practices. Don't divide by faction or family for the meal. Regard Christ's whole body at the Supper in how you eat. You are proclaiming His death, breaking bread He called His body, drinking wine He called His blood! So think about what you are doing, and why. Then God won't have to punish you as He is doing now.

Chapter 12
God designed our spiritual gifts to work together, like body parts in a body. Each needs the others. We are one in Christ, in the Spirit, in our baptism. We each have needed gifts, and need others.

1 Corinthians 13-16

Chapter 13
None of it matters without love. Gifts will pass away, but love won't.

Chapter 14
The gift of tongues is all right, but doesn't build up the church much. Desire the gifts that do. Prophesy in turn in church, so all can understand everything, women not taking part in evaluation of prophecy (though they pray in church - vs 11:5)

Chapter 15
The resurrection of Christ I preached is your only hope. He is the firstfruits of our own resurrection harvest, and will conquer all His enemies, even death. Naturalist objections to this resurrection are frivolous (as Jesus with the Saduccees - Matt. 22:29). All will be changed to glory, but not all will die, for death will lose its power at the last day. So endure in your labor, for it is not vain.
Chapter 16
Pace and plan your giving weekly until I come, so your gift to Jerusalem will be generous and not as painful. I can't come just now, but Timothy is coming; respect him. Apollos can't come now, though I urged him to. Stand firm. Respect men like Stephanus, the first converts in Greece. Greetings in the Lord Jesus!


Acts 18:19-19

Paul, on his way to Jerusaalem apparently, stops in Ephesus for one Sabbath, but has to go on. Caesarea, Jerusalem, Antioch, then back through Galatia. Meanwhile back in Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila "discover" Apollos, an eloquent apologist for Jesus. He helps the church, after Priscilla and Aquila instruct him further.

Chapter 19
Since Corinth, whether because of Priscilla and Aquila or for some other reason, Paul stays in one place much longer (Acts 18:9-11, 19-23). He pauses his evangelizing in Eph to get to Jerusalem, makes his circuit through Galatia and Phrygia until he gets to Ephesus, and picks up where he left off there.

In Ephesus he tries evangelizing the Jews in the synagogue for 3 months, then goes to a secular lecture hall during the lunch and afternoon hours for 2 years, daily.

The name of Jesus is advanced greatly among Jewish and occultists, alike. So much so, that the idol industry feels it and is threatened. They riot; Paul wants to go argue with the mob! But most tellingly about Paul is verse 37. Either the town clerk was really ignorant of Paul, or Paul preached Christ without speaking against the pagan Greek pantheon.

2 Thessalonians

Your faith and love are growing under persecution, so we thank God. When Jesus returns, with His saints and angels in fire, He will avenge Himself on those who persecute you.
That day hasn't come yet. The man of lawlessness will come to power first, and that won't happen until the restrainer is removed. God will bring delusion to many, and those deluded will be condemned (?).
Chapter 3
Pray for us to speed God's Word to its target; we pray He will establish you in that Word, directing your hearts. Don't be idle. Work. If anyone doesn't listin to my commands don't fellowship with them, to shame and warn them as a brother.

1 Thessalonians

Paul thanks God that the Gospel has taken hold among them by the Spirit, in spite of opposition from Jews (chpt 1-2). He is glad to hear they are still thriving, after he worked among them for a time (2-3). Live in purity and love. Control your body and use your hands to provide for yourself. Don't worry about those who have already died, grieving for them as pagans do, without hope. They will be with the Lord first at His return (4). That day will be like a thief in the night for the world. But we are children of day, so it should not surprise us when it comes. In all the ruckus on their first visit (Acts 17:1-9) they apparently still had time to establish elders, to whom Paul points the believers as their leaders (5).


Acts 17-18

Paul, Silas and Timothy come to Thessalonica, and the usual happens. Enough Jews believe that the leaders get jealous. Paul goes to the Gentiles, of whom a significant number are also converted, and the Jews stir up the city rabble against Paul, forcing him out.

The Berean Jews believe, being famous for searching the Bible to discern the truth of the speaker. But the Jews from Thessalonica now do to Paul what he did to the early church, chasing them from city to city. Paul goes on to Athens, while the lower-key Silas and Timothy order the church under radar and follow Paul when they are done.

Paul can't take it in Athens, where Greek gods are everywhere. He speaks out, but doesn't seem to attack their gods as much as preach Jesus. He gets at least two converts, and others who remain interested.

Paul stays longer in Corinth than elsewhere, by God's leading, and with Jews of his same trade, apparently - tentmaking. Converting the Jews' synagogue ruler must have been a blow. The Jews try to implicate Paul with a new ruler, Gallio, but it backfires and their own new synagogue ruler is beaten - a warning not to bring frivolous lawsuits before Gallio, perhaps.

Paul heads back for Antioch, with Priscilla and Aquila in tow. He apparently keeps the Torah, though he has already argued so vociferously to the Galatians against relying upon it for one's justification, for he has taken a Nazirite vow (Numbers 6) and cuts his hair in accordance with the regulation there.

Application: we aren't all called to be an evangelist full time, and we live in a fairly Christian culture, so no heavy duty guilt trip here. But have you ever faced opposition, pressure, or hostility for believing in Jesus? Not for lifestyle practices like Sabbath observance or family life, but directly for believing in a risen Savior?

Been reading...

I read two books recently.

1. Timeline, by Michael Crichton. This was my first Chrichton book, and I wasn't too impressed. I breezed through it, only reading it for the time travel aspect of the plot. Turned out to be a decent survey of medieval life, though.

2. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen. As always, an obvious and yet subtle character study, especially of these two virtues. Marianne is all sensibility in the "responsive mainly/only to her outward senses" sense (!). Societal constraints mean little to her, only what she feels. John Dashwood is all sense in the "what will society expect and allow you to get away with" sense. Sympathy and compassion for others - a form of sensibility - mean little to him and his selfish wife. Elinor is a happy medium. She has compassion on those around her, but also knows when to keep a promise/secret or conform to custom.


On reading the Bible

Scripture is not as explicit as it could be on many issues. So we can reason from good and necessary consequence, without having to stretch grammatical definitions beyond their intended usage, in an attempt to get the rules all laid out explicitly in Scripture, covering every possible situation. The Bible doesn't do that. That isn't the way in which the Bible addresses all of life. God requires us to use wisdom in applying Scripture. (We aren't comfortable with this because it makes it easier to justify/rationalize Scriptural disobedience; so we think going back to strict obedience will ward off disobedience - another fallacy.)

Like a child grows from strict obedience ("Do this. Yes, ma'am") into self-responsible judgment calls ("What would be the wise use of my time right now?"), so Israel was also trained on the "Do this" law as a nation of priests (Leviticus), but had to grow up to apply it with wisdom as kings and prophets. We often try to go back to a Leviticus, "just tell me what to do," childish mindset, even if we are 35 or 45. In one sense we ought never leave that mindset, always remaining submissive to God (Ps 123:2); in another, we are called to be wise judges ourselves, like Solomon with the two women (1 Kings 3:16ff).

This is not to disparage Leviticus. All the OT applies today, in various ways, even the food laws which Jesus declared nullified. There is a right way to apply it today, as I think we should do with our worship order (Leviticus 9), as David did in making some Levites musicians, which was not stated explicitly in the Law (1 Chron 15:16ff), as Israel did with the feasts of Purim (Esther) and Hanukkah (John 10:22). These things are not departing from Scripture, or failing to argue from Scripture. They are applying it with wisdom. We don't have to squint with suspicious eyes when we see this, wondering "what are you trying to get away with?"

This touches on many important things like what we can do in worship, what holidays we can/should celebrate, etc, and it all stems from how we read the Bible.


Galatians 4-6 - Against Noses for Moses

We are heirs according to promise, but under the law until we come of age. Now that Christ and the Spirit have come we are no longer under the law. Why go back to it? You are leaving the Gospel I (Paul) preached, no longer esteeming me as you once did.

The Ishmael and Isaac history is repeating itself: Jews apart from Christ are Ishmael, physically of Abraham but not receiving the promise. Christians are Isaac, children of the promise.

If you go back to following the law as your identity and trust, then you have left Christ, fallen from grace. In Him, only faith working through love matters, not the law. I (Paul) am not preaching circumcision to you. I wish those who are would go further and cut more off. The law of freedom is to love and serve each other. The fruit of the flesh and of the Spirit are each obvious and opposed to each other.

Restore sinners gently, not sinning yourself. Sow a harvest for yourself and beyond, to share with others in need.

Circumcision advocates are counting noses for Moses. Look how great Moses is, how many followers he has! I boast only in the cross of Jesus Christ. There you find the real circumcision. Believers in it are the real Israel of God. Don't give me any more grief about this; I have scars elsewhere on my body because of Jesus.

APPLICATION: what belief or practice that is important to you comes closest to defining your identity, your faith, supplanting Christ and His cross?
Some possibilities:
Live and let live
Conservative politics
Your family being together
The commandment to be Nice, and not offend
Gender roles in marriage and family


On rebellious children

Deuteronomy 21:18-21
"If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. 20 And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear."

These verses refer to that time somewhere between age 16-21, where the child is still under parental authority, but of sufficient maturity to be willfully, persistently, long-term stubborn, and know most of the ramifications of it. An 18-19 year old doesn't have to "grow out of" their adolescent rebellion before excommunicating them. At that age, they know exactly what they are doing and are guilty.

Then, as now, there is a court of appeal beyond the parents. If a 17-19 year old son is rebellious (for instance, physically harmful or endangering of his siblings or mother, and father is absent or doesn't restrain him), this verse applies. I would say that it applies today not in that he should be executed, but that he should be turned over to the civil authorities and/or the church.

Once the rebellious young one is not under parental authority, this verse inherently no longer applies, as the elders at the gate can bring him before them himself. "He is of age; ask him." So this verse doesn't speak to the assertion that a son is under his parents' authority until married.

There is no verse that says an adult has to obey his parents. We ought not misapply verses that appear to say it, just to have absolute clarity on how it goes in that 18-25 year old (or beyond) phase of life before marriage. We ought to be releasing and launching them in that phase, rather than overly directing and controlling, which squelches the growth of adult-like decision making, which they need to be mastering at that age. That they can practice with parental oversight/protection is a gift.

Notice there is no punishment or guilt implied or imputed to the parents in this scenario in Deut 21:18-21! A parent can do all in his power to restrain and disciple his children, and still end up in this situation. If not, this verse wouldn't be here. This does not undermine the truth that we believe God for the salvation of our children, or that parents are covenantally responsible for the sins of their children. Deut 21:18-21 is how they carry out their responsibility with a child who is out of control: they take him to the church and/or state.


Galatians 1-3

Paul's authority is directly from God, not through the other apostles.

The other apostles recognized his call to the Gentiles, and rejected the necessity of circumcision for believers in Christ.

Paul rightly rebuked Peter for re-segregating meals according to Torah.

We are not reckoned righteous by keeping Torah, but by believing in Jesus as the Christ.

Our requirement to keep Torah, and our condemnation by Torah, was killed with Christ on the cross.

If you try to live (be justified) by the law, you will be condemned by it, for all have sinned. We should live by the promise, which precedes the law. The law doesn't contradict the promise, but wasn't meant as the source of life or justification. Its purpose is rather to define and condemn sin. We are no longer under it, since Christ has come. It is faith in the promise of God to Abraham and to us, not adherence to the Law, that reckons us righteous and one of God's people.

Acts 15-16

Some Jews in the church begin to insist that the Gentiles keep Torah, especially in being circumcised, to be considered true Christians. Paul and Barnabas resist this. They take the disagreement to Jerusalem, the supreme court of appeal of apostles and elders. Peter and James side with Paul, and send some delegates back to Antioch with a letter essentially binding them to the covenant with Noah, not that with Moses.

Paul wants to go back to visit the churches again, but not with John Mark, who left them before. Barnabas insists he come, so Barnabas and John Mark go, and Paul takes Silas with him, separately.

Paul discovers Timothy in Lystra, and has him get circumcised so as not to stumble the Jews there. Interesting, after chapter 15!

Seeking to go north to Asia, Paul and Silas and Timothy are hindered. The Spirit directs them west to Macedonia instead. Lydia is converted in Philippi. The Gospel is dismissed until it starts having an impact. When a cash cow psychic is exorcised and thus ruined, they throw Paul in jail. This just furthers the Gospel, converting the jailer and his household. Then Paul insists the magistrates admit their fault in jailing them. Doesn't seem very humble, according to the pietist, perhaps, but it was important to set the public record straight that the enemies of Christ sought the injustice, not His followers.



Chapter 1
Trials test and strengthen your faith, so rejoice in them.
Ask for wisdom. Don't follow your desires into sin.
All gifts come from God, who made us be born again into a new creation.
The implanted word helps you resist temptation, if you apply it, instead of letting it bounce off your forehead.
True religion acts, it doesn't just feel or believe.

Chapter 2
Don't be partial to the rich. Show mercy in judgment, as you will be judged with the measure you use. Your faith will be shown, proven (justified) by your works.

Chapter 3
The small tongue greatly reveals the heart of evil in us. Taming it is impossible. We speak both good and ill from the same tongue, which is unnatural. Wisdom leads to a harvest of righteousness; evil bears fruit antithetical to this.

Chapter 4
Our worldly desires create all kinds of problems. We must deny them and humble ourselves to draw near to God. Speaking evil of others is the opposite of this. So is boasting in your future accomplishments.

Chapter 5
The rich must remember the poor instead of exploiting them.
Patience in tribulation is needed, while waiting for the seed of the Word to sprout.
Sing when cheerful. Pray and confess sin when sick. Righteous prayer does a great deal.
Restoring a sinner is a great work.

Acts 13-14

The Spirit sends Saul and Barnabas off to do His work. Apparently, they knew where to go, somehow. In Cyprus, they meet Paulus, a Roman high official, whose name Saul takes. When he believes, Paul appears to adjust his strategy to focus more intentionally upon the Gentiles, while not neglecting to go the Jews first. We can tell by what he does when the Jews in Pisidian Antioch reject the Gospel. Note, though, that Paul has learned his evangelism sermon from Peter, quoting the same texts - Psalms 2 and 16.

Paul and Barnabas are now persecuted from city to city, as the Jews get the city officials or a mob in each place to harm him. They get a different response from the Greeks to healing a man than the Jews: they are worshiped as gods. Then the Jews come and convince them to stone them. Talk about a fickle mob.

As they return through the cities where they converted men to Christ, they follow up, strengthen the churches, and appoint elders in every church.

Application: Paul remains steadfast and doesn't stop, in the face of intense opposition, even when it means physical harm. How often do we stop living our faith or speaking of it, when faced with mild disapproval from others?


Acts 11-12

Peter advances the Gentile inclusion with the Jews back in Jerusalem.
Missionaries northwest of Jerusalem and Damascus have most success among Gentiles, especially in Antioch. Barnabas is sent there, and he recruits Saul, from Tarsus. These two become representatives of the church to Jerusalem, where aid is needed for the isolated believers for the prophesied, future famine.

National politics enters the church scene for the first time. Herod wants to do the Jews a favor, and so helps them persecute the church. He kills James and imprisons Peter. An angel releases Peter supernaturally. When he comes to in the street, his first thought is the house church of John Mark's mother, which ought to be a clue to its significance. There seems to be a correlation here between Peter's preservation from Herod and Jesus' in Matthew 2. Herod dies, but Jesus, the Word, increases and grows. John Mark goes to Antioch with Saul and Barnabas.

1. Defend those God defends, even if society does not.
2. Pay attention to the ministry God blesses with fruit, while not losing sight of the parameters of the Word of God.
3. Do not despair of the giants in the land who resist God; they will soon fade from the scene.

Acts 9-10

Jesus converts Paul, while he is actively persecuting Him. He tells Ananias that Saul is His anointed to preach His name to the Gentiles. His ministry starts out with both Jews and Greeks trying to kill him for his Gospel preaching. Even the apostles ran from him, until Barnabas advocates for him.

Meanwhile, Peter continues to heal, even raising a widow from death. He breaches the Jew-Gentile gap. Only Nixon could go to China, right? Even so, Peter has to lead this, before Paul begins in earnest. Peter preaches to Cornelius' household, a message tempered for Gentiles without all the Jewish Scripture and history: forgiveness of sins, judge of men, and resurrection are the main themes. The Spirit falls "even on the Gentiles," a telling phrase of controversy to come.

Application: is there someone ELSE you need to tell about Jesus? Not because they are plan B in God's eyes, but because you hadn't thought to go there with the Gospel.

Acts 8

Stephen was just the beginning. Saul gets involved in the inquisition, most of the church is scattered from Jerusalem, but the apostles hang on there. Phillip has success in Samaria, and baptizes many. Apostles are sent to lay hands on them, so they receive the Spirit. This was needed to authorize the before-unheard-of inclusion of Samaritans in the church, the second of four phases Jesus predicts in Acts 1:8. Simon Magus' gross misunderstanding of the Spirit does not get him killed, and he appears to repent.

Phillip then goes south and meets an Ethiopian going home from worshiping in Jerusalem, reading Isaiah 53. He preaches Jesus and the eunuch is baptized.

Application: the Spirit converts many who would not normally be included, but a persecution from the Jews was required to get the apostles out to them. Hm.


Acts 6-7

The early church was not a utopia. Greek widows were discriminated against by the Jewish believers. The Jewish apostles call a congregational meeting where 7 Greek deacons are appointed to take care of the matter. One of them, Stephen, is falsely accused of blasphemy and brought before the Sanhedrin.

In defense, Stephen tells the whole history of Israel, highlighting that they have always rejected God's anointed ruler and redeemer for Israel, mentioning Joseph, highlighting Moses, then mentioning the other prophets they persecuted. They reject and stone him, Saul holding their coats for them, approving.

Application: who are the Hellenist widows in your church, who are being overlooked?
Would you think to defend your faith by recounting Israel's history? How well do you know your spiritual family history?

How to educate your children

Here is an excellent comparison of the pros & cons of various education methods.

Acts 3-5

The signs and wonders of the apostles hit the public square in the temple, when Peter heals a lame man. When people notice, he seizes the opportunity to preach the same message, again quoting heavily from the Old Testament. He appeals to their covenant status before God as sons of the prophets as grounds for their need to repent and listen to the Prophet Jesus. The temple rulers catch wind of it and inquire, and Peter preaches the sermon again, this time to the very men who condemned Jesus, and covered up His resurrection. Notice that though Peter acknowledges their authority to judge, he convicts them of their sin and tells them that the apostles answer to a higher authority. They again officially reject Jesus by forbidding the apostles to speak in His name. The disciples gather and again see Scripture fulfilled in this - Psalm 2. A further break with Old Testament temple Judaism may be seen in vss 34, 36, where disciples - even Levites - are selling their land and bringing it not to the priests (Leviticus 27) but to the apostles. They are the new mediators/rulers of God's people, not the Sadducees. This is proven by the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira.

Growth of the Church escalates the situation; the Sadducees get jealous as the Church grows. This time they imprison all the apostles, but they respond the same: preaching and saying they have to obey God before them. Gamaliel, a prominent Pharisee, uses his position to temper the Sanhedrin's opposition to the Church.

1. Have you ever had opportunity to bear witness to Jesus before what you knew to be a hostile audience? Will you have it again? Use this speech as a model to imitate in preparing to give an answer for the hope that is in you. Rejoice to know that you are imitating Jesus in His being rejected by men.

2. Do you trust your church leaders to distribute wisely your tithes and offerings?

Acts 2

The Spirit comes on the apostles as fire, enabling them to speak the Gospel of Christ and be heard in the native languages of the Jews gathered from around the Mediterranean for the feast of Pentecost. Peter again quotes Scripture, Joel 2, saying we are now in the last days. God has made Jesus Lord and Christ, proving it by raising Him from death, which David spoke of (Psalm 16). All must repent and be baptized in Christ, to receive forgiveness and the Spirit. This Gospel is for you, your children and those far off, meaning to Peter's audience, those back home. 3000 believe and are baptized. They continue as faithful Jews, in favor with the Jews, worshiping and praying in the temple, but also gathering in homes daily for teaching, fellowship, meals (Communion?), and providing for each other materially. Note the overlap of old and new covenants here. The defining outward characteristics of the Jew were his circumcision and temple worship. For the Christian they were his baptism and partaking of the Lord's Table. During this time in Acts, the Christians continue in their temple worship and don't repudiate their circumcision, but are also baptized and celebrate Communion.

Application: the core of the Gospel is given from verses 22-40. Have you spoken it to others recently? What do these verses say is the proof of its truth?

Acts 1

Jesus stays with the disciples 40 days, teaching them about the Kingdom. They will not fully restore it, but bear witness to it and Him to the ends of the earth, by the Spirit's power. The rest of the book of Acts describes this work of the apostles done through the Spirit. Jesus ascends to heaven to rule His kingdom and subdue His enemies from there (Ps 110).
You have the power of the Spirit from Jesus to bear witness to Him where you are. Are you doing so?

The apostles are now joined by Jesus' family, and 100 or so others. Peter leads them in replacing Judas. The first act of the Spirit in Peter's doing so is to lead him to quote the Word, showing from Psalms what Judas was. It was important to have 12 apostles, not 11. They realize they are the new Israel.
While the acts of the apostles in this book are not always commands for what we should be doing today, in this case we can ask: are we able to apply the Word to events concerning us and our witness to Christ, so as to guide us to more effective bearing witness?


Decisions, decisions

Randy Booth, CREC pastor in Texas who just ended his term as moderator, has recently begun a blog. I highly recommend it. Here is a blurb, on young people making decisions about the future.

"Who you marry will have far more impact on what you become than any other factor. Where you go to church is also critical to your spiritual and moral development. Both of these will have much more impact on you and your children, and your children’s children (for a thousand generations), than any degree from any college or university. If that is the case, then why wouldn’t a young person have these issues at the very top of his list as he makes decisions about his future? Whether it’s school, or career, or preparation to be a wife and mother, we must place ourselves in the way of wisdom, preparing ourselves for the best possible opportunities."

Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20-21

The women come to the tomb after the Sabbath to anoint Jesus' body. The angel rolls the stone away, scares the guards into irrelevance, and announces the resurrection of Jesus. On their way to tell the others, Jesus meets Mary, and she recognizes Him, though she thinks He is the gardener, at first (the 2nd Adam, waking from sleep in a Garden to find a woman with Him...). John says the women see the empty tomb, go back to disciples, and Peter and John go see, and also go away, all not yet understanding.

The guards report to the Jews, who circulate the stolen body story.

Two disciples heading home to Emmaus meet Jesus. Though they don't recognize Him, He teaches them all about Himself from the Word. They recognize Him in the breaking of bread.

Jesus re-appears in the Jerusalem upper room, teaching them from the Word, having them touch Him, and eating fish in front of them. He gives them His authority to give or withhold forgiveness.

He re-appears next week, to doubting Thomas, who stops doubting and worships Jesus as his Lord and God. The point of the Gospels is for us readers to also believe and worship Jesus.

The disciples go back to Nazareth. Peter goes fishing with the other disciples. Jesus enables them to catch fish, as they will convert the nations to Him, and He provides breakfast on the shore. He restores Peter by commissioning him to shepherd His flock.

The disciples see Jesus again in Galilee on a mountain. They worship Him, and are commissioned by Him to disciple all the nations by baptizing and teaching them. They are given power to do signs confirming their Gospel message. He then ascends to heaven.


Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19

The Sanhedrin condemns Jesus.

Judas returns the money, which fulfills prophecy, and hangs himself.

The Sanhedrin hands Him over to Pilate. He gives Herod a favor by sending Jesus to him, but the true King has nothing to say to the usurping king Herod. Jesus tells Pilate His kingdom is not of this world.

Pilate realizes the Sanhedrin are trying to condemn an innocent man, and tries to get him released, offering Barabbas, then flogging Him. Jesus says Pilate's authority to execute Jesus is from heaven, convicting Pilate of what he is about to do. It doesn't work and the Jews pull the trump card: riot. Pilate gives in.

The soldiers take Him and play their usual mock-him-as-king-before-killing-him game.

Simon carries His cross to Golgotha - Jesus is too weak to do it, apparently.

In the physical agony of nail piercings, Jesus prays for the forgiveness of this sin of ignorance of the Roman soldiers.

He refuses sour wine.

They divide His clothes.

The charge actually condemns the Jews, not Jesus: King of the Jews. They rejected their only king.

Passersby, one crucified with Him, and the Sanhedrin all mock Him, as in Psalm 22.

The other robber testifies to Jesus' innocence, and Jesus promises him paradise.

Jesus asks John to provide for His mother.

"I thirst."

The sun goes dark from noon to 3pm, when Jesus cries out in the agony of being forsaken by His Father. "It is finished." He commits His spirit to the Father, and as He dies, the temple veil is torn, there is an earthquake, and saints are resurrected.

The Jews are silent at this, but a Roman soldier testifies that this man must have been from God.

The soldiers pierce His side to be sure He is dead.

Joseph of Arimathea buries Jesus in his own rock tomb, an expensive sacrifice.

The Jews get a guard placed by the tomb to keep the disciples from any funny business about His promised resurrection.


John 13-17

Jesus washes the disciples' feet, teaching them that His ministry is one of service, and theirs in Him name must be as well. Judas will betray Him, but they must love each other.

Jesus teaches the disciples that He is going to the Father, and He is their way to the Father. When He leaves, He will send the Spirit to them. They need to abide in Him by keeping His commandment, which is to love each other, even when the world hates them. The Spirit will be at work, convicting the world of this, teaching the disciples what to say, and leading them into truth. Jesus has overcome the world, so no fear.

Jesus prays for the greater glory of the Father and Son, for eternal life for us, which is knowing the Father and Son, for our protection from evil and sanctification, for our unity in the Triune fellowship, and for us to be with Him and know Him in His glory.

Matt 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18

The priests determine to kill Jesus.

Judas determines to betray Him to them.

Jesus determines to offer up His life as the Passover Lamb.

He prays for another way, though, for it will be an ordeal to bear His Father's wrath against all the sins of the redeemed.

Judas leads the temple police (and Romans?) to Him, and they arrest Him, but events show that He is in control, not the arrestors. Still, the disciples flee when He is taken. The priests try to convict Jesus on false and conflicting charges. He questions their process of questioning Him (John 18). They go for the jugular, asking Him point blank if He is Messiah. They have ruled out the possibility He IS, so a "Yes" will be automatic blasphemy. Jesus quotes Daniel, referring to Himself and looking forward to His Ascension to the Father. They condemn Him, hand Him over to be abused. Peter sees the writing on the wall and knows His life is in danger if He identifies with Jesus. He caves in.


Matthew 23-24; Luke 21; Mark 13; Matt 25

Though close to the Pharisees in greatest-commandment, big-picture theology, He condemns their application of the Word to life, which is mixed throughout with pride. They major on minors and externals (which are not synonymns, though).

Jesus speaks of the day the Temple will be destroyed (not His yet-future, second coming to judge all men). He describes the Jews' rejection of His apostles after His ascension, leading up to God's rejection of the Jews, leaving them to the armies of Rome. They will be redeemed from the Messiah-rejecting nation of Israel, when the latter is brought low. Once again, God's people will be judged for her sin by a more pagan nation, with a faithful remnant left to glorify Him. Stay awake so this judgment doesn't catch you by surprise.

We stay awake by staying filled with the Spirit (oil), which enables us to steward the master's resources wisely, by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting those in distress.

Matthew 22; Mark 12

Parables that convict the Jews rejecting Jesus:

God's standards for the wedding feast are embarrassingly low to us: anybody off the street who will come. Some who are there don't know the basic requirements and will be thrown out.

The Pharisees, who hate Rome, and the Herodians, who love Rome, join forces against Jesus. They try to trap Him over taxes, but He eludes them with wise words.

Then the two parties divide again, and try separate attacks. The Saduccees ridicule the resurrection, but they are gravely mistaken, not understanding the transformation of social life in the regeneration, nor even the nature of the God of Abraham. The Pharisees question Him, it turns out they are very closely in agreement, something often overlooked in Gospel studies.

Jesus then turns the tables and questions them. Who will the Messiah be, anyway? Just a son of David, or someone greater than David? Psalm 110 proves it is the latter, which confounds everyone and sends them away wondering.

Jesus compares positively the unknown piety of the poor widow to the false piety for show of the Pharisees.

Matthew 20-21; Luke 19; Mark 11

Those who serve lon gin the Kingdom are prone to compare rewards with others, and expect their greater experience to merit greater reward.

Jesus enters Jerusalem as its king, to crowds expecting salvation from Him.
But He weeps over the city, because they are looking for the wrong thing (sword) to give salvation.
Jesus drives out 1. those buying and selling in the temple (because this invaded the Gentile court where Gentiles were to worship God), 2. those changing money (because they were charging ridiculously high exchange rates to profit from those who couldn't take their sheep all the way to Jerusalem), 3. those selling pigeons (because this was the sacrifice of the very poor, who they were also exploiting, against the Law). The chief priests objections to the children are as much an objection to Jesus, and He dismisses it.

Jesus withers a fig tree, symbolic of leaders, when He finds no fruit on it.

When He comes back to the temple, the priests challenge Him more directly. He traps them, as they have oftened tried to trap Him, and they have to back off. They are the ones who are stuck, and answerable to God for their rejection of John and Him; He is not answerable to them. He says this in parables that they plainly understand. But they can't get rid of Him, because they fear the people (not God).

Luke 18-19; John 12

Jesus restores Zacchaeus, who offers restitution with his repentance. Interesting it isn't said that he gave up his tax collecting profession, though Matthew did to follow Jesus.

Jesus tells the 10 talents/minas parable to encourage us to serve Him until He comes, and not expect immediate Kingdom consummation.

Jesus eats with Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany. Mary gives an extragant offering to Him. Judas protests selfishly, using the poor as a facade for his embezzling.

The priests plot to kill Lazarus, with Jesus, which is hilarious. Jesus already raised him to life once. Why do they think He couldn't do it again? The whole world was going after Him: Greeks were seeking Him, too. Yet the Jews are confused about who He is. They are divided, many believing, even among the rulers, and many rejected Him. Those who reject Him will be judged on the last day, but for now, Jesus has come to save the world, not judge it.

Matthew 19; Mark 10

Divorce is only allowed on grounds of sexual immorality.
Don't keep children from Jesus; His Kingdom is made of child-like subjects.
It is hard to trust Christ instead of riches, when you have money.
Jesus will reward sacrifices made for Him. He Himself will die.
James and John ask for 2nd and 3rd place in His kingdom. They may die like Jesus, but seeking specific positions in the Kingdom are not possible, but up to the Father. Don't jockey for positions. Serve.

Luke 17-18

Be thankful. When blessings flow from Christ, return thanks to Him.
Christ's Kingdom will come suddenly, in judgment, as the flood came on Noah's generation.
But God will give His elect justice, so pray to Him for it persistently.
Do this knowing you don't deserve it as a sinner. Don't distinguish yourself from greater sinners based on your external works of piety.


Thanksgiving: Centerpieces

Williamsburg, VA has a holiday decorating tradition where the houses are adorned with only natural elements, such as pine boughs, fruits, seed pods, and nuts. These beautiful creations inspired my Thanksgiving centerpiece for this year:

Cranberries and boxwood sprigs nestle between fresh apples, pears, lemons, and clementines, crowned with a baby pineapple. A wreath of newly-picked magnolia leaves creates the base.

My creation is not 100% natural - the fruit is all real, but the boxwood sprigs are snipped from a floral spray bought at Michaels. Everything is skewered into a 12" foam cone. This is my third year creating a centerpiece like this, and if you'd like to try one yourself, here are a few tips. It took me a little less than an hour to assemble.

-buy the smallest fruit you can find, and look for good strong colors

-use 1/4" dowels or hefty bamboo skewers broken down to 3" lengths to firmly attach the larger fruits to the foam

-working on a sturdy plate or charger, start by poking the magnolia leaf stems into the base

-Moving from bottom to top, randomly place the large fruit around the cone. Put the biggest of the fruits on the bottom.

- fill in the gaps by attaching cranberries to the foam with toothpicks. Boxwood sprigs are tucked in to conceal any foam. You can skewer a boxwood sprig with a toothpick then anchor it on with a cranberry over the end. Try to leave some longer sprigs at the top to create a nice transition to the pineapple. They also help to support the pineapple.

-place the pineapple on top (I even used an artichoke once). This may be skewered on, or I've used a long screw twisted up into the base of the pineapple, then ram the head end of the screw into the foam. You want to avoid an embarrassing moment during Thanksgiving dinner when the pineapple rolls into Uncle Eddy's mashed potatoes, like this:

Transporting the centerpiece: not an easy task, but since this one will be a hostess gift, it must be done. I wrap plastic wrap around the entire thing as tightly as I can. The pineapple can be carried separately and attached right before the presentation. The whole arrangement weighs a lot, so be sure you have a very sturdy plate underneath!

John 11

Jesus says He is the resurrection - He can bring it forward to the present from the last day. He proves this by raising Lazarus to life. All who are in their tombs will one day hear His voice calling them out, as Lazarus does here.

The Jews are confounded. Jesus has escalated things greatly. They are now concerned about national unrest because of Jesus, which would lead to Roman retaliation and replacement of Jewish leaders... them. So they issue a warrant for His arrest. Caiaphas says He will have to die to preserve the nation, which is ironically true.

Luke 16-17

In the Kingdom of God, money is to be used for greater purposes, not pursued as a goal in itself.
The law of Moses says this, and if Israel won't listen to Moses, they won't listen even to a resurrected Jesus.

Don't tempt others to sin. Forgive others if they seek it, even they need it often from you. You can do this if you remember you are an unprofitable servant.

Luke 14-15

The Kingdom of God is like a wedding reception.
Invite all connected to the couple (Jesus and the Church): everyone.
Don't strive for a better place there.
God intends to have a full house. How does this fit with few finding the narrow way?)
Many invited don't come, so others take their place.

But the Kingdom also involves great cost. It must come even before family, and means a cross for you. Think about it before joining for the party at the end.

God rejoices over sinners who are restored to Him. Piety is not measured by indignation for and separation from sinners.

Luke 12-13

Jesus warns against the Pharisees' who will continue to oppose His disciples. Don't fear them.
Jesus warns against storing up treasure on earth, instead of in heaven.
Jesus warns against slackness over His delayed return. His coming brings division and strife, but many can't even recognize His coming.
Israel is going the wrong direction, not bearing fruit. They need to repent; they need tending, digging and fertilizing.
Jesus heals on the Sabbath again. This is a favorite work of His. It frees God's people from Satan, while also convicting the Pharisees of their errors, and discrediting them before the people.
Enter by the narrow gate: many are presuming falsely they are saved based on wrong criteria. Many will enter who we wouldn't think would. Jerusalem rejects God's prophets and so will be judged and left desolate (again, like Babylon is described in the OT).

Thanksgiving: Whose History?

Our current religious and cultural war in America is encapsulated well by how we fight over the Thanksgiving holiday. The liberals leave out the Pilgrims' religious thanks to God and say they invited and thanked the Indians. Conservatives get mad, fight back, and wind up teaching bad history themselves, saying No, the Pilgrims were thanking God, not the Indians. Well, that isn't true, either. It was both. They sought to thank God for the bountiful harvest, and they wanted to strengthen their friendship with the Indians, perhaps also seeking to evangelize them.

Luke 10-11

We know more about the sending out of the 12, than of the 72.
Jesus warns cities that reject Him and the 72: it will be worse for you than other Gentile cities that weren't as exposed to Him. He even compares His adopted home town of Capernaum with Babylon (compare Luke 10:15 with Isaiah 14:13-15).

Jesus warns the 72 not to sensationalize their power over demons. He saw Satan fall from heaven, like lightning. Far more important to give thanks for your salvation, than for your power over evil.

Jesus is delighted with His Father's plan to reveal Himself to the simple, not the wise. A scribe asks about the Father's revealed, moral will for us: love your neighbor, as even Samaritans do sometimes.

Pray for God's name to be remain regarded as holy; for His Kingdom to come to earth as His will is done in heaven; for our provision, forgiveness, mercy and purity. Pray persistently, to a Father who delights to give.

Israel was to be a light to the Gentiles, as Jonah and Solomon were; don't hide it under a basket.

The Pharisees don't handle the Word well, loading people with rules on minor things while ignoring the big issues. This is connected with their rejection of Jesus, which will lead to the judgment of all past generations in this generation. Jesus intentionally made enemies with these shepherds, because they were wrong and were hurting the sheep.

John 10
Jesus prefers to speak of His works and mission from His Father, instead of using the words Messiah and Christ. Though the two are synonymous theologically, the political connotation was disruptive of Jesus' earthly ministry. They accuse Him of blasphemy; He points to His works to prove what He says is true.


John 9-10

Jesus confounds them again, healing a man and giving them a sign they can't handle, that doesn't fit in their paradigm. They follow Moses, not Jesus. They don't know where Jesus is from (funny that earlier they rejected Him because they knew He was from Galilee; now they don't know).
The man healed understands Jesus' work better than the Pharisees do.

Jesus is the door, the shepherd, not the Pharisees or Sadducees. The latter fleece the sheep with Rome, so they don't lose their position. Jesus refers to Israel's restoration and resurrection in Ezekiel 37 - one flock, one shepherd. Then that He has a mission to lay down His life for the sheep.

John 7-8

Jesus continues teaching among the Jews, though the leaders are against Him and the people divided in their opinion about Him. Jesus says He is living water that the people pray to God for. The one charge against Him they have (healing on the Sabbath) is a bogus charge. Their other objection (He is from Galilee) is based on a false understanding (He WAS born in Bethlehem, and is of David).

They try to drum up another charge, since they know He is right on the first one, above. Jesus makes a stunning statement without words by writing their names in the dust. Please read Jeremiah 17:13 to see what He says: they have forsaken Yahweh, the fountain of living water, which Jesus claimed to be half a chapter earlier. And the critics don't think this text is Scripture.

Jesus deals gently with the woman caught in adultery, as Joseph did with Mary, in what he thought was a similar situation.

Jesus' authority and witness is His Father. The Jews who reject Jesus don't know His Father, so can't believe Him. While some believe, Jesus gets more forceful with those who don't. They are slaves in God's house, refusing to be set free by the Son. Though they are in God's house as children of Abraham (by circumcision), their spiritual father is the devil. Jesus asserts His authority even over death, saying that anyone who believes and follows Him, He won't let die. The Jews take this as blasphemy, ruling out the possibility He is telling the truth.