Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - Conclusion

The Book of Acts ends rather abruptly, doesn't it?  From its close alone, it's evident that the Book of Acts is not primarily a history of "the birth and growth of the Church," nor even a complete record of "the acts of the apostles."* Wouldn't we like to know what happened to the twelve apostles after the raising up of Paul?  And wouldn't we like to know how Paul fared during the "two whole years at his own expense" (Acts 28:30) and after? What reading an inspired record of his last days and his trial and execution would have made! But God didn't cause Luke to write the Book of Acts in order to satisfy our curiosity. Rather, the book is intended to be the story of Israel's fall and of how salvation was sent to the Gentiles. This having been accomplished, and Israel having rejected Christ at Rome as she had done at Jerusalem and all the way between, the book ends.

*Interestingly, the title "Acts of the Apostles" (Greek Πράξεις ἀποστόλων Praxeis Apostolon) was not part of the original text. It was first used by Irenaeus at the end of the 2nd century.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Blueberry Muffins

Last week 21 people came to our home for breakfast.  It's a long story how that came about, but needless to say, I had to bake a lot of muffins.  Two of my favorite muffin recipes — raspberry chocolate chip and cranberry apple — I already had on hand, but I thought a third would be rather nice.  So I scoured the internet looking for the perfect blueberry muffin recipe and came across this one.  Well not exactly this one.  I made a few modifications, of course.  Don't I always? :) 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries

Crumb Topping:
1/2 c brown sugar
1/3 c flour
1/4 c butter
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.  In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Place oil in a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough buttermilk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. (Do not over mix!) Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups about 3/4's full.  With a fork, mix together crumb topping ingredients and sprinkle over muffins.  Bake for 18 minutes, or until done.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - 9

Beginning with the preaching of John the Baptist (whose message was for Israel - Lk 1:16; 80; Acts 13:24), and during the several years of Christ's earthly ministry with His twelve apostles (which was for Israel - Matt 10:5-7; 15:24; Rom 15:8), and for seven or eight years after Pentecost, the gospel was not sent to Gentiles.

Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested by God with mighty works and wonders and signs in the midst of Israel (Acts 2:22). Jesus responded to the appeals of two Gentiles of "great faith" only, by healing their loved ones (Matt 8:1-12; 15:20-28; Lk 7:1-10; Mk 7:27-37).

In the Book of Acts the Lord is carrying out His program declared in Mark 7:27 and Matthew 8:12. Notice that to the Greek woman our Savior said: "Let the children be fed first..." (Mk 7:27). To the Roman man He said, "...the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness" (Matt 8:12). During Acts, "the children" were being "fed first." In Acts 3:26 Peter said to Israel, "to you first." In Acts 13:46 Paul said to Israel "it was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you." In fulfillment of our Lord's words in Matthew 8:12, the judgment of "the outer darkness" is announced by Paul in Acts 28:25-28 (about 62 A.D.) and Romans 11:6-25, and came about with the destruction of Jerusalem (about 70 A.D.).

Why was it necessary that the word should be sent to Israel first?  The answer is, the Israelites were His people, and salvation was to go to all the world through them (Lk 23:3-4; Jn 4:22; Acts 1:8; 3:16-18).  (Remember, people had to become Jews — proselytes — in order to approach God at that time.)  BUT NOW, because of their unbelief, salvation is temporarily going to all the world apart from them (Isa 49; Zech 8:13,22,23; Rom 11:25-28).

Saturday, May 11, 2013

God's grace is not an excuse to sin,
but rather a reason to love and serve Him more fully.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom 6:1-4).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - 8

After the rulers rejected Him in Matthew 16:20-21, Jesus specifically instructed His apostles not to testify that He was Messiah. If Jesus did not rescind this order, then His apostles willfully disobeyed Him. But Jesus Christ did rescind it in His prayer on the cross — "And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do...” (Lk 23:34). God began anew with Israel on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:36; 3:14-26).

From Acts 2:36 through Acts 7, the twelve disciples and their associates testified to Israel that Jesus was Christ (Messiah). Paul and his associates continued in the synagogues of Israel to testify that Jesus was Christ (Messiah) (Acts 9:16-28; 17:3; 18:5; 28:19-28).

There are four classes of Jews mentioned in the first eleven chapters of Acts: "Hebrew Jews," "Grecians (Greek Jews)," "Strangers or visiting Jews from Rome" (Acts 2:10), and "Proselytes." The Grecians of Acts 6:1, Acts 9:29, and Acts 11:20 should not be confused with the Greeks (Gentiles) of Acts 2:28, Acts 14:1, Acts 16:1-3, Acts 17:4, Acts 18:4, Acts 18:17, Acts 19:10, Acts 19:17, and Acts 20:21. There is also a difference between many of the religious Greeks and the idolatrous Gentiles. Many of the Greeks were interested in the Jews' religion (Acts 13:43; 13:48;14:1; 17:4).

The "far off" people of Acts 2:39 were Israelites, not Gentiles (Acts 10:28; Dan 9:7). In the early chapters of Acts, not one word was spoken to Gentiles. Peter and his associates were sent by Christ to Israel only, with a kingdom message and kingdom signs (Matt 10:5-7).  To them the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given (Matt 16:19).  No one today has right to proclaim the messages, religious programs, and divine orders of those chapters to the Church today — except preaching Christ.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Making sense of the Book of Acts - 7

According to Acts 2:29-33, Peter declared that David prophesied that Christ would be raised from the dead to take David's throne.  All the prophets, beginning with Moses and Samuel, foretold Israel's kingdom days (Acts 3:21-24).  In Acts 3:19-21, Peter declared that God would send Christ from heaven to establish these kingdom days if Israel would repent.  What a contrast between these messages and the fact concerning Christ and the members of His Body seated in the heavenlies (Eph 1:19-22; 2:5).  Christ, on David's throne, as Israel's King, foretold by the prophets, is quite a different relationship and ministry than Christ far above in the heavenlies, Head of the Church, which is His Body.  It is one thing for a believer to be raised up where Christ is in the heavenlies (Eph 2:6).  It is quite a different thing for God to send Christ back from heaven to the believers on earth.

During the Book of Acts, Israel was committing the unpardonable sin; sinning against the Holy Spirit, or blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31-32).  Christ said to Israel, "...every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." Israel sinned against the Son of man.  They put Him to death.  But on the cross He cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34). God was willing (Acts 3:14-18).  He sent the Holy Spirit to witness that He had raised Christ from the dead, exalted Him to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins to Israel (Acts 5:29-32).  Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and saw the Son of man standing in heaven.  He accused them of killing the Son of man and of resisting the Holy Spirit.  They committed the unpardonable sin.  Paul went to Israel's synagogues to testify that Jesus was the Messiah.  He was a watchman for the house of Israel (Ezk 3:16-20).  Israel blasphemed (Acts 13:45; 18:6).  They committed the unpardonable sin.  Paul turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13:45; 18:6; 28:28).

Friday, May 3, 2013

Still more word plays

More fun word plays from a friend on fb :)

The Dentist's Hymn — Crown Him with Many Crowns
The Weatherman's Hymn — There Shall Be Showers of Blessings
The Contractor's Hymn — The Church's One Foundation
The Tailor's Hymn — Holy, Holy, Holy
The Golfer's Hymn — There's a Green Hill Far Away
The Politician's Hymn — Standing on the Promises
The Optometrist's Hymn — Open My Eyes That I Might See
The IRS Agent's Hymn — I Surrender All
The Gossip's Hymn — Pass It On
The Electrician's Hymn — Send The Light
The Shopper's Hymn — Sweet By and By
The Realtor's Hymn — I've Got a Mansion, Just Over the Hilltop
The Massage Therapist's Hymn — He Touched Me
The Doctor's Hymn — The Great Physician

And a few more for those who like to speed:

45 mph — God Will Take Care of You
55 mph — Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
65 mph — Nearer My God to Thee
75 mph — Nearer Still Nearer
85 mph — This World Is Not My Home
95 mph — Lord, I'm Coming Home
and over 100 mph — Precious Memories

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

When the going gets tough

Four things I learned recently from a sermon I heard:

When our Lord was in the Garden of Gethsemane...

1.  He wasn't alone.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled (Matt 26:36-37, cf. Mk 14:32-33).

When I go through particularly difficult times, my natural tendency is to pull into myself — to hunker down — instead of seeking the company of fellow Christians.  I don't usually do this with my husband, but am I wrong for holding back from other believers?  I don't know.  What do you think?

2.  He talked about it.

Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me" (Matt 26:38, cf. Mk 14:34).

Talking about minor difficulties with fellow believers is usually pretty easy, but rarely do I discuss major ones.  I talk about them with my husband and family members, but should I also be looking to other believers for support?

I talked afterwards with the speaker of this sermon and was told that he too tends to keep quiet.  He thinks that we tend to assume we're being humble for not speaking about our difficulties and believes we are wrong for thinking this way, that we should be seeking the support of fellow believers.  I wonder if it's more a matter of different personality types, though.  Some people are naturally more open about things.  But maybe we should be seeking the support of fellow Christians no matter what our individual personalities naturally want to do?  I don't know.  What do you think?

3.  He prayed about it.

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will" (Matt 26:39, cf. Mk 14:35-36, 39).

What strikes me most about these verses is, our Lord asked the Father if it was possible to forgo the whole thing, even though He knew absolutely what the Father's will was.  If this doesn't show our Lord's humanity, I don't know what does.  He felt what we feel when we're dealing with extremely difficult situations, and He poured out His heart to the Father about it.

4.  He submitted to the Father's will.

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will" (Matt 26:39, cf. Mk 14:36).

Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done" (Matt 26:42, cf. Mk 14:39).

And yet, though the situation was unbelievably hard, our Lord submitted to the will of the Father. 

So often I read or hear how we're suppose to keep praying and praying and praying for a particular thing until we finally see our prayers answered; almost like we're suppose to keep nagging and whining until He finally gives in.  At least that's the way it seems to me sometimes.  But how can we even think of insisting things work out according to our wills when we're told that "we do not know what to pray for as we ought"? (Rom 8:26-27) 

Instead, shouldn't we be pouring out our hearts to Him, and then immediately following up with, "but not as I will, but as You will"?  And perhaps after that, shouldn't we stop focusing on the things and situations we'd like to have and just rest in His grace...and think on good things?  Easier said than done, I know.  But shouldn't this be our goal?

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Cor 12:9).

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Phil 4:6-9).