Saturday, September 29, 2007

Facing Death Is Not Easy

ACTS 21:27-36
In November of this year, CAJ will put on the drama “The Diary of Ann Frank”. The story of a young Jewish teenager who is in hiding with her family from the Nazi army in occupied Holland. During the Nazi drive to conquer the world, they systemically tried to kill all who they felt were not worthy to live. In August 1942, the German High Command issued a notice called the “Final Solution.” The end result of this plan was to be the entire annihilation of the Jewish People; a total death to a whole people group, a whole nation! In the end of WW2, 6 million Jews died.

"Will we survive?" has been the pressing question for Jews in every generation. Today’s Jews after Hitler's holocaust vowed "Never again!" During the first-century, the Jews in Jerusalem saw Paul's Gentile mission as equally a threat to their survival, for it effectively erased the line between Jew and Gentile within the people of God. The question was asked, Which "people of God" does God intend to survive?

The truth lies in the call of Scripture that gives all mankind the choice to become a Child of God through faith—belief in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Both for the Jew and the Gentile. Both men and women. People of every tongue and nation. The Door, as it were, is now open to ALL people. With this understanding found in history, we can see that now, but for the leaders of the Jewish faith in Jerusalem, Paul’s very life was a threat to their system of community. They misunderstood his message as people have misunderstood it for years. Even today, many do not realize how IMPORTANT it is to be IN the Family of God! Simple faith—that of a child—is necessary for the change in family ties.

On one side, the family of the World and it’s lord, Satan, who deals with lies, threats, and murder while on the other side, the Family of Faith and the Lord of Creation Who deals with Truth, Life and Forgiveness. The Devil’s role in this world is to kill and steal and destroy while the role of our Lord Jesus is to give life.

See the whole thing in (John 10:9-10) 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

When it comes to our passage today, Paul, while trying to put to rest the rumors of the Jews that he was against the Jewish Faith and the Law of Moses, was surrounded by VERY angry devote followers of Judaism (like he was at one time!) who wanted him dead!

They had every right—according to their law to kill anyone who broke the entrance law.

Though Gentiles were welcome to worship in the outermost court, they were forbidden on penalty of death to enter beyond the balustrade (barrier or decorative hand-railing) into the two inner courts. Josephus informs us, and archaeological evidence confirms, that at intervals there were signs posted in Greek and Latin OUTLINED IN RED, saying "No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt and the balustrade around the Sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death".

This prohibition was enforced. (Numbers 3:38) 38 Moses and Aaron and his sons were to camp to the east of the tabernacle, toward the sunrise, in front of the Tent of Meeting. They were responsible for the care of the sanctuary on behalf of the Israelites. Anyone else who approached the sanctuary was to be put to death.

It is ironic indeed that Paul is arrested while doing the very opposite of what he is accused of.

Agitation, confrontation, coldness, confusion and physical violence are the trademarks of persecution. For the disciple of Christ, we are neither a surprise nor beyond God's providential control and saving purposes. (Luke 21:15-18) 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 All men will hate you because of Me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. We still can get cut or killed. No matter what happens to our body, He remains on the throne and remains Lord of All! He is Sovereign Lord!

As in this case, Paul needed to remember what the Lord had told him just after he opened his life to the Lord God. (Acts 9:15-16) 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is My chosen instrument to carry My Name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for My Name."

From The Message (Acts 21:15-16) But the Master said, "Don't argue. Go! I have picked him as My personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I'm about to show him what he's in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job."

"Will we survive?" had been the pressing question for Jews in every generation. That same question is asked by our Christian generation as well. Today, two from our number—from our own Family have said YES! to that question. We will survive BECAUSE our Lord reigns! He is able to hold us up during the high waters. He is there during the dark and stormy nights. His Comfort is ours in the Person of His Holy Spirit when we are in pain—or in doubt—or in despair—or in joy! He is the Sovereign Lord who calls us to His Side. He is the One who holds the universe together and He knows our every need. We will do more than survive—we will be conquerors!

(Romans 8:36-39) 36 As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In these few brief details of the Jerusalem Jews' final rejection of the Christian Gospel, we see the last major spiritual and geographical turning point in this book of Acts. Never again will Paul return to Jerusalem for worship or witness. That part of his work was now over. He was on to the Gentile world BIG time.

By shutting out the messenger and the message of Salvation, Paul's opponents have sealed the city's doom (Luke 13:34-35) 34 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see Me again until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.’”

Israel's ethnic pride (self importance) prevented it from fulfilling its divinely intended mission to be "a light for the Gentiles" (Is 49:6 6) He says: "It is too small a thing for you to be My servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a Light for the Gentiles, that you may bring My Salvation to the ends of the earth." It robbed the temple of the GLORY God planned for it as "a house of prayer for all nations" (Is 56:7).

(Luke 19:46) “’My House will be a House of Prayer'; but you have made it 'a den of robbers.’” May every "people of God" (MAY OUR church) and in every nation and culture learn from Jerusalem's negative example, in case we too find ourselves under God's judgment for failing to reach out with the Gospel to those beyond our own kind.

(Matthew 28:18-20) 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

All Scripture was from the NIV unless otherwise noted. The Message was also used.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Deep Determination!

Acts 21:10-16

Paul needed to get there—(Jerusalam) but was not supported by his fellowship and, it seems that the Lord was warning him NOT to go—via God’s Spirit. Why did be go? His answer is found in the following ...

In verse 4, we find that “Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem” But in verse 11, the prophet Agabus says, “The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'”

Both comments brought an outcry from Paul’s friends. Both comments originated from the Lord yet Paul pressed on to do what he wanted to do in the first place…go to Jerusalem!

Paul shows a deep determination to do what he felt lead to do. In American history, we find evidence of such a strong determination in the person of Patrick Henry when he said, “Give me liberty or give me death!” As I understand the times then, the British forces in the colony wanted him dead. In fact, all the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were considered criminals by the British authorities because they went against the Crown of England—a treasonous act on their part.

Over the weekend of June 1989, while we were in the US, we watched the TV in horror and amazement at the courage and determination of those who found themselves camping out at T iananmen Square in Be ijing. People questioned if a single human being make a difference? Can he or she stop the forces of evil dead in their tracks?

 A courageous young man captured the imagination of the whole world, when he single-handedly stopped the advance of a tank column by standing in its way...we do not know what happened to that young man but the world took notice. A few months later, Europe and the former USSR changed forever. On Nov. 9, 1989, parts of the 28-mile wall barrier—part of an 860-mile border came down! Was it human determination? Some say ‘yes,’ while others close to the people in both countries tell of another tale. God was at work, bringing people closer to Himself through world events.

One man that was interviewed during the peaceful time at T iananmen Square was asked what did he want. His answer in English was: “Liberty!” “What does that mean?” the reporter asked. “I don’t know...but I want liberty!” Determination!

Paul was a hardheaded man. Back in the earlier chapters of Acts, Paul, who was then called Saul, was a die-hard Jewish purest. He wanted “the Way” out of the way and he went far and wide to bring them down. Arresting them, putting them in prison, killing others. He then was touched by God’s Grace to reach people for God and given the power to accomplish that task: Reach the Gentiles with the Message of God’s redemption. This Salvation that was planned since the foundation of the World now offered to every man and woman in the world thru Faith.

This message was brought to earth by One Person. The Son of God! His message was given to all who believe back in the New Testament time as it is given to each of us today. It is built around a Relationship with God thru His Only Son.
Is the Gospel true or not? Can Man get his salvation by his sheer determination? Man has shown us of his deep determination to climb Mt. Everest with mechanical legs! The question needs to start from one side of the issue. The FACT that there is a God and He is in touch with His Creation. He is not only in touch with us, He loves us as well. From that point of view, one can then move on to consider a relationship with God.

Salvation-- John 3:16; Matt 18:14; 2 Cor. 5:17.
John 3:16“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Matt 18:14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Intimacy with Christ--Romans 8:35, 37; Phil 3:10; Matt 22:37-40.
Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Phil 3: 10 I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death,
Matt 22:37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it:‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Faith--Acts 16:31; Mark 11:23-24; Col 2:6-7; Romans 10:17.
Acts 16:31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
Mark 11:23 “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Col 2:6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Romans 10:17 Consequently, Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

Christlikeness--Romans 8:29, 15:13.
Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Romans 15:13 May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with Hope by the Power of the Holy Spirit.
God has a very deep, Deep Determination to show Himself to us. His Love is THAT BiG!