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Faith in Jesus Part 74m: Eight Days That Changed the World: Would You Betray Jesus? Luke 22:1-6

Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.

The sad, sad story of Judas Iscariot unfolds during this week that changed the world. We don’t know much about Judas. He was the treasurer for the group. He didn’t have a problem “borrowing” money from the purse. The title Iscariot means he was probably a zealot, which makes the story even more confusing. He jumps into bed with the leadership who was collaborating against Jesus with the Roman government. 

So, why did he do it? Why did he betray Jesus? Well, certainly greed was a motivator? Thirty pieces of silver was a hefty sum. But I think, with many others, that he discovered that Jesus wasn’t the kind of Messiah he wanted, one that would overthrow the Roman occupying force. Some think he was trying to force Jesus’ hand, as if anybody could do so. 

And look at the authorities. They are still trying to find a way to get rid of Jesus, but in a private, secluded place. Secretly. Just like the prince of darkness plots his evil deeds. And the best possible solution for them drops in their laps, one of Jesus’ own companions is willing to hand Him over. 

Of course, Luke is clear to show who is the mastermind of this betrayal. “Satan entered Judas.” In order for that to happen, I believe Judas must have been a willing subject. Greed, lust for power and position, impatience, all can be tools in Satan’s hands.

The act was done. The way to Jesus’ death lies with a friend.

Lord, keep me pure and true and honest in my commitment to you. In Your name, Amen.

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!

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Faith in Jesus The Sequel Part 72b: Great is Artemis of the Ephesians Acts 19:32-41

The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

Truth, and facts, at least some of the time, is relative, or, if you will, a matter of choice. Case in point, the riot in Ephesus. Demetrius the Silversmith had brought together a bunch of artisans who agreed with him concerning Paul and the Way. Paul was opposed to idols and preached accordingly. Demetrius and his buddies saw their livelihood going down the tubes.

The Jews try to squelch the crowd by forcing Alexander to speak. This made matters worse. The person who brought order to the proceedings was the city clerk, probably the highest ranking person in Ephesus. His points about Artemis were facts in his mind and in the minds of the rioters. Facts are always undeniable, at least to the person(s) who hold to the facts. The clerk was sensitive to the trouble the rioting was going to cause in the long run. He convinced the rioters to go through proper channels with their grievances.

Paul’s time in Ephesus was quite fruitful. Many came to Christ. Opposition was held at bay. And the word of God spread. What more could he ask for?

I think Paul and those who were with him gives us a good formula for handling conflict from outsiders. Stay out of the fray if possible. Let the courts and officials handle such things.

Lord, Give me the wisdom to know what battles to fight. In Your name, Amen.

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!

Faith in Jesus The Sequel Part 72a: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” Acts 19:23-31

About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”

 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.

 The Christian life is a counter-cultural one. It is a way of life that will cause division and strife. It is a call to pledge allegiance to a King who is not leading an =earthly kingdom. A great example of this is what happens in the city of Ephesus, the center of the worship of the divine Artemis. Artemis is the goddess of hunting, wild animals and the wilderness.  When Artemis was born she became known as the goddess of the moon Her symbol is widely known as a bow and arrow. Demetrius is a silversmith who acts as the spokesperson for the cult of Artemis.  His motivation seems to be more economically motivated than a religious one. But he is sure to spout off about the worship of Artemis in order to play at people’s heart strings. Demetrius claims that Paul is ravaging the cult of Artemis by teaching false doctrine, basically that Artemis is not divine at all, but a figment, or, more likely, a creation of their own making. 

Demetrius’ strategy worked.  The whole city is in an uproar, simply because Paul spoke the truth about the gospel. It seems that the church today finds itself in a similar position Paul was in here in Ephesus. The majority of people in our country, anyway, will allow Christianity as a “private” matter. Paul always wanted to go public with the message. In fact, the Christian message is a public one. Not always one that will be well received, but that is beside the point. We are to speak the truth of the gospel in love. The message of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and reigning as Lord, will always be offensive to those who have hardened their hearts to hear it. But we are called to be faithful in the proclamation, whether it is decrying a false god or goddess, or calling a people to repentance from evil lifestyles, or condemning people for the way they treat others, especially the poor and disadvantaged. We use the word as the principle of truth, not what we have always believed. It is not easy to topple life-long beliefs, yet as the people of God that is exactly what we are called to do. 

Lord, give us the boldness to go back into the marketplace of ideas with your truth. Forgive us for kowtowing to the pressures and the mandates of a society that placed God on the periphery.  In Your name, Amen.

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!

 

Faith in Jesus The Sequel Part 71: Of Exorcists and Sorcerers Acts 19:13-22

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.”  He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

The First century was rift with all kinds of beliefs in supernatural powers, something our 21st century world is becoming increasingly familiar with. Demon-possession was pretty common in that day. There are several instances in the Bible where demons were cast out by Jesus and His disciples. Yet there were others who did not believe in Jesus who were in the habit of attempting to do the same thing. The seven sons of Sceva were among them. This may have been seen as a way to make a lot of money. Or it may have been a way to have influence over others. Either way they were playing with fire since they did not have the power of Jesus on their side. 

These charlatans were in for a rude awakening when they tried to cast out a demon from a man one day. The demon’s comment is sort of a snide remark, “I know Jesus, I know about Paul, but who in the world are you?” And the man proceeds to thrash them. Imagine the embarrassment and fear that gripped these men. One man, demon-possessed, took out seven, stripping them naked and bleeding profusely. What’s more, fear seized the whole city and beyond. 

This event had so many convinced that what they had been doing was wrong that many sorcerers repented of their ways. They held the name of Jesus is high honor and they changed their ways. They brought their magic books and burned them. The cost was considerable ( a drachma was about one day’s wage). So, figure it out, 50,000 days’ worth of wages. Let’s say someone today made $100 a day (on the low end I know $12.50/hour). That would still be the equivalent of $5,000,000. That’s a healthy chunk of change. These sorcerers made a great sacrifice to become believers in Jesus. 

The outcome? “The word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” The unseen story? The Kingdom of God advances into an all-out conquest of the Kingdom of Satan in Ephesus. 

What am I willing to give up for the Kingdom of God? What about you? What are the forces of Satan that we face each and every day? How do we conquer them? In the power and name of Jesus. We dare not try to face the forces of evil in our own power. Remember what happened to the sons of Sceva. If we are faithful to Jesus, we too will experience victory over Satan and evil, and stand with our King for eternity.

Lord, help me/us to faithful in the fight against Satan and his warriors. It is only in Your power that we will overcome. In Your name, Amen.

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!

 

 

Faith in Jesus The Sequel Part 70: Paul in Ephesus Acts 19:8-12

 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

The church at Ephesus receives a considerable amount of attention in the New Testament. The Letter to the Ephesians was written to the believers in that city. The letters we call 1 & 2 Timothy were written by the apostle Paul to the “pastor” of the Ephesian Church, Timothy. Also, the Church of Ephesus is one of the recipients of the letter, apocalypse, revelation that is simply known as the Book of Revelation. 

Ephesus is mentioned prominently by Paul’s chronicler, the physician Luke, in Acts 18, 19, and 20. Paul also makes reference to this major city in the region known as Asia Minor in his first letter to the Corinthian church. This is probably the church and city that Paul spent the most amount of time (3 years).  

Once again we see Paul following his strategy in Ephesus, going to the synagogue until the Jews kick him out.  This time Paul goes to a local lecture hall and enters into daily discussions about Jesus and faith. He also, through the power of God, healed many who were sick and demon-possessed. Everybody in that province heard the word of the Lord.  Paul continued to do the thing God called him to do. His success is measured by everyone hearing the words of the Lord, not by the number who were being saved. 

Do we emulate Paul? Are we willing to get into deep discussions about Jesus, faith, and other important topics, daily? I know I don’t. I’m better than I used to be, but still fall short. And, as we will see later, Paul continued to do this in the face of stiff opposition.  I suppose the way the word was spread was not by everyone in the area hearing Paul directly, but it was disseminated by word of mouth. And that is how we can see it done today. What if the churches in Janesville and Rock County, or in your neck of the woods,  would talk the word of God into the marketplace to share with those who do not know Jesus? I think God would honor that faithfulness. 

Lord, help me faithfully proclaim and live out your truth in my little corner of the world. In Your name, Amen.

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!

 

Faith in Jesus The Sequel Part 69: Holy Spirit Takes Up Residence Acts 19:1-7

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

Paul returns to Ephesus and, this time, he stays a while. He meets up with a dozen guys who believed just like Apollos did (only having received John’s baptism). The fact that they didn’t even know about the Holy Spirit points to the lack in their belief system. The Holy Spirit is an integral part of the believer’s walk with Christ. Upon their baptism into Jesus, they received the Holy Spirit, manifested in the spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues and prophesying, 

I grew up in a church tradition that downplayed the role of the Holy Spirit. Many in our “movement” declared the gifts of the Spirit ceased at the end of the apostolic age. These people would say that the Holy Spirit is active in the word of God (which is authored by the Holy Spirit). I agree up to a point. Others were afraid of being liker the charismatics or Pentecostals, so they shied away from the “sensational gifts.”  

It seems to me that in order for individuals and churches to do what God has called them to do, the Holy Spirit has to be at the center of it. When Jesus said, “I will never leave you” was He not referring to the Holy Spirit? The only way the Great Commission is a reality is through the Holy Spirit living in Christ’s body, the Church.

Lord, forgive me for not realizing the importance of God the Spirit sooner in life. Help me to trust in Your Spirit’s leading. Amen.

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!

Faith in Jesus The Sequel Apollos: A Ready Disciple Acts 18:24-28

Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.  He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.

Apollos is one of the most interesting people in the Bible. He grew up in Alexandria as a Jew. Alexandria was the place where the Septuagint, an early (2nd and 3rd century) translation of the Old Testament was compiled. The Septuagint was written in Koine Greek, the same Greek that was used for the first New Testament. This was the Greek of the common people. It is highly likely that Apollos was very familiar with the Septuagint and received his thorough knowledge of the Scriptures by being taught by rabbis who used the Septuagint.

He also had come to know Jesus Christ as the Messiah. He comes across as a passionate speaker who could back up what he said by his great knowledge of the Scriptures. He was also quite bold in his proclamation, not afraid to face opponents in public debate or to preach in the synagogue. 

One day, Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos speak. He was eloquent, he was knowledgeable, but there was something missing. Instead of shying away from this awesome orator, they invited him over for dinner. And they explained to him about baptism, that John’s was for the forgiveness of sins, but that baptism in to Jesus Christ was so much more. When someone is baptized into Christ, forgiveness of sins is only the tip of the iceberg. When someone is baptized into Jesus, that person is immersed into the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. People die to self, are buried, then rise to walk in a new way. Jesus covers new believers with His Spirit, that makes them clean and prepares them for His service. 

So Apollos was ready, as humanly possible as can be. He studied the Scriptures, he knew how to communicate and wasn’t afraid to do so, but he was also humble enough to have his faith and his message stretched to become more in accordance with the Good News. 

What about you and me? Are we willing to have someone pull us aside and tell us, “Good job, but . . .” It’s called humility, which is, I believe, the first step towards true biblical interpretation and preaching and teaching about Jesus. Who better to emulate than the King of the Universe, who humbly laid aside His glory to come to this planet, to incarnate Himself as one of us? 

Lord, keep me humble. Amen.

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!

Faith in Jesus The Sequel Part 66: Gallio: A Neutral Government Official Acts 18:9-17

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”

 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.”  So he drove them off. Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.

Paul receives a direct revelation from God every so often, usually as a way to tell him where to go or stay in ministry.  In this particular vision, God assures Paul that it will safe for him to stay in Corinth (no one will harm you”). It’s not that the Jews didn’t want to do harm to Paul.  This time they try to manipulate the local proconsul, a fellow by the name of Gallio, to sentence Paul for breaking Jewish law. Paul was always ready with a defense, but in this case, Gallio basically told the Jews that Paul has done nothing worthy of punishment.  

When the Jews beat their own synagogue leader, Gallio still refused to hear the case. So, for a year and a half, Paul had a fruitful ministry in Corinth. 

What interests me here is Gallio. Often in the New Testament, and the Old for that matter, foreign leaders are in opposition to the things of God. Pharoah is the prime example in the Old, and Pontius Pilate and the Herods in the New. Sometimes kings and rulers are on God’s side like Cyrus in the Old and Sergius Paulus, proconsul of Cyprus, in the New. But neutrals, like Gallio here, also allow for the word of God to spread. 

In fact, if one looks throughout the history of Christianity, the church often prospers under all three situations. It seems to me we would be better off if we had a neutral person(s) in charge that would allow for the free expression of ideas, beliefs, and convictions. That way maybe there wouldn’t be so much pandering for power, prestige, and popularity. I’m not sure if I am making myself clear on this point. But I do think Christianity. Properly lived out, can make a world of difference when there is no government interference, 

Lord, help me be faithful in proclaiming Your word today, in word and in deed. In Your name, Amen.

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!