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Acts 3: Peter heals a lame man, preaches, and, no surprise, gets into trouble

January 31, 2010 Leave a comment

About the reading: I read this passage of Scripture this afternoon after finishing work. It was very nice to stretch out on my bed, get off my feet and read and jot notes. Doing this daily Bible reading is like getting reacquainted with an old friend I haven’t seen in a very long time. Too long of a time. I’m hoping to discipline myself to read the Bible early in the morning during the quietest time in our house. It’s certainly a prayer request, since I’m much more of a night owl rather than an early bird.

Of all the New Testament saints, Peter is one I identify with the most: impulsive and energetic with a lot of regret thrown in. Well, you know how a Christian should handle regret: whenever Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.

That being said, Peter and John headed to the Temple, presumably to begin preaching. Before they arrived, they see a man born lame who was asking for donations. For a Galilean fisherman, Peter really responded eloquently in 3:6: “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

 

“I don’t have any silver or gold, but I have something I think you’ll really, REALLY like!”

The lame man arose, and walked and was indeed very excited. He headed into the temple, jumped around and did a lot of shouting. He was, no doubt, the world’s first cheerleader. It must’ve absolutely shocked the people in the temple that this same man who’d just been down on the ground asking them for donations was now able to walk!

As the people continued to be astonished and as a reporter from the Jerusalem Post began interviewing witnesses while also asking the formerly-lame man to do a quick jump into the air for a picture, Peter used this time to preach a sermon. He asked the people why they’re so surprised and why they seem to think that he and John had anything to do with the healing when it was really the Lord God of Israel who did it.

Ever the man with effective icebreakers, Peter then reminded the people that in their ignorance towards the truth they crucified Jesus while allowing a murderer like Barrabas to go free. Peter, again, no doubt astonishing the crowd with his Galilean accent as he preached, gave them examples of many prophets who foretold of Jesus. He even quoted Moses in Deuteronomy.

Jesus gave the command for His disciples to preach the Gospel, and that’s exactly what Peter did. We’ll find out soon that some in the temple were no doubt less than happy with Peter’s preaching.

Richard Zowie has three other blogs on WordPress and has been a Christian since October 1981. He sees himself as having some catching up to do in terms of Bible reading. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

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Daniel 2:24-49; Daniel introduces Nebuchadnezzar to God, interprets dream

January 31, 2010 Leave a comment

About the reading: I read this passage of Scripture around 12:30 a.m. this morning. After reading it, I thought briefly about continuing reading a few more passages of Scripture but decided instead to get some sleep. In my experience, I don’t get much from the Bible when I’m reading it while nodding off. Doing this results in reading the same sentence over and over again without comprehension. It’s about as useful to me as trying to read 10 chapters in five minutes.At this stage, I’m reading the Bible in small sips in hopes of focusing on quality instead of quantity.

So, with the second part of Daniel 2, Daniel was quite relieved to know what King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed and how to interpret it. He went before Nebuchadnezzar and made it abundantly clear, in what we’ll see as Daniel’s trademark humility, that the interpretation of the dream came from God and not from Daniel; Daniel was merely the messenger.

Daniel then proceeded to tell the king that in his dream he  (the king, not Daniel) saw a huge image: gold head, silver chest and arms, brass stomach and thighs, iron legs and feet mixed with iron and clay. Nebuchadnezzar’s the gold head and would be followed by subsequent, weaker kingdoms. Much debate has arisen regarding which kingdoms these represent, but at the end Daniel made it clear: eventually God will establish a permanent, eternal kingdom that will rule over all and will dominate these.

Nebuchadnezzar has a dream…

For a man who was in a dangerous rage earlier in this chapter, the king was now a happy man. He fell to his feet and worshipped Daniel, which, for a modest man like Daniel, must’ve been extremely awkward. Um, Your Majesty, live forever. This really isn’t necessary. However, the king’s behavior was almost to be expected considering he was a polytheistic ruler. Be that as it may, verse 47 tells us: “The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth [it is], that your God [is] a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.”

The king then gave Daniel gifts and power and one of the highest rulers in the land, similar to what Joseph was in Egypt. Not too bad for a Hebrew kid.

Verse 49 tells us that Daniel requested that his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (we presume they’re referred to this now to avoid the confusion of jumping back and forth) to be in positions of leadership also. Interestingly enough, despite all that he attained, Daniel chose to sit in the gate of the king. Sounds pretty modest, doesn’t it? It is a lesson, though: being in a position of authority and power does not require an ego.

Richard Zowie blogs at several places, including three other WordPress blogs. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Daniel 2:1-23; Daniel works to cool Nebuchadnezzar’s very short temper

January 30, 2010 Leave a comment

As I read this passage of Scripture this afternoon after finishing up Acts 2, I smiled and thought of memories. Years ago, I had a hard-cover Bible book that was almost like a comic book. It had the Old Testament stories, including Daniel. You should’ve seen the look on Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar’s face when he realized his wise men weren’t wise enough to tell him what he dreamed and successfully interpret it.

An artist’s conception of what Nebuchadnezzar looked like.

Very angry. As I studied his face, I thought for sure he’d either explode from spontaneous combustion or turn into the Incredible Hulk.

Nebuchadnezzar (“Nebie”, for short) had a decent-sized reign, and with that temper it amazes me he did: anger can make you do stupid things, and when you’re the king, there’s always a contingency of people who want your job sooner rather than later. Killing people needlessly is almost certain to create even more enemies.

Daniel 2 tells the story about now Nebie had a very disturbing dream, but one that he couldn’t remember. So, he summoned all the wise men in his kingdom to tell him what he dreamed and the interpretation.

You can tell immediately that the wise men were worried about the king’s irrational request to tell him what he dreamed. They began by using that ancient world apple-polishing phrase of “O King, live forever.” Nebie proceeded to tell them two things: If you tell me what I dreamed and interpret it, you’ll receive great honors and great riches. If you don’t, you’ll be killed and your homes will be torn down.

This did no good for the wise men as they, as gently as possible, trid to tell Nebie they needed to know what he dreamed so they could interpret it.

“Stop this! You’re stalling and wasting my time!,” he told them. “Tell me what I dreamed and what it means so I can get back to sleep! I have a big day tomorrow and I need to get some sleep!”

Then his wise men told him what he almost certainly didn’t want to hear: no king or ruler has ever requested such a thing, your majesty! Your request is unusual, and only the gods could know it. And since they’re not easily accessible, we can’t help you!

(If only the Babylonian gods had e-mail or cell phones).

This, of course, made Nebuchadnezzar extremely furious. One has to wonder if this was how angry he became when a messenger from Israel said, “Y-y-your majesty, I have b-b-bad news. King Zedekiah of Israel has rebelled and refuses to s-s-s-serve you anymore.” The king then decreed all wise men to be executed.

Word soon reached Daniel as the king’s captain of the guard, Arioch, explained it to him. Daniel answered Arioch with wisdom and asked for time to be able to seek in prayer the dream and its interpretation.

Nebuchadnezzar must’ve remembered Daniel from when he and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah stood before him, because he apparently gave him and the others a stay of execution. Daniel and the three prayed, and as we finish the first half of the second chapter, we see that Daniel had the dream and its interpretation from God.

In giving thanks to God, Daniel reminds us that wisdom and power are God’s and that according to His choosing, He gives power to whomever He desires. God is also able to reveal the secret things of life.

Richard Zowie blogs at several sites, including three others on WordPress. Post comments below or e-mail richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Acts 2: Foreign language proficiency and the early church

January 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Things certainly began with a bang for the early church at Pentecost. People from 15 surrounding countries gathered, no doubt wondering what was up with these crazy, redneck Galileans (somehow, I imagine Peter sounding and looking a lot like Larry the Cable Guy). The Holy Spirit came down and imparted on the disciples the ability to speak in many foreign languages.

Some will say they “spoke in tongues”; to me it means simply this: they spoke in their native language of Aramaic (similar to Hebrew) while everyone in all the other nations heard them in their own language. It would be like me speaking in English to Japanese-born Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and Ichiro hearing me in Japanese. I don’t speak Japanese, hence the “speaking in tongues” miracle.

In verses seven and eight, those in attendance marvelled at how these Galileans could possibly be able to communicate in various languages. Granted, Matthew as a tax collector was probably an educated man, but men like Peter as fishermen were far from being learned rabbis. Some suggested they were drunk.

So, Peter began to preach and further confound the modern reader by quoting Old Testament passages like Joel 2 and Psalm 16, saying that Pentecost was the fulfilling of Scripture. How could a man like that be able to study and interpret ancient writings?

Peter preached the Gospel and talked about Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and even said that Jesus is greater than King David himself. “Israel,” he explained, “this same Jesus that you and the Romans crucified is indeed the Lord and the Messiah.”

And now we get to verse 37, which is the subject of much debate between the “Luke 6 is when the Church began” and “Acts 2 is when the church began” camps. We read that about 3,000 were saved and baptised that day, and that they were added to the church. Some would argue that you can’t add to what hasn’t already been existence, while others say the Luke 6 advocates are making a big issue out of nothing. Personally, I think the church indeed began in Luke 6 when Jesus began assembling His disciples. However, I know of some very wonderful, godly men and women who are Acts 2 advocates. It’s up for debate, but there are certainly far more pressing issues out there.

Finally, verses 42-47 give us a great picture of the early church and how much it reflected what I like to call “True Christianity”: they prayed together, ate together, communed together, sold what they didn’t need and contributed to each other’s needs, and continued in doctrines.

Richard Zowie operates several blogs. Post a comment below or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Reading the first chapters of Daniel, Acts

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

I spent about half an hour today actually reading three passages of scripture: the 19th chapter of II Chronicles along with the first chapters of Daniel and Acts. I’m using the King James Version Zondervan Study Bible. I also like to use the New Open Study Bible, King James Version, but my old one wore out. One of these days I’ll purchase a large print from Ebay or someplace. Story of my life, really: everytime I find a Bible or pen that I really like, the powers-that-be in their wisdom choose to discontinue it.

What a joy it was to return to reading Scripture. I know some may scoff at that children’s church song “Read your Bible, pray every day and you will grow; neglect your Bible, forget to pray and you will shrink”, but I’ll tell you from personal experience–it is absolutely true.

Daniel 1: This prophet, whose name in Hebrew means “God is (my) judge”, is the first of the Minor Prophets. I’ve always been intrigued by Daniel for a few reasons: there’s nothing negative about him recorded in the book (unlike Jonah, whom we’ll be talking about a month or so down the road), and he had practically no ego. When we as Christians look for a Biblical example to follow, Daniel comes to mind. We’ll later learn about how his enemies searched vigorously for dirt to use against him, and found absolutely nothing; Daniel was squeaky clean.

On his legal documents, I wonder if Daniel had to list himself as Daniel or as Beltashazzar

In the first chapter, we learn that God punished Judah and Israel by allowing the country to be ransacked with most of the people deported to Babylon. The smartest and most useful are for use by King Nebuchadnezzar.

In retrospect, as we read this account, God’s plans are very clear; however, with the current crisis going on in Haiti, it is very unwise to rubber stamp the earthquake and the endless tragedies as God’s judgment for sin since we don’t have the whole picture yet and may not have the whole picture until many years down the road. There are godly Christians serving in Haiti, and it is stereotypical to believe that all Haitians practice voodoo.

Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were among those slated for special service. Their names were also changed. Daniel became Beltashazzar (which apparently meant “Bel, protect him”), Hananiah (“The Lord shows grace”) became Shadrach (apparently “Command of Aku”), Mishael (“Who is what God is?”) became Meshach (“Who is what Aku is?”) and Azariah (“Lord help us”) became Abednego (“Servant of Nego”).

As I read, I thought to myself, most of us know that Daniel’s friends’ Babylonian names were, but how many know what their original Hebrew names were?

When I see Daniel, I see a tremendous leap of faith. He and his friends were to eat the king’s food and drink the king’s wine, but Daniel saw it as ceremonially unclean. The food and wine, ostensibly, had initially been offered to idols while some of it probably wasn’t kosher. Despite how delicious the food must’ve smelled, to consume such food and drink was forbidden by Mosaic Law. Refusing it, though, would create massive problems. Melzar, who was in charge of Daniel and his friends, explained to Daniel that if Daniel and his friends ate pulse (the Hebrew word זֵרְֽעֹן, zeroa, according to Strong’s Concordance, means “vegetables”) and water, they would look physically undernourished and Nebuchadnezzar would literally call for Melzar’s head.

So, Daniel compromised: give us pulse and water for 10 days, and if we look less healthy than the others, we’ll eat the king’s food. And indeed, after 10 days, Daniel and his friends looked even healthier. So, they continued eating the food acceptable to them.

Nebuchadnezzar then found that these Jewish kids were 10 times smarter and wiser than their counterparts. Being the “end justifies the means” pragmatist that he probably was at the time, he then promoted Daniel and his friends into higher positions. Looking at this, we can really see something that Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:20: What man intends for evil, God can use for harm. One has to think that with Jews in positions of authority, it would make it far less likely for these exiled Israelites to be exterminated.

Acts 1: This first chapter of Acts reminds me of that debate among Christians (primarily Baptists): did the Church begin in Luke 6, when Jesus gathered/assembled His disciples together, or did it begin in Acts 2, when Pentecost took place? One Baptist minister I remember said this: “I believe Pentecost was the birthday of the church, but I believe it was the third birthday.” On this issue, while I believe the church began in Luke 6, I would add that godly Christian men and women will study this issue and will differ.

Acts marks a transition for the early church as Jesus prepared to ascend up into heaven while assuring the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come. The disciples, like so many love to do now, asked if it was time for Jesus to set up His kingdom. They were told this: the time will come when it comes. Meanwhile, all of you are to go out and evangelize the world.

Including–GASP!–Samaria!

(We remember, of course, that the Jews didn’t care for the Samaritans and vice versa). I suppose this would be like telling a newly-minted Israeli Christian to share the Gospel with a pro-Ahmadinejad Iranian.

A vote is taken to replace Judas, and we find from this chapter that the details of Judas’ death were pretty gruesome. It is indeed a pity: Judas spent three years with Jesus and probably got to know Our Savior on an intimate level, but the Bible suggests very strongly that Judas never knew the Lord. It reminds me of a story a residence hall manager (one of my Facebook friends) told at Pensacola Christian College. He spoke of some students leaving PCC and how they told him flatly that they were not saved and didn’t want to be.

With Judas deceased, a vote was taken to replace him. It came down to Joseph Barsabas Justus and Matthias. Lots were cast, and Matthias was elected. I imagine the confusion since Matthew the disciple’s name meant “Gift of Jehovah” and Matthias’ name meant “Gift of God”. Perhaps if the other disciples referred to them as M1 and M2.

Since lots had to be cast to decide between Joseph and Matthias, I wonder if perhaps some disciples thought, “Oh no! Isn’t one Matt among us enough?!”

Interestingly enough, Acts 1 is the very last time in Scripture that two things are mentioned: Mary the mother of Jesus and the tradition of casting lots. It’s also the only time in Scripture (at least in the King James Version) that we see the term bishoprick.  This word, which comes from the Greek word ἐπισκοπή (episkopē), which probably means overseer or the office of a bishop. It has to do with allowing someone worthy to take over Judas’ position with the disciples.

Richard Zowie is an active blogger. Post comments below or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

What’s in store for ‘Richard’s Two Shekels’

January 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Over the past few months, I have grown extremely dissatisfied with myself over my lack of consistency with this blog. It’s laziness at best, a sin at worst.

There’s no reason, I tell myself, that this blog shouldn’t be updated daily. Updating it once a month is inexcusably lazy in a time when each day should matter for a Christian. I like to view Richard’s Two Shekels as a ministry that some might receive blessings from.

I started thinking of ways I could get back into the habit of blogging daily. One solid idea: read the Bible on a daily basis and blog about what I read, what happened in the scripture passage, what I understood about it and how it can be applied.

Too easy.

It’s too unoriginal to start at Matthew and Genesis, so I plan something different. I’ll still read through the Bible but what I will likely do is start in the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament and perhaps in Paul’s Epistles in the New Testament. Nothing like visiting territory not traveled into in a long time. I do it because by the time my life is done, I’d like to have at least a basic understanding of every book in the Bible. In one of his books, Jack Chick talked about how embarrassing it would be for a Christian to meet Habakkuk in heaven and tell him, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know the first thing about your book.” Habakkuk would no doubt cringe if someone asked him, “Mr. Habakkuk, were you called a ‘Minor Prophet’ because you were less than 18 years old when you wrote your book?”

I may also post layman commentaries I’ve already completed over various chunks of the Bible. Please keep in mind I’m no Dr. Chuck Swindoll, and I’m certainly not C.S. Lewis. I’m just a reader of God’s Word who tries to echo how it speaks to me.

Keep in touch. If you have any questions or suggestions, drop me a line below or e-mail me at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com. Meanwhile, I pray this blog ends up being a blessing to you.

— Richard Zowie