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Psalms 120-122

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

One thing I’m also working to do is read at least one Psalm and a Proverb each day. I will blog about them the first time and then the second time will probably not unless it really spoke to me that day.

Psalm 120: A Song of Ascents

The writer asks God in distress to deliver him from lies and deceits. He then tells the “false tongue” that sharp arrows of a warrior and “coals of the broom tree” shall be his defense against them.

He is sorrowful that he dwelt too long in Meshech and then in Kedar “with one who hates peace”. He is for peace, but despite his efforts, they are for war.

This sounds similar to what David may have faced while running for his life from Saul.

Psalm 121: A Song of Ascents

The writer lifts his eyes up to the hills and sees his help will come from the LORD, who created heaven and earth.

I love verses 3-4: “He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.

“Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”

Nice, isn’t it?

Verse five encourages the reader that the LORD is your keeper who will protect you in His shade from the sun during the day and the moon by night.

In other words, nothing will get to you: you are secure and preserved from all evil.

Verse eight is wonderful also: “The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.”

Finally:

Psalm 122: A Song of Ascents. Of David

David writes about Jerusalem and how it contains the House of the LORD. He describes Jerusalem as a “compact” city where David’s throne is.

David also writes something that easily can be said today in verse 6: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you.”

He asks for peace and plans to seek good because of the House of the LORD.

Richard Zowie is a writer who, though a Christian for 29 years, still has a lot to learn about God, the Bible, the world and life. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Acts 11-12: The church grows, then endures persecution

August 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Reading through these chapters really is a reminder of how much Peter has developed as a Christian. At the end of John, he had returned to his trade as a fisherman, defeated, only to have Jesus speak with him and empower him to return to the ministry. In Acts, Peter seems a man on fire for God. Not bad for an impulsive, act/speak-first-think-second man.

When Peter returned from Caesarea, he dealt with the apostles and other brothers and sisters in Christ who did not understand why he would meet with a Gentile. Knowing they would want to know why Peter spent time among the “uncircumcised” (non-Jewish people), he rehearsed what he would say.

He then explained his vision and how he presented the Gospel. In verse 17, he asked: “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?”

In other words: If God is willing to receive and save them, who was I to refuse God?

They began to understand what God tried to explain centuries ago to a stubborn prophet named Jonah: God wants all the world to come to Him, not just the Jewish people. Then, they started spreading out and preaching the Gospel to non-Jewish places.

During this time, Barnabas, a man known as an encourager, sought out Saul (who, again, soon would be known as Paul) and brought the new apostle to Antioch. And, in verse 26, we learn this group of believers first were called “Christians” in Antioch. Whether a term best used to describe them or a term of contempt, I don’t know.

Finally in this chapter, Agabus received word form the Holy Spirit there would be a “great dearth” to take place in the days of Claudius Ceasar. The disciples then, according to their own abilities, sent relief unto their brethren who were in Judea.

I suppose this was all bad news for King Herod, who then decided to persecute the church. What Herod didn’t seem to understand, and what the Romans would rapidly learn, is that if you want to make the Christian church go away, persecuting it is not what you want to do.

James was killed (apparently not the same James who wrote the Book of James), and then Herod imprisoned Peter. This, according to verse 3, “pleased” the Jews who undoubtedly saw this Christianity as a threat to their monopoly on religious control.

The church prayed for Pete as he was in prison and guarded by soldiers and bound with chains. The angel of the Lord came and with all the bright light, also served as a primitive alarm clock by “smiting” Peter to wake him. Pete’s chains fell off.

Naturally, Peter–having just waked up–didn’t know if this was real or some strange elaborate dream. He soon realized it had really happened and then had to convince others that he was indeed really out of prison, released on divine probation.

Herod, as you can expect, wasn’t happy Peter had escaped and promptly had the prison keepers executed.

The king then made a speech to the folks of Tyre and Sidon that was probably designed to fortify relations. Verse 20 said they desired peace with Herod for this key reason: “…Because their country was nourished by the king’s country.” Herod probably reminded them of that frequently as he spoke.

Dressed in royal apparel (some commentaries say he wore a robe of shimmering silver), he delivered a speech to them. The folks were very pleased with this and concluded Herod must’ve been a god and not a man.

Herod’s ego probably made him in no hurry to correct them (assuming he would have, which, frankly, is doubtful). And he was then smote by the angel of the Lord for not deflecting that praise and giving honor where honor was due. The text said he was “eaten of worms” and suggests he died a very excruciating death.

And as this happened, God’s word spread and multiplied as Paul and Barnabas continued in their ministry.

Richard Zowie is a Christian writer. Post comments here or drop a line to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Acts 9:1-22: Saul becomes a Christian named Paul

March 26, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve always found Acts 9 to be one of the more fascinating chapters in the Bible as it tells the story about Saul’s unusual conversion. We know from Biblical history and from his subsequent autobiographical snippets that Saul had plenty of head knowledge of God, but not a heart knowledge.

There are countless paths people take to come to a saving knowledge in Jesus Christ. In my 28 years as a Christian, I’ve concluded that God fishes for souls the way we fish for, well, fish. Each type of fish requires a different bait, and even the same fish will require different types of bait depending on the time of day, the time of year, the water conditions, and so on. We don’t all walk down the aisle during the invitation.

One minister, a former practitioner of the Amish faith, recalled stopping plowing in the middle of a field to pray the sinner’s prayer.

For me, it came from attending services at Kings Row Baptist Church in Alvin, Texas in 1981. One night, in October that year, the pastor came to our house and I prayed the sinner’s prayer. Based on the teachings I’d heard, I knew it was the right decision.

One guy I knew at Pensacola Christian College, had a different path. Ray was into Christian rock music (which, of course, was frowned upon by PCC) and he told me he’d been saved a few years earlier at a Petra concert.

Yes, that same Petra rock band that so many independent, fundamental Baptist ministers decried (one even saying during a sermon that Petra was “going to hell”).

One high school friend told me of how he went to a church because he heard lots of pretty girls would be there. He became a Christian, and I could tell by his walk it was legitimate.

And then there was Saul.

Fresh off tormenting Christians and on his way to Damascus to apprehend Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem, Saul fell victim of a witnessing session–by Jesus Himself.

A bright light came from heaven, Saul fell and heard someone saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”

Saul, no doubt, was very overcome and flabbergasted by this vision and asked, naturally, who they were.

The answer in verse 5: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: [it is] hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”

There was no mistaking who this was. Saul, I’m guessing, was by this time a very well-read scholar of Jewish law, a rabbi. He had to have known who Jesus was and probably remembered Jesus’ earthly ministry extremely well. As for “kicking against the pricks”, I suspect this meant that Saul was rebelling against God despite all the clear, insurmountable evidence of Jesus and who He is and who Christians are.

Jesus then told Paul to go to Damascus. Initially he could see but then his sight was gone for three days as they continued their travel. He also for that period of time was without anything to eat or drink.

God then spoke in a vision to a Christian in Damascus named Ananias and told him to meet Saul of Tarsus at the street called Straight and that Saul would be praying. Ananias was to lay his hands on Paul so he might receive his sight.

Naturally, Ananias was reluctant. God, you do realize who Saul is, right? He’s killed a lot of Christians and is a wicked man! he probably told God.

God then explained to Ananias that Saul was a “chosen vessel” of God to bear God’s name before the Gentiles, kings and even the Jewish people. Furthermore, God said, Saul would suffer many great things for God.

So, Ananias went, laid his hands on Saul, and prayed for him to receive his sight and receive the Holy Spirit. Both immediately happened. Verse 18 says it immediately fell from Saul’s eyes as if it had been scales, making me wonder what disgusting mixture of dust and ocular fluids must’ve accumulated in his eyes and sealed them shut when he gazed upon Jesus’ brilliantly-bright white countenance. Saul was then baptized, cleaned up and given something to eat and drink.

From there, Saul (who would soon become known as Paul) preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the synagogues, declaring Jesus is the Son of God. This, no doubt, amazed those who heard him and they probably wondered if this was some joke or some elaborate attempt to draw Christians out to the open. But Saul increased and confused those in Damascus.

There are two questions this text poses:

One, wasn’t Saul in his conversion “forced” to come to Christ? Doesn’t the text suggest that Saul succumbed to irresistible grace? No. The Bible is filled with many other stories, such as Cain, Judas and even Queen Jezebel of people who either had direct contact with God and Jesus or directly witnessed the works of God yet chose to turn their backs on Him. Saul could’ve easily chosen to turn his back on God. Clearly, he was misguided in his persecutions as he thought he was doing God’s work. When he realized he wasn’t, that was part of what led him to Christ. There are also many people out there who feel the call of God and yet turn their back on it. The evangelist David Benoit, who lectures on rock music and the occult, often has told this story: a young man came up to him after a sermon and said, “Brother Benoit, I know I need to be saved, but becoming saved means I’d have to quit having sex with my girlfriend, and to be honest, I’d rather go to hell than stop doing that.”

Not to mention the unsaved in Revelation who, after seeing Scripture after Scripture being fulfilled, will still turn their backs on God.

Two, some have wondered if Saul being referred to as a “chosen vessel” indicates he was “chosen” to become a Christian. I think it refers to his work as a Christian. We make the decision whether or not to accept Christ as our personal savior, and once we become a Christian, God has a plan for our life of how we can best serve Him. This plan is what is “chosen” for us. Saul decided to become a Christian and God chose him for hte service of evangelizing the Gentiles, kings and the Jewish people.

And, of course, writing most of the New Testament.

Richard Zowie runs several blogs and enjoys blogging about the Bible and getting an improved understanding of it. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.