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Posts Tagged ‘Jews’

Dec 6-7: Amos 1-6, Acts 20-23, Psalm 36-37, Proverbs 20-21

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

On December 6, I did my devotions around 5 a.m. due to having to get up extra early. Surprisingly, it was easy to stay awake and read. I had wanted to re-read the passages in the evening, but I grew too tired and went to bed.

On December 7, I did my devotions after walking nearly three miles on a cold, crisp day (wearing shorts, something I don’t recommend).

I am trying to further summarize my devotions readings as to not bore my readers, since, again, nobody wants to read an exegesis. But I’ll do my best:

Amos 1-6: Reading this book makes me think Amos was just as exasperated at the Israelites as Joel was. You know it’s bad when a prophet tells you not bother making sacrifices to try to make things right: repent and turn from your wicked ways instead. God even tells them He is so disgusted that making music to Him will accomplish nothing. Perhaps it is comparable to a person cheating on their spouse and thinking a box of chocolates or a thoughtful gift will make all the pain go away and will fix things.

We find Israel is guilty of moral and ethical corruption. Israel has thwarted God’s efforts to get its attention through plagues, droughts and failed military campaigns, and in today’s reading it is suggested God will allow the Israelites to go into exile and once again serve another nation. That nation, eventually, would be Babylon.

Acts 20-23: Paul preaches and gives his testimony of how he came to Christ. The way it is worded, with God talking about how Paul was chosen to meet Jesus the way he did, I’m sure there are Calvinists out there who will say this proves God called Paul to Him and that Paul, overcome by irresistible grace, succombed. I wonder if they know how many wonderful, spiritual, ethical people I’ve met in my life who will probably not be in heaven someday because they are convinced there are many paths to God or that their works will save them or that there is nothing beyond this life. Sadly, some of the most condescending dirtbags I have ever met have been Christians. Sorry, but the notion that God programs people to accept Him or reject Him is a perversion of the Gospel. God does not want robots. He wants people who genuinely desire a personal relationship with Him.

That being said, Paul escapes a beating by reminding the authorities that he is a Roman citizen. He points out he was born a Roman citizen and did not buy his citizenship.

I suspect a showdown is coming…

Psalm 36-37 and Proverbs 20-21: Lots of encouragement from reading the Psalms and Proverbs. The importance of living righteously, using wisdom and knowledge and how if you keep your eyes on God and maintain an intimate relationship with Him, He will guide you through life. How foolish indeed it is to trust solely in yourself or in your bank account!

When I was in Monterey, California, in the military, I attended Monterey Bay Baptist Church (now Central Coast Baptist Church). Pastor Rick Flanders, who has since gone home to be with the Lord, told of witnessing near Pebble Beach, a very affluent area of northern California. He asked a man who had a beautiful home, RV and other expensive toys: “If you died today, are you 100% sure you would go to heaven?” To which the man replied, “I feel like I’m already in heaven!”

Also, David tells us to cease from anger and wrath and that worrying only causes harm.

Some people are warriors, but I certainly have been a worrier.

Richard Zowie is a Christian writer who believes it is his responsibility to use his talents for God’s glory. Hence, this Richard’s Two Shekels blog. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Acts 13: Bible-reading thoughts; Paul rebukes, preaches

December 1, 2010 Leave a comment

I read this passage after Hosea 3 as I continue my trek to reading the Bible and hope to return soon to reading the Bible completely through once a year. One minister spoke of reading the Bible completely through in one month, which really brings to mind quantity versus quality.

At Pensacola Christian College, Pastor Jim Schettler spoke of how he liked to read a Proverb each day. Some Christians take this a step further and read both a Psalm and a Proverb daily. Not a bad system.

It may seem like a lot, but when you consider reading a few chapters of the Old Testament, one of the New Testament, a Psalm and Proverb, meditating and pondering and praying and taking notes, it can easily be done in an hour. Is one hour a day really asking that much? Perhaps it could be split up where in the morning you do your Bible reading and then at night review over it to learn and consider how it applies to you.

Yes, Richard’s Two Shekels reader: I am talking to myself most of all!

In Acts 13, we continue reading of the Early Church as Paul and Barnabas continued going out and being a nuisance by preaching about that radical Jewish rabbi named Yeshua, who was rapidly becoming known as Yeshua Ha Meshiach (Jesus the Messiah).

At the island of Paphos, Paul and Barney encountered a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus (which means “Son of Jesus”; keep in mind that Jesus–specifically, Yeshua, was a common name in those days). B-J proved to be a nuisance to those who wanted to hear the Gospel, such as Sergius Paulus, so Paul used God’s power to temporarily blind him.

Close minded? Nope. Sergius Paulus wanted to hear the Gospel, and this false prophet was trying to stand in the way.

After this, they traveled to Perga and then to Antioch and spoke at the synagogue. Paul preached, going through Jewish history and talking about Jesus’ earthly ministry and all the people who saw Him after he arose from the dead.

Paul then left the synagogue and preached to the Jews and to Gentiles who were interested in the message. The religious Jews, angry with the message, were opposed to Paul. He then made no friends by telling them in verse 46-47: “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

In this passage, Paul quotes Isaiah 49:6.

The Gentiles were very happy and many came to know Christ on that day.

Eventually, Paul and Barnabas were kicked out of the city, and they then shook the dust from their feet, as per what Jesus instructed His disciples to do when their message was rejected.

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

Acts 9:23-43: Saul, Peter and Tabitha, a.k.a., Dorcas

March 31, 2010 1 comment

I read this passage yesterday and found it to be interesting to get in some more first-century Christian history. When it comes to reading the Bible and blogging, I prefer to read the entire passage first and then take notes on what I read. It works so far and I hope the readers like that. I also try to mix in what I was doing at the time so that it doesn’t read as a cure-for-insomnia exegesis.

Saul: “Hey! I’m a Christian! Honest! No kidding! No more persecuting Christians! I even now wear a W.W.J.D.? bracelet!”

Saul, soon to be known as Paul, the Apostle Formerly Known as Saul, had quite the transformation. Earlier in this chapter he was on his way to Damascus to continue persecuting Christians. Now, he had to be rescued from some angry Jews who wanted to kill him. Before they got to him, disciples came by night, lowered him down the wall from his room in a basket and transported him to Jerusalem.

Despite rescuing Saul (who, again, will soon become Paul), the other disciples were still very reluctant to accept Saul as a fellow Christian. It reminds me a little of the mass reluctance among many Christians when shock rocker Alice Cooper announced he’d become a Christian.

If ever Alice Cooper were to record a new song, it would probably be titled, “No More Mr. Unsaved Guy!”

It seemed so unfathomable that a man known for his outrageous performances would actually be a fellow believer in Jesus.

Seeing the concern, Barnabas vouched for Saul to the disciples and convinced them to give him a chance to prove themselves. They did, no doubt some worried that Saul was a double agent. If only he’d had with him a Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye signed copy of Left Behind, or perhaps if he’d had a W.W.J.D.? bracelet.

We read that Saul was sent to churches in Caesarea, Tarsus (his hometown), Judaea, Galilee, Samaria and that many people were saved and edified.

Peter continued fishing, healing

It’s hard to believe that, at the end of the Gospel According to John, Peter was found to be a defeated disciple with a heavy Galilean accent (which would probably make him sound like the Jewish equivalent of redneck). In this chapter, we see him preaching, teaching and healing. Specifically, healing.

First, a gentleman named Aeneas who’d been bedridden with palsy for eight years. God used this healing to bring people to him in Lydda and Saron.

Peter then wowed people at Joppa through his miracle performed on a disciple named Tabitha, also named Dorcas. Verse 36 described her as a woman “full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.” Unfortunately, she became sick and died and was apparently prepared for burial and placed in an upper chamber.

With people weeping, Peter came and kneeled down and prayed and commanded Tabitha to rise. She opened her eyes, saw him and sat up.

Tabitha’s return from the dead was no doubt the talk of the day in Joppa as people probably texted, blogged and read newspaper accounts about it. Verse 42 tells us many believed in the Lord.

Peter then stayed in Joppa a while with a tanner named Simon. It really is amazing to see what the Lord accomplished through Peter, and it never ceases to amaze me how God chooses to work with seemingly-humble, lowly people instead of relying on the well-educated, upper crust.

Richard Zowie is currently blogging his way through the Bible and has no idea how long it’ll take. He hopes to have it done within two years. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Acts 7: Stephen is martyred

February 24, 2010 Leave a comment

I actually read this passage on Monday and am, sadly, just now blogging about it. Getting off my duff, I plan to return to daily blogging about Bible reading. Later today or, most likely, tomorrow, I’ll blog about the next chapter of Daniel.

Acts 7 is a fascinating chapter, in that it’s the first Biblical recording–post crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus–of a martyr.

That martyr’s name, of course, was Stephen.

In his sermon, Stephen preached a sermon summarizing the Old Testament from Abraham, to Moses, down the line and eventually ending in the New Testament with Jesus. He concentrated heavily on Moses, particularly his early life and when he was receiving the laws from God on Mt. Sinai.

Bluntness was a normal practice in the early church’s preaching, and Stephen was no different. He referred to the authorities in the temple in verse 51 as “stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears.” Notice he did not say they were physically uncircumcised. All obedient male Jews then were. He was telling them they were crude and stubborn in their ability to listen and hear what was being preached, and if they were truly open and receptive, they would’ve seen that Jesus’ life was a fulfillment of Scripture. Instead, the authorities and their ancestors chose to persecute, torture and even kill the messengers who called for obedience unto God.

And then Stephen looked up to the sky and described seeing Jesus at the right hand of God. A death sentence. They took him outside the city and stoned him.

Like Jesus at His crucifixion, Stephen showed compassion to those who stoned him. In his final words in verse 60, he asked God not to lay this sin at their charge.

We also see in verse 58 that Saul held the outergarments of those who went to kill Stephen. Saul had yet to become a Christian and transform into Paul, but I have to wonder what went through his mind at this time. Perhaps seeds were being planted and watered as he saw this Christian die for their faith.

Richard Zowie, a Christian for 28 years, operates several blogs. Post a comment or e-mail richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

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.

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.