Bible Study – Acts 10

RECAP:

Last week Paul took us through chapter 9 and Saul’s encounter with Jesus that immediately changed the entire course of his life forever. God’s ways are most perfect making Saul blind so that he was unable to do anything EXCEPT pray and mediate, fast and reflect. For three days Saul re-adjusts to what he has now discovered and we also know that in these three days God speaks with Saul – he receives the vision of Ananias coming to heal him.

We also saw the faith of Ananias and his wonderful relationship with God – his faithfulness in going to the house to pray for his ‘brother’ Saul.

Saul’s transformation is immediate – baptized and then witnessing – no transition – Saul’s passion was the truth and he goes and confounds the Jews. This man who once sought Christians to imprison and kill is now sought by the Jews to be killed.

Then we saw another amazing disciple – Barnabas. Saul’s conversion was a bit too much for the disciples to stomach – they did not believe he was genuine – but Barnabas lives out Jesus’ teaching – he is not afraid but reaches out his hand of friendship, forgiveness and love to a man who may be his enemy.

The shock waves of Saul’s conversion lead to his life being in danger straight from the get go and so the disciples send his to Tarsus.

Luke now shifts focus away from Saul and onto Peter.

READ 9:32-43

What is Peter doing?

He is evangelizing, speaking, ministering.

Who does he visit in Lydda?

Saints. Believers. Converts. Probably from Philip’s ministry in the area.

And Peter continues to exercise his healing ministry.

At this time a disciple dies in Joppa. Tabitha or Dorcas – I know which name I would prefer.

What were the believers in Joppa’s intention in sending for Peter?

They did not send messengers to Lydda for Peter to come and preside over a funeral. They sent for Peter TO RAISE HER FROM THE DEAD. What faith these believers had. What expectation of the power of God.

Do you notice anything interesting in how Peter approaches this situation?

He kneels and prays. He does not walk in and say “Tabitha get up.” He prays to God. This has nothing to do with Peter. This has nothing to do with his power. This is a demonstration of the Living God’s authority over life and death.

Also, Peter does not touch Tabitha at all – until she awakens. To touch a dead body would be an unclean thing for a Jew.

Where does Peter end up staying. Do you see any significance in what we have just seen with Peter?

Peter ends up at Simon the Tanner’s place. He traveled to Lydda to minister and meet the saints, and there he heals a paralyzed man. That event spreads to Joppa and the believers there realize, just as Tabitha is dying that Peter is only 10 miles away. So they send for him. He goes and prays and Tabitha is raised from the dead. Peter is now in Joppa and so he needs a place to stay – Simon the Tanner.

This is God’s incredible sovereignty in view. Two people healed and Peter’s travels land him in exactly the right place so that Cornelius is able to send for him.

All this is simply setting the scene for the next movement of the spirit and the church – the encounter between Cornelius and Peter.

READ 10:1-23

What do we know about Cornelius?[i]

A God fearer – not a convert to Judaism – hence not circumcised or baptized. Believed in a coming messiah.

Prays regularly.

And God speaks to him – a gentile – and affirms that his gentile prayers have come before the throne of God.

It’s a wonderful piece of irony here – This God fearer, who was barred from presenting offerings to God in Jerusalem at the temple, is here told that his acts of generosity and prayers have been an offering directly to God and God has accepted them.

It’s not just about the ritual – but the heart.

He obeys God and IMMEDIATELY sends for Peter.

Meanwhile, back in Joppa Peter gets peckish and while the food is being prepared he goes and prays.

What is God challenging Peter with in the vision of the animals?

Peter is still culturally prejudiced. Notice here – Peter disobeys God. God says clearly GET UP, KILL AND EAT.

Peter says NO.

He has an ingrained prejudiced which needs to be dealt with. His Jewishness must be set aside when God so commands. If God has made all animals clean his Jewish understanding must be set aside to accommodate God’s command.

If three men show up on your doorstep and said – Someone has asked for you – please come now. Would YOU go? What does Peter’s willingness to go show us?

His life is not his own. Where he goes is not his decision. What he does is not his choice. All these things we tend to hold onto in Western 21st Century Christianity. We struggle with the idea that our future should not be in our hands, or our control but in God’s. That if God should call, we must leave our nets and go.

I think God has often called many, who have simply not recognized the call or have thought “how ridiculous. I have a family to feed – my life is good here. God could not possibly ask me to do this.”

READ 10:24-48

What image does Luke give us of Cornelius in v24?

Expectantly waiting. He has gathered family and friends. He is eagerly awaiting Peter, and the words Peter will bring with him. Are we like this on Saturday evening’s awaiting worship on Sunday?

What remarkable significance is there in Peter and Cornelius standing and talking together?

Here is a picture of the reconciliation of the gospel. Peter a Jew, speaking with and about to become brothers with a man who represents the occupying army of Israel – a man whose colleagues have killed and tortured Peter’s countrymen and women. For Peter, Cornelius represents everything that should be hated and despised – a foreign invading solider who is a gentile.

Yet God orchestrates this amazing meeting.

What changes for Peter in v34 – why is this amazing?

Peter’s journey is complete. The penny drops. He now realizes that God is not more favorable to the Jew than to the gentile but that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people. Peter’s prejudice has been removed.

And this is why he presents the Gospel of Christ to Cornelius in v36-43.

But there is one more shock for Peter and his companions!

READ 10:44-48

I love this – While Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit came upon them. The image is almost of God waiting for Peter to finish talking – but after a while the eternal realized that Peter might speak for eternity and so he just let the Spirit loose.

Why were the circumcised companions of Peter astonished at what they saw?

The Holy Spirit. Poured out upon Gentiles. No way!

Way.

Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.


[i] Caesarea – third time mentioned. Philip resided there after Azotus (8:40). Paul went here having fled Jerusalem (9:30). Originally Stratos Tower – Caesaer gave it to Herod the Great who renamed it Caesarea.

Romans 2 v14-15 – part 2

The phrase “also the greek” is to be connected with the positive side as well. In other words the greek who patiently does good and seeks glory, honor and immortality will be given eternal life. Such a Greek can only be described as a gentile Christian walking with God, for such things can only be sought through a relationship with God. This is continued in v10, “glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the jew first and also the greek.” What is doing good? It is obedience to the good news – the gospel. Believing and trusting and following the good news, the gospel of Christ is our good works. Romans 2:6-8 says He will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition18 and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness.

V11 sums up the main point – God shows no partiality. This is then followed, in v12, that ALL people will be judged, either by the law or without the law. You cannot shield yourselves from God’s judgment with the law, or with ignorance. Then in v13, Paul focuses specifically upon the Jew. It is not the hearers of the law that are righteous but the DOERS of the law who will be justified. We know that the law cannot be fulfilled by human effort.

So, having this background in mind, we now reach our text – v14-15.

V14. The first question to tackle is the relation of v14 to the rest of the chapter. Moo, Murray, Fitzmyer and Calvin see v14 as connected to v12a – v14 is an explanation of v12a. To paraphrase: those gentiles who will perish without the law can, by nature, do things that the law requires, like love and honor their parents. Therefore they are aware of moral obligations and hence the ground upon which they will judged! Murray writes that v14 is:

“providing the answer to the question arising from v12a, namely; if the gentiles are without the law, how can they be regarded as having sinned?”

Murray’s conclusion is that the gentiles are not entirely without law. There are some gentiles who do have the law (converted believers), but here Paul is referring to those who are not converted. Calvin sees these verses as rejecting ignorance as an excuse by a gentile . Moo likewise argues that the gentiles are not without a law – they have some knowledge of God’s moral demands .

The conclusion is that God does not condemn the gentiles without their having any understanding of his demands upon them. The question that is primary in this whole pericope is already clear – Is there such a thing as natural law? Can you have a little bit of knowledge of God? These questions must be left until later.

Daniel Chapter 3 – part 2

THEY ARE WILLING TO DIE FOR A GOD WHOM THEY DO NOT EVEN KNOW HAS THE POWER TO SAVE THEM – BUT THEY KNOW HE EXITS AND THAT HE IS REAL AND THAT HE IS WORTHY OF WORSHIP!!

What faith!! What faith!!

Here are three things for us to learn about this kind of faith that Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego showed:

1.   Our faith needs to be rooted in who God is – not in who we are or where we are. Faith based on our circumstances – hey, life is great, God is good; life is crap God is…….  Is not a good place to be. If our faith is based on what is happening to us we will not benefit from faith nor will we be able to group as a Christian. Faith based on a God who is Lord of the Universe even though he seems silent should still be able to give me peace, even when we face our worst fears.

2.   Our faith needs to be rooted in BOTH the power of God and in his goodness. God can be trusted. Therefore we need to be able to leave the decision of whether God will protect us or rescue us to Him. Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego say that their trust in God is not based on whether they are save dor not – he is God, he is Good – they trust that!!

3.   Our faith should be about loving God for his person not for his performance. Too often we pray to God as if we are sending God coded signals to dictate his behavior like a performing pony. Instead we should approach God like loving parent who will do what is best for us. Can we, WILL we trust his decisions?

This is the type of faith we are called too. Resilient, (able to cope in tough situations) adaptable (able to survive the unexpected in life) and strong, able to face even our worst fears knowing that God is God.

There are times when we will want God to show up so badly, but we will say or try and think that it does not matter if that prayer or desire is not answered – when in fact it does matter and we silently get angry with God – and there are the times when we have prayed and then the things we asked for happens and we are totally stunned God showed up

Sahrach, Meshach and Abedego held the tension between “it really does not matter whether God shows up” and “we are totally shocked that he has shown up.”

They really didn’t care either way – it would not effect their thinking or decisions.

As the three are thrown into the fire, Neb sees a fourth person in there with them. God shows up and the three guys don’t faint shocked that God did rescue them.

Now if I was one of the guys I would popped my head out of the furnace and gone – “Nanananana”.

Who was the fourth person in the fire? Jesus.

And this was not just for the benefit of the three guys, although I am sure the three were vaguely happy to see God. Jesus showing up is for the benefit of Neb. Here was the second encounter he has had with the followers of Yahweh. Daniel not only interprets Nebs dream but tells him what the dream is and Neb is impressed and acknowledges Daniels God to be powerful. Here, he sees three followers of Yahweh completely protected from the fire, in a miraculous way and his response is good, but it is still not the right response. Neb says that the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego should be praised – but he still has not bowed the knee to God  and that was the reason for this miracle. Sharach, Meshach and Abedego could have died and gone to be with God, but God is chasing Neb’s heart.

It is the kind of faith which these three Hebrews showed that allows missionaries to continue to try and lead Muslims to Christ. It is this type of faith which will help us when we stand up for those being bullied, or picked on, or beaten up, and it is the kind of faith which will help us to stand up for truth.

Is this the faith you have? Is it the faith you want.

You know, the true reward of faithful witness to God is not to be found in its results but in the experience of knowing the presence of God in the midst of the struggle.

Life will through at you some hefty knocks – some bad situations – times when your so sad you will hurt – and times when you will be SO happy you wish it would never end.

Living life with the faith of Christ – the faith that Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego had – will help you pass through the hardest and the best of times knowing that God knows what is happening and all things are in is hands.

Daniel Chapter 2 – part 2

God is present with Daniel in Babylon and God is present with us here in the 21st Century America.

We live in a world and a culture that is walking away from God and yet is still terrified of what the world, and nature can throw at it. The world, the culture has no explanation of why hundreds of thousands died in a devastating cyclone in Myanmar – or why thousands have died in the earthquake in china, or why kids get cancer or why moms die when their children are young. The world, the culture has no answer for disaster, except to blame a God they do not believe in and use it as an excuse not to believe in God.

“I could never believe in a God that would allow something like that to happen.”

Daniel did not know why God had given Israel over to Babylon, but he did know that God was still in control.

Do you really know that God is in control? How can I know this you might ask? The same way Daniel knew – BY HIS WORD. The Bible tells us to TRUST in God – To do what he says and then to trust that God knows what he is doing.

God is not is heaven multi-tasking and saying “Gosh I hope that works out – ooooh Andy, you nearly messed that up= ahhhhh, John stop that!”

How is God in control?

The dream Neb has shows us.

Too often people get hung up about what the dream represents, and its details – to do that is to ignore its point – the thing that the dream teaches us is NOT the details of the course of events in history BUT that the fact that HISTORY is UNDER GOD’S CONTROL and that it has a purpose.

What is the purpose?

That all the kingdoms of the earth, Babylon, Assyria, Rome, Great Britain, America will not and cannot stand against the breaking into the midst of this world the Kingdom of God.

Nothing can stop it. Nothing can stand in its way. THE KINGDOM that is to come – the Kingdom of God, will eventually smash every kingdom.

And, by the way, as an aside – you do realize that if you are a believer in Jesus you will not be spending eternity in heaven. Our vision of heaven is some cloud and us sitting there with a harp.

Oh no. Eternity for us will be on a NEW EARTH – a perfect earth. 2 Peter 3:13 says But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Revelation 21:1, Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” [ Isaiah 65:17] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

Paradise, life forever will happen on the new earth.

But this begins now – the Kingdom of God has broken into our world through Jesus.

And that is the message that we – YOU are called to tell people in your schools, homes, neighbor hoods – wherever you are.

Are you strong enough to give this message?

You can only give this message – you can only live in this world as a follower of Jesus if, like Daniel, you are willing to listen to your culture but have not been assimilated into the culture.

There is nothing that is hidden from God or that God does not understand – NOTHING. In the end, this fact should be more important to us, God’s people, than anything else.

When we realize this truth about God’s knowledge, we should be comforted as well as have the courage to go on even when life seems dark, when we are confused by the shocks of life and wondering what is going on and why.

Daniel Chapter 2 – part 1

What overwhelms you? What stresses you out? What worries do you have? Maybe some these worries, or concerns, or stresses are about your life, your future, your family, the state of the world, global warming, wars.

A lot of life is out of your control. You have no idea if you will get a serious disease, or whether someone will crash into your car and kill you, whether a world wide recession will effect your future education or college or even your parents future.

Daniel had no control over whether he was taken captive and sent to Babylon.

He had no control over his physical state, but he did have control over his inner state.

Now, Daniel could have fretted, worried, despaired, been fearful, given up, but he didn’t. He kept going forward. He lived in the place that God had put him to live.

And this is the key – he lived in the PLACE GOD HAD PUT HIM.

God had placed him in Babylon. And I think that this was the attitude Daniel came to live by. Yes, he was now having to do things he didn’t want to do, learn things which he didn’t want to learn, but his loyalty and his focus remained on Yahweh He learnt to live in Babylon with as much faithfulness to God as he would have if he had remained in Jerusalem.

And here is the radical point. Just as Daniel was in Babylon because God had placed him there, so was Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon because God had placed him there.

Here was Daniel, captive of the largest most feared kingdom in the known earth and yet it too was completely at the mercy of God, and of God’s people.

Neb has a dream which is so troubling to him that he is willing to kill every wise man in the kingdom unless they tell him the dream and then the interpretation. The dream was so powerful that Neb knew that if he told the dream to his wise men they would then just give him a load of meaningless interpretations – Neb wanted to now exactly what this powerful dream meant.

Babylon was at the mercy of God.

And Babylon was also at the mercy of an insignificant little Jewish guy – Daniel – who then tells the most powerful king in the world what God of the Universe was telling him.

God is involved with our earth. He has not abandoned it. He has not left it. There is no part of the world that is out of God’s hand or out of his control.

Hear this – nothing happens in the Universe without God knowing about it and allowing it to happen.

That is what the Bible says – Jeremiah 20:4-5 says:

For this is what the LORD says: ‘I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; with your own eyes you will see them fall by the sword of their enemies. I will give all Judah into the hands of the king of Babylon, who will carry them away to Babylon or put them to the sword. 5 I will deliver all the wealth of this city into the hands of their enemies—all its products, all its valuables and all the treasures of the kings of Judah. They will take it away as plunder and carry it off to Babylon.

Jeremiah 25:12: “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, [a] for their guilt,” declares the LORD, “and will make it desolate forever.

Jeremiah 27:11: But if any nation will bow its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let that nation remain in its own land to till it and to live there, declares the LORD.” ‘ “

And here is a big one! 1 Samuel 16:14-15: Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil [a] spirit from the LORD tormented him.

15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you.

Why are their earthquakes in China, or war in Africa, cyclones in Asia? I don’t know – but the message here in Chap 2 of Daniel is that while we may not have an answer as to why something has happened – WE MUST REALIZE THAT GOD STILL KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING!!

Daniel chapter 1 – part 2

Daniel realized that God was a portable God – He came to Babylon with the Israelites.

Daniel was re-trained, re-educated and re-named – everything about them changed – externally – but the one thing the Babylonians could not do was change them internally.

And what you are like Internally depends upon what you have feed yourself with in the past – it rings to the surface what you truly believe to be true.

Daniel had been a good jew – he had been diligent in studying the torah – he knew the words of God – he knew the words of God SO well that they were a part of his DNA.

And so when EVERYTHING else about his faith was taken away he still was able to fall back on what knew to be true – and that the Babylonians could not change.

This meant that Daniel could LEARN all the Babylonian philosophy, all the Babylonian religion, all the Babylonian law – he learns them with excellence, but they mean nothing to him. He was not assimilated by it nor changed by it  – it was knowledge, not life.

So, I ask again, what would happen if all the externals stuff of our Christianity was taken away from us – could we survive as a Christian. Or would the culture engulf you, assimilate you.

To some extent you and I are like Daniel. We live in an alien culture – its alien compared to the words and commands of God. It is alien because it does not recognize the supremacy of Jesus. And not to recognize the supremacy of Christ is not to be fully human. Life cannot be lived to its fullest without Christ at the center.

And we have a choice in how we live as believers in this culture – we can either be assimilated by it or we can understand it but do not let it become apart of who we are.

In the one area that Daniel was able to show loyalty to God he does – food – he does not defile himself but eats vegetables.

In this culture, in the culture of iphones and Macs and Wii’s and playstation 3, of what clothes you must wear to be cool, or what shoes to have, or msic to play, were are you taking the stand against culture – where are you showing yourself to be loyal to Yahweh?

Where?

Or are we so assimilated into the culture that we have become unrecognizable? Because if that is true then we have lost

If you claim to be a believer in Jesus Christ then you must be 100% committed.

Now when I say 100% committed I do not mean that you are perfect. When people say are you 100% committed to God it sounds an impossible task for there are days when I do not feel 100% committed.

But I heard a story which helped me get a better understanding. There was a teenager who at school was a good student: A’s and B’s. Then all of a sudden they started to slip and they started to get 70% in tests and the teach took the student aside and said “hey, whats the problem, you’re a great student, you can do better than this – give me a 100%.”

Well, the student did not get better, and sadly the teacher watched a great student get mediocre to bad grades.

About 10 years later that Student, who was now a writer for Time Magazine, saw his teacher at a reunion and went over and said to her, “Thank you for all your encouragement. But  you know, when I was in your class, my home life was a bad place. My dad had left home and my mom was an alcoholic and I had to look after my little brother at night time and couldn’t study. I tried my hardest. the 70% was, at that time, my 100%.”

Is our 70%, or 80% or even 65% the 100% of what you have NOW!

Daniel had no middle ground to walk  it was either total assimilation or total commitment to God. I am sure he had doubts, and was angry and sometimes confused and may have wanted to give up. But he gave God what he had.

Give God what you have!

We must stop having one foot in the Kingdom of God and one foot in the world. We need to stop putting our relationship with God third on our list of things to do – we need to stop spending our money on what we want and instead on what God wants – we need to stop thinking we can get way with the private things we do that we know God is not pleased about and start to REALLY live a life open and honest before god and before our culture – and that means at school as well!

Daniel Chapter 1 – part 1

There was a survey done in England about teenagers and cell phones. They took ten teenagers and took away their cell phones for one week.

What do you happened? Their lives degenerated into chaos. They were unable to communicate with each other – they did not know where to meet each other – their lives literally fell apart.

They would arrange meeting places and meeting times only minutes before they got together – sometimes changing the meeting place or time by text.  Their life was so flexible that without a cell phone you would be unable to know where your friends were going to meet.

They had come to rely completely upon their cell phones – much more than they thought.

This got me thinking – What would happen if we had no computers, or if televisions stopped working – what would we do.

Think about the times when the power goes out, maybe in the middle of your favorite show. How do you feel when there is no power in your house. Helpless – frustrated – nothing works, no tv, no internet, no air, no lights. We kinda grind to a halt and wait for the power to come back.

We have become reliant upon things haven’t we.

But what about our faith in Jesus.

What do we rely on for our faith? What keeps our faith going?

For some of us its youth group – for others it’s the Bible – for others it’s social events – friends – family – church – trips – music – diocesan events.

What would happen to our faith in Jesus Christ – to our Christianity – if we were not allowed to read our Bible, or to go to Church or to go to youth group or to any diocesan events?

Would we be able to sustain our faith for the next 25 years?

Would we be able to still know God, worship God, pray to God and recite scripture and grow in our faith without church, youth group, a bible, devotionals, worship music, Christian videos? What would happen if all the props of Christianity were removed from our life?

What would happen if everything was stripped away and all that was left was US and our RELATIONSHIP with God.

Would we discover that actually our faith in God is tied up with needing a Bible, to going to youth group, to going to church or going to Camp or having devotionals, or listening to music. Might we discover that these extra props of our life as a Christian have become  the source of our faith rather than tools of our faith.

This is exactly the question that Daniel discovered when his country was attacked and taken over by Babylon.

Daniel was suddenly faced with a life where everything he had relied upon religiously was gone – his temple was gone – his ritual was gone – his sacrifices was gone – his way of life and daily devotions were gone as was his freedom!!

Not only that, but Daniel’s whole world had been shaken because when Babylon defeated Israel – it appeared to have defeated God – Yahweh. A smashed Israel equated with a smashed Yahweh.

In Daniel’s day when a country beat another country the underlying message was – “My god has beaten your god – nanananana”. If your country prospered then your god was strong – if your country did not propser and was weak then so was your god.

He had to wear new cloths – he was given a new name and he was in a place where all trace of his belief and faith were GONE!!

He was an insignificant minority in a culture that saw his belief system as a waste of time.

How would our faith hold up to that?

That’s what Daniel and his friends faced as they were force out of their country into a new life.

But Daniel discovered something about God as he began to live away from everything he had known – he came to realize that God was a God 2 Go God. That God was able to exist outside the temple, outside the ritual, outside the daily devotions.