Friday, October 08, 2010



In Acts 13 and 14 we have what has been popularly called the 1st missionary journey. It's a mission trip to carry the Good News into other nations.

1Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper.

Prophets and teachers had different functions. The prophets were "wandering preachers" who had given their lives to listening for the word of God then challenging others to action, based upon this word. They always had a word from God on their hearts. The teachers were in the local churches with the responsibility to continue instructing believers in the faith.

It has been pointed out that this list of prophets is symbolic of the universal appeal of the Gospel. Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus; Lucius came from Cyrene in North Africa; Simeon was also a Jew but his other name Niger is given and, since this is a Roman name, it shows that he must have moved in Roman circles; Manaen was a man with aristocratic connections; and Paul himself was a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia and a trained rabbi. In this little band of men there is exemplified the unifying influence of Jesus. Men from many lands and many backgrounds had discovered the secret of "togetherness" because they had discovered the secret of Christ.

Paul is speaking in a synagogue at Pisidian Antioch and gets a terrific response. After rehearsing the story of God's Messiah and zeroing in on Jesus, Paul goes on to say:

29"When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. 30"But God raised Him from the dead; 31and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. 32"And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.' 34"As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: 'I WILL GIVE YOU THE HOLY and SURE blessings OF DAVID.' 35"Therefore He also says in another Psalm, 'YOU WILL NOT ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.' 36"For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; 37but He whom God raised did not undergo decay.

The prophecy saying that the Messiah's body would not undergo decay. Paul is making his point that King David can't be the Messiah, because his body was buried and he is still dead (asleep).

Now, Paul sets forth the two most important things Jesus, God's resurrected Messiah, came to do for us: 38"Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.

I love this and have shared it often with others: FIRST-Forgiveness--Most religious systems have a plan for dealing with our sins (where we fail and fall short of God's standard). And, they are all into some sort of performance-do, do, do-in order to fix their problems. Hard-wired in human nature is to pay for what we do wrong. We want to pay for it. So, we may try to compensate by giving gifts or stepping up our behavior a bit. Jesus came to make that payment for us. He is the only one to bring forgiveness to mankind.

I hope you sense how unique forgiveness is. Forgiveness is the only way to solve our relational bruises and wreckage. Forgiveness is not natural; it's a God-thing!

SECOND-Freedom--He says this is freedom from all things from which the Law of Moses could not free you. Ultimately, this is freedom from all of the performance that it takes to find that feeling of penance or payment-what forgiveness can produce most purely. Religious systems offer anything but freedom, but instead weigh you down with whatever their system believes is needed. Again, I say that "religion is man's best attempt to avoid going to hell." God wants a relationship and Jesus came in the flesh to demonstrate what that might look like. God wants a relationship. A relationship is when you've already been to hell and don't want to go back. That kind of relationship with Jesus brings FORGIVENESS and FREEDOM from all things!

44The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord.

This message of Jesus bringing forgiveness and freedom is most attractive!



1Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. 2And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. 3When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. 5So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.

6On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. 7And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter's side and woke him up, saying, "Get up quickly " And his chains fell off his hands. 8And the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me." 9And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.

11When Peter came to himself, he said, "Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting." 12And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. 15They said to her, "You are out of your mind!" But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, "It is his angel." 16But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.

GOD OPENS DOORS SO THAT NO ONE CAN SHUT AND SHUTS DOORS THAT NO ONE CAN OPEN. The encouragement to me here is: 1. No matter the "prison" situation in which you find yourself, God is more than able to get you out of it or, more than likely, through it. This is what I like so much about reading through the "Acts of Jesus", because He IS active among us and it's encouraging and empowering to be reminded of how He works.

2. My prayers that I offer to the Lord, many times not expecting them to be answered, are still answered by the Lord in miraculous ways. How many times have I said after praying and having that specific prayer answered, "I can't believe it!" The point is we must learn to believe it as we pray. We must learn to trust Jesus completely in all that we do.

Now, check out verse 21: 21On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. 22The people kept crying out, "The voice of a god and not of a man!" 23And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. 24But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.

This is an interesting contrast, isn't it. Herod has James killed and then puts Peter in prison with the intent of doing the same thing to him, all to please his constituency. Well, he pleased his constituency even to the point that they hailed him as a "god" and this is precisely what killed Herod. So, Peter, imprisoned, is out of jail free and Herod, free to do anything he wants, is now in the prison of death!

And, most importantly, "But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied." The kingdom of God cannot be imprisoned or shut down. It's like a mustard seed, the smallest of the seeds, that grows into a large bush. Those who follow the God of gods and seek His kingdom will gain all that is significant and live forever. Those who play God and seek their own kingdom may gain the whole world and lose their souls.



1Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, 3saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them." 4But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence. When Peter returned to Jerusalem, he was given the riot act! They couldn't believe that he was associating with the Gentiles-the unclean-and that he would have given them the word of God in such a way that they received it. So, Peter shares with them the vision he was given where God made it clear, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." And, he also shared the message Cornelius was given by the Lord to seek Peter out. Then he says, 12"The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings these six brethren also went with me and we entered the man's house.

Cornelius was told that Peter would speak words by which he and all his household would find salvation. 15"And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. 16"And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 17"Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" 18When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life."

PRINCIPLE #1-God will continually break down your boxes and burst your bubbles, while blowing your mind! When Jesus is acting, you'll find things gloriously out of control.

19So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. 20But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.

22The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. It's like the home office was nervous again, fearful that some sort of movement might break out without their guidance and blessing, so they sent a very good man-Barnabas. 23Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord;

NOTE two things here: 1. Barnabas witnessed the "grace of God", not a new, highly organized program that was working in good ways, but the grace of God among these people.

2. Barnabas encouraged these new believers to keep on keeping on, keep doing what you're doing-true to the Lord. He's not soliciting submission to the home office (the leadership in Jerusalem). He's not asking them to join a certain fellowship.

Luke goes on to say, 24for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith and considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.

Now NOTE what Barnabas did. 25And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; 26and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch and for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers.

ONE QUICK NOTE HERE: The name Saul is interesting at this point. I've heard all my life that "Saul was his Jewish name before he became and Christian and Paul was his Christian name." BUNK! If that were true, then Paul ought to be called Paul here, since this is well after being apprehended by Jesus. I think this devilish little mis-truth is one of many little ways to keep us off message. Saul was the Jewish way of saying Paul and Paul was his Roman name. Paul (Saul) was still Jewish after bowing his heart to Jesus. Jesus doesn't change your cultural background, when He enters your life. He transforms you inside out with all your cultural quirks and nooks and crannies.

PRINCIPLE #2-It's not my fellowship; it's the fellowship of Jesus. The leadership of believers in Jerusalem thought this movement around Jesus in Antioch was theirs to guide and control, but it wasn't. By the grace of God, it was the fellowship of Jesus. NOTE-a few people gathered in Antioch around the NAME OF JESUS and a FELLOWSHIP BROKE OUT!

Then, NOTE Barnabas. He was obviously enthused by the excitement and new life of the fellowship in Antioch, so he sought out Saul to solicit his help in loving and teaching the considerable numbers who were gathering together in the name of Jesus. They stayed there for one year, but they didn't feel the need to claim this fellowship as their own or to call themselves church planters at the next "pastors' conference", because it was clear to them that this was the FELLOWSHIP OF JESUS. And, this was the case throughout the early church. There was no misconception as to who owned or who was the planter of the fellowship. It was always Jesus.

What a difference it is today! That's my church. I planted this church in 1980. ME, MY, MINE, and I. And, you know what, I struggle with this same thing with the fellowship where we gather. It's easy for me to be hurt when someone leaves or chooses not to be part of the things we are doing together, as if this is a personal affront to me-as if it is MY FELLOWSHIP. I have to remind myself over and over that this is the FELLOWSHIP OF JESUS and wherever we go, we have the privilege of gathering with others from all of the flavors of ethnicity, religious affiliation and economic levels in this fellowship.




In the 2nd chapter of Acts the Spirit came upon the believers in Jerusalem to indwell them permanently. In chapter 8 we witnessed the Samaritan believers receiving the Spirit in the same way. Now, in chapter 10 there is a fascinating story about how the Gentiles, the non-Jews, received the Spirit in the same way. 1Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, 2a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.

Cornelius has a vision from an angel of God. The angel said, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5"Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; 6he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea."

At the same time, Peter, staying in Simon's house in Joppa, a beach house, also had a vision. 11and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13A voice came to him, "Get up, Peter, kill and eat!" 14But Peter said, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean." 15Again a voice came to him a second time, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." 16This happened three times,

Four quick observations here: FIRST-God commands Peter to violate the dietary laws within the Law of Moses.

SECOND-Peter refuses. His obedience to the Law was overriding the word of God, Himself.

THIRD-God gives Peter the ultimate explanation, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy."

FOURTH-God had to do this three times. This seems to be what Peter needs, a triple dose of a truth in order to get it.

As he finished the vision, Cornelius' men were already at the door of Simon's beach house, asking for Peter. Peter didn't have time to analyze what was happening. They were invited in for the night: And on the next day he got up and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. NOTE that Cornelius invited his relatives and his close friends to hear what Peter was going to share with them.

Now watch this: 25When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. 26But Peter raised him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am just a man." 27As he talked with him, he entered and found many people assembled. 28And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean."

Peter acknowledged how strange and even "unlawful" for a Jew to associate with a group of Gentiles, but that God overruled and sent him. 29"That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for." Cornelius explained the vision God had given him about how to find Peter and finished with: 33"So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord."

34Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. 36"The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)-- 37you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38"You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47"Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" 48And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

I love this scene. NO MATTER YOUR BACKGROUND OR UPBRINGING OR CULTURE, YOU MAY COME TO GOD AND RECEIVE HIS SPIRIT TO INDWELL YOU. This is because God shows no partiality to anyone, but in every nation the man who fears God and does what is right is welcome to Him. All this is done through the person of Jesus.

NOTE what we know about Cornelius. 1. He as Roman soldier in a prominent position. 2. He was not a Jew (or as we might say today not a Christian); he was a Gentile and not affiliated with any synagogue (church). 3. He was a god-fearing man. 4. He was prone to charity. 5. He was a man of prayer, a man who sought out a "higher power" in his life.

Cornelius came from a Roman cultural background and was found to have a heart bent toward God. This is the first group of Gentiles brought into the fellowship. The story gives us some key insights into who and how people come into a relationship with Jesus.

WHO? Anyone whose heart is bent toward God, no matter the cultural background, may come into the fellowship of Jesus.

HOW? When a person seeks God out with all his heart, God will provide a way to bring that person, family and friends, into fellowship with Him.

So, with this in mind, it's important to remind ourselves that: FIRST-We all come from a different cultural background. SECOND-Jesus is not owned by Christianity. THIRD-No matter your background-Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Catholic, Mormon, Baptist, non-religious, whoever-you can come into fellowship with Jesus.

When Jesus is lifted up, all men are drawn to Him. Therefore, if Jesus is all that matters, then why do we spend so much time on other matters?



This intriguing story of how Paul was apprehended by Jesus on the road to Damascus is one of my favorites. It is a scene that is replicated over and over today as Jesus continues to act in our lives.

1Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" 5And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do." 7The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.

8Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. 9And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." 11And the Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight." 13But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name." 15But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." 17So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; 19and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, 20and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." 21All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, "Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" 22But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

Paul had a role in life-to persecute the followers of the Way. The Way believed Jesus was the promised Messiah. Paul was a believer in the Messiah. He was looking for the Messiah, the Christ. He could have been called a Christian-a follower of the Christ, the Messiah. So, since he wasn't buying into the Messiahship of Jesus, he did all he could do to stop the efforts of the Way-the followers of Jesus. He saw this as his role in life and played it very well. In fact, he felt he was quite righteous about what he was doing. BUT JESUS APPREHENDED HIM. When Jesus comes into your life, He takes you out of your role or false-self and brings about a spirit of authenticity to you and your lifestyle. You can't cover up and play a role, when Jesus is leading out.

NOTE the words God spoke to Ananias about Paul. This is significant: "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear MY NAME before the GENTILES, KINGS, and the SONS OF ISRAEL, for I will show him how much he must suffer for MY NAME'S sake."

Four things stand out here to me: FIRST-It's all about the NAME OF JESUS. This was most important to the Lord-that Paul bear the NAME OF JESUS. This is what is most important for us today! We are not commanded to spread Christianity or any other religious system nor church membership, but only and primarily the NAME OF JESUS.

SECOND-Who was the target of Paul's ministry to be? NOTE it was the Gentiles, kings and the sons of Israel.

THIRD-The transformation of Paul, the persecutor of the people of Jesus, into Paul, the preacher of Jesus, was very dramatic and obvious. After spending several days with the disciples of Jesus who were in Damascus, he immediately began to proclaim the NAME OF JESUS in the synagogues. Even more than proclaiming Jesus, Paul was confidently proving that Jesus was the Messiah. The people were shocked!

FOURTH-A personal encounter with Jesus will change all that you are and all that you do.

I believe Jesus apprehended my life nearly 4 years ago as a seminary graduate and pastor. I had always loved Jesus and taught about Him in the ministry opportunities that were laid out for me. But this time there is a difference:

· Instead of being intent on teaching it properly and effectively, I am more intent on obeying Jesus. · Instead of doing, doing, doing as well as I can do, I am into being, being, being who Jesus has made me to be. · Instead of building the church of Jesus, I am disciplining myself to be the church of Jesus. · Instead of playing a role or wearing the mask that befits a religious position, I am bent on being real and authentic.

· Instead of trying to reach the masses with another "powerful" message, I am now more interested in investing my time with a few. · Instead of exercising my life over what "my" purpose is, I am exercising myself toward loving God with all my heart and loving my neighbors as myself. · Instead of deceiving myself into thinking I have some "messianic" touch to help people, I introduce them to the only one who can change their lives-JESUS. · Instead of just going to church, I am now practicing being the church in every gathering of believers in His name.

· Instead of frantically trying to change the world by Wednesday noon, I now understand that the call of Jesus on my life is a call into His rest. · Instead of making disciples out of Christians, I see that the best potential disciples are made out of non-Christians. · Instead of hanging out with the religious crowd, I am hanging out with revolutionaries. · Instead of doing life as the Lone Ranger, I am now doing life with a few others.

· Instead of counting the variety of churches in the world, I now see there is only one church-the church of Jesus. · Instead of doing things my way for Jesus, I am now waiting on Jesus to lead out with His orders and opportunities-to do things His way in His time.

I see the lesson here of Paul's encounter with Jesus in this way: When Jesus apprehends you on your way to becoming a righteous Christian, He will transform you into becoming a stubborn follower of Him in order to lift up His NAME. HIS NAME IS JESUS.