Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Two Loud Voices


The electric company is doing some repairs and rerouting of electricity underground in our neighborhood and we were informed yesterday that our electricity would most likely be turned off early this morning and that we should prepare to be without electricity for the whole day. Wednesdays are days I spend studying for our mid-week service and so last night, after I finished with the day’s demands, I sat down and began to study Acts 7 so I could get ahead.

As is my usual approach I read the whole chapter a couple of times and picked out some interesting points to further research and develop. Just before getting into bed I listened to the whole chapter a few times in a several translations so I could go to sleep with the text for tonight on my mind. I have found that filling my mind with the Word of God gives my spirit something to chew on during the night.

This morning I woke up about 6:30 and I heard a voice in my head say: “Are you doing what is right or are you doing what is wrong?” I immediately recognized the Holy Spirit was communicating with me and giving me a platform from which to begin putting tonight’s lesson together.

So, allow me to ask you as well: “Are you doing what is right or are you doing what is wrong?”  

Acts 7 is best known for detailing the account of the stoning of Stephen who was a deacon in the Church in Jerusalem. However, Acts 7 gives us so many other keys to confirm the Old Testament accounts of Abraham, David, Moses and God bringing Messiah to a lost and hurting world. The sermon preached by Stephen in Jerusalem that day offers so much to any student of the Bible. We won’t have time to develop each facet of truth contained in the testimony of Stephen this evening, but I encourage you to use his accounts of the history of these chosen Children of God from Abraham to Jesus as an opportunity to further your serious studies.

In order to get the full account of the stoning of Stephen, we will need to begin a few verses before Acts chapter 7, in Acts 6:7. This is on the heels of the Apostles ordaining the first deacons of the Church to help them with the practical needs of the congregation.

Acts 6 NKJV
7  Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
·        Note that after these deacons were given both the authority and the responsibility to serve in the Church, the Church grew and even many of the Jewish Priests were converted to become Believers in Jesus as Messiah.
o   Authority vs Responsibility
o   Don’t get the horse before the cart … Responsibility is what we give people and when others accept responsibility, they should then be given the authority commensurate with their responsibility.
o   When people are looking for authority, give them something to be responsible for first … Don’t just give people the right to make decisions when they are as yet unwilling to be responsible to do the work.
o   No one needs to be in charge of anything they are unwilling to be responsible to make happen.
8 ¶  And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.
·        Greek - Pistis and Dunamis – Faith and Power
9  Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.
·        Synagogue of the Freedmen – I am aware of the three main camps of scholars and their beliefs concerning these Freedmen or, as the Greek word implies, Libertines. However, I believe these were perhaps those who were not only Jews but also Roman citizens, who were otherwise free from many of the encumbrances and penalties of the Jews who were not Roman citizens.
o   At any rate, whether formerly slaves of the Romans or simply those who were enjoying greater purchased or inherited liberties within the Roman empire, these Jews had their own Synagogue in Jerusalem and elsewhere as well. One such Synagogue was found in Pompey.
o   We read that these Freedmen were from: Cyrene, on the African Continent; Alexandrea, in Egypt; and from Cilicia, north of Cyprus in modern day Turkey of which Tarsus was the capital, (the city of Saul of Tarsus, which would help to explain his presence at this meeting); and Asia, comprising most of the rest of modern-day Turkey and some of the surrounding eastern border countries.
·        Disputing with Stephen – Denotes less than an argument or fight, rather this seems to have started with a common questioning and debate concerning the issues at hand in Jerusalem between the Church of the Believers in Jesus and those who held to the teachings of the traditional Jewish Synagogues, such as these Libertines.  
10  And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
·        Resist = Greek word: anthistemi … where derives the word Antihistamine – to successfully oppose and stand against to defeat.
·        Sophia – wisdom = in a broad sense, the intelligent use of science, knowledge, truth, proverbs and experiences, both human and divine, is wisdom. This is the wisdom used by Stephen to explain Christ.
11  Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.”
·        The wisdom of the world says: “If you can’t beat them, lie about them … accuse them … defame them … destroy them.”
12  And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council.
·        This should teach us not to get all stirred up when we hear someone accused of something horrible … it could be a lie …
13  They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law;
14  “for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.”
·        Well, perhaps that part has some truth laced in with the falsehoods
·        Often the greatest lies are based on truth …
o   You shall become as God’s knowing good and evil … God knows you aren’t going to die … it’s ok to go ahead and eat it!
o   Lie!!!
o   God is love so love is God.
o   Lie!!!
15  And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.
·        Radiant innocence and confident sincerity should have been their first clue … but it wasn’t
·        Sad to know so many are un-tempered and lack the spiritual discernment needed to discover truth from lies in the hearts and eyes of others but are left only to follow the loudest voice or popular vote.

Acts 7 NKJV
1 ¶  Then the high priest said, “Are these things so?”
·        Be instant in season and out of season …
·        You’ve got to love the opportunity to share your talking points.
·        Always be ready to give an account of the good work that is in you …
·        It really doesn’t matter what they ask you when you already know what you’re gonna to say.
·        Stephen understood that he was in a high-stakes game. He calculated the costs, weighed the benefits and took the stage.
·        He knew this could be his only chance and he respected it …
2  And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran,
·        Stephen began his defense of the Gospel by getting their attention and laying his foundation on their most common ground.
·        For the next 59 verses Stephen recounted the history of the Children of God from Abraham to Jesus …
·        It is a truly amazing sermon containing numerous confirmations and explanations of Old Testament accounts …
·        And then, Stephen brought the truth home on a personal level …
51 ¶  You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.
·        Resist – Not the same as Acts 6:10 resist. This one means to run upon or to strike out against or oppose …
52  “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,
53  “who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
·        You of all people should be keeping the Word of God … God gave it to you miraculously by divine choice …
·        Are you doing right or are you doing wrong?
54 ¶  When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.
55  But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
·        Not everyone sees what we see … don’t be surprised …
·        And perhaps they never will this side of heaven …
56  and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
57  Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord;
·        The first loud voice …
·        It can stop up you ears and make you react in anger with hatred …
58  and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
·        Note: Saul of Tarsus, evidently a member of the Synagogue of the Freedmen, was in attendance and in agreement.
59  And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
·        Stoned him while he was calling on God …
·        Were they doing what was right or what was wrong?
60  Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
·        The second loud voice …

Two Loud Voices
        1. Acts 7:57 – The first loud voice – “Kill him!”
        2. Acts 7:60 – The second loud voice – “Forgive them …”

Extra Points to Ponder:
·        Don’t believe every accusation you hear.
o   Someone might be angry they didn’t win … or
o   Someone might have something to gain.
·        Am I doing wrong or am I doing right?
·        Don't get angry at the truth.
·        Killing the messenger won't change the message.
·        Which voice is speaking to you?

Saturday, July 27, 2019


Doctrines of the Gospel

(Note: Update on Lucy – granddaughter of Pastor Randy and Elizabeth Sebert)

This past Wednesday evening, at our mid-week service, we continued our study of the Book of Acts. Acts 6 was our text for this week. We discovered God’s great need, and the need of any growing congregation, for Born-Again Believers to take part in Church. Church services are used by God to meet needs … God’s needs and the needs of people whether they know it or not. We heard several testimonies which bore witness to the fact that God often draws people to Church just when or just before they need it most.

We realized that many times we miss the opportunity God has worked so hard and long to give us … a divine opportunity to positively affect someone for Christ. When we miss that moment, we miss God. We concluded Wednesday evening by asking ourselves, what are going to do for Jesus this week? So let me ask you: What are you going to do for Jesus this coming week? On the job; at school; at home; in the community; or with friends? Don’t miss it and don’t wait to be asks – take initiative and part in the plan of God.

This morning we are going to begin a new series entitled:
        5 Doctrines of the Gospel of Christ

A doctrine is a teaching. The Gospel means Good News. In this case there are 5 fundamental doctrines we find critical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s begin by reading our key scripture which will be found in the New Testament book of Romans. The Apostle Paul boldly writes:

Romans 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

The Holy Spirit is clearly telling us that the Gospel of Christ contains the power of God to save everyone who believes it. The continuing concern Paul addresses later on in the book of Romans is that people cannot believe in something which they have not heard about and no one can hear about the Gospel unless someone else is willing to tell them.

Paul declared that he would not live his Christian life ashamed or afraid of sharing the Good News concerning the salvation that is in Christ with others. It is not up to us to save people, but it is up to us to tell them … after all, someone told you!

Hebrews 4:2  For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.

It is God’s hope this morning that you will believe the Gospel that is proclaimed in Church today and act on it by faith. Now let’s take a look at:

5 Doctrines of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

1.  Salvation

John 3 NKJV
1 ¶  There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
2  This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
3  Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4  Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5  Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6  “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7  “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

Note that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. It appears Nicodemus was afraid or ashamed to be seen with Jesus for his reputation’s sake. However his questions are sincere. Jesus in no way scolds him but rather welcomes him and teaches him concerning the salvation of his soul.

This account lends us to understand that we should encourage even small and weak steps towards Christ. Turn no sincere soul away, even when they are too weak, afraid or embarrassed to be seen with Jesus during the day. God accepts any turn towards Him as progress.

The Talmudists, those Rabbis who study and are well versed in the written and oral Law of Moses, tell of a man named Nicodemus Ben Gorion who was one of the three richest and most influential men in Jerusalem in the same time period as Jesus of Nazareth. This Nicodemus was brother to Josephus Ben Gorion, the well-known Jewish historian and author of the Wars and Antiquities of the Jews. The Nicodemus spoken of by the Talmudists is also known by another name among the Sanhedrin of that time, Bonai, and was known to be a disciple of Jesus.

Many stories are told among the Jewish writers concerning the great wealth of Nicodemus and his family then later the abject poverty they faced perhaps as a result of the great persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. We cannot know for sure if these two are the same person, but it would seem reasonable since the backgrounds and activities are so similar from the accounts of both Jewish and Christian writers.

The Apostle John mentions Nicodemus three times in the Gospel of John. Here in John 3; then again in John 7:50 where Nicodemus defends Jesus against unjust suspicion of the Jews; and finally in John 19:39 when Nicodemus brought a wealth of burial spices along with his rich secret disciple of Jesus friend, Joseph of Arimathea, to the tomb of Jesus to anoint His body for burial after the cross.

John 3:2 says that Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus at night and heard that he could be born again. This conviction that Jesus was Messiah lasted Nicodemus all the way through the trial, crucifixion and burial of Christ. I can well imagine he was also there for the resurrection.

Jesus said to Nicodemus – “You must be born again.”

This is the first doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is: Salvation

Ephesians 2 NKJV
8  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Salvation is a gift which God freely gives to everyone who will believe and receive it by faith. Grace cannot be purchased, earned or deserved. Grace is the “free gift”. If it costs you it’s not free and it’s not a gift. Salvation is a gift God wants to give everyone. How then can I receive this Good News gift of God?

The Romans Road to Salvation
                                         i.    Romans 3:23 – All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
                                        ii.    Romans 6:23 – The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
                                      iii.    Romans 10:13 – Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

So, what have we discovered today?

·        We must encourage good beginnings, even when weak or afraid.
o   We should never turn away any sincere soul who is seeking God.
·        We must not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ
o   For it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.
·        You must be born again.
o   There is no other way for the rich or for the poor.
o   From sinners to saints
o   From rulers of the Jews to Presidents of the United States
o   You must be born again …

Have you been born again since you’ve heard about Jesus? Have you been born again since you believed? Why not receive Jesus into your heart today!

Next week: Water Baptism

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Answer


Acts 6 NKJV
1 ¶  Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

During the initial days of the Church in Jerusalem, while it was yet very young, the Church experienced substantial growth in numbers. People were being saved on a daily basis and in some instancesmultitudes were coming to Christ. Initially it was manageable by the 12 Apostles, the original 11 plus Matthias. The Apostles administrated the full affairs of the Church and made every decision as needed. However …

When the number of converts became larger than 12 men and their assistants could well manage, problems began to surface. It was evident the Church needed more anointed decision makers who would shoulder some of the burden of leadership with a servant’s heart. The Holy Spirit wisely included this account and God’s remedy for us in Acts 6. 

The stress and strain on Church leadership is well documented throughout the Bible. Moses was told to ordain 70 Elders to help him make decisions. Then he ordained captains over groups of 50’s, 100’s, and 1,000’s, to help lead, teach, guide, guard and govern the people. Moses was given a trickle-up model of leadership by God. He told those whom he had set over various groups and to those whom he had delegated authority, to answer all of the questions and handle all of the matters within the congregation which they felt they could handle collectively and only bring matters before him which they could not settle. This, the scriptures say, kept Moses from wearing away which, in turn, kept the people from wearing away and from lack of attention to their needs. (Exodus 18 & Numbers 11)

Every growing group of God’s people afterwards instituted the same type of organizational structure to aid in decision making and workload. There is only so much time in a day and only so many decisions a person is capable of making and only so many people any one person can care for. The difference between a smart business or government model and the Church is that in the Church, leaders answer a calling, need an anointing and are seen to be acting for and with God. There is a higher demand and a greater burden. Instead of using money as a bottom line, Church leaders are working for the eternal souls of every person on earth. For this work to continue as planned, God has chosen the Church as His vehicle. We are the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ and the Family of God in the earth. The far majority of ministry is accomplished by volunteers who carry a great spiritual burden for the Church and do so without promise of pay.

Here in Acts 6, we find the newly formed Church of Believers in Jesus reached critical mass very quickly. There was no way the 12 Apostles, even as anointed as they were, could handle all of the personal needs and concerns of the congregation. The Children of God have never been easy to satisfy. God couldn’t even do it. They feel entitled. The answer in Acts 6 was not to reduce the number of people getting saved nor todivide the Church into multiple locations under denominational leaders who were free to self-determine their own individual Church doctrine and practice. 

The answer was to reproduce and release more leadership within the Church who were givendelegated authority to make the administrative decisions necessary to meet the needs of God’s people. The answer was, is and always will be … more laborers.

Matthew 9:37  Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

Church is designed by God to be big, (Luke 14:23 … compel them … that My house may be full.). God wants His Church to be big and full and growing and increasing on a daily basis. He has provided a pattern and a structure to handle as much growth as the saints can muster. God knows multiplied people means multiplied problems … always has and always will … but it also means multiplied successes. Sheep reproduce sheep … 

Acts 6:1  Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

The Church was started in Jerusalem with Jews who accepted Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. There were two larger groups of Jews in Jerusalem in those days. I’m not talking about the sects of the Pharisees andSadducees; I’m talking about those Jews who were commonly known as Hebrews and those recognized as Grecians or what the NKJV calls Hellenists. 

The Hebrews were Jews who lived in Jerusalem and followed a more traditional way of life and spoke Hebrew. Grecians/Hellenists were the Jews who were not originally from Jerusalem or who were strongly influenced by other cultures and who chose to speak Greek as their common language. They were seen as more modern and more acquainted with the Roman ways of life. These two groups were somewhat divided in their upbringing, personal opinions and viewpoints. But they were both Jewish and both were being saved in great numbers in Jerusalem and were being added tothe Church by God. Both of these groups came under the spiritual care of the Apostles. As well, as needs arose, people looked to the Church for help.

When the Church grew so big that the Apostles did not have the time to pray, preach and watch closely over every daily detail of the ministry, which included benevolence, there arose a murmuring complaint against the Hebrew Believers by the Hellenists Believers. The Hellenists felt the needs of their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. The fact that they self-identified as part of a different group is concerning to God and any Church leader. They felt discriminated against because they weren’t Hebrews and imagined Hebrews were being better cared for. 

Interesting to note that they must have fed a lot ofpeople each day. Give us this day our daily bread, kind of ministry. With at least 5 thousand people already in the Church and more being born-again each day, I can imagine it was a fairly big job to watch over all of the daily needs of the congregation … especially with almost all of them being new converts. We reasonably expect less complaints from seasonedBeliever, as we do from anyone who has some maturity under their belt, however … these new Believers had just come out of the world where it was all about them. Moses had these same problems in his day and so did Jesus in His. 

The remedy for the newly formed Church in Jerusalem was the same remedy God gave Moses and the same thing we saw Jesus do in His earthly ministry … choose, train and ordain more servant leaders.

Acts 6
2  Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.
3  “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;
4  “but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The work will continue to increase in a growing Church and thus the need for a growing leadership structure. I’m sure, because of the human nature we all bring with us from the world to the Church, that some people didn’t like Stephen or Phillip being in charge and deciding what each person received from the Church … they probably preferred Peter and John and some probably took it personally, as is always the case in a growing Church. Nonetheless, the Church could not have continued to grow without promoting and accepting additional ordained leadership. It was not just about food … it was about souls … Peter was more effective for Christ and the Church preaching and teaching instead of deciding disputes between families in the Church. 

Thank God for this pattern. The Church still needsmore laborers today. Those who feel the call, answer it and begin ministry right where they are. Those who are bearing fruit and bringing souls to the Lord and people to the Church; Laborers who have a good reputation, are full of the Holy spirit and wisdom, and willing to be appointed to be over a portion of the business of the Church.

As well, we accept the fact that no one person can do it all. We need to protect those who give themselves continually to prayer and ministry of the Word. When Jesus broke the fish and loaves to supply food, He did not feed the people. Jesus gave the supply to His disciples and the disciples fed the multitude. In fact, Jesus is not here in His earthly ministry today and has not been here for 2000 years. He only supplies the milk and meat for the Church … His disciples still feed the people. 

It would be counter-productive to imagine that weshould not have to be fed by anyone but Jesus. For the Body of Christ to function as intended, we must all be willing to accept those God gives and recognize their vital link in the plan of God. This is the answer …