Acts 19

Vs. 1, “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples.”  On Paul’s third missionary, God finally opened up the door to Asia (modern day Turkey).  Paul arrives in Ephesus (was there earlier for a short time) and finds those who wanted to know about the Lord, but only had the truth up to John the Baptist.  Ephesus was known for being a place for the educated and were also interested in magic, which explains their response to the early miracles Paul was doing (vs. 11-12, 19).  Paul’s desire and love for the Ephesians was so strong, he ended up staying there for nearly 2 ½ years!  The story of the sevens sons of Sceva is an interesting insight into not respecting the power of Jesus’ name (vs. 13-20).  But God would use this display of fear to spread the Gospel even more fervently (vs. 20).  We see one last major event that Luke shares with us in the riot of Artemis (vs. 23-41).  Artemis was a Greek god (goddess Diana, fertility god)believed by her worshippers as the daughter of Zeus.  But, this wasn’t a religious riot as much as it was a jealous and financial riot.  Paul’s continued perseverance to share the Gospel was hurting the financial gain at the temple because people would put in money when they visited it.  With many turning to Christ, the profit naturally began to lessen.  But, God’s sovereign hand was upon them and the riot would disband.

Regarding application…Confessing.  Vs. 18, “Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds.”  It’s never easy thinking about this topic.  Confession seems to be tied to ideas like failure and sinner.  Question: What helped influence many Ephesians of the day to confess?  From our text, we see literal spiritual warfare before our eyes with the seven sons of Sceva (Sons of a Jewish priest).  Because in their unbelief, they went around boasting of their own confidence and flesh.  But they were quickly taught a brutal lesson by an evil spirit and beaten (vs. 16).  I share this reality of spiritual warfare because it can wake us up out of our own narrow outlook in life.  We believe what we only see and forget that there is a spiritual battle raging on (Ephesians 6).  This encounter spurred many to respond the right way to the Lord.  I still remember as clear as day the response I saw from a youth retreat some years ago.  There was a demon-possession and when the reality hit the students, that retreat was one of the most powerful and spiritual retreats I’ve been a part of.  This is sort of what happened in Ephesus.  Let us come with belief in our hearts and confession from our lips those things that have a foothold in our lives!

Acts 2

Vs. 3, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.”  Question: What is going on here?  The setting is in Jerusalem and Pentecost aka Feast of Weeks (Jewish harvest festival) is upon them.  Pentecost was 50 days after Passover and it recognized the barley harvest and how God continues to provide for His people.  How appropriate that Jesus was the Passover Lamb and now the Holy Spirit is given on the day of Pentecost.  It’s important to see the timing of God as many Jews would make their pilgrimage to the Holy City.  Jesus’ promise comes true in the form of the Holy spirit coming like a rushing wind (giving life) and tongues of fire (bringing judgment).  When the Spirit was given, the disciples began to speak in tongues (vs. 4).  Bear in mind, what was going on here in the first place.  There were Jews from many nations (vs. 5-12) and they were quite astonished to realize that these Jews from most of Galilee were speaking in their native dialect (vs. 12).  Some assumed they had been drunk (vs. 13).   While there are differing viewpoints on the topic of speaking in tongues, one thing I want to point out that nowhere in Scripture are we told that speaking in tongues (Acts 2, I Cor. 12, 14) must accompany the Spirit baptism we receive upon accepting Jesus.  We also see Peter stand up with courage and address the onlookers and subsequently thousands come to faith that day (vs. 14-41).  Peter applies the Old Testament prophecies to the person of Jesus and calls for all to repent and believe.  And then lastly, we come to a somewhat shocking yet beautiful picture of the genesis of the church (vs. 42-47).  They were spiritually filled and devoted to fellowship (Koinonia – Greek), remember Christ and prayer (vs. 42).  Some accuse the early church of looking like communism, however, the sharing of the early church was out of the “voluntary” goodness of heart and it was not something forced upon them.  It reminds us of what our churches should look like today!

Regarding application…Being Together.  Vs. 44, “All the believers were together and had everything in common.”  We live in a world that teaches us to be strong and independent.  You’ve heard of the adage, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”  But, here we are reminded of a completely different paradigm of thinking.  Here we see a community of believers just being together as one body.  Question: Is this possible in the churches today?  Absolutely!  But, it starts with leaders in the church paving the way.  It starts with members in the church “buying in” to being a community of believers.  God loves His churches.  We are not perfect.  But, I sure hope and pray we continue to strive to be a church like the early church.  Sometimes, I think we are too quick to assume that isn’t possible in this day of age.  In my years serving the church, I connect with vs. 46, as a powerful reminder of opening our homes to each other.  Many of my most cherished times as a church community is when we visit each others homes and just enjoy being together!

John 1

Vs. 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  What an incredible opening for John’s gospel as he reminds us about the Word.  Question: Who was the Word?  Jesus.  I took Greek last semester in Seminary and the “Word is logos”.  It was important for John to use “logos” to explain to his main audience (Gentiles) that Jesus was in fact God (vs. 1-18).  John the Baptist also pointed Andrew and us to Jesus as the Lamb of God (vs. 19-35).  And lastly, we see Jesus call Philip and Nathanael (vs. 43-51) and show us His omniscience (all knowing).

Regarding application…Jesus Knows.  Vs. 48, “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.  Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”  I remember being a child how amazed I was that every Christmas, Santa just seemed to magically know what I wanted.  The year I got my banana seat one gear bicycle named the Screaming Eagle, I just couldn’t believe Santa knew.  Part of that allure is what helps children believe more in Santa.  Interestingly enough, this is what happened to Nathanael.  Nathanael was amazed that Jesus knew.  This amazement certainly helped him to not only acknowledge Jesus, but believe in Him.  The faith factor for us is to remember that the same Jesus who knew Nathanael under the fig tree is the same Jesus that knows what’s going on in our lives.  Sometimes we live this life feeling like no one knows what’s going on.  No knows the trouble or sorrows that we have inside.  But Jesus knows.