Acts 5

Vs. 10, “At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.”  Our chapter opens ominously as Ananias and his wife Sapphira lied to the church regarding the profit they offered from the land they had sold (vs. 1-11).  Question: What’s the big deal?  You may recall that the church was willingly sharing their possessions and ensuring others were taken care of.  Yesterday, we were reminded that Barnabas sold his property and gave it to the church.  Ananias and Sapphira do the same thing, but they deceived the church and God (Holy Spirit) by keeping some of their proceeds for themselves.  The big issue is they lied and made themselves look much more sacrificial than they really were.  This was literally a grave mistake.  Satan is the father of lies.  This was a big move by the enemy to dismantle the early churches progress thus far.  It was important to the LORD that such a deed not goes unpunished, especially because this was setting the foundation for the early church.  Despite the setback, the growth of the early church continues (vs. 12-16) and the disciples continue to heal many.  But, this didn’t set well with the enemies of the Gospel (vs. 17-42).  The High Priest along with the Sadducees threw the apostles into jail.  Blessed are those who are persecuted (Matthew 5:10).  Despite the persecution, an angel of the Lord comes and rescues them out of jail in middle of the night.  However, the Sanhedrin is boiling with anger, but Peter courageously stands up and reminds them they must obey God rather than men (vs. 29).  Fortunately, Gamaliel stepped in and spoke reason to the Sanhedrin (vs 34-40).  Gamaliel was a prominent Pharisee as well as the mentor for Paul (Acts 22:3).

Regarding application…Rejoicing in Trials.  Vs. 41, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”  What a response of faith!  Their lives were in question until Gamaliel stepped in and to top it off, they were flogged (Limit was 40 lashes).  But, this did not make their hearts bitter or downcast.  They couldn’t believe they were counted worthy to suffer like the Lord Jesus!  Brothers and sisters, this is real faith being tested.  God created them to do good works and they were doing it.  When I think about the sufferings and trials in my life, I’m convicted for the short-sightedness of my outlook.  I’m so thankful that we have the Word of God speaking to our hearts each day!  Let us never take for granted the privilege we have as believers to suffer trials in this life.  Our response to such trials can testify of God’s great love and mercy to a world that is lost!

Acts 4

Vs. 3, “They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.”  Jesus’ prophetic words are coming true as the disciples are now experiencing persecution for their faith (Matthew 10).  Peter and John are arrested that evening, however, this does not deter many more coming to faith (vs. 1-4).  In our previous chapter, they had healed the lame man and were now preaching the gospel in the Solomon’s Colonnade.  The following morning, Peter and John stand before Annas (former high priest), Caiaphas (current high priest), and the Sanhedrin; the same people who tried Jesus just weeks earlier (vs. 5-12).  The Holy Spirit filled Peter and gave him the words to respond before them (Matthew 10:19)!  These were the very people who rejected Jesus, but now Peter calls them out.  The opponents were in a dilemma, for it was undeniable that a miracle had occurred with the lame man (vs. 13-22).  If they let them go, they may continue to share.  But if they condemn them, there may be a public riot.  In our application section, we will discuss the disciple’s response.  When Peter and John returned, the early church responded with great faith and courage (vs. 23-31).  Their response and prayer was so powerful, that place they met was shaken by God (vs. 31)!  And we close our chapter (vs. 32-37) with another reminder how the early followers voluntarily shared their possessions.  It’s notable that Barnabas is mentioned.  In the next chapter, we will see why this reminder was placed contextually.

Regarding application…Who Do We Obey?  Vs. 19, “But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.”  We should be respectful citizens of the country we reside in.  The Apostle Paul gave us the right perspective (Romans 13:1-7) as well as Peter (I Peter 2:13-17) in laying down the foundation of civil obedience.  However, there is a caveat: If your countries laws go directly against God’s word, than we must obey God first!  In most cases, this will not apply to us.  For example, if your country is banning bibles and meeting together for worship, you are justified in breaking such a law.  Please pray for wisdom from the Spirit of God in how you respond.  We should do our best to obey the laws of our land!

John 3

Vs. 3, “In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  Upon witnessing Jesus’ clearing of the temple and miraculous signs at Pentecost, Nicodemus comes at night to visit Jesus.  Question: Who is Nicodemus?  Nicodemus was a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin (The Jewish ruling council).  The fact that Nicodemus came to approach Jesus at night shows a bit of trepidation.  However, Nicodemus would play an important role and even assist Joseph of Arimathea for Jesus’ burial.  The conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus (vs. 1-21) reveals foundational truths.  We must be born again (vs. 3) and this confounded Nicodemus, but Jesus was pointing to a spiritual truth (vs. 4-8).  This spiritual truth is being born again by the Spirit (wind), not by flesh (vs. 9).  Though people like Nicodemus had been given the law of God, their hearts did not submit to God (vs. 10-15).  We then are reminded of perhaps the most well known verse in the whole Bible (vs. 16).  Jesus revealed God’s love for the world and His plan for salvation (vs. 16-21).  In the latter half of our chapter, we see John the Baptist and Jesus’ ministry inevitably overlap each other (vs. 22-30).  Some of John’s disciples were concerned about Jesus influence (vs. 26).  However, John the Baptist fully understood his role (vs. 27-30) in preparing the way for the Lord.  The last section of our passage (vs. 31-36), is a beautiful declaration of Jesus and our faith.  Biblical Scholars are divided on this section as to whether this was John the Baptist speaking or John the Apostle now sharing his own words.

Regarding application…It’s Not About Me.  Vs. 30, “He must become greater; I must become less.”  What makes this such an endearing verse for me is the fact that it came from someone imperfect like you and me.  John the Baptist would be called the greatest prophet, yet he did not allow human ambition to override his perspective.  Question: How can you let Jesus be greater in your life?  For me, I struggle with how I respond to situations that don’t benefit me.  This can be shown in my words, my body actions, and heart attitude.  But I’m convicted today to not allow myself to become greater.  It’s like a muscle that we are not used to using.  But keep working on this muscle of humility!  Let us have a right perspective about who we are and how we should respond to Jesus in our life!

John 2

Vs. 11, “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.”  In a small village north of Nazareth in Cana, Jesus performs His first recorded miracle (vs. 1-12).  Jesus, Mary, and the disciples that have been called up to this point, attend with Jesus (vs. 1-2).  It is believed this must have been a close family friend or relative for Jesus to attend.  Weddings in those days lasted a week and for them to run out of food or wine would have been disastrous towards their reputation.  Question: Why was the first miracle about turning water into wine?  Wine then was not used the same way we consume wine.  To satisfy thirsty people without making them drunk, wine was diluted with water to as much as only one-tenth of its strength.  Due to lack of clean and pure water, wine mixed with water was also a safer option.  This miracle served as a sign to begin revealing the glory of the Son of God.  The next section of our chapter deals with Jesus clearing the temple for the first time (vs. 12-25).  Notice how the two incidents in our chapter focus on replacing; water to wine and the old temple with the new temple in Jesus (vs. 21).  The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke) record the cleansing of the temple at the end of Jesus’ ministry.  However, it is likely Jesus cleansed the temple twice; once at the start of His ministry the second one at the end.  The clearing of the temple was significant because there were corrupt practices going on.  The three major festivals (Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles) asked pilgrims to bring animal sacrifices.  Sadly, many were making an exorbitant profit by providing animals for sacrifice to pilgrims who could not bring their own.  Here we see Jesus fulfill the zeal that is prophesied about the Messiah (Psalm 69:9).

Regarding application…Cleaning Our Temple.  Vs. 16, “To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”  The Temple of Jerusalem was the place where God resided.  Jesus would give a new meaning to the temple as He revealed that He would be the new Temple (vs. 19).  Though the crowds and the disciples did not understand the meaning at that time, they would later realize what Jesus was referring to.  Certainly today, the temple of God has a completely new meaning, for we the church are the temple of God (Ephesians 2:19-22).  Just as the Jewish people began to corrupt God’s dwelling place, the application for us is to ensure we spend some time clearing out things in our lives that do not bring glory to His name.  As we begin a new week, consider items in our lives that we need to clean out!

John 1

Vs. 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  In a reference to Genesis, John’s opening statement is a wondrous lesson on theology (Study of God)!  Jesus is the Word and He always existed (vs. 1-2); He is eternal.  Through the Word, God created the universe (vs. 3).  The Greek word for Word is Logos.  Jesus is the Word and that Word is described as light shining in the darkness (vs. 5).  The Apostle John takes time to expound upon John the Baptist’s role as a witness to the light (vs. 6-9; 15-34) and testimony to Jesus’ identity as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. We are presented with a deep theological understanding of the incarnation; Word became flesh (vs. 10-14).  This is where we are reminded Jesus was 100% human, yet 100% Deity.  The Apostle John also records to us the calling of Jesus’ first disciples as John the Baptist points out Jesus to them (vs. 35-42).  Andrew, Peter, James and John (Mark 1:16-20) are the ones who are called here in this passage.  In our last section (vs. 43-50), Jesus moves onto Galilee where He calls Philip and Nathanael.  Jesus’ interaction with Nathanael reveals His omniscience (knowing everything).  Jesus also give a reference to the “stairway to heaven” (Genesis 28) with the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man (Stairway) (vs. 51)

Regarding application…What Do You See?  Vs. 9, “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”  This past week, I was cutting my hair in the shower with a mirror.  The light bulb in the bathroom decides to go out right in the middle of my haircut.  Needless to say, it was much more difficult!  This reminded me how much we take for granted the light that is provided to us.  Certainly, I’m not just talking about the modern day technology and the advancement of light bulbs.  We have the light of Christ in our life.  Yet, I wonder how often we try to navigate life without the light of Christ being a lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105).  We need light to find our way in the dark.  We need Jesus to find our way in our spiritual journey.  As we look to the light that gives light, what do you see?  Take time today to consider and be thankful to how Jesus the light of the world brings light to your life.

Introduction – John

The Gospel of John is the most unique out of the four Gospels.  The Apostle John (the fisherman) wrote his gospel over thirty years after the other three (Matthew, Mark & Luke) were written.  Consider this Gospel a sort of commentary and response to those detractors who questioned who Jesus really was.  The Gospel of John was written the 90’s A.D.  The audience whom John wrote his letter was to apply to all.  He wanted to emphasize Jesus as the Son of God and that salvation came through Jesus (John 20:31).  The word “believe” is mentioned approximately 100 times to reinforce saving faith in the Christian life.  Most scholars believe John wrote his gospel in Ephesus before the epistles and the book of Revelation.  John is known for recording Jesus’ seven “I Am” statements identifying who He is.

Matthew 17

Vs. 2, “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”  We open our chapter with Jesus revealing His glory to inner three (Peter, James & John) on the mount of Transfiguration (vs. 1-13).  Question: What is the Transfiguration?  It comes from the Greek language that gives us our modern day word: Metamorphosis.  All three Synoptic Gospels record this event.  The Transfiguration is a special glimpse into the glory of the Lord as Jesus reveals His true identity.  The presence of Moses (law) & Elijah (prophets) come to bear witness of Jesus’ identity and mission.  Once again, Jesus admonishes them not to reveal what they have seen (vs. 9); at least until He has done His work on the cross. Jesus reminds them the prophecy of Malachi (Malachi 4:5-6) concerning Elijah coming first is fulfilled through John the Baptist (Luke 1:17).  When they come down the mountain they encounter a failed exorcism (vs. 14-23).  Jesus uses this as an opportunity to give us a fresh understanding of what true faith looks like (vs. 20-21).  Sadly, we are reminded that Jesus’ death will come about because of betrayal of the worst kind; betrayal of their own in Judas Iscariot (vs. 22-23).  The Temple tax incident (vs. 24-27) teaches us that though Jesus being the Son of God (vs. 25) does not have to pay it, He does so to prevent the stumbling of others.

Regarding application…Father’s Approval.  Vs. 5, “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”  These words from the Father were identical to His affirmation when Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:17).  The caveat is, “Listen to him!”  As children, we sought so hard to find the approval of our parents.  Sometimes they were disappointed, other time we were disappointed.  But deep down inside, we want to hear the praises and approval of our parents.  Jesus was obedient; even obedient to death on the cross (Philippians 2:8).  For my leisure reading, I am reading Peter Criss’ biography (the drummer of the rockband Kiss).  He shares a story when they finally performed in MSG (Madison Square Garden) and he had his parents and family attend.  As they performed he saw the tears and proud looks of his parents and it brought this 30 plus year old successful man to tears as he played the drums that night.  No matter how old we are, we want to make our loved ones proud of us.  Just as the Father approves His son Jesus, He also does for us.  Question: Why?  Because we listened to His son and put our faith in Him.  Jesus’ blood brings the approval of our Father in Heaven.  Thank you Father for loving us so much!

Revelation 22

Vs. 7, “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”  Crystal Lewis sang that wonderful song People Get Ready that reminds us Jesus is coming soon.  A climatic and fitting end, not only the book of Revelation but the whole Bible!  Notice, that Jesus is coming soon but there is an addition; He is coming to judge us according to our deeds.  Certainly, this doesn’t mean that if we are saved our lack of good deeds will negate salvation.  Bear in mind, we will be accountable for our deeds good or otherwise.  But the more striking fact is that Jesus is the one who will judge.  This puts him on par with God and is again John’s way of reminding us the deity of Christ.  John ensures to remind us that the testimony of Jesus (vs. 16), himself (vs. 8) and the Spirit and the bride (vs. 17) are all witnesses to the testimony of God’s word to us.  Our part is to be ready and not live impure lives (vs. 12-15).

Regarding application…Open Call.  Vs. 17, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”  Our Father in heaven has given us an open call and encouragement to come.  Jesus calls us to Himself, but the Holy Spirit and the bride (which is the church) are all included in this open call to a world that is lost.  When we love and share our lives to a world that is lost, we are beckoning a world to Jesus.  I exhorted the members of Roots Ministry today to “Share Your Life” with others.  Question: What can you do this week to herald the Good News?

Revelation 21

Vs. 1, “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”  What a wonderful hope we have for our future!  The promise of a new heaven and earth (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22) now will come to fruition.  Question: Can you imagine a place with no more tears, death, mourning, crying or pain (vs. 4)?  This is the place where those who softened their heart and put all trust in the Savior will reside, and quite a comparison to those who do not (vs. 6-8).  The bride of Christ (the church) is the new city Jerusalem.  We see the combining of the OT saints to the church with the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles (vs. 11-14).  In other words, the faithful will have an eternal reunion!  As John takes his measuring rod, we should be stunned by the size and of the new heavens (vs. 15-21).  Think about it; 12,000 stadia is equivalent to 1500 miles long, wide and the kicker, tall!  That’s a gargantuan new heavens!  The beauty will take our breath away because it will reflect the glory of God.  It’s quite notable that there is no specific temple (vs. 22), for the whole place is the temple of God.  There will be no need for the sun or moon, for God’s glory will provide the light (vs. 23-24).

Regarding application…God Dwells with Us.  Vs. 3, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”  Jesus is called Immanuel (God with us) and now we literally will have God dwell physically with us again (Garden of Eden).  While we find much comfort in the promised Holy Spirit, dwelling with God in the new heavens and earth is going to be amazing!  I think back to my young childhood on those scary nights where the darkness would seem to overwhelm me.  The noises and sounds of the wind would cause me to run to my mom’s room and beg her to sleep in her bed that night.  The safety I felt like a child was wonderful, but imagine brothers and sisters that it will be incredibly amplified when we are finally dwelling with our God!

Revelation 20

Vs. 2, “He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.”  The thousand years interpretation have come down to two main camps: premillennialists and amillennialists.  Premillennialists adhere to a literal thousand years reign of Christ on earth while the amillennialists look at it as more symbolic.  There is biblical support for both and it can get tricky because the structure of understanding of Revelation is affected with either interpretation.  I adhere to the premillennial camp and look to the order of Revelation like this: 7 year Tribulation, Beast and False prophet put into the lake of fire after the war of Armageddon, Satan bound for a thousand years and during this time Christ physically reigns on earth with those who lived during the Tribulation and the dead in Christ will rise (vs. 4) and reign with Christ at this time.  Than at the end of the thousand years, Satan will be unleashed one last time (vs. 7-10) and makes a revolt but loses.  At this time, we are given the scene of the great white throne (vs. 11-15) where all unbelievers will be judged and the book of life opened.  Bear in mind, believers are not judged at the great white throne, rather they stand before God at the judgment seat (Romans 14:10, II Corinthians 5:10).

Regarding application…Being Deceived.  Vs. 8, “and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.”  It’s hard to conceive this.  It’s important to bear in mind those who are being deceived by Satan at the end of the thousand years are those who lived with Christ, some up to a thousand years.  Remember that at the war of Armageddon, the unbelievers were destroyed (Revelation 19:21).  Yet, even without Satan’s influence for a thousand years, we see the depravity of sin nature.  There are two different people, those who were resurrected with Christ and those who continued to live during the thousand years.  Sadly, there will be those who will lead a final revolt with Satan (vs. 7-10).  This is quite humbling for all of us as we remember how important it is to not be deceived by the lies of the enemy.  Question: Are there any lies you are believing in today?