Monday, February 27, 2012

When You Have Lost Your Joy

Read Restoring the Song by Jerry Rankin.

Introduction to the Book of Acts

A. OVERVIEW

• Sequel to the gospels (5th historical book in the NT)


The gospels show Jesus who died for our sins. Acts shows the power of the sanctifying Holy Spirit.

The gospels show what Jesus began to do. Acts shows the Holy Spirit continuing that work.

The gospels show the crucified and risen Savior. Acts portrays Him as the ascended and exalted Lord.

In the gospels Jesus teaches. In Acts the apostles teach.

• Forms a background and setting for most of Paul’s writings

But it is Luke that we have to thank for the coherent record of Paul’s apostolic activity. Without [Acts], we should be incalculably poorer. Even with it, there is much in Paul’s letters that we have difficulty understanding; how much more there would be if we had not Book of Acts.”- F.F. Bruce

• Provides basic information about the early church (tensions, persecutions, theological problems, gestations)
• The first and best book of church growth!
• Peter and Paul are the main characters
• Key Word – witness (30+ times)
• Key Verse – Acts 1:8
• A bridge to the epistles (letters)


B. AUTHOR

• Luke the physician (see notes from The Gospel of Luke)
• Luke may have used three sources. First, his own experiences, seen clearly in the “we” sections (16:10-40; 20:5-28:31). Second, Paul was a source. Third, Luke contacted other witnesses (20:4-5; 21:15-19). During Paul’s incarceration Luke was free to investigate in Casesarea (24:27; Lk 1:1-3)


C. PURPOSE – to show the continued work of Jesus through His church by the power of the Spirit


• Resumes history where the gospels leave off.
• Acts records the continuing work of Christ. Note the last word in the book -  “unhinderdly.” Acts 28:31 is most literally translated “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness unhinderdly.” So, the book of Acts shows us that the work of Jesus is to continue on.
• Title – The Acts of the Holy Spirit

Luke’s great aim was to show the expansion of Christianity, to show how that religion which began in a little corner of Palestine had in a little more than 30 years reached Rome.- William Barclay

The Empire, which gave the varied peoples of Europe and the Mediterranean a common language and permitted free movement of persons and ideas, was essential to the spread of Christianity. Christians preached and wrote in Greek. Missionaries freely crossed borders that in later nationalistic ages would have blocked their passage. Chrisitans found a hunger unsatisfied by the Greek philosophies. God was at work, preparing the world for the spread of the gospel. - The Revell Bible Dictionary


D. BASIC PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION

• Acts is a transitional book.

Between the gospels and the epistles.
Between the ministry of Christ and that of the apostles.
Between the focus on Israel and the law vs. the church and grace

I like to think of Acts as a revolving door. A hinged door is a one-way door, but a revolving door is designed to allow people to go in and out at the same time. The book of Acts is like that – Old Testament Judaism is going out and the New Testament church is coming in. Both are there at the same time for a while. But don’t live in a revolving door! It is not designed for habitation, it is designed for transition – for movement.

In the same way, we should not rely exclusively on the book of Acts for doctrine and teaching. It is not designed for that. It is a book of history – of fast moving events, of transition. So it is important that we read it and compare it with the doctrinal books of the Bible. Acts is designed to stir us up and encourage us and bless us and to show us what God intends to do through the church – but it is not primarily a book of doctrine. - Ray Stedman


• Acts is more descriptive than prescriptive.

All of the events in Acts are not necessarily a pattern for every generation. For example, all liars are not immediately struck dead today (5:1-11), nor are all prisoners released by angels (12:7), nor will all believers experience the rushing wind, fiery tongues, and speaking in tongues (2:45; 4:34). The doctrinal books are the prescriptive ones, prescribing for us how to live today. The historical books are descriptive ones.

• Acts introduces the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit introduces was bestowed in a spectacular manner on four occasions in the book of Acts, having to do with the entrance of different groups into the Church. God indicates His approval of each group by a special manifestation of His Spirit:
:
 The original Jewish believers (ch. 2)
 The Samaritans (ch. 8)
 The Gentiles (ch. 10)
 Old Testament saints, or half-taught disciples of John the Baptist (ch. 19)


The book has often been called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is referred to more than fifty times in this one book, particularly in relation to baptism with the Holy Spirit, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and being led by the Holy Spirit. Acts begins with Luke’s second account of the ascension of the Lord and terminates with Paul’s residence in Rome as a prisoner, covering a period of more than thirty years. – Scofield


Introducing Dr. Luke:

• His name only mentioned in the NT in Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Pm 24
• Luke refers to himself in the “we” sections of Acts (16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16) – thus a travel companion of the apostle Paul
• Luke a doctor and Paul’s personal physician. Perhaps they had known each other since college days at the University of Tarsus. Both books have a number of medical and nautical terms. Some speculate that Luke may have been a ship doctor.
• Probably a Gentile (Col. 4:10-14)
• Writes with the mind of a polished historian, the heart of a loving physician, and the beauty of a gifted artist
• Luke was in Caesarea during Paul’s two-year imprisonment (Acts 27:1) and may have conducted his investigation during that time. If so the book must have been written between A.D. 58 and 60.


His writing:

• The language is some of the NT’s most beautiful: polished literary Greek, well-trained, skilled in the use of language

Note: Peter wrote just the opposite. He a rough fisherman was not polished nor very educated. The Holy Spirit used individuals and did not obscure their personalities; therein is no reducing of the Scripture. They are providentially prepared vessels to give a particular emphasis.

• His method – very orderly

Whereas the other gospels are closer to the genre of a Greco-Roman biography, Luke’s gospel is the first volume of a two-volume work, Luke-Acts, which is in many ways closer to a Greco-Roman history than to a biography. (Keener)

• His emphasis – very first
• His motive – very certain


Luke substantiates the certainty and accuracy of his work with four reasons:

1. His concern with early origins and eyewitnesses
2. His aim to be comprehensive
3. His aim to be chronological
4. His aim to be accurate (J. Hayford)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Pathway to Peace in the Home

Deuteronomy 6:1-10

I trust there are none here present, who profess to be followers of Christ who do not also practice prayer in their families. We do not have a positive commandment for it, but we believe that it is so much in accord with the genius and spirit of the gospel, and that it is so commended by the example of the saints, that the neglect thereof is a strange inconsistency. - Charles Spurgeon

If therefore our houses be houses of the Lord, we shall for that reason love home, reckoning our daily devotion the sweetest of our daily delights; and our family-worship the most valuable of our family comforts. . . . A church in the house will be a good legacy, nay, it will be a good inheritance, to be left to your children after you.- Matthew Henry

Devotions can be a time of true togetherness when family members share questions, doubts, thoughts, problems, and answers. Hearing one another pray or learning verses of Scripture together regularly establishes and reinforces the fact that God is at the center of the family unit. In my opinion, the success of family devotions relies much more on the parents’ conviction to have them than it does on a specific technique or carefully chosen material. The fact of the matter is this: If you truly consider family devotions vital to you and to your children’s welfare, you will make sure it becomes an integral part of your household routine.
- Henry Brandt and Kerry Skinner, I Want to Enjoy My Children


Exposition of Deuteronomy 6:1-10

1. The purpose of the home – produce adults and children who love the Lord

2. The prosperity of the home – enjoying the blessing of God’s presence and goodness

3. The provision of the home – the Word of God

4. The pattern in the home – Dad and Mom have the Word of God on their hearts

5. The practice in the home – Dad and Mom teach the Bible to their children

6. The place of instruction for the home – everywhere you are inside and outside



MAKING YOUR HOME A CENTER OF WORSHIP

God wants your home to be a center of worship as well. How does that happen? Anyone can incorporate the practical suggestions listed below to offer the sacrifice of praise and make your home a worship center. Whatever you domestic status – whether you have a believing spouse or family, if you live alone, or are a single parent – the key element is in your own personal response to God’s call.


KNEEL (Ps. 95:6)

SING (Ps. 95:1)

INVITE HIM TO DINNER (Ps. 145:21)

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO DEVELOP THEIR OWN DEVOTIONAL LIFE (Ps. 79:13)

PRAY . . WHILE FEEDING ON THE WORD (Matt. 18:20)


What a heritage to pass along to our children . . . memories of home intertwined with memories of praise and laughter and song and the strong, undergirding arms of the living God. (Jack Hayford, “Making Your Home a Worship Center”)


If we want to bring up a godly family, who shall be a seed to serve God when our heads are under the clods of the valley, let us seek to train them up in the fear of God by meeting together as a family for worship. - Charles Spurgeon

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Passing of an American Legend - Whitney Houston

American has mourned the death of Whitney Houston this past week.

In high school, I enjoyed Houston's music. I well remember in 1988 purchasing a single LP record (yes, record) of Houston's single One Moment in Time. I must have played that song 100+ times. The song became the theme song of the 1988 summer Olympics, and she performed it live that year at The Grammy's. Later, she recorded Dolly Parton's song I Will Always Love You, making it the most selling female single song in history. It became Whitney's signature song. Later, the soundtrack for The Preacher's Wife became the largest selling gospel album of all time. In 2009 the Guinness Book of World Records called her the most awarded female artist of all time.

I still enjoy occasionally listening to some of Houston's hits (though I am more aware of the words of the lyrics!) like Houston's Where Do Broken Hearts Go?, Didn't We Almost Have it All?, and I Believe in You and Me.

Few performers in our age have the raw talent of Whitney Houston. Many singers sound good on a recording but just ok in person. Some depend on external props to keep the crowd's attention. All Whitney needed was her talent. Her incredibly versatile voice and her commanding presence allowed her to hold crowds of 1000's spellbound, hanging on to her next words. While much modern singing does not showcase the diverse capabilities of the instrument of the voice, Houston mastered her voice and made it her pulpit, her billboard, her fireworks show. Surely, America, pop music, and the world lost a great talent this past week.

However, Houston's life did not equal her talent. She was a big example of someone whose character was not able to match up to her abilities. Following her meteor-like rise to fame in the late 1980's and 1990's, her life became crippled with drug and alcohol abuse and poor personal choices. She married an abusive man and eventually her child's life went down the all-too familiar path of dysfunction marked by so many "celebrities." She seems to have been distracted by the incredible amount of money she made and the overwhelming fan support she received world-wide.

The last days of her life reveal the devastation of drugs, alcohol, and poor personal choices on a person's life.

As I grew older and analyzed her lyrics, I discovered a telling truth. Houston sang about the gospel of self-sufficiency. Her songs reveal a life that believed that ultimately, she could only depend upon herself. The grand imperative of humanity is found in both the Old and New Testaments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37). This love, according to Jesus, would be expressed through a life that obeys the Scriptures (John 14:21; Deut. 6:6-9). Houston's message, sadly, seems to be the antithesis. She proclaimed that she had discovered the greatest love of all - loving oneself.

I believe her life now testifies the destruction that occurs when one loves self more than God, when one loves the attractions of the world more than the values set forth by the Bible, and when one pursues riches and fame more than seeking to instill godly qualities in the lives of one's family, friends, and spheres of influence.

Here is yet another example of our world putting on a pedestal a person whose life is not worthy of imitating. Another example of a shallow life. In the end, the riches, the fame, and even the talent don't really matter. What is left at the end of life is the relationship we had with God, our family, and our friends, and how much our lives were brought in line with God's Word. The world celebrates talent; God's Word, however, praises men and women of "noble character" (Prov. 31:10). No, it won't make you rich in money, but "you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man" (Prov. 3:4). Riches last for a season; character will be rewarded for eternity.

John Quincy Adams, in a letter to his daughter about the kind of man she should marry, once wrote the following:

"Daughter! Get you and honest man for a husband and keep him honest. No matter whether he is rich, provided he be independent. Regard the honor and moral character of the man, more than all other circumstances. Think of no greatness but that of the soul, no other riches but those of the heart."

Colonel Sanders once said, "There’s no need to be the richest man in the cemetery. You can’t do any business from there." How true.

The Lord Jesus said it even better: "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26).

Her songs and singing were awesome. Her life was erratic and self-destructive.

Adrian Rogers once said, "No matter how wise or capable you are, before you leave the harbor, you'd better make sure the Captain is on board."

I can't speak of whether or not Houston ever had a relationship with Christ. That alone now determines her eternal destiny.