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Peter & John — Acts 15:1-35

Acts 15:1-33,35 NIV
[1] Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” [2] This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. [3] The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. [4] When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. [5] Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.” [6] The apostles and elders met to consider this question. [7] After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. [8] God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. [9] He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. [10] Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? [11] No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” [12] The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. [13] When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. [14] Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. [15] The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: [16] “ ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, [17] that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’— [18] things known from long ago. [19] “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. [20] Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. [21] For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” [22] Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. [23] With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. [24] We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. [25] So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— [26] men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. [27] Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. [28] It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: [29] You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell. [30] So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. [31] The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. [32] Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. [33] After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. [35] But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.

Dear God, I’m kind of surprised that this is where we see the last of Peter and John in Acts. Peter gets to be the authority that settles this dispute about circumcision and then the book becomes about Paul’s travels.

Before starting to attend Catholic Church with my wife nearly eight years ago, I never realized that They consider Peter to be the first Pope. That makes sense, I suppose. I would imagine that his life and the evolution of his beliefs and what you taught him ended up surprising him. I’m sure he didn’t expect to be the head of a church and entire movement, and I’m certain he didn’t expect that one day he would be advocating for the acceptance of Gentiles into The Way.

I guess we all evolve over time as the Holy Spirit works on us. I’ve certainly evolved. I wonder, though, how much my evolution has been tainted by the teaching of men (and I’m not just referring to males), whether they be influencers from the church or from the world. Do I have the wisdom of Peter, Paul, Judas, and Silas? Am I hearing the Holy Spirit when I make decisions based on whom I should accept and whom I should reproach?

Father, my confession is that, until I get a good, clear word from you otherwise, I will default to love and encouraging people to pursue and embrace you. We are not even close to understanding your ways. I admit that. You are too great for me to comprehend. But you have proven your love to me so I will start there and then see if I can hear your voice and let your Holy Spirit guide me from there.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2018 in Acts, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — Acts 1:16-26

Acts 1:15-26 NIV
[15] In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) [16] and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. [17] He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.” [18] (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. [19] Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) [20] “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “ ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ [21] Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, [22] beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” [23] So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. [24] Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen [25] to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” [26] Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Dear God, though it’s never mentioned, I think Peter and the apostles make a mistake here. I think they were trying too hard. I’ve mentioned this in reference to this passage before. It’s interesting to note that Matthias is never mentioned again the the Bible outside of these verses.

I think that Peter was trying too hard and trying to take upon himself the responsibility of fulfilling prophecy. Better said, he was looking to prophecy as his guide. And in the case of David’s 109th Psalm, I question how much of that was prophecy anyway. And it’s important to note that no one is recorded as disagreeing with him. John and everyone else followed his lead.

Peter did a lot of things right, but he did them when he wasn’t really trying. He healed people. He broke the ground on eating unclean food. But in the confusion of this time—in the fog of war—he tried to rush your timing. There is no way he could have foreseen what would end up happening with Paul’s conversion and subsequent apostleship. But I think this is a lesson for all of us that if we are faithful about your work then you will bring us what and who we need.

Father, I am in the midst of the time of year when we need donations at our clinic. It’s fundraising season. And I confess to you that I get fearful and my temptation is to try to force things. Help me to have the faith I need to watch your plan unfold over time. Help me to live not in denial, but in your peace. And work through me so that others might see you in everything I do and be drawn to you.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2018 in Acts, Peter and John

 

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Emails to God – Venial and Mortal Sins (Matthew 26:47-56)

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Dear God, I looked up several translations and all of them used the word “friend” in verse 50, so I assume that that is a good word for whatever the original text reads—“friend”. It would have been one thing if Jesus had said, “Do what you came for, Judas.” He could have called him any other name, frankly, but “friend” would had to have made a huge impact on Judas as Jesus said the word. I can only imagine the pain in Jesus’ eyes and voice when he said it. I can only imagine how Judas must have felt at that moment.

I heard a story yesterday about a politician who committed a little sin (Catholics would call it a venial sin), but then as things began to unravel he ended up committing some major sins, including lying to the FBI during their investigation and getting others to lie for him (we’ll call this the mortal sin). When it was all over he spent a year in federal prison.

My problem with dilineating between the two types of sin and not saying they are of equal offense to you is that the little sin that we justify to ourselves can, and will, often lead to the much larger sin, and, before we know it, things are out of control. Jesus addressed this in the sermon on the mount. He addressed it by saying that the lustful eye is as good as committing adultery. He said that hate is as equal to murder. Allowing the little sin into our heart will simply give the sin a place to grow. In Judas’ case, he allowed his frustration with Jesus to grow into a hatred for Jesus. Then his hatred combined with his greed and he ended up selling his allegiance and betraying the God of the universe who had called him “friend”.

Father, help me to live a pure life. The last week or so I have been walking around with this little check in my spirit, and I can’t figure out where it is coming from. I keep examining my life to see if there is something I am doing, or not doing, that is bothering my conscience. I can’t think of what it is, but there is something there. Please reveal whatever is haunting me to my conscious self so that I might deal with it, repent of it, if necessary, and move on in a right relationship with you. I don’t want to allow anything to grow in me that isn’t of you.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2012 in Matthew

 

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