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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Unjustly Persecuted For the Lord - Act 21:15-35

Here is the audio recording for Acts 21:15-35 taught during our Sunday School hour at Village Bible Church.

Unjustly Persecuted For the Lord - Acts 21:15-35

There are three things we can learn from this passage:

1. Believers Should Expect False Accusations and Unjust Persecution
Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:20-21

The Lord promised we would have accusations and persecution but didn’t promise he would deliver us from all of them. Paul had been delivered out of hands of evil men and from jail but not this time. There would be no divine intervention anymore.

We should also understand that we won’t always be protected. But God is sovereign and will accomplish his will in us through it all.

2. Believers Should Understand that the World is Not Their Home
1 Peter 2:11, Hebrews 11:13

We should not think that we are of this world. We are pilgrims. As pilgrims we shouldn’t be too comfortable and think that we are of this world.

" “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Talk about countercultural. In a world where everything revolves around yourself —protect yourself, promote yourself, comfort yourself, and take care of yourself —Jesus says, “Crucify yourself. Put aside all self-preservation in order to live for God’s glorification, no matter what that means for you in the culture around you.” " David Platt, Counterculture

3. Believers Should Be Steadfast in Proclaiming the Gospel in spite of the Cost. 1 Corinthians 4:1-14; 2 Corinthians 4:10-12

The mission of sharing the Gospel is for all of us no matter what is our daily job. We are called to be God’s witnesses (martyrs). There is a cost in serving the Lord but this shouldn’t really matter to us because we belong to the Lord. Jesus paid the greatest cost. If he did, why should we expect to pay less?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Martyrdom of Saints

The martyrdom of saints is something we have recently seen nowadays. It has become more real for us as new technology has shown us in our times. Yet, the martyrdom of believers isn't something new at all. Fox's book of Martyrs documents the lives of believers who have been killed from their faith. The martyrdom of saints has been part as long as the people of God (people of faith in Yahweh) have been part of this world.

Hebrews 11 is the chapter dedicated to those with faith in God (and Christ) whose lives have been persecuted and eventually experienced martyrdom. The life of a witness (martyr) of Christ considers persecution and death as part of faith. The Apostle Paul expressed this in Philippians 1:21: "For it has been given to you on Christ's behalf not only to believe in Him, but to suffer for Him." (ESV) Paul's desire was to be like Christ, including his suffering and death (Philippians 3:10).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer who also died for his faith said:

"Jesus says that every Christian has his own cross waiting for him, a cross destined and appointed by God. Each must endure his allotted share of suffering and rejection. But each has a different share: some God deems worthy of the highest form of suffering, and gives them the grace of martyrdom, while others he does not allow to be tempted above that they are able to bear. But it is the one and the same cross in every case."

"Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer. In fact it is a joy and a token of his grace." - The Cost of Discipleship

My son and I have been reading and discussing Pilgrim's Progress on a weekly basis. This week the chapters dealt with a man called Faithful. Faithful and Christian walked together for a while until they reach Vanity Fair. There they both experience persecution for their faith, are incarcerated and Faithful is unjustly put to death. Here is brief description of it:

"And so they did. Faithful was condemned to be returned to his prison cell and there to be put to death by the cruelest method they could think of. So they led him away, to do with him according to their law. First they scourged him, then they beat him, then they lanced his flesh with knives. After that, they stoned him with stones, then pricked him with their swords, and last of all they burned him to ashes at the stake. And so Faithful came to his earthly end. Now I noticed a chariot and a couple of horses waiting for Faithful beyond the crowd. As soon as his adversaries executed him he was taken up into the chariot, and carried directly up through the clouds with the sound of a trumpet, taking the most direct route to the Celestial Gate. "

Christian's Response clearly tells us that the death of any believer is not the end. It is a sign of judgment of those who oppose the Gospel and a sign of salvation for believers.

"As he went he said, "Well, Faithful, you have faithfully professed unto your Lord, with whom you will be blessed. When faithless ones, with all their worthless delights are crying out under their hellish plights, sing, Faithful, sing, and let your name survive. For though they have killed you, yet you are alive." "

Our 21 young brothers who were just martyred in Lybia are not dead, they are alive more than ever. So are the many others before then (all of Apostles except one were martyrs as well). They are part of the chorus of believers who call upon God to avenge their blood. (Revelation 5:9-11) The time for it isn't until the number of saints is complete whose lives will also be killed by evil men.

Until then we join them in their prayer to the Lord to come quickly and execute his righteous judgment. At the same time, let us live with the sobering thought that are lives are not our own and could well experience persecution and death because of our faith. It isn't a shame. It is the greatest privilege.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Ready to Die For the Lord - Acts 21:1-14

Here is the audio recording for Acts 21:1-14 taught during our Sunday School hour at Village Bible Church.

Paul left Ephesus and now heads to Jerusalem.
Commentators see a parallel between our Lord Jesus and Paul. Both do a final journey to Jerusalem (see Luke 9:22,44; 18::31-34 and compare with Acts 20:22-24; 21:4; 21:10-11) where suffering is expected by the hands of Jews.

This section from Acts 21:17-23:35 (covering less than 12 days ) marks the end of Paul's 3rd missionary journey and the beginning of his imprisonment.

We also see the tension between God's guidance and human decision-making in light of warnings given by others. We also see how in Christ the community of faith is bound in fellowship. These are important for us today as well. It will raise questions about our commitment to the service of Christ and to the fellowship of the saints.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Dying Bodies, Renewing Spirits

In the past week or so I have been thinking about an old friend and brother in Christ. He has been diagnosed Alzheimer's and it's progressing. I met this dear brother over 20 years where we were part of our youth. I was one of the leaders. He and two of his siblings are also my friends. He is a very kind and soft spoken man but could get irritated easily. Yet I enjoyed seeing his response to things that bothered him because he was never threatening. Often we spent time in our Monday Bible studies and in many social church events. Several memories have come to mind. One of them was when he showed me a binder with all the Bible studies I had given during our Monday night. It showed me his desire to grow and learn about the Lord. We often had jog-athons at our church and he had an incredible stamina and resistance. He left me behind. What I admire most about this brother in Christ is his faithfulness to the Lord. This faithfulness is evident in everything he has done. He spent over 20 years in his job and about 13 years in the church he is still a member.

I have been praying for him, his family and desired to see him. This weekend we went to the church he attends to see him. He was glad to see us. We sat with him and his family during the service. After the service we went out to eat with his family. We had short conversations but noticed that he said things about his past that I had no part in. He mixed both the present with the past. Nevertheless, I enjoyed being with him again. Physically his body appears unchanged yet his mind is not the same. What struck of our visit was how his first born daughter showed affection to him. She often leaned close and touch his hair with much affection. The love of her daughter was evident. I can't imagine the trials that lie ahead of them and yet I know they are in good hands.

As we left our time with them I was grateful to have spent this time with my friend and his family. I continued to pray for him as the day went on. I couldn't grasp the whole experience. Here is a friend, brother in Christ that I have known for so long in a struggle with Alzheimer's. I would have never thought that this would come to pass.

On Sunday my wife and I were reading 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 in the evening and it was encouraging.

"That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever." (TLB)

We know our bodies are dying. But our bodies are not all there is in us, if they were, it would be hopeless. God has given us a spirit that has been endowed with eternal life through Christ. It renews daily. It groans to be free from our frail bodies. And yet, the sufferings we will experience in our life are real. They will hurt. But they will be temporary. All our troubles will end. We don't focus on them but on the "joys in heaven which we have not yet seen." The joys of heaven "will last forever."

I look forward to spend more time with my friend. We may not spend much here on earth but we will certainly enjoy it in heaven where everything will be brand new. And that is only the beginning. We look forward to the resurrection when we will be clothed with new bodies. (See 2 Corinthians 5) Here lies our future hope.