September 29, 2019 Begin with the End in Mind

Begin with the End in Mind

Without a destination in mind, meandering from one point to another will take at least twice the time and cost at least twice the budget. Moral: plan your route before you begin your trip.

God does. Judges 13.1-12, Jeremiah 1.5, and John 3.27 state a progression of events showing that God births every child with His mission in mind, selecting only the appropriate DNA from father (Proverbs 23.22a) and mother (Proverbs 23.25b) that will prepare the child to complete His mission. This explains why, even, identical twin siblings mostly choose different professions.

God chooses us individually; later, God calls us specifically; throughout, God brings us the education and experiences of preparation in appropriate scope and sequence. Parents, educators, and employers must ask the two questions Samson’s father asked the Angel: what is the child’s mission?; how shall we prepare the child? (Judges 13.1-12) Thereafter, we must trust that God is, in fact, leading the child’s development for His mission. This is God’s statement in Proverbs 29.11-13. Acknowledge that God has a good plan in mind, and, then, respond to His encouragement to inquire about it and agree with it! Paraphrasing Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard: life is lived forward but understood backward (www.quora.com). How do you see God leading in your past?

As we look back over Apostle Paul’s life, we see God preparing him for His mission of proclaiming Jesus (John 14.6; 1 Corinthians 2.4-5) to the Jews and Gentiles (Colossians 2.8-10), as his journeys are recounted in the Acts of the Holy Spirit in the Kingdom of God and through his thirteen books of the New Testament (ibid; I include Hebrews as number fourteen.) God chose Paul; God called Paul; God brought Paul to accomplish His mission, which Paul summarizes in Acts 26.16-18 and expresses completion in 2 Timothy 4.6-8.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary states that Paul was born about the same time as Jesus. Scholars believe Jesus’ birth occurred between 6-4 B.C. (www.livescience.com). Some reason Jesus’ birth at this time because of the Bible story of Herod the Great’s infanticide just before he died in 4 B.C. Other scholars have correlated Jesus’ birth “Star of Bethlehem” with a “slow- moving comet, which Chinese observers recorded in 5 B.C.” Astronomer Dave Reneke’s computer model timed the “Star” to the bright alignment of Venus and Jupiter on June 17, 2 B.C. You get the point: Paul was born about 4 B.C.

Paul was the name given for use in the Gentile world. Saul was his Hebrew name given by his father, a Jewish immigrant living in Tarsus. He had acquired Roman citizenship in one of several ways, which meant that his son was also a Roman citizen (Easton’s Bible Dictionary). God knew this passport would facilitate Paul’s travels, especially to Rome, for evangelism. So, you see that even parents may become servants of God’s plan for their progeny.

Paul describes his father as a Pharisee (Acts 23.6) from the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3.5). Strong sectarian beliefs of father and mother moulded Paul’s character from his youth, as he states in Philippians 3.6: “concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (ibid). God birthed Paul to parents who, without knowledge of God’s mission, prepared him for an introduction to Jesus on the road near Damascus (Acts 9.5, 22.8).

Paul’s primary years were in the rich educational environment of Tarsus. A famous university was there, “higher in reputation even than the universities of Athens and Alexandria, the only others that then existed” (ibid). At age 13 (9 A.D.), Paul was sent for rabbinical studies to Jerusalem. He became a student of “the celebrated rabbi Gamaliel, and here [Paul] spent many years in an elaborate study of the Scriptures and of the many questions concerning them with which the rabbis exercised themselves” (ibid). Rabbi’s were ministers, teachers, and lawyers…all in one. God gave Paul the best of secular and religious education in preparation for His mission.

Paul returned to Tarsus after his studies and remained there until just after Jesus was Crucified in 30 or 33 A.D. (When did Jesus Die? The Year, Day & Time, christianity.com, April 21, 2010). Paul was curious to learn “the particulars regarding the crucifixion, and the rise of the new sect of the ‘Nazarenes’” (ibid). Do you see how God was filling in Paul’s knowledge which the Holy Spirit would make understandable (1 Corinthians 2.9-12) for appealing to the Jews (Hebrews, especially 9.22-10.18) and debating with the philosophers of the day (Acts 17.22-31)? God ensures that His servants are well resourced!

God’s plan and its fulfillment began to make sense to Paul during the first three days after he was blinded by the light brighter than the noonday Sun. He thought deeply about Jesus’ words (Acts 9.3-6) in connection with his new knowledge of the Nazarene sect in the context of his rabbinical studies of the Old Testament, especially Deuteronomy 18.15-22 about the Prophet. This was the first of many conversations with Jesus (Galatians 1.12, 1 Corinthians 15.3-8, 2 Corinthians 12.1, 1 Thessalonians 4.15-18).

After Paul’s baptism (Acts 9.18) and some days with followers of Christ in Damascus, even preaching Christ in the synagogues (verse 20) under the threat of death (verses 23-25), he fled to Arabia (Galatians 1.17) for three years. “The historian passes over the incident. It is a mysterious pause, a moment of suspense, in the apostle’s history, a breathless calm, which ushers in the tumultuous storm of his active missionary life” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).

Paul had lots of knowledge to understand from the Holy Spirit before he received the wisdom to use it for evangelizing the peoples to whom the Holy Spirit would send him (John 3.8). After briefly visiting the Apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 9.28-30), Paul returned to Tarsus, probably to share the Good News with his devout father and mother. God began; God prepared; God’s end! God’s mission was engaged!

Begin with the End in Mind 190929
Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2019. www.sozoclass.com.

September 22, 2019 Gospel Conversation in the Kingdom of God

Gospel Conversations in the Kingdom of God

In Philippians 2.7, Paul infers that all mankind are servants of God, with Jesus as our example (see John 1.14Leviticus 25.42, 55Psalm 119.91, 125 also). The Centurion, whose servant Jesus healed by spoken word, describes the attitude of a servant, in Matthew 8.9. [His words present the interesting question: are your words your servants?] Servants are important for accomplishing the work of the Master.

Deacon Philip was such a servant. He is introduced as a man with a “‘good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom’” (Acts 6.3). He is called “the evangelist” (Acts 8.5, Amplified Bible, 2015) because he went to a city in Samaria after Stephen was stoned to death for his witness to Jesus (Acts 6.8-7.60). There, he preached John 14.6, that Jesus is Lord of All and proved his words with miracles (Matthew 10.7-8). “For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8.7-8).

Then, he heard his Master’s new assignment: return to Jerusalem and walk down the road in the hot desert between toward Gaza (Acts 8.26). While walking Southwest from Jerusalem, Philip was passed by many travelers, including a royal official from Ethiopia. As he passed by, Philip’s Master instructed him to run alongside and listen (Acts 8.27-30).

“‘Do you understand what you are reading’”, was the question prompted by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10.19-20). Thus, began another Gospel Conversation (Acts 8.6-8). Philip did not have to create the context; the Holy Spirit injected him into a context of time, location, and person chosen by the Holy Spirit, not by happenstance.

So, Philip began at the location of the Ethiopian official’s query and revealed the past, present, and future of Jesus (Acts 8.35). The Holy Spirit knew the official would be stumped by the passage and wanted him to clearly understand the message he was to take to Queen Candace and her royal court. Thus, the Gospel of God’s salvation through His only Son was spread into Ethiopia.

Philip, then, baptized the treasury official by immersion into“‘the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’” (Matthew 28.19; Philippians 2.9-11Hebrews 13.8). The Greek word for baptism is baptizo and is contrasted from another word for baptism, bapto, which is practiced by some denominations. Baptizo means to submerge, like one would a cucumber into a briny solution until it becomes a pickle. Bapto means to wash, like one would a cucumber from the garden before serving it for dinner (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, g0907 and g0911).

Thus, another of Philip’s assignments was complete, but there were more to come. Suddenly, Philip is in Azotus (Greek; Ashdod, Hebrew; Acts 8.39-40). [Some say that this was the second act of teleportation in the Bible. The first was recorded in John 6.16-21I might proffer Luke 4.30 and John 8.59 as others.] Philip preached along the coast until he arrived at Caesarea Maritima, which was or became his residence (Acts 21.8). [Apostle Paul would be brought for trial at Caesarea Maritima because it was the capital of Judea and residence of the Roman governors (‘prefects’-Pilate, AD 26-36 or ‘proconsuls’-Felix, AD 52-60). Caesarea Maritima had been constructed by Herod the Great. It was the largest artificial harbor on the eastern Mediterranean Seacoast (Amplified Bible, 2015, Note).

How did Philip know the bidding of the Holy Spirit? Acts 6.3 reveals his abiding relationship with Him. Consider God’s reminder of this reality in Haggai 2.5, referencing Exodus 19.4-6, 45-46; 33.12-14; 34.8-9. Jesus reminds us of this in John 14.26 and 16.13-15.

Paul’s encouragement in 1 Thessalonians 5.17 (“pray without ceasing”) probably described Philip’s continuous dialogue with the Holy Spirit. Philip had learned to walk with his “Parakletos” (Greek for “Helper” {John 14.16}; Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance g3875). This is God’s encouragement through Jeremiah 29.12-13 for understanding His plans (verse 11) for us.

Solomon gives some practically to this in Proverbs 24.3-6. This was the observable “good reputation” of Philip that was the result of the Holy Spirit giving wisdom for applying knowledge to which He has given understanding (Acts 6.3). Philip’s “good reputation” was the product of his “praying without ceasing”. The Holy Spirit led him to the knowledge he needed (John 1.9); He gave Philip understanding of this knowledge; then, He taught him how to apply this understanding with wisdom into the specific context. A good reputation in a Samaritan City, along a desert road, and from Azotus to Caesarea Maritima.

The Holy Spirit directs us to locations and for purposes of His choosing. We are servants of Most High God (Philippians 2.7)! Philip was prepared. Be prepared, for we never know when the Holy Spirit will say, “go down this street/aisle and you will meet someone with a question for which I will give you the answer.” A Gospel Conversation!

Knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and salvation are for those who obey. Note God’s emphasis of obedience in Jeremiah 7.23 NASB: “Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you..’” “‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you’” (Psalm 32.8). ““Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left’” (Isaiah 30.21).

This is just like Jesus told Nicodemus: “‘The wind blows where it wished and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’” (John 3.8). You are born of the Spirit (John 3.16; 14.6). Be led by the Holy Spirit in the Kingdom of God (Romans 8.14).

Gospel Conversations 190915

Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L Painter, 2019 www.sozoclass.com

September 8, 2019 Peter led by the Holy Spirit in the Kingdom of God

Peter led by the Holy Spirit in the Kingdom of God

Rock-solid leaders are needed during transitions from an old to a new culture. Simon from Bethsaida (neck of the entrance to the western coast of the Sea of Galilee; Easton’s Bible Dictionary, olivetree.com) was such a leader. He was the younger brother of Andrew and first cousin of James and John, sons of Zebedee and Salome, with whom he worked a business of harvesting fish from the Galilee (ibid). This was an appropriate discipline for the mission of harvesting souls for God, for which Peter was born and to which Jesus called him (Matthew 4.19; Jeremiah 1.5; Judges 13.1-12; John 3.27). We might say, likewise, that King David and Moses were prepared by leading sheep for leading, similarly willful, people for and to God.

Easton’s Dictionary identifies some distinctive characteristics that made Peter a rock-solid leader.

“’Simon was a Galilean, and he was that out and out…The Galileans had a marked character of their own. They had a reputation for an independence and energy which often ran out into turbulence. They were at the same time of a franker and more transparent disposition than their brethren in the south. In all these respects, in bluntness, impetuosity, headiness, and simplicity, Simon was a genuine Galilean. They spoke a peculiar dialect. They had a difficulty with the guttural sounds and some others, and their pronunciation was reckoned harsh in Judea. The Galilean accent stuck to Simon all through his career.’” (ibid).

Simon’s name, also, evidences his preparation for harvesting souls, for it is short for Simeon which means “‘hearing’” (ibid). Jesus acknowledges and emphasizes this in His dialogue with the disciples at Caesarea Philippi about His reputation among the people (Matthew 16.13-20). When Jesus narrowed the query to them, Peter boldly confessed Jesus as Messiah! He had heard what distinguishes between the saved and lost (John 3.16, 14.6; 1 John 4.1-3; 1 Corinthians 12.1-3). Importantly, he heard this from God! Jesus, also, calls him to “hear” His call to “‘Feed My sheep’” (John 21.15-19Jeremiah 23.4).

Jesus’ nicknaming Simon “Cephas, an Aramaic name corresponding to the Greek Petros”, explains the distinguishing element of this new culture—confessing Jesus is Lord(Romans 10.8-13). Petros means “‘a mass of rock detached from the living rock’” (ibid). Christianity was birthed in Judaism, with God at the Head of His people (Deuteronomy 7.7-8; Exodus 19.6). Jesus is our Head and “chief Cornerstone” (Isaiah 28.16; Matthew 28.43-44; 1 Peter 2.8; Ephesians 2.19-22 1.22-23).

Peter’s ‘stone’ was his confession, “You are Messiah” (Matthew 16.16-18). Firstly, confessing “Jesus is Lord” is the stone that breaks down the gates of philosophies and “traditions of men” hat oppose Christ (Colossians 2.8-10; Mark 7.9; Daniel 2.27-45).  It is the “mass” under acceleration (definition from Apple dictionary) that is directed at the feet of Implicit Assumptions of a man-made, artificial, secondary culture (Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture, 1951, p. 32) Secondly, it is the pronouncement that “‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’’ (Matthew 10.7)! When this is received by someone with like faith (John 1.12), Jesus instructs to prove it (Matthew 10.8; Luke 10.1-9, 17-20Mark 16.15-20; Ephesians 2.10)!

We see Peter ‘proving it’ in the chapters of the Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles beginning in Acts 3.6-7 which Peter explains in verse 16(specific instance) and Acts 4.12 (exemplary of the potential ‘salvation’ contained in the name ‘Jesus’).

Perhaps, Peter is remembering the “Gates of Hell” where Jesus asked and he answered, “You are Messiah [Anointed, Lord]”, thereby throwing a “mass” at the deceptions of Molech and philosophies of the rabbis of Judaism (Matthew 16.16-18; Revelation 12.11). Peter was, even, willing to stand against the traditions ofhis community, which could not save anyone eternally or temporally, and to proclaim light into the darkness of satan’s deceptions (Acts 2.38-39; 4.19-20, 29-31; 5.41; 8.18-23; 9.22-35, 36-42; 11.15-17; 15.6-11). Notice that Peter confronted the darkness of traditional Jews and, when needed, the darkness with which satan tried to divide the leaders of the young church. Peter was rock-solid!

Let me remind you how the Acts of the Holy Spirit fit into the Kingdom of God. I believe that God created mankind to take the earth back from satan’s destructive hands (Revelation 12.7-12). The earth was void and “darkness” (of satan) was on the face of the deep (Genesis 1.2a). Mankind fell for a piece of fruit (Genesis 3.1-5), but God had a plan for redeeming man and for destroying satan’s works (1 John 3.8; Jeremiah 1.10; Acts 26.18).

The Holy Spirit of God, Who hovered above the face of the deep (Genesis 1.2b), (1) would save the lost (John 16.8-11) by convincing them of the sufficiency of Jesus’ blood shed for sin (John 3.16; Hebrews 10.11-14), (2) would mature the saved into the image of Jesus (Ephesians 4.11-13) for the use of His powerful Name (Philippians 2.9-13; Luke 10.17-19), and (3) would, through those redeemed, judge and destroy satan’s works (Mark 16.15-20). Jesus describes this in John 14.15-18 & 26, 16.13-15).

God chose Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, for producing a people through whom the Holy Spirit would do His work. God proves Jacob’s capabilities as a warrior in Genesis 32.28 and confers upon Jacob the name “Israel”, meaning “God strives” (Amplified Bible, 2015, olivetree.com). Thus, God would partner with Jacob’s progeny to wage war against satan (Exodus 3.6). After God’s ‘army’ had grown large while in Egypt, God lead them to freedom and the conquest of aberrant interlopers in the land promised to Abram (Genesis 13.14-17; Judges 3.1-4).

But, when God called them to service in His spiritual ‘army’, they refused (Exodus 19.6). So, God chose the followers of Jesus to follow Him into His battles (1 Peter 2.9; Ephesians 6.12; 2 Corinthians 10.4-6). This is what God described to Nicodemus in John 3.1-8, explaining the Holy Spirit’s “signs” through Jesus in John 2.23. We see the Holy Spirit doing the same through Peter in the examples above.

Rock-solid leaders are needed during transitions from an old to a new culture. Peter was this kind of leader. We will see this through Philip and Paul in coming weeks. God’s words in Joshua 1.9 remain true for leaders today. Are you ‘rock-solid’ for the cultural transitions of the contexts into which the Holy Spirit has thrust you? He’s depending upon you. “Be strong and courageous!”

Peter Led By The Holy Spirit 190901-08 (* = update)
Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2019 www.sozoclass.com.