Simon the Magician Believes Acts 8:9-25

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 27

Acts 8:9-25

Simon the Magician Believes

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passages of Scripture.
  6. Reread them. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. The “deacon” Philip preaching in Samaria, comes across one Simon, a magician (Simon Magus) or sorcerer, who captivated many with his powerful magic. This is not slight-of-hand, but demonically powered magic.
  8. Many trust in Jesus and are baptized, including Simon. Here is the Biblical pattern, evangelism, which focuses on Jesus, conversions follow immediately, and the new believers are baptized.
  9. The apostles in Jerusalem hear of this and send Peter and John to Samaria. (Remember John, one of the sons of thunder had wanted Jesus to send down fire on Samaritans.)
  10. Peter and John prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit. This is not easily understood. Maybe the apostles expected what had happened to them on the Day of Pentecost to take place with the new Samaritan believers. It is unclear, but the apostles lay hands on and the result is the Holy Spirit was received. Did they speak in tongues, praise God?
  11. Simon observes the proceedings and wants this power and attempts to buy it. (He still has the heart of an occultist.)
  12. Peter is not impressed and sharply rebukes Simon. Peter’s words indicate he does not think that Simon is born again—this point is arguable—but Peter does give Simon an opportunity to repent.
  13. Simon’s answer indicates he still is clinging to magical thinking—wanting Peter to pray for him.

 

Saul Ravages the Church & Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 26

Acts 8:1-8

Saul Ravages the Church

and

Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria

 

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passages of Scripture.
  6. Reread them. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. After Stephen is killed and caused a “great lamentation” among the believers in Jesus—normal when loss occurs.
  8. The religious authorities turn their attention to the fledgling Church, and lead by an outraged Saul/Paul, much chaos is generated among the believers. The result is a scattering of Jesus’ followers throughout the region, and as they went, they were “preaching the word.” These are the un-named evangelists.
  9. Philip, one of the Seven, not the apostle, goes to Samaria, an area where he would not be welcome.
  10. Philip preached to the Samaritans that Jesus was the Messiah and crowds heard him gladly, surprisingly.
  11. Luke tells us that the hearers were highly impressed by seeing the signs Philip was going. (Perhaps Philip was among the “72” Jesus sent out as recorded in Luke 10.)
  12. Then we recall the time Jesus visited Samaria and the impact there as recorded in John 4. (Luke would not have known about John’s Gospel.)
  13. “Unclean spirits” came out of many Luke tells us. The impact of this would have been dramatic—ancient peoples suffered mightily from demonic oppression and possession and were virtually powerless over such evil forces. Something utterly new is seen now.
  14. Also, many were healed, and of serious organic physical conditions. This is an account of a real awakening, noted throughout Christian history as the Samaritan Awakening.
  15. There was “much joy” in Samaria.

 

The Stoning of Stephen, Acts 7:54-60

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 25
The Stoning of Stephen
Acts 7:54-60
1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
5. Slowly and carefully read the passages of Scripture.
6. Reread them. From memory, determine the central points.
7. Stephen now faces what he knew was coming—his execution by stoning per Leviticus 24:10-16.
8. Stephen did not soften the Gospel message before the Council of Israel. It takes courage to be courageous.
9. “Cut to the heart”—these leaders were angered beyond measure just like Paul (Saul) was per Acts 9:1-5. Were we like that as well? Are lost people still this way today?
10. In the face of death, and of a savage kind, Stephen has his eyes upon Jesus, which may be what “full of the Holy Spirit” means in verse 55.
11. “Heaven opened” is likely an idiom, a saying that would have been understood by Stephen’s executioners. We have Stephen seeing Jesus “standing” and not “sitting”, which reveals a high Christology. (see Matthew 26:64)
12. The religious leaders cannot bear to here Stephen’s words so with one mind (thumadon in the Greek), they rush to kill Stephen. Desperate people indeed.
13. Luke introduces Saul now, who is our Paul, and reveals his role in the stoning of Stephen. (See 1 Timothy 1:15)
14. At the point where Stephen is at the gate of death, he beholds Jesus and says, “receive my spirit.” This is a common expression meaning that someone is about to die.
15. Then, reminiscent of his Lord, Stephen asks the sin of the elders of Israel not be held against them, just as Jesus had done. (see Luke 23:34)
16. Stephen “fell asleep” – a way of saying he died.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

GOSPEL MEDITATION

Romans 3:19-26 & 1 John 1:5-2:2

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passages of Scripture.
  6. Reread them. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. “For all have sinned” is where it all starts. The testimony of both Old and New Testaments is that we have broken God’s commandments and therefore cannot have fellowship with Him, now and forever.
  8. The intent of God however, is that we enjoy His presence forever—Paradise regained—thus He acts to do what we cannot do.
  9. The Gospel must begin with our terrible condition but it then goes on to the mercy of God.
  10. Jesus Himself, Emmanuel, God with us, takes the death we deserve upon Himself on the cross. In a way we do not understand (we use words like love, grace, mercy) we are completely and forever forgiven and given as a result, the gift of eternal life—and all without our doing anything at all.
  11. Notice all our sin is gone, past, present, and future sin. But what about out future sin, how is it forgiven?
  12. Though it will never be fully understood, all of our sin was nailed to the cross. Yes, it is beyond us. But that it is what Scripture clearly teaches. How then do we deal with our ongoing sin? The Apostle John tell us in 1 John.
  13. We do continue to sin, daily, hourly, minutely. There is no help in denying this. We are to confess our sin, sin already forgiven, but which weighs on us nevertheless. We see that the Father is the wise counselor, psychiatrist, and healer.

Stephen’s Speech # 3 Acts 7:44-53

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 24

Acts 7:44-53

Stephen’s Speech # 3

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passages of Scripture.
  6. Reread them. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Stephen is on trial before the Council of Israel, 70 members headed by the high priest, Caiaphas. Stephen, the deacon, has been charged with a number of crimes including blasphemy against both Moses and God.
  8. Stephen is allowed to defend himself and so he commences on a longish narrative emphasizing the reality that the Chosen people continually disobeyed God, though He rescued them from slavery and yet worshipped gods that are no gods.
  9. In the story Stephen tells, both Joseph and Moses are ‘types of Christ’ in that they were rebuffed and rejected yet delivered the people of God both in Egypt and the Wilderness of Sinai.
  10. Now Stephen speaks of the tent of witness in the wilderness, that tabernacle God instructed Moses to build, which would be the place where He dwelt, in the inner most sanctuary, the Holy of Holies. The concept being that Yahweh now dwelt with His people.
  11. Still, Stephen asserts, God does not dwell in a house made by hands and he appeals to Isaiah in our chapter 66.
  12. The intent is to show that the great temple in Jerusalem, that one build by Solomon and later rebuilt by Herod the Great, cannot contain the living God. Then he addresses Israel as “stiff-necked” and who continually rejected those sent to them, which they did again by murdering the Righteous One, meaning Jesus Himself. The elders of Israel stand convicted.

Gospel Meditation # 23 Stephen’s Speech, part 2

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 23

Acts 7:23-43

Stephen’s Speech, part 2

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Stephen turns to Moses now, and like Jesus, he was rejected by his fellow Hebrews. Moses then fled to the land of Midian.
  8. Moses lived there for forty years, raised a family; his father-in-law was Jethro. He had two children born there.
  9. While in the Sinai desert, via an angel or messenger, Moses encounters a burning bush, and God speaks with Moses. This story is found in Exodus 3. It is unknown why Stephen mentions an angel rather than the Creator God, who reveals His name as Yahweh.
  10. God sends Moses back to Egypt for the purpose of leading the Israelites out and into the land promised to them, the land of Canaan.
  11. Stephen makes it clear that the one previously rejected, Moses, did in fact lead the people out of slavery in Egypt.
  12. Stephen quotes the words of Moses from Deuteronomy 18:15 where the promise that a Messiah would be sent to the people of Israel.
  13. Moses, while in the desert, was again rejected by the people who yearned for the false gods of Egypt.
  14. Strikingly, God’s response was to turn away and give the people up to the worship of idols.
  15. Then Stephen quotes a passage from Amos 5 where God says that the people of the promise turned from Him to follow false gods and the result would be banishment from the land promised to Abraham and his descendants.

 

The New Apostolic Reformation—The World’s Fastest Growing Cult

The New Apostolic Reformation—The World’s astest Growing Cult

For years now I have ignored the development of what is most often referred to as the New Apostolic Reformation. While I am very much aware of it, I did not fully realize the global extent of this rapidly growing movement. In it we see a biblically, Christian-oriented, cultic group, similar to Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses, grow and prosper. But no more can I sit back and pretend it will go away. It is several decades now in the making, and it goes back to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena and a professor there, C. Peter Wagner. I knew him, had extensive conversations with him in 1988–89, and was unwittingly helpful to him and the development of his views, none of which I can help now: I did not know that I was contributing to the makings of a cult. At that time I was part of the charismatic/Pentecostal phenomena, from which this movement springs.

I have been to Bethel Church in Redding, the headquarters of Bill Johnson, now semi-retired, with his son Eric taking the lead. I was also there when Randy Clark spoke. Bethel Church in Redding is one of the most influential churches in the NAR along with Rick Joyner at Morningstar and Mike Bickle of the IHOP ministry in Kansas City. The chief strategic idea is that God is establishing ruling apostles and prophets to direct the Church in order to prepare the world for establishing the kingdom of God on earth and the second coming of Christ. They claim to be “off the charts” now, that is, what is transpiring now is not in the Bible, but the apostles and prophets are charting the way, getting direct communication from God. It is a form of post-millennialism, in which the Church takes dominion in preparation for the Lord’s return. This is also known as dominionism.

This is not a cohesive organization; rather it is a network of apostles and prophets and the congregations over which they pastor or have authority. There are several churches in Marin, with more in San Francisco and in the larger Bay Area that are part of it. They consider themselves a fifth branch of Christianity, no longer Protestants, and are guided by prophecy and personal, direct encounters with Jesus and the Father. For instance, Kat Kerr, who claims to visit the Father directly in the “throne room,” is part of this movement. All who oppose them are considered as rejecters of what God is doing here in the last days.

The NAR reaches into many areas of our culture, from politics, to music, film, television (e.g., God TV), and more. They especially emphasize signs and wonders, miracles, especially of healing, and strange phenomenon. One of their chief activities is “soaking prayer” in their 24/7 prayer rooms, where people will lie seemingly unconscious for hours, even days, and enter into altered states of consciousness, experiencing direct contact with angels, Jesus, and other spiritual entities. It is a combination of shamanism, which is common to Santeria and Wicca, and other religious groups who practice going on a “soul journey” while in a trance state. And all this in the name of Jesus, though it is very “gospel lite,” but the champions of the NAR would deny my charge here.

Large crowds attend NAR services—the latest music is often followed by “miraculous” events, the likes of which I witnessed during the 1970s in San Francisco with Jim Jones’ church, The People’s Temple. I did not speak out at that time as I should have. I hope not to make the same mistake again.

My intention is not to offend, but I ask everyone to think, pray, and consider whether this NAR is of God or not.

Beginning July 9, I will be teaching on the NAR during the evening services at Miller Avenue Church. And why will I do this? Many well meaning people are not aware of the nature of the NAR and the churches affiliated with it. It is my job as a pastor to warn the sheep of the approach of the wolf. And I sincerely wish I did not have to engage in this—it is far from pleasant. For too long now I have not spoken up because I have close friends involved in it, and I know they might respond by rejecting me. That is often the cost of speaking out against error. Sadly, some of well meaning Christians are caught up in it.

Kent Philpott

 

Stephen’s Speech, part 1

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 22

Acts 7:1-22

Stephen’s Speech part 1

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Stephen standing on trial before the Council of Israel, the Sanhedrin, is invited by the high priest to explain himself.
  8. He gives a summary of the history of the nation, beginning with Abraham (the story begins in Genesis 12), and in this part one of Stephen’s entire speech, we read of the history of God’s people up until the time of Moses.
  9. From the account of Abraham, from verses 2 through 8, Stephen speaks of Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob making Joseph Abraham’s great-grandson. Joseph has long been recognized as a type of Christ and thus serves Stephen’s purpose that Israel, God’s chosen people, have continually rejected His purpose.
  10. Joseph is envied by his brothers, is sold into slavery in Egypt, falsely accused, put into prison, and is miraculously released via God’s intervention. Then Joseph becomes the second in authority in all of Egypt, which results in the temporal salvation for the entire Abrahamic family.
  11. Joseph is rejected, killed (imprisoned), raised from the dead (released from prison), and then is responsible for saving his family and bringing them to Egypt. It is a fore-shadowing, a dramatic historical prophecy, of what Jesus the Messiah would one day accomplish.
  12. In Egypt, God’s people were in slavery, and through another type of Christ, Moses, they are freed.

Stephen is Seized, Acts 6:8-15

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 21

Acts 6:8-15

Stephen is Seized

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Stephen, a servant in the Church, is a bold preacher. From a Greek culture and a Greek speaker, he boldly begins to enter synagogues in Jerusalem that accommodate Hellenized Jews from various parts of the Roman Empire.
  7. And Stephen is “full of grace and power” and though we wish we knew more, it is probable that his preaching was powerful, fearless, with signs and wonders accompanying.
  8. The religious authorities are now driven to extremes; Stephen must be stopped. They resort to dishonest means to do so. If more and more are joining with the believers in Jesus, and now from the Hellenized Jews, it can only be trouble.
  9. Stephen is arrested (seized) and brought before the Council of Israel, the Sanhedrin. False witnesses are brought in who testify that Stephen is blaspheming Moses and God, charges if proven would allow them to execute Stephen without Roman approval.
  10. A second set of charges is that Stephen preached against the Temple and the Law. The Temple in that the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:1-2 were misunderstood or twisted, and the Law in that is was proclaimed that Jesus fulfilled the Law. (see Matthew 7:13-14)
  11. These indeed, if true, are revolutionary words. And the idea that Jesus would “destroy this place” clearly put Him and His followers into the category of dangerous traitors.
  12. At that very point of false testimony, the face of Stephen was altered so that he looked angelic. What is this?

 

Seven Chosen to Serve Acts 6:1-7

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 20

Acts 6:1-7

Seven Chosen to Serve

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. “The disciples”—the first time Luke uses this term—more than 5000, and they are students, disciplined students.
  8. The origin of our four gospels is here, first the oral accounts then written accounts, of the life and ministry of Jesus.
  9. And there is, of course, trouble in this early church to the point there are murmurings or complaints making their rounds and to the point it surfaces.
  10. The Twelve themselves are responsible for the problem. The Greek cultured widows are being neglected in the daily distribution of food. We do not know the details.
  11. Somehow the apostolic band was engaged in actual food distribution and needed to be relieved of this job.
  12. Seven men are to be selected from among the congregation to correct the oversight. Was their bias involved?
  13. Seven men with good reputations, filled with the Holy Spirit, and wise, are brought forward. They each have Greek names and are likely all “Hellenists” or Jews coming from the Graeco/Roman culture. One of the seven is Nicolaus who is not even Jewish, but a Gentile proselyte to Judaism—this is quite revolutionary.
  14. Luke uses this opportunity to introduce Stephen and Philip both of whom will figure large in the fledgling Church.
  15. The Twelve lay hands on them, a time honored Jewish practice (see Ex. 18:17-26 & Nu. 27:16-18). This is what will come to referred to as ordination—a setting aside and not an anointing of the Holy Spirit.
  16. The result is continued growth in the numbers of disciples.