The Parables of Jesus: An Introduction

GOSPEL MEDITATION

The Parables of Jesus: An Introduction

Matthew 13:10-17 & Luke 8:9-15

  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. A parable is the use of common language that usually has one primary point. Jesus used this means to teach His disciples while others would not be able to grasp the meaning of them.
  8. Also, parables would lend themselves to memorization

more easily.

  1. Parables are found in the Hebrew Bible as well, for

example in Ezekiel 17:1-10,19:10-14, and 37:1-14.

  1. There are no obvious parables in John’s Gospel, some

are peculiar to Matthew, Mark, and Luke while others

appear in two or even three of the Gospels.

  1. At first, Jesus tells large crowds various parables;

however, He takes His disciples aside and interprets

two of them, that of the Sower and Weeds, for them

privately.

  1. Jesus knows that unless the Holy Spirit interprets the truths

of the Word of God to people, it is impossible for them to

grasp such truths.

  1. Here we encounter the mystery of election, only those

chose my God, those whose eyes and ears are opened,

will have any real understanding of all that belongs to

God.

  1. The disciples, those who hear and know the mysteries

of God, are indeed blessed and can take no credit for

this understanding.

 

The Sevenfold Destiny of the Believer Hebrews 12:18-24

GOSPEL MEDITATION

Hebrews 12:18-24

The Sevenfold Destiny of the Believer

  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 writer of Hebrews clearly and strongly makes it clear that the follower of Jesus has been given a destiny that cannot be shaken, changed, or destroyed.
  8. It is thought that some believers, aware of their own tendency to sin and rebel, were fearful that they might earn the wrath and judgment of God.
  9. Indeed, the believers were now firmly part of the “city” of the living God, the assembly of the firstborn.
  10. Since the believer does not rely upon his or her own ability to be free and forgiven of sin, but rather depend solely upon the work of the firstborn, the first to rise from the dead, the mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ, they were then perfectly safe and saved.
  11. Hebrews, the letter, speaks to a people who knew only the first covenant, the first testament, that of obeying the commandments of God. And therefore, their history was abundant with stories of failure.
  12. For the first time then the “pastor” of the Hebrews letter speaks to his and her Jewish compatriots of grace, truly good news but so good as to be almost unbelievable.
  13. Much of the wording and the use of symbols found in Hebrews will make it difficult for a Gentile or non-religious Jewish person to understand what God has done in the death, burial, and resurrection of the “firstborn” Messiah Jesus. This incredible communication is a blessed one indeed.

Paul on Malta, Paul Arrives in Rome, Paul in Rome Acts 28:1-31

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 68

Acts 28:1-31

Paul on Malta, Paul Arrives in Rome, Paul in Rome

  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. All on board the Alexandrian grain ship are saved. The majority of early New Testament manuscripts say there were 276 persons on board while Codes Vaticanus and a key Coptic mss have 76. I go with the 76.
  8. Paul is bitten by a viper and survives, thus changing the locals idea that instead of a criminal getting his just deserts he is a god. (Mark 16:18, most certainly not the original ending of Mark’s Gospel, may have been inspired by Acts 28:5)
  9. Along the way, Paul is treated with kindness by Julius, and is able to have fellowship with Christians at ports the ship visits. This demonstrates that Christianity has spread widely throughout the Mediterranean eastern to mid region.
  10. Publius, a local land baron, receives Paul, who later lays hand on Publius’ father who is healed. The miracle greatly magnifies Paul ministry.
  11. Paul arrives in Rome where Paul is allowed to stay by himself, but guarded by, probably lightly chained to, a Roman soldier.
  12. In Rome, Paul’s accusers do not show up, but Paul remains in custody. Local Jewish leaders do not accuse him either but state that the “sect” is “spoken against.” Paul is able to present the gospel to the Jews in Rome and expresses again that he is sent to the Gentiles.
  13. Paul is there for 2 years until AD 65 when Nero turns against the Christians. Paul is likely released then.

Paul Sails to Rome, The Storm at Sea, The Shipwreck—Acts 27:1-44

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 67

Acts 27:1-44

Paul Sails to Rome, The Storm at Sea, The Shipwreck

  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. In custody of the Roman authorities, commanded by a centurion named Julius, Paul begins the long trek to Rome. He had appealed to Caesar and to Rome he would go thus fulfilling the promise of Jesus that he would testify to the Gospel in Rome.
  7. The eastern portion of the Mediterranean Sea, in the area of the Adriatic sea, could be tempestuous. It was an especially dangerous time of year to make the voyage.
  8. There arose a terrific storm called a ‘northeastern’ and there was great fear for the 276 persons on board, many of whom were prisoners. It is probable that there were also 100 Roman soldiers on board as well as much cargo, especially grain.
  9. Jesus, having appeared to Paul early on, told Paul that he would reach Rome safely and no person on board the large ocean going cargo ship would perish.
  10. Despite all efforts on the part of the ship’s captain and crew, there is a ship wreck. History tells us the place was the island of Malta. Attempting to head for a bay of the island, the ship becomes stuck on a reef.
  11. Desperate measures are taken, and some soldiers wanted to kill all the prisoners on board lest in the melee some might escape. But Julius intervenes and all are spared, including Paul.
  12. Luke concludes this section by saying: “And so it was that all were brought safely to land.”
  13. This would be a testimony that against all odds, Jesus would keep His word.

 

Paul Tells of His Conversion – Acts 26:12-32

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 66

Paul Tells of His Conversion

Acts 26:12-32

  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. Paul is at Caesarea, in protective custody, and is called by Festus to address King Agrippa, his sister Bernice, and other prominent officials from the surrounding area.
  8. For the third time in Acts Paul gives an account of his conversion while on the road to Damascus. It is interesting to note the slight variations, likely due to different audiences, that Luke provides.
  9. In this account is an interesting phrase, “kick against the goads.” This would be a reference to sharp spikes that prevented an animal, donkey, etc., from kicking a person riding a drawn cart. The injury from kicking the goad ought to be enough to prevent more kicking.
  10. Here again we find that Paul’s persecution of followers of the Way is tantamount to persecuting Jesus Himself. And most obviously, Jesus is alive then, having been certainly resurrected from the dead. There would be no other way for Paul to so interpret the event.
  11. Again Jesus commissions Paul, appoints him, an apostle, whose work it would be to be a witness to the Gospel. This is the role of an apostle both then and now.
  12. There are five aspects to the witness Paul is to bring: 1- open their eyes; so then, 2 – turn from darkness to light; 3 – from the power of Satan to God; 4 – receive forgiveness of sins; 5 – receive a place among the sanctified.
  13. Paul states he was faithful to the call and appointment by Jesus, which stirs up Agrippa who is obviously under Holy Spirit conviction.

Paul Appeals to Caesar, Paul Before Agrippa and Bernice, Paul;s Defense Before Agrippa-part 1, Acts 25:1-26:11

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 65

Acts 25:1-26:11

Paul Appeals to Caesar, Paul Before Agrippa and Bernice, Paul’s Defense Before Agrippa-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. Paul, for the rest of his life, is in Roman custody, and sees God’s purpose fulfilled despite it all.
  8. Due to the need to protect himself from being sent to Jerusalem and the assassins waiting for him there, Paul is forced to claim the right of a Roman citizen by asking for a hearing before the Emperor, Caesar, in Rome.
  9. The Roman governor Felix, in A.D. 58, is replaced by Festus. Agrippa, a king in the line of Herod the Great, with his wife Bernice, visit Festus in Caesarea to pay a political/courtesy call.
  10. Festus explains the circumstances regarding Paul to Agrippa and Bernice, whereupon Agrippa requests a chance to hear Paul for himself.
  11. From the nature of the narrative it is plain that Luke is either standing with Paul, perhaps as his doctor, or is privy to the events, and words spoken, from someone present.
  12. The issue, as presented by Paul, has to do with the resurrection of Jesus.
  13. Paul defends his faith before Agrippa and company, and as he often does, he sees a preaching opportunity.
  14. Paul’s main thrust is expressed in a question: “Why is it thought incredible that God raises the dead?” He then proceeds to describe his great antagonism towards those in “the Way.”

 

A Plot to Kill Paul, Paul Sent to Felix the Governor, & Paul Before Felix at Caesarea

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 64

Acts 23:12-24:27

A Plot to Kill Paul, Paul Sent to Felix the Governor, &

Paul Before Felix at Caesarea

  1. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  2. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  3. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  4. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  5. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  6. Paul, in custody in the Fortress of Antonia, learns from his nephew that there is a plot to kill him. Paul sends the boy to the tribune who makes arrangements to send Paul to the procurator (governor), Felix, in Caesarea.
  7. The tribune, Claudius Lysias, writes a note to Felix and explains the situation, leaving out the part about almost subjecting a Romans citizen to a flogging.
  8. A large contingent of Roman soldiers bring Paul to Antipatris, 23 miles short of Caesarea, and only 70 horsemen bring Paul further on to Caesarea.
  9. Felix, having been a judge in Samaria for years, decides to hear the case when Paul’s accusers arrive in Caesarea.
  10. Ananias, the high priest makes the journey with one Tertullus, probably a Hellenized Jew trained in Roman court procedure.
  11. Tertullus begins with accusing Paul of being one who causes trouble and is a “ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” Those with Tertullus agreed as well.
  12. Paul somewhat flatters Felix (Felix as not well thought of) and then proceeds to deny the charges made against him.
  13. Paul however acknowledges that he indeed is part of the “way” and that he worships the “God of our fathers” so that he is faithful to the religion of the Jews and believes in all the prophets foretold.
  14. Paul’s focus is on the resurrection of the just and the unjust.
  15. Paul now is left in custody (it would be 2 years) and Felix listens to Paul frequently.

Soaking Prayer—How to Attract Demons

Soaking Prayer

Beyond contemplative prayer is “soaking prayer.” What is called soaking prayer has been around since the beginning of the twenty-first century, yet it is neither widely known nor understood. One’s first assumption might be that it involves long periods of time spent in prayer to God. However, what it really involves is something quite different.

Soaking prayer is in reality a mystical activity. Since it is often described as “resting in God’s presence,” it appears to be innocuous and biblical. This is how many are drawn into it, especially when charismatic church leaders embrace it.

Proponents of soaking prayer are convinced it is nothing more than “positioning yourself to express your love to God.” To get to that stage, however, some quiet instrumental or worship music must pervade the environment, while the participants often lie on the floor. The mind eventually settles down and focuses on God, or so it is thought. The attitude of the participant is to be, “God, do what you want to in me.” After some period, perhaps hours, there might be laughter, crying, or shaking – all supposedly coming from the Holy Spirit. The goal of soaking prayer or a possible end point of it is that the Holy Spirit would give the person a vision or bring a memory to mind that needs healing.

Another emphasis of soaking prayer is that it brings a person into a state of deep rest. Soaking prayer almost always is accompanied by the playing of gentle worship songs, with the participants sitting or lying down. It may involve the repeated praying of short prayers for an extended period of time. It is reminiscent of a devotee of Hinduism chanting a mantra.

Persons practicing soaking prayer attempt to keep their minds free of thoughts and concerns. They continue this until they feel a sensation in the body, perhaps a tingling of the skin, a perception of heat or cold, or a breeze gently blowing upon the body. When this happens, the desired stage has been reached, and one experiences being in the presence of God. The soaking praying may begin innocently enough, but after a while, the participants are in a meditative state of mind. It is here that any connection to biblical prayer has been abandoned.

The following explanation of soaking prayer was found online under the heading “Embark on an intimate journey”: “The Secret Place is not just a listening experience. It is a journey of soaking worship. It is a place of intimacy with the Father, a place where the heart longs for His touch.” In that same website, where music for soaking prayer may be obtained, a soaking prayer facilitator’s comment addressed to a composer of music used for soaking prayer reads:

I prepare the sanctuary to become a resting place for the Lord as people come to soak in His presence. The lights are turned down, there are candles, and the atmosphere is that of intimacy. For three hours we seek His face together and listen to your music, which invites His presence to come. I lead it at our Soaking Prayer Centre at the church and many of our soakers really like it. It is anointed and I have had some awesome visions of angels and God’s glory while worshipping with it in the background.[1]

It is disappointing how similar this sounds to Wiccan techniques used to enter a trance state. And there appears to be an addictive quality to soaking prayer; people crave it and think other forms of worship are boring and devoid of God’s Spirit.

[1]        Found at http://www.secretplaceministries.org

 

Sozo Ministry or Prayer—Dangerous Spiritual Practice

Sozo Ministry or Prayer

The next step out on our continuum is “sozo prayer,” or “sozo ministry.” Sozo comes from the Greek word for save or deliver. The goal of sozo is laudable, and that is to get to the root of those things that prevent a Christian from entering into a deeper personal relationship with God.

Sozo is very mystical in its approach and departs dramatically from any biblical precedent. Those engaged in sozo prayer are encouraged by a mediator/guide to enter into a mild trance state. The mediator/guide then leads a person “into a series of mental/emotional rooms or stages, where, by connecting to their own deep feelings and thoughts, they believe themselves to have a new experience with God.”[1]

Where soaking prayer is found, sozo will be close by as well. The motive is to “experience God,” and it is difficult to make a case against that desire. However, we have no scriptural mandate to experience God through our emotions or feelings; it is instead a matter of faith. The Bible does not actually teach that we are to experience God; we are to trust in and believe in God. I have found no place in the New Testament where anyone, including Jesus, Peter, John, or Paul, instructs believers to “experience God.” While we may sense that God is present with us, that is a different focus of our attention. Under discussion here is the seeking after sensations or feelings. Christians must be clear; our faith is not feeling-centered. We must not equate human feelings with the Spirit.

[1]        From the website, Got Questions, specifically www.gotquestions.org/sozo-prayer.html.

 

The Danger of the new apostolic movement

This is my reply to a person who did not like my critique of Francis Chan’s sermon in which he decried speaking against leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation.

Dear Brother,

On loving one another, this does not mean overlooking serious issues. And this one is. Lou Rambo, back in 1978, when he told me COD was cultic he meant it for my good, though it was a staggering blow to me at the time.

I think we are not seeing the same thing. My concern with Chan is his idea that leaders ought not be challenged. After all, they are hearing words from God, at least that is and has been a major theme of apostolic oriented churches and ministries. When someone says to me they have a word for me, well, this is a red flag being waved in my face. This is the new intimidator, the apostle or prophet directly hearing words from above. 

It is characteristic of groups to demonize those who might question them. This is true of Islam today, and so with Mormonism in its early decades. Scientology, perhaps the supreme example of quashing anything having to do with their leadership. 

Chan says God will destroy those who voice what he thinks are attacks against leaders of churches and ministries. Mark, that is a red flag, more than a red flag. You may have already bought in to the apostolic concepts and if so it would be virtually impossible at this point for you to raise questions yourself. How much you might lose is a scary thought.

Chan is not the only one either. Rick Joyner,Mike Bickle, and especially Kris Vallotton and Bill Johnson in Redding, wow, how they denigrate those who challenge them. Johnson refuses even to consider anything that does not support their ministry; he only wants, in his spiritual and emotional weak state, words of affirmation.

More and more voices are being raised against the NAR. Mark, have you read my book on it, False Prophets Among Us: A Critical Analysis of the New Apostolic Reformation? From the documents presented by the leading players you will read quotes from them. And these are horrific. And they must be challenged. It is not loving to ignore this. As a pastor I am obliged to watch for the wolf. And I do so and will do so, no matter what others may say. Yet, I know for those who identified with it, especially as we are older now, it is not a simple thing to call out the error.

I have a few videos out on the NAR and I receive, and daily sometimes more than I can handle, feedback from those who view them. How many people are leaving it, including whole churches! How many are damaged and scarred as a result of their being lead around by words from God. How many are listening to angels, being carried away in trances to heaven, and suffering what can only be described as psychotic, and/or demonic episodes. This is no small deal.

Please consider these things.

Kent