The Sign of Immanuel

     Isaiah 7:10–17

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.    Isaiah lived in the eighth century BCE. At the time Isaiah began his ministry, pressure was placed upon Judah, the southern kingdom, by both Syria, and Israel, which is often referred to as Ephraim, the dominate tribe in the north, and whose capital was Samaria.

2.    Ahaz, the king of Judah was looking to Assyria, for an alliance and thus hoping Syria and Israel would be prevented from attacking. However, in 734 BCE they attacked anyway. This is the setting of events in a nutshell. We recall that after the death of Solomon, there was a civil type war and the nation of Israel was divided into the northern and southern kingdoms know as Judah in the south and Israel (or Ephraim) in the north.

3.    God sent Isaiah to King Ahaz in the though that due to the pending invasion, he would seek the Lord. But no, Ahaz decided not to “put the LORD to the test” and instead would depend on Syria and Israel for help.

4.    Therefore, as we read in verse 14, the LORD Himself would give a sign, a virgin, or Almah in Hebrew, would conceive an bear a son and His name would be Immanuel, which means, God with us.

5.    Almah can mean virgin, girl, and maiden in Hebrew. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the LXX or Septuagint, the word is parthenos, which clearly means a virgin female.

6.    The germ of this prophecy lies in Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring, he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his head.”

7.    Now turn in your Bible to the following passages and read how Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled: Matthew 1:18–25; Philippians 2:5–11; and Hebrews 1:1–4.

Cyprian: How it all went wrong

Cyprian, bishop of Carthage from 248 to 258, changed, and radically so, the face of Christianity. It is said he was a brilliant scholar, an excellent preacher/orator, and much admired by all. Yet it would take a little more than thirteen hundred years before a correction to Cyprian’s influence appeared.

Prior to and during the days of Cyprian, the Catholic (or universal) Church had been dealing, and for many years, with Marcionism, Gnosticism, and Montanism. The result was division and discord among Christians.

The bishop, pastor/overseer, became the dominant authority in the Church, which of course, bore no identity with the present Roman Catholic Church. There would be a bishop for a city or for an area, who had ultimate authority over the affairs of the Christian community.

A very severe persecution of Christians by the Emperor Decian began in 250. This Roman emperor’s edict demanded that sacrifices be made to the gods. (The Jews were exempted from doing so.) Initially Cyprian went into hiding and justified his actions saying the faithful Christians needed a pastor.

            Some Christians complied with the edit of Decius, others did not and were tortured by the Roman authorities if they did not confess, “Hail, Caesar”. It is said that the Decian persecution of Christians was the most severe of them all. This event divided the church into two groupings, those who compromised, or “lapsed”, and those who did not, known as  “confessors”. A bishop named Novatus or Novatian, refused to allow the lapsed back into the fellowship of the church. Cyprian sought for unity in the church.

Cyprian was able to create a middle ground between the two factions, which was well received by the majority of the believers. Novatian declared that any Christian who denied Jesus could never be restored. Cyprian challenged that position.

Later, as the persecution eased, Novatian’s views were considered a heresy. Cyprian ruled that sacraments received under Bishop Novatian were invalid and that only the sacraments given by the “true” church were able to save those who received them. Salvation then could only be given by true and legitimate bishops. It is here that the entire nature of the church underwent extreme change. Only the “Mother Church” could give saving sacraments.

In 251 Cyprian called together a council or synod of the church, at Carthage, for the purpose of developing unity. He read to the council a piece he had written titled “On the Unity of the Church.” His position was that there is only one Bride of Christ, as there is only one Christ, and the Bride is the church. And only in the church is their salvation.

            It was not enough that a Christian have a personal relationship with the Triune God, he or she needed the church. Since the Apostle Peter’s work centered, to some degree, in Rome, then the bishop of that church in Rome would be first among equals.

            Cyprian penned that, “Outside the church there is no salvation,” and, “Where the bishop is, there is the church,” and, “He cannot have God for His Father who has not the church for his mother.” It was understood that to be with the church one had to be with the bishop. One could not be a Christian if he or she was not with the bishop.

It would be the bishop alone who could determine church membership and salvation. The biblical teaching of the new birth by the working of the Holy Spirit was ignored. Cyprian taught that the Holy Spirit worked through the bishop. And this moved the bishops into a power position, and this occurred through the administration of the mass where the body and blood of Jesus was received by the authority of the bishop. The church then controlled salvation. This produced a divide between the clergy, ordained by the bishop, and the laity, or the people.

Cyprian was beheaded in 258 during a persecution directed by the Roman emperor Valerian because he refused to make a sacrifice to the pagan gods. Yet, the church of his time retained his views on the unity of the church based on the prominence and authority of the bishop. And again, the first amongst the bishops was the bishop of Rome.

As time wore on, Marcionism, Gnosticism, and Montanism receded into the background, yet the Catholic Church continued to grow and dominate the Christian landscape. The clergy, those ordained by the bishop, became a separate “order.” These were the bishops and the deacons. Below these were the minor orders, the sub-deacons, acolytes, exorcists, readers, and janitors. Deaconesses were to be found in the eastern part of the empire.

The bishop of Rome, the greater city, became the most authoritative office, and as the Church faced the complexities of the world, the Roman bishop accumulated power and authority.

During the course of Christianity in the world there would be individuals and movements who defied the authority of the Roman Church, but these movements did not significantly impact the Church until the early years of the sixteenth century with Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the other reformers.

Biblically speaking, the real Church is known only to God, which consists of all those born again of the Holy Spirit. Upon the very moment of conversion, each newborn Christian is placed by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ, the true Church. These true believers are found throughout the world in numbers of differing groups and denominations. Such will be found in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Protestant denominations, the Charismatic/Pentecostal denominations, and other gatherings that have no labels or known identities.

At the return of Jesus, the timing of which is unknown, the Church on earth will be joined with the Church right now in the presence of God in heaven. And so we will be forever with the Lord.

Have you ever had a “bad” church experience?

Okay now, everyone here who has had a bad church experience, raise your hand.

Wow, that many!

Is that why you stay at home and watch your favorite preacher on television? Okay, how many identify?

That many! Wow!

Let’s go deeper. How many have just decided you will not risk it again? Show of hands.

That’s about what I thought. All I have been doing is checking to see if my hunch was on it or not. Could this be the reason 52% of Christians do not attend a brick and mortar church?

A little switcheroo here. The “bad” experience, what are these? Go ahead, just stand up and shout it out.

I felt humiliated when I got a phone call asking why I hadn’t fulfilled my pledge.

I wanted to sing in the choir but I guess I wasn’t good enough.

There was a lady there I wanted to date, but she reported me to the pastor. That was enough for me.

My Sunday school teacher said I asked too many questions.

A deacon told me I needed to come to prayer meeting and get my life straightened out.

I wanted to ask questions of the pastor but he would not talk to me.

When I was sick at home and could not come to church for weeks, no one called me.

A guy at church took me aside and tried to correct something I believed about hell. He told me I was on the wrong track and that I needed to repent.

I got to church late one Sunday and I got a lecture from the usher.

I got pressured to be baptized and I said I already had been. That was not good enough for them.

All right everybody, I will tell you about my bad church experiences, and I have had so many I don’t know where to start.

No I won’t do that, but as a pastor I have had my share, more than my share. I wonder sometimes why I even do this. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that came my way. At times I would be so discouraged I seriously did not want to even show up on Sunday morning. I did though because it was my job. How many of pastors I have known over the years who simply resigned and moved out of town.

How do I survive? For one thing, I found out long ago that we have an enemy, the accuser of the brethren. You know that passage don’t you. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

It is a battle to be a Christian and if you are a leader in a church, watch out. Of course, the devil isn’t stupid: Satan strikes the preacher, the teacher, and anybody else he can get hold of. And such not in person but my means of some very fine people who ought to know better but, well, things happen. Christian leaders want to be super people, others expect this, but we are not and often struggle as anyone will.

That’s enough from me. Anyone else have something to say?

Can’t we just worship at home?

How about just go to church online?

Maybe come only on Communion Sunday and other special days?

It is just not convenient.

I have to arrange for rides to and from. Not always works for me.

I will run into people I hate to talk to.

It all takes too much time and energy.

I don’t like the choir, and worse, the preacher can’t preach.

You’ve pretty well summed it up. Each of you can find a reason to stay home. Indeed, it takes effort, strength, and courage for some of us to make it a worship service. I keep having that verse run through my mind, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). There is something different about being in a group of folks who love Jesus and want to serve and worship their Lord.

Also, Jesus makes a special promise to those who gather for worship. In a way we do not understand, He is with us in a special way. I think our hearts are softened, our fears relaxed, our burdens lifted. Not only that, but we get to encourage others, too. We never know the impact we might have just being present.

Then I think of the fact that Christians have gathered together from day one. Sometimes under the threat of death and mayhem by godless rulers, both in that day and this.

Last thing I want to say: There are at least five people I know who would love to join with us for Sunday morning worship but are unable to, and due to one thing or another. Some of these watch online, and that is wonderful, yet there are those for whom even figuring out the techy issues is too much for them. How they would love to be with us.

Might you have a bad church experience? I would be shocked if you had not. It just goes with the territory. For as long as we have life and breath, let us gather together as often as we possibly can.

Isaiah’s Vision of the LORD and Isaiah’s Commission

Isaiah 6:1-13

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.         Isaiah, about 740 BCE, has a vision wherein he saw the LORD (Yahweh) sitting on a throne, which is set in the most majestic sort of Temple, where he also saw seraphim, or flames, that had great power.

2.         The seraphim called to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” The holiness of God is set above all the glories of God and it is this holiness by which we know God.

3.         Isaiah then, beholding this incredible otherness cries out “Woe is me!” This is always the first experience we have when suddenly we behold the absolute holiness of God, which is intended to lead us to repentance as we behold the awfulness of our sin.

4.         Isaiah’s guilt and shame are removed by the burning coal delivered by a seraphim, that flame, that burns away and forever our sin: our sin is atoned for and completely taken away.

5.         Isaiah can now respond to the question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (notice the plural “us”) Isaiah responds, “Here I am! Send me.”

6.         The LORD then provides the message Isaiah is to proclaim. Then He tells him his ministry will fail as no one, or very few, will listen and obey. Isaiah is shocked and asks how long will the rejection go on.

7.         The LORD’S answer is enigmatic, mysterious indeed, as to the question “how long” yet Isaiah learns that despite it all there will be what we call a remnant, or a tenth, that will emerge out of the devastation. This is the holy seed, which has been identified over the centuries as the real Israel, the Church called out and redeemed by God alone.

I am a Racist, and, So are You

This is the title of an essay I wrote looking at what has opened up for us due to the killing of George Floyd. In this 4 page Word document I attempt to get to the heart of the issue, and hopefully bring some healing and compassion for us all.

I am a Racist and So are You

Of course, I am thinking of George Floyd. (This is written on June 2, 2020.) What a tragedy, and I am upset at what happened to him. And this man was a fellow Christian who was actively reaching out evangelistically with the Gospel in his neighborhood.

The guy with his knee on Brother Floyd’s head—what was that about? Was he afraid for his own safety? Would not seem so. Three other cops were visible, just right there. Floyd was hand cuffed as well. But I noticed all four of the cops were nervously looking around and around with their hands near their weapons.

My brother Bruce

Bruce, gone now for four years, retired as chief of police in Pasadena, CA. There was, and is, a large black population in that city. Two decades or more ago Bruce wrote a manual on how to secure a city when there was some kind of violent event taking place. We talked about it, and he told me that one of his focuses was on looting. It could get bad. Bruce’s manual has been used by cities across America. And, Bruce’s girlfriend, a great lady, was black.

One of the things I learned from Bruce is that, during a major protest or march gone bad, there is a lot of fear experienced by police. Turns out that behind the badge and the gun is a human being who may be scared to death. How many cops around the country are killed each year in carrying out their work?

The brain has a tendency to freeze up; thus, untoward events can take place. Is this what happened in Minneapolis? No one knows, but there is a possibility that the “fight or flight” hormone charge kicked in.

This does not, however, excuse what happened to George Floyd.

Was the cop racist?

My answer is, most likely. How could he be the only one in the world who is not? If we can be honest about ourselves for a minute, I think many of us would admit to having some or a lot of racism deep within us.

I grew up in a black and white neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. The family who lived behind us was black, and the son and I spent lots of time together. In the military also lots of black friends. That said, I still had some tinges of racism in me.

Then we moved to Los Angeles, and near us, a few miles away, was San Fernando Valley with a large Mexican population, and we had gang wars with some of them during my high school days. Did I pick up some prejudice then? Sure, I did. We also had gang fights with the blacks at Belmont High in the city, and also with the Buddha heads of Hollywood. Thinking about it, I am lucky to be alive.

I am racist

Over the years I picked up any number of racist-oriented prejudices. Some were racial, others economic, some educationally oriented, I will admit also to a lot of politically oriented bias, and this is playing out front and center right now. Religious prejudice? Yes, I have some of that, too. Maybe “some” is an understatement.

The good thing is that I recognize it, I own it. That way my idiosyncrasies might not creep up on me. The person who denies racism, in one form or another, is not being honest or self-aware.

Can black people be racist? For sure, and I have experienced it, especially as a volunteer at San Quentin Prison for the last nearly forty years. Everything is racial there and to a degree most would never understand.

I think that people who receive the brunt of racism have a more difficult time seeing racism in themselves. Almost any significant difference between people will spawn forms of prejudice, some more deeply than others.

“Hey whitey” has been directed at me. Is this a racist statement? Of course, it is. Yet the person who yelled it out might likely deny it was. We so easily see what we suppose are faults and differences in others and are blind to our own. And we have them. He who is without sin, cast the first stone, Jesus said.

You are racist

Are you offended? Or, are you in touch with yourself to the point that you not only can see the prejudices you carry with you but are able to admit them to others, and maybe work to reduce them? They will not suddenly vanish or completely go away by themselves.

This is the way it is for us. On a scale from 1 to 100, where do you fit in? I’m not sure where I fit; in the double digits for sure. How could it be otherwise? Our world is a little bit hellish, for some more than others, and the harder we get beaten down, the more distorted we become. I know that for those who have spent years in prison, the racism they encountered behind bars stays with them. Through my involvement with prison ministry and sports, I have seen and experienced this.

People raised in what we might call a ghetto most often have racism build into them, on both an unconscious level and a deliberately taught level, sometimes for safety sake. Our world is filled with inequities, and to think these will just go away or disappear is crazy thinking. Social Justice—nice idea—but the work it will take to achieve it might end up being discouraging. Is it even pie in the sky by and by? We have to deal with social injustice, a battle we will not win but one which we cannot abandon. And here I am hoping to give us some ammunition in this warfare.

The Good Samaritan

Jesus told a parable about a man, a Jew, who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. This event took place on the Jericho Road, which led from the village of Jericho to Jerusalem.

As it turned out, two Jewish religious types travelling along the road heading for Jerusalem walked around the victim and made no attempt to help. Then a Samaritan man came along.

The story will make no sense, unless we understand that Jews and Samaritans did not get along. They hated each other. The Samaritans were considered half-breeds by the Jews and held to a rival form of worship. The Jews and Samaritans despised each other both racially and religiously.

Big surprise! The Samaritan stopped and helped the man and made sure he would be okay. It cost him time and money and perhaps put him at risk at the same time.

Jesus told this story. Here it is now from Luke 10:25–37: The Parable of the Good Samaritan:

[25] And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” [26] He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” [27] And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” [28] And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

[29] But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” [30] Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. [31] Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. [32] So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. [33] But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. [34] He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. [35] And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ [36] Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” [37] He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Two men had racial prejudice, one did not, or if he did, he did not allow it to determine his actions. The Samaritan would have had every reason to walk around the beaten man and leave him be. Those who heard Jesus tell the story would have instantly understood that. Somehow, the Samaritan had dealt with the hatred he would have encountered growing up.

The lesson

The neighbor is the one who is in need. All else is irrelevant.

Now in this day and age, with so many in need and with so little resources available, and even the road to bringing help laden with complexities, how can we be like the good Samaritan?

Sorry, I have no answer, except to say that we attempt to do what is within our capacity. And it all starts with recognizing our prejudices and overcoming these. Complications arise when the good Samaritans among us are resented by those who are in need. We must deal with both our own and the others’ prejudices in the midst of trying to help. And it is present though largely unseen and unspoken.

Our racism is tribal in nature. It is given soon after birth among those who are part of it and passed along generation to generation. I know it is this way with white people like myself. Although I was raised in a black and white community in Portland, Oregon, but I did not escape being racist all together. Living in Los Angeles, I was a student in the class of racial hatreds. Some of it is yet in me. I admit it.

My wife and I catch ourselves while watching the nightly news. One injustice after another—there have been a number of George Floyds over the years. And alongside the injustices perpetrated by those in control, we see the misdeeds of those who are not in control, from robbery to murder, constantly on the screen, and the images bring up racist emotions. Just last night we saw footage of looters, both black and white, and our prejudices jumped to the fore.

Final word

I am somewhat resigned to the unhappy thought that this side of the Kingdom of God our racism is not going away, including my own. But I can be on guard. I can be aware of my own foibles. I accept that others will act out their inner hatreds and confusion. There will be injustice, there will be riots, and lootings, and killings. This is life on the planet, but we will continue to stand our ground and strive to be a neighbor to those who need one.

Now then, for the final word. Something else from Jesus. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is called The Golden Rule. We know how we want to be treated, so this gives us the knowledge of how we are to treat others. This is not so simple, because we find it difficult, sometimes impossible, to do unto others for their benefit. And I could go on here with the caveats. Still, the words of Jesus give us a platform, something solid to think about.

Let me offer a challenge: Memorize the rule of Jesus, think about it as you live in the world, and attempt to apply it when need arises.

Isaiah: An Overview

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.    Isaiah, a married man with a child, lived in Jerusalem, was called to be a prophet to Israel and whose ministry spanned from about 745 BCE to 680 BCE. Tradition has it he was “sawn in two” by the Assyrians. (see Hebrews 11)

2.    His name means, “Salvation is of the Lord.” His father, named Amoz, tradition says was the uncle of King Uzziah.

3.    His prophecies looked forward all the way to the time of the Babylonians and King Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, who defeated the Babylonians, and then released the Jews to return to their homeland. Isaiah named Cyrus two hundred years before he was born.

4.    Isaiah’s prophecies were likely written down, this in fact was an era when many people could read and write, by a school of disciples. This was a common practice in the era of the prophets and which is reflected in the school of disciples that formed around Jesus.

5.    Some commentators have thought there were at minimum of two distinct sections of Isaiah, one from chapter 1 to 39, and then a second from chapter 40 to 66. It is noted there are differences as well as similarities.

6.    As a prophet however, these anointed by the Spirit of God, had revealed to them events that looked far into the future. We have the Book of Revelation and other forward looking material in each of the four Gospels.

7.    All that is to be revealed in the ministry of Jesus is previewed in Isaiah, from His virgin birth to minute details as to His death. A must read for all Christians.

An Overview of the Gospel of John

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.         The Gospel of John, last written of the four Gospels in around 90 CE. The “Prologue”, chapter 1 to verse 18, is considered one the most important statements ever penned.

2.         The Word, the Logos, becomes flesh in our world, actually “dwells” among us. This revelation is directed by John to a Gentile audience, indeed, the very “Jewish” Gospel is translated to be understood by the Graeco-Roman mindset.

3.         The first portion of the Gospel is built around seven “I am” sayings: I am the Bread of life, I am the light of the world, Before Abraham was, I am, I am the good shepherd, I am the resurrection and the life, I am the way, the truth, and the life, and I am the true vine.

4.         There are approximately 12 miracles, or signs and wonders, mentioned in the Gospel, maybe more. (When looking at all the Gospels, Jesus did many hundreds of miracles.) One of these is a resurrection account, that of Lazarus. There are no stories of Jesus casting out demons in this Gospel.

5.         Jesus tells a Jewish statesman about the “new birth” and that one had to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, which required the working of the Holy Spirit, meaning humans were incapable of doing it.

6.         Jesus speaks of an enemy that comes to “steal and kill and destroy,” but He has come to give life, even abundant life.

7.         In the second portion of the Gospel, starting with chapter 12, Jesus is moving toward the cross. He spends much time with the Twelve preparing them for what is coming.

8.         Then there is the account of the betrayal, arrest, conviction, crucifixion, and resurrection.

9.         During forty days following His resurrection, Jesus appears to His disciples and on a number of occasions. There is no mention of Jesus’ ascension.

10.       The last incredible chapter of the Gospel has Jesus encouraging Peter, after his denials, and setting straight misinformation about the beloved disciple, whom all agree is John, son of Zebedee.

Dangerous Worship

Are there experts on the subject of worship?

Maybe there are; I am not one of these. With what little I bring to the table, I must rely on my understanding of the Bible along with my personal experience to speak to the massive subject of worship. Why? Because I am convinced there is both safe and dangerous worship.

Just this week Earthen Vessel Media published our new Little Book, Dangerous Worship. It is available at Amazon.com in print form and ebook.

Too much attention is given to feeling good, movin’ and grovin’ in the spirit, having dreams, visions, hearing God’s voice, and “going deeper, pressing in” and so on.

As Christians we need to step back and examine some of this band driven, beat enhanced experience. This Little Book will help us do that.

Last Chapter of John’s Gospel

The Gospel of John

John 21:1–25

Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples, Jesus and Peter,

Jesus and the Beloved Apostle

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.         Chapter 21 of John’s Gospel is considered an ‘epilogue’ that was written some time following the writing of the main text of the Gospel. It is evident that the chapter is an eye witness account.

2.         Over the centuries commentators have mentioned three possible reasons for the inclusion of chapter 21.

3.         One, that the resurrection was actual, that Jesus was not a spiritual entity, a ghost, an angel, or anything other than the real Jesus, now risen from the dead. He actually ate a breakfast in full view of His seven disciples.

4.         Two, that the reputation and position of Peter is established by Jesus thus preventing Peter’s betrayals from following him. Jesus gives Peter fresh encouragement and direction.

4.         Three, is that John is clearing up a misunderstanding that had been noised abroad to the effect that he would live until the return of Jesus.

5.         The seven disciples, likely those who lived in that part of Galilee, had returned to their homes and work. Jesus performs another sign by the catching of 153 fish. Proof to the fisherman of the authority and power of Jesus.

6.         Jesus walks along the beach of the Sea of Galilee with Peter and assures him of His love and concern in addition to giving Peter an opportunity to express his love for Jesus.

7.         Concluding the conversation with Peter, Jesus makes it clear that He had not told John that he, John, would never die.

8.         The timing of this is debated. Did it happen before the ascension, between the ascension and Pentecost, or after Pentecost. It remains a mystery to this day.

Pentecost

Pentecost

Acts 1 – Acts 2

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.   Joel 2:28-29 speaks of a time when the Holy Spirit would be “poured” out on all flesh, men and women alike. Prior to Jesus’ ascension to heaven He directed the disciples  stay in Jerusalem for the arrival of the great promise.

2.   When those early followers of Jesus were gathered together somewhere on the Mt. of Olives, with Jesus present, they asked Him if the kingdom of Israel would now be restored. Jesus then spoke of a coming empowering by the Holy Spirit, which would result in their being His witnesses to the entire world. At that point His ascending to heaven occurred.

3.   At this time there were eleven apostles, due to Judas’ death, and Matthias, who had been with them from the beginning, was chosen to replace Judas. It would seem that with the entire 120 early believers present, likely in the Upper Room, Matthias was chosen to replace Judas. As to the means of selecting, some think by vote, others by choosing one of two stones in a pouch.

4.   Now on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, and which was one of the great festivals of Israel (see Leviticus 23:15–22 where it is called the “Feast of Weeks.”)

5.   Suddenly there was a powerful spiritual intervention and presence, and the disciples gathered began speaking in tongues, and apparently loudly and wildly. In a way we are not told, this noise was broadcast and a large crowd gathered.

6.   The crowd’s conclusion was that these believers in Jesus were drunk. This set the stage for the first Christian sermon preached, and that by the Apostle Peter.