Those familiar with this word I invented, "visiquad" know that it's anything seen in fours or found in a box. Today is my birthday. My reading shares the history of the early Apostles coming to terms with just how much "Jewish" a Gentile believer had to become in order to embrace Christianity! Like much around us, even today, there was great debate, and how far was too far. The practice of circumcision that represents the covenant with the God of Abraham and given in the Law of Moses was the main thing to the orthodox. They felt that was the gold standard for anyone coming into the new faith.
The other side argued, with facts and witnesses, that what was manifesting to and through Gentiles was sufficient, if not, extreme examples of God doing signs and wonders to many of them without any traditional Jewish practices. The bottom line of the debate was the level of freedom allowed to just believe, and the amount of God's grace, mercy, and forgiveness available to any who received.
The emissaries returned to HQ to get a final ruling and consensus on the issue. After, giving their reports and stories of amazing healing and deliverance it couldn't be further argued that the prerequisite was circumcision. That doesn't seem to matter to God! It was a new day. A new way. Birthed out of the Jewish sacred writings and traditions, but not to be 'backed up' in that. To move forward. To open doors to the entire world.
Just before a final list of prerequisites are given, that doesn't include circumcision, one of the leaders quotes an ancient prophet predicting the time of the Gentiles. " After this I will return and ( I will) rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things..." (Acts 15:16&17 quoting Amos 9:11&12)
When God says, "I will...." it's a done deal! I love that someone steps up and takes charge instead of the responsibility falling on us, or on me personally. We all have the "I will..." in daily life, " I will make supper... do the laundry... pay the bills... it's a commitment. To ourselves, if not to others. Some times we hear exasperation from accusations of procrastination that shouts or pouts, "Okay. Okay. I will do it! All right, already!" It's what we deserve. It's not God's way.
God Himself is saying he will do four things:
We can return again and again to a place. We can also rebuild again and again, like Lego. So in one context we can see that God has been doing things again and again. Over and over he has been returning, rebuilding, and restoring. Especially hearts, minds, souls and spirits. Mine included.
But the specific element named here is "tabernacle of David" which according to scholars in it's most general term is that the presence of God where He is worshiped. It is based on walking through an open door through belief in the Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus) and not on being born, bred, or raised Jewish with all the right pedigree and credentials. Who of us chose when, where, or what 'tribe' we would be born into?
What stirred me wasn't just that there were four of these "I will..." but the relief I have that God is doing all of it. I love it when someone in power and with influence comes in and takes over a project. You know it's going to get done. Get done right. And if you have a role, it will be assigned and resourced. Even on a trip, when my husband says, "I will drive the next leg." means I can totally relax, even have a nap, because I trust his driving.
But we can't end this blog just on that note, without going into the purpose and reasons God is willing to do this and commits to it. One version says, "I will set it up" instead of 'restore'. I like that better. If it's a 'tent' it needs to be set up as part of ultimate function. Not just how it looks. But how it works. It's like watching a renovation on HGTV where they stage the home for the reveal, not just finish the painting and wipe the floors.
God said,, I will do all this... so ..."that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things..." We are the 'rest of mankind'. After the Jews, we come first. Invited in. Grafted into the Olive Tree. And who have chosen to bear His name. Buy into his brand. Identify with him.
Isn't it refreshing and burden removing when someone comes in and says, "Here, let me do that! I"ll take over from here." And we just step back and watch! Ready to do our part if asked, but not interfering, complaining, judging, making suggestions (LOL) or questioning everything. I love this visiquad and I"ll take all the 're-s' over and over, again and again! This birthday and others to come.
There seems to be a theme in Acts of different kinds of accusations. We deal with this a lot in our current society. Some of the accusations are weird, like black people being called "white supremacists" for taking stands on political or cultural issues. Many of us are seeing people and organizations being called out with accusations that need to be proven or verified. One of them is whether this virus was man-made and intended as a biological weapon to break the economy of the world... or not! The accusations have been made and the denials have also been reported.
But here's an interesting story in Acts 13. I'm not advocating we do this unless filled with the Holy Spirit and specifically led, but it does give a way in which to push back wickedness and evil. When I have been ready and willing to consider something better in my life, there are two camps of people. Those who are threatened by too much change in me because it might upset the behavior cycle already comfortable and established. The others are those who have loved me enough to suggest the changes, or have even travailed in prayer for God to change me! When someone is fed up with their situation or life style and is looking for a change, they shouldn't be hindered by those who don't see any problem. It's like someone who wants to quit smoking being hindered, or teased, or tempted by those who still smoke.
In this story we have a prominent political figure in the region named Sergius Paulus, who happens to be the local pro-counsel. Paul and Barnabas have begun a systematic travel plan to bring the Christian message to his region of jurisdiction. Their reputation has preceded them. He has heard about their message and wanted to hear more in person.
This pro-counsel is in the company of a sorcerer, a false prophet, whom we would call today, a "psychic" who appears threatened by the presence and message of the missionaries and is quick to try to "turn away the deputy from the faith." (vs 8) He was obviously threatened by what he perceived as competition for favor and influence.
Paul sees through the obstacle and brings this accusation to the psychic, " O full of all deceit and all mischief, you child of Satan, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to corrupt the right ways of the Lord?" (vs 10) This direct, public accusation it actually coming from one Jew to another, since the psychic is a Jew also. Expected to know and follow the "right ways of the Lord', let alone influence the political leader in a false direction.
Then Paul puts a consequence on him. "And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a season." (vs 11) which happened instantly.
Then the deputy, pro-consul, "when he saw what was done believed, being astonished at the teaching about the Lord. "
This is where this story ends. Since most of us don't operate in this extreme way, (even though maybe we should), my attention is drawn to two ideas:
1. We need to call out and come against "political correctness" when what is being done is directly against the "right ways of the Lord".
2. We need to follow enough of the teaching about the Lord to know what the right ways are. Then we can trust that what we are calling out and standing against will see the justice and judgement of the Lord on the spot! In our hearts, if not in the public square.
My mother was one to call out things I was doing that weren't the "right ways of the Lord" and while at first I was offended, upset, mad at her, and went off to pout and stay away from her, in my heart I knew that what she was accusing me of was the truth. I also knew that the consequences she reminded me of could be expected and not complained about when they happened. Thank God for a righteous mother.
What do you do when you are accused by your own people, family, friends, or group of something they don't approve of, but feel totally justified and just need a chance to tell your side of the story? What if you have done something totally unacceptable because "God told you."
A pastor of mine, Dr. Gary Pare, once told me that if someone in his congregation came to him and said, "God told me to __________." he would immediately question it and even give a little push back. I asked him why he would do that. Shouldn't a pastor support people in their callings to obedience and submission to God? He then said, " To the degree that they don't back down, regardless of what I say, I know they really have heard from God. It's a test. For me. And for them." They have to be able to explain and support with confidence and passion and Biblical backup.
In my recent reading of Acts 10, a Roman Centurion, Cornelius, seems to have settled into the area with his authority from Rome in tact, but living as a benevolent citizen and part of the community including Jews. The description of him right from the Scripture calls him "A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. "
Acts 10:2 We don't know what has developed in his life to bring him to be like this and still operate with the force that Rome used to control it's empire.
We do know that his lifestyle and heart attitude has gotten God's attention, because Cornelius has a visitation from an "angel of the Lord' who tells him that his prayers and benevolence has been tracked in heaven. He is further told to send for someone named Peter, at Joppa and gets the exact address. Cornelius immediately sends two servants and a soldier to Joppa.
In the meantime, Peter is up on the roof of the house he is staying in by the sea in Joppa and praying about noon. He gets hungry and has asked for lunch. While it's being prepared, he goes into a 'trance'. He sees something floating down towards him from above and it looks like a big sheet. As it gets closer he can see that it is all full of every kind of living creature. I think they must have looked alive and real, because Peter is told by a voice to "Get up. Kill and eat."
Peter is horrified at the suggestion since in the Jewish tradition according to the law of Moses, he is not allowed to eat anything considered "unclean or common". And he has religiously kept that law. So he refuses. This is repeated three times with the statement from the voice, "What God has cleansed, don't call common." The vision ends and Peter is still perplexed over the meaning of it.
As the men Cornelius has sent call at the gate and ask about Peter, he hears another voice. The Holy Spirit says, "Three men are are looking for you. Go down. Go with them. Don't doubt anything. I have sent them." Acts 10: 19 & 20 Naturally, Peter has to ask them what they want and after hearing the report, he invites them in, keeps them overnight and heads out with them the next day. He also takes some of his people with him.
The anticipation by Cornelius is obvious as the house is full of friends and family, and no doubt a few Roman soldiers dutifully standing by, all waiting for Peter. Cornelius actually falls at the feet of Peter in humble devotion like worship. Peter immediatly
One of the biggest turning points in the early church was when the Gentiles were "grafted in" by the work of the Holy Spirit through a divine connection between one of Jesus' disciples and a Roman Centurion. The first character, Peter, has become a major leader in the early church since the day of pentecost, approaching this year on May 29th, 2020 (Hebrew calendar) and May 31 ( Christians celebrated on Sunday). He is doing the rounds of the region as the church is spreading and performing many miracles which is adding to his notoriety in the area. He ends up at a place called Joppa and stays with a tanner in a house by the sea, that has access to the rooftop, which is very common in warm climates. (They don't need sloped roofs for snow to melt off!) Peter is on the roof top around noon praying but thinking about lunch.
However, the story that ends up of the
Accusations seems to be a theme that I'm seeing in my study of Acts. My last blog is about the Prophetic Accusation given to Moses by the one questioning his authority to interfere. This is being recounted to the High Council of Jews by Stephen in his own defense against stopping his preaching and doing miracles of healing and deliverance.
As Stephen goes on, he is recounting the history of the Jews that no one there can deny. He even quotes their prophets regarding the Messiah. But when he gets to the following, it turns into an accusation against them.
“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him, you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” Acts 7:51-53 NIV
This is as far as they will let him go. The next verse tells us what their immediate reaction was. My King James Version puts it this way, "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. Act 7:54 KJV This is why I"m calling it a "heart cutting accusation". Nothing's worse than being accused of what's true and not wanting to hear it. When it comes to a large, powerful, organization against one person, and it's entrenched in it's ideology and narrative, it's instant rage! The kind that automatically manifests in violent expression.
When it says, "they gnashed on him with their teeth..." it doesn't mean they attacked him like a pack of dogs biting. It literally means to strike the teeth together, and maybe growling at Stephen like dogs would. It fostered a mob mentality, not unlike we witness today with some protests, often against a single person who has spoken out. In the realm of the Spirit, we describe that as manifesting a demonic spirit.
Stephen's reaction to this attack is to look up! And as he does, he tells them he sees heaven opened up and the Son of Man (Jesus) standing on the right hand of God. This really fires up the council further. First they don't believe Jesus is the son of God, and second their teachings say no man can see God and live. This is all the proof they need to kill him. Shut him up forever and set an example to others of like minds and faith.
"Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him..." Acts 7:57&58 Like many stories recounted in the Bible, I sometimes find things amusing. I read with my imagination and this brings to mind someone with their hands over their ears saying, "La, la, la, la..." as a way to let someone know they are NOT listening! They did this to Stephen. And the mob mentality, once again, took over and they all ran, attacked him, dragged him out of the city and stoned him.
If we think we are ready to stand our ground like Stephen did, this might be a good lesson to learn. First, know that some of the things we say will feel like a direct attack on those listening. Second, realize that people entrenched in their points of view are likely to become agitated to the point of feeling like we are 'cutting their hearts'. After, all, it's in our hearts where our beliefs live.
Third, being filled with the Holy Spirit of God is important, but the most important thing is to, "LOOK UP" and engage with the One who you are standing up for. He will show himself real and strong even if the situation brings you into His presence through death.
ON the other side, we have to guard our hearts against those who accuse us with "heart cutting accusations" that we don't gnash our teeth, cover our ears and chant "la,la,la,la...." and become part of a mob mentality that becomes verbally abusive and violent. It may come to that. God forbid.
NOTE: A different take would be to do a study on what it means to have our heart and our ears "circumcised". Maybe another blog from this reading. There's so much.
My reading today is from Acts 7 which is the story of Moses' self-isolation from Egypt when he was "full forty years old." (vs23) The next words reveal a change. "... it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel." I often asked myself if Moses knew his family origins and his destiny when he was being raised in the house of Pharaoh. From this one phrase we can see that he knew where he came from. He was definitely in a position of some influence and was "educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds." (vs 22) But did he know his destiny?
I believe our destinies are in our hearts. Someone has said that we are sent to earth as a gift, and with a gift. We often describe this as a passion, a natural gift, talent, or interest. Yesterday, April 30th, was the anniversary of the debut of Michael Flatley and the rest is history. Check out his story as a child, where he came from, and how he was raised. Irish dancing was in his blood. He ignored and resisted the teasing of class mates for being an Irish dancer. He went up the ladder in competitions, taking every opportunity to increase his skill and do what he had a passion for.
Moses suddenly has a desire to "visit" his people. A passion was born in him to bring justice when he witnessed an Egyptian abusing an Israelite. His natural instinct to stop the abuse resulted in the Egyptian being killed. (vs 24) The following verse says, "For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his (Moses') hand would deliver them: but they didn't understand." It seems that Moses understood he had a divine assignment and was just waiting for the right time. Turning "full forty" had something to do with it.
Maybe as he watched Egypt being built to a grand scale on the backs of the Israelites he became more and more agitated about their state. There's no doubt he would have had to bow to the Pharaoh at the time in order to live in the palace and be educated there. Maybe he thought that a little more education, honing his "words and deeds" would bring him to a place where he could step up and make a difference.
The day after he gets rid of one cruel Egyptian, and saves one Hebrew, he goes out again only this time he encounters one of his brethren abusing another one. He asks a simple question. "Sirs, you are brethren: why do you wrong one to another?" The abuser stops and throws a question back at Moses, "Who made you a ruler and judge over us? (quoting Exodus 2:14) and adds, "Will you kill me, as you did the Egyptian yesterday?"
Suddenly Moses is in a hard place. He has no support on either side, and in fact has now made enemies of both the Egyptians and the Hebrews. All that he has learned in Egypt, all his "words and deeds" don't stop the fear he has. He flees. He puts himself in self-isolation in the land of Midian. He is reduced to leading sheep, not his people, or the Egyptians. But after another "full forty years" Moses has the encounter of the burning bush and the assignment to go back where he left off, but with God's "words and deeds".
Acts 7, is where this story is recounted by Stephen to the High Jewish Council. He says to them, "This Moses who they (the Hebrews) refused, saying, Who made you a ruler and a judge? God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel that appeared to him in the bush." (vs 35) The accusation was actually prophetic. The answer to the question of "Who made you a ruler and a judge?" was God! The one who called himself "I Am" to be present in Moses' destiny from that moment on.
The first time Moses wasn't ready to confidently say, "God sent me...." He had too much of the Egyptian style of ruler ship that was very powerful and strong in which he had excelled in "word and deed". But it was God's word and deeds through Moses and Aaron that God would use to deliver the people.
Mo Chaurdry, in a Secret Millionaire episode I watched recently also leaves his wealthy lifestyle to explore how his immigrant "brethren" are doing in England. At first he's disappointed and upset because he's made it, so why can't they? Then he begins to really look and listen and get involved to understand why they are struggling. He sees where he can help and he does. To those he helps it's a kind of deliverance from their depression and hopelessness. He also comes home more connected to his original culture. He sees what he's missed by being so immersed in the culture of the land he is living in.
I once was accused of only being happy if I was on a platform speaking. I resisted that comment and was a little confused about it. After much thought realized it was prophetic. The person accusing me obviously saw the energy, enthusiasm, and passion I had to "educate, motivate, inspire, and empower" through an entertaining, fast paced presentation. The platform was part of my destiny on which I could give what was already in me.
Are some of the accusations you hear full of prophetic words? Take them as confirmations you are doing the right thing. Follow your destiny.
My reading this morning is in Acts 5 and it's the story of when Peter and the apostles are arrested by the temple authorities for teaching in the temple with signs and wonders such as healing a man crippled for forty years. As usual, the Jewish religious leaders are upset by all the disturbances to life as normal. They push back by using their authority and arresting Peter and the apostles for a second time after threatening them, "commanding them" not to keep teaching the people about Jesus of Nazareth. I think they felt threatened, disrespected and discredited.
They have an even bigger problem when they find out that the men they have imprisoned have somehow disappeared out of the jail and are now back teaching in the temple. They ask them to appear at the council that has met to judge them "without violence" and this is their accusation:
Q: "Did we not strictly command you that you should not teach in this name?" And behold you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us."
A: "We ought to obey God rather than men." said Peter.
I had to laugh!
1. They don't name the name! ( the elephant in the room!)
2. They affirm in their accusation that the apostles are accomplishing exactly what they have been sent by the Holy Spirit to do.
3. They reveal their main threat which is to have "this man's" blood be upon them.
Excuse me! Weren't they the ones standing in the crowds when Pilate was trying to free Jesus? "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Mat 27:24 & 25
If you listen for the right things you can always take comfort that affirmations sometimes come in accusations and contain truth. Quick story from my own experience. I was once accused: "How come you hate men!" My first reaction was to deny it, but I found myself saying, "Because they've never been there for me when I needed them the most." That was the truth going back to being left in boarding school by my Dad... and that's another story. There was truth in that accusation. My response opened the door for me to deal with my past instead of denying it just to appear good and Godly!
In my opinion IF the leaders in the First Century has understood the power of repentance and humility, and knew the prophesies in their own Scriptures, they would have embraced Yeshua, their savior and been the real apostles, raised up to work with the "New World Order!" of Christianity, instead of fighting it... which as we can see, just fanned the flames that spread it!
MY MO = My Opinion!
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