Friday, 14 April 2017

CTG 0017

PASSOVER

Normally Jerusalem had a population between 25000 and 30000. But during the Feast season it had expanded to about 250000 or even 300000. Groups of people, Jews and proselytes, descended upon the city from various places throughout the land and from further afield. They found lodgings within the city walls or places to stay in the immediate vicinity. They came to celebrate the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

For each households a lamb was sacrificed at the Temple, where its blood would be spilled. In each home, where people would gather together, its fresh was roasted and after sundown it would be eaten as a memorial.

This was done in memory of the first Passover when the people of Israel were delivered from slavery by the mighty hand of God. When the blood of a lamb was placed on the doorposts and lintel of the entrance of their homes. Death was stalking the land of their captivity. But God had said to them: "When I see the blood, I will pass over you."

Jesus was also in Jerusalem. And he and his disciples were celebrating the Passover together. The time of fulfilment had arrived.

. . . the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
- 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ESV

The amazing historical events experienced by the people of Israel provided the prophetical backdrop for a far greater eternal deliverance that Jesus has provided for all people groups.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

CTG 0016

JESUS-FOCUSSED

After his resurrection Jesus was preparing his disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would empower them for mission, both locally and further afield, after his ascension. It is highly significant that he spent time helping them to understand the scriptures, as they relate to HIM.

He particularly highlighted the fact that the Old Testament had foretold:
1. his suffering and death.
2. his rise to life again.
3. that the call to repentance and the good news of forgiveness in Christ should be proclaimed throughout all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Although these ancient writings had been committed into Jewish care, their message was not only intended for their nation. In fact, it was God's eternal plan that by means of these writings the good news about Jesus should be spread in the power of the Holy Spirit to everyone throughout the whole world. That is why Jesus helped his followers to understand the scriptures and why he instructed them to be filled with the Spirit. And it is vital that we also grasp the importance of all this, as we prepare for the task he has given us.

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Bible are focused on Christ and on the salvation that comes only through him. Miracles that take place in his name bring attention to him and confirm the message of God's grace. If our emphasis is anywhere else we'll go off course.

Stay Jesus-focussed!

Jesus' words:
"... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be MY witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
- Acts 1:8 ESV

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FOR FURTHER READING
Luke 24:46-49
Romans 1:1-7; 16:25-27
1 Corinthians 15:1-5
2 Timothy 3:10 to 4:5
Isaiah 52:7 to 54:3
Romans 10:11-15
Acts 1:1-11

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Hopefully, the following blog will be helpful for many people:
http://such-great-love.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/blog-post.html

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Monday, 5 September 2016

CTG 0015


Continued from CTG 0014 ...


"Pray also for me ... to make known ... the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in a chain, that ... I may speak boldly ... (Ephesians 6:18-19 LITV)."

Ambassador in a chain

 
His life being threatened by a rioting crowd in Jerusalem, Paul was taken in to custody by the Roman authorities.

When it came to the tribune Lysias' attention that the Jews were conspiring to assassinate Paul, he arranged for him to be taken to Governor Felix's headquarters in Caesarea (Maritima), 100 kilometres away on the Mediterranean coast.

A couple of years later Festus succeeded Felix as governor. Felix had left Paul in custody, for political reasons. Festus, for the same reason, was about to yield to the Jewish authorities' intrigue. Paul exercised his inherited right as a Roman citizen to request that the emperor (Nero Caesar) decide his case. Festus said to him: "To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go (Acts 25:12 ESV)."

Paul was taken as a prisoner to Italy by sea. The journey proved to be hazardous, resulting in shipwreck on Malta. In the middle of these horrendous circumstances an angel of God had assured Paul that he would still stand before Caesar. In the meantime the lives of soldiers, sailors, fellow prisoners, friends and indigenous islanders were influenced by his faithful witness and trust in God.

When he and the others were finally brought to Rome, news had reached Christians in the city that the travellers were approaching the end of their journey and they came out to meet them.

In Rome Paul was allowed (at his own expense) to stay in his own hired dwelling, chained to one of the soldiers who in rotation were assigned to him.

Being under house arrest he was not able to visit the synagogues in the imperial capital. Nevertheless, within a few days he had arranged for the local leaders of the Jewish community to visit him.

He explained to them that, though he had appealed for the emperor to decide his case, he had no desire to bring a charge against his own people. It had been the intransigence of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, and the scheming of those who had conspired together with them, that had precipitated his being perpetually held in custody by the Roman authorities, though the imperial rulers knew that he had done nothing to incur the death penalty. In fact, it was Paul's utter commitment to Israel's hope in the Messiah, as foretold in the Old Testament scriptures and fulfilled in Jesus, which had given rise to such opposition that resulted in his now being confined by a chain.

In response to his explanation the local Jewish leaders there in Rome claimed that they had received no news about him from Judea. However, they wanted to hear his views.

"So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people came to Paul's lodging (NLT). Paul talked to them all day, from morning to evening, explaining everything involved in the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them all about Jesus by pointing out what Moses and the prophets had written about him (MSG)." - Acts 28:23

Some were persuaded, others refused to believe. Disagreeing among themselves, they left after Paul made a final statement (Acts 28:24-28).

In the main his own Jewish people were resistant to the good news about Jesus, which caused him much sorrow. Nevertheless, he trusted God that a time would come when the eyes of a later generation would be opened. But in real time, although he never neglected his own people, his God-given commission was to reach out to all others.

Paul remained under custody in Rome probably sometime between AD 60-62.

"He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance." - Acts 28:30-31 ESV

This is an amazing statement. Though under house arrest and chained to a soldier, Paul's lodging was an open door for all nationalities and became a base from which the gospel was spread throughout the city and beyond. Local believers and workers were inspired and soldiers and even the emperor's household were influenced. Churches and individuals further afield were also encouraged by means of letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). And he encouraged prayer support (Ephesians 6:18-20; Colossians 4:3-4,18). The church in Philippi sent him help (Philippians 4:10-20).

There are biblical reasons that suggest Paul was released after this period, continuing his work (1 Timothy and Titus), before his final imprisonment and death (2 Timothy). Was his longing to spread the gospel in Spain ever realised? The New Testament doesn't give us the answer. (A good Study Bible or Commentary will help you with this question.) We can be certain it was always his longing to reach people who had never heard of Christ (Romans 15:20-21).

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CONSIDER:
- Whatever circumstances we go through for the sake of his name, the Lord will never forsake us.
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FOR FURTHER READING:
Acts 21-28
Romans 9-11
Ephesians 6:18-20
Philippians 1:1-30
Philippians 4:22
2 Timothy 2:8-9; 4:1-22
Hebrews 13:5-6
1 Peter 5:8-11

Monday, 4 January 2016

CTG 0014

 
 
ROME AND THE REGIONS BEYOND


" ... I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience - by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God - so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, 'Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.'" Romans 15:18-21 ESV
 
These words were sent in a letter to Christians who lived in Rome. Written about AD 57, probably from Corinth, towards the close of Paul's third extensive church-planting and church-consolidating journey in the regions adjacent to the north-eastern rim of the Mediterranean.
 
They express the passion, vision and insight of someone who is fully aware that anything of lasting and eternal value can only be accomplished by Christ, in and through us, by means of the strength and enabling of the Holy Spirit. (Compare John 15:5.)
 
They also reveal the extent of the successive missions completed up until that date, from Jerusalem to the Roman province of Illyricum (north of the province of Macedonia, between the Adriatic and the Danube). The Christian communities that were established across these areas would continue spreading the message of salvation through faith in Christ.
 
As for Paul, the time had now come for him to raise his gaze and focus his vision on reaching those who still had no one to tell them the good news about Jesus. His plan was to evangelise and plant churches among those who lived on the western stretches of the Roman Empire, in the province of Spain. And his intent was to travel there via Rome, aided by believers living in the imperial capital.
 
In fact, he had a longstanding desire to visit Rome, praying often for the believers there, wanting to see them personally, to strengthen them and experience mutual encouragement. Committed to God's will with respect to this matter, he also longed to successfully proclaim the good news about Jesus to others in that city (Romans 1:7-17).
 
The letter quoted above was intended for all the believers who were resident in Rome (Romans 1:7). And this correspondence makes it abundantly obvious what the content of his preaching and teaching would be on his arrival, that only in Christ salvation is possible, available for all who believe.
 
Many of the recipients were personally known to Paul and some of them were his colleagues (Romans 16:1-16). He informs them all that he would first travel to Jerusalem with relief for the poor among the believers there, aid that was given by the churches established in the provinces of Macedonia and Achaia (Romans 15:20-33; compare Acts 19:21). Representatives from these churches would be involved in administering this expression of love, accompanying Paul to Judea (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:16-24; compare Acts 20:1-6).
 
Paul asks the Romans to pray for him (Romans 15:30-33). He knows the way will be fraught with difficulty and danger. Nevertheless, God had prepared him and he would not be deterred from his objective, though it would mean suffering and imprisonment.
 
The apostle was no stranger to opposition and affliction (e.g. 2 Corinthians 11:24-27). He himself had caused havoc among believers before he yielded his life to Christ (Acts 9:1-9). And when he became a Christian the Lord Jesus made it plain to him how much he would suffer for his sake (Acts 9:10-31).
 
During this final journey back to Judea, Paul met with the elders from Ephesus, at Miletus, and said to them: "I have had one message for Jews and Gentiles alike - the necessity of turning from sin to God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now I am going to Jerusalem, drawn there irresistibly by the Holy Spirit, not knowing what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit has told me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus - the work of telling others the Good News about God's mighty kindness and love [i.e. the gospel of the grace of God] (Acts 20:21-24 TLB [ESV])."
 
God was going to answer Paul's prayers concerning his desire to witness for Christ in Rome. Even in the middle of the obstacles, when everything seemed hopeless, the Lord assured him that it would happen (Acts 23:11; 27:23-26).  But it would be a number of years before he would get there. And he would arrive there as a prisoner.
To be continued ...
 
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The content of this blog needs to be far more than of historical interest to us. An open-hearted response to the Word of God can produce in us:
(a) a longing to faithfully serve the Lord, whatever the circumstances.
(b) steadfastness in the truth of the gospel.
(c) a concern for those who have never heard about Jesus.
(d) trust in God's promises.
(e) an awareness that we are totally dependent on the Holy Spirit.
Consider the encouragement to pray, as described in 1 Timothy 2:1-7.
 
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With my youngest son Jonathan at the Colosseum in Rome (June 2015):

 

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For further reading:
Acts 20-28
Romans 1-16


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Thursday, 23 July 2015

CTG 0013



CITY-BASED AND REGION-WIDE MULTIPLICATION - Acts 19:8-10

After spending time once again in Syrian Antioch, Paul headed out and travelled through the region of Galatia and Phrygia (Central Turkey), visiting Christian communities established on earlier trips, strengthening the followers of Christ.

Having passed through the highland, he approached the port metropolis of Ephesus, capital of the Roman province of Asia (Western Turkey) and one of the largest cities of the Empire.

Paul had longed to evangelise this province for some time (Acts 16:6-10; 18:18-21) and now he had the opportunity to concentrate on its most strategic city (Acts 19:1-20:1). The task would not be easy, but he trusted God through all the difficulties he faced (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). The date was AD 52–55.

Although we are not given the details, we are provided with the information that Epaenetus was "the first convert to Christ in Asia (Romans 16:5 ESV)."

A small group of disciples in Ephesus, who had received limited instruction (based on John the Baptist's earlier ministry in the wilderness of Judea) were helped by Paul. And he led them to put their trust in Jesus and to experience the first steps of Holy Spirit fulness (Acts 19:1-7).

As usual, he made an effort to win his own people group for Christ in the local synagogue (over a three month period) and encountered typical resistance (Acts 19:8-9). Consequently, "he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9)." (Some manuscripts indicate that he did this between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day. If this was the case, it was when people took a break from work, due to the heat of the day, providing an opportunity for those who were interested enough to forgo their siesta and come and listen to Paul, discussing the implications of what he was saying.)

"This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:10 ESV)." An amazing statement!

During this period Paul used this lecture hall in Ephesus as a base, winning people for Christ, teaching and talking with residents and visitors who gathered there. And many of those who believed spread the good news about Jesus and the kingdom of God throughout the province. (E.g. consider Colossians 1:1-14.)

Miracles facilitated the church multiplication that was taking place. And there was a major shift away from occult practices among the populace (Acts 19:11-20).

"So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily (Acts 19:20 ESV)."

Not everyone became a Christian. In fact, there was a riot instigated in Ephesus by a man named Demetrius who was not happy with what Paul was teaching (Acts 19:21-41). But the church of Christ was planted there.

After Paul left Ephesus (visiting churches already established further west) and before continuing his journey eastward back to Jerusalem, he sent for the Ephesian elders to meet with him at Miletus (Acts 20:17-38). When people had responded to the gospel the church had probably multiplied spontaneously in extended households across the province's capital. And the task of these elders was to care pastorally for the whole church throughout the city, being shepherds for the flock, enabled by the Holy Spirit and encouraged never to forget that the church belongs to the Lord (Acts 20:28). We do know that there was a gathering (ekklesia) in Aquila and Prisca's house (1 Corinthians 16:19). And we do have the account described in Acts 20:20.

Later, Paul sent his letter to the Ephesians, when he was under house arrest in Rome and bound by chain to a soldier (Acts 28:16, 20). The letter would have also circulated among the other churches that had been planted in the wider province. In it he encourages the believers to remain strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6:11-17) and to pray for all God's people. And to pray for him, "that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:18-20 ESV)."

It was to seven of the churches in the same province, including Ephesus, that our risen Lord directed John to send another letter (Revelation 1:1-20). The apostle John had not founded these churches, but it appears that he gave the latter years of his life to helping them, experiencing the same trials they faced (Revelation 1:9). Because of his faithful witness for Christ he was exciled to Patmos, a small island in the Aegean Sea, about 80 kilometres southwest of Ephesus. It was there that our risen Lord revealed to him what he was to write. This apocalyptic letter was written to encourage all God's people to remain faithful to the gospel and to continue their witness in the face of growing tension (Revelation 12:11). Its content gives strength for the present and assurance for the future, the glorious age to come.

"I am coming soon" - Jesus (Revelation 22:12, 20 ESV)


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The amazing record of the work of God in the Roman province of Asia during the 1st century AD is both an encouragement and a challenge for us in the 21st century.

Together with the rest of the content of the book of Acts, it shows us that the work is carried on in various ways. Sometimes in public buildings when available, as well as in people's homes. In fact, anywhere and everywhere, within reason :-). Spontaneously, as well as with some simple organisation.

Methodology is transient, contextual, often cultural, even generational and the expression of personal preferences. Hopefully, never a straight-jacket.

The objective is a constant. The ongoing spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, everywhere. And the ongoing multiplication of Christian communities who will continue the work, everywhere.

The enabling of the Holy Spirit and the transformation he brings are essential.

God bless you in Christ and multiply you!


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For further reading:

Acts 18:22-28:31
Ephesians 1:1-6:24
1 Timothy 1:1:17; 3:1-7
Titus 1:5-9
1 Peter 5:1-11
2 Timothy 1:15-18; 4:6-22
Acts 18:1-4, 18-21, 24-26
1 Corinthians 16:19
Romans 16:3-5
2 Timothy 4:19
Revelation 1:1-22:21
Matthew 24:14


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Monday, 11 May 2015

CTG 0012



MULTIPLICATION
1 Thessalonians 1:8
2 Thessalonians 3:1


Paul was eager to fulfil the call of God on his life, the commission revealed to him from heaven by the Lord Jesus Christ. Together with his co-workers, he brought the gospel especially to the Gentiles (the Nations) as well as to his own people (the Jews).

Focussing on Roman Provinces in close proximity to the Mediterranean Rim, he travelled overland and by sea. It was his constant objective to spread the good news of God's grace to those who had never heard of Christ. There was no desire to hijack someone else's work and claim it as being his own. His passion was to push into the regions beyond, believing the promise: "Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand (Romans 15:21 NIV)."

With the help of the Holy Spirit he established new Christian communities, who in turn would continue to proclaim the message near and far. Here is his description of the believers after planting a church in Thessaloniki, a seaport in NE Greece (capital of Roman Macedonia), when the gospel was gaining new ground in Europe: "... not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere ... (1 Thessalonians 1:8 ESV)."

And Paul calls on these believers for their prayer support, after he had moved on, probably writing from Corinth: "... pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you (2 Thessalonians 3:1 NIV)."


CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING

1) Sowing the seed, God's word, the message about Christ.

2) Praying that the message will spread effectively. Compare Acts 4:29-30.

3) Objective: planting churches, communities of believers committed to the commission.

4) A mutual desire among all believers that the gospel will have success everywhere, not just where we are ourselves.

5) Ongoing cross-cultural evangelism/mission.


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For further reading:

Acts 13:1 to 18:28
Acts 9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:9-29
Acts 18:9-11
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
2 Corinthians 10:15-18

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These blogs are written to encourage all believers, but especially for those who find themselves in difficult places with a difficult task.

The simple format is designed for use with hand-held devices.

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Friday, 20 March 2015

CTG 0011



Acts 9:31; 12:24 - Multiplication

One of the seven men who helped organise daily provisions for widows, was falsely accused and martyred, because of his loyalty to Jesus Christ. Opposition against the church in Jerusalem, which had grown to multi-thousands, intensified. Persecution of believers, both men and women, became vicious. Some were imprisoned. The majority were scattered.

Far from keeping silent about their faith, those who were scattered talked about Jesus everywhere they went. The good news about salvation and forgiveness was spread throughout areas that are known to us today as Israel, Palestine, Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria.

Initially the gospel was only shared with Jews and converts to Judaism. But it soon became clear that God wanted the message of his grace to cross all social, ethnic and cultural barriers, reaching all nations. The Old Testament had indicated this. Jesus had instructed his apostles with this in view, though at first they hadn't grasped it. The Holy Spirit was now making it abundantly clear that the victory achieved by God's Son, through his sacrificial death and resurrection, was to be effective among all peoples throughout the earth.

God's promise to bless all nations through Abraham's offspring, Jesus Christ, was now in its initial stages of being fulfilled. And those on the frontline of this first wave of mission were Jewish followers of Christ, who faithfully shared the message with others. It's probable that the majority of them weren't even aware that they were fulfilling the prophecies recorded centuries before. They simply and spontaneously evangelised, encouraged by God's Spirit, commencing in Jerusalem and increasingly extending beyond.

One of the foremost protagonists opposing the church and the spread of the gospel at that time was Saul/Paul (derived from his Hebrew/Greek names). But his life was turned right around, when he himself believed and became a follower of Jesus Christ. The persecution eased off. "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied (Acts 9:31 ESV)." 

Herod (Agrippa I, a grandson of Herod the Great) reignited the fires of persecution and put James (one of the apostles, John's brother) to death. He planned to do the same with Peter, without success. His pride was his downfall and he came to a tragic end. "But the word of God increased and multiplied (Acts 12:24 ESV)."

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For further reading:

Acts 6:8 - 12:25
Galatians 3:8
Galatians 3:16
Romans 15:8-21
Luke 24:45-47
John 10:16
Ephesians 2:11 - 3:6

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