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Tag Archives: Jesus

Pressing toward the Goal

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained. Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. (Philippians 3:12-4:1, NRSV)

Paul continues here telling the Philippians to not worry about the past. To not let past hang-ups or faults get in the way of what God is doing in your life.

You see we have to press forward. We can not stay stuck on the muck and mire we find our selves in but we have to press on towards the goal and the upward call of Jesus. For if we stay we wind up like the enemies of the cross whose god is their belly, feeding their desires and needs now. But God has called us to a higher understanding and calls us to walk with Him and to press forward sharing His love, grace, and mercy everywhere we go.

So press on and know that He is with you giving you strength.

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Breaking with the Past

Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh—even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:1-11, NRSV)

Paul here tells the Philippians not to boast about where they came from. Becuase honestly if anyone can boast about where they come from it is Paul. He is like a champion pedigree of Jews. He comes from the right tribe, and the right places, and had all the right things done on the right days. But absolutely none of that matters. The only thing that matters is Christ died on the cross for all of us. We can claim nothing of our own doing. It is all about Jesus and what He did for us.

 

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Paul Defends Himself

Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” The tribune replied, “Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.” When he had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying: ”Brothers and fathers, listen to the defense that I now make before you.”When they heard him addressing them in Hebrew, they became even more quiet. Then he said: ”I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. (Acts 21:37-22:5, NRSV)

So Paul knew the crowd he was speaking to.

When talking with the authorities of the city he spoke in Greek, and when he spoke to the crowd that had brought him from the temple he spoke in Hebrew.

You see in our understanding of being a disciple of Jesus context is very important. You use clues from the society you are speaking to to make sure they understand the message you are delivering. To speak to the authorities in Hebrew wouldn’t have worked. Well maybe one could have understood, and the same for the crowd from the temple. You have to deliver the message contextually so it is understood.

How do we deliver our message of good news? The way we always have? Or in the context of those to whom we are speaking?

 

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Stephen’s Speech to the Council

“Our ancestors had the tent of testimony in the wilderness, as God directed when he spoke to Moses, ordering him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. Our ancestors in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our ancestors. And it was there until the time of David, who found favor with God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob.But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?’ ”You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.” (Acts 7:44-53, NRSV)

Here Stephen comes to a conclusion to remind the High Council they were given the laws, but have failed to keep them.

That God created everything and is not going to be contained in a house built by human hands. God will be where God wants to be.

How arrogant are we if we think we can contain God?

 

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Stephen’s Speech to the Council

“When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his relatives, the Israelites. When he saw one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his kinsfolk would understand that God through him was rescuing them, but they did not understand. The next day he came to some of them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you wrong each other?’ But the man who was wronging his neighbor pushed Moses aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ When he heard this, Moses fled and became a resident alien in the land of Midian. There he became the father of two sons. “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight; and as he approached to look, there came the voice of the Lord: ‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have surely seen the mistreatment of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Come now, I will send you to Egypt.’ “It was this Moses whom they rejected when they said, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ and whom God now sent as both ruler and liberator through the angel who appeared to him in the bush.He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up a prophet for you from your own people as he raised me up.’ He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us. Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make gods for us who will lead the way for us; as for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ At that time they made a calf, offered a sacrifice to the idol, and revealed in the works of their hands. But God turned away from them and handed them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: ‘Did you offer to me slain victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? No; you took along the tent of Moloch, and the star of your god Rephan, the images that you made to worship; so I will remove you beyond Babylon.’ (Acts 7:23-43, NRSV)

Stephen continued to tell the High Council about how God worked through Moses. Through Moses defending an Israelite and running away from Egypt. How through Moses family, God continued the blessing of Moses and God’s continued redemption of His people. How God met Moses on the mountain in the burning bush and how God used Moses to free His people.

Stephen knew the Hebrew history so well, that it might have surprised the High Council, but his knowledge was not for only history but was a part of the story of God redeeming not only the Jewish people but all of the world through Jesus.

 

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Stephen’s Speech to the Council

Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” And Stephen replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’ Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living. He did not give him any of it as a heritage, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as his possession and to his descendants after him, even though he had no child. And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and mistreat them during four hundred years. ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ Then he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. “The patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and enabled him to win favor and to show wisdom when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. Now there came a famine throughout Egypt and Canaan, and great suffering, and our ancestors could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there on their first visit. On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent and invited his father Jacob and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five in all; so Jacob went down to Egypt. He himself died there as well as our ancestors, and their bodies were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem. “But as the time drew near for the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to Abraham, our people in Egypt increased and multiplied until another king who had not known Joseph ruled over Egypt. He dealt craftily with our race and forced our ancestors to abandon their infants so that they would die. At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful before God. For three months he was brought up in his father’s house;and when he was abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. So Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds. (Acts 7:1-22, NRSV)

Stephen is called before the Jewish High Council for preaching about Jesus. When Stephen is questioned, he talks to the council about the history of the Jewish people and how God has led them and saved them time and time again.

He showed them how Abraham was the father of their nation, and how God worked in and through him, and the same for Joseph and Moses.

Stephen unpacked the Hebrew Scriptures to prepare the council to hear about Jesus.

 

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Jesus appears to Seven Disciples

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:1-14, NRSV)

Don’t you think they would have questioned Jesus when He asked them if they had any fish and when they said no He said to cast the net to the right side of the boat? Really we’ve been out here all night and haven’t caught anything don’t you think we cast the net on the right side of the boat? But they don’t. Either they are too tired, or they really want to catch some fish. So they do it. And when they do, they catch so many fish they can’t pull the net into the boat.

That is when they realize it is Jesus. I wonder where did Jesus go? He appeared to Mary on Easter, and then to the 10 on the evening of Easter. Then to the 11 disciples including Thomas the week after. And then here to the 7 on the Monday after that. So where did Jesus go in between these appearances to the disciples?

But here is the point, I wonder, but it really doesn’t matter. If it was important for us to know, we would know. But it is not important for our journey. God is with us, Jesus never left us. We are in His presence, even when we question it. Know He is always with you. Leading you and guiding you as you walk the path you trod.

 

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