The epic story of the gospel spreading across the Roman Empire can be described as powerful, against all odds, romantic, spell-binding ... but more accurately as the working of God's Spirit in the lives of his people. In spite of societal, government, religious and natural obstacles, the hope of Christ spreads, captivating human hearts.
Persecution of the believers accelerated in Jerusalem as the church grew. Luke tells us that the larger number of Christians, not the original apostles, fled to places like Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch of Pisidia in the north (Acts 11:19). These Gentile cities had a larger population of Jews who were established in the business community and even respected by the local government. Antioch would offer greater opportunities to share Christ in an open society where Jews were already accepted.
Today we focus on the formative days of the early church as it is growing and learning how to live the way of Jesus against considerable odds. What does the resurrection mean in the context of society? Where does the church fit in a world of pagan ideas and Jewish legalism?
The final week of Jesus' earthly ministry is a raging flood of clashing events and emotions. Beginning with the triumphal entrance into Jerusalem with crowds joyously shouting, it concluded with the agony of the cross in what seems like the end of all hope for his followers.
The New Testament contains four gospels, all telling the story of Jesus with a different perspective but the same purpose. It is in the differences that we gain a fuller picture of Jesus and his remarkable teachings.
A healthy and necessary exercise for any Christian is to periodically trace the history of your faith journey: the people who influenced you, the experiences that challenged and blessed, and the obstacles that formed your present beliefs.
The first twelve chapters of Hebrews focuses on theology, the necessary doctrines on which believers base their daily living. Chapter 13, referencing Old Testament practices, may seem like a jumble of ideas. Though we do not know the exact ideas that were threatening the church of that day, the writer presents encouragement for sound living as Christ followers and for a faith that shapes that living.
What constitutes your reservoir of strength when life is hard and your stamina is weakened? I often find renewed strength in my family. They were people of dignity who earned their way and believed in God. Their faith was never showy, but it was firm. Their strength has become my strength.