When you hear “magic” you may think of someone pulling a rabbit out of a hat or other sleight of hand. Some magic is far less amusing. It is an effort to manipulate super-human powers for one’s own advantage. Acts 8:4-25 contrasts that manipulative self-centeredness with the free, liberating gospel of God’s grace.
As the good news expands in Samaria, the kingdom of God replaces the rule of magic. Magic enslaves its followers. For hundreds of years Samaritan worship had compromised the service of the true God. As believers in Jesus arrived in Samaria they found people deceived by Simon the Sorcerer, sometimes known as Simon Magus. People followed him and were under his authority. Some early sources link him with the rise of the Gnostic heresy, but Luke’s main focus is not on him, despite the high view his followers held, considering him divine or at least Continue reading “Magic or Pentecost’s Power?”
Why does God allow difficult suffering into the lives of his people? Why does he allow his church to be persecuted and scattered? While you need to beware of simplistic answers, the events of Acts 8:1-8 show God sovereignly using even the attacks of the enemy to accomplish his purposes.
God builds his kingdom his way. Great persecution threatens the church. The early years of the church in Jerusalem were marked by growth (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:41; 5:14, and 6:7), despite opposition from the leaders of Israel. The martyrdom of Stephen triggers persecution, led by Saul, which Luke describes as “great.” The term, “dragged off” is used of a beast of prey and its victim. The believers flee Jerusalem, though the apostles remain there. You might expect Continue reading “When God Scatters”
How important in your life are milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries? The stone which Samuel set up for Israel (1 Samuel 7:12) was not a literal milestone, but it did point to a most significant point in their history. It is an appropriate passage to look at as Trinity Presbyterian Church observes an anniversary.
The ministry of Samuel was a call to turn to the Lord. As he called Israel, he calls you to repent. Although Samuel’s birth and early childhood have been described, this chapter marks the beginning of the prophet’s public ministry. It forms a transition from the ugly, disappointing time of the judges and prepares for the coming kingdom under Saul, but then blossoming under David and Solomon. Coming to God always involves repentance, turning away from the idols of the day and serving the Lord whole-heartedly.
As you turn to the Lord, you need a mediator. Samuel was a judge, an office of rule, but he also was a prophet, and sometimes functioned in a priestly role. He reminds you of Moses, and anticipates the King greater than David, who Continue reading “Marking Milestones”