The Dawn Of Christianity (book review)

Sometimes when people are reading the Gospels and the Book of Acts in the New Testament of the Bible they forget what an accurate history is presented at a pivotal time in world events. In The Dawn Of Christianity, Robert J. Hutchinson makes the history behind, surrounding, and after the biblical accounts come to life in a fresh way.

The Dawn Of Christianity tells the history surrounding Jesus of Nazareth and His followers almost in a novel-like format. Hutchinson masterfully puts together the four Gospel accounts and Luke’s history of the early church in chronological order, and then brings in archaeological, geographic, and anthropological resources like a supporting cast to the biblical account. Along the way, we are introduced to extra-biblical characters, places, and customs that add a new depth of understanding to the history presented in Scripture.

Hutchinson notes, “Recent archaeological discoveries are showing that the New Testament in general, and the Gospels in particular, are far more reliable historical sources than previous generations of New Testament experts realized.” Indeed, he makes good use of as many pertinent finds as possible to enhance his storytelling.

The Dawn Of Christianity spans the time from just before the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and then tracks the spread of Christianity for about 20 years following Christ’s ascension into heaven. It’s a fascinating and enlightening story for both Bible aficionados and skeptics alike.

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

The Promised Power Of Pentecost

When the Israelites were delivered from Egypt on the night of Passover, fifty days later they arrived at Mount Sinai where God delivered the Ten Commandments to them. This became the birth of the Jewish nation. For millennia following this, not only did the Jewish people observe Passover but they also celebrated “The Feast of Weeks” (also known as Pentecost) fifty days following Passover.

But on the first Pentecost after Christ ascended to Heaven, something amazing happened which was a game-changer for the new Christians. An event which became the birth of the Christian nation.

On that Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit was poured out on Christ’s followers in a way never before seen in history. Although this had never been seen before, it was the fulfillment of something God had promised thousands of years before.

  1. Promised

This blessing of the Holy Spirit had been hinted at when God first called Abraham, as He promised that from Abraham would come a blessing for all peoples on earth (Genesis 12:3). Jesus said that this blessing would be realized with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and then Peter tied the Day of Pentecost experience to the fulfillment of those promises (Acts 2:38-39).

  1. Commanded

Jesus had this empowerment of the Holy Spirit and He wanted all of His followers to have it too, so His directive to His follower is not a suggestion. Twice when Jesus tells His followers to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the verbs He uses are commands (see Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4).

  1. Normal Experience

For the first Christians, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a normal experience for them following salvation. This baptism gave them power to…

  1. Initial Evidence

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is accompanied by an initial physical evidence of speaking in a language you’ve never studied. This is to be an unmistakable proof—primarily to you—of the Spirit’s outpouring. But the ongoing development of Christlike character is the continual evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

So what’s the controversy? Why do people spend so much time arguing this baptism isn’t for us, or for now? If we start down that path, what else are we going to say is outdated or exclusive for some?

Doesn’t seem much more logical to simply accept what God promised all His people?!

So here’s the question I would ask you—Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit? If not, why not?

8 Quotes From “Born After Midnight”

A.W. Tozer’s writings are nearly five decades old, but they still ring with prophetic truth for this generation. Check out my book review of Born After Midnight by clicking here. Below are a few of the quotes from this book.

“It may be said without qualification that every man is as holy and as full of the Spirit as he wants to be. He may not be as full as he wishes he were, but he is most certainly as full as he wants to be. … The problem is not to persuade God to fill us, but to want God sufficiently to permit Him to do so.”

“In of book of Acts, faith was for each believer a beginning, not an end; it was a journey, not a bed in which to lie while waiting for the day of our Lord’s triumph. Believing was not a once-done act; it was more than an act, it was an attitude of heart and mind that inspired and enabled the believer to take up his cross and follow the Lamb whithersoever He went.”

“I am afraid we modern Christians are long on talk and short on conduct. … Our Lord and His apostles were long on deeds. The Gospels depict a Man walking in power, ‘who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him’ (Acts 10:38). The moral relation between words and deeds appears quite plainly in the life and teachings of Christ; He did before He spoke, and all the doing gave validity to the speaking.”

“We settle for words in religion because deeds are too costly. It is easier to pray, ‘Lord, help me to carry my cross daily’ than to pick up the cross and carry it.”

“‘Whoever will be great among you, let him be your minister,’ said our Lord (Matthew 20:26), and from these words, we may properly conclude (and the context strongly supports the conclusion) that there is nothing wrong with the desire to be great provided (1) we seek the right kind of greatness; (2) we allow God to decide what is greatness; (3) we are willing to pay the full price that greatness demands; and (4) we are content to wait for the judgment of God to settle the whole matter of who is great at last.”

“God may allow his servant to succeed when He has disciplined him to a point where he does not need to succeed to be happy. The man who is elated by success and cast down by failure is still a carnal man. … God will allow His servant to succeed when he has learned that success does not make him dearer to God nor more valuable in the total scheme of things.”

“While we cannot determine circumstances, we can determine our reaction to them. And there is where the battle is to be fought and the victory won.”

“To ‘accept the universe’ does not mean that we are to accept evil conditions as inevitable and make no effort to improve them. So to teach would be to cancel the plain teaching of the Scriptures on that point. Where a situation is contrary to the will of God, and there are clear promises concerning it in the Scriptures, it is our privilege and obligation to pray and labor to bring about change.”

More quotes from this book are coming soon…

No Apathetic Christians Allowed!

Healthy love loves God and then serves God by loving and serving others. Quite simply—love loves.

But my question is how does love love?

Sometimes we can get a fuller definition of a word by looking at its opposite. So what’s the opposite of love? It isn’t hate because hate is actually the flip side of love. That means our hatred for anything that comes against the object of our love is just as strong as our love is.

The opposite of love is apathy.

Apathy means without pathos (or feeling). Specifically, without feeling that moves us to action. So in order for love to love, it needs pathos as its fuel.

For example. If you hear a coworker mention her frustration with construction slowing down her morning commute, apathy says, “Bummer!” and does nothing else. But love fuel by pathos says, “I found an alternate route that I can share with you.”

When a friend tells you about his frustration with trying to lose weight, apathy says, “Good luck!” Pathos love says, “Here’s the diet that worked for me” or “I’ll go to the gym with you.”

Love is fueled by pathos to: speak out, act out, and reach out.

When Peter was describing the ministry of Jesus, he said, “He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” (Acts 10:38).

As His follower, we are supposed to feel the needs of the hurting and confused around us, and then let that pathos fuel our love to go around doing good:

  • When you hear someone asking for help, offer help.
  • When you see someone who is down, be their friend.
  • When you don’t see a neighbor for a couple of days, check on them.
  • When you meet someone looking for answers, invite them to church with you.
  • When a friend is sick, send a card, bring a meal, or mow their lawn.

These kinds of good deeds make Jesus happy (see Matthew 25:40) because it’s a tangible way to love God and then serve God by loving and serving others.

BE LIKE JESUS—GO AROUND DOING GOOD! 

There should never, ever be such a thing as an apathetic Christian!

How Do You Start A Conversation With God?

pray-through-the-bibleLast week I asked you to imagine how your relationship grew with your best friend. You probably found that this special friendship was formed during hours and hours of talking.

I’m going to guess that at first your conversation was a little on the superficial side. You talked about “tame” topics like sports teams, or your job, or the city you lived in. But at some point you took a huge riskyou became vulnerable by sharing something really personal. Perhaps you shared a time that you got hurt, or something that makes you anxious, or maybe a big dream you carry around in your heart. But if that friend is still your friend, that means they treated what you shared reverently. They didn’t laugh at you, belittle your hurts or dreams, nor did they share with others what you said.

The relationships became deeper and more special because you now knew each other on a more intimate level.

Prayer is a conversation with a Friend. Of course that Friend is God, so some people wonder, “What do I talk to God about?” The simple answer is anything and everything!

Time and time again God calls us to come closer to Him (see Isaiah 55:1-3), to discuss with Him things we don’t understand (Jeremiah 33:3), or to be assured that He is intimately tuned in to what’s happening in our life (Psalm 139:17; 1 Peter 3:12).

How do we get there? A good place to start is with our Bible. Dwight Moody said:

“The two first and essential means of grace are the Word of God and Prayer. … If we read the Word and do not pray, we may become puffed up with knowledge, without the love that buildeth up. If we pray without reading the Word, we shall be ignorant of the mind and will of God, and become mystical and fanatical, and liable to be blown about by every wind of doctrine.”

Scripture was written to point us to Jesus. So we don’t read the Bible just to read it; we read it to get to know God.

We don’t want to know the Word of God; we want to know the God of the Word. 

A great place to start is in the book of the Psalms. Many of these were written as prayers, so it’s a good way to start our conversation with God. You can also search in the New Testament for all the places that biblical writers said, “I pray…” or “This is my prayer….”

I share a personal example of this in this video, especially if you want to fast forward to the 36:00 minute mark.

Don’t just read through the Bible this week—pray through the Bible. Use it as a means to have a conversation with the very Best Friend you could ever know!

I encourage you this week, as you think about this topic, to get together with an earthly friend and discuss these questions:

  1. How can I use my Bible as a “conversation starter” with God?
  2. How can I get into the regular practice of talking to God as a Friend?

Love Serves

love-serves-1I have blogged quite a bit about the tendency of our culture to be pragmatic. That is, people determine the rightness or wrongness of something based on how it feels to them. If it feels good,  or if they get something positive out of it, then it must be good; but if it feels bad, or if they don’t  get anything out of it, then it must be something they need to abandon.

True love is never pragmatic. Although culture tells us it is:

  • “You’ll know he’s the one by how he makes you feel.”
  • “We’ve fallen out of love.”
  • “There’s just no spark there any more.”
  • “He’s let me down one too many times.”
  • “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, oh that lovin’ feeling….”

“We dress ‘love’ in the fantasy of evening gowns and tuxedos, with silver and candelabras. But most of the time…love comes dressed in overalls—it is practical, down-to-earth, everyday hard work. It is really thinking of the other person and doing what the other person needs and being what the other person needs when he or she needs you to be there.” —Dr. Richard Dobbins

love-serves-2In writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul told them he became their servant—literally this means their waiter. But not so he could get something out of it. Instead it was a love completely focused on them…

  • the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the sake of you (Ephesians 3:1)
  • God’s grace was given to me for you (v. 2)
  • this grace was given to me to preach to [you] (v. 8)
  • my sufferings for you, which are your glory (v. 13)

Speaking to the Ephesian leaders as he was traveling to Jerusalem, he said…I served the Lord with great humility and with tears (Acts 20:19)

  • I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears (v. 31)
  • I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing (v. 33)
  • In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak (v. 35)

Dear Christian, is this the kind of love you demonstrate? Do you share God’s grace with the hurting? Do you walk alongside those who are limping or about to give up? Do you stand through the storms with those on the battlefield?

It’s not what I get out of it. 
Love focuses on the other person. 
Love is devoted by a solemn promise. 
Love doesn’t view “suffering” as something bad, but for the other person’s glory. 
Love doesn’t seek recognition or rewards. 
Love simply does what is important for the other person.

2 Life-Changing Words

whose-you-areThere’s an interesting story recorded in Acts. Seven sons of a priest named Sceva attempt to cast out a demon by saying, “In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches, come out!” To which the demon replies, “Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are you?”

Not only was the demon not exorcised, but the seven men came running out of the house bloodied and naked from the beating they received!

Think about it: If you spoke to the devil and said, “Get away from me!” would he be afraid of you? The simple answer is “No!” Why? Because you have no power in yourself.

It’s not about who you are, it’s about Whose you are.

john-14-20Jesus talked about our place in Him in John 14:20. Notice the word “in” in this verse:

  • Jesus is in the Father
  • The Christian is in Jesus
  • The Spirit of Christ is in the Christian

Here are the two life-changing words for any Christian to remember…

IN CHRIST

The devil wants to get you second-guessing your identity. He wants you to be uncertain if you are worthy of coming into God’s presence. He wants you doubting if you are truly forgiven and worthy of God’s attention. He wants you unsure if you can stand up against him in a spiritual fight.

This uncertainty and doubt is erased by faith in this: I am IN CHRIST!

in-christ-i-amPlease print out this list from Ephesians of all the “in Christ” statements Paul shares with us. (You may download a PDF version by clicking here → in-christ-i-am)

Keep this list handy, and the next time satan whispers doubts in your ear like, “Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are you?” say—

“It’s not who I am, but Whose I am! I am Christ’s. I am in Him and He is in me. I have been forgiven. I am a part of His family. I have a purpose. I am holy and blameless. I am the recipient of all God’s blessings. And you can never defeat me because I AM IN CHRIST!”

If you don’t have a home church, join us next week as we continue our series in the book of Ephesians called Sit Walk Stand.

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