“You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all.” (Acts 19:26, NASB95)

Demetrius the silversmith to his fellow workmen who realized the threat that Paul brought to their trades and lifestyles.  Demetrius himself made his living by fashioning silver images of the goddess Artemis/Diana.

I am struck by Demetrius’ words: saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. He gets the truth about Paul’s message.  Paul was on a mission to communicate to everyone who would listen that God was too great to be contained in or by anything and since he created all things, he could hardly be represented by something that man himself had made with his own hands.

The goddess Artemis/Diana is long forgotten, a relic of the ancient past, and the magnificent temple to her in Ephesus lies in ruins, and yet on every continent and in every nation on earth, people worship and serve the God whom Paul preached.

Bob Ayala once captured this truth in song.  He wrote in part:

Kings and countries come and gone

But their splendor has been long forgotten

Nero tried to stop my song,

Still I sing in Ugandan prisons,

Kings and queens and battle screams pass away

I’ve been living a long time

I was born on Easter morning

I’ve been living a long time,

Since the stone was rolled away.


The goddess Artemis/Diana and the other ancient gods?  Lost to history.  The gospel? Still going 2000 years later.


And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”” (Acts 18:9–10, ESV)

I love the words:  I have many in this city who are my people!  To understand why, you have to understand the background of Corinth.  The city sat on a major land and sea transportation route.  It was the third largest city in the Roman Empire at the time containing an estimated 150,000 freemen and another 450,000 slaves.

Corinth was kind of a cross between New York City and Las Vegas.  It was both a major trade center and a town where licentiousness and immorality was so strong that the word “to corinthianize” came into the Greek language as a verb that meant “to live wantonly.”

It was in this city with its mix of rich and poor, free and slave; with it’s penchant for sexual immorality and partying, that the Lord told Paul he had many in this city who are my people. Amidst the paganism and wanton living, God was going to reach down and save many people and bring them to faith and Paul and his companions were the chief instruments that God was going to use to accomplish this great and beautiful task.

We tend to think that God is least likely to work where the people are the most immoral, but God isn’t boxed in by our assumptions about how he works.  He is pleased to draw people to faith from every background, from every class of society, and from both the immoral and those who fancy themselves good and moral (though they are neither).  Indeed, it often seems that the least likely to come to faith are the ones who do come to faith most often.

I consulted with myself and contended with the nobles and the rulers and said to them, “You are exacting usury, each from his brother!” Therefore, I held a great assembly against them.” (Nehemiah 5:7, NASB95)

Here is an example where the NASB doesn’t do a very good job of translation.  It reads: I consulted with myself, which makes Nehemiah look like a dictator (which, given the authority he had he probably could have been).  Other translations help us clarify what Nehemiah meant:

  • I pondered them NIV84, NIV
  • thinking it over NLT, NRSV
  • After serious thought NKJV
  • I thought over this in my heart LEB

I think I like the NKJV translation here: After serious thought. Nehemiah had an issue (the wealthy oppressing the poor by usury) and he had to do something about it, and it took a lot of thought and wisdom to decide what action to take in light of the issue.

Nehemiah acts to protect the poor, which is exactly what he should have done, given the fact that what the wealthy were doing was contrary to the Mosaic Law. Charles Spurgeon writes here:

When he found that his own words were scarcely powerful enough with them, he gathered together the people and let them all have a voice, for in many voices there is power. Some persons are deaf to the voice of justice until it is repeated loudly by thousands of others.

“In many voices there is power.”  We need to remember that.


In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” (James 1:18, NASB95)

I’ve been going over and over the book of James in the past couple of days [listened to it six times so far] because I read this book called How to Master the English Bible [Free synopsis:  Listen/Read one book over and over again in one sitting until you know the general outline and flow of the narrative/argument by heart].

Every time I listen through the book, this verse seems to pop out at me, especially the phrase In the exercise of His will. Since James is referring to this process as a kind of first fruits among His creatures, we know that he is referring to salvation here.  God brought us forth into salvation by the exercise of His will.  This is a humbling truth.  We’d like to think that the real process is this: In the exercise of our will we came to faith by the word of truth. The only difficulty here is, while this is what we think, it isn’t what James writes.

Indeed, what James writes literally is: “In the exercise of His will He gave birth to us by the word of truth.”  The Passion Translation puts it this way: God was delighted to give us birth by the truth of his infallible Word.

So let’s just recap what James emphasizes here in the process of God giving us the new birth [which Jesus refers to in John 3]:

  • Our birth into a life of faith comes about by an act of God’s will
  • Our birth into a life of faith comes about by the word of truth

God and the Scriptures are what are important here.  Even though this is humbling to me, I’m glad it is this way, because I do not believe I would have been smart enough to grasp God’s offer of salvation through my own intellect or desire. God exercises His will.  I’m good with that.

I’m in my 63rd and last day of reading listening through the NLT Chronological Bible quickly as if it were a novel. Today we are in the book of Revelation.

I do not claim to understand much of the book of Revelation.  It is full of symbolism, so figuring out which parts of it are symbolic, and which parts are to be read literally is very difficult [just pick up a few study Bibles and read through the varying interpretations to get an idea]. There are seals of judgment, trumpets of judgment and bowls of judgment.  There is a dragon, and a beast from the sea.  There is a ten nation confederation that somehow is upset and becomes a 7? nation confederation. There are earthquakes, lightening, plagues of really weird locusts.  There are scenes in heaven.  There are 144,000 witnesses for Christ. There is a 1000 year reign of the saints.  There is a new heaven and a new earth. The sheer magnitude of everything that is going on in Revelation is daunting and mystifying.  John Calvin was smart enough not to write a commentary on Revelation.

One of the good advances of biblical scholars in the 20th century was to realize that Revelation (along with the second half of Daniel) is a genre of writing all its own: apocalyptic literature. I’ll not make an attempt to explain apocalyptic literature except to say that one of its purposes was to encourage followers of Christ by emphasizing God’s salvation and deliverance and by pointing out that wickedness would not be overlooked by God.  If you read through the book of Revelation, among all of the symbolism, you will see these two things: God saving his own people and God punishing evil and wickedness once and for all.

I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books…And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12, 15, NLT)

Sobering passage, but not hopeless, because in the very last chapter, almost at the last verse we find that grace is available for all who will take it:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17, NLT)

Jesus came and Jesus died and Jesus rose again from the dead, just so John could pen these words.  Is your soul weary with the burdens of this world?  Are you tired of being a slave to sin, to your appetites, to your own desires, dear reader?  If you are thirsty, then come and drink of he who is the water of life freely and you will never thirst again, you will have eternal life.



We are closing in on finishing the NLT Chronological Bible with just today and tomorrow until we finish.  Today we are in 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, and Jude.

Peter wants his readers to stand firm in grace and so he shapes his letters in such a way that he helps his readers attain that goal.  Near the end of his first letter, he writes:

I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother. My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. (1 Peter 5:12, NLT)

Peter strikes just the right tone here.  As followers of Christ we are to stand firm, but we don’t stand firm with our good works, or our merit, or our work of devotion (though none of those is necessarily a bad thing), we stand firm in and through God’s grace.

In 2 Peter, one of Peter’s main themes is to remind his readers that, as Jesus himself promised, he will come again even though many years have passed since Jesus’ ascension.  God will do what he promised and Peter’s readers (as well as we who read his letter 2000 years later) are to wait for Jesus’ return with eager anticipation.

John focuses in on one main theme again and again in his letters: love.  We are to love each other:

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8, NLT)

We are not to love the world:

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” (1 John 2:15–16, NLT)

One of the main focuses of Jude’s letter as well as 1 John and 2 Peter is to beware of false teachers.

I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4, NLT)

False teachers were a continuing problem for the early church and they are a continuing problem to the church today.  Some will say that a Christian must follow the Law of Moses after one is saved, others–as in Jude–will say that God’s grace sets us free to do anything we want, including living immoral lives, etc.  We as followers of Christ need to become students of the Scriptures so that we can expose false teaching when we come across it.

These letters of Peter, John, and Jude show the continuing necessity for instruction in the faith as different issues arise that need to be addressed in a biblical manner.  We see the same necessity today.  How should we handle gender issues in the church?  How should the church act and what should it do now that gay marriage is legal?  What responsibility do we have with a government that seems out of control and unable to function as it properly should?  The list is endless, but thankfully, God has left us the Scriptures to give us wisdom for life so that we can handle these issues in a way that pleases him.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7–8, NLT)

Paul writes the words above in his second letter to Timothy and, so far as we know, his last letter to anyone.  It’s a touching statement as the reader understands that the streams of Paul’s life are ebbing out quickly.  Paul looks back because his work is almost finished.  He has given his life over to ministry to the Gentiles and he can honestly say: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 

Would that every follower of Jesus could say this at the end of their lives and ministry.

Hebrews is a quite unusual letter among the rest of the New Testament letters because it is obviously written to Jewish followers of Jesus.  The author (Paul?  Apollos?) assumes that his readers understand very specific things about the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament): The system of laws and regulations, the appearance of Melchizedek, the sacrifices, the priests.  What is helpful about all of this is that the author of Hebrews explains how the Old Testament laws, regulations, sacrifices, and system of priests points forward to and is fulfilled in Jesus.

Hebrews has some of my favorite verses in the New Testament:

  • For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.” (Hebrews 3:14, NLT)
  • For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12, NLT)
  • Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” (Hebrews 10:23, NLT)
  • By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.” (Hebrews 11:3, NLT)
  • Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)

Like all of the rest of the Old Testament, the Torah points forward to something greater: It points the Jews to Jesus.  The Law wasn’t an end in itself, it wasn’t The Thing. It was put in place to last only until Jesus came and perfectly lived and fulfilled the Law, or, as the writer to Hebrews puts it:

But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.” (Hebrews 10:12, NLT)