Welcome to the first of my Romans 15:8 monthly blogs for 2019. If you have recently joined the Romans 15:8 network may I thank-you for doing so. It is so important to build up a high profile public ‘community of like- minded Church leaders’ who will stand for God’s ongoing purposes for Israel and the ongoing call to share the Gospel with Jewish people. I think this is especially poignant as we sadly see the rise of anti-Semitism within many contexts. For anti-Semitism to flourish it simply needs a few highly motivated hate filed individuals alongside the indifference of the many.
In 2018, 22 Church leaders joined the network and hopefully many more will do so in the months ahead. If you are reading this and have not yet signed up to the network, please do so. Equally if you have joined could you please encourage one or two other colleagues to do so in 2019? It is very simple to sign up on line.
Also a 2019 reminder if you have enjoyed reading my blogs and exploring the CMJ UK website I am sure you will also enjoy visiting the CMJ Israel website- especially the Christ Church page which includes (on soundcloud) all the recent audio recordings of the Sunday sermons from Christ Church, Jerusalem. These recordings are a great record of the wider teaching ministry of CMJ and are a wonderful teaching resource as each preacher follows the weekly lectionary readings. I know many Church leaders (on average each sermon has 300+ on-line listeners) listen in to these sermons as part of their own devotional and study programme.
Teaching reflection of the month
This month I have finally (hooray I hear you cry!) completed my new book project 100 Days with Acts. This will be a follow-up to the 2018 book 100 Days with Luke. If any members of the Romans 15:8 network would like me to send them a free copy of this new book, simply request this by sending me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a postal address.
Outlined below are my notes from the final reading (day 100) of this new book study:
Luke concludes Acts with Paul keeping an ‘open house’ in Rome. He is able to welcome all who come to him, and he also continues without hindrance his proclamation of the kingdom and his teaching about Jesus.
We do not know what happens to Paul after these two years (Acts 28:30), which takes us to around the end of AD 62. Paul would probably be in his early sixties at this point. Maybe he is released, for clearly he expects to be, if one links Philippians 1:19 -26 and Philemon 1:22with this time of house arrest in Rome. Maybe he resumes some missionary journeys? Some scholars and commentators suggest that Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus clearly imply that he does undertake a number of new missionary journeys after his release from house arrest in Rome. Maybe Paul even travels as far as Spain? Clearly this is his intention as we see from Romans 15:24. Maybe however he is executed in Rome shortly after these two years, or a few years later, in or around AD 66?
I think the strongest tradition indicates that Paul does indeed leave Rome after his two years of house arrest and takes part in more missionary journeys. Also during this time he writes his two letters to Timothy and his one letter to Titus. Following this he is imprisoned once again in Rome and is martyred (beheaded) along with Peter (crucified) under the orders of Emperor Nero in AD 66. AD 66 is also the year when the first stirrings of the Jewish revolt against Rome begins; this revolt is violently crushed finally in AD 70 and this ‘crushing’ included the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The important point however, is not to focus as we conclude these 100 readings from Acts with this speculation. The key focus of Acts is not on Paul (or Peter, James, or Stephen) or any other specific person, event or place. The focus is on Jesus and the spreading of His Gospel. The book of Acts gives to us a precious insight into the growth of the early Church and the spreading of the Gospel within specific historical, cultural and geographical settings.
The vital thing to know and to celebrate is that this spreading of the Gospel is not limited to any specific time, person, culture or place , but continues everywhere, even “ …to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This Gospel will continue in the ‘here and now’ and will last forever, as one prepares for the time of the promised return of the LORD (Acts 1:11).
What part can you play in honouring Jesus today and making His Gospel known to others today and into the future?
Ministry news update
The past few weeks I have had the opportunity to engage with leading Church ministers from the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham in response to a highly inappropriate, ill-judged and in the view of many anti-Semitic article in the Southwell Minster newsletter. Thankfully due to the concern raised by many people an unreserved apology will shortly be issued by the Editor and the Dean.
In addition to this I have also been preparing for a major conference in New York. This conference which begins on 28th January is a pioneering event which will help the Church to explore ways to share the Gospel within the Orthodox Jewish world. This somewhat ‘closed’ world is arguably the most important frontier for Christian-Jewish mission today. I hope to be able to share, learn and reflect during this event. Please pray for all of us gathering for this conference.
I have enjoyed reading the book- “Enemies and Neighbours- Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017.” The book is by the former Guardian journalist and academic Ian Black and is published by Penguin Books (2017). While I don’t agree with all the historical and political analysis outlined within this book I do believe this book is compelling, well-balanced and accessible.
I have also enjoyed dipping into one of my Christmas presents this year- “The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan”. Edited by Kevin J H Dettmar. This book is published by Cambridge University Press (2009). I am particularly interested in the chapters on Dylan and Religion (Chap 7) and Dylan as cultural icon (Chap 9).
Monthly Memory Verse
“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Ruach! says Adonai-Tzva’ot.”
(Zechariah 6:6 – Messianic Jewish Family Bible).