As I prepare this article it is as though I am hearing more and more about the lack of good sound solid leadership in the nations of the world – where men of integrity and trust are indeed found to be reliable. Corruption appears to be a blight in these times when transparency is easily trips off too many tongues.
In the Bible there are lessons and warnings and guidance and direction in the areas of leadership and discipleship and we would be wise to start paying heed.
Many of our serious situations and circumstances could be resolved if only we would adhere to what god has said in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
When I was asked to deliver ten lessons – ten talks – seeking to cover the entire bible in ten sessions, I found it exhilarating – and highly challenging too.
In our sweeping through the Bible seeking to have an overview of these past 6,000 years, we come to the prophets. Since the days of Moses there have been prophets – but it is when we come to around the year 700 B.C. that we have various books written by the prophets.
Previously the words of the prophets are included in the content of the historical books.
The prophets were very ordinary men – but they were given a BURDEN or ORACLE or WORD – which they spoke or preached or proclaimed or shared.
The prophet not only spoke for God – but he first had to hear from God. We have to receive before we can give.
The prophets basically challenged the people of God – and occasionally confronted kings – or the priests – or false prophets.
They also comforted the people – and that is also part of New Testament prophecy.
Let me break in at this point and mention the prophetic book of ACTS – As we attempt to sweep through the Bible, and have a quick overview of the Word of God, we come now to the book of ACTS. Acts is written by Luke – this is his second volume.
It begins after the resurrection of Jesus Christ – deals with the details of the Ascension – a much forgotten aspect of the life and ministry of Jesus.
We are dealing with around the first 30 years of the Church of Jesus Christ.
We then go on to read about that mighty day of Pentecost – when the Church of Jesus Christ was birthed – launched – in the Temple in Jerusalem – with thousands present – and 120 disciples of Jesus baptised in the Holy Spirit – anointed – filled – and overflowing.
And they ALL spoke in tongues – they ALL praised God in languages they had never learned. Those who were observing thought they were drunk – and Peter explained, basing his explanation on the Scriptures – as to what God had done.
Here we are reading of how we come into the Church of Jesus Christ and how we are to behave once we come into the Church of Jesus Christ.
Luke was doctor – a scientist – a man used to being careful in observation and keeping records. He has examined the life of Jesus – now he is examining the life of the Church, and in these first 11 or 12 Chapters we have most of the basics of the Christian life.
When speaking in Uganda and Kenya at 3-day Seminars for Pastors and Leaders, I have taken these men through the first 15 Chapters of the book of ACTS.
On the Day of Pentecost, when Peter explains what has been happening, people want to do something – Acts Chapter 2 verses 37f. – and Peter is simple straightforward and clear – repent – be baptised – receive the Holy Spirit.
Then we read of the importance of teaching – and these four basic areas of life in the fellowship of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Peter and John meet that cripple man – and he is healed – and Peter and John are imprisoned. Persecution has begun – within the first few days.
But there a boldness and a courage displayed by these apostles – and a fellowship which is so strong and reliable and supportive and prayerful.
God also keeps a purity within the fellowship during the first few weeks – hypocrisy is dealt with, severely – Acts Chapter 5.
But then a grumbling arises – and people are appointed to deal with this unneeded problem.
The leaders would not be diverted from their priorities – and we read of that. Their priorities were prayer and the ministry of the Word. Priorities for leaders and leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ have never changed, or been altered, or modified.
The Gospel begins to spread out of Jerusalem – when a man goes to Samaria – but the job is not done fully – adequately – completely – and Peter and John go down to Samaria to ensure that these new believers in Jesus are born again, just as the believers back in Jerusalem. Acts Chapter 8.
Persecution increases – and we meet Saul of Tarsus who is responsible for the death of the first disciple of Jesus to die for his faith.
Saul is arrested by Jesus outside Damascus – and he is changed. Jesus sends him a friend to help him – Ananias. Saul is filled with the Holy Spirit – baptised in water – and then has something to eat. Look at his priorities. He then goes out to preach! The hunter is hunted. He has to escape.
Where will he go? Where can he go? Would anyone trust him? Was he a plant – a spy? Another man befriends him back in Jerusalem – Barnabas. Saul, now called Paul, has to be hustled off to his home city of Tarsus.
Acts now concentrates upon Peter – and he travels visiting all the needy ones.
God arranges from him to be brought north to Caesarea – where the Gentiles are opened up to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Acts Chapter 10 – and this lands Peter in trouble, as the Gentiles have come to faith in Jesus Christ and are ‘born again’. Peter explains fully to the Jerusalem leadership, and when they are satisfied that this was God at work, they had ‘no further objections’.
However, there is more trouble. James is killed. Up to now we have read of Peter, James and John – now James is killed. The intention is to kill others too. Persecution was growing fast.
Acts Chapter 13 – where we come to the first great missionary movement in the Church of Jesus Christ. Note how it is birthed.
And off Paul goes on three missionary journeys – each lasting between TWO and FIVE years.
There was a real problem facing the Church in Acts Chapter 15 – where people were saying you needed more than faith in Jesus Christ to be a Christian.
Later, Paul is arrested in Jerusalem – and has to flee yet again. This man has no rest – no time off – no easy period. He is imprisoned for two years in Caesarea – and then is shipped off to Rome – where the book of Acts ends.
The details of that storm on the Mediterranean are worth checking for accuracy – the currents – the movements of the ship – the type of cargo – how did they lash a ship that was about to break up – the climatic conditions at that October time of year.
Paul remains a prisoner – and writes some of the letters while imprisoned in Rome. We have the account of Paul’s conversion 3 times in the book of ACTS and he never moved away from how he came to faith in Jesus Christ – he never grew away from how he was ‘born again’. Some do!
If we did not have the book of ACTS, we would not know how to come into the Church. Please, do take time to read or re-read the book of ACTS, as we approach another Ascension and Pentecost.
Notice there were no buildings – no official clergy – no committees – or missionary societies to support the missionaries – people were financed by their converts.
There were no H.Q.’s and denominational divisions – and we are now up to around the year 65 A.D.
There is an emphasis on The Kingdom of God – the Name of Jesus – the power of the Holy Spirit.
These need to be three main focuses within the Church of Jesus Christ today.
Jeremiah has become a nickname for doom and gloom – Jeremiah prophesied serious and sad words – all of which came true.
If someone calls you a Jeremiah, and that is true – then that is a great compliment – it means you are speaking forth the Word of God.
The people thought Jesus was Jeremiah! Matthew Chapter 16.
In the prophets we learn about GOD.
We learn that God is powerful – that HE is a GOD of miracles – that HE intervenes in history – that HE raises up men – that HE judges men and nations, even His own chosen people – that HE is a GOD who pardons and shows mercy.
The prophets indicate how personal God is – and how GOD draws near to His people – and that HE speaks to people.
Isaiah – we looked at his testimony – and we know precisely when he lived. This is one long – very long – book – and we have a scroll of this book – I have seen it in Jerusalem. It is dated around 100 B.C.
Let’s take one famous verse – Chapter 2 verse 4 – “They shall beat their swords in plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks”. That is outside the United Nations building in New York. But – look at the whole verse – “He shall judge among the nations”. This was sung at Donald Dewar’s funeral – and I remember thinking – these people have not a clue as to what these words mean.
The first part of the verse is essential before the second part of the verse can happen!
When Jesus walked onto the world’s stage, Jesus preached from Isaiah 61 – and saw the fulfilment of that prophecy in his coming into the world – Luke Chapter 4.
Isaiah – Jonah – Joel – Amos – Hosea – Micah – Nahum – Habakkuk – Jeremiah and Obadiah – they were all before the Exile. Consider the lessons which we can learn from these men of courage and insight – men who were called by God and who carried something of the anointing of God.
They heard from God – they heard what God was saying at that time – and they had the courage and ability to proclaim and preach what the people needed to hear – and often a great cost.
Let this not just be an article – but allow it to go spiritually deep – and produce fruit.
“Lord God Almighty, open us to the prophetic Word – open our hearts and minds to what You revealed to ordinary men, many years ago. We thank You for their boldness and courage – and for the truth and truths they delivered. We thank you for these details regarding the coming of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. At this season of Passover, when we recall what lies at the centre of our Christian Faith – O loving Father, we give thanks for the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ – and all that that means – may we never lose sight of what lies at the heart and core – we pray in Jesus Name. Amen”