About Taylor Halverson

Dr. Taylor Halverson received a B.A. from Brigham Young University in Ancient Near Eastern Studies in 1997, an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Yale University in 2001 and an M.S. in Instructional Technology from Indiana University in 2004. He completed Ph.D.s in Instructional Technology and Judaism & Christianity in Antiquity—both from Indiana University in 2006.

Dr. Halverson focuses his teaching, research, and professional work on helping others become lifelong learners. He does so through several core areas

  • Improving teaching and learning
  • Educational technology, including technology integration into teaching and learning
  • Innovation, design, and creativity, including entrepreneurship
  • Literary and comparative studies of the Book of Mormon, the Old and New Testaments and other ancient literature, ancient kingship and authority, and Judeans during the neo-Babylonian period

Dr. Halverson currently works at BYU full-time at the Center for Teaching and Learning. He is also the founder and co-chair of the Creativity, Innovation, and Design group, acting associate director of the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, and has taught a variety of courses at BYU including: “Old Testament,” “Book of Mormon,” “History of Creativity,” “Innovation Lab: The Design Thinking Experience,” and “Illuminating the Scriptures: Designing Innovative Scripture Study Tools.” Dr. Halverson is a contributor to the popular LDS Bible Videos project and the LDS Scripture Citation Index site and a columnist for the Deseret News. He and his wife Lisa lead travel tours to Israel, the Mediterranean, and Mesoamerica.

James. Exhort and Encourage


James may be the most important book of scripture for the Restoration.  The now famous passage, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God,” (James 1:5) set the young Joseph Smith to deep pondering, which led him to follow the simple and pragmatic counsel to inquire of the Lord.  This straightforward, pragmatic approach has long been a noted feature of James, who focused his short epistle on the practical actions and works of the Gospel in contrast to the Pauline writings that lay much emphasis on justification through faith.1

Authorship Continue reading

  1. Outline of James:

    Learning Perfection                                           1:1-27
    Greeting                                                              1:1
    Trials Lead to Perfection                                   1:2-4
    God Gives Wisdom                                           1:5-8
    Only the Humble Can Boast                            1:9-11
    God Gives Good Things Not Trials                1:12-18
    Learn to Control Speech                                   1:19-21
    Be Doers of the Word                                        1:22-27
    Be Doers Not Hearers                                       1:22-25
    True Piety Cares for the Lowly                       1:26-27
    Faith Must Produce Works                              2:1-26
    Do Not Show Partiality toward the Rich       2:1-7
    The Royal Law: Love of Neighbor                  2:8-13
    Faith without Works Does Not Save              2:14-26
    Perfection Governs Speech                               3:1-12
    Not All Should Be Teachers                             3:1
    Unrestrained Speech Causes Evils                  3:2-12
    Wisdom From Above                                        3:13-4:12
    Seek Heavenly Not Earthly Wisdom              3:13-18
    Passions Cause Strife                                        4:1-5
    Humble Yourselves before God                     4:6-10
    Do Not Judge Others                                        4:11-12
    The Lord Governs Human Life                      4:13-5:12
    Do Not Be Confident in Future Plans            4:13-17
    God Condemns the Rich for Injustice            5:1-6
    Await the Lord’s Judgment with Patience    5:7-11
    Do Not Swear Oaths                                         5:12
    Final Exhortation to the Community             5:13-20
    Prayer Heals the Sick                                       5:13-15
    Prayer Heals the Sinner                                   5:16-18
    Seek Out Erring Christians                             5:19-20

    (Pheme Perkins, First and Second Peter, James, and Jude in the series Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, edited by James Luther, Patrick Miller, Jr., and Paul Achtemeier, (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1995), pp. 92-93. 

Acts 21-28. Faithfully Witness of Christ


The final chapters of Acts present us with an enormous amount of information—historical, geographical and doctrinal—as it follows the last years of Paul’s earthly ministry.  To do the richness of these texts justice, I feel tempted to just sit down and write out an 800 page commentary.  But then I realize that I also have home teaching to complete by the end of the month and that I do not want to numb the minds of patient readers.  So instead I will take another approach, that our understanding might be quickened.  I will create a brief outline of these eight chapters, (1) offering a few insights into the religious and social tensions simmering in the days of Paul and how his work to preach the Gospel to Jew and gentile alike landed him in hot water because of these tensions, and (2) drawing parallels between Paul and Christ, their ministry, testimony and suffering at the hands of authorities.  In these chapters pay attention to the diverse (though contextually undesired) audiences and opportunities Paul had to preach the message of Christ and consider how Paul’s missionary efforts were the fulfillment of many promises and revelations.

Acts 21

We begin in the city of Miletus, though Acts 21:1 does not make that clear (I sneaked a peak into Acts 20 to find out where Paul was staying).  Where is Miletus?  During the days of Paul it was a city of western Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), near the coast.  If you are like me and have a hard time conjuring up images of ancient western Asia Minor then feel free to use guidance of available maps or follow this Google Map link here.  So Miletus is where we begin, or at least where we pick up the story of Paul visiting various cities, bidding farewell to saints and encouraging them with the truths of the gospel as he heads towards to Jerusalem.

Once Paul reached the coasts of Palestine at the Roman port city of Caesarea, a city built by Herod the Great and dedicated to Emperor Caesar Augustus as a form of flattery, a prophet by the name of Agabus offered ill tidings that Paul would be bound in chains if he proceeded to Jerusalem.  Undeterred by such a prophecy of woe, Paul left for Jerusalem, “ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).

At Jerusalem the saints received him with much rejoicing, but not without concern, for there was still religious controversy swirling in the air among the various Jewish groups.  Hence Paul’s missionary activities were under scrutiny.  The inter-Jewish strife was, at its core, an identity issue.  For centuries, the Jews had identified themselves as a covenant people.  For males the outward, physical sign for such fellowship was circumcision.  Paul, though being a Jew, and likely circumcised, taught that Christian Jews and Gentiles need not be bound to the ancient custom of circumcision.  Instead, they were free in Christ.  The sign of this covenantal freedom would be the gifts of the spirit, particularly the gift of charity (see 1 Corinthians 12-13) manifested after baptism and the reception of the Holy Ghost.  Many Jews, even those who professed to be Christians, were incensed over such a doctrine which worked against the very identity standards that had been venerated for centuries.  Understanding this turmoil and conflict, the brethren of the church in Jerusalem requested that Paul ameliorate the concerns of those Jewish Christians not yet able to find room in their hearts and minds for the additional light and knowledge of revelation.  Being willing to accommodate others, he accompanied several Jewish Christians at their purification rituals for their Nazarite vows, which had long been a sign of Jewish devotion to God throughout the centuries (i.e. Samson was strong as long as he kept his Nazarite vows; he became weak when he broke his vows).  Many hoped that by showing this outward sign of Jewishness Paul would appease the controversy and questioning over his alleged destruction of Jewish identity through the preaching of the Gospel.

Unfortunately, Paul’s motives to overcome the misunderstandings and prejudices of others were, not surprisingly, misunderstood.  Whatever contention and outrage had been simmering below the surface suddenly exploded upon Jerusalem to the extent that it sent shock waves throughout the Roman Empire.  While Paul was in the temple accompanying those four men going through the Nazarite purification ritual, other Jews accused Paul of bringing Gentile Greeks into the temple.  Of course from our perspective we know that Paul had not brought Gentile Greeks into the temple.  But some, whether through ignorance, misunderstanding, or maliciousness, accused Paul of defiling the temple.  What happened next is sometimes a little difficult for us to comprehend in our western democracies where we seek (but not always) to let the rule of reason and order dictate our response to social outrage.

Let us pause here for a moment to consider why having a gentile enter sacred space at the Jewish temple was viewed by the Jews as such an atrocity.  During the days of Paul, the Jewish collective consciousness was still seared with the memory of their oppression and defilement under Greek rule only 200 years before (c. 167 BC).  Under the oppressive rule of Antiochus IV, the Jews were required to sacrifice pigs, establish abominations of desolation in the temple (i.e. erect altars to the worship of Greek gods), and, according to 2 Maccabees 3 in the Apocrypha, endure a Greek general defile the Jerusalem temple by attempting to enter the Holy of Holies and steal the sacred temple funds.  These things were the greatest affront to Jewish piety, identity, purity, dignity and respect.  Ever after, anyone who crossed these boundaries or appeared to cross these boundaries were threatened with the most brutish punishments.

With this in the back of their collective consciousness many of the Jews at the temple rushed upon Paul, dragged him out of the temple and began to beat him mercilessly, indeed with the intent to kill him.  They would have succeeded had not the Roman tribune (chief captain) who was in charge of keeping order at the Jewish temple rushed upon the crowed with his centurions and soldiers to break up the confusion.  Of course, the one who had “caused” the pandemonium, Paul, was immediately seized and shackled.  The tribune sought to discover the cause of the matter but the crowd was shouting in such intolerable and indecipherable competition1 that the soldiers then carried Paul into the nearby fortress, both to protect him from the mob and to ascertain just what had lit the flame in the fireworks factory.

Surprise registered upon the face of the tribune when he heard the voice of Paul speaking in Greek;2 he was more surprised to discover that Paul was a citizen of a prominent city (i.e. Tarsus).  With this knowledge, the tribune granted Paul’s request to address the thronging mob below.

Acts 22

Paul addressed this outrageous mob in Hebrew which brought them to silence.  In his defense3 he explained how his own zealousness for the Law of Moses was converted to zealousness for the things of Christ.  Those with ears to hear could likely understand that their angry physical rage against Paul was akin to Paul’s career as a Pharisee who persecuted Christian Jews, delivering them over to the Jewish authorities for punishment.  He spoke of the Lord appearing to him in the temple, commanding him to spread the Gospel among the Gentiles.  But then his defense was cut short.  Upon hearing the word combination of “Lord,” “temple,” and “Gentiles,” the angry Jewish mob raged against him again, clamoring for his death.  Obviously Paul had not abated the angry Jewish crowds, which the Roman guards felt deeply anxious to quell.  One of the centurions decided to solve the problem by flogging Paul to receive the truth concerning the ongoing uproar.  Paul, with his wit and wisdom still intact and knowing how to masterfully address each specific audience, claimed exemption from flogging because he was a Roman citizen.  With this, Paul was unshackled and spared the rod.

Acts 23-24

The next day Paul was arraigned before the Roman representatives and the Jewish Sanhedrin (i.e. the Jewish political leadership, including the high priests, the chief priests and the most important political and religious leaders from the Sadducees and Pharisees).  Noticeably different is Paul’s “defense” to the Jewish “nobles.”  Instead of describing his spiritual conversion he stated with simplicity that he had a clear conscience before God.4 Illegally, the chief high priest had Paul slapped for such a statement to which Paul responded, like Christ did before him in describing the corrupt spiritual leaders of Israel, “thou whited wall,” referring to whitewashed sepulchers full of dead men’s bones (Matthew 23:27).  But then seizing the moment, Paul sized up his audience with the recognition that he was addressing a religiously divided council; some were Pharisees, some were Sadducees.  So he claimed to believe in the resurrection of the dead.  Of course this doctrine is core to the Jewish Christian message.  But this doctrine of resurrection was also a central tenet of the Jewish Pharisees.  On the other hand, Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection.  Suddenly there was a great tumult among the Jewish leaders.  Just moments before the two groups had been united in their anger towards Paul.  Now they were divided against each other along theological lines and quite quickly forgot their original purpose for convening.  Again, the Roman authorities had to deliver Paul from the harm of his angry brethren.

Though Paul was put into custody again he was not alone.  That night the Lord appeared unto him.  After encouraging Paul to be of good cheer, He delivered a most important revelation: “As thou has testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11).  We can only wonder how such a revelation may have affected Paul.  Still, it would be nearly three years before this revelation came to pass, a lengthy time period not often recognized when we can breeze through the final chapters of Acts in just a few short minutes.

As a Roman citizen, Paul had certain privileges.  He had the protection of Roman authorities and the opportunity for a court hearing.  When the tribune discovered that a plot was forming to murder Paul, he quickly sent Paul under the protection of hundreds of soldiers from Jerusalem to Caesarea where Felix, the Roman Procurator or governor of Judea, was stationed.  Felix agreed to hear the case and summoned the Jewish rulers from Jerusalem to testify against Paul.  They came with deceitful intent.  They accused Paul of being a Nazarene (i.e. Christian), raising a tumult in the temple, and causing sedition throughout Jerusalem and Judea.  In his own defense Paul confessed that he was a follower of Christ but that he likewise believed and followed the law and the prophets.  He then explained that his belief in the resurrection of the dead was no different or strange than what other Jewish groups (such as the Pharisees) freely believed.  And, Paul concluded, it was for expressing this belief before the Jewish elders that they sought to kill him.  Felix well understood the theological differences among the Jews, likely because his own wife was a Jew.  Felix recognized that these differences were not sufficient to answer the clamor for death.  Instead, Felix summoned Lysias, the Roman tribune at Jerusalem, to give his perspective on the disturbance that occurred.  However, Acts never indicates whether Lysias came or not.  What we do learn is that Paul shared the Gospel message with Felix and his wife, but then was left in prison for two years.  Apparently Felix had two reasons for leaving Paul in prison for so long.  First, Felix hoped that Paul had rich friends who would “pay bail” or “bribe” Felix to let Paul go; Felix was hoping to make money off of Paul.  Second, and this is related to the first reason, Felix sought to gain the favor of the people of Judea who Paul had incensed.

Acts 25

After two years the Romans appointed a new governor over Judea.  Porcius Festus replaced Felix.  Festus also attempted to discover the truth of the matter against Paul.  Was Paul truly worthy of death as many of the Jews proclaimed?  Or was it simply an internal disorder due to theological differences?  So Festus gathered together the Jewish leaders who had originally accused Paul of sedition and treachery.  Again the same charges were leveled against Paul as before.  But Festus was not able to determine the reliability and accuracy of such statements.  Festus wanted to take Paul from the Roman provincial capital of Judea, located at Caesarea Maritima, back to Jerusalem for further questioning.  Again Paul used Roman law and citizenship to appeal his case, this time to Caesar.5 Paul knew that he had done no wrong to the Jewish people and he feared a bigoted trial at Jerusalem.

So it was to Rome and to Caesar that Paul would go.  But before leaving he had more opportunities to share the Gospel of Christ with many people and rulers.  For example, King Agrippa and his wife Bernice6 came to visit Festus, who told them Paul’s story.  Agrippa and Bernice wished to hear Paul speak.  Festus gathered an audience, to fulfill their wish as well as to see if anyone could help him find a good reason to send Paul to Caesar since it was a terrible political liability for a Roman governor to send a prisoner to Caesar without reason or cause.

It is important to note that Festus as Procurator held the same position as Pontus Pilate.  And just as Pontus Pilate had exclaimed to the Jews of Christ, “Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him” (Luke 23:14), Festus also testified that Paul was innocent of perverting the people, “I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death” (Acts 25:25).

Acts 26

As he had done on so many other occasions, several which we have witnessed in Acts 21-28, Paul shared his conversion story.  His witness was simple yet thorough: like his current antagonists he too had once persecuted Christians from city to city, even unto physical death.  But the Lord had appeared unto him in a light “above the brightness of the sun” and commanded him to share the Gospel of Christ with Jew and Gentile alike, just as the law and the prophets had made known.  Like Joseph Smith who had seen a powerful vision above the brightness of the sun and would not deny it, Paul refused to say or teach anything but the truth.7 While hearing such lucid testimony Festus exclaimed that Paul was crazy.  Like his Master before him, Paul was falsely accused yet again.  Jesus was also accused of being a lunatic (see John 10:19-21).  Yet, so powerful was Paul’s testimony that even King Agrippa was nearly persuaded to be a Christian.  Afterwards, Agrippa shared with Festus his private conclusion, concurring with Festus that “This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds” (Acts 26:31).  Agrippa then lamented “This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar” (Acts 26:32).

Acts 27

Revelation was to be fulfilled.  Paul was to preach the Gospel in Rome.  So together with hundreds of others (some of these were prisoners like Paul), he set sail for Italy.  Along the way he had opportunities to teach and preach of Christ and to prophesy.  At one point on the watery journey the ship was threatened by nature.  Paul urged everyone to stay with the ship and he prophesied that not one individual would be lost if they heeded his council.8 The passengers obeyed, the ship ran ground and broke apart,9 and just as Paul had prophesied everyone escaped to land with their lives.

Acts 28 and Conclusion

Once on land (the island of Melita = modern day Malta), the inhabitants (called “barbarous” which means non-Greek or Latin speakers) received the shipwrecked passengers with many kindnesses, such as warming them with a fire.  Paul gathered sticks to stoke the fire and was bit by a viper.  The superstitious inhabitants believed that this was a sign of a murderer.  Yet when Paul’s hand did not swell, nor did he fall ill or die, their superstition was not abated and so they instead hailed him as a god.  We do not know how Paul reacted to such “honors,” but Luke’s text makes clear that Paul did much good among the people during the three months of wintry passage he spent upon the island before the Rome bound passengers were able to board a shipping vessel from Alexandria.

As we follow Paul’s journey through the end of Acts we hear that he had a private home in Rome where for two years he preached and received guests.  Though traditionally it is assumed that Paul became a martyr for the Christian cause in Rome, Luke says nothing of the matter.  In fact, and most remarkably, Luke closes his two volume testimony of the origins and growth of Christianity (Luke-Acts) focused on Paul preaching the revealed Gospel Kingdom with much success:

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him. Acts 28:30-31

Luke closes Acts in this way with the hope that readers will look forward with faith, and not to the suffering that may happen in this life, but to the sureties of joy to be had for all who accept Christ in their lives.


  1. In an ancient Greek class I was taking some years ago, we studied this exact passage.  The professor commented that such interminable confusion of shouting voices and the violent reactions of mobacracy are still to be seen (and often with much horror by western viewers) among the people of the Middle East 

  2. When the tribune realized that Paul spoke Greek, he remarked that Paul must certainly not be the Egyptian Jew who raised a revolt against the Romans beforehand.  For more information on the rebel Egyptian Jew we turn to the ancient testimony of church historian Eusbeius of Caesarea (4th century AD):  “But the Jews were afflicted with a greater plague than these by the Egyptian false prophet. For there appeared in the land an impostor who aroused faith in himself as a prophet, and collected about thirty thousand of those whom he had deceived, and led them from the desert to the so-called Mount of Olives whence he was prepared to enter Jerusalem by force and to overpower the Roman garrison and seize the government of the people, using those who made the attack with him as body guards. But Felix anticipated his attack, and went out to meet him with the Roman legionaries, and all the people joined in the defense, so that when the battle was fought the Egyptian fled with a few followers, but the most of them were destroyed or taken captive.” Josephus relates these events in the second book of his History. But it is worthwhile comparing the account of the Egyptian given here with that contained in the Acts of the Apostles. When the multitude of the Jews raised a disturbance against the apostle, the centurion said to Paul, “Art not thou he Who before these days made an uproar, and led out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?” These are the events which took place in the time of Felix.  We can see how volatile the region was and how susceptible to religious riots.  Ecclesiastical History, Book 2 Chapter 21. 

  3. The underlying Greek word for defense is apologia, hence the word “apologetics.”  Our word “apology” derives from the Greek apologia but does not retain the strong sense of the word of verbally defending oneself against accusations. 

  4. Joseph Smith, on his way to martyrdom made a similar statement: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men” (D&C 135:4). 

  5. Nero may have been the Roman Emperor at this time. 

  6. The Jews had a defacto or nominal king and queen at this time period.  Still, the Romans were the ultimate authority.  Perhaps this is somewhat akin to Great Britain having a Parliament of elected officials while retaining a figurehead of king and queen. 

  7. Compare Joseph Smith History 1:22-25: “Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist preachers, who was very active in the before mentioned religious excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.  I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.  It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.  However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.  So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.” 

  8. We can compare what happened to the people on Paul’s ship who heeded his counsel with those early Mormons who would not heed the voice of Joseph Smith when he urged them to flee Haun’s Mill.  Lucy Mack Smith said in her biography of the saints who did not hearken to the counsel of the prophet Joseph Smith, “If the brethren at Haun’s Mill had observed to do what they were advised repeatedly to do, their lives would no doubt have been preserved.”  History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith, edited by Scot Face Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1996), p. 409. 

  9. This bay has been identified on the island of Malta today as “St. Paul’s Bay.” 

Acts 10-15. Continuing Revelation

Early in this last dispensation a resounding call went forth through the Prophet Joseph Smith that the message of the gospel should be preached to all people.

Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, Australia, the East Indies, and other places, the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.1

Continue reading

  1. This was put into writing by Joseph Smith in the Wentworth letter of 1842.  Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2d ed. rev., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-51), 4:540. 

Matthew 25. Preparing for the Kingdom of Heaven

Imagine walking into a packed theater at a moment when the show is most dramatic and exciting.  Everyone sits on the edge of their seat, ears attuned to every uttered word lest they miss something of great importance.  The intensity of the moment is palpable.  But alas, you, my friend, missed the first act and so you have no clue as to why this moment, this dialogue on stage is of such import and intensity.  Yet you dare not interrupt anyone to receive contextual clues or for a review of the first act lest you or they miss the climax of the performance. Continue reading

Matthew 18 and Luke 10. What is the Kingdom of God?

“And who is my neighbor?” This is the great question of the Good Samaritan story, a story that we have all listened to carefully many times, studying the different characters, the plot line and ultimately the loving compassion and mercy that one human shared with another.  When we view this timeless question from the perspective of it its surrounding context, the richness of Christ’s message is enhanced.  The stories and passages neighboring the Good Samaritan story in Luke 10 are focused on building the Kingdom of God through preaching the Gospel and gathering souls.  In this context, the Good Samaritan story is more than just a parable about being neighborly or showing loving compassion.  It is a parable about the Kingdom of God, or at least the type of individual who is invited into the Kingdom of God.  Similarly, Matthew 18 is a chapter that focuses on the conditions that mark the Kingdom of God and the characteristics of those who comprise that kingdom. Continue reading