Day 39: Acts 23-25 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Acts 23-25 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Paul was invincible until his time was up. He had suffered beatings, death threats and imprisonment and yet lived. He would get the chance to make his case and ultimately share the gospel in Rome.  Paul saw his inconvenience as his opportunity. He preached to high ranking government officials because he was in chains.

I’m learning that often God moves in our inconveniences as well as our routines. Paul was greatly inconvenienced for the sake of the gospel. Perhaps we won’t face the same challenges that He faced, but we will deal with inconvenience. It will be something like having to take the car to the shop or the trial of dealing with  a health issues that you didn’t know that you had. In each scenarios we find ourselves with interrupted plans and a lot of inconvenience, but there is opportunity there as well if you are looking for it. The car puts you in contact with the mechanic. The illness forces you to see the doctors and nurses that you might no otherwise see. The inconvenience of it might actually be the purpose of God.

FATHER, Thank you that the Apostle Paul recognized his inconveniences as opportunities. I pray that we would look out and see our challenges the same way.  I pray that we never look over someone or dismiss them as in the way, but that we see individuals the way that you see them and that we take every opportunity to share your gospel. Thank you for the people you have placed in our path. Thank you for the calling you have placed on my life to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 38: Acts 20-22 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Acts 20-22 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Paul’s life had purpose and direction. He was reminded in every city he went to that chains were ahead of him (20:23). He knew that he would suffer even from the moment of his conversion (Acts 9:16) and yet he pressed on. There were even those along the way who tried to persuade him not to go to Jerusalem because of the chains that awaited him there (21:11-14). (Side Note: This reminds me of Psalm 11 that we just studied a few weeks ago on a Wednesday at Little Escambia and Matthew 16:21-23, when Peter thought that he was offering Jesus sound advice, but Jesus told him, “Get behind me Satan.“) Yet Paul pressed on. 

Two things stick out to me here:

One is that Paul knew what he was called to do and he would not be deterred. Even when his friends pleaded with him not to go, he was more concerned with following God’s will than saving his own neck. We should strive to follow God that closely that we understand our purpose in life may culminate in losing our life.

[Theogical Note: The prophecy offered by Agabus  (21:11) must have been restricted to the fact that Paul would be bound if he went to Jerusalem. The pleading of his friends (21:12) seems to be the misinterpretation by way of poor application of the prophecy that was offered. Otherwise they would be counseling him to go against God’s will! This is where New Testament Prophecy is different that O.T. Prophecy.  There is some ambiguity, and just like a bible teacher may miss the meaning of a particular passage, individuals may miss the application of a particular N.T. prophecy. When someone says, “The Lord told me” and offer application rather than simple, specific revelation it may be an error.  It is always important to exercise discernment. Sometimes people lie (I Kings 13:18) and sometimes people mean well, but get it wrong (21:12)]

The second thing is that those we love and respect the most don’t always offer the best advice. Sometimes they are more interested in our safety that God’s purpose being fulfilled in our lives. It is always better to follow the Lord’s will than those who are clouded by there care and concern for us.

For example: It would be easy as parents to want our kids to live close to us as they marry and move out. We would want to be close to our grand kids and help them. We might offer great advice about getting connected with jobs in our area, etc… but what if God call’s our children to minister in a different part of the country? Or what if he calls them to go to the other side of the world to be a missionary? We wouldn’t want to hold them back from God’s will. This is where discernment and prayer are necessary.

FATHER, We trust you. We trust you to lead us and guide us. We ask for your protection and provision for our brothers and sisters around the world who are facing persecution for their faith in you. We ask for grace to follow you no matter what lies ahead on the path before us. We ask for discernment to understand and do your will. Thank you for the grace to lead your people today. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 37: Acts 16-19 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Acts 16-19 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Acts 16:6-7 it seems like the Holy Spirit didn’t want Paul to go to Asia. We can look back now and see that God was guiding Paul and His companions in a different direction. This isn’t because God didn’t want the gospel to go to Asia. Indeed some of the people from these areas had already heard the gospel (go back and read the regions people were from in Acts 2). It was because God was guiding Paul to Macedonia (16:9-10).  It seems like Paul and his companions also picked up Luke in the process (Notice “they” in Acts 16:7 quickly turns to “we” in Acts 16:10).

I am encouraged to see this model of being faithfully lead by the Holy Spirit of God. Paul didn’t pick up his phone and get a very clear and direct answer on the other end. He sought the Lord and the Lord guided him by Closing doors and opening opportunities. He still speaks and does the same for us today!

Sometimes God tells us “no” on certain ministries or directions in order to send us in the right direction. We see this on another level when Paul goes to the Synagogues first to preach the gospel to the Jews (Acts 17:2, 18:4) but when he meets a firm resistance he goes to the gentiles (Acts 18:6).

I just preached on the second commandment a couple of weeks ago and it really hit me today that Paul preached hard against idolatry in Athens (Acts 17:6) and his understanding of people being the image barer of God (Acts 17:29).  I can’t believe I didn’t make that connection sooner.

FATHER, Thank you for leading us and guiding us in the direction that you would have us go. I thank you for your sovereign hand that prevents us from going in directions that are not bad, but are not your direction for us. I thank you that you unite us with fellow believers along the way. I pray that we would all be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance today and follow where He leads. Thank you for your grace and your discernment. Thank you for the honor of encouraging your people to follow you more closely. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 36: Acts 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Acts 13-15 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Acts 15:20 – To what extent does the gospel shape a culture? Some of the Jews were insisting on circumcising the gentile converts. This forced the question, “is Christianity a sect of Judaism or is it something different?” In other words, do converts to Christianity need to become fully Jewish to be fully converted or do the demands of the gospel stop short of converting to Judaism?

The answer was that the gentiles were to be counted as “sojourners” among the Jews in that they were only asked to fulfill the moral aspect of the law (all of this is found in Leviticus 17-18) and not the ceremonial aspect of the law (circumcision). This is part of the reason it’s okay for believers now to eat bacon, shellfish, etc. because these things were part of the ceremonial or national law and weren’t part of the Moral law.

Christianity is not fulfilled by Judaism, it is the fulfillment of Judaism. Circumcision was the rite of passage into the Jewish faith, but that had been replaced by baptism. The result was that Christianity pressed forward and forged an identity apart from Judaism.

The application is this. When encountering a new culture or embracing new believers from our own culture, what are the demands of the gospel and what are our preferences? If we are not careful we will force our preferences on others rather than just pressing the gospel. Some implications to think through would be how we dress to go to church. The style of music we prefer to sing to. Where there offering belongs in the service. etc. 

FATHER, Thank you that the New Testament church worked through the struggles it faced. We are grateful for the clarity they provided in helping us understand what it looks like to be a fully committed follower of Jesus. We ask for wisdom in navigating the culture and sharing the gospel in our own generation. We look for humbleness to receive your word and apply it. We ask for boldness to proclaim the gospel to others. Thank you for the grace of leading your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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DAY 32: ACTS 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Acts 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

first thing that jumped out at me today was to, “Wait!” That is such a hard word for today’s culture. When the Lord says it though, there is nothing else to do, it is exactly what we need. The disciples were told to for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5, 8). So they spent ten days actively waiting. I say “actively” waiting because they were intentional about it and intentionally seeking the LORD in prayer (1:14, 2:1).  God’s timing is always right and we can never do on our own, without the Holy Spirit, something that only the Holy Spirit can do. 

This was intentionally a missions moment. The disciples were from Galilee not Jerusalem and the gospel writer Luke goes out of his way to highlight that little fact (see Acts 1:11, 2:7).  Acts 1:8 which lays out the progress for how the book of Acts unfolds isn’t a mission mandate to reach our neighbors with the gospel first and then go to the uttermost parts of the earth… the gospel was going to the uttermost parts of the earth by being proclaimed in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost where so many international Jewish people and proselytes would be (2:5, 9-11).  The disciples understood Jesus to be the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, “and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (also Acts 3:25).  We should be open and intent on taking the gospel to the nations. (On a side note: Where I live right now, was not on anyone’s map when Acts 1:8 was given. It qualifies as one of the “uttermost parts of the earth.”)

It is apparent that the disciples understood Jesus to be God. Peter quotes Joel 2:32 and says, “Who ever calls on the Name of the LORD shall be saved” (See Acts 2:21).  He then concludes his sermon by calling on those who are present to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38).

Also, did you notice the lame man at the gate called beautiful at the temple? He was lame from birth and at the temple every day (Acts 3:2). Two months before this Jesus was in Jerusalem and coming and going to the temple every day (Luke 22:53) and while he was at the temple he healed the “blind and the lame” (Matthew 21:14). It doesn’t take much to figure that this man was in proximity to Jesus, but was never healed. His healing, like the sending of the Holy Spirit would came at a different time than expected. I don’t know why this man wasn’t healed when Jesus was in the temple before. We could guess. What I do know is that God’s timing is always perfect.

FATHER, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit and how He moves in our lives. I ask that we would press in wait for you to move.  Help our hearts to be satisfied to know that there is nothing we can do apart from you. I pray that we would be faithful witnesses where ever you place us and where you send us. We ask to see you do great things in our community. We give ourselves to be used by you to glorify you and  transform our families by the power of the gospel. I am thankful for  the grace given to me to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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The Apostle Paul and the Earliest Churches (A Review)

The Apostle PaulI’ve never been to the places that the Apostle Paul traveled on his missionary journeys so I’m always interested in watching documentaries about his life. I’m especially interested in those that offer pictures, videos, and other key insight into the cities and regions that he visited. This weekend I had the opportunity to watch the Apostle Paul DVD. While it does have some pictures, video, and commentary about the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul it’s not really that entertaining. I did enjoy the the archeological insights.

Given the nature of the work the video would have functioned better with a host operating as a guide. The narration was slow, repetitive, and continued to drag on making a 45 minute film seem like it was even longer. The bright spots were the modern views of the historical cities. There wasn’t as much re-enactment as one might expect for this type of documentary.  I’m a huge fan of the scriptures and anything that makes them more clear, but this film will only help a select few deepen their knowledge or affection for the scriptures.

Though I don’t have much complementary to say about the Apostle Paul DVD, I was pleased to find out about fishflix.com which is a great place to get Christian DVDs. They are actually running a special right now where you can get a $5 coupon to fishflix.com just for joining their email list. Join by going to fishflix.com/5gift or by texting 5-GIFT to 44222.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this DVD free from the distributer as part of their reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Acts 5: Your Sin isn’t Small

God kills Ananias and Sapphira. Before you start to get upset about that consider that He had every right. He’s God! We all owe him our breath. We all live at his pleasure. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that God doesn’t posses the same right over you… He’s your maker.

Ananias and Sapphira wanted recognition for selling property and giving their money to the church. No worries there, but they held back and lied about the gift. I don’t know what they were holding back for, maybe a 401K, a better car, or maybe to just pay off some debts. Either way, they held back. Not that they owed all the money to the church like a debt or obligation, but that they claimed that it was everything. They were faking generosity.

Faking generosity to the church is a mockery of the gospel. Consider that this offering was going to meet the needs of the poor (4:34-35). Consider that those who sold their property were giving all of it away and this enabled the apostles to boast even more about the resurrection of Jesus (4:32-35). This unity that the church experiences is a direct witness to the power of the gospel. It puts both the present condition of those who are destitute and suffering and the eternal condition of those who profess faith in Christ in the same light… If God would not withhold his son from me, so that I might be saved… Who am I to withhold earthly goods from those who have immediate need.

The problem came when Ananias and Sapphira held back. That’s not the gospel… it’s a feigned generosity. It’s a lie. It’s a false gospel. They are not mimicking the generosity of God.  They held back. They care only about having the appearance of piety and so they lie.

The lie costs them. It costs them their lives… by the way, that is what sin costs. It’s not small. It’s not trivial. It’s not as though the cross were a small thing. The love of God compelled Christ to die for our sin and this single act is the most generous thing that has ever happened in all of history. The early church was a testimony to that in the way that the hearts of the wealthy were moved to outrageous generosity… but when one couple held back they were reminded to never take the generosity of God for granted. Sin always costs.

Acts 4: The Cornerstone

The healing of a beggar in chapter three provoked a commotion and all the officials come to see what is going on. They demand to know by what power these things are being accomplished. The Apostles declare plainly through the power of the Holy Spirit that it was in the name of Jesus. (Notice that the Holy Spirit empowers them to testify about the resurrection of Jesus… Make no mistake the book of Acts is about Jesus.)

Peter presses in to the rulers that they are the ones who crucified Jesus. He references a teaching moment of Jesus just prior to his death, burial and resurrection (2 months before this event… You can find it in Matthew 21:33-46). Jesus tells a parable about wicked tenants who reject the owners right over a certain property and ultimately kill the owners son. He then goes on to quote Psalm 118:22-23 and says “the stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” implicating the Pharisees rejection of Jesus (and by association murder).

Now Peter throws it out again, this time spelling it out just in case they didn’t get it. “Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the chief corner stone” (Acts 4:11, ESV). Any attempt to build a platform to reach up to Heaven must have the Risen Christ as the corner stone. These men in the temple not only rejected Jesus but among them were men who set in motion the false arrest, trial and murder of Jesus.

These are some wicked dudes and Peter lets them know. But here is where the real power of the gospel lies… The sovereign plan of God takes the most wicked sin imaginable (the murder of GOD – John 1:1-3) and uses that very same act to cause the greatest good man has ever known (redemption and the forgiveness of sins) through the resurrection… They meant it for evil… but God intended it for good.

What a glorious God we serve. Every attempt to trump the gospel is turned on its head and proves the gospel even more true: Injustice is transformed into lavish grace, where men pour out their hatred, the love of God is made manifest, where men fight to exercise control, God proves his sovereign plan.

Acts 3: The Generosity of God

The book of Acts is record of how the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The emphasis of the first three chapters is on the power of the Holy Spirit to complete that mission. In chapter one the apostles are told to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit (1:4). In chapter two the Holy Spirit comes in Power and three thousand souls are added to the church (2:41). Now in chapter three, through the power of the Holy Spirit a lame man is healed.

This story is really amazing because it testifies to the generosity of God! Here there is a man who was born lame is sitting as close to the temple as he can get (lame men weren’t permitted inside the temple). He has no source of income, no disability check, no food stamps. He simply depends on the generosity of others. He’s no fool. He sits by the temple at the time of prayer where people will be coming in and out. He’s also situated close to where the  money changers would be doing business and as a result strangers would have a few more lose coins than normal. He begs to survive… to get by. He doesn’t have a lot of money… He’s a beggar with no hope of ever improving his situation.

But then he sees Peter and John and they don’t have any money to give him. Instead they lock eyes with him and offer them what they do have… The generous power of God to heal a beggar! Do you get it? Do you see the irony. The Beggar doesn’t have any money. That’s why he begs. He’s poor. He’s destitute. He can’t even walk. All he can do is beg. All he can do is ask for help and on this day GOD answers.

The Apostles reach out their hands and command him “Get up.” Such a harsh command for a man who cannot respond on his own, no matter how much he wills it. His body broken from birth. But something happens… he is able! God has made him able! This man who had nothing to offer. This man who has nothing to give for the miracle… gets up and walks! And he walks, no… skips right into the temple (3:8). He’s praising God. Ten minutes before, he was a lame man, but now he walks with Apostles.

How great is God that he gives to those who cannot repay Him. He is generous beyond all measure. This man who was unable to enter the temple because of his deformity is now made able by the working of the Holy Spirit. If God can heal a lame man’s body, He is most certainly able to save us all from our own spiritual bankruptcy.

Acts 1: The Blessing of Obedience

The book of Acts or as it is often called, “The Acts of the Apostles” is actually all about the Lord Jesus Christ. We see here in the first chapter that The Lord has risen from the dead and ascended into Heaven. Before he leaves he gives the Apostles the charge to be witnesses (specifically of his resurrection) all over the world beginning in Jerusalem (See Acts 1:8).

This is where it gets interesting. The disciples aren’t from Jerusalem and Luke the author of Acts wants you to know that... Indeed two verses later (Acts 1:10) the angels address the Apostles as “Men of Galilee.” Then again just a few verses later the narrator (Luke) reminds the reader that the Apostles are not from Jerusalem because they went back to a room “where they were staying” (Acts 1:13).

I think this is important because Jesus has commanded them to wait there in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come upon them (Acts 1:4). It seems like the natural bent of the disciples would not have been to stay in Jerusalem but head somewhere else (perhaps Galilee… Home). But never the less at the Lord’s command they stay, waiting for the Holy Spirit.

This reminds me of Luke 5:1-11 where Jesus first calls some of his disciples. He tells them to push back out into the water and fish again. Their natural inclination is not to do it…. they want to clean their nets. But never the less, at the word of Jesus they press out and drop the nets and pull in the biggest catch they had ever seen… It is interesting to note that it is just at that point that Jesus tells them that one day they will be fishing for men.

Now here Jesus has told them again to push out of their comfort zone and stay in the city. He will give them the Holy Spirit and they will be his Witnesses starting in the place He told them to go.

Prayer: Father, You are amazing! When these men obeyed you in the small things like casting out a net or staying in the city, you rewarded them with a real relationship with You and you invited them to be your witnesses all over the world. Today I’m reminded to be obedient to you in even the seemingly small things. I want my priorities to be a true reflection of your will. I surrender to you. Today I’m seeking YOUR Kingdom, YOUR Will and I give YOU my obedience. Help me to not to put confidence in the flesh, but trust your wisdom.