November 30

November 30

Paul — Journey #1 (Iconium, Lystra, Derbe) — Paul’s miracles, message, & suffering.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 14
Reading 2: 2 Timothy 3:10-13
Reading 3: Romans 15:15-21

As the gospel spreads, the power of God is seen more and more. A primary way is through the suffering of the apostles – as they travel, wherever they go there is opposition from the Jews and some Gentiles too. As they are stoned, or beaten, the apostles move on to the next city, leaving many believers in their wake. It is a powerful evangelistic message to see someone suffering willingly for the privilege of sharing the good news!

Today we seldom face such opposition, yet we also have less impact. I am not advocating starting fights, but we can ask God to make us bold!

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 29

November 29

Paul — Journey #1 (Cyprus, Antioch of Pisidia) — The church at Antioch sends missionaries.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 13
Reading 2: Matthew 28:18-20
Reading 3: Acts 1:8

God sends Paul and Barnabas out from the church in Antioch. First they go to the Jews (although they include God-fearing Gentiles in their preaching), then later they are rejected again by some of the Jews, and so they focus entirely on the non-Jewish audience from then on.

Notice the power of God at work, and also the opposition to God’s working. Consider the outcome of such power-battles, and be encouraged in your daily life to stand up for Jesus and see God vindicate your stand.

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 28

November 28.

Paul — Antioch — A new church plant, sending relief to Jerusalem, & being good Stewards.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 11:19-30
Reading 2: Acts 12:25
Reading 3: 1 Peter 4:7-11

Saul went to his hometown of Tarsus after his conversion – he was too well-known a persecutor of Christians to have a fruitful ministry immediately after his conversion. But Barnabas did not forget the new convert; when he was sent to Antioch to encourage the new church there, he went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. Bringing Saul back, the two men led the church in Antioch for a year, until they are sent back to Jerusalem with an offering to help with the famine relief in Jerusalem.

http://bibleatlas.org/full/tarsus.htm

These men are led by God to fulfill their calling and to help many others grow in faith, just as Peter instructs in our third reading today. You and I can expect to be used in the same way – if we are attentive and obedient to the Holy Spirit.

Have a great day!

Mark.

 

November 26

November 26

Paul — Salvation — Saul (later known as “Paul”) persecutes the church & meets Jesus.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 8:1-3
Reading 2: Acts 9:1-31
Reading 3: Galatians 1:10-24

Yesterday we saw the “God is in control” humor of Peter’s miraculous escape from jail, today the humor continues but we change focus to Saul (Paul).

Saul was an over-achiever when it came to persecuting Christians. He would have been at home in ISIS. But God was more powerful than Saul. Knocking him to the ground and making him temporarily blind, God got the attention of this headstrong firebrand!

Imagine Ananias’ hesitation when God told him to go pray for Saul. That was surely not God speaking? Thankfully he obeyed and Saul goes on to be the foremost apostle to the Gentiles and to write a majority of the New Testament letters.

What will God do with you?!

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 25

November 25

Peter — Jerusalem Persecution — Do not give up on prayer nor doubt that God answers prayer.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 12:1-24
Reading 2: Luke 18:1-8
Reading 3: James 1:2-8

Today’s readings see Peter arrested and escaping supernaturally. Another episode in the comedy entitled “God is in control”!

When we pray (and when we give thanks) we connect our little human lives to this all-powerful God. Then there is no limit to what can happen.

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 24

November 24

Peter — Cornelius’ conversion — God brings Gentiles (non-Jews) into God’s household.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 10
Reading 2: Acts 11:1-18
Reading 3: Ephesians 2:11-22

Throughout our readings in the New Testament we have seen how God is in control, even in the midst of terrible circumstances such as the sham trial and crucifixion of Jesus, and the persecution which followed the martyrdom of Stephen.

It is hard for our limited minds to understand, but God is big enough to work through hardships and disasters, as well as through pleasant circumstances.

Today’s readings are again full of supernatural circumstances that show us how committed God is to overturning the status quo: Cornelius sees an angel, Peter sees a vision and God commands him to break the Jewish law, the Holy Spirit falls on the Gentiles after Peter has carefully explained how Jesus brought salvation for the Jews, and the believers back in Jerusalem are scandalized that their leader has associated with Gentile heathen until they hear that God doesn’t seem to be as offended as they are!

It is almost comical, and you can read these passages with an eye on God’s smile in the background! Today, what is the application for us? Maybe God is at work despite the politicians? What if God is touching the lives of terrorists? Maybe God can extend His Kingdom through evil things done to good people? There is no limit to what God can do. Let’s pray “Your Kingdom Come!”

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 23

November 23

Peter — Ethiopian Eunuch — Discussing Isaiah 53, a 700-year old prophecy about Jesus.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 8:4-40
Reading 2: Isaiah 53
Reading 3: Acts 9:32-43

The  martyrdom of Stephen leads to persecution for the believers. It is unsafe to congregate in Jerusalem and they are scattered to the surrounding areas of Judea and Samaria. Another of the first deacons, Philip, went  to Samaria (regarded by devout Jews as a heathen stronghold because it was the capital of the ungodly nation of Israel when the nation was judged by God).

Philip had no regard for racial divisions, and told the Samaritans about the Messiah. With much supernatural power, there was a great revival and even powerful, ungodly Simon the Sorcerer believed in Jesus!

This episode shows us several things: first: that God wants everyone to hear and believe, even those we might think are beyond salvation. Second, it is the regular people, the newly appointed leaders, who push the envelope and go beyond the assumed barriers; the apostles were still in Jerusalem and had to come to Samaria to catch up with what God was doing after the fact!

Peter. who is our focus in the early part of Acts, brings leadership to this new work of God and corrects the omission of the Holy Spirit from their belief. And Philip goes on, following the Holy Spirit’s guidance, to meet a high Ethiopian official. This man is seeking God, and reading Isaiah 53. Philip explains God’s good news and the Ethiopian is convinced, asking to be baptized. Philip is having an amazing time – first he escapes persecution and goes to the people whose ancestors God had rejected, then he leaves the revival he had started to meet with one man – a hugely influential government official from a foreign nation, and next he finds himself miraculously transported to a different place where he carries on preaching!

Peter, meanwhile, also travels around and sees God do great things through him. In the twin towns of Lydda and Sharon, one miracle leads to the whole town turning to Jesus. And nearby, the death of a much loved believer is turned around when they ask Peter to come and he sees the first resurrection of the church age.

So what does God want to do through you today? From these readings, the possibilities are endless!

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 22

November 22

Peter — Stephen’s message & martyrdom — Looking to Jesus & forgiving wrongdoers

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 7
Reading 2: Hebrews 12:1-3
Reading 3: Luke 23:32-34

Yesterday we saw the power God released through the new deacons, especially Stephen, who performed miracles because God was with him. Today we see the depth of Stephen’s understanding of his history, as well as his grasp of God’s purpose as it was fulfilled in Jesus. This is no traditionalist; he knows what God is doing today and can contextualize it in history.

As a result, the religious leaders who value history as the validation of their power, are incensed when Stephen speaks the truth about them. they drag him out and stone him (an illegal act for the Jews under Roman occupation).

Stephen looks to Jesus (who is alive in heaven and is clearly close to those who are being martyred for their faith in Him). Stephen prays essentially the same prayer Jesus prayed when He was crucified – “Father, forgive them, for they don’t understand what they are doing.”

It is a rare, and supernatural gift to be able to care more for your murderers than for your own life. This makes the power and love of God tangible!

Today, you and I are unlikely to die for our faith, but how can you show God’s love to those around you?

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 21

November 21.

Peter — The first Deacons — The Deacon’s ministry frees up Elders to focus on the Word.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 6
Reading 2: 1 Timothy 5:17-18
Reading 3: 1 Timothy 3:8-13

Disagreements are nothing new in the Church! Here we see a disagreement solved in a way that teaches us to look for and treasure our unique gifts and destiny.

The deacons were different from the elders because they had different gifts; they were not lesser than the elders, nor were they better than the ordinary believers, but they had a calling from God that was unique. And they fulfilled that calling filled with the Holy Spirit. Before long, one of the first deacons becomes a martyr, and we will read more of Stephen’s story tomorrow.

For now, consider what your gifts are, and ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit to fulfill your distinct role in the body.

Have a great day!

Mark.

 

November 19

November 19

Peter — Rearrested, tried, & beaten for preaching — The honor of suffering for Jesus.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 5
Reading 2: Matthew 5:10-12
Reading 3: 1 Peter 3:13-17

Following Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, is a life full of supernatural factors. Maybe less extreme today than in the first century, but still powerful.

Most of us have not experienced liars dying when we challenge them by supernatural knowledge! Likewise most of us have not seen people healed when our shadow falls on them. Maybe that is also why we have not been thrown into jail or beaten for being Christians? And if we were, it would be amazing to be released by the Holy Spirit while all the doors were still locked and guarded!

When God is working, we are caught up in His activity, and have the privilege of being part of His Kingdom coming. We are to be the people of changed lives and fearless courage, not those of strident condemnation or advocacy of violence. How does God want to intervene in your day? Let’s find out….!

Have a great day!

Mark.