November 24

November 24

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 23

November 23

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, even if they are opposed to you?

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 22

November 22

Peter — The first deacons — The deacons’ 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 (although that term is not used here) 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. Don’t fall for comparison leading to pride or discouragement!

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 21

November 21

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.

November 20

November 20

Peter — The lame man healed & Apostles arrested — Peter & John’s bold message.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 3
Reading 2: Acts 4
Reading 3: Ephesians 6:18-20

The power of the Holy Spirit is working in so many ways in the early days of the Church. Healing, bold preaching, persecution, opposition, and great impact are all seen in today’s chapters.

Enjoy seeing what God is doing, and pray for all those reading these passages today – that we would each be bold to share the love we have in our lives.

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 19

November 19

Peter — Pentecost — The miracle of tongues & the purpose of tongues (for unbelievers).

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 2
Reading 2: Joel 2:28-32
Reading 3: 1 Corinthians 14:18-25

After the mass of humanity built a tower at Babel, with the purpose of proving their ability to manage without God, He confused their language and caused them to divide into tribes and nations. This prevented them from working together to disobey God.

Now, after the resurrection and ascension, on the Day of Pentecost, God reverses Babel and unites all the believers with those observers from every known nation, all hearing God’s truth in their own languages. This miracle was the first evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit with the believers, and the power of this first encounter led to many becoming believers and being saved.

Peter is again willing to lead this early church, and as a result of his challenge over 3,000 were added to their number. Imagine that degree of influence and power: 120 became 3120+! That’s church growth!

This was started by the power of the Holy Spirit enabling the believers to speak in other languages. Joel tells us that this is a sign of the last days before God restores all things. Paul tells the Corinthians that tongues will cause unbelievers to wonder at the power of God, and prophecy will convict them and cause them to acknowledge God’s presence. Holy Spirit is determined to glorify Jesus and the Father by causing as many people as possible to turn to God.

How will He use you today toward that goal?

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 18

November 18

Pause and Reflect

What a change from our last “Pause and Reflect”!

The perfect sacrifice is ALIVE!

As you review your journal and catch up on any readings you missed today, take time to allow the enormity of this week’s readings to enlarge your heart. God who is community (Trinity) created mankind to share that relationship. When mankind was deceived into acting unilaterally and was thus cut off from God, God came to us in a human being. We rejected that holy human, but His death was the victory of God (demonstrated in the resurrection). Now EVERYTHING changes. The next, glorious chapter of God’s plan is about to begin. To prepare for what we will read in the days ahead, why not attempt the impossible: describe in your own words what God has done in Jesus!

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 17

November 17

Peter — Ascension & New Apostle — Promises about Jesus’ return & prophecies about Judas.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 1
Reading 2: Luke 21:25-28
Reading 3: Psalm 109

The time for Jesus to remain on earth after the resurrection was long enough to prove the resurrection, but short enough to ensure that the next stage of God’s story is not delayed. Jesus gives final instructions to wait for power and be witnesses, then ascends to the Father. Again two angels (maybe the same two seen earlier at the empty tomb) have to nudge the disciples to move forward into the next chapter of this story.

Peter is already emerging as the main leader of this group, after His experience of being restored by Jesus. He leads them to choose a new apostle to replace Judas, continuing the symbolism of Jesus choosing twelve “patriarchs” for the Church reflecting the twelve tribes of Israel. Peter refers back to Psalm 109 to support his actions.

This selection of men does not mean the leadership of the Church was all-male: the first apostles (meaning “sent ones”) were the women sent to evangelize the disciples after the resurrection, and we will see plenty more women in leadership as we read through the book of Acts!

For today, consider your greatest failure – it was not as great as Peter’s denial of Jesus, but Peter was fully restored to lead the early Church. Your failures do not disqualify you, but God’s Word restores you.

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 16

November 16

Jesus’ Resurrection — Jesus proves His resurrection over 40 days.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: John 21
Reading 2: Acts 1:1-4
Reading 3: 1 Corinthians 15:1-9

We celebrated the resurrection in our readings yesterday, and today we see the personal touches that exemplify Jesus’ dealings with His followers. He treats each one uniquely, as befits the individual purpose for which each of us is created.

Peter (who denied Jesus three times) is restored by the threefold question “Do you love me?” The confused, discouraged disciples, who have not yet received the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and lead them, are shown a miracle so similar to the one which accompanied their original calling that they are strengthened in their faith and made certain that He is alive, whether they see Him with them or not.

And John finishes his gospel account with a clarification of the rumor that he would not die before Jesus returned. This is an eyewitness we can trust – he gives us authenticating details that don’t benefit him but show a knowledge of the facts that corroborates what others reported.

You can be certain of several things today: Jesus is alive, your failures are not an obstacle to God’s purpose for you, and Jesus has a unique purpose for your life.

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 15

November 15

Jesus’ Resurrection — Jesus appears repeatedly to His unbelieving disciples.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Matthew 28
Reading 2: Luke 24:13-53
Reading 3: John 20:19-31

Yesterday we saw the turnaround for the women as they realized the truth that Jesus was alive. Today we see more accounts of those who had trouble understanding and believing what they had been told in advance would happen.

We see fear, sadness, doubt, and skepticism in these reports, along with deception and bribery on the part of those who had the most to lose. But these things are written down so that you and I (and anyone else with an open mind) can “believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.” (John 20).

For us who believe, Jesus has a simple instruction: go make followers!

Who will follow you as you believe today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

PS: If you would like to see a chronology of the events around the resurrection, compiled from the four gospels and other New Testament accounts, you can check out this listing or this more extensive article.