dailybiblereader2012

Putting God's Word into Practice…

Acts 17:26-32 Times and Place

Acts 17:26 And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling places.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve counseled my heart and others with this truth.  In the NIV it says, “He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” When my husband and I were moving to Chicago to attend Moody Bible Institute, we had no clue where we would live and I had to keep telling myself, “God already knows.”  When it was coming time for graduation and the whole world was opened up to us, the possibilities were overwhelming, but I told my heart, “God already knows my times and place.”  When Brad resigned from our first church to start a new church, we had no idea where we were going, and again I had to remind my heart that God already knew when and where he was sending us.

Thinking back even through our relational webs that brought us to where we are today, I’m astonished again at God’s faithfulness to keep us through the times and places He ordained for us.  My husband grew up in Florida and moved to Norwich, Ohio when he was 10, where he met his friend Erick.  Brad’s parents both passed away before he turned 19, and he moved to Bowling Green, not for college, but for college parties.  I grew up in a Christian home, but lived a lukewarm, double-sided life until I was 24.  When I was 20 I was involved with an emotionally/verbally abusive guy who asked me to go to a party in Bowling Green, where I met a guy named Corey who then introduced me to his roommate/uncle.  That man was Brad and has been my husband for over 15 years.  We both surrendered our hearts to the Lord in 1999.  Then we moved to Chicago and back to my hometown while Brad youth pastored.  When we felt the call to start a church anywhere in the world, Brad’s friend Erick (see above) called and said they were having a hard time finding a church, would we pray about coming there.  So here we are in central Ohio with a 6 year old church, involved in the lives of many people who we didn’t know a few years ago.  BUT GOD HAS ALWAYS BEEN WORKING! He has interwoven our times and places in beautiful ways.  Looking back I’m amazed at His faithfulness and His plan.  Looking forward, I wonder what He’s starting now.

The five words following verse 26 tell us distinctly why God has us in the time period and the exact place we are living, “THAT THEY SHOULD SEEK GOD.”  We should be seeking God all around us.  We must never stop seeking Him or helping others He has placed in specific time and place around us to find Him.

Isn’t God deep?  I encourage you to think back through the web of your life and see how God has specifically been working all along to bring you to where you are today!  Look for His hand all around–in Him we live and move and have our being! May our hearts be encouraged with His faithfulness in spite of our times of faithlessness!  May we trust Him more as we see Him perfect plan unfolding in our lives.

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Acts 17:10-25 ~ Alone and Waiting

Paul and Silas were sent from Thessalonica to Berea for their own safety.  The Bereans really took to Paul’s teaching and reasoning, checking the Scriptures to see if what they were saying was truth.  That is a great lesson for anyone–everything we hear needs to be measured against the plumb line of God’s Word.  His Word is the only absolute truth!  People started turning to Christ, and the Jews in Thessalonica got wind of it.  They came over to Berea and started agitating and stirring up the people until it was not safe for Paul to stay.  They sent him alone on his way to the sea.  Take a minute and think about what that would be like.  To be in so much danger for the gospel that you had to go off completely alone, separated from friends and family.

Not only was Paul alone, but verse 16 says he was waiting for his partners.   Paul didn’t just “hole up” inside and weather the danger.  He waited actively.  When Paul saw the spiritual condition in Athens it fired up his spirit, and he went to work.  No threats, no fear can stop Paul from preaching the good news of Jesus.  EVERY DAY he worked and shared with WHOEVER happened to be around.

He appealed to the people’s philosophical lifestyle and introduced them to the one true, living God–the God who made the world and everything in it.  The Lord of heaven and earth, who is completely self-sufficient and the giver of all life, breath and everything.  A lesson we can learn from Paul’s approach is to meet people where they are and help them to see their need for God for their very life and breath.

How often do I stop to recognize my total need on God for my life?  He keeps my lungs breathing and my heart beating!  He supplies the air!  He supplies everything!  I think because Paul realized this truth, it kept him faithful to preach the good news in the midst of waiting and being alone.  There are needs all around us.  How can I be faithful to work for God everyday and with whoever is around me?

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Acts 17:1-9 Power of Reason

Paul and Silas traveled to Thessalonica.  Here Paul, spent his customary three weeks in the synagogue reasoning, explaining, and proving Christ’s death and resurrection. He didn’t just give them a cut and dry detail of the event, he shared with them why it was NECESSARY for Christ to die.  Which leads me to believe Paul pointed out their sinfulness and their need for a Savior, and how Jesus was the fulfillment of their promised Messiah.

People started to be persuaded with the good news, including Greeks and leading women.  I find it wonderful that Luke included throughout this book the amount of women who believed the message of Jesus.  Women are influential and without their persuasion Christianity would probably not have taken root.  Women are part of God’s plan.  He put them over and over in places where they too would hear the good news about Jesus and turn to Him.

My favorite quote from these 9 verses is from the jealous Jewish mob regarding Paul and Silas.  “These men who have turned the world upside down…”  Two men=highly effective ministry!  A lot of times we think, “What can I do for God?  I’m just one person.”  YOU CAN TURN THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN FOR HIM!  A lot of Christians think they want to be history makers for God’s kingdom, but this task is not easy and glamorous.  It doesn’t come only with radio broadcasts and book deals.  Turning the world upside down is a selfless, tireless, dangerous, lonely mission.  It requires faithfulness, prayer, boldness, and single-minded purpose!

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Acts 16 ~ Strengthened and Encouraged

The theme of the church being strengthened in faith and encouraged keeps coming up throughout Acts.  A lot of times when I think of encouragement, I think of pretty little note cards.  Although those are good too, I don’t think that is what this book means when it talks of strengthening and encouraging the church.  Leaders of the Christian faith were being beaten, stoned, arrested, and imprisoned.  The church needed courage and strength.  Believing in the Lord Jesus for salvation is the easy part.  Staying faithful, fighting the good fight, running the race, staying on course–that’s where encouragement and strength come in.  According to Merriam-Webster “to encourage” means to inspire with courage, to spur on.  While “to strengthen” means to make stronger, to fortify.  To encourage and strengthen is intense, important, life-sacrificing work!

What does it look like to strengthen and encourage?

  1. It involves many words (15:32).  Nowadays, this can be done in person or through email, notecards, text messages, etc…Personally, I like to send Bible verses to people that meet their circumstances in hopes that God’s Word will refresh and inspire them and build them up for His work in their lives.
  2. According to 16:9-10 we must be sensitive to God’s directing in our lives, to recognize His call and to respond in immediate obedience.
  3. We must go to the people.  Generally, people who need encouraged and strengthened don’t line up at my door, I have to be perceptive and go to them.  When I need encouraged and strengthened, I don’t usually announce it.  God shows people and gives them a desire to minister to my heart.
  4. Minister encouragement wherever we are.  Paul did it in the cities, outside the city, in a jail cell.  
  5. Keep Christ central and address anyone God puts in our path–show no partiality.  Paul spoke to men, women, Jews, Gentiles, biracial, and even the jailor who would be considered an enemy by many.
  6. Never succumb to discouragement from opposition.  Paul could have easily thought he was in the wrong place at the wrong time because his ministry was difficult and there were obstacles, but he continued to do the work the Lord gave him no matter his circumstances.

The ministry of encouragement is not always going to be easy, but it is always necessary.  Wherever we find ourselves, there is usually someone that we can encourage and strengthen in the faith.  Look for opportunities, listen for God’s direction, and be quick to follow through!

I would be remiss to think that everyone who happens upon this blog is saved already and therefore need to highlight two of my favorite verses in the whole Bible from this chapter–verses 30-31.  “Then he (the jailer) brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  It’s that simple!  BELIEVE that Jesus is the only one who can rescue you from your sin and selfishness and that He is Lord–or Ruler over everything–even your life!

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Acts 15 ~ Disagreement and Debate

Disagreements and debates in the church are not new.  In this chapter we see two examples of it in the early church.  It is important to note that these debates are about peripheral issues–not the gospel.  The central truth must never be debated or disagreed upon.

The first debate was regarding the Jewish law and whether it’s burdens should be laid on the Gentile believers.  Every big decision up to this point has been mentioned in conjunction with prayer and fasting.   There is no mention of that here, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t petition the Lord.  Prayer and fasting should always govern a big decision.  It is important to seek the Lord’s involvement in church issues and not just accept man’s opinion.  The Holy Spirit must be the guide (28).

The second debate was personal.  Paul and Barnabas disagreed on John Mark’s inclusion in the next missionary journey, so they separated.  There is nothing in this passage that sets this up as an example to follow, or that it was the right decision or the one most pleasing to the Lord.  But God uses even our human nature to accomplish His purposes.  The missionaries multiplied from 2 to 4 and covered two areas at one time.  AND the churches were strengthened.

Disagreements will happen because we are human.  But the work of the Lord must never be stopped for our personal agendas and opinions.  We must press on to proclaim the goodness of the Lord and build up His body.

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Acts 14–Speaking

Again I am struck by the power of the spoken word–the bold proclamation of the gospel.  This chapter says over and over words like, “Spoke, speaking boldly, in a loud voice, crying out, saying…”  These are in reference to healing, preaching, correcting, encouraging and strengthening.  That is the work of all followers of Jesus Christ.  How can I use my words for His glory today?

Although Paul was forced out of Antioch, fled from Iconium and was stoned and left for dead at Lystra; he returned to encourage and strengthen the disciples to remain faithful in tribulation.  He led by example and reminded them of their eternal reward.  How can I speak encouragement to someone who is struggling in tribulation today?

Another way we see Paul using His words is correcting people from worshiping the wrong thing, and pointing them to the one true living God.  He also reminded them that God has revealed Himself all around them through rain, fruit, food, and gladness.  If anyone has ever experienced any of those things–they have experienced the truth and goodness of God.  (BTW-that would be everyone)  How can I use my words to point people to the eternally existing, sustaining, providing God today?

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Acts 13 ~ Too Much to Properly Title

I’ve been reading this same chapter for 3 days.  It is rich with theological truths about each person of the trinity and the different ways people respond to these truths.

Holy Spirit:  1) “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit SAID…”  When we draw near and prepare our hearts, the Holy Spirit speaks. 2) The Holy Spirit sets apart people for His work. 3) The Holy Spirit sends people out in His power for His purpose. 4) The Holy Spirit saturates and fills God’s people. (Verses 2-4, 9, 52)

Personal Holy Spirit interference: I stay too busy to prepare my heart to hear Him.  I rely too heavily on my own ideas and agendas to know what He is setting me apart to do.  I think I’m strong enough to go out into the world without leaning fully on His strength.

God the Father:  When Saul/Paul was sent out to Antioch, he preached a powerful message to the people.  In it he referenced the work of the Father at least 12 times.

  1. God CHOSE to strengthen the Israelites in Egypt (17)
  2. God LED them out of Egypt (17)
  3. God CARRIED them in the wilderness (18)
  4. God GAVE them their land as an inheritance (19)
  5. God GAVE them judges (20)
  6. God GAVE them King Saul (21)
  7. God REMOVED King Saul (22)
  8. God RAISED up King David (22)
  9. God PROMISED a Savior (23)
  10. God GAVE them Jesus (23)
  11. God RAISED Jesus from the dead (30, 37)
  12. God FULFILLED His promise through Jesus (33)

Father God is a good, generous, faithful, covenant-keeping Father.  Reading through the list of verbs, I have seem Him accomplish faithfully those same actions in my heart and life. God chose me; He leads me; He carries me; He gives and gives and gives.  He has been so good to me!

Jesus, God the Son:  He is the promised Savior who was condemned to death although no guilt worthy of death was found in Him.  He hung on a cross and was buried.  The Father raised Him from the dead.  Afterward, Jesus appeared to many people that attest to these truths.  So what does this have to do with you and me.  Verse 38-39 says, “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES IS FREED FROM EVERYTHING from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” Wow!  The problem is that in our prideful stubborn hearts, most refuse to be set free.  And sometimes those who have been set free–forget the wonder of it all.

MAJORITY RESPONSE OF MANKIND TO THIS TRUTH: 

  1. Oppose the Word of God (8)
  2. Enemy of righteousness (10)
  3. Want another authority besides God (21)
  4. Don’t recognize/understand truth about Jesus (27)
  5. Condemn Jesus (27)
  6. Filled with jealousy (45)
  7. Contradict truth (45)
  8. Thrust the truth aside and judge themselves unworthy of eternal life (46)
  9. Insight persecution (50)

THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE

  1. Astonished at the teaching of the Lord (12)
  2. Beg for more teaching (42)
  3. Rejoice (48)
  4. Glorify God (48)
  5. Are filled with joy and the Holy Spirit (52) which then circles back around…
  6. Those who are filled with the Holy Spirit are set apart for work that He sends them out to do in His power.
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Acts 12 ~ God’s Plan Cannot Be Stopped

This chapter starts off with a new enemy for Christians–King Herod (another one)!  He killed James the disciple of Jesus, brother of John, one of the “Sons of Thunder” with the sword.  Seeing how thrilling it was, he went on to arrest and imprison Peter.  “But earnest prayer was made for him to God by the church.”  God sent an angel to miraculously release Peter.  When Peter arrived at the home of Mary, mother of John Mark, where the believers were praying, a servant girl named Rhoda answered the door. Telling the believers that Peter was at the door; they replied, “It must be his ghost!”  Apparently earnest prayer works even when it’s faithless!  2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself.”  What a great God!

In Herod’s anger and probable embarrassment, he had the sentries who guarded Peter killed, and he headed out to Caesarea.  Here we found out that he was also angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon.  But they came to him in praise and flattery fit for a god.  In fact they chanted over and over, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!”  Herod stole the glory from God and paid the price with his life.  As we have been going through John in church, we just studied the first 5 verses of chapter 17…Jesus modeled for us that any glory we receive is only to point people to the Father’s glory.  

Although Herod’s life ended, the church and the Word of God moved forward in multiplied effectiveness.  God loves His Church and His Word.  They are eternal and He will stop at nothing to advance them for His glory and for our good.  In this chapter we see how God allowed one servant to die and the other to be rescued.  His plans are not always understandable, but they are always perfect.

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Acts 11 ~ Peter Explains His Actions

As news travelled through the region about the Gentiles receiving salvation and the Holy Spirit, Peter had to explain how it all came about.  I was struck by one question he posed in verse 17.  “Who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”  Even now, just typing it brings tears to my eyes.

How easy it is for us to think we can determine who is deserving of salvation, who is qualified, who is even capable of being saved!  God is the only one who can “grant repentance that leads to life.” (18)

Lord, let your gospel and grace go forth from my life unashamed, without playing favorites no matter the personal cost.  Let me give your grace to any and all–let me never look on anyone as being outside your transforming power.  This week as we go home for a funeral, would you please grant repentance that leads to life to my family and friends.  Give us opportunities to share boldly your plan for salvation. In Jesus, My Savior’s name I ask, Amen.

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Acts 10 – Cornelius and Peter

Cornelius–a Gentile–was described as a devout man who feared the Lord, gave generously and prayed continually.  His desire to please the Lord resulted in a supernatural manifestation of God to Peter to get the full gospel truth to Cornelius and his family.

God gave Peter the same vision and description three times.  Apparently it takes Peter three times to do a lot of things–three denials (John 18:15-27), three questions and commissions (John 21:15-19).  Peter pondered the visions and the Spirit gave him direction.  Makes me think, if we really want to know what the Lord is trying to tell us, we ought to take the time to really think about it, ask and listen.  The Spirit commanded Peter to rise and go with Cornelius’ men “without hesitation.”  How do I respond when God asks me to do something uncommon or when He asks me to go out of my way to help others?

When Peter arrived and the pleasantries had occurred, Peter “opened his mouth” and shared the good news of Jesus.  Again, the effectiveness of the gospel is partnered with words!  People have to hear it!

What is the gospel–good news? Acts 10:43 says it all, “To him (Jesus) all the prophets bear witness that EVERYONE who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name!”

The results of Peter’s message was that the Holy Spirit came “even on the Gentiles.”   The believers should not have been surprised.  Peter himself, quoting Joel the Old Testament prophet, said that God would pour out His Spirit on ALL PEOPLE in Acts 2.

All of these miracles and changes culminated in God being exalted!

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