October 1, 2012

Today you should read: Acts 8:1-25

Before we go any further today, it’s important to re-read Acts 1:8, one of the Great Commission verses. This verse gives some context to chapter 8.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8

In chapter 7, Stephen, directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, gave a defense for his faith. He basically gave a recap of the whole Old Testament to explain that the “Righteous One” came and was crucified. He accused the religious officials of murder, which incited them to commit another murder…they stoned Stephen.

In chapter 8, Saul, who would eventually be called Paul (the one who wrote most of the New Testament), was in full agreement with Stephen’s execution. On that day a great persecution of the church began. Saul began ravaging the church. Men and women were pulled from their houses and beaten and killed because of their faith in Jesus. Because of this persecution, believers in Jerusalem were scattered.

Verse 4 says that those who were scattered went about preaching the word. This literally means that they went about bringing the good news of Christ to people. Philip found himself proclaiming Christ in the city of Samaria. This is a big deal. The gospel has now gone outside of Jerusalem and Judea.

Now, remember Acts 1:8? The disciples were supposed to remain in Jerusalem until they received the power of the Spirit. The Spirit came and they began proclaiming Christ in Jerusalem and Judea. Thousands and thousands began a relationship with Jesus. Then, major persecution began to happen and the believers were scattered. This sounds like a sad situation, except that God used that persecution to spread His kingdom to Samaria. Now, even today, the gospel is still going out to the outermost parts of the earth. God’s plan of gathering all His children throughout the earth is still unfolding. It will not be thwarted. The Great Commission will be fulfilled.

I heard a speaker say, “I have no worries about whether or not the Great Commission will be fulfilled. Look at the book of Revelation…we already know the end results. The Great Commission is fulfilled. Though I have no fears about whether or not the Great Commission will be fulfilled, I sometimes fear that I will miss out on being a part of it by choosing not to share my faith and make disciples.”

God’s plan will not be thwarted, and I want to make sure I don’t miss out on being a part of it. What about you? Who is God putting on your heart right now with whom you need to share the good news of Christ? What steps do you need to take to be part of the Great Commission today?

Posted by: Rich Duffield

September 29, 2012

Today you should read: Acts 8-7:60

This is the story of the first martyr for Christ. Stephen was one of the seven chosen to help serve the widows and distribute food to them in the beginning of chapter 6. Stephen, in today’s passage, is accused of blasphemy against God and Moses. In chapter seven Stephen is asked to defend himself. In his defense he gives a long, detailed account of several key figures in Jewish history. He mentions Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David and Solomon specifically. Stephen’s main point in his defense and our main point for today was this:

Learn from the mistakes of those who did not listen to God in the past.

Paul talks about this very thing in 1 Corinthians 10. He tells us that what happened to the people of Israel, their mistakes, were meant as “warnings for us” (1 Corinthians 10:11) Stephen is telling the high priest and all those present that the fact that bad things happened to those who refused to hear God in the past should serve to warn us who are not listening to God in the present. We see that those who refused to listen to God in the Old Testament were punished in many different ways and we should expect nothing less if we refuse to hear His voice. So today should be a day of examination for us.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to “examine ourselves”. So today ask these questions of yourself and your family.

1. Do I/we spend consistent time in God’s word?

2. Do I/we put into practice what God’s word is telling us? (Is there life-change?)

3. Do I/we spend time in prayer each day? (Not just before meals and bedtime)

4. Do I/we consistently move forward in holiness and Christ-likeness? (Not perfection but God-ward direction)

5. What do I/we need to change to make these things a priority? What needs to be added? Taken away? Altered?

Posted by: Robbie Byrd

September 28, 2012

Today you should read: Acts 6:1-7

Pursue your calling, not your potential…

Recently I read an article by Mark Driscoll regarding how to glorify God with your life.  He used examples from Jesus’ life.  One of his main points was outstanding and has been something that I have been meditating on deeply.  It said this:

Pursue your calling, not your potential 

To elaborate just a little on this point, Driscoll says:

“After completing a time of rest and recovery, Jesus was approached by a throng of people with a massive to-do list. They had so much work in mind for him it would have kept him from leaving their town (Luke 4:42). Jesus denied their requests, not because their needs were bad or not important, but because they were not the things that Jesus was called to do by the Father.”

Jesus had the divine ability, the skills, the insight, the foreknowledge, the power… the potential… to do everything that people were asking, but he didn’t.  He could have had a successful ministry in plenty of areas, but Jesus pursued what He was called to do by the Father.

Today’s “Walk-a-Way”

In this passage, in short, here is what we have going on:

The Greek-speaking Jews (Hellenists) had responded to the Gospel and the growth of the Church naturally produced more problems.  Since they didn’t speak the same language, some needy widows were unintentionally overlooked, so the apostles had the Greek-speaking community appoint seven leaders to meet this need.

In this passage one can be tempted to think that the apostles had something against the ministry of serving the Hellenistic widows.  You may be tempted to think that the apostles thought they were better.  But you’d be wrong.

The apostles had nothing against this ministry, it wasn’t that other needs were bad or not important, but they were not the things that they were called to do by Jesus.  The ministry to these widows had the potential of distracting them from their calling, so they appointed seven people who were better equipped and able to serve in this area.

Let me break it up so you can see their train of thought… as well as the result:

“It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables” v. 2 

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” v. 4 

“And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” v. 7

It’s a good thing the apostles pursued their calling and not their potential.

  • Are you pursuing your calling?
  • Do you know what your calling is?

Let me encourage you to pursue it with all your heart.  God has made you for something.  Something specific. Whatever your calling is, you should pursue it with fire and fearlessness.  Pursue it with passion.  Don’t waste your life.  There are plenty of things that you can do, but that doesn’t mean you should.  I’m sure you have the potential to make an impact in many areas and make many things successful, but I want to encourage you to pursue your calling.  Give it all you have, become the best, and make an impact using the gifts God has given you in the area that He has called you.  Pursue your calling, not your potential.  And remember, it is intended to be for His glory and to make Jesus known.

Posted by: Sam Cirrincione

September 27, 2012

Today you should read: Acts 5:12-42

Today, I want to begin and end with something for us to think deeply about:

When your mettle is tested — when you are tried by fire — how will you respond?

What we encounter in our passage today is real persecution. Just before this, the disciples continued to see miraculous works being done in their midst; news of their incredible, anointed ministry was quickly spreading. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and high priest were angry about the following that this movement had garnered, and the disciples were arrested and put on a brief trial.

Let’s be honest — this passage might mess with our theology a little bit. You may think (or were taught) that if you do the right thing and serve God in the right way, life will be safe and easy. You may have even thought that if you do the right things for Jesus, you might receive praise from people, have the perfect family, or even gain material blessings. This passage is clear revelation that the prosperity gospel fed to us by improper teaching is a lie.

People wanted to kill the disciples. In fact, all of them were eventually killed because of their faith in Jesus. They suffered torture time and time again. Life wasn’t easy for them — it was the opposite of easy. Maybe this is why Jesus told them, I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

The life of a disciple isn’t supposed to be easy. So how should we respond when it’s not? Follow the example of the disciples in Acts 5:

1) Listen to the voice of the Lord (19-21)
2) Keep your priorities straight (29)
3) Cling to the truth of the gospel (30-32)
4) Endure the real, painful persecution for the sake of the gospel (40)
5) Never, ever, ever stop preaching that Jesus is the Messiah (42)

I know that many of you have endured various kinds of persecution and trials. Let me remind you today that it is for a reason. Paul helps us make sense of it in Romans 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5 ESV)

While we may face tough tribulations, our hope is in Jesus. He is with us through them all. He uses them to refine and mature us. He comforts us through the pain. He also promises us that one day, all of this earthly pain will end:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4 ESV)

So, when your mettle is tested, when you are tried by fire, how will you respond?

Posted by: Todd Thomas