READING FOR UNDERSTANDING

ACTS – The Acts of God

We are such an unfocused people who think we are multi-taskers who can do all things well. We plan our days with no margin for error. We read our Bibles with little understanding of what it says because we don’t take the time to God’s Holy Spirit speak to us about what we just read. We pray but our prayers are interrupted by thoughts of the day. After we pray and ask God for answers, do we wait long enough for Him to respond to us? What gets in the way? Us.

Our pride; traditions, good and bad; and habits developed by giving into the world around us all contribute to our lack of listening skills and understanding truth. It also contributes to our lack of obedience to God.

When someone comes along and explains what God’s Word is really saying to us, as in the case of Paul, our feathers are ruffled. We don’t like change or the effort it takes to change. The hard-line Jews are not happy, “furious”, in fact and “mad with jealously”. Ah, that green eyed monster that lives in all of us when challenged to make life altering corrections. But Paul and Silas, along with Timothy do not give up preaching the Truth. That is a lesson in itself.

Let’s remember that some WERE won over and understood that Jesus was indeed the Messiah that they had been reading about and waiting for all their lives. Influential people also joined the ranks of followers of Jesus. God makes all things work to His glory and for His good. Paul wrote this statement later in a letter to the Romans (Rom 8:28) reminding the church of how God works.

As we read, see how God works. Watch how God works in the lives of Paul, Silas and Timothy. See how God prevails in the lives of the new followers. It is all about God. Read with that perspective. See how the followers become even more tenacious in their faith as they are persecuted. That’s God’s Spirit living in them. God lives in us, too. His church will prevail!

Acts 17 upside downActs 17, The Message
Thessalonica
17 1-3 They took the road south through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica, where there was a community of Jews. Paul went to their meeting place, as he usually did when he came to a town, and for three Sabbaths running he preached to them from the Scriptures. He opened up the texts so they understood what they’d been reading all their lives: that the Messiah absolutely had to be put to death and raised from the dead—there were no other options—and that “this Jesus I’m introducing you to is that Messiah.”

4-5 Some of them were won over and joined ranks with Paul and Silas, among them a great many God-fearing Greeks and a considerable number of women from the aristocracy. But the hard-line Jews became furious over the conversions. Mad with jealousy, they rounded up a bunch of brawlers off the streets and soon had an ugly mob terrorizing the city as they hunted down Paul and Silas.

5-7 They broke into Jason’s house, thinking that Paul and Silas were there. When they couldn’t find them, they collared Jason and his friends instead and dragged them before the city fathers, yelling hysterically, “These people are out to destroy the world, and now they’ve shown up on our doorstep, attacking everything we hold dear! And Jason is hiding them, these traitors and turncoats who say Jesus is king and Caesar is nothing!”

8-9 The city fathers and the crowd of people were totally alarmed by what they heard. They made Jason and his friends post heavy bail and let them go while they investigated the charges.

Berea
10-12 That night, under cover of darkness, their friends got Paul and Silas out of town as fast as they could. They sent them to Berea, where they again met with the Jewish community. They were treated a lot better there than in Thessalonica. The Jews received Paul’s message with enthusiasm and met with him daily, examining the Scriptures to see if they supported what he said. A lot of them became believers, including many Greeks who were prominent in the community, women and men of influence.

13-15 But it wasn’t long before reports got back to the Thessalonian hard-line Jews that Paul was at it again, preaching the Word of God, this time in Berea. They lost no time responding, and created a mob scene there, too. With the help of his friends, Paul gave them the slip—caught a boat and put out to sea. Silas and Timothy stayed behind. The men who helped Paul escape got him as far as Athens and left him there. Paul sent word back with them to Silas and Timothy: “Come as quickly as you can!”

Dear Heavenly Father,
We repent of being dull and too busy to listen with understanding. We repent of multitasking. Let us center of thoughts on One goal and obey your direction to accomplish it. We pray we will see more clearly, bringing all of You into focus, letting the world fade into the background. It’s all about You, dear Lord. You are God and we are not. Thank you for Your Word that gives understanding. Thank you Holy Spirit for your guidance to real Truth that leads to authentic living.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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A NIGHT TO REMEMBER!

ACTS – Acts of God

Think about a time when you moved to another area of the country…or even another country. What do you notice first? Others in your new place of residence do not always do or say things they way you do. People who live in the culture see right away that you are different, too. You might question why, but there might not be an answer other than, “We’ve always done it this way.”

Now think about a time when you are settling into your new surroundings and you see that people do not know Jesus. When you talk about him, they don’t know what you’re talking about. So, you show them by the way God lives in and through you. God will take the lead. When He does, a difference can be seen and heard.

Paul and Silas are visiting the city of Philippi, a Roman colony. That is important to today’s story…that Paul is a Roman citizen. After church by the river, they go into town to the place of prayer. They are harassed by a slave girl, full of demons who use her to tell fortunes. Her owners love what she does and uses her as a side show act to make money. God’s Holy Spirit who now owns Paul put a stop to this demonic act and saves the girl from her abuse of satan and her owners. The peace of the culture was disturbed. This resulted in the “outsiders”, Paul and Silas, to be thrown into jail.

Acts 16 chains brokenActs 16, The Message
Beat Up and Thrown in Jail

16-18 One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortunetelling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her. She started following Paul around, calling everyone’s attention to us by yelling out, “These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!” She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, “Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!” And it was gone, just like that.

19-22 When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. Then the police arrested them and pulled them into a court with the accusation, “These men are disturbing the peace—dangerous Jewish agitators subverting our Roman law and order.” By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood.

22-24 The judges went along with the mob, had Paul and Silas’s clothes ripped off and ordered a public beating. After beating them black-and-blue, they threw them into jail, telling the jailkeeper to put them under heavy guard so there would be no chance of escape. He did just that—threw them into the maximum security cell in the jail and clamped leg irons on them.

25-26 Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears. Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose.

27-28 Startled from sleep, the jailer saw all the doors swinging loose on their hinges. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, he pulled out his sword and was about to do himself in, figuring he was as good as dead anyway, when Paul stopped him: “Don’t do that! We’re all still here! Nobody’s run away!”

29-31 The jailer got a torch and ran inside. Badly shaken, he collapsed in front of Paul and Silas. He led them out of the jail and asked, “Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?” They said, “Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you’ll live as you were meant to live—and everyone in your house included!”

32-34 They went on to spell out in detail the story of the Master—the entire family got in on this part. They never did get to bed that night. The jailer made them feel at home, dressed their wounds, and then—he couldn’t wait till morning!—was baptized, he and everyone in his family. There in his home, he had food set out for a festive meal. It was a night to remember: He and his entire family had put their trust in God; everyone in the house was in on the celebration.

35-36 At daybreak, the court judges sent officers with the instructions, “Release these men.” The jailer gave Paul the message, “The judges sent word that you’re free to go on your way. Congratulations! Go in peace!”

37 But Paul wouldn’t budge. He told the officers, “They beat us up in public and threw us in jail, Roman citizens in good standing! And now they want to get us out of the way on the sly without anyone knowing? Nothing doing! If they want us out of here, let them come themselves and lead us out in broad daylight.”

38-40 When the officers reported this, the judges panicked. They had no idea that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. They hurried over and apologized, personally escorted them from the jail, and then asked them if they wouldn’t please leave the city. Walking out of the jail, Paul and Silas went straight to Lydia’s house, saw their friends again, encouraged them in the faith, and only then went on their way.

What do we learn?
–A slave girl was abused by satan and her owners.
–Paul, in the name of Jesus, heals her. She is transformed but is now of no use to her owners.
–Plot twist: Instead of bemoaning their time in jail, they prayed and sang robust hymns to God!
–Earthquake cause the jail doors to open. No prisoners escaped.
–The witness of Paul and Silas resulted in a “night to remember” with the jailer pleading with them, “Sirs, what do I do to be saved, to really live?” Best question ever!
–The jailer invites Paul and Silas to his house so that his whole family could hear the story of Jesus. The whole household is saved by grace.
–Another plot twist: Jail time resulted in a great celebration of salvation!
–The court judges release them, but Paul reminds them that he is a Roman citizen. Judges are embarrassed so wants them to leave town.
–Paul and Silas go, instead, to Lydia’s house to encourage them in the faith.

Dear Heavenly Father,
May we always have the attitude of joy and thanksgiving no matter what the circumstance. Transform us to be and do all you intended. In the toughest times, it could turn out to be a night to remember!
In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE MACEDONIAN CALL

ACTS – The Acts of God

I’m sure you have heard the statement of encouragement, “When one door closes, another one opens” after you have faced a disappointment? Sometimes we have to face a few closed doors until that right door opens, don’t we? Did it ever occur to you that God’s Holy Spirit that says no now is saving you for God’s best later?

We had money down on a house that was being finished in a great, desirable addition. We had not quite closed the deal to sell the home we were in so we could not finalized the deal on the new home but we were more than ready to move in. One evening we visited the new house after work to see the progress. As we walked in the front door an overwhelming spirit came over both of us. I turned to Randy and said out loud, “This is not our home.” The Holy Spirit just told me. He agreed. It was not to be. The timing was all wrong.

A few months later, the “right” house for us became available around the corner. Our home sold and in a couple of weeks the deal on both houses were completed. God’s timing means everything. When you listen for His Holy Spirit to guide you and you obey, He leads to His best. Every time.

For Paul, God’s Holy Spirit turned him away from taking good paths to taking the best path. God did so in a dream or vision for Paul. “Come of here to Macedonia!” shouts a man in his dream. So the next day, Paul, along with his new mentee, Timothy set sail. There he met Lydia, a new believer, who supported God’s work with a “surge of hospitality”.

See what happens when we quickly obey the Holy Spirit’s leading? Even if it seems disappointing at the time or you don’t understand, His Spirit will make all things clear eventually. I have had several “Ah, ha, now I get it” moments throughout my life. I’m sure you have, too!

Acts 16 no

Acts 16, The Message
A Dream Gave Paul His Map
16 1-3 Paul came first to Derbe, then Lystra. He found a disciple there by the name of Timothy, son of a devout Jewish mother and Greek father. Friends in Lystra and Iconium all said what a fine young man he was. Paul wanted to recruit him for their mission, but first took him aside and circumcised him so he wouldn’t offend the Jews who lived in those parts. They all knew that his father was Greek.

4-5 As they traveled from town to town, they presented the simple guidelines the Jerusalem apostles and leaders had come up with. That turned out to be most helpful. Day after day the congregations became stronger in faith and larger in size.

6-8 They went to Phrygia, and then on through the region of Galatia. Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there either. Proceeding on through Mysia, they went down to the seaport Troas.

Acts 16 help us9-10 That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans.

11-12 Putting out from the harbor at Troas, we made a straight run for Samothrace. The next day we tied up at New City and walked from there to Philippi, the main city in that part of Macedonia and, even more importantly, a Roman colony. We lingered there several days.

13-14 On the Sabbath, we left the city and went down along the river where we had heard there was to be a prayer meeting. We took our place with the women who had gathered there and talked with them. One woman, Lydia, was from Thyatira and a dealer in expensive textiles, known to be a God-fearing woman. As she listened with intensity to what was being said, the Master gave her a trusting heart—and she believed!

15 After she was baptized, along with everyone in her household, she said in a surge of hospitality, “If you’re confident that I’m in this with you and believe in the Master truly, come home with me and be my guests.” We hesitated, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Think about it…
–When you don’t know which way to turn…take a nap!
–Pray for God’s guidance…seriously. He won’t let you down. He is always at work. He is always with us.
–Remember, its’ always all about God first and last. He invites us to His open door to help others find and follow Jesus!

Dear Heavenly Father, 
Thank you for always being with us. Thank you for delighting in the details of our lives! Thank you guiding us and helping us navigate this world. Thank you for giving your best. Thank you for the opportunities to join You in Your work! We praise You and give You all the glory and honor.
In Jesus Name, Amen

And I’m singing…

There’s a call comes ringing o’er the restless wave,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
There are souls to rescue, there are souls to save,
Send the light! Send the light!

Refrain:
Send the light, the blessed Gospel light;
Let it shine from shore to shore!
Send the light, and let its radiant beams
Light the world forevermore!

We have heard the Macedonian call today,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
And a golden off’ring at the cross we lay,
Send the light! Send the light!

Let us pray that grace may everywhere abound,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
And a Christlike spirit everywhere be found,
Send the light! Send the light!

Let us not grow weary in the work of love,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
Let us gather jewels for a crown above,
Send the light! Send the light!

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DIVIDE…AND CONQUER!

ACTS – The Acts of God

Sometimes in any given group situation there might be too many leaders in one spot. God sees that. Sometimes there are not enough leaders and the flocks are confused and disjointed. God knows that, too. Sometimes He allows a “shake up” to occur in leadership so we can learn about Who is really in control. It is amazing how God can always take a bad situation and turn it to the good of His work to save the lost.

There are too many leaders in Antioch so antsy Paul tells Barnabas, let’s go check on the churches we have visited previously with a heart and and mind to encourage them. A quarrel ensues about taking along Mark who had “jumped ship” earlier in their travels. Paul didn’t trust Mark who let him down.

But see how God uses this tenuously situation to divide these two strong leaders to go to twice the places, doubling their efforts in the mission to preach The Message to congregations. They ALSO each take a person whom they can mentor and partner, again doubling the effort! Paul takes Silas. Barnabas takes John Mark.

Remember God does not need us to accomplish His work but He invites us to His work, equips us for that moment in mission so that we may grow in our understanding of love, mercy, and grace. Love God. Love Others. Bottom line. Staying focused on the bottom line grows our relationship with God and others.

Don’t get rattled by disagreements in God’s church. Pray and see what God can do through the circumstance. He is ALWAYS at work. And never stop loving each other. Never.

Acts 15 disagreeActs 15, The Message
Barnabas and Paul Go Their Separate Ways
30-33 And so off they went to Antioch. On arrival, they gathered the church and read the letter. The people were greatly relieved and pleased. Judas and Silas, good preachers both of them, strengthened their new friends with many words of courage and hope. Then it was time to go home. They were sent off by their new friends with laughter and embraces all around to report back to those who had sent them.

35 Paul and Barnabas stayed on in Antioch, teaching and preaching the Word of God. But they weren’t alone. There were a number of teachers and preachers at that time in Antioch.

36 After a few days of this, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit all our friends in each of the towns where we preached the Word of God. Let’s see how they’re doing.”

37-41 Barnabas wanted to take John along, the John nicknamed Mark. But Paul wouldn’t have him; he wasn’t about to take along a quitter who, as soon as the going got tough, had jumped ship on them in Pamphylia. Tempers flared, and they ended up going their separate ways: Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus; Paul chose Silas and, offered up by their friends to the grace of the Master, went to Syria and Cilicia to build up muscle and sinew in those congregations.

Something to think about…
Throughout history Christians have struggled with unity and contention. How have you handled these issues throughout your life?

Dear Heavenly Father,
Help us to see through the disagreement to discovering what You want to do because of it. Maybe there are too many leaders. Maybe there aren’t enough leaders. Whatever the case, way we all FOLLOW You. Continue your work to transform us to be and do all you intended for us. Lord, I offer my life to you. 
In Jesus Name, Amen

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WHEN WE TRY TO out-god GOD…Yikes!

ACTS – The Acts of God

Remember the old chorus…And they’ll know we are Christians by our….rules and cultural traditions? Outsiders looking in might think so. We are guilty still as God’s people to “train” new believers in our ways, following our traditions, following all our man-made cultural unspoken rules as we out-god God in transforming them to be like us. Yikes! It is no wonder some fall away. The club down the street has less rules and regulations to follow!

“Wear what we wear” we subtly say by our actions. “We have jewelry, t-shirts and other stuff that tells others we are Christians…you’ll want to get that”. “We read only this translation of the Bible…you’ll want to get that, too”. “Don’t worry, we will teach you our songs because that’s the right music to sing”. “We will even cue you as to when to raise your hands, stand, sit and pray”. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our….? How do we fill in the blanks today?

There was a disagreement in the Jewish ranks about the new “pagan converts” (oxymoron??) over following the tradition of circumcision mandated by the Law of Moses. Jesus didn’t go over this in his teaching, He only sought the lost, died and rose again to save them from the sin that destroyed their souls and separated people from God. You know, the “basics”. He also taught us how to love each other. This was the New Covenant. He taught the greatest commandment above all: Love God. Love others in the extreme way God loves us.

Above all, don’t out-god…God! Peter’s words are perfect for solving the issue at hand in a powerful, loving way. Read and reflect and be blessed.

Acts 15 gentilesActs 15, The Message
To Let Outsiders Inside
15 1-2 It wasn’t long before some Jews showed up from Judea insisting that everyone be circumcised: “If you’re not circumcised in the Mosaic fashion, you can’t be saved.” Paul and Barnabas were up on their feet at once in fierce protest. The church decided to resolve the matter by sending Paul, Barnabas, and a few others to put it before the apostles and leaders in Jerusalem.

3 After they were sent off and on their way, they told everyone they met as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria about the breakthrough to the non-Jewish outsiders. Everyone who heard the news cheered—it was terrific news!

4-5 When they got to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were graciously received by the whole church, including the apostles and leaders. They reported on their recent journey and how God had used them to open things up to the outsiders. Some Pharisees stood up to say their piece. They had become believers, but continued to hold to the hard party line of the Pharisees. “You have to circumcise the pagan converts,” they said. “You must make them keep the Law of Moses.”

6-9 The apostles and leaders called a special meeting to consider the matter. The arguments went on and on, back and forth, getting more and more heated. Then Peter took the floor: “Friends, you well know that from early on God made it quite plain that he wanted the pagans to hear the Message of this good news and embrace it—and not in any secondhand or roundabout way, but firsthand, straight from my mouth. And God, who can’t be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person’s thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as he gave him to us. He treated the outsiders exactly as he treated us, beginning at the very center of who they were and working from that center outward, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed him.

10-11 “So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? Don’t we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?”

12-13 There was dead silence. No one said a word. With the room quiet, Barnabas and Paul reported matter-of-factly on the miracles and wonders God had done among the other nations through their ministry. The silence deepened; you could hear a pin drop.

13-18 James broke the silence. “Friends, listen. Simeon has told us the story of how God at the very outset made sure that racial outsiders were included. This is in perfect agreement with the words of the prophets:

After this, I’m coming back;
I’ll rebuild David’s ruined house;
I’ll put all the pieces together again;
I’ll make it look like new
So outsiders who seek will find,
so they’ll have a place to come to,
All the pagan peoples
included in what I’m doing.

“God said it and now he’s doing it. It’s no afterthought; he’s always known he would do this.

19-21 “So here is my decision: We’re not going to unnecessarily burden non-Jewish people who turn to the Master. We’ll write them a letter and tell them, ‘Be careful to not get involved in activities connected with idols, to guard the morality of sex and marriage, to not serve food offensive to Jewish Christians—blood, for instance.’ This is basic wisdom from Moses, preached and honored for centuries now in city after city as we have met and kept the Sabbath.”

22-23 Everyone agreed: apostles, leaders, all the people. They picked Judas (nicknamed Barsabbas) and Silas—they both carried considerable weight in the church—and sent them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas with this letter:

From the apostles and leaders, your friends, to our friends in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:

Hello!

24-27 We heard that some men from our church went to you and said things that confused and upset you. Mind you, they had no authority from us; we didn’t send them. We have agreed unanimously to pick representatives and send them to you with our good friends Barnabas and Paul. We picked men we knew you could trust, Judas and Silas—they’ve looked death in the face time and again for the sake of our Master Jesus Christ. We’ve sent them to confirm in a face-to-face meeting with you what we’ve written.

28-29 It seemed to the Holy Spirit and to us that you should not be saddled with any crushing burden, but be responsible only for these bare necessities: Be careful not to get involved in activities connected with idols; avoid serving food offensive to Jewish Christians (blood, for instance); and guard the morality of sex and marriage.

These guidelines are sufficient to keep relations congenial between us. And God be with you!

Acts 15 by grace

Think about it…
–You have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
–“Be responsible for the bare necessities”… “basic wisdom”, those sins that can harm us physically and emotionally forever and worship of idols that distracts our worship and allegiance to God.
–We do not have to become Jews to become Christians. Christians’ goal is to become Christ-like as the word indicates.
–We are not to become like each other, either. We are to strive to become more like Christ.
–Mature believers should be pointing to the Perfection of the pattern of living as lived by Jesus Christ.
–We are not God. We are not Jesus. We do not save anyone. Only Jesus saves.
–Does this mean we keep doing what we’ve always done and just add our salvation in Jesus Christ to our life? No, Jesus gives us a new life with new desires. The old ways are gone. His Holy Spirit will guide our thoughts and actions into this new way of living that produces new fruit, the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit. Love, joy, peace, gentleness, patience,

And they know we are Christians by our LOVE. Christ now lives in us. His Spirit comforts, guides, convicts, challenges and directs like no one else can. Our continued transformation is accomplished by Christ alone. We can build each other up and encourage each other to stick with Christ, but it is Christ who does the work within us.

Yes, they know we are Christians by our love.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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BY GOD’S GRACE – The Journey in January

ACTS – The Acts of God

It is no wonder God’s Holy Spirit is leading us through Acts as a precursor to our “Journey in January” to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. We look forward to what God is doing there and what He will do in and through us as we join Him in His work. We have had to accomplish a lot of details before we go. We have been sick over the past three weeks but are now healing from it.

The weather is challenging but doable. A loved one is in the hospital but seems to be on the way to mending. Evil has attacked our minds with “what in the world are you doing, you are too old and lack the abilities it takes”. In Jesus Name, evil has been defeated. Our confidence is in Christ and His Spirit working through us in ways that we cannot yet see or imagine!

There are many of you praying with us and we cherish each one of those prayers and we love you for praying! Saying yes to God will always include trials and challenges, but HE is always with us through it all. Where He guides, He provides. He is always the solution to every problem or challenge. We are praying for you and the mission God has invited you to at home.

Yes, I would rather be with God, obeying God than facing life without Him. Going my own way is a life without peace.

Paul and Barnabas were great encouragers to the church to “stick with what they had begun to believe and not quit.” He knew the journey wouldn’t be easy for all kinds of reasons. Read our next small passage and be blessed by His Holy Spirit with me…

Acts 14 grace is greater

Acts 14, The Message
Plenty of Hard Times
21-22 After proclaiming the Message in Derbe and establishing a strong core of disciples, they retraced their steps to Lystra, then Iconium, and then Antioch, putting muscle and sinew in the lives of the disciples, urging them to stick with what they had begun to believe and not quit, making it clear to them that it wouldn’t be easy: “Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times.”

23-26 Paul and Barnabas handpicked leaders in each church. After praying—their prayers intensified by fasting—they presented these new leaders to the Master to whom they had entrusted their lives. Working their way back through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia and preached in Perga. Finally, they made it to Attalia and caught a ship back to Antioch, where it had all started—launched by God’s grace and now safely home by God’s grace. A good piece of work.

27-28 On arrival, they got the church together and reported on their trip, telling in detail how God had used them to throw the door of faith wide open so people of all nations could come streaming in. Then they settled down for a long, leisurely visit with the disciples.

“Launched by God’s Grace and now safely home by God’s Grace. A good piece of work.” This is our mantra and Spirit led mission goal as we begin our “Journey in January” to Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

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HE IS GOD…and we are not.

ACTS – The Acts of God

It happens today to the best of leaders by the people they serve. Leaders give themselves to God’s service, obey His will and fulfill His mission in their lives. Others see their success by what God is doing in them and hold the leaders up as gods, putting them on a pedestal…until the leaders say or do something they don’t agree with, then down they come.

People become disappointed in the humanness of their leaders because they are putting their faith in a man or woman instead of our Perfect, Living God. Why do we do that to our pastors, worship leaders, teachers and others who serve? They are mere men and woman like us. Stay focused on God, not men and women who are fallible.

God leads Paul to heal a lame man and the crowd goes wild, thinking Paul is a god. He sets them straight immediately, “We don’t make God; he makes us”. We are here to give you The Message and point you to God, leaving all other gods behind. This region had many gods for all occasions and situations. Let’s see how Paul and Barnabas handled it….

Acts 14 Paul went backActs 14, The Message
Gods or Men?

8-10 There was a man in Lystra who couldn’t walk. He sat there, crippled since the day of his birth. He heard Paul talking, and Paul, looking him in the eye, saw that he was ripe for God’s work, ready to believe. So he said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Up on your feet!” The man was up in a flash—jumped up and walked around as if he’d been walking all his life.

11-13 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they went wild, calling out in their Lyconian dialect, “The gods have come down! These men are gods!” They called Barnabas “Zeus” and Paul “Hermes” (since Paul did most of the speaking). The priest of the local Zeus shrine got up a parade—bulls and banners and people lined right up to the gates, ready for the ritual of sacrifice.

14-15 When Barnabas and Paul finally realized what was going on, they stopped them. Waving their arms, they interrupted the parade, calling out, “What do you think you’re doing! We’re not gods! We are men just like you, and we’re here to bring you the Message, to persuade you to abandon these silly god-superstitions and embrace God himself, the living God. We don’t make God; he makes us, and all of this—sky, earth, sea, and everything in them.

16-18 “In the generations before us, God let all the different nations go their own way. But even then he didn’t leave them without a clue, for he made a good creation, poured down rain and gave bumper crops. When your bellies were full and your hearts happy, there was evidence of good beyond your doing.” Talking fast and hard like this, they prevented them from carrying out the sacrifice that would have honored them as gods—but just barely.

19-20 Then some Jews from Antioch and Iconium caught up with them and turned the fickle crowd against them. They beat Paul unconscious, dragged him outside the town and left him for dead. But as the disciples gathered around him, he came to and got up. He went back into town and the next day left with Barnabas for Derbe.

What do we learn?
–He is God and we are not.
–Church is not perfect for it is made up of sinful people.
–Point people to God always.
–Tell people about Jesus and his saving grace. Talk less of your church. Jesus is perfect. Church is not.
–Our lives were created to worship the One and Only God.

What other gods do you rely on? Is our technology, vehicles, homes, other people?

Dear Heavenly Father,
There are many gods who pull for our attention even today. Help us to be alert to putting other gods before You! You are God and we and other things are not. It is Only You. You are our God, the God of creation, the God who made us….to worship You. Continue to get our attention, transform us and save us from ourselves and the world around us.
In Jesus Name, Amen

Posted in ACTS, Blessings, Christian Living, Christian Perspective, Embrace, Encouragement, Faith, Forgiveness, Grace, harvest, heaven, Holy Spirit, Hope, hospitality, hugs, insight, Jesus, joy, Leadership, Listen, lost but found, Love, Macedonian Call, marriage, Mercy, ministry, Praise, Prayer, Salvation, Searching, Teaching, Thanksgiving, Training, Transformation, trust in God, Truth, Uncategorized, Unconditional love, waiting on God, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment