Week 9, Day 1
February 28, 2022
Scripture: Acts 25
“When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.” (Acts 25:18–19)
If you think about it, this is the whole debate, isn’t it?
“Paul talked about a dead man named Jesus who he claimed was alive.”
Is it true?
If Jesus truly died, and truly came back to life, that’s it. Everything in your life gets flipped over. You have to make a decision about him. I suppose you could just go on in life, paying little attention to it. Just ignore it. But there really was a man named Jesus of Nazareth. He really did die on the cross. And he really did come back to life.
But if Jesus is truly crucified, and really rose from the dead – well, you better make a decision about if he is God or not.
How shall we live, knowing Christ to be both crucified and resurrected?
Taking a clue from Paul and others we’ve been studying over the last several weeks – we must trust in the Lord and persevere in our faith.
If he really is God, we must listen to him. Follow Him. Trust him. Give him your life. He is Lord, crucified and Risen.
Week 8, Day 5
February 25, 2022
Scripture: Acts 24
Paul escapes death in Jerusalem, through the help of God. Where harm was intended, God will use this for good. God calls Paul to go to Rome and testify there, we see this in Acts 23:11 “Take Courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
Paul is taken to Caesarea for more judgment. Just like a case doesn’t go straight to the Supreme Court, Paul’s case next goes to a regional governor to oversee.
Governor Felix is “familiar with the Way.” He is in many ways gracious towards Paul, giving him many freedoms as well as friends who can care for his needs. God is caring for his servant.
Something amazing happens in the slow, drawn out process seeking “justice; ”He (Felix) sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.”
For two years Paul would tell Felix about Jesus.
Paul doesn’t do this to improve his situation. Jesus is not someone to be used for his own advantage. Paul has continually found himself in difficult places because of his faith in Jesus. He doesn’t soften, or back off, in fear that it will cause him more struggles. Rather, he just keeps sharing about Jesus. His faith in Christ brought him into this situation, and it will see him through it as well. Paul preaches Christ crucified and resurrected, no matter personal consequence.
Let’s have that sort of courage and clarity in our own lives.
Trust in the Lord and keep sharing about the Way. Use what opportunities you are given to share with others about your faith in Jesus. Follow the Way.
Week 8, Day 4
February 24, 2022
Scripture: Acts 23
GUEST POST: Dan Stichter
Is this Acts or an action movie!?! While many other chapters of Acts are similar, there is so much intrigue and excitement packed into chapter 23. When you read did you notice all these Hollywood storylines?
Mistaken identities (v5)
Disagreement escalating to violence (v7-10)
Divine encounters (v11)
Assassination plots (v12)
Hunger oaths (v14)
Child spies (v16-22)
Secret military missions (v23-24)
Aggressive and uncalled for slapping! (v2)
Admittedly I may be letting my imagination run wild but I love to picture a child spy (Paul’s nephew) sneaking through the market, jumping between buildings, or hiding in a pile of straw on his way to deliver news of a hunger oath assassination plot to a Roman commander (Can we get a little character development on the Roman commander? I need to know his tragic backstory!).
Emily and I love to watch TV shows with episodes that have individual closure but a long underlying plot for the main character(s). (USA Network is great at this type of show, hit me up for some referrals) In these dramas, inevitably what the main character sees as a road block, detour, or setback actually ends up providing a new ally or leading them one step closer to their ultimate goal. As we read Acts 23 we see this exact type of plot continue to play out for Paul. As Jordan pointed out yesterday, no matter what daunting challenge Paul faces, he continues to be led to greater and greater opportunities to share the Gospel. In todays reading he even gets an all expenses paid trip to meet higher levels of Roman government and society!
Knowing his true calling, I believe Paul figured out this silver lining concept pretty quickly. Philippians 1:12-14 says “And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.” This allowed him to remain focused on his mission to spread the Gospel, especially on days that were discouraging or even scary.
While I want to be careful to avoid too many Christian cliches (I’m looking at you “everything happens for a reason”) I do think Paul’s story in Acts 23 can help us understand dynamics of Christian service and calling which can sometimes be lost in the day to day. Paul saw his ultimate mission and served with intention no matter what Hollywood movie was being filmed around him. May we all be encouraged to do our best to do the same!
Week 8, Day 3
February 23, 2022
Scripture: Acts 22
Paul uses his citizenship as a Roman to advance the kingdom.
I’ve enjoyed reading through the life of Paul these last several days. Yesterday we read of his arrest. Today we read his testimony. I love that Paul gets to tell the story of his faith to others. They don’t seem to want to hear it, but at least he gets to share of the powerful love of God at work in his life.
The angry Jewish mob wants him gone.
Paul appeals to his Roman citizenship, only after he got to share his story.
The timing of his reminder that he is a Roman citizen is suspicious. Why not tell the soldiers sooner of his citizenship and rights? He could have avoided a lot of trouble had he pulled rank right away.
Because he can use this to the advancement of the Good News. He can keep telling his story, from one audience to the next. He saw one more appeal to the Jews to turn to Jesus as he had. They don’t hear it, but he can go forward knowing he did all he could to tell them about Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
We are citizens of the world, and citizens of heaven. Today, let us use our freedoms and privileges of our worldly citizenship to tell others of the hope of our heavenly citizenship.
God be with you.
Week 8, Day 2
Scriptures: Acts 21
On the road towards death.
Paul’s friends knew that he was going to die. The opening verse of Acts 21 says, “After we had torn ourselves away from them...”
Luke is now giving a personal account of watching his fellow believer and missionary companion Paul lay down his life for the sake of the gospel.
“Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.” Yet he continued onward towards Jerusalem. There were even prophesies of his certain death that came to him, “When we heard this, we and the people pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’”
Paul knows something that we often forget.
Death is not the end.
Jesus is greater than death. He overcame. Paul throughout his ministry had been teaching fellow believers that God has overcome death. That nothing in this world would separate him from the love of God in Jesus. He holds this truth in his heart. He now will display it in his life.
He can certainly face the challenges ahead of him in in Jerusalem knowing Jesus is greater than all he will face.
They pry themselves from their friends. They know what is ahead. But Paul knows the Lord and his love goes with him.
Courage. Perseverance. Faithfulness.
It’s all there in the life of Paul.
He is going to almost certain death. But he knows it isn’t the end.
May this story today, of Paul’s faithfulness give us courage, perseverance, and encouragement in our faith today.
God be with you.
Week 8, Day 1
February 21, 2022
Scriptures: Acts 20
Thank you Lindsey McIntyre for todays devotion.
Sharing a devotional on behalf of Jordan today! I hope it encourages all of you as you begin a new week. Happy Monday!
Our response song to the sermon yesterday was The Stand, and these lyrics struck me and gave me pause in the midst of my worship…
I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all
So I’ll stand, my soul Lord to you surrendered
All I am is Yours
As a musician, my heart naturally pours out in worship through song. And when I sing and praise God through worship, I’m fully aware of the power in living out these words of truth. But then life gets the best of me, and I’m once again caught in the battle between standing on the promises of God and standing on the promises of the world.
This was my mindset when I opened my Bible to read Acts 20, and I was immediately struck by the opening sentence…
After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece.
It’s worth mentioning that Acts 19 ends with a riot at Ephesus. There is much chaos and confusion, and Paul’s life is in extreme danger. I can’t imagine what he was feeling during this time, but I’m guessing it was a mix of human emotions that were anything but pleasant. This was a major turning point in Paul’s ministry that would lead to extreme sacrifice on behalf of the Gospel, not unlike Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. I don’t think anyone would have blamed him if he abandoned ship at this point (no pun intended!) And yet, his immediate response was to encourage the disciples before departing and continuing to spread encouragement throughout Macedonia and Greece.
After some time (and a LOT of external processing) Paul called for the elders of the church in Ephesus to come to him. When they arrived, he reminded them of his bold service to the Lord in the midst of many trials and persecution. He gave a brief account of his teaching and testifying before letting them know that he was going to Jerusalem, fully aware of his fate. Once again, I’m pretty sure everyone would’ve understood if he had decided to abandon his mission (some of us might have even encouraged it!)
But he chose to walk in faithful obedience to God, following in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ. I love how verse 24 sums up his conviction and testimony…
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
It’s clear that Paul understood the value in standing with arms high and heart abandoned, in awe of the One who gave it all. His soul Lord to You surrendered, all he was (and is) is Yours.
The chapter ends with Jesus’ words, reminding us that it is more blessed to give than receive.” Jesus gave his life for us. Paul gave his life for the Gospel. I pray that our church, and the body of believers, can continue to walk forward in faithful steps as we work to advance the work of God, to the praise of His glory.
Week 7, Day 5
February 18, 2022
Scriptures: Acts 19
Slow and Steady wins the race.
When we read the book of Acts, it is easy to think that Christianity came about quickly. In a way it does. In the matter of 25 years, it’s incredible to think about how many people came to believe in Jesus Christ and enter into the Way. But consider this a little more closely:
“Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” (Acts 19:8–10)
Paul taught about the Kingdom of God slowly and with great intentionality. He wasn’t quick to avoid problems. He tried desperately for the Jews at the synagogue in Tyrannus to learn about the Kingdom of God and Jesus, but after several months of obstinance he had to leave. Desiring for the church there to grow and spread, he went to a lecture hall to share with both Jews and Gentiles who were curious about his message. Paul spent two years there teaching in the lecture hall, so that people would hear the word of the Lord.
This is just one of the many instances in Acts where Paul went first to the synagogue, only to leave for a more receptive audience.
It can be a bit disconcerting when we face challenges, or the church doesn’t grow like we hope it would. The Kingdom spreads and grows, quickly, but also slowly. I know that’s a bit of an oxymoron. It’s incredible to see the spread of the Gospel when you look at the big picture of a span of 20 some years. In that way, the Gospel spreads quickly. But imagine the difficulty of three months of arguing in a synagogue really wore on Paul’s patience. Those days probably dragged a bit, don’t you think?
Let’s be reminded today that in the difficult days of life, ministry, sharing the hope of Jesus, there might be some frustrating days. But keep the faith. Persevere. Run the race marked out for us. The Gospel will continue to spread. Lives will continue to be changed. The Kingdom will come. Some days might be difficult to keep going in our faith. But when we look at our life, may we see a long obedience in the same direction.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Week 7, Day 4
February 17, 2022
Scriptures: Acts 18
“He (Apollos) began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” (Acts 18:26)
Would Priscilla and Aquila have a ministry today?
Would anyone listen to them?
Apollos was teaching passionately about the Lord, but he had a few things that needed correcting. He learned from Priscilla and Aquila and it changed his ministry and life.
I don’t intend to have an accusatory tone today. I just want to address my own ego and pride. Am I willing to learn from others? I have my thoughts and opinions that I can become quite passionate about. Usually in those areas I’m most passionate, I’m not easily persuaded. I got it figured out. You listen to me, not the other way around. Know what I mean?
Here we see Apollos speaking boldly about Christ. He didn’t close himself off from learning more about Jesus. When someone said, “There’s more to know.” He was open and willing to learn.
We may have reached a point in our life where we have convinced ourselves that we know all we need to about Jesus. But as we see, God continues to reveal himself to us in our daily reading of the Word and spending time with fellow believers.
Keep learning, growing, and open your heart to God.
God give me a spirit of learning today.
Week 7, Day 3
February 16, 2022
Scriptures: Acts 17
“They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”” (Acts 17:7)
Word is spreading of the good news proclaimed by Paul and the other apostles. Jesus is King!
The ministry of Paul and Silas was proclaiming that the Messiah had to suffer, die and rise.
These are all good reminders to us about the message of the Gospel. What is the Good News that Jesus preached?
What is it that John the Baptist preached?
What is it that the Apostles preached?
We have come to understand that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. He proclaimed the kingdom of God. He suffered, died and rose from the dead. He is now seated at the right hand of God.
This is the Gospel preached, lived and proclaimed.
It is ours now, to continue to share. It is also ours to embrace. Jesus reigns as King. I follow him, and trust my life to the Savior of the World.
Jesus is King.
Week 7, Day 2
February 15, 2022
Scripture: Acts 16
After Paul and Silas were severely flogged and beaten, they were thrown in prison.
There, they worshiped the Lord.
This is one of those stories where you can’t help but admire and celebrate the faith of those who go before you. You hope that one day your faith might compare to theirs. In the face of great suffering, they worshiped the Lord.
When the earthquake shakes them free, they decide to stay in prison. That’s always a perplexing decision to me. I think most people would say, “The Lord has done this for us, to be set free.” And then get out of there! But what Paul and Silas see is the doors being open to the prison guards heart. (Lord, help me to see your blessings, not for my benefit, but for the benefit of others.)
When the prison guard is fearful of his own life, he hears, “We are all still here.”
It opens his heart to God, “what must I do to be saved?”
“They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.” (Acts 16:31–34)
The jailer washes their wounds. The response to the Gospel, is to comfort the suffering, the wounded. I’m not sure if the jailer carried out the punishment. But he did carry out the Gospel.
Lord, help me receive your blessings and give them to others, for your glory.
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.