1 Samuel 9&10; Acts 8

What amazing passages we are reading this morning! Lots to discuss, but for the sake of brevity my thoughts center on the last part of Acts 8. Keeping in mind the “little” things that make HUGE advances in God’s Kingdom.

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. (Acts 8:26-40 [ESV’)

Philip is given an assignment. He starts out not knowing what the Holy Spirit has in store for him, but he “happens” across an Ethiopian Eunuch. This man was the treasurer of Queen Candace’s treasury. A very influential person in Ethiopia. A “chance” encounter that Philip has with this person. Sort of like Ruth’s encounter with Boaz. A chance encounter that will change the course of human history… You see the modern day church in Ethiopia can be traced back to this singular event. The Coptic’s in Ethiopia look at this as the beginning of their church.

As we start out this day, let’s not overlook the smallest task God has for us, or to look at anything as mere happenstance. That very tiny act may be what changes the course of human history. That’s the way God’s Kingdom works.

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1 Samuel 6-8; Acts 7

In 1 Samuel chapter 4-5, I read of the Philistines’ victory over Israel and how they captured the Ark of the Covenant. God brought the Philistines’ god down and inflicted them with a disease. The rest of the story is in 1 Samuel 6.

And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the LORD? Tell us with what we shall send it to its place.” They said… “Now then, take and prepare a new cart and two milk cows on which there has never come a yoke, and yoke the cows to the cart, but take their calves home, away from them. And take the ark of the LORD and place it on the cart and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt offering. Then send it off and let it go its way and watch. 1 Samuel 6: 2-3a, 7-9a ESV

The Philistines’ priests and diviners tell them to deliver the Ark to the Israelites in a cart drawn by milk cows. The fact that the cows pulled the cart to Beth-shemesh and the Israelites proved that God cared about the Ark. Milk cows’ first instinct would be to stay with their calves, so they should have gone to their stables to be with them. Not to mention that fact that these cows have never wore a yoke or pulled a cart, so they didn’t know how to work together and pull something. God used this event to show that He was in control of the events and was fighting for Israel.

Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a burnt offering to the LORD. And Samuel cried out to the LORD for Israel, and the LORD answered him…the LORD thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were routed before Israel. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said “Till now the LORD has helped us.” 1 Samuel 7: 7a, 9, 10b, 12 ESV

The Philistines tried to conquer Israel again, but this time Samuel offered up burnt offerings and call on the LORD for help. The LORD helped Israel and subdued the Philistines before them. After calling on God to help the Israel defeat their enemies, Samuel becomes a judge of Israel.

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct you heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 1 Samuel 7:3 ESV

Samuel tells the Israelites that they must follow the One True God, not the gods of the people around them, if they want His protection. Israel had a long-running problem with idolatry. Early disciple, Stephen, pointed this out in his speech to the high priest in Acts. Stephen was brought before the elders, and the elders, and the scribes for alleged blasphemy. Stephen defends his faith in Jesus and tells of how Israel repeatedly resisted God and disobeyed him to that day.

“And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? You took up the tent of Moloch and the star of you god Rephan, the images that you made to worship; and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.” Acts 7: 41-43 ESV

Stephen tells at the first time Israel disobeyed God as a group, the creation of the golden calf. That was sadly not the last time they turned against the LORD. The book of Judges is full of examples of God rescuing His people, only for them to turn back to worshipping the false gods of the nations around them. However, through Jesus, God rescued His people once and for all. After Stephen delivers his speech, he is attacked by mob that is enraged by his words. However, before he is killed, he sees Jesus.

But he (Stephen), full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7: 55-56 ESV

Stephen became the very first martyr, dying at the hands of the council. However, because of his faith in Jesus, God saved him from his sins and he went to heaven, a place he got a foretaste of just minutes before he died.

Dear God, that you for rescuing me once and for all. Please give me the strength to follow you and to stand strong in the face of opposition and persecution. Please help me obey your words and to seek you. Amen.

Nathanael (nborger2017)

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1 Samuel 3-5; Psalm 23; Acts 6

Samuel heard God’s call. He spoke boldly, calling out the sin in Eli’s family.

Stephen was chosen too, known as a man full of faith and Spirit, God’s grace and power.

Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. 10 None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.

11 So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God.” 12 This roused the people, the elders, and the teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council. (Acts 6:8-12, NLT, emphasis mine)

Oh, the dangers of manipulation. Crowd rousing. Judgment, unjust.

Eli and Stephen were known by God. One man and his family faced the judgment of God. One godly man faced the judgment of man.

There is only one I stand before in the end, whose knowledge of me is all that matters. The One who gives me all I need; leads, renews, guides, protects, comforts, honors; His unfailing love and goodness pursue me, surely, even in the darkest valley.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever. (Psalm 23, NLT)

The Lord is my shepherd.

I have all that I need.

My cup overflows with blessings.

Thank you, Father.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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1 Samuel 1-2; Psalms 120; Acts 5

In our reading today, Eli hears of the evil his sons were doing to Israel.  Notice the severe consequences that happen because of sinning against God.

“And he said to them,’Why do you do such things?  For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people.  No, my sons, it is no good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad.  If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but is someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?’  But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.” (1 Samuel 2:23-25 ESV)

Then in Acts we see a husband and wife steal and lie and then assume God will still be good to them.  It was God’s will that they be punished by death as well.

“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?  Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart?  You have not lied to man but to God.’  When Ananais heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last.  And great fear came upon all who heard of it.  The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.  After an interval of about three hours, his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  And Peter said to her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.’  And she said, ‘Yes for so much.’  But Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?  Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’  Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last.  When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” (Acts 5:1-11 ESV)

God is very merciful, but He is still just.  Sometimes we will get what we deserve.  May always be thankful for the times that God’s mercy overflows in our lives and be humbled by remembering that our sins deserve death.  Jesus’s death took that punishment for us.  May we be forever grateful.

Kellie

 

 

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Ruth 3-4; Psalm 37; Acts 4

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is

“‘the stone you builders rejected,  which has become the cornerstone.’

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. (NIV)

20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” This is a statement of a changed life, a man who finally got what Jesus had been teaching his disciples. It had not been that long ago that Peter had denied he knew Jesus out of fear for his own life, yet here he was, standing in front of authorities, and not backing down. That was one of the things I remember learning when I first became a follower. Through all the years after his death and resurrection, not one of the men who had witnessed it ever changed their story. No matter how they were threatened with death, or beaten, or thrown into jail, their story of what they witnessed stayed the same.

We all have a story of how following Jesus changed our lives. One of my favorite Sundays at our church is Baptism Sunday. People share their testimony of lives completely turned around because they believed and let Jesus into their hearts. There is so much joy, and singing, and clapping “because all the people were praising God for what had happened.” I think it takes a changed life to recognize that change in someone else. The look of joy when they step out in faith and proclaim they want a new life just brings tears to my eyes. I get to relive my own excitement of that decision with them.

What I love even more are the people who spontaneously decide to be baptized because of the stories of restoration they have heard. Something in them stirs and they can’t contain themselves. The Holy Spirit is working in them–the same Holy Spirit that evoked Peter to boldly proclaim “12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

The bible gives us countless stories of God’s restoration. The Book of Ruth is one of those.

13 So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the Lord enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. 14 Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. 15 May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”

16 Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. 17 The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David. (NLT)

I never tire of reading that book of the bible. God’s plan of redemption for our lives is such a major theme. Through it he not only restored the lives of Naomi and Ruth, he also put into place the plan of redemption for all of humanity. Through David’s genealogy came Jesus, who is our Savior.

Heavenly Father, my life was changed the moment I believed. You have always had a plan for my life—that knowledge has brought healing to my troubled soul. May I continue to praise you and lift my voice with all the saints throughout eternity proclaiming the name of Jesus, the greatest name of all. In His name I pray. Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Ruth 1,2; Acts 3

Do you believe in coincidences? Many times in our lives what look like chance encounters end up being life-changing events. There’s an interesting movie entitled, “Sliding Doors”. It has to do with two alternative outcomes depending on whether a woman gets on a train or has to wait for the next one. This simple choice — and the movie plays out both options — shows what happens by just that one tiny choice.

Ruth 2 has an interesting “throw away” line, “3 So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.” The author of this short book treats this chance encounter as a coincidence. Yet, it starts of a chain of events that results in the unbroken lineage in the ancestry of Jesus. What seemed like a chance decision or happenstance ended up being one of the most important events in human history.

Have you had something like this happen in your life? I can see in mine events that seemed unrelated being life-changing and subsequently life changing for millions of people. Not because of my choices, but because of what God has done in the circumstances of my life. Look back over the history of your life. Can you find at least one of these sliding door moments that has changed your path or those of others that has made an eternal difference in God’s kingdom?

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Judges 19-21; Acts 2

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2 ESV

Without faith, and illuminated understanding- without the Spirit- it is easy to be bewildered, perplexed, and confused.

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2 ESV

The tender heart sliced cleanly by conviction… the answer and call: Repent and be baptized.

The promise: for you, for your children…

This promise speaks to my heart: for my children.

In my Judges’ reading, I see many examples of a crooked generation. I see a people cut to the heart. I see a justice provided through a people. In Acts, justice and salvation comes to me through a person. A better way… a more excellent way.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[d] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2 ESV

To live and see life through eyes of faith, is to see the world around me through a different lens. What lens am I looking through? Am I living in the joy of the Lord and the freedom of His life? How can my heart be glad and generous?

Dear Lord, thank You for Your Word. Open my eyes to see Your truth. Draw me close to You. The wind and fire of Your Spirit make all things new. Help me live my life for You. Amen.

Rebecca (offeringsbecca)

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