Category Archives: Acts

Acts 23:26-27:8 

Here is the most detailed description of Paul’s testimony, shared with me to understand the transformation that took place in his life and what it looks like to serve and follow Jesus. Purpose screams from the storyline and with that comes boldness, wisdom, courage, value and a deep sense of commitment and faithfulness.

‘I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.’ – Acts 26:17-18 MSG

I love the call of God in Paul’s life. I have looked for such a call between the ages of 12 and 14. Finally received a tap on the shoulder at 14. The specific call took place at age 25. I have another call that still has not materialized and that is okay. I am doing the work I am called to do now.

What an honour for God to choose me as His minister, an honour that suggests that I am not doing anything in my own strength but through the working of His Spirit which is revealed in me everyday.

What is the secret? Paul was forgiven and I was forgiven. Paul was the chief of sinners and I was up there too, but we both obtained mercy. More than mercy actually, we were honoured as ministers of Jesus. A call offered to everyone who has decided to follow Jesus.

I know that the real secret is in being obedient to that call, not just receiving it. It is a call where I cannot dishonour the One who called me.

It’s because of this ‘whole world’ dimension that the Jews grabbed me in the Temple that day and tried to kill me. – Acts 26:21 MSG

This is why persecution even exists. Paul’s story reminds me that while my own life may have no value in of itself, what an honour to be freely given God’s goodness. What a honour to humble myself and not to grudge whatever may come my way so that I may present myself to the world as a child of God.

It is God walking with me that matters most. I try to memorize a verse every week. This week it is Hebrews 4:16 – “So let’s walk right up to Him and get what He is ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” The promise is that He will never leave me so my decision each day is to choose life and to raise an Ebenezer to the honour of His name. All of this because Jesus has helped me.

Father, thank You for calling me with a purpose and with a life that involves walking with You. Thank You for the power of the Holy Spirit enabling me to do and accomplish all that You have set before me to do. Thank You that my glory is not in me and what I have done, but rather, in You and what You have done.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)


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Filed under 66 Books, 7-day reading pln, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Cover to cover, New Testament, reading plan, Uncategorized

Acts 12-13

. . . many were gathered together and were praying.

Acts 12:12b ESV

Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 13:3 ESV

Prayer was not just a casual activity in the early church. I have a feeling their prayer meetings looked a bit different than our fellowship-driven contemporary counterpart.

We don’t know how many people were there, what the meetings looked like, how long they lasted, or the words they spoke. But, the brief references here stir my thoughts and convict me on the quality of my own prayer habits.

The prayer meeting that Peter interrupted was likely an all night vigil since the angel awoke him from a sound sleep for his jailbreak. So much to love about that account:

  • Peter was sleeping. Chained on either side to a soldier and rather than pleading for God on his own behalf, he decided to sleep.
  • Peter clearly had been sleeping soundly. Likely drooling on his chest, head propped up on a soldier’s shoulder. So out of it that the angel had to give him step by step instructions for dressing himself.
  • Takes him until he is outside the jail walking the city streets to realize he wasn’t just having a vivid dream.
  • Mary’s house is clearly central headquarters. He did not have a list of places to try to track down his friends, he knew right where to find them.
  • They did not disappoint. A group sat inside praying for his release. Even after James’s execution, they did not lose faith or hope. They continued to pray that God would work a miracle (of course, even their faith might have wavered since they doubted Rhoda when she said he was not in jail).
  • Rhoda – I want to meet this girl in heaven. In her excitement she forget to do the obvious (let Peter in), but she sticks to her story despite the criticism of her sanity and everyone offering counter-interpretations.
  • What were cultural norms about knocking on a neighbor’s door in those days? How long did Peter wait before he resumed his knocking after Rhoda left him on the step? How quickly did fear creep back in as he realized anyone who recognized him could jeopardize his freedom? Would an angel really break him out of prison just to let him get caught again?

Jump ahead to the next chapter and we see that in Antioch, they also understood the need to prioritize corporate prayer. It is intimately intertwined with worship.

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger,[d] Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 13:1-3 ESV

Worshiping, fasting, prayer. All woven together in a corporate plea to God for wisdom. At that time, the Holy Spirit made his intentions clear. They sought his wisdom, and he answered. He responded in a way that was clear to the church.

Usually when I think about the importance of prayer, I think about a personal discipline that I need to spend more time in. This passage is reminding me that corporate prayer is also a neglected habit. I often attend bible studies and church services where prayer is part of the time together. But, I don’t get the feeling from these passages that prayer was just a book end for their meetings. Prayer drove their gathering, at least some of the time.

How often do I seek out friends for times of concentrated prayer?

I’m seeing a need to adjust my thinking on prayer. Prayer closet prayer is powerful and meaningful, but I also need to chase after intentional prayer times with other believers. I need to step beyond the shared requests and 5 minute prayers that wrap up our times together. The early church completely altered their culture and world. What would happen in our world if we prayed with such intention and commitment?

Lord God, teach me again to pray. Not just on my own, but with the power of the early church. In the power of community. Bring people alongside me to stir this habit and pray with passion, faith, and concentrated times. Thank you for hearing my prayers whether offered alone or in a group and for continuing to widen my understanding of you. In Jesus name, amen.

Erin (6intow)


Filed under Acts

Acts 7:30-9:22 

I was seventeen and I went through a period of coldness, in my faith, for almost a year. I noticed it but did not know what to do about it. One day I was bored and I picked up my dad’s book, Martyr’s Mirror. It is a book telling the story of martyrs, people who died because of their faith. It started with the story in our reading today, and kept going throughout the deaths of all the apostles and then those who followed them. It did not take me long to fall on my knees and ask for forgiveness. These people knew the power of the Gospel and died for it. That was the man I wanted to be.

The story of the first martyr recorded is found in Acts 7:35–60.

It is another example of honour challenge and response with a lot of people trying to acquire honour and assign shame.

Challenge and response is a sort of social pattern, a social game, if you will, in which persons hassle each other according to socially-defined rules in order to gain the honor of another … because honor is a pivotal value (much like wealth in our society), nearly every interaction with nonfamily members has undertones of a challenge to honor. – Malina

I watch Stephen’s speech pattern change from storytelling to honour challenging the Sanhedrin. I am amazed at his courage for he surely could have blended in the background at some point but knew if he was going to have the opportunity to share the gospel, even though it guaranteed his death, he did. He wanted to make sure that the Gospel had nothing to do with the religious leaders.

As the rocks rained down, Stephen prayed, “Master Jesus, take my life.” Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, “Master, don’t blame them for this sin”—his last words. Then he died. – Acts 7:59-60 MSG

The comparison is too much – Stephen has become my role model and many other Christians around the world when it comes to what serving, loving, forgiving and laying down ones life looks like. The religious leaders looked very religious compared to Stephen. They professed to be like prophets without realising they were exactly like those who killed the prophets. In fact, were they not the ones who killed their Messiah? There is a warning here for me too – stop pretending that I care about the law, love or the Gospel. Let me see my zeal for honour be one that does not honour me, but rather honours God and I do that by obeying Him.

While my persecutors have never threatened me with death, I can still see the eyes full of pride and anger as they are blinded to their own prejudice. They cannot or are incapable of seeing the evil of their own hateful disposition. Their fake zeal is a pretense, a cover, a sign of their own sickness.

Father, the word of the martyr’s testimony helps me overcome the evil one. May my testimony do the same for others who follow me.

Erwin (evanlaar)

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Filed under 66 Books, 7-day reading pln, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Cover to cover, New Testament, reading plan

2 Samuel 1-2; 1 Chronicles 11; Psalm 96, 106; Acts 21

I was amazed at the song that David wrote for Saul and Jonathan. I am sure the words he chose came easily as he thought more about Jonathan rather than Saul. He called it the “Song of the Bow.”

There is love of country and love of a friend – more than a friend – for David never found another man he could love like Jonathan.

I grieve for you, Jonathan, my brother.
You were such a friend to me.
Your love for me was more wonderful
than the love of women. – 2 Samuel 1:26 HCSB

I have never experienced such love for a friend, however, I have heard of it and understand it. I am not sure Jesus had such a friend, but I am challenged to be a Jonathan to those who are called and anointed for leadership.

David was a man, a leader, who drew other leaders to him. When he wished for water from the well in Bethlehem, those that loved him braved all danger, risked their lives, and made sure they offered him a cup of that water. I am challenged again to look at my love for Jesus, my personal love. Love is a mighty bond – Jesus’ love for me – He braved all dangers, and His love caused Him to lay down His life for me. He loves me and that love ensures that I have a covenant with Him that nothing can get in-between.

This love unites and I see it in the New Testament.

Father, I have easily written love songs to You – they flow from my heart because of Your love for me. You have been my best friend since the day I met You and You have never left me alone. You have brought me through valleys as dark as death and have surrounded me with Your protection when I faced death. I am amazed how easily I could have been destroyed, if Your hand was not there to hold me. There is not an argument in the world that can convince me otherwise, even the threat of death. I grieve for those who do not know You as I have come to know You. They have not gone through the experiences that I have. Help me be a Jonathan or a Paul or a Barnabas or a Timothy to them and allow me to love them as You have loved me. Amen

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Filed under 1 Chronicles, 2 Samuel, 5 day reading plan, 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, reading plan

1 Sam 28-29; 1 Chronicles 9; Acts 19

 The spirit world is real. Sometimes we forget that in our physical, material westernized lives. Everyone in this world has a perspective regarding the spirit world, regarding those things that are unseen around us each day. Some choose or by default simply ignore the existence of an in material world a spirit world angels demons. These people may live in ignorance of what is going on unseen around them, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is still invisible activity. Others choose to manipulate or attempt to manipulate the spirit world. They think it’s something to be trifled with, something to have fun with. Maybe parlor tricks, or casual entertainment.

11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up Samuel for me.”

I Samuel 28:11 ESV

13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.”

Acts 19:13 ESV

A third group may actively seek out the power of the spirit world. They might not fully understand what they are playing with, but they recognize that there is some legitimate power present in the invisible world around them. Saul fell into this group at one time as he sought to converse with Samuel even after he had died. Then there were the magicians in Acts as well that tried to replicate what they had seen Jesus and Paul do, but they did not understand what they were really dealing with.

And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land. (I Samuel 28:3 ESV) 

The woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?” (I Samuel 28:9)

There may be other perspectives or hybrids of these I described, but there are also those that understand the spirit world and hold it in its appropriate place. Not one to be manipulated, not one to merely seek the power of, and definitely not one to ignore.

It is easy to go about my normal life, and forget that there is a spiritual realm swirling around me. But if I truly believe that it exists, it should impact the way that I live. It should drive me to my knees in prayer. It should give me boldness to speak out against evil. It should bolster my faith as I know that God is in control. I have sometimes felt fear of the power of Satan and his demons, ignoring the greater power of God and his angels. God has not given us a spirit of fear.

17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

Acts 19:17-20 ESV

As we march into their territory, we should expect push-back. “No small disturbance “ (Acts 19:23)  is likely the understatement of the decade. Paul had just preached to everyone in Asia! Response to the gospel was dramatic and changing lives and altering societal norms. God was on the move, and Satan’s forces would not keep quiet. Paul acted wisely and stayed away when the crowd turned riotous. A town clerk ended up speaking reason and restoring order and ministry could resume. 

God is awesomely powerful and we should not step foot into our daily lives without walking in the strength of that truth.

Lord, help me not to forget the activity around me each day that is mostly invisible to me. Give me greater faith to pray intentionally and trust you regardless of the outcome. I recognize that you are in control. I also realize that although you have all authority, you also at time choose to let sin run its course in this broken world we live in. I trust you with the outcomes and praise you, the One above all. In Jesus name amen

Erin (6intow)

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