Category Archives: Acts

Deuteronomy 19-22; Acts 28

I was thinking about Romans over the past weekend, in particular chapters 10-12 and looking at the grafting in and out of the vine as part of producing and not producing fruit and how that is reflective on who I am as a follower of Jesus.

In doing so, I found a rabbinic teaching in Deuteronomy that took instructions about trees and turned those trees into disciples. So there was a match between my pondering and today’s readings. Not sure what it all means, so I will give it as is and let you take it somewhere or leave it right where it is.

When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you? Only the trees that you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, that you may build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it falls. – Deuteronomy 20:19-20  ESV

Those who have made a decision to follow Jesus are strong candidates and are fit for leading others to do the same. Those who truly have made such a decision are described as disciples. There is a particular rabbinic mandate that opposes anyone teaching an unfit disciple. 

If a disciple of the sages is fit [הָגוּן], eat from him and do not cut him down, but if not destroy him and cut him down

Going back to my pondering in Romans. Our reading today in Acts illustrates the grafting in of Gentiles. Paul had incredible success – thousands of Jews started following Jesus. Yes, he also experienced persecution to the point that the words Jesus gave Ananias that Paul would suffer as he served came all true. Yet, here we have the call to specifically share the good news to the Gentiles and they would respond in an even greater way for they would actually listen.

Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen. – Acts 28:28  ESV

Father, I do not live in fear of being taken out of Your family. You have placed me here with You and Your love and grace sustains me. I want to learn from You and I want to listen to You. Help me take what I learn and hear and share it with others that they may walk with You as well. I cannot walk where You have called me, alone. I need You with me as You were with Paul. Thank you for sharing Yourself with me. I pray that I may always honour You in all that I do and say. Amen.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

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Deuteronomy 15-18; Acts 27; Psalms 88

“Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need. When you release a male servant, do not send him away empty-handed. Give him a generous farewell gift from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Share with him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember you were once slaves in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you! That is why I am giving you this command.” Deuteronomy 15:10-15 NLT

Remember. But, oh, how many times I forget. I think on God’s faithfulness. His provision. His constant care in my life. How can I not be generous? And share what he has given me. Sometimes it seems easier to hold on to it. Not only money, but my time, talents…all the ways he has been good to me. Sharing is to trust that God will fill the need. Many times, above and beyond what I could ask or imagine.

                                                *

Paul was sailing to Rome. He was a prisoner, under the custody of a Roman officer. He didn’t have a choice, but to rely on friends to take care of him. How humbling that must have been. I am thankful for the times that God has used other people to provide for me and my family. My prayer is that I would do the same for others who have a need.

“The next day we docked at Sidon, Julius was very kind to Paul to let him go ashore to visit with friends so they could provide for his needs.  The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. No one had eaten in a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.” Acts 27 NLT

Paul never gave up hope.  He kept encouraging the people, even after they didn’t listen to him.  His faith and courage had to be contagious.  When I feel alone, I want to be like Paul. Remembering that God is with me.  And reach out to those around me, while proclaiming my belief.  Knowing that the God who got me through the trial before, will be faithful again. 

Dear Father, thank you for your goodness. Help me to remember that everything I have comes from you. Help me to live with open hands. Thank you that you rescue me. Amen.

“O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out to you by day. I come to you at night. Now hear my prayer; listen to my cry.” Psalms 88 NLT

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

 

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Deuteronomy 3-5; Acts 24; Psalms 36, 43

Moses wanted to step into a promised land. He would not be allowed, but the Lord did give him the opportunity to see it from Pisgah Peak. I try to imagine the view and reach. I wonder at the emotions in his heart–of awe and elation, and some of regret and grief. Moses had been through quite a lot and had seen God’s deliverance and provision. But his time was nearing an end. I’m moved by his focus, a kingdom focus, and a kingdom message. He addresses the people to remind them, to point them, to encourage them, to urge them, to warn them.

39 “So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The Lord is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other” (Deuteronomy 4:39, NLT).

A kingdom focus. A kingdom message.

It doesn’t seem right that Paul would be targeted and hunted by fellow Jews because he rocked foundations with words that unsettled and challenged. (With words. Oh, the power of words. The power of truth. And the lengths people will go to suppress it–like truth could ever be eradicated.) The Jews wanted to shut him up, lock him away. And even the governor, Felix, didn’t want to risk favor with the population–kept Paul in prison another two years.

I read the psalms and mark the contrast of evil and good. Evil hunts and plots; it’s blind, yet targeted; it is fearless and refuses to act wisely. But Psalm 36 reminds me of God’s sovereignty, goodness, grace and power. Yes, the Lord is God both in heaven and on earth. There is no other.

Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
   my Savior and my God! (Psalm 43:5, NLT)

Lord, you are God in both heaven and on earth. There is no other. I put my hope in you, God. I praise you again, and again, my Savior, my God. Thank you, Lord, for letting us glimpse a future that we may not enter, but have the privilege to (remind, point, encourage, urge, warn) others of who you are. Thank you that you are the way, the truth, the life–and that truth won’t be eradicated.

Courtney (66books365)

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Numbers 35-36; Deuteronomy 1-2; Acts 23

Acts 23:14-16 (ESV)

They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.” Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul.

Confession time: I’m a perfectionist. I have long struggled with unrealistic expectations of myself – expectations regarding personal habits, my relationship with the Lord, and my ministry to others. As a result, I also struggle with comparison. I see the people around me who seem be excelling, and I feel defeated. I see the numbers of people others are ministering to, and feel like my feeble few isn’t going to make a difference. I see people gravitating to the “super-star” Christians and feel like I’ll never be recognized or appreciated for my effort.

This prideful line of thought crashes into insecurity: I’m not good enough. No one notices me. Why would God ever chose to use me?

The last few weeks God has been bringing this struggle to the forefront yet again. And I think today’s reading is exactly what I needed to confront my insecurities.

Right smack in the middle of Acts 23 we read of the plot to kill Paul. It wasn’t time for Paul to die – and God made sure of it by putting someone in the right place at the right time to hear the plot and intervene to save Paul’s life. Who is this person? He’s an unknown. In fact, we don’t even know his name. He’s simply labeled as Paul’s nephew.

Paul was an “A-list” character in this story, yes; but this background, unnamed “extra” had the most important role. This young man saved Paul’s life. This young man was the reason Paul made it to Rome. This young man was vital to God’s plan for Paul’s life.

Anytime that I struggle with feeling ineffective, I pray that God will bring this young man to mind. He was simply in the right place at the right time – and God used him in such an incredible way! I need to trust that God has put me where He has me for a reason. And eventually, it will prove effective. I don’t need be front and center, to have a platform, to reach hundreds or thousands. I need to be faithful behind the scenes.

So what if no one is noticing me, encouraging me, or recognizing my potential? So what if I don’t have huge following, and no one remembers my name? Is God’s approval enough for me?

Some people are called to impact thousands. What if God just wants me to impact one?

Lord, forgive me for making my ministry and my service to You about me. Forgive me for comparing myself to others and their successes. I want to be faithful to you regardless of where you put me or how much I’m noticed. Help me not to put unrealistic and unhealthy expectations on my own performance, but let me trust in your perfect plan for my life. Help me to remember it’s about the 1 sheep, not the 99. Let me make a difference in the small things and let me make Your name known over my own. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Numbers 30-34; Acts 22

The Book of Acts is filled with action and I find myself closing my eyes and imagining what is happening. Paul has been instructed by the Holy Spirit to head to Jerusalem amid much pleading by his friends to do otherwise. When he finally gets there, he goes to visit the elders to give an accounting of what God has been doing among the Gentiles. James suggests he follow the ritualistic cleansing so others will see he is still following Jewish customs. When he is at the temple, he is recognized by Jews from Asia, they cause an uproar claiming he is teaching against the law, and ends up being dragged off in chains as was prophesized in a previous chapter. Paul is given a chance to speak and stands before the crowd, unafraid, sharing his testimony of meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus and how he was chosen by Jesus to preach to the Gentiles.

19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr[a] Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’

21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”

22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”

23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. (Acts 22:19-24)NIV

I was so reminded of the crowd erupting in a rage when Stephen tried to share the gospel. They picked up stones and pummeled him to death. I think if the people in Jerusalem had stones they would have started throwing them at Paul. Instead, all they could do was throw dust into the air. The Gentiles were hated, they didn’t believe Jesus was resurrected, and they wanted to kill the messenger! The commander wanted to reestablish peace so he assumed Paul was doing something bad by the reaction of the onlookers. Paul was chained and dragged off to be flogged.

As I ponder how these verses apply to my life, all I can do is shake my head as Ecclesiastes 1:9 comes to mind: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Here in the U.S. we could probably give a testimony about Jesus revealing Himself to us in a vision and giving us an assignment, a mission, without too much reaction. People who don’t believe might scoff, roll their eyes, or they might even shout angry words at you. That would probably be the end of it. However, in certain countries in the Middle East, you would most assuredly be dragged off to jail to be tortured or killed. The name of Jesus, which is so precious to us as followers and disciples, elicits outrage in so many.

I, too, want to shout to people: “You don’t understand what He’s done in my life! He changed me from a person who was full of pain and shame; who hurt others but mostly hurt myself by my choices. I used to be Saul—but now I’m Paul!”

I do share my testimony! It may not be in front of a crowd as large as the one gathered at the barracks, but as I get the chance to encourage others along the way I can feel the Holy Spirit nudging me to tell my story. Jesus is too much a part of my life to be quiet about it. I pray that if I were asked to do so in a dangerous situation, the Holy Spirit would give me the courage to speak. Paul knew what awaited him when he went to Jerusalem. He had been warned. He chose to be bold no matter the cost. He knew God still had a purpose for him. Paul was ultimately headed to Rome as part of the Great Commission was fulfilled. It is my charge to continue to do so today.

Thank you Father for the words and life of Paul. As a Gentile, I am thankful for his obedience, courage, and tenacity to spread the word of Jesus. He never lost his focus on the goal and shared his story so others would believe. I believe, and because of my belief in Jesus, I have assurance of eternal life. It is in the name of Jesus I pray and rejoice! Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

 

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Numbers 15-18; Acts 18; Psalm 90

I love the laws recorded in Numbers – they reflect the seriousness of God’s expectations in my life. The idea of obeying has never left the ways of following God – nothing is left to personal discretion. The work of obedience is a difficult and a careful one in my life. God has a reason for His call in my life even when I cannot see it. In some ways this screams faith to me.  I do know that God has higher aims for me, more than I can appreciate, and He does know what it will take for me to achieve them. I see His challenges as an opportunity to build strength and capacity so that I can succeed. At the end of the day I want to be holy.

So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God.” – Numbers 15:40-41  ESV

When I read how Paul taught the church in Corinth how to be holy, he provided the concept that God designs us to follow Him. I have seen these in my own life. When God designed me He changed me, He put people in my life so that they could be changed and I could be changed even more, and most importantly, for me in the now, I believe He is designing me for what I cannot yet see.

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,  for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” – Acts 18:9-10  ESV

For that reason I love the prayer that Moses prayed in Psalm 90, and especially this verse —

So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom. – Psalm 90:12  ESV

I really do want to be taught by God. I want to have a heart of wisdom. This verse reminds me of something Jesus said He would do. He promised me the Holy Spirit who would teach me all things.

Father, thank You for today. I am challenged so much to be what You want me to be. You ask me to be holy, I cannot do this without You. Make me into Your image, to love You, to obey You, to follow You. When life gives me opportunity to come to You as my Father with my needs, disappointments, struggles and failures, may I remember that Jesus has offered to walk with me and that I will accept His yoke so that I may place these burdens of mine on Him. I know He cares for me. I will glorify You always and am so thankful that in You I have my hope.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

 

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Numbers 12-14; Acts 17; Psalms 27

“They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” But the Lord heard them. (Now Moses was very humble-more humble than any other person on earth.) “And the Lord said to them, “Now listen to what I say: “If there were prophets among you, I, the Lord, would reveal myself in visions. I would speak to them in dreams. But not with my servant Moses. Of all my house, he is the one I trust. I speak to him face to face, clearly, and not in riddles! He sees the Lord as he is. So why were you not afraid to criticize my servant Moses?” Numbers 12:2,6-8 NLT

What does it mean to ‘see the Lord as he is?’ Is it trusting in his goodness, even when life seems out of control? So often, I am like the Israelites and question his plan. I sit too long with the past, instead of moving forward.

“Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off in plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted against themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”  “And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me. even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them?” Numbers 14:3&4, 11 NLT

The Israelites wanted a new leader. But, their rejection did not detour Moses from pleading to the Lord on their behalf (Numbers 14:17). His humble spirit shown through. He might have been hurt, but he didn’t let his feelings get in the way of God’s call on his life. He trusted the Lord.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.” Psalms 27:1-3 NLT

Dear Father, thank you that you are not a God of confusion. But of clarity and peace. Help me to listen to your voice. And not be so quick to lose heart. Thank you for your faithfulness to me. Amen.

Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.” Psalms 27:13 NLT

Amy(amyctanner)

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