Archive for : June, 2019

06/24/19 – Acts 15:36-16:15; Psalm 142:1-7; Proverbs 17:24-25

Acts 16: 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

We are now following Paul on his second missionary journey (see link to a map shown below.)

I hope you note where he is evangelizing — all “Gentile” areas.  And in today’s reading we, again, see an example of another change in the relationship between Christian Jews and Gentile believers.  Do you see where Paul, a former Pharisee, spent the evening?  He is staying with a “Gentile” – an act that was unconscionable before the Lord united all believers.

https://www.google.com/search?q=paul%27s+second+missionary+journey,+map&tbm=isch&tbs=rimg:CZGklJASgqCDIjhxv_14d-_1ZGB7gg9pSZo9y8VKpePzdbQ8Ezm3a0LMTSW9D0YkZrqhoSf696LkRXGFSyMDNM88sL8yoSCXG_1_1h379kYHETtl2lFV9hBAKhIJuCD2lJmj3LwR7HXNaCAlQ9YqEglUql4_1N1tDwREuhTXO0LrG7yoSCTObdrQsxNJbEQVtAr2IeNmCKhIJ0PRiRmuqGhIRPNNZP3g32EMqEgl_1r3ouRFcYVBFRjaypuZJqMSoSCbIwM0zzywvzEUarKm_1viwJU&tbo=u&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjm3YCB88XiAhXDrVkKHVWYAUwQ9C96BAgBEBs&biw=1134&bih=561&dpr=2.25#imgdii=hqtKghN04OQ-uM:&imgrc=BKbD_sXr9TT2hM:

06/23/19 — Acts 15:1-35; Psalm 141:1-10; Proverbs 17:23

I enjoy reading history and there are moments when the words spoken and the decisions made seem to stop time and require the world’s full focus on their significance.

For example in US history I think of the first reading of the Declaration of Independence; James Madison’s completion of the Bill of Rights; Lincoln’s Gettysburg address; Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech.

And today we read of an episode in church history that stops time — and solicits our thanksgiving.  Through the grace of God all mankind is accepted into the body of believers.

Acts 15:  5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.

 

06/22/19 – Acts 14:8-28; Psalm 140:1-13; Proverbs 17:22

If you are following on a map you will see that Paul and Barnabas completed their work in the area of Galatia on this trip, stopping in Derbe.  Then we see them return to several of the cities they had visited before returning to their starting point in Antioch.

Acts 14:8  In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed.  10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!”At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

In the above verses we see Paul perform a miracle but did you note one aspect — the man “had faith to be healed.”

To me this presents a very important tenant for believers — when we pray are we doing so with the faith that we will receive an answer?  It may not be the answer we desire but again that is where our faith is involved.

06/21/19 – Acts 13:42-14:7; Psalm 139:1-24; Proverbs 17:19-21

Psalm 139 is a favorite of mine.  And if you have ever doubted that David was a man “after God’s heart” just re-read this chapter.

I find great comfort in realizing that the Lord knows ME — he know me personally & intimately.  Like David I do not understand how but God knows my words even before they are spoken — he knows my future and even these days are already written in His book.

Psalm 139: 
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.  

 

Just take a moment to reflect on the following words penned by Michael W.Smith:

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God

06/20/19 Acts 13:16-41; Psalm 138:1-8; Proverbs 17:17-18

Several weeks ago Artie delivered a message based on Stephen’s address to the Sanhedrin before they stoned him.  In his message Artie pointed out that Stephen presented the people in Jerusalem a history of Israel and God’s Big Story for all of mankind — the Story of salvation.

I find it interesting that in today’s passage from Acts Paul repeats the “Big Story” not for the Jews in Jerusalem, the seat of the Jewish nation.  Instead Paul is in (hope you are following along on a map) Pisidian Antioch which is located in the region of Galatia, a predominantly pagan area.

The two episodes speak to me of the universal nature of God’s Story of salvation — we are all part of this Story and it is our responsibility to tell others — no one is excluded.

06/19/19 – Acts 12:24 – 13:15; Psalm 137:1-9; Proverbs 17:16

Acts 13:  The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8  But Elymas  the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit,looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.”

Time to consider a couple of questions:  What does the proconsul desire? — to hear the Word of God.   What is Elymas mission? — to turn the proconsul from the faith.  What happened as a result? — Elymas was struck with blindness for a time. 

In this event do you see any parallels to another New Testament episode?  Does this not apply directly to Paul and His conversion?  You can almost replace the word “proconsul” with “the church”  and the name “Elymas” with “Saul.” 

In Chapter 13 we begin to read of Paul’s missionary journeys.  My hope is that you will use a map and track Paul and his companions as they travel throughout the countries.  Knowing where they are and the people they are addressing will add greatly to your understanding of the history of the first century church.

If you do not have a map, copy and paste the following link into your search engine.  The link takes you to a pretty good map of Paul’s first missionary journey.  I will provide links for his subsequent travels as we read of them.

 

 

https://www.google.com/search?q=journeys+of+%7BPaul,+map&tbm=isch&tbs=rimg:CcIxt2Gcu1B_1IjibO1v0XtQvzJRl6wxGGwx1HoJofGjGLa27HwBLu34LN3tTpo4ccwAnpFoXZFxrd4JFcIYcQ4iT3yoSCZs7W_1Re1C_1MEXichSACzXEOKhIJlGXrDEYbDHURdReVBY2RNfIqEgkegmh8aMYtrRGAn1t9he8n4ioSCbsfAEu7fgs3EQ0o6ye_1LHhAKhIJe1OmjhxzACcRqM_1lkV3YfsgqEgmkWhdkXGt3ghFJdUaS_1sBrNyoSCUVwhhxDiJPfEYNzn2wtuoDC&tbo=u&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwik8pqErbTiAhUhheAKHQA1AYQQ9C96BAgBEBs&biw=1536&bih=722&dpr=1.25#imgrc=mEXlwW0vwdDQeM:

 

 

06/18/19 – Acts 12:1-23; Psalm 136:1-26; Proverbs 17:14-15

Have you ever been so “swept off your feet” by news so startling that you just refused to believe it — not so much a lack of faith but hard to comprehend?  In today’s reading we see exactly this occur:

Acts 12:   13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” 15 You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”  16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.

One other aspect I noted that as a bearer of the good news Peter did not just leave after he was initially rebuffed.  He “kept on knocking.”

I see an analogy in that when we bear the “Good News” to others & are rejected we just need to keep gently “knocking!”

 

 

06/17/19 – Acts 11:1-30; Psalm 135:1-21; Proverbs 17:12-13

I love the word “pictures” within God’s inspired Word and today we see one example.  If you spend any time outdoors camping, hiking, etc. you realize that one of the most important rules of encountering wildlife (even the relatively benign black bears in our region) is never, never place yourself between a mother bear and her cubs – even if you have to walk an extra mile out of your way.   To do so is to place your life and the lives of those with you in mortal danger.

Our scripture today provides a great analogy — we must avoid “fools” and their teachings with the same fervor for the danger is deep!

Proverbs 17:  12 Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool bent on folly.

 

 

06/16/19 – Acts 10:24-48; Psalm 134:1-3; Proverbs 17:9-11

What a marvelous blessing of grace we read of in the passages from Acts.  Sometimes I think we forget that the vast majority of us are “Gentiles,” not having been raised in the Jewish faith.  And in these passages we see how the grace of God is extended to all men:

Acts 10: 34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

06/15/19 – Acts 10:1-23; Psalm 133:1-3; Proverbs 17:7-8

Psalm 133: 

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!                                                                                                               It is like precious oil poured on the head,  running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

Throughout scripture we see that God’s purpose for His people is that they live together in unity and we are blessed when we do.  I also realize that some teach that we should all agree on every issue almost like automatons.  But when I think of the Biblical meaning of “unity” I think of a quote I used when I taught management classes.

Unity does not mean sameness.  It means oneness or purpose.  — Priscilla Shirer

We may not fully agree on all decisions but if we are united in the oneness and purpose of seeking, serving, ministering and evangelizing for the Lord we are blessed.

06/14/19: Acts 9:26-43; Psalm 132:1-18; Proverbs 17:6

Proverbs 17Children’s children are a crown to the aged,
    and parents are the pride of their children.

How fitting to read this verse during our “Genesis Genealogies” study.  Have you ever met a grandparent who was not enamored with their grandchild?

And how strongly the second part of this verse speaks to parents — and the need to live their lives in establishing an enduring legacy for their children, their grand-children, their great grand-children and onward.

06/13/19 – Acts 9:1-25; Psalm 131:1-3; Proverbs 17:4-5

Acts 9 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied

Ask yourself – “Was Paul physically persecuting Jesus?”  Of course the answer is “no.”  Jesus had ascended and is on His throne.

A margin note in my Bible highlighted a critical point in this episode.  As we read Paul was persecuting members of the church.   Do you see the connection?

When the church is persecuted, so is our Lord.  Never forget that we are His children and His body.  How precious is this reality.

06/12/29 – Acts 8:14-40, Psalm 130:1-8; Proverbs 17:2-3

Proverbs 17The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
    but the Lord tests the heart.

Silver and gold are physically tested and separated from impurities (purified) via heat and the skill of the craftsman.  While requiring the tools and the skills this is not a difficult process.

But did you note — that we are not “tested” for purity by any physical method — we are tested by what is within our heart — our innermost being.

If you are like me this inner “testing” can be more of a challenge and is one of the reasons we need to remain in the Word and in prayer for strength.

But how great is the reward!!

06/11/19: Acts 7:51-8:13; Psalm 129:1-8; Proverbs 17:1

Acts 8:  Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 

11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized.

As I read these verses I thought of so many people who join cults because they are shown and promised great things. And yet as the people in Samaria realized “things” are just lures into spiritual threats.

But Phillip offered something the people (even Simon) found of greater value.  He offered a teaching of the truth contained within the “good news.”   How great it is when we can offer people the same truth.

06/10/19: Acts 7:30-50; Psalm 128:1-6; Proverbs 16:31-33

Acts 7:   48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands.

“Enduring Word Commentary” provided me some insight I had never considered:

Stephen confronted their idolatry of the temple. In doing so, they tried to confine God within the temple. Yet God is too big to fit in any temple man could make.

On a more subtle level, many Christians do the same thing. It may not be the worship of a church building (though certainly that does take place from time to time), but it is the confinement of God to one place. In other words, the only place they meet God is at the church. As far as they are concerned, God is absent from the rest of their lives. In the minds and lives of some today, God might as well only live at the church.

I fully believe that there are times we let our own will interfere with our relationship with the Lord.  We try to put “God in a box” of our own creation.

 

06/09/19 – Acts 7:1-29; Psalm 127:1-5; Proverbs 16:28-30

In Acts 7 as Stephen reviews the history of the nation of Israel two verses caught my mind:

Acts 7: “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles.

Acts 7:  25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.

Do you see in these verses what I consider a parallel to the life of Jesus?  Just as the patriarchs responded to Joseph the leaders of Israel were jealous and felt threatened by Jesus.  And just as Moses came to physically “rescue” the people Jesus offers spiritual salvation.  And neither were recognized.

06/08/19: Acts 6:1-15; Psalm 126:1-6; Proverbs 16:26-27

Acts 6: 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.

Have you heard the above highlighted expression “false witnesses” testifying before?  How about in Mark 14?

Mark 1455 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. 

The exact same tactic used against Jesus is now used again against Stephen. And what I find so significant in both of these events is that the dedication of the Jewish leaders to remove this “sect” from their midst was so dynamic that they violated the greatest creed followed by the Pharisees, the 10 commandments:

Exodus 20: 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

I ponder and pray – may my heart never, never be this hardened.

06/07/19: Acts 5:1-42; Psalm 125:1-5; Proverbs 16:25

Acts 5: 33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while.

38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.

As many of you may know we will read of Gamaliel again in Acts 22 as one of his most well-know students, the apostle Paul, speaks somewhat proudly of having studied under Gamaliel.

But we also know that Paul (then called Saul) must not have adhered to Gamaliel’s words in Acts 5 as Paul fanatically persecuted believers.  And what did he find on his way to Damascus? — He found very dramatically that he was fighting against God.

06/06/19 – Acts 4:1-37; Psalm 124:1-8; Proverbs 16:24

Perhaps you are considering sharing your faith with someone or maybe teaching a Bible lesson.  But an inner voice says “I do not have enough knowledge” or “I have no presentation skills.”    The following verse should reassure you:

Acts 413 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. 

Peter and John were fishermen from an “outback” part of the country.  And they  even spoke with a different accent from the people in the “city.”

Yet, “they had been with Jesus.”  Can you not say the same — not physically but as you encounter Jesus through God’s inspired Word?

 

06/05/19: Acts 3:1-26; Psalm 123:1-4; Proverbs 16:21-23

When you hear the expression “hold on” what do you think?  Well, the expression can certainly mean “wait a minute,” as in “hold on — I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

But if you are holding of to something “for dear life” the meaning is different.  You are placing your faith and your survival into what you are “holding.”

Acts 11: 11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.

When I read this verse I was reminded of our need to “hold on” to several precepts in our personal walk with God, regardless of the circumstances.  For example we need to “hold on” to our faith, our daily Bible reading, our friends in Christ, the promise we have of eternal life in the presence of the Lord …

I hope that you will take time today to focus for a few minutes on adding just three more items to the list I started.  I think you will find it pretty easy to do so.