Friday, May 28, 2010

THE MAN WHO RAISED HAVOC

[73]

FROM DAMASCUS TO JERUSALEM

Read: Acts 9:23–31

     All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name?" Acts 9:21 NIV
* * *
     After Saul's conversion, and recovery from blindness, he began to preach openly, that "Jesus is the Son of God." Believers were afraid of him, and Jews wanted to kill him; so his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. (9:25)
     From there he traveled back to Jerusalem to join with the believers, but they didn't think he was sincere. With the help of Barnabas, he told his story to the apostles, and was accepted into the church. For a time he spoke boldly to the Jews about his newfound faith, but persecution began again, and Saul now called Paul, left for Tarsus.
* * *
     Lord, I can just imagine how those early Christians must have felt. Saul was the one who stood by while Stephen was martyred. He was the one who dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Not only did they need to believe him, they also had to forgive him. Thank You for forgiving me, and help me to learn to forgive others who have "caused havoc in the church."
* * *
     Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit; it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord. Acts 9:31 NIV

Saturday, May 22, 2010

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - A SPECIAL APPOINTMENT

PHILIP AND THE ETHIOPIAN
     Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road-the desert road-that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." Acts 8:26 NIV
* * *
     God had a special appointment for Philip on a desert road leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. Though he didn't know it, he was to meet with the chief treasurer for Queen Candace of Ethiopia. This man was sitting in his chariot reading aloud from the book of Isaiah the prophet. (Isaiah 53:7-8)
     Philip approached and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me? …who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" (Acts 8:30b-31a, 34b)
     The passage read, "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice…For his life was taken from the earth." (Acts 8:32–33 NIV) Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. (8:35)
* * *
     Philip didn't know why he was told to go to the desert, but God had a specific reason for sending him there. Lord, when I am worried, help me to trust Your leading for our family, knowing that You have a purpose for our lives, and perhaps that purpose will be to influence and encourage other people along the way.
* * *
     Then…Philip baptized him. 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.   Acts 8:38-39 NIV

Friday, May 14, 2010

WHO ARE YOU LORD?

[71]

SAUL

Read Acts 8:1–3; 9:1–22
     Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Acts 8:2-3 NIV
* * *
     The day that Stephen was martyred, a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem. The young man, Saul, asked for official approval to go to Damascus, and arrest any who belonged to "the Way," whether men or women. (9:2)
     Saul did this believing that he had God's approval as well. Later he would say, "I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers." (Galatians1:14) On his way to Damascus, this fiery zealous young man had a massive change of heart. He met Jesus who said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" His immediate response was, "Who are you, Lord?" (Acts 9:4–5)
* * *
     Dear Jesus, You are the One who knows men's hearts. Help me to believe that even those who seem to oppose the gospel may have a heart that is searching, and when You speak to them, they will recognize Your voice, because they are Your chosen ones.
* * *
     "God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles… " Galatians 1:15-16a NIV

Friday, May 7, 2010

INFLUENCE THROUGH SACRIFICE

[70]

STEPHEN MARTYRED

Read Acts Chapters 6 ─ 7


     These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. Acts 6:9b–10 NIV
* * *
     The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. This was a major threat to the powers in control, so not finding anything with which to accuse Stephen, they lied about him and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
     Amazingly, in the face of death, Stephen began by giving a complete overview of Israel's history – ending with, "Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous one. And now you have betrayed and murdered him…" (7:52 NIV)
* * *
     Stephen was chosen by the church to be a deacon. His job was distributing food among the widows, but he also faithfully continued to teach and preach about Jesus Christ. God had a particular Pharisee for Stephen to influence and we are told that "the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul." (7:58 NIV) Later this man would be converted and become the Apostle to the Gentiles, renamed Paul, who would write letters from prison which are now included in Holy Scripture.
* * *
     Lord, we never know what You will accomplish through those we influence, especially our children. Help us to be faithful as we share the good news of the gospel in our day.
* * *
     While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:59-60 NIV

Sunday, May 2, 2010

WE MUST OBEY GOD

[69]
THE APOSTLES IMPRISONED

Read Acts 5:12–32

     Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him . . . laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.  Acts 5:17-18 NKJV
* * *
     Through the preaching of Spirit-filled apostles, "more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number." (5:14 NIV) The result was that the High Priest and other Sadducees were filled with jealousy, and had them arrested.
     After a miraculous escape from prison, the apostles were again taken to the High Priest who said, "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,…yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching…" Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! (5:28-29 NIV)
     One of the most convincing proofs of the power of the Holy Spirit was the courage of these ordinary uneducated men. But with God's help, they became extraordinary witnesses for the kingdom.
* * *
     Lord, I pray that You will give this ordinary woman an extraordinary filling of Your Spirit today. Help me to keep eternal values in view as I do my daily tasks, and try to love my family and other people as You love me.
* * *
     Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.  Acts 5:42 NIV