From Empty to Full
Monday, April 25
“Wait for the gift my Father has promised… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…”. Acts 1:4, 8)
The opening chapter of the book of Acts is meant to be viewed like your vehicle’s gas gauge just after you’ve filled the tank. The needle slowly moving from “Empty” to “Full”. The opening paragraphs of Acts are intended to move the reader along in the story from Jesus’ empty grave to the full-ness of the Holy Spirit poured into the lives of believers.
It's important to note that the author of the book of Acts previously penned the Gospel which bears his name: Luke. The climactic final chapter of his former book is the resurrection (and ascension) of the risen Christ. The final chapter leaves us with a question: The grave is empty: believe it or not?
The opening chapter of Acts highlights where the answer to that question can be found. It’s discovered through the gift the Father has promised. Be filled with the Spirit and personally discover the joy and power of Jesus’ resurrection life.
The One who died for us is risen from the grave. The curse of sin no longer has power over Him… Do you believe it? (Notice as the needle begins to move…)
The same dead-and-buried Jesus has been raised to the heavens to reign forever over all creation… Do you believe it? (…it’s still moving…)
His Spirit comes to free us from the stronghold of death and empower us to courageously and effectively continue the mission of Christ … Do you believe it? (…Tank’s full! Now let’s get rolling!)
The oldest and most familiar of prayers among the early church were three simple yet profound words: “Come Holy Spirit!”
As we prepare to head out on this journey through the book of Acts, we invite you to pay attention to the gas gauge. Invite the Holy Spirit to come and fill you up. And, together, let’s keep moving the needle forward as we embrace the mission of leading others into a growing relationship with Christ!
A Beautiful Picture of Community
Tuesday, April 26
I often have wondered what was going through the minds of the apostles as they watched their beloved Jesus fade into the sky… did they feel alone? Maybe deserted? Who would lead them on?
Acts2:1-4 “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Now that’s a small group experience unlike any other! What an amazing sight to behold. So now what do they do?
Acts2:42-47 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”
What harmony. A beautiful picture of community. Have you ever wondered if that can be duplicated in your own community today? Perhaps in a small group? You know the same Holy Spirit that shook the foundation of the house the apostles gathered in is the same Holy Spirit alive in us today.
How can you best tap into the power of the Holy Spirit to make a difference in your community this year?
Seize the Day
Wednesday, April 27
Carpe Diem! Seize the Day! Oftentimes we hear this mantra as encouragement to accomplish our goals in relation to career or health or other personal achievements. But how often are we asking ourselves each day, “how can I maximize each moment to serve God?”
On an ordinary afternoon on the way to church, Peter encountered a beggar, and he saw an opportunity. He didn’t wait until he had more money or more talent or more street smarts. He didn’t leave the man for someone else to deal with. No. In that moment, he told the beggar “I’ll give you what I have.” And what he had, his faith in Jesus Christ, was enough to heal that man. It was enough to spur him into “walking, leaping, and praising God.” And it was enough to create a testimony by which a crowd of people “rushed out in amazement” to hear Peter speak the Word of God. How many lives did Peter change that day by seizing an opportunity and giving one man all that he had?
You may not perceive your gifts and talents as great. You may see yourself as ordinary or useless, but God wants to use you just as you are to do greater things than you could ever comprehend! Peter was a fisherman, an ordinary guy. And like Peter, God has equipped each one of us with exactly what we need at any given time to do His will.
Do you have the gift of speaking? Hospitality? Are you a good listener? An artist? A baker? A builder? A healer? Today, I encourage you to look for opportunities to use what God has given you to serve Him. Trust that He will multiply your efforts in incredible ways!
Thursday, April 28
There are two different words that jumped at me in this passage, cornerstone, and boldness. I have built many different things in my lifetime, and if the corners are not correct and close to perfect lots of misalignments can happen during the rest of the project. The cornerstone is usually the largest and strongest piece of any stone construction project. The book of Acts has a lot to say about Jesus being the Chief cornerstone of our faith.
This powerful word also reminds me of a song that I grew up listening to, which states Christ alone cornerstone weak made strong in the savior’s love. Through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of ALL. This whole song brings a posture of strength, power, hope, trust, grace, and being anchored to the one true Cornerstone that holds us together in any storm or no storm at all.
When is the last time you have stood up for God with boldness? In verses 29 thru 31, I feel like this is what Luke is trying to say to his readers. Boldness requires courage to press on through our fears and do what we know is right. How can we be bolder? My answer is to be more like the disciples, pray for courage, look, and pray for opportunities throughout your day to talk about Christ to others, and to start where you are by being bolder in small ways. It’s easy to take small steps. Please join me in these steps of faith.
Rejoicing for Suffering?
Friday, April 29
I don’t like pain or suffering. Most of us don’t. How is it that we see in Acts 5:41 the apostles rejoicing after being physically beaten and flogged for speaking in the name of Jesus? In Acts chapter 5 we continue to see the apostles’ courage and boldness to speak and teach in Jesus’ name. In spite of the religious leaders’ orders to not speak, then imprisonment, and then flogging, they refuse to stop speaking.
It is almost comical that when the apostles were to be brought from the jail to stand before the Sanhedrin. They could not be found (an angel had delivered them during the night). They then found the apostles standing in the temple teaching the people, doing what they were supposed to be in prison for! The fear that they had during Jesus’ crucifixion was replaced with boldness and power from the Holy Spirit. But to rejoice in suffering?
It was not in the suffering itself that they were rejoicing, but that “they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Jesus). It was their love of Jesus for what had done for them (and us). Think of the movie The Passion of Christ, remember what He endured for us. If we keep our eyes on Jesus instead of the circumstances around us, with the power of the Holy Spirit we can rejoice that we can endure anything that the enemy may throw at us.
God was Among Them
Saturday, April 30
Stephen, brimming with God’s grace and energy was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them. Acts 6:8
Stephen, empowered by the Holy Spirit, began to stand out as a leader to serve the poor and teach the people in the temple courts about Jesus. The temple leaders felt threatened by this Jesus movement, so the temple leaders arrest Stephen and find false witnesses to testify against him. In response, Stephen gives a powerful speech about how predicable this whole situation is and if they would just look at Old Testament stories of Joseph, Moses and the Prophets, people who have been consistently rejected and persecuted by their own people, they would see how history repeats itself.
Israel has been rejecting God’s representatives for centuries. In Acts Stephen is rejected as a follower of Christ, which is rejection of God himself. Stephen is executed and as he is dying, he commits himself to the way of Jesus to suffer because of the sins of others. He even cries out, “Lord don’t hold the sin against them.”
This persecution contains seeds of hope, as many followers of Jesus’ begin to scatter out of Jerusalem and head to Judea and Samaria, just as Jesus said in Acts 1:8. It comforts me to know that even death cannot stop Jesus’ Kingdom from multiplying through the bride of His church.
Sunday, May 1
Feel free to write your thoughts and reflections from this week. You can use this space for notes as you listen to the weekend message.
Use Every Opportunity
Monday, May 2
Well, that was bold! Stephen presents a lengthy monologue to the Jewish counsel. He not only recounts Jewish history but turns from the accused to the accuser, which infuriates those listening. Because Stephen is so knowledgeable of the scriptures, it gives him credibility in the accusations he makes. The counsel allows him to talk at length but as Stephen speaks the truth, the counsel becomes enraged as they hear his words cut to the heart (vs. 54 NKJV).
Sometimes the truth stings. At no point does Stephen back down, even when he realizes that his death is imminent.
Have you ever risked it all to speak the truth to those who do not want to hear it? Stephen was very bold and used the opportunity he had to witness to a captive audience. Have you ever wondered if Stephen's witness laid the seeds for Saul's conversion? Stephen's accusers placed their coats at Saul's feet before stoning him. Saul saw the whole situation go down.
You may never know the impact you could make by simply using every opportunity God gives you to speak the truth. The clincher in Stephen's witness was that he asked for forgiveness for those who stoned him. So even though he stood wrongly accused and died for his statements, he still wanted everyone to have the opportunity to make different choices. Your actions may someday pave the way for another Saul-like conversion in someone. Who knows! Just don't pass up an opportunity.
Grow and Thrive
Tuesday, May 3
Acts chapter 8 opens with the church under attack with Saul leading the charge. In his zealousness, he is busting down doors and raiding homes, throwing Christians in jail to be executed. We see the burial of Stephen and things are looking bleak for the church. This was a very uncomfortable time to be a Christian. In this we see a perfect example of how God can take something that the devil intends to use to destroy us and turn it into a something to help us to grow and thrive. Moses had noted in Deuteronomy 32:11 how God was like an eagle that stirs up the nest to encourage its young to leave the nest and learn to fly. As a result, the members of the early church had scattered all over and began preaching the gospel. God used this attack on the early church to push its members out of the nest. This series of events lead to the spread of Christianity and began church missions.
In any era, to live for God is to meet opposition from the devil. The stakes are much different today than they were back then. To utter the phrase that Jesus Christ was God would have literally destroyed your life. We get caught up in living a life that is comfortable and convenient and forget to thank God for the uncomfortable moments in our lives where we grow. Our prayer lives are full of prayers for God to restore everything to the status quo, rather than asking him to elevate us higher and draw us closer to Him. Take a moment to think about living your life as a member of the early church. Put yourself in their sandals. Would you serve in the capacity that these men and women did to spread the gospel? The times have changed now, but the mission is the same. To lead others into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Who is waiting for you to share the gospel today?
A Chosen Instrument
Wednesday, May 4
I am really into playing music right, particularly the guitar. I have spent many hours researching, gathering data, crunching the numbers on a PowerPoint presentation that I am making for my wife so I can convince her to buy me a new guitar. Let’s just say I have some work to do. As I continue to develop as a guitar player, I find myself only looking at certain styles and colors. Instruments that seem to fit me.
In Acts chapter 9, Jesus chooses himself a very unlikely instrument to play to make beautiful music. Out of all the people that Jesus could choose to partner with, Saul would have been an instrument that I would have never picked up and tried out at Guitar Center. Saul was a guy that was literally trying to remove the very thought of who Jesus was…. Then Jesus has the nerve to pick him to partner with in ministry.
Saul in an instant is changed! And Jesus is calling him to join in spreading the Kingdom of God! Later in this chapter Jesus is found describing Saul as an instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and Kings of the land.
Where am I going with this? To be honest, my vision is limited. I rarely feel equipped for what I do, and I don’t always make pretty sounds like a well-tuned guitar. But God does! A desire I have for you in this season, when you don’t feel like you measure up, when your life does not sound in tune, is to remember God still calls you to be an instrument for His glory.
Jesus, the Unifier
Thursday, May 5
God brought Cornelius and Peter together with a separate vision. Cornelius was the first recorded Gentile convert to Christianity in the Bible. They were both obedient to God’s message sent through their visions. Going to Cornelius’ home, a non-Jew, was against everything in Peter’s culture and family upbringing. God enlightened Peter that the unclean could and would be made clean through the gift of salvation.
My husband and I grew up in very different kinds of homes. Both my parents were involved in raising myself and siblings. We were not rich but didn’t want for anything. Church was a huge part of our upbringing. We often attended church three times weekly. My husband was raised by a single mom, a dad that was there now and then. He lived a good portion of his younger years in the housing project. Thankfully, his older brother made sure that his younger brothers attended church, sometimes being picked up on the church bus. When we started dating, there was concern that our different upbringings would affect our future marriage. But we had a common unifier, Jesus. Our allegiance to Him runs so much deeper than the superficial things that divided us.
Let’s remember, in a time of opposing, differing, anger stirring beliefs and opinions outside of our faith, that Jesus is our unifier. When we give ourselves to Him, we are made clean and whole. There is no segregation in the kingdom of heaven.
God, is that You?
Friday, May 6
“Go talk to that person. Pay for her meal. Offer him a ride to church.”
We each sense God’s voice in different ways, but I’m guessing you’ve also had a time in your life where you’ve sensed God nudging you to do something. Maybe your hands got a little sweaty and you felt tension start to knot in your stomach. “I can’t do that, God. They’ll think I’m crazy.”
Peter is having the same trouble in this chapter. He says “No, Lord!” after his dream, and he wrestles with God about it three more times (Acts 11:8-10).
Peter has an important realization later: “‘If then, God gave them the same gift that he also gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God?’” (Acts 11:15-17).
Maybe we should ask ourselves the same thing. How could we possibly hinder God by not acting on what He’s calling us to do?
This chapter is full of the apostles’ planting seeds in the early church (Acts 11:15-26). They knew God’s voice and followed His direction. We, too, can know God’s voice. The more we read God’s word and spend time in prayer with Him, the deeper our faith will grow, and we’ll be able to discern when He calls us. Our thoughts will change from “I can’t do that, God. They’ll think I’m crazy,” to “They’ll think I’m crazy, God, but I trust You.”
We never know what seeds God is planting through us when we act on His call. Jesus tells us in John 14:12: “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these.” Jesus has empowered us to take the step of faith and be confident that we are called to do great works in God’s kingdom. How is God calling you to take a step of faith today?
Keep on Knocking
Saturday, May 7
I love this scene: Peter is miraculously rescued from prison by an angel. He escapes past the guards and out of the building with the angel’s guidance. Peter finds himself at Mary’s house, where fellow believers are gathered (Acts 12:7-10). Everything seems to be going well for Peter now, given the circumstances.
Except that the people in the house don’t believe it’s him at the door. They tell the servant that she’s “out of her mind!” Scripture says, “Peter, however, kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were amazed” (Acts 12:16).
Peter’s persistent knocking recalls another verse: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
Like Peter knocking at Mary’s door, Jesus knocks on the door to our hearts every single day, pursuing a relationship with us. Do we recognize His promptings, or do we brush Him aside? The enemy is doing his best to distract us from Jesus’s invitation. We must decide which voice we’re going to listen to.
The good news is that Jesus won’t give up. Matthew 28:20 tells us, “Surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” No matter how many times we’ve slipped up, Jesus keeps on knocking. He’ll never give up on us because He loves us. Let’s pray to answer Jesus’s knock today and open the door to the beautiful relationship He has for us.
Sunday, May 8
Feel free to write your thoughts and reflections from this week. You can use this space for notes as you listen to the weekend message.
The Holy Spirit Equips
Monday, May 9
“Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye. Then he said, ‘You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.’ Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him.” Acts 13:9-11
Have you ever been faced with a challenge, and you weren’t sure how you were going to handle it? I can imagine Saul, now Paul, thinking this when introduced to the sorcerer. Paul was newly converted, and this was his first missionary journey. Right out the gate, Paul was faced with a challenge. The Holy Spirit filled Paul and helped him through. When God calls us to something, He doesn’t send us without equipping us. God wants us to succeed. He wants us to fulfill the purpose He has set for us. When we allow Him, the Holy Spirit guides us and can even give us the words to say or know the action to take.
Looking back, how has the Holy Spirit equipped you?
Difficult Seasons of Life
Tuesday, May 10
The Army Warrior Ethos states, “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit, and I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Those are principles by which every soldier lives by. There were numerous times when I was in Iraq, I had to live by these principles. We stayed focused in all situations, and we pressed on and kept our heads down. There was an unspoken agreement between us.
Paul was fighting to bring the Good News to the Jews and the Gentiles. This guy was beaten, stoned, and left for dead. He kept on fighting and remined true to his faith. He never accepted defeat, he never quit, and remained focus on mission for Jesus. “We must go though many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” (14:22) Often when I go through a difficult season of life I can look back and be reminded when and where God has provided. Unfortunately, life will always have its challenges and sometimes there is no way around them. Paul had a choice back then and we do now. We can either accept defeat during those difficult seasons of life or keep the mission priority our #1 priority.
The principles we live by create the person God wants us to be. I want to encourage you to live by the principles of Jesus Christ and glorify your Father in Heaven in all seasons of life.
The Most Important Thing
Wednesday, May 11
“He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith.” (Acts 15:9 NLT) In this chapter, we can easily tell that the Christians in Jerusalem are not big fans of the Gentile Christians. One of the main reasons is because the Gentile Christians aren’t circumcised like the Jewish Christians are. But Paul can see the Gentiles the way God sees them. Paul recognizes that circumcision is a cultural thing, and that one can be saved without being circumcised.
There are so many things that can be attached to culture that reveal themselves in our faith walks. Do we raise our hands during the music? Respond to the preacher while he preaches? Wear dress clothes to church? Write in our bibles? Sing hymns or contemporary worship music? But the question is are any of these things a matter of salvation?
Sometimes, we need to ask God for His perspective. We need to ask Him to help us see people the way He would see them and show us the things that are important. What Paul knew was the thing that really mattered was if the person was saved or not… not if the person was circumcised or not. And that is something we still need to remember today. We should be concerned about whether people are saved or not… not the other things that culture focuses on.
Take a moment today and ask God to help you focus on the most important thing… salvation. Ask for forgiveness for the times you focused on the wrong things.
Believe and Be Saved
Thursday, May 12
I was raised with Christian parents and grandparents who loved the Lord. I was told Bible stories and taken to church as long as I can remember. When I was around 8, I remember my father asked me what my favorite Bible verse was. I chose Acts 16:31. A few days later I was surprised he stenciled the verse on my bedroom wall, right where I could easily see it, first thing in the morning and every night before I fell asleep.
This chapter is the story of Paul, Silas and Timothy's missionary trip. My favorite account is the story of Paul and Silas in prison for preaching the gospel, their actions toward the situation and the jailer’s response and that of his family and household.
Paul and Silas had cast out demons from a slave girl whose owners made money from her fortune telling ability. They were angry and had Paul and Silas arrested and thrown in prison. The jailer placed them in the most secure cell he had. He feared if they escaped, he would be killed. Their feet were fastened in the stocks.
Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying, singing hymns, and praising God, the other prisoners were listening to them. All at once there was a violent earthquake that shook the entire foundation of the prison. The doors flew opened and all the chains came off the prisoners. When the jailer woke up and saw the doors to the prison were opened and the prisoners were all loose, the jailer was going to kill himself. Paul shouted out, “Don't harm yourself, we are all here”!
The jailer ordered the lights to be lit. When he saw Paul, Silas, and the prisoners. He fell before them trembling, asking, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household”. Acts 16:31
Connecting People to Jesus
Friday, May 13
When Paul was in Athens, he was “deeply troubled” by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. Every day he talked in the public square and debated the city’s philosophers, but they dismissed what he said. He wasn’t making a connection, his ideas seemed foreign and strange.
Even though Paul was deeply troubled by all the idols, he must have spent a great deal of time studying them and trying to understand the relationship between these idols and the people of Athens. He even found one idol that was dedicated to “an unknown god”. Paul had found a way to connect Jesus with people who did not know him. He said, “This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.”
We need to help people connect with Jesus. Like Paul, we can use things people are familiar with to help them connect to this person they do not know, Jesus. We can find ways to help people connect by looking for Jesus everywhere, even in the things that deeply trouble us. Maybe it’s a movie that doesn’t intend to have anything to do with Jesus, but when we are looking for it, we find a way to connect. Maybe it’s something at work, or something we see when we’re out to dinner. It could be anything. Look for Jesus in everything. You might just find a way to help someone connect to Jesus and change their lives.
Extending your Influence, God already has a Plan
Saturday, May 14
When we gain the ability to view our lives through the lens of ministry, we may find ourselves unintentionally looking through the limiting scope of individualism. Oftentimes, we find ourselves seeking guidance, asking God to work within the capacity of our own lives. Initially, this is a suitable place to begin conversation. However, I challenge you to reflect on the way you approach these conversations with God, specifically looking at how you seek out His will for your life.
I encourage you to seek out the work God is already doing. Ask Him to reveal how your individual obedience can contribute to His plans for the Kingdom. This mindset opens opportunities for greater contribution to the upper story over inadvertently attempting to direct influence in our limited vision here on lower ground.
Let’s not remain there though. What we fail to realize at times, is how not only do we contribute to ministry individually, but we can do so through our relationships as well. In this chapter, Priscilla and Aquila provide a relational life example. Their marriage was a ministry. Not only did God work between them, but He was able to work through them in their unified obedience.
A relationship may or may not exist during this season of your life. No matter where you find yourself, I encourage reflection on the focus placed through your communication with God. He already has a plan. Are you solely asking Him to step into your world or are you willing to step into what He wants to show you for greater influence in the Kingdom?
Sunday, May 15
Feel free to write your thoughts and reflections from this week. You can use this space for notes as you listen to the weekend message.
Monday, May 16
“Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds.” -Acts 19:18
Although I would still consider myself a minimalist, there are things that I have attachments to. My spouse recently urged us to go through our house and get rid of any clutter, things that we didn’t need, or hadn’t used in a while. I found myself justifying a lot of objects and why I still needed them.
In today’s reading we see the people surrender all their ungodly items, specifically their books. This was an expensive thing for them to do. The total value of the books they brought to be burned ended up being fifty-thousand pieces of silver, which was about ten thousand dollars. That’s a lot of money today and even more in those days.
These people were not just throwing away their household goods, they were forsaking their livelihood. They were changing the pattern of their lives because they saw that they could no longer hold onto them. It revealed how willing they were to be free from things that had separated them from God.
While we might not be enthralled with evil books or practices, we do have attachments to things. Materialism can have a pull on our hearts, but it doesn’t have to. What if we were so filled with the Holy Spirit that we didn’t want anything that wasn’t godly in our life? What things in your life do you need to get rid of to have a better relationship with Jesus? How do your budget and priorities need to change to make God your most valued treasure?
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Tuesday, May 17
Have you ever participated in a random act of kindness? A Crossbridge blessing project? Paid for the car behind you in a drive thru? Donated to a micro pantry? Can you remember the feeling? Giving can be so fun! It can bring a smile to your face! I would go so far as to say that giving can be addictive! Once you start, part of you doesn’t want to stop!
In our reading for today, after all of Paul’s travels, he leaves the people with some words from Jesus… “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 NLT) Paul wanted the people to recognize that they need to continue to serve the people around them. To help those who may need a little extra. To not be selfish about the things that God has blessed us with. Because those things aren’t even ours. The Lord has blessed us with them, and so we are called to share and bless those around us.
Jesus was the ultimate example of giving. He gave His life in one of the most painful ways possible. Not for personal gain. Not to feel good about Himself. But for the good of the people around Him and people He would never meet.
Take a few moments to pray today and ask God to help you to be more generous. Not to give to make yourself feel good, but to give, simply, to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
My Will or God’s Will be done?
Wednesday, May 18
In this chapter, Paul is making his way to Jerusalem and after his 3rd and final missionary journey. This chapter fulfills the fears that many of Paul’s friends had for him during this final trip. The Holy Spirit informed Paul that once he arrives in Jerusalem, he will be arrested. His friends do what we often find ourselves doing…they encourage and beg him not to go to Jerusalem.
Spoiler Alert: Paul indeed arrives in Jerusalem and is ultimately arrested and Jailed.
Paul’s lesson here is that no matter how difficult life can get at times, we must always strive to live and love like Jesus. He trusted the Holy Spirit. He was meant to continue to spread Jesus’ story even thought the result would be a terrible hardship on him. During times in our lives when we feel God’s nudges to do something uncomfortable or even scary, we step forward in faith knowing He is truly controlling the Upper Story. These times might leave us confused or in pain, but we are reminded that God is ALWAYS with us and will NEVER leave us.
Like Paul, live and love like Jesus. Serve others by putting them first. Be kind always. Pray for and forgive your enemies. No one said being Jesus-like was going to be easy, but what better support system to live within and walk beside you than God, Himself!
What one way will you allow Jesus to shine through you today?
Thursday, May 19
Paul strategized his communication based on the audience before him. When he spoke to Roman officials, he used Greek. When he spoke to Jews, he used Aramaic. Decisions like this may seem to be minor details on the surface, but it’s exactly where foundational effectiveness is built. He was able to begin establishing a commonality through respect, opening up opportunities for a common bond to be formed before progressing into more passion-filled topics.
Paul didn’t stop the foundational build there though. Relational impact increases and common bonds are strengthened through testimony. God’s glory continuously shines through our lives. As He reveals these moments, our stories become tools to be used. Just as Paul used his testimony to deepen his commonality with the Jews, we can share how Christ has worked in our lives to build faith in Jesus.
Identification with our audience allows for greater effectiveness in being able to witness for Jesus. This applies not only to direct presentation of the gospel, but also to the functional communication opportunities that arise throughout our day. It is a vital component to how listeners hear what is to be said. Authenticity drives effective communication and although not everyone will accept what we have to say, relational approaches such as these allow God to work in ways that are out of our control. He asks for obedience, not results. Surrender those to Him.
As we step into the obedience of our day, remember Paul’s example. Focused intention placed in the small details of our lives may take more time in the now, but the outcome is powerful in kingdom work. Where can you focus on deeper communicative intention today?
The Lord Stands Near
Friday, May 20
In chapter 23 we see Paul before the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish court). He was again questioned as to why he was on trial. Arguments broke out among the groups of people in the court. Some denied the resurrection of Jesus (the Sadducees) and some were very legalistic and hypocritically kept the laws of Moses (the Pharisees). The arguments became so violent that the commander was afraid they would tear Paul to pieces. So, Paul was taken away to the barracks.
We read in verse 11 that the following night, “the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” The Lord stood near Paul. He had a plan for Paul’s life that did not include a conspiracy whose mission was to kill him.
God has a plan for each of our lives. There are times when we think that everything is going against what that plan is. But remember, God stands near to us. His plan for our lives will be fulfilled. And when we are struggling, we can remember that God will help us. He will give us strength and courage. He is near.
Saturday, May 21
Reading Acts 24, I feel indignant that Paul, a godly, innocent man was imprisoned for nothing more than selfish and political gain.
For me, indignation can feel akin to homesickness- physically there's a tightness in my chest that makes me hyper aware of my lungs and heartbeat; sometimes accompanied by tears and a lump in my throat. Emotionally, it is a helpless longing.
Helplessly longing for anything is a far cry from comfort. I would venture to say that feeling this way is my least favorite emotion. There have been times I've ran from or wished such longing away, sometimes in prayer. I've sought to self-pacify in healthy and unhealthy ways.
But as I grow in faith, I trust that nothing is helpless in the Lord. I learn to be still in discomfort, and that longing can even be a gift.
I believe God knitted the inclination to longing deep in all of us for a purpose: that we identify with the afflicted and prepare our hearts for action.
To truly live the way He has called us, we must commit ourselves to partnership with Jesus, doing justice and serving others in His name.
Jesus, I ask from my longing that You would burn a fire within me to join You in the kingdom work You made me for, until You call me home. Amen.
Sunday, May 22
Monday, May 23
My family and I have been going to church for about five years and have been a part of Crossbridge around a year and half now. Growing up, I had been so close-minded about God. I was not in a place where I wanted to hear who God was. A friend invited me to church. I went so she would stop asking me. What I didn’t realize was that God was planting little seeds in my heart that would one day come to fruition.
God has placed a few strong mentors in my life. They came alongside me and have walked with me through the ups and downs of my life. It’s those mentors that have helped me build and mold the very foundation that I want in my daughter’s lives. I now have been given the opportunity to grow and share God’s love with the children around me.
Reading Acts 25 I thought about Paul’s life. The pain and struggles he endured to get to a place of opportunity in his ministry. Like Paul’s story, my own struggles in life are now a part of my life story. It’s a continual process for me, to daily surrender my will over to God, so I may do His will. You never know the power of planting seeds and how it may change a single life for the better.
Tuesday, May 24
“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene.” Acts 26:9 (NLT)
It’s nothing to be ashamed of if you have felt or believed this in the past, like Paul had. Coming into a relationship with Jesus is such a personal and intimate journey that it’s no surprise we go through a gauntlet of emotions and learning experiences along the way. When Paul, then Saul, encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus said to him, “why are you persecuting me? It is useless to fight against my will.” Acts 26:14 (NLT)
God has great plans for all of us even if we’ve had negative thoughts towards Him. He loves us enough to see past our emotions because He alone knows the truth and will bring us to it in His perfect timing. “But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen.” Acts 26:22 (NLT)
We are all pastors in God’s eyes and He wants us all to spread the truth of His word and great love for us. Although we may sometimes feel undeserving of His grace, we can trust that it is real, and we need to share it with others. Paul wasn’t afraid to share the good news of Jesus with anyone, from kings to the poor. I pray that you and I find the same strength and courage to follow in his footsteps.
I Told You So
Wednesday, May 25
Those dreaded words… ”I told you so”. Remember hearing those words when we were young? They always came with a pointed index finger. I also remember my father telling me, “Columbus took a chance” when we were trying to purchase a home. So – what is a person to do? Take a chance or live in fear of the finger pointed at you if you make a bad decision?
In Acts 27, Paul and other prisoners set sail for Italy. Paul knew it would not end well. But the ship set sail. A horrendous storm came up and everyone on board (except Paul) thought they would die. But Paul had a promise from God. He would stand trial before Caesar.
To keep the ship from crashing into rocks, the crew let down four anchors. When the sun rose, they saw a bay with a sandy beach. They cut loose the anchors and sailed for the beach. The ship struck a sand bar but every person on board made it to the shore unharmed.
Are there anchors in your life you need to cut away? Is fear holding you back from doing something God has told you to do? Are you afraid He will point His finger at you and say, “I told you so” if you make a wrong decision? I can assure you that will not happen. 1 Chronicles 16:34 reminds us, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
Thursday, May 26
“Paul went in to see him and after pray, placed his hands on him and healed him.” Acts 28:8
It is no secret that this life has pain. You might have experienced pain from a relationship, or maybe pain emotionally, mentally, or physically.
The stories of the Bible are filled with the pain and suffering of God’s people. In the chapter we read today, Paul is bitten by a snake. This is not the first or the last time we see Paul experience physical pain. This time it’s from the snake. The snake doesn’t just bite him, but it latches on. Ouch! Count me out of that experience please.
The story doesn’t stop there though. What’s significant to me is that Paul used the injured hand to be a part of the healing for the person he goes to visit just shortly after.
Why we must experience suffering is an important question we all grapple with. No matter why it happens, we acknowledge that suffering plays a very significant role in all of our lives. Almost every believer has wanted to question where God is in our suffering.
What we do know is God is with us. We get to decide to hold onto our hurt or reach out, to let God use our pain. Our painful experiences can open doors for us to come alongside others who are suffering. God doesn’t want our painful situations to be wasted. He wants us to use them to help other people when they are in pain. Your greatest ministry can come from your deepest pain.
Have there been moments in your life where it feels like pain or suffering has latched on and not let go? Think about the greatest pain you have suffered. Do you believe God can use it for good in your life and the lives of others? Have you asked Him to use your suffering to bring other people to redemption?
Sunday, May 29
Thank you again for journeying with us through the book of Acts! We hope that this helped you create space with the Lord and helped you to hear Him as He spoke through His word.
Feel free to share your devotional thoughts with any pastor or staff member or even share on social media. Don’t forget to tag Crossbridge so that we that we have an opportunity to witness God’s work too!