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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

October 2013

And the next day…

Acts 14:21-28

Luke takes time to describe Paul’s struggles in the work of the Gospel. Paul’s all ministry is a roller coster, great reception one day, facing death the next one, people being saved when they hear the Gospel  or just rejection. His ministry is indeed a reflection of what Christian life is. A journey of trying to follow God’s will with its ups and downs, with the joys and frustrations that each one of us encounter. For many Christians this journey includes fear of persecution, rejection and even death. And still, as we see from Luke’s story is still a journey that Paul follows faithfully.

Something that really stands out in today’s text is the continuing ministry in  Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. Paul returns and “confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many afflictions we must enter into God’s Kingdom.”ministers to these disciples.

Discipleship in this context is never a one time shot at salvation, it is a day to day relationship that continues to build the faith that one received. For many christians, the relationship with God, is very similar with checking in on Foursquares, or Facebook. a once in a while check in.

As a community we are called to walk side by side, praying, and encouraging each other, challenging each other’s faith.

Here are a few questions for you today:

When was last time you ask someone how their faith journey is going?

How’s your faith?

What is going on in your life?

Anything I can pray for?

You would be surprised to see the response to that. Time and time again I have found that we all need to see discipleship in flesh and bones. We all need to see Christ extended to us in a way that we can feel and touch.

Please take time today to talk to somebody, send a quick note or an email letting that one person that comes to mind that you are praying for them and they are not alone. Take time and be a disciple.

 

Be Blessed,

Bo M.

“Speaking boldly for the Lord…”

Today’s passage:  Acts 14:1-20 (NRSV)

The first 3 verses of today’s passage sum up for me the heart of Luke’s message…they went into the synagogue, proclaimed the message of the Risen Christ and many became believers…and others, well, these unbelievers poisoned the minds of others…Paul and Barnabas do what?  They stay for a long time and “speak boldly for the Lord”!!  This is the work of evangelism and Paul and Barnabas are role models for us today.

Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe are neighboring cities in the Roman province of Galatia – about 90 miles southeast of Antioch.  Not only do you understand the tension in these cities but the journey is difficult as well.  And we learn another important piece of information…the behavior of those against Paul and Barnabas is not one of just tension against Jewish religion and law where stoning is handed down to blasphemers – this is not a theological difference, it is political and it has to do with power struggle.  Those in opposition no longer to seek expulsion as seen earlier in Luke and Acts…they seek extermination.  One thing remains clear…the gospel message will not be silenced.

How should the church today respond to those who make it their public business to reject the gospel?  Every time Paul was challenged by the opposition, he responded with the eternal consequences that were at stake…he provides reasons for his opponents’ wrong beliefs.  “Friends, why are you doing this?”  Turn to the One who provides unending reasons – if you won’t believe a fellow human being, then believe in the One who provides the rain, the seasons…food and joy.

As you have seen and will continue to see, Acts provides that the church’s mission is concentrated in cities – this is not coincidence.  What started in Palestine is now moving, through Paul, in the Roman Empire.  Paul’s evangelism occurs in cities because this is where the greatest concentration of people are.  The city, therefore, is a religious symbol – one that indicates for us God’s desire of salvation.  If we have learned anything from Luke’s writing, it is the profound fact that the church is never to be in isolation – for Luke, the congregation is to always be reaching out to diverse populations – as many people as possible…because there are eternal consequences.

The gospel message is tough for many to hear…it is also a tough message to proclaim but it will not be silenced.  Many will listen and follow…many will revolt, but we are to remain steadfast for a long time “speaking boldly for the Lord”.  Our vocation – our calling, is shown to us in Paul and that is to bear witness to the Risen Christ to everyone from the least and last to the rich and famous!

Know Who Are YouTalking/Speaking To…

Acts 13:13-52 “From Paphos, Paul and his companions sai…” TNIV – Online Bible Study

Paul and his companions travel to Pisidian, Antioch, in Asia Minor (not the home church of Antioch in Syria).  This city was named after Antiochus, king of Syria after the death of Alexander the Great.  It was the hub of good roads and trade.  There was a large Jewish population with a synagogue.  It was a Roman colony, which meant that a contingent of retired military men was settled there. They were given free land and were made citizens of the city of Rome, with all the accompanying privileges.  Antioch was place where Paul and Barnabas could preach and teach the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles.  It was a city of great opportunity for the things of Christ.

Here Paul begins his mission to Antioch by entering the synagogue. That was Paul’s usual practice.  The synagogue was read made for preaching.  It had a building and there were regularly scheduled meetings.  Synagogue members and Gentile God-fearers knew the scriptures, the Old Testament.  It was customary to invite visitors, especially visiting rabbis to preach and teach.  Paul was aware of that and was prepared to speak when they asked.  He knew they would ask him to speak.  That was his routine when entering a new city.

Paul begins with Old Testament history and liberation from Egypt then moves to king David, the favorite king of Israel, and quickly makes the connection between David and Jesus in verse 23.  Next he tells the story of Jesus crucified, dead, and resurrected by God and connects this salvation reality to Psalm 2.  It is through Jesus that there is forgiveness of sins.  Paul quotes from the prophet Habakkuk (1.5) to remind his hearers of the wonder of what God is doing in and through Jesus and to challenge them to believe.  There was a great response of faith and he was invited to speak again on the next Sabbath.

Large crowds gathered, “the whole city.”  But there was jealousy, words of abuse, and rejection.  Paul quotes Isaiah (49.6) indicating that he will now share the Gospel with the Gentiles.  The Jewish leaders in Antioch have relationships with those who lead and govern Antioch.  Together they expel Paul and Barnabas from the city.  But they will return again.  God was at work for the disciples, the followers of Jesus, “were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”

Notice that Paul understood his audience; he knew where to go, when to speak, why he was speaking, and how to speak and how to be persuasive with the message of salvation.  Do we know where, when, why, and how to share the Good News of Jesus with people in our circle of influence?  Can we speak to both Jews and Gentiles; to people who have some familiarity with the church and to the unchurched?  If we are unsure of any of these things are we ready to study, learn, and grow?

Finally, remember that John Mark doesn’t finish this first Missionary Journey but leaves to return to Jerusalem (vs. 13).  We will read more about this at the end of Chapter 15.

Gracious God, give us opportunities to share our faith and opportunities to learn how best to speak for Christ and his Kingdom of light, love, and light.

Acts 13:1-12 – Very Offensive

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Acts 13:1-12

My immediate response to this passage was: “Settle down, Paul.”  I mean, Paul’s response is kind of offensive, and not very loving. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that maybe Paul’s response was loving.  Paul is sharing the Gospel with Sergius, and Bar-Jesus is being a huge distraction.  So Paul shuts him up. He has a good reason though; this Gospel is a pretty big deal and Sergius needs to hear it.  If Paul was sharing his thoughts on the regional olive selection and Bar-Jesus was acting up, Paul probably wouldn’t temporarily blind him.  But the Gospel isn’t olives and its not to be taken lightly.  Everyone is separated from God by sin.  We deserve eternal death. Instead, Christ came to earth and suffered a torturous death in our place.  He died the death that we deserve.  John 3 is clear: The only way to eternal life is to accept this Gospel by faith and the natural way our faith’s authenticity is proven is by obedience to God.

In our culture we’re uncomfortable with anyone making such strong absolute statements. We would rather believe things like “everyone has their own way to God” or something along those lines. That’s a direct contradiction to what Christ says when He says: “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here: I’m going to guess that if you share that Gospel enough, someone will be offended. They’ll respond to you like I initially responded to Acts 13. Its okay. But to have an opportunity to share this Good News, this relationship, with another person who could also enjoy the grace we’ve been given; it’s worth it.  Sometimes, like Paul, we have to be willing to share this good news even if it is offensive.

And the glory goes to God!

Acts 12: 18-25

This passage is quite challenging to interpret if we are too look just at Herod and his actions. We need to look and understand this reading in the context of Peter’s miraculous “liberation” (i choose that order over escape), and the prayers that are being answered.

The whole conflict described in the passage, put people at odds over food and political decisions. That might sound familiar to us, especially in a day that was mark with political anxiety for our country. The way the Bible presents this conflict is a reflection of people willing to go an extra mile, trying to converse and obtain favor. There is a sense of divine intervention in what Luke describe as a resolution of the conflict, something that can not be ignored. I wish that the bible passage would off talked about the people’s anxiety, and their own fears and desire to see this solved, and their prayers.

When everything is set and done, Herod takes all the glory for himself, and that results in a devastating outcome for him.

Here is something I have ponder time and time again: How many times are we a Herod, a person that has been given grace and favor with people, and we see divine intervention first hand but then we forget to give God what he deserves?

The strong lesson for us as believers is that God is at work, and our prayers, anxieties and fears do receive audience with the king. So as result of that we should become more reliant on Him, able to extend more grace and changed by every instance that allows us to see his divine work in our lives.

Please take time and pray for that impossible reality present in your life, learn to depend on God, and learn to receive in grace his answer. And at the end recognize that in a way that brings glory to him.

Be blessed.

BO M.

Confidence in prayer…

Today’s Passage: Acts 12:1-18

Persecution is a real part of life for the first century church and Luke makes this clear to us when he contrasts the great love of the church at Antioch for the saints at Jerusalem against the coldhearted hostility of King Herod. Leadership of the church is threatened once again in Jerusalem by the violent domination of political rivals.  But Luke is very clear in keeping us focused on what is truly important.  We could easily focus on the persecution of Herod or the miraculous work of God through his Holy Spirit in Peter’s “get out of jail free” card.  Make no mistake, God indeed acts here and clearly triumph’s over the community’s enemies, but I think Luke wants us to see how the church responds in this passage.

I think Luke challenges us to think about how we pray in this passage.  James, the brother of John has been executed and, because Herod sees how much this act pleased the Jews, Peter has been arrested – his life is in grave danger.  Then we see just what we would expect the church to do – pray fervently for Peter.  Today, many protest wrongful incarceration or unjust treatment but the church prays.  There is nothing passive about prayer – it is indeed a defiant act because its foundation is built on the foundation that God’s purposes will win out in the end.

When you pray, “thy will be done”, what is it that you think you are praying for?  In this passage, even Peter was unsure of what was really happening – “he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening”.  Even though this is the second time an angel has helped him escape, he thinks he is seeing things for a short time.  The church was praying for deliverance…you have to believe that Peter, too, was praying for the same thing.  Peter is indeed delivered and he goes to the place he knows he is known and welcome and what is the response?  These fellow believers were praying but they did not believe Rhoda when she announced Peter was at the door.

I think we are clueless to the personal realities associated with persecution – I personally know no one who has been jailed and threatened with death because of his/her beliefs.  But I would suggest that with all the trials and tribulations in this world, what we can learn from this passage is that prayer must assume a position of confident trust – our thinking and believing to the very core of our beings that our God will win out in the end no matter what you or I may endure…that, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

When it seems God’s plan has been trumped by things that happen in our daily lives, we pray…we pray for deliverance.  The next time we utter the words, “thy will be done”, what will we be thinking – really praying for?

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Acts 11:19-30

Acts 11:19-30 NIV – The Church in Antioch – Now those who – Bible Gateway

Here we begin to hear of the Church in Antioch as the Gospel spreads to the Greeks, that is Gentiles or non-Jews.  The Church in Jerusalem is hearing about the Holy Spirit coming to the Gentiles and wants to know more. There were probably supporters of taking the Gospel to the whole world in the Jerusalem Church, but there were most likely some who were not so sure about this new thing they had heard about.  They send Barnabas to assess the situation.

We might ask ourselves, what our response is when God does something new and different in the world, in our church, in the life of someone we know, or in our own lives?  Do we respond as Barnabas did?  “When…he saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.”  Do we respond with joy?  Or are we suspect?

It is in Antioch that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians, “partisans of Christ.   It may have been first coined by outsiders as a term of derision.  Nevertheless the followers of the Way embraced it as a fitting label” (IVP Commentary).

The Church in Antioch grows quickly through Barnabas’s ministry.  Barnabas travels to bring Saul (Paul) to Antioch.  And with both of them teaching great numbers of people, the church gains substance and strength to become a great church.

The Antioch becomes a significant church for this era, surpassing the church in Jerusalem.  Here Greeks and Jews are one in Christ.  This is the church that is the staging ground for Paul’s Missionary trips.  From this platform of support, faith, and funding Paul goes out to extend the Good News of Jesus to the world.

The quality of the Antioch Church is also seen in their response to the news, a prophecy, that a famine is coming.  They decide to help the Jerusalem Christians.  They send their gift with Barnabas and Saul.  Gracious generosity is at the heart of following Jesus.

Repentance that leads to Life

Just a FYI, we’ve been at this a month now and our study has now grown to over 100 people. Every day well over half of us click the email link to interact with the passage.  If you don’t usually comment, give it a shot; I think you’ll find that you’re encouraged and I promise that you’re an encouragement to others.

Read Acts 11:1-18

After his ministry in Caeserea, Peter goes back to Jerusalem to share the news of what God has done.  Its met with a little skepticism, so he explains how God moved.  I think the response from the skeptics at the end of the passage is great: “So then, even to the Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”  Repentance is a great word.  It means turning from sin to God.  It’s not something that just occurs once, but something we engage in constantly. We look our sin (if you’re like me there’s probably a lot of it) in the eyes and see it for what it really is. We clearly see our selfishness, pride, laziness, anger, lust, bitterness, greed, insecurity, gossip, grumbling, complaining, apathy etc. as a direct affront to God.  So what do we do? We confess it, turn from it and return to God.  What’s great is that in response to our repentance, God doesn’t see our sin.  He sees only the righteousness of Christ and He’s pleased.

Start your morning off right, fellow sinner.  Gentile or Jew you’ve been offered repentance that leads to life.  Confess your sin and turn from it.  Rejoice in the guilt-free life you have in Christ.

Acts 10:24-48

I bet you did not expect to see that title on this blog! But I am telling you it is time to party!

Here is why:
Peter gets invited to Cornelius and when he gets there he finds a big group of people gathered waiting for him. As a good host Cornelius introduces Peter and what follow up next is just amazing.
The gospel is being preached to a group of people that gathered at the house maybe because of their respect for Cornelius or maybe because of their family ties. No matter what brought them there, the real invitation is the invitation to hear Peter, the one that brings good news.

So, here is a simple thought for us today:

Can we have the same impact as Cornelius in the lives of those around us? Sure we can!

It might be as easy as hosting a party where beyond the good food and conversations we are also able to share the good news. Few years back I attended a christmas party where the host had invited friends from neighborhood, from work as well as people from church. At some point in the night we gathered around the host that read the christmas story, talked about the most important gift they ever received and then prayed for all. Nothing fancy, or deep theology, just a host sharing what made their christmas season so special. It gave all of us present a time to reflect at our own journey and season, but also maybe it easier for the host to say you are welcome to join us on Christmas eve to celebrate with the whole church.

So here is what i would like to encourage you to do:

Think about all the parties that are coming, invite people and share what;s important to you with them. Pray that the spirit will be at work and people will receive not only your gift of hospitality but also the good news that we carry with us.

It’s time to party!

Blessing,

Bo M.

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