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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

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Spread the News

Acts 4:1-4

Here we are again with yet another example of the top religious leaders of the day struggling with belief, even though it is basically clobbering them in the head with a hammer. They have witnessed miracles of Jesus, and now they have seen some things done by the disciples. And, despite actually witnessing some of these things, they still don’t believe. So when these “leaders” come upon Peter and John preaching the Gospel to the people, they put them in prison for the night. But, their attempt to stop the spreading Good News failed, as the number of believers grew to 5,000. I’m guessing people saw that these men were willing to be arrested or worse for what they were saying publicly, and thought to themselves that “these guys can’t be wrong if they are willing to risk their lives to speak about this Jesus fellow.” 

And I think, in our current world climate, now more than ever, we need to be brave and be willing to speak freely about who Jesus is and what He is teaching us still today. And what He is teaching us is to love God and to love others as we love ourselves. If we lived by just those two expectations, then by example, we could lead others to the God of mercy and grace. 

At the Portico

Acts 3:12-26

Acts 3:12-26 is an amazing section of the scriptures in it’s unfolding of the history of the Church, the history of those who believe in the salvation that is offered to all who will put their trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Peter and John have just entered the Temple Court at the ninth hour, which is about three in the afternoon, for the second daily Atonement sacrifice, the first being in the morning. It is also known as the hour of prayer, where at a certain moment in the ceremony those gathered may make public their prayers to Jehovah. As they enter the temple, it is then that a lame man is healed, his leg is completely restored, by Jesus through the hands of Peter and John. Peter says then “Men of Israel why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our power or piety we made him walk?” He goes on to give a brief account of recent happenings in Jerusalem, first extolling the positions and titles held by Jesus as: Jehovahs Servant, the Holy and Righteous One, the Prince of Life, Jehovah’s Messiah, and the Prophet. The men of Israel know these titles from scripture but have yet to understand them in relationship to this man Jesus.

Peter then goes on the explain Israel’s complicity in the plan of salvation by rejecting the very one they were to put their faith and hope in. Israel was hoping for the Messiah, to deliver them from bondage to Rome, the very presence of oppression, what they received from the promised Savior was instead, salvation from their bondage to sin. Peter also declared the unique concept that the Messiah would have to suffer, Isaiah 52 and 53, a thought that was never easily accepted by Israel.

Peter’s message was for spiritual awareness, for spiritual accountability, for spiritual repentance. The old covenant of the Law required physical adherence, and compliance to it’s requirements. The New Covenant of Jesus christ requires a Spiritual understanding, repentance, and compliance. It’s the soul, the spirit of a man that is born again, not the physical, for out of the heart we are known.

Many people can act very well, and pretend piety, but true righteousness comes from a broken and contrite heart, and regeneration from Jesus Christ. Salvation was presented first in Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, then to the Gentiles in the uttermost parts of the earth. Jehovahs plan is unfolding in these chapters.

Karl

Regular, Everyday People

Acts 3:1-11

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he healed many who were suffering from ailments of all sorts: blindness, leprosy, lameness, and even bringing people back from the dead. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise when you consider that Jesus (a.k.a. God in human form) is able to heal people. 

But then you get to Acts 3, and Peter heals a lame man at the temple gate. Peter, an uneducated fisherman, healed another human being. This is the same Peter who kind of, sort of, walked on water, but then lost faith and fell in and needed to be saved by Jesus. This is the same Peter who denied he was a disciple three times on the night Jesus was arrested. Peter has come a long way in his faith in just a short time. 

And in the same way that God called regular, everyday people to his inner circle and to do extraordinary things 2,000 years ago, He still does the same today. We may not be able to restore sight to the blind or help the crippled walk again. But we are still capable of doing great things in the name of Jesus to further His kingdom. Seek out opportunities to serve Him everyday, in all that you do. 

The First Church

Acts 2:41-47 NRSV

The first report of a formed church (v. 47), 3000 in Jerusalem, had baptisms (v. 41), preaching, fellowship, communion, prayers (v. 42), apparent miracles (v. 43), and gladness in their lives (v. 46). All of these in conjunction with their common beliefs or faith (v. 44). Our FPJ experiences are much the same.

Their sharing of private resources (vv. 44-46, cp. Rom. 12:12-13) was done out of necessity. Their needs were very apparent to Paul (Rom. 15:25-26, 2 Cor. 8:1-9:15).

Christianity is about beliefs. It is also about its practice, putting to life what one believes.

Are you ready to serve?

Once a week we will have a Video Blog. Today’s Scripture passage is: Acts 1: 12-17; 21-26. I would invite you to engage with the text and the post, and let us know your questions or what do you think about the passage above.

Be Blessed,

Bo .

There is Hope

Acts 1:10-11

NRSV

The Message

In yesterday’s reading, Jesus made his ascension into heaven. I can only imagine how dramatic of a sight that would have been to those who witnessed that day. Even for those who believed from the beginning of His ministry that He was in fact God Incarnate, it had to be an awesome thing to see happen to a simple carpenter from Nazareth. 

So in today’s 2 verses, following the ascension, the witnesses stood there still in awe, and maybe also a little dumbfounded, at what they just saw happen. I imagine them looking a bit like this: 

I’m sure that it was more than just amazement though. I’m sure there was also a look and feeling of sadness as their beloved teacher was taken up for the last time. To go along with that, a few verses prior to this, the Apostles were asking Him if He was going to restore Israel, and he basically said “nope, not my call man.” So I’m guessing they may have also been a little disappointed that they were going to have to wait awhile, or 2000+ years as it turns out, before Israel would be restored. 

BUT (and there’s always a but, isn’t there?), angels appeared (men dressed in white robes) and asked them why are they staring at the sky? There is no reason to be sad, mad, or disappointed in the situation, because just as they saw Jesus taken up into the clouds, He will one day return again. And THAT is the message for the day. 

We may be upset, sad, disappointed, down, depressed, stressed, overwhelmed, etc. But we need to keep our eye on the prize. This lifetime is only a temporary layover before getting to our final destination. Jesus WILL one day return and restore us all. Can I get an amen? 

The Ascension, No Turning Back

Acts 1:8-9

The remaining eleven apostles are still together after the resurrection of the Messiah, and Jesus, who in a resurrection body, according to Acts 10:40-41, “becomes visible, not to all people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand, by Jehovah,” appears to them.

While on earth teaching His apostles Jesus told them in John 14: 26 that, “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom my Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 16:8 Jesus expands on the coming Holy Spirit, “it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (Note that the Holy Spirit is referred to in translation as the Helper, the Comforter, and the Advocate.)

Back to Acts 1:8-9, Jesus has His Apostles gathered at Mt. Olivet, verse 12. ‘a Sabbath days journey from Jerusalem,’ about one half mile away. It is there that He tells them, “you will receive power, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” After He said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

The Resurrection of Jesus occurred on the day of First Fruits, a Feast for Israel commanded by Jehovah, and the event described above, the Ascension, was 40 days after the Resurrection. The Holy Spirit would come on Pentecost, 50 days after the Resurrection. In Israel’s history the 40 day mark would be the crossing of the Red Sea after their release from bondage to Egypt. Pentecost was the receiving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sanai. The historical significance of the crossing of the Red Sea is a complete separation from the past life of slavery to Egypt. There was no going back, as the waters of the Sea closed in behind them, only a new life was in store for them, they could not return. In like manner for the Apostles at this meeting with Jesus, at His Ascension, is the symbolic crossing over into new life in Christ. There is no going back into the slavery of sin.

Once a person is’ born again’ in Christ, he is a new creature, he is on the path to a changed life, and like Israel, who was set free from slavery, so is the one who is in Christ. Jesus fulfilled the Torah, (the Law), as Israel acted out and prophesied the coming Savior, from Moses, to the conquering of the god’s of Egypt, to the crossing of the Red Sea, to the manna, to the giving of the Law, to the water of life that poured out of the rock, to the entering of the Promised Land. Jesus satisfied the Torah by reenacting all the events of Israel in His life, bringing new life to all who believe, and we also receive the same promised Holy Spirit who indwells us, and strengthens us for ministry.

Karl

A New Beginning

Acts 1:1-7

NRSV

Luke, a physician and follower of Paul, and also the writer of the Gospel of Luke, is the writer of the Book of Acts. He has addressed this book to Theophilus. I did a little research to learn more about who Theophilus was, and it turns out that there isn’t 100% certainty on who he was. He may have been a Jewish social elite, Roman official, or it may be a metaphorical honorary title because the word theophilo means “friend of God” in Greek. (Source

Luke has established a timeline of events to open up this book. Following Jesus’ death, he appeared to the Apostles many times over the course of 40 days, and then ascended to heaven. Before being taken up, he commanded the Apostles to remain in Jerusalem until the Father sent his gift to them: the Holy Spirit (more to come on this soon). 

Finally, after being questioned by the Apostles about the restoration of Israel, Jesus reminds them that only the Father knows the time. 

As you may know, Acts of the Apostles is a historical book that outlines the founding of the Christian church by those who remained followers after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and those who became followers. In the first seven verses, Luke sets up how and when this new Church was going to be established. I capitalize the word Church on purpose because we aren’t talking about a specific building, but the people who make up The Church. This group of followers, who at first would be called followers of The Way, would be baptized by the Holy Spirit, which is how they would be officially commissioned to spread the Gospel throughout the region. 

We are about to embark on a 40 day (weekends not included) journey through the Acts and the founding of the church. This is going to be a slow-paced journey that will cover only a few verses at a time in hopes that we can dig deeper into the text and take more time to reflect on a small segment of scripture and find ways to apply it into our lives TODAY.

My hope and prayer, which I am sure is shared with the other contributors to the blog, is that over the next 8 weeks, we can engage in some great discussion about this book and how we as a Church got to where we are at currently. As I talk about with my 7th grade students all the time, this works best if this is a two way street. If we, the writers, are simply givers of information, and there is no dialogue following, we miss out on the opportunity to learn from each other. No one here (except maybe Bo) is an expert on any of this stuff. I look forward to learning as I prepare for my posts, as well as learn from my fellow bloggers, and hopefully also learn from readers who comment on our posts. As they say at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies…let the games begin!!

Saul vs. Paul

Welcome! Our Vlog take two! This week we are in Acts 9 following Saul on his way to Damascus.

Looking forward to your insights, questions and comments.

Be Blessed, Bo M.

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