Unexpected Places

Unexpected Purposes

Acts 28

Have there been times in your life where you’ve been taken somewhere you didn’t expect? Last spring, I was taking a drive when I became lost on some of the backroads. I was filled with uncertainty about my location and starting to get anxious about finding my way back. As I found myself where I didn’t expect to be, a lost lamb appeared on the road. It was nearly hit by oncoming traffic as it frantically sprinted down the pavement. The cream and brown spotted lamb was panting from exhaustion. It was scared and confused. Because I was at this unexpected intersection, I was able to get the lamb off the road and put it in my truck. After searching for its farm and calling the sheriff, eventually it was reunited with its home. Sometimes it is the places that we don’t see coming, where we prove to be the most useful.

In Acts 28 we learn about Paul’s experiences on the island where he and the rest of the people on his ship came to be shipwrecked. As we read yesterday, Paul’s journey was quite wild. But God had delivered them safely to this Island called Malta. When Paul left for Rome, he probably never expected to make a pit stop, let alone be shipwrecked at this place. Yet, this was where he was taken, and it was not without purpose.

            On this island, in the middle of the Mediterranean, Paul was able to interact with the people. These inhabitants of Malta saw something different about Paul as they had witnessed him being delivered from the sea and from a snake bite. And then Paul was able to pray for and heal their sick. An island that might not have been a priority for people of that time to take the gospel to had nonetheless witnessed it through Paul’s unexpected stay there.

So, although this time and stay in Malta had been unexpected, it proved useful and it exposed others to the One True God. So, while you may at times find yourself in an unexpected place, do not be discouraged. Sometimes it is the most unexpected places in our lives that God uses us for an unexpected purpose.

-Hannah Deane

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Kings 13-14 and Acts 28

Believing God in Tough Times

Acts 27

Paul’s journey to Rome in this passage is anything but simple. When those with Paul on the ship to Rome went days without seeing the guiding light of stars or the sun, they gave up hope of ever being saved. But then Paul spoke. He shared with them what the angel of God had told him. He assured them that although their situation seemed dire, they would be delivered. It was God’s plan for Paul to appear before Caesar and Paul, neither Paul nor those with him, were to be lost at sea before that could happen.

Although this situation and the knowledge that he was to be tried by Caesar when he reached Rome must have been difficult, Paul kept trusting God. When God sent word to him, Paul did not look at the situation and doubt what God was saying. He believed God’s word, and so much so that he shared what God had planned. From the passage we can see that Paul did not even question the way in which they were to be saved- a shipwreck! Here Paul is lost at sea, facing trial by the ruler of the Roman empire and now finds out he is to be preserved for that by being saved through a shipwreck. That is a lot to take in and yet, Paul remained faithful.

This made me think of a time in my own life when I was being driven to an airport on a major highway. A car sideswiped us, and we went across several lanes of traffic, nearly hit a concrete barrier and then swerved back over a few lanes. In that moment, it seemed the vehicle I was in was going to be hit again. The situation seemed taut and like there could be no good outcome. However, miraculously the vehicle I was in and the vehicle that had hit us suffered no injuries and were not hit a second time in the busy traffic. Even in a situation that seemed hopeless, God preserved us, and we even got to the airport on time.

Sometimes, though, in these moments it is easier to think of what could happen, like getting hit a second time or being lost at sea and not on what we should be thinking about- God. But we must look to Paul as an example and trust God in tough circumstances as he did.

-Hannah Deane

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Kings 11-12 and Acts 27

Two Choices

Saturday – May 29, 2021

1 Kings 9-10, Acts 26

Solomon has finished the calling that God assigned to him. The temple was completed. In addition, Solomon has built an elaborate palace and pursued wisdom in his life. In 1 Kings 9, God appears to Solomon and makes a second promise to him. If Solomon commits to following after God and living by the commandments of God, God will build his kingdom and establish it. But, this promise presents a choice: either Solomon can have a kingdom established forever or he would have his kingdom ruined and removed. These consequences are contingent upon the actions of the Israelites outlined in Deuteronomy 30: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the Lord your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the Lord swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (v. 19-20). 

The Israelites could have life and blessings, but they needed to love God, obey him, and remain faithful to him. If they didn’t, they would live a life apart from God, full of troubles and difficult times. Even though the choice seems like a no brainer, generations of the Israelites still choose death, including Solomon. Because of their choices, they faced exile, famine, sickness, and death. 

We have the same choices today. We can choose life or death. I’ve always wondered why the Israelites couldn’t see the goodness that they were leaving behind because they chose to live a sinful life. However, when I look at my own life, I can understand why that path seemed pleasing to them. Sin feels good in the moment. It fills us up in the short term. But, as life continues and sin upon sin piles up, it turns out to be rotten. Like sweet cakes or soft drinks, it tastes good, but over time, too much leaves us feeling gross inside. Too much leads to death. To say no to sin requires self-discipline and sacrifice. We recognize that we are giving up something that may feel good now, because later on, we will have a better thing. 

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, our consequences are not contingent upon all of our actions. We will not be judged by the law, because we have freedom in Christ – if we make one choice. If we choose to make Christ our Lord, we will have life in him. Today, choose life! Choose to live righteously and follow after Jesus, the perfect king. This choice and the sacrifice is so worth it!

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

Conflict

Acts 25

Conflict within the church weakens community, and ultimately destroys the credibility of the church. In the eyes of the Romans, Paul’s arrest was just another Jewish squabble that needed to be controlled and contained. Arguments in the church make the world look down on us, instead of how God intended the church to be; a light to unbelievers, pointing others to God. Certainly God can still bring good out of conflict but the purpose of the church is to be Christ’s hands and feet doing God’s work.

It is hard to be doing God’s work while you are fighting with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul was following God’s direction for his life by going to Jerusalem where he knew he would be imprisoned by the Jewish leaders. From the time Jesus called him on the road to Damascus Paul had been obeying God’s instruction to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul and the Jewish leaders had a lot in common. They both believed in God, and followed all the Jewish teachings and traditions. The difference between Paul and the Jewish leaders is that the Jewish leaders were not listening to God like Paul was and it was creating conflict that affected everyone within the church, the Jewish leaders, and the Romans and Gentiles.

-Makayla Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Kings 7-8 and Acts 25

Our High Calling

Thursday – May 27, 2021

1 Kings 5-6, Acts 24

As Solomon’s reign continues, he begins to build the temple: the job promised to him by God through David. Solomon knows that this is his calling – and he wants to do it well. After David was told that he could not build the temple because of the blood shed on his hands, David amassed a treasure trove of building supplies for years. Even though temple building was not David’s calling, he still worked hard to make sure that he made Solomon’s task easier through his actions. 

One of the first actions that Solomon takes is to get the best lumber he could find. He goes to the king of Lebanon and asks for the cedars of Lebanon. Then, he began to build the temple – a process that lasted 7 years! 

Solomon knew that when God has called you to do something you make sure to do two things: (1) you give him the best of you first and (2) you complete the task assigned to you no matter how long it takes. Solomon didn’t let the difficulty of getting the cedars of Lebanon stop him from being sure to get the finest lumber. He also didn’t give up in the process of finishing the temple. He was committed to finishing the task he was assigned to well. 

In our lives, are you as committed as Solomon to completing the calling God has assigned to you well? We are God’s hands and feet in the world. Part of our testimony to the world is how well we complete our callings. “Let’s not grow weary of doing good” (Gal. 6:9). “Let’s finish the race we are running with endurance” (Heb. 12:1-2). 

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

What are you asking for?

Wednesday – May 26, 2021

1 Kings 3-4, Acts 23

After Adonijah’s revolt, Solomon ascended to power, and in 1 Kings 3, Solomon began making decisions of what he should do as a king. 1 Kings 3:3 describes him when it says, “Solomon loved the LORD by walking in the statues of his father David, but he also sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” Deuteronomy 12:1-6 specifically gave directions to destroy all the high places, but Solomon and the rest of the people went to worship there. In 1 Kings 3:1, one of Solomon’s first decisions is to make a treaty with Pharaoh’s daughter, going against Deuteronomy 17:16-17. Solomon seemed like he wanted to make good, godly decisions, but he didn’t know and apply God’s word enough to keep him from committing these oversights, these sins. 

Even so, in verse 5, after a large display of burnt offerings, God comes to Solomon and asks, “What should I give you?” This was a moment where he could have received so much from God – whether in power, wealth, status. But, instead, Solomon chooses to receive wisdom and discernment so that he could govern his people well. He recognized that he was a “youth with no experience in leadership” (v. 7) Solomon knew that he may have blundered in the past as he began to rule his kingdom. And so, he asked for the one thing that could truly help him to do better – discernment and wisdom from God. 

In our lives, we may feel that we are in situations that we have been thrown into. We may be overwhelmed. We may be trying to make the best decisions that we can. The thing that makes the difference in those situations is not how hard we work at them or the people that we impact or make happy. What we should pursue in those situations is the wisdom of God. That is the only thing that will help us to know what is right to do. It is the only thing that will help us to know how to keep ourselves on the righteous path and away from sin. 

What are you asking for from God? May we be a people who prays for the wisdom and discernment only God can give.

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

The Path to Life

Tuesday – May 25, 2021

1 Kings 1-2, Acts 22

1 Kings opens up with David’s final moments. His health begins to decline as turmoil grows in his kingdom. David’s sons had a history of defiance and wrongdoing, culminating in the story of Absalom’s revolt described in 2 Samuel 15. Absalom dies, and David mourns for him. In 1 Kings, we meet another of David’s sons, the next in line after Absalom – Adonijah. Adonijah is the heir apparent, the oldest surviving son. He begins to exalt himself in 1 Kings 1:5, saying “I will be king!” This Lion King-esque refrain has a darker tone to it. Adonijah was never truly promised the throne, and at the time he was saying this, his father was still alive. Instead of waiting for a peaceful transition of power, Adonijah seizes the moment of David’s weak health and begins amassing forces to take the kingdom by force. Adonijah’s greed for power leads to sin and death, as the revolt eventually spirals into his own demise. 

Adonijah walked down the path of foolishness. His rash actions were compounded by sinfulness and a total disregard for the law. He had to pay for all of his actions. But, in verse 6, there is an interesting statement: “But his father had never once reprimanded him by saying “Why do you act this way?” Adonijah did not commit these actions in a vacuum; he had a family, court, and religious leaders surrounding him. Who was speaking wisdom into Adonijah’s life? Encouraging him to make wise choices and reminding him of Absalom’s life – and what might happen if he doesn’t show patience in his potential ascension to the throne? David ‘never once reprimanded’ Adonijah, calling into question his wrong behavior. Instead, he allowed Adonijah to do what was right in his eyes. In doing so, Adonijah eventually walked towards his own death. David needed to provide guidance and discipline for Adonijah, and because of his refusal to do so, Adonijah caused turmoil and pain to himself and others. 

Discipline can seem like a scary thing. It’s definitely one of my least favorite parts of being a teacher. It’s complicated and sometimes painful to discipline others and be disciplined ourselves. But, discipline is a crucial part of being a disciple of Jesus. Hebrews 12:10-11 says, “10 [Our parents] disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Discipline is such an important part of our sanctification. Essentially, discipline is the way that we call each other back to the way of righteousness and holiness. And, it’s the way that God calls us back to him. 

How have you experienced God’s discipline in your life – through his hand or those of your parents or church leaders? Remember, discipline can keep us from becoming an Adonijah, someone with no guardrails or guidelines for the right, wise way to live. Let’s pursue a righteous life together. 

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

Victorious

May 24, 2021 – 2 Samuel 23-24, Acts 21

When David came to power, he had his work cut out for him. Part of his legacy was fulfilling the calling that God gave to the Israelites when they first came to the Promised Land. He was charged with taking the land. He was supposed to be strong and courageous, and over his lifetime, he proved to be a man of strong military prowess who doubled the size of the kingdom of Israel. 2 Samuel 23 describes the men who helped David make that happen. These are his mighty men, the elite warriors who single handedly won battles against the Philistines with God’s help. One warrior killed 800 men at one time with a spear. Another group broke into an enemy stronghold just to get a cup of water for David. Repeatedly, these men are described as strong, fearless. They ‘stood their ground’ against their enemies. When they faced them this way, ‘the Lord brought about a great victory’ against their enemies. 

In Acts 21, Paul is facing strong and terrifying enemies. In fact, he is told what would happen to him by a prophet in verses 11-12 when the prophet describes how he would be tied up and delivered to the Romans in Jerusalem. The people are begging him not to go to Jerusalem, weeping for the bitter end that they knew would come to Paul if he decided to go to the city. Paul shows his determination and willingness to follow Jesus no matter what when he replies: “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” What a mighty and fearless response! Paul may have not been marching into a war with spears and swords, but he knew the spiritual battle he was facing that would have real – and very dire – implications for his health and well-being. But, it didn’t matter – he would do anything for the name of Jesus. 

We need to face our everyday battles with the same determination and strength, resting in the knowledge that God will bring about the victory if we stand our ground. We need to be strong and courageous, because God is right there with us in our battles. We will emerge victorious!

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

Sunday – May 23, 2021

2 Samuel 21-22, Acts 20

In today’s Old Testament reading, 2 Samuel 21-22, we see David, a victorious king and man broken by sin, dealing with the legacies of previous leaders of Israel and the political unrest they left behind. In addition to this, we see fall out with the Canaanite peoples, who had remained in the promised land for a thousand years after Joshua and the Israelites were told to conquer it. The last few chapters of 2 Samuel function as an appendix; they list stories that occurred during David’s reign, in non-chronological order. 

In 2 Samuel 21, we find a brutal story that involves betrayal, sacrifice, and tragedy.  Earlier in David’s reign, there was a famine that lasted 3 years. David responds to this famine, recognizing it as discipline from God, by going to God in prayer. The reason God gave for the famine is because of Saul’s, the previous king, slaying of the Gibeonites – a people the Israelites had made a treaty with (Josh. 9:15-20). David goes to rectify the situation, and so the Gibeonites ask for seven of Saul’s male descendents to punish for Saul’s decisions. 

The seven descendents were handed over and killed. Heartbreakingly, Rizpah, the mother of two of the sons, goes to the place where her sons were killed and protected their bodies from the elements and birds from April to October. four months of a day-in-day-out vigil, through heat, cold, rain, and sun. Finally, David heard about what Rizpah had done, her love and dedication to her sons, and because of her actions, he decided to honor the memories of Saul and Jonathan – and Rizpah’s sons – by burying them in their family’s tomb. After all of this, the famine stops in the land. 

This story is hard to read, but it shows an important truth: Our legacy is determined by the small, everyday actions of our lives. Those small everyday actions build up into something that can make a profound impact on the lives of those that come after us. 

Because of Saul’s actions and his failure to consistently follow the law, he devastated the lives of both the Gibeonites and his own family. His legacy left a ripple effect of destruction that led to a famine in the entire land of Israel. That legacy of destruction was only stopped when another woman consistently showed love instead of violence, for both her sons and for God. Because of her actions, God answered the prayer for the land. 

What type of legacy are you building? How are you daily and consistently building up a legacy that honors God and provides hope and help to those around you?

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

The Money Trail

Acts 19

There is a saying with some truth to it that if you want to know about a matter – ‘follow the money’. This means if you look at the funding sources of a matter then you get a picture of who is pushing what (aka agenda) and who has financial gain or interest or conflict of interest in the matter. This is not a new concept, but rather, an old one. It is even present in Biblical times. The incident with Demetrius in Acts 19 is the perfect example.

Demetrius is a silversmith idol maker and has a good business going making a lot of money in Ephesus. He is afraid that the message that Paul is sharing that there is only one true God and that Jesus Christ is His son will plummet his sales in idols of Diana. Ephesus was known for its worship of the goddess Diana and the god Zeus. So he incited his fellow idol makers towards anger and malice towards Paul and the disciples in Ephesus. This snowballed into a riot where half the people didn’t even know what the issue was and just joined in rioting just because. (Sound familiar?) The authorities of the city knew that Paul and the disciples had done nothing wrong and had not stirred up this great rioting mob by anything they had done so they refused to bring them to court to try them. Ultimately Paul and the disciples decided to leave town and go somewhere else where they could share the gospel.

All of this is due to Demetrius and his fellow silversmiths being concerned that they would lose their livelihoods making shrines that they made a great profit from selling to the people. They were not interested in hearing or considering the truth – they were only concerned with the almighty dollar as we might say today. It is sad that the truth of the gospel couldn’t be openly shared in Ephesus because of a handful of greedy men. Does this happen today? In our time? You bet. The names and the livelihoods may be different but the situation still rears its ugly head. So …if you want to know about a matter ‘follow the money’ and you will find out a lot. More importantly follow Jesus and gain discernment about situations that arise. One will never go wrong when truly following Jesus.

-Pastor Merry Peterson

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 19-20 and Acts 19