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

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

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

Going with the Gospel

Around the World or Across the Street

Acts 18

It is interesting how some people basically stay in one place all their lives and others seem to travel about quite frequently. No one can accuse the apostle Paul of being a homebody! In Acts 18 we notice that Paul travels quite extensively staying in one place for a little while, and then traveling to another place. Sometimes the places he traveled to received the gospel message with readiness and welcomed him, and at other times he received more hostile treatment. Everywhere he went he shared the gospel message. About the first thing he would do each place he went was to go to the synagogue and teach there about Jesus being the promised Messiah and way to salvation.

Among his travels he met Priscilla and Aquila and they were strengthened in the faith. So much so that later when Paul travelled on to a new location without them they were able to teach another man named Apollos more clearly about the gospel. It seems whether near to home or far away these early Christians were ready and willing to share the message with whoever would listen and believe. They were truly ready to give an answer in season for the hope they held within them.

We should be ready and willing just as they were to give an answer for the hope that we hold within us. Whether God gives us the opportunity to travel from place to place, or whether He asks us to be the light within our own community. Our willingness should always be present, just as it was with the early Christians, to share the hope we have in Christ.

-Pastor Merry Peterson

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 17-18 and Acts 18

Do Your Homework

Eagerly Examine Every Day

Acts 17

Do you do your homework? This may seem like an odd question to be asking but that’s exactly what the people in Acts 17 were commended for doing. When Paul and Silas went to a place called Berea they were teaching the word of God to people in the synagogues. The people had never seen the scriptures in the light that Paul and Silas were teaching it to them, they had never recognized the truths that were being shared. So rather than just believe what they heard they went ahead and studied it in the scriptures for themselves to see if what Paul and Silas were saying was true. Essentially they were ‘doing their homework’. They found that what was being taught was true and so came to salvation. We refer to them as the Bereans. The term may sound familiar to you as many church youth groups have held the name Berean in their names. This is a reference to that noble group that studied the scriptures for themselves to see if what they were being taught was true.

In our society today there do not seem to be enough people who display Berean like qualities of ‘doing their homework’. Why were the Bereans noble – because they searched for the truth and they found it! Truth is important to us, but today the truth seems more, and more difficult to unearth. There are many newscasters, commentators, teachers, and yes preachers too who would all benefit from doing a little more homework before presenting information to the public. This would prevent a whole host of misinformation from circulating about. Many people would be better able to discern the truth if they did their homework. If you know the truth of a matter then you will less likely fall for anything false. We should all strive to be like the Bereans and desire to know the truth for ourselves, through diligent research especially when it comes to the word of God!

-Pastor Merry Peterson

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 15-16 and Acts 17

God Focused Response

Acts 16

There are so many things that I find interesting in Acts 16. Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia asking for him to come share the gospel with him. When they get to Macedonia to the region of Philippi they meet a woman who comes to belief along with her whole household. But what unfolds next is really fascinating. Paul and Silas get into a situation and end up being severely beaten and thrown into the inner holding rooms of the prison. But what I want us to notice is their reaction – they aren’t crying, they aren’t in there feeling sorry for themselves or busy being angry or muttering threats – they are Praying and Singing Hymns to God! What a contrary reaction to what everyone would expect!

If we were in that situation, sore, and bleeding, in a dark, inner, dingy room with criminals around us would we be that confident and flat out bold? We would more likely be in there feeling sorry for ourselves, scared out of our wits, and wanting desperately to call our lawyer or mom or anybody that could help us get out of there! But Paul & Silas’ response was God focused. By praying and singing hymns to God they were communicating with the one who has all power and authority to change and alter any and every situation. Who needs a lawyer when you have God on your side? God used the situation to open the hearts of the Philippian jailer and his household to hear and accept the gospel message. Paul and Silas were also released to go free from the prison where they were being held. When Paul and Silas exhibited the right response to their unfair situation God turned their situation around for His glory.

If we were to be bold and confident in the Lord and say within ourselves as the Psalmist did in Psalm 121:2 “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” And keep an attitude of worship, praise, and open communication with God in our trials; maybe we would stand in the same place of victory as Paul and Silas did. One of the biggest challenges that we face in our Christian walk is keeping the right attitudes when things don’t go our way or get difficult for us. I hope we are inspired by the actions of Paul and Silas and remember to communicate with the author of life and outcomes when we face our next difficult situation.

-Pastor Merry Peterson

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 13-14 and Acts 16

When the Good News is Misunderstood

Acts 14

There’s nothing quite like being misunderstood! Have you ever felt that way – misunderstood? It happens to all of us and usually things sort themselves out one way or another but being misunderstood really put the apostles in danger in Acts 14. Along with the gospel message that they were to share, God had given them a portion of His holy spirit to be able to work miracles in those who would believe. Innocently enough the apostles began to share the message and then a lame man was healed and made strong again in the presence of all the people. This could have resulted in many more coming to belief in Jesus but instead the miracle resulted in the people thinking that their false gods were responsible and that they were manifesting themselves in Barnabas and Paul.

Talk about misunderstanding! Barnabas and Paul were mortified that the people were attributing greatness to them and thought that their false gods had done the miracle instead of the Almighty God of heaven and Earth. It became such a terrible situation that they even dragged Paul out and stoned him! What a terrible misunderstanding.

Have we ever tried to share the gospel with someone or a group of people and it went terribly wrong – with people ending up with wrong ideas or wrong impressions of what you said or did? Just remember you are not alone – the disciples had the same experience. Thankfully in our day and age stoning has gone out of fashion but tabloid lies and rumors abound. Social media can quickly make or break people’s opinions and ideas whether they get the right idea or the wrong one! Speaking from experience I had something I said unfortunately taken in the wrong way on social media due to how I phrased my response – oh the backlash! Live and learn. We must season our lives with prayer and ask God to direct our words and actions so that they will be taken in the correct manner. My prayer is that we would always be understood clearly whenever it comes to the gospel so that the work of the Lord may abound.

-Merry Peterson

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 9-10 and Acts 14

Gaining God’s Guidance

Acts 13

I am continually amazed at the way God directed the steps of the apostles through the direction of His Holy Spirit in the days of the formation of the early church. The apostles had the message to share that through Jesus there was forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to the Father. They were given the opportunity to share this message in very public places and many came to believe in Jesus. Can you imagine speaking in one place and then being asked to speak again the following week and almost the whole town shows up?

We as Christians have been given the same message to share – that there is forgiveness for sin through Jesus Christ resulting in reconciliation with our heavenly Father God. This is the greatest message of hope there is. Do we share it as often as we can? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we were asked to share and a whole town full of people showed up and came to believe! We realize that the apostles were filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do amazing things, and make amazing inroads in the gentile world for the gospel of Christ to be shared and accepted. If we want to be successful like they were notice what they did at the very beginning of Acts chapter 13 – the men fasted and prayed for direction and it was given to them.

As we attempt to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world do we go about it in our own way or in God’s way. Do we remember to pray for God to lead us by His Holy Spirit to know where and when we are to share the message? Do we ask for the opportunity to share and do we ask for the correct words to say as the opportunity presents itself. The apostles were successful in their mission to share the gospel in Antioch because they had prepared the way ahead with prayer, and diligence to listen to where, and when God was directing them to speak. All of this leaves me wondering – would we be much more successful in our sharing of the Gospel if we spent more time in preparation with prayer and listening for God’s directives? Give it a try and see what happens!

-Pastor Merry Peterson

Pastor Merry Peterson lives in Ontario, Canada and pastors at Freedom In Christ Church.

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 7-8 and Acts 13

Prison Break

Acts 12

You know that feeling when things are going so well that you question if you’re dreaming? Maybe you ask someone nearby to pinch you or maybe you pinch yourself. Either way, this is the feeling I imagine Peter had the night before Herod was going to bring Peter to trial. I’d encourage you to listen to Acts 12. As you listen, visualize what this could have looked like. Go ahead and use a little bit of imagination, as we’re not given pictures to accompany the stories in the Bible. If I’m being honest, I sometimes forget that the Bible is a literary text, but this chapter allows me to pick out some details and things that make me consider the (historical) story, and smile.

I’ll mention a couple parts that I really like about this chapter, but other parts might jump out at you.

v. 7 – Peter must’ve been a heavy sleeper! First the angel appeared, with a light. That didn’t wake Peter, so the angel struck (or smote) him. A gentle, “Hey Peter, time to wake up” with a rub on the shoulder didn’t cut it…

v. 9 – Peter didn’t know what was happening. He thought it was a vision. I like how he follows the angel’s instructions though. I think this is a good example for us to follow. Even when we may be a little confused about what God wants us to do, we should still obey and follow through with whatever it is.

v. 11 – “Now I know without a doubt”. I like how confident Peter is at this point. Before he thought it could be a vision. Now he knows that this is real life, and this is all part of God’s plan.

v.14-16 – I understand Rhoda was excited, but it makes me giggle how she didn’t even open the door for Peter. She was so excited that Peter had to keep knocking! 🙂

I like this chapter a lot. I will be working at being confident while following God’s plan for me and I will work at being as excited as Rhoda about what God is doing in my (and others’) lives!

-Moriah Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 5-6 and Acts 12