How to be an Apollos

Acts 18:19 – 19:41


Because the book of Acts spends a great deal of time tracking the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, it’s easy to overlook others who only have a few verses written about them, but they played a significant part in the spread of the Gospel. One of these is a man named Apollos.  

We meet up with Apollos in Ephesus and immediately we are informed of his cultural background, his hometown, and his status in regards to his knowledge of the Scriptures. We know that he was enthusiastic about continuing his own understanding as evidenced by his time spent with Priscilla and Aquila. We read that Apollos is very enthusiastic and bold about sharing the Gospel to other Jews. And if we take a sneak peak in 1 Corinthians 3: 4-5, we see that his influence of converting believers is compared to Paul! Wow!


So what can we apply to our own lives just off of these verses at the end of Acts 18? 


1 – We each need to be reading and studying Scripture regularly. If you’re reading this blog post, chances are…you do this already! Great! If digging into Scripture isn’t a consistent habit you have in place – ask yourself how you can restructure just a portion of your day to include an infusion of the Word. I know a couple of people who have found that listening to the Bible while on their way to or from work or school has made a difference. Try it out! You might like it! 


2- Be willing to continually learn more about the Word of God from others who have been around a while. And if you’re one who has experience living a Christian lifestyle, make sure that you are connecting and investing in others’ spiritual walks. When Apollos met up with Priscilla and Aquila, he only knew about the baptism of John. After spending time with the couple, Apollos’ ministry became even more influential. This could be you! 


3 – Acts 18:28 states that “Apollos vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate”. If you’re on any kind of social media platform, I’m sure that you’ve witnessed hotly contested debates in the last few months over a variety of issues and I am certainly not advocating for that in regards to faith-based ideas. Instead, think about it this way: Apollos was ready to give a logical response to those who asked questions. AND he was prepared to thoughtfully challenge (I’m sure in a calm and respectful manner) others’ thinking. We must also be prepared to do the same. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” If the situation ever presented itself, could you share your testimony of how and why you became a child of the Most High God? If not, spend some time thinking about what you would say…you never know when you might be asked to share your story. 


Apollos, while not as prolific as the apostle Paul, had incredible influence over the spread of the Gospel of Christ. You and I can also lead consequential lives in which our love for God and His love for us is shared with others. To be effective, we must continue to study Scripture, learn from others, and be prepared to speak boldly. This is what makes us modern day disciples of Christ. 

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 18:19-19:41.

Tomorrow we will finish the week with the beginning of 1st Corinthians (chapters 1-4).

Do Not be Silent

Acts 17-18:17

Acts 18:9-10 – One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”


Paul’s missionary journey has led him to Thessalonica where he spent a few weeks teaching in the synagogue but was eventually run out of town, but not before some were persuaded to believe and be saved. His escape took him to the next town of Berea, where again, the Thessalonicans caught up to Paul and he had to make a sneaky escape. He landed in Athens, a place known for philosophy. And while a few people accepted the gospel that Paul preached, others sneered at his message and so he continued his journey to Corinth. 
Corinth had a reputation. All kinds of sexually immoral practices existed in this place and yet, this is where Paul received a vision and was told “I have many people in this city”. Isn’t it just like God to take what many would consider the least likely of people and bring them into a relationship with himself. 


Let’s remember something – we are all the least likely of people. There is nothing that I have done that makes me worthy of God’s love, mercy, and grace. It’s not my cultural heritage. It’s not my level of intelligence or my financial standing. It’s not who I know or what I do. It’s only by the gift of Jesus’ atoning death on a cross that I can even be in a relationship with God. 


Too many people today believe that they have to “get right with God” before they can attend church or pray or be of use for service. Too many believers avoid interacting with non-believers because they fear the Gospel message (or more likely they themselves) will be mocked, rejected or persecuted. 


Sometimes God gives us opportunities to associate and fellowship with other believers so that we can build one another up. Other times, God invites us into the messy lives of non-believers so that we can show them that God loves all of us exactly where we are. And then there are other times, when God provides opportunities for us to invest in others’ messy lives long term to really show them what a life serving God is all about.  


As we read about Paul’s journey, we can appreciate that Paul made himself available to God’s leading, even staying for a year and a half in a city that was full of immoral practices because it was ripe for a spiritual harvest. Wherever God has you today, “Do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent” and look for the spiritual harvest. 

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 17:1-18:17.

Tomorrow we read 1st & 2nd Thessalonians.

Where He Leads

Acts 15-16


When I started my teaching career 24 years ago, I had no idea that I would spend two and half decades in the same district. I only agreed to the original interview because I thought that it would be good practice for interviews with school districts that were better funded and closer to where I wanted to live. But through the years, I have had amazing students, super supportive principals and supervisors, and colleagues who have become my closest friends. 


There have been times where I sought other jobs outside my district. The crazy thing is that I have never had an invitation to interview for those other positions. Now either I have a highly inflated self-perspective of my skills, or I don’t know how to complete and submit an application, or just maybe, God wants me to stay where I am. 


So I can relate a little bit to Paul in Acts 16 when he realizes that he’s not supposed to go into Asia but rather head up to Macedonia.


Can you imagine setting out on a road trip and not really knowing for sure where you’ll end up?


It makes sense to pray and seek wisdom and discernment before making major life decisions. But this is how God wants us to live our day-to-day lives too. Yes, dreaming up plans, setting goals, and creating task lists are good things to do, but it’s also important to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Asking God to help determine the best use of your time each week, each day, is a good way to practice your listening skills and hone your sensitivity to God’s direction. 


As we go about this week, pause and think about what you already have on your calendar of things to do and places to be at and people to meet up with. Does any of that need to be revised? Does something need to be removed or added? Do you have enough margin in your day-to-day that you can spontaneously respond to God’s leading? 


If nothing specific comes to mind or your days and week go pretty closely as you expected, that’s okay too. What really matters is that you sought God. You took time to listen and you were willing to act on his call. That’s the kind of heart God desires.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 15-16

Tomorrow we will read Galatians 1-3.

Passion for God’s Word

Acts 13-14

Today, we pick back up with Paul, and we have yet to mention his main companion that shows up in chapters 13 and 14 – Barnabas.  Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement”, as he was an encourager to those around him.  Barnabas travelled with Paul frequently when Paul would go to a different region to share the gospel message.  They mostly got along great and accomplished a lot, but they did reach a disagreement down the road.  Barnabas wanted to take his cousin, Mark, with them during one of their missionary journeys, but Paul did not since Mark abandoned them on a previous trip.  We are getting ahead of ourselves a bit here though, so let’s rewind to chapter 13.

            In chapter 13 of Acts, Paul and Barnabas set sail and visited a couple of places, most notably Cyprus and Antioch.  It was at these different locations that they took advantage of their opportunity to share God’s message with others.  It’s important to note that some places that they traveled to the gospel message already was presented and spread a bit, as they weren’t the only ones around spreading this gospel message.  However, they were certainly instrumental in furthering the spread.

            In verses 16-41 of chapter 13, Paul delivers a message to the people on the Sabbath.  At the conclusion of this message that he presented, “the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath,” (Acts 13:42).  From a preacher’s perspective, this would be a dream come true!  The people were so eager to hear the gospel message that they BEGGED!  They didn’t just ask or hope or want, but they BEGGED to hear the gospel message.  When was the last time that you were so eager to hear God’s message being shared?  For most of us, it probably has been a while.  Somehow, someway we need to find that passion again for God’s Word.  Pray to God today, that he would fill your heart with a passion and desire to dig deeper into His Word.  That would be a great place to start.

            We fast forward a week from Paul’s message in verses 16-41, and we arrive at the next Sabbath in verse 44.  Verse 44 reads, “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord,” (Acts 13:44).  How awesome would that be?!  The week prior, the people begged to hear more of God’s word being spoken, as they had so much excitement.  It is evident that they didn’t contain their excitement to themselves.  Apparently, their passion for God’s Word drove them to share with their friends and family about the word of God that they just listened to.

            It’s a general notion that word of mouth is the best mode of advertisement.  The group who listened to Paul’s first message did a great job of advertising to others by word of mouth.  This proved to be extremely effective, as almost the whole city showed up the following week.  This serves as a good reminder for us to advertise God’s Word by word of mouth with our friends and family.  When was the last time that you shared a bit of God’s Word with someone who is not an active believer?

            Paul continued to gain a following in the different locations that he traveled to.  On the other hand, though, his adversaries were continuing to grow.  In chapter 14, Paul was stoned nearly to death for his faith and his part in spreading the gospel message.  My mind cannot stop thinking about the differences in how the early Christians were persecuted versus how we are persecuted (or the lack thereof) today in America.  I’m grateful that we don’t have to experience some of the trials and tribulations that the likes of Paul went through.  However, I can only imagine how much more serious we would take our faith if we had to physically risk our lives in order to share the gospel message with others.  Something for you to ponder.

            We continue to see the great works of some of the heroes of our faith in Acts.  I hope that these great heroes, such as Paul and Barnabas, serve as an encouragement and lesson for all of us.  God bless.

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 13-14.

Tomorrow we will read James 1-5.

God’s Work & Way

Acts 11-12

The past couple of days we have really focused on Saul/Paul, and for very good reason!  Today, we get to highlight another very important figure in the New Testament – Peter.  Peter was seen as one of the pillars of this new Christian movement in the city of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem served as the central hub for the Jews.  Therefore, it served as a central hub for the Christians as well, as many of the Jesus followers were simply Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah they had been looking forward to for so long.  Peter was instrumental to share this news with other Jews.

            In chapter 11, Peter went up to Jerusalem.  When he arrived to Jerusalem, he received a lot of flak for eating with and associating with the uncircumcised.  Jews were circumcised, as they followed the law of Moses.  Therefore, Jews did not want to be seen around those who were uncircumcised, but Peter ate with them regardless.  Sounds like Peter learned some lessons from his teacher – Jesus.  Peter shared how the uncircumcised Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit, so who was he to stand in God’s way?

            While Jerusalem was the central hub, we see in chapter 11 that many people who believed in Jesus as the Messiah dispersed because of the persecution.  This was quite common as the early Jesus followers received persecution from non-believing Jews and from the Roman Empire.  Some of the Jesus followers escaped to Antioch, and it was there that the disciples were first called “Christians”.

            In chapter 12, we see more persecution of this Christian movement.  This time, the persecution was directed against two key leaders and figures – James and Peter.  James (the brother of John, not Jesus) was killed at the hands of the treacherous King Herod.  While Herod was at it, he decided to arrest Peter because the Jews were pleased with Herod’s persecution of the Christians.  Evil!  Herod wasn’t able to persecute the Christians for much longer though, as God struck him down and killed him.

            Peter, fortunately, did not spend too much time in prison, as he broke out.  God sent an angel of the Lord to help Peter break out.  This was a semi-common theme in the New Testament of early Christians breaking out of prison, thanks to God.  After breaking out, he was then able to go meet with John, and the mother of John.  What an emotional instance that must have been.

            Praise God for leaders like Peter and James who were willing to suffer for the sake of God and his Son Jesus.  We could see more of this attitude today in 2020.  There is certainly much to take away from their relentless attitude of spreading the gospel message.  

-Kyle McClain


Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 11-12

Tomorrow we will continue with Acts 13-14.

Do You Believe Jesus is Alive?

FREE THEME DAYS: Evidence for the Risen Jesus

Acts 1

Acts 1 3

Over the next few days, I have been given free reign to focus on any portion of scripture. However, I am going to hop around a bit, focusing on a theme: evidence for the risen Jesus.   (And on Sunday our devotions will continue our chapter-by-chapter walk through the New Testament with the book of 1st Corinthians.)
We just celebrated Easter/Resurrection Sunday. This is the most important, most key and most crucial story to what it means to be a believer in Jesus. If Jesus is not raised from the dead: Christmas is little more than a nice story, his teachings are little more than nice words, and his death is little more than a sad story of injustice. BUT, if Jesus was raised to life, never more to die, it means that God put his seal of approval on Christ. Christmas becomes the birth of the Savior, his teachings are divinely given mandates from the best of all possible prophets, and his death is a sacrifice for sin and a ransom from evil/Evil.
Many people in our world today doubt all sorts of miracles. They question the Exodus story due to the “outlandish” claims about the Nile turning to blood or the parting of the sea. They question the stories of creation: was the Earth created in six literal 24 hour days six thousand years ago or through a gradual process involving billions of years? Did Jesus REALLY feed 5,000 people with some fish and some bread, or did they share with one another and no one was left hungry? All of these are interesting questions, and different theological beliefs and convictions lead to various answers.* However, as noted above, CHRIST’S RESURRECTION  is not incidental to the story of the Bible; the Bible IS THE STORY OF THE LIFE, DEATH AND NEW LIFE OF CHRIST. That is God’s Central theme in the pages of Scripture. It gets us to Jesus or points back to him. Jesus, then, connects us to God. Therefore, whatever we believe about other miracles, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is essential.
Which is why Acts 1 was included in Scripture.
READ ACTS 1!
What is so interesting about it is that Christ doesn’t appear to one guy in a room with the door closed (we could chalk that up to lying or insanity). He doesn’t even appear to just the twelve. There are anywhere from 120 (Acts 1:15) to 500 (1 Cor. 15:6) witnesses who saw Jesus resurrected, walking around preaching and teaching and convincing them that He was real and not a figment of their imagination.
Were the disciples crazy? Scripture shows their flaws but none of them would have been delusional.
Were the disciples lying? That could have been refuted easily and wouldn’t they have quickly given up the story and admitted the lie. (We are getting ahead of ourselves, stay tuned.)
The important point to make is pretty clear. Jesus began a movement. The movement didn’t end with his death, but continued on far afterwards, presumably with him coming back to life. Over and over, this has been confirmed in the pages of Scripture and in the lives of believers. When I ask, “Do you believe Jesus is alive?” I am really asking three question.
Is scripture trustworthy about its claims? If yes, then we must believe Jesus is alive.
Are believers trustworthy about their claims? If yes, then we should trust scripture, and should believe that Jesus is alive.
Have you experienced Jesus? If yes, then tell others that Jesus is alive.
So, do you believe Jesus is alive?
-Jake Ballard
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*For my part, I think when the Bible tells a narrative, we should trust the narrative to be historically accurate, and when it tells poetry and myths, we don’t hold poetry and myths to that same standard. That discussion takes a lot to unpack… if you are intrigued, be on the lookout for a Young Adult Class coming to FUEL this Summer!

The Cliffhanger

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Acts 28

Starting with the arrest of Paul in chapter 21, Luke has been steering his readers to a grand finale, where Paul will finally stand in front of the most powerful man in the world to give his testimony. The Apostle endured conspiracies against his life, corruption in government, and finally storms at sea to make it to Rome. Paul was willing to go through all this because he had a clear vision and purpose for his life and knew Rome was where God wanted him to be and the Emperor was who God wanted him to see.

But the conclusion Luke had been building towards is suddenly cut short with Paul under house arrest. We’re not told if he ever got the chance to defend his case before the Emperor, but we can be confident that he did since God said he would. Though exactly how it came about or what happened after is a mystery. There are traditions that say he was acquitted and then brought the Gospel to Spain, but Luke doesn’t confirm or deny it. He just closes his book with a cliffhanger.
So what are we to take away from this saga with the abrupt and unresolved ending and why would Luke decide to leave it the way he did?
Luke began the Book of Acts by reporting the last interactions Jesus had with his disciples before he ascended. He told them that they would be his witnesses in their local regions and then throughout the world. Luke then proceeded to show his readers how the disciples went about doing this. But he left his story open-ended, and he did all this for a reason.
The Acts of the Apostles is about how the disciples carried out the Great Commission and it is left unresolved because the story wasn’t supposed to end with Paul in Rome, it was supposed to progress with disciples continuing to fulfill the final instructions of Jesus. And it did. The reason you’re reading this now is that the witnessing has endured to this day. And it will continue so long as people like you and me keep spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
So don’t worry about this cliffhanger. The final resolution will come when Jesus himself returns to see the fruit of his disciples’ labor and to establish the Kingdom they represent. Until then, we must maintain the work that was started in Christ and continued with his disciples. May the perseverance and commitment of Paul and the rest of the Apostles act as an example for you on your journey and encourage you to remain faithful in the advancement of the Great Commission.
-Joel Fletcher

The Long Journey to Rome

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Acts 27

Today it only takes a few hours to travel from the Holy Land to Rome. A non-stop plane ticket costs just a few hundred bucks. For a couple of hundred more, you can get upgraded to first class. That sounds rather nice–flying over the beautiful Mediterranean sea, being waited on hand and foot, heading to the former center of the Roman empire to take in the sights and sounds of this majestic ancient city.
For Paul, though, the journey was not so short…or luxurious. And it certainly wasn’t non-stop. The trek to Rome included a slew of problems for this man from Tarsus and his companions, such as a snakebite, a shipwreck, and a plan to slaughter prisoners. What happened during this voyage would have tested the most experienced seafarer. But throughout the storms and chaos, Paul remained calm and determined. When others had lost hope and were filled with fear, the Apostle took charge and restored order.
Paul was able to remain composed and didn’t cave to fear because of where he placed his trust. He had been informed by the Lord that he would make it to Rome to testify there and he believed this wholeheartedly. God had been faithful thus far and Paul knew this would continue. After all, he did write the words of Romans 8:28.
“We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him. They are the ones God has chosen for his purpose.” – Romans 8:28 (CEV)
God has a plan. From the Bible, we can gain a general understanding of it. We can see how He has worked in history and what He intends to do in the future. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult for us to see where we fit in the grand scheme of things or how God can work in us. God used Paul as an instrument for His glorious plan. It wasn’t because he was special that God chose to employ Paul as His messenger to the Gentiles; he was special only because he was chosen. We don’t have to be special for God to use us either (which is a good thing…because we’re not).
Paul found himself on that arduous adventure because he was doing work for God. If we are going to be active followers of Christ and productive promoters of his Good News, sometimes we’re going to find ourselves in difficult situations as well. But we, like Paul, can have courage knowing the plan God has for the future and confidence because we are doing His will.
-Joel Fletcher

Paul Speaks Freely

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Acts 26

Because of his appeal to Caesar in chapter 25, Paul was guaranteed his next trial would take place in Rome. So when Paul stood before King Agrippa and other dignitaries, he wasn’t required to defend himself or give testimony. Having said that, Paul wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to witness about the works God had performed in his life–this was one of his life’s missions. So Paul, being able to speak freely, gave his most passionate testimony yet.
There are three things we should learn about apologetics (defending the Christian faith) from Paul’s final defense before he headed to Rome.

1. Know Your Stuff.

Although Festus called Paul crazy, he recognized him as a man of great understanding. Going back to his days as a Pharisee, Paul demonstrated his great zeal for truth and reason. He didn’t lose this enthusiasm when he became a follower of Jesus, he refocused it. Paul knew the Hebrew sacred writings better than anyone and was a master at reconciling the long-held truths of Scripture with his new-found recognition of Jesus as Messiah. Paul was also well learned in the other philosophies and religions of the day. This is most clearly seen in his visit to Mars Hill.
If we are going to be able to defend our faith, we must be knowledgable of both the ideas of Scripture and those contrary to them.

2. Live Above Reproach.

One of the most common critiques leveled against Christianity today is that its adherents are hypocrites. Nothing ruins credibility more effectively than saying one thing then doing the opposite. The Jews had quite a difficult time trying to get charges against Paul to stick. As has been mentioned before, Paul strived to live life with a clear conscience. So in order to discredit and disgrace Paul, the religious leaders had to contrive charges against him.
To be an effective witness and apologist for the Christian faith, we must also strive to live with a clear conscience.

3. Be Positive.

Another issue some have with Christians is that they can be too harsh when talking about their faith. Street preachers and picketers are tuned out and labeled as unfriendly fanatics (or worse) by passersby. Sadly, they are the only representatives of Christ some people every meet.
When Jesus was harsh it was with those who should known better (the religious elite). When Paul was trying to convince unbelievers of the wonderful nature of the Good News, he would do so in a positive way–highlighting things like the resurrection, the power of God, and the mercy He extends to sinners.
The truth is that there are certain tenets of Christianity that non-believers don’t like. When witnessing we should focus on the recognized positives of the faith that appeal to most people–mercy, justice, eternal life, etc. Once people start understanding things like the nature of God and morality, then we can start discussing the perceived negative doctrines of Christianity.
Paul was knowledgeable, had a clear conscience, and was positive when defending his faith and promoting the Good News. The power of the Gospel message is amazing and life-changing. If we want to further its reach and be better able to defend it, we must follow these three principles from Paul.
-Joel Fletcher

Paul Exercised His Privilege And So Can You

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Acts 25

In chapter 16, we found out that Paul was a Roman citizen. Being a citizen of this vast empire was a great privilege. There were only two ways to gain Roman citizenship; you could either purchase it (something only the rich could afford to do), or be lucky enough to inherit it from your parents when you were born. Paul was born a Roman citizen.
The reason why you would want to be a Roman citizen in the first century is that they were given rights others were not guaranteed. The rights to marry another Roman citizen, to sue and to be sued, to have a legal trial, and to not be crucified were just some of the benefits offered to those privileged enough be Roman citizens.
As we saw in chapter 21, Paul had already used his citizenship to get out of being flogged (Romans, legally, could not be tortured or whipped). In chapter 25 Paul exercised another of his rights–the right to appeal to Caesar. Paul knew that if he was brought back to Jerusalem, the men that had pledged to kill him would probably succeed. He also knew that he had to get to Rome to testify there. Thus Paul used his privilege to get to where he needed to go, so he could do what he was required to do (though, as we shall see in the coming chapters, this journey would not be an easy one).
If you were born in the West (especially the United States), you, like Paul, are privileged. You have rights like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. But there are many parts of the world today where these rights that are taken for granted are only the ideals of dreamers. There are Christians throughout the world who have to look over their shoulder as they travel to church (if a public place of worship is even allowed) and others who are worshiping with the knowledge that every gathering may easily be their last.
There is another privilege you share with Paul: you are a citizen of Heaven. This citizenship cannot be purchased or inherited. It is not exclusive. The Kingdom of Heaven (or, Kingdom of God) is open to anyone. The poor and the rich, the weak and the strong, the lost and the found are all welcome. The cost of this privilege was paid for by God with the blood of His Son. It is offered to any who will receive it.
Paul was first and foremost a citizen of Heaven. He lived his life devoted to advancing the Kingdom and the One who will establish it in its fullness. The rights his Roman citizenship granted him were nothing compared to those his Lord did. That being said, Paul exercised his privilege as a Roman in order to promote God’s Kingdom as a Christian. He wanted to make sure as many people as possible would become citizens of the Kingdom. You also can use your rights as a citizen of your country to further the cause of the Kingdom. Exercise your earthly privileges in a way that leads others to receive heavenly ones.
-Joel Fletcher