The Time is Near

Revelation 1-3

It is very likely that at the time of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, he was the last living apostle of Christ.  In his final days, he was banished to the Greek island of Patmos for his preaching and prophesying, both viewed as ways of stirring up unwanted rebellion in the Roman Empire.  It is here that he is delivered a vision of final days before the return of Christ.  Of the men that followed Jesus, John may have had the least cruel fate. According to scripture or historical accounts, all had been killed – stoned, clubbed, crucified, beheaded, and speared – preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God, doing everything in their power to fulfill their commission (Acts 1:4-8) and reach the ends of the earth before the return of their friend and Savior. The disciples preached the Kingdom of God as something that would be seen by the generation they spoke to or the coming one. There was an extraordinary emergency to their message. And yet, 2000 years or so later, here we are.

I am reminded of my internal adolescent rebuttal when hearing Christ was coming soon — “If Jesus Christ has not come in the last 100 generations, why should I think that he will come in mine?” Through our reading this week, we will unpack the message of John and, like many before us, apply his words to the time and place that we live in.  We live in interesting times, but so have many generations before us.  They each had their own political unrest, plagues, and natural phenomenon.  With all the challenges of this year included, to live in the United States as a Christian is still pretty easy by comparison to many places in the world today, and most definitely effortless compared to the challenges faced by apostles of Christ.  For many of us, our ease of living has led us to share (or not) a complacent gospel.   This was already happening in the days of John; a symptom shared by many of the churches in Revelation 2 & 3.  As you read this week, consider the following to renew your sense of urgency to the Gospel message and reinstate Christ’s Kingdom as the centerpiece of your daily purpose:

1.   You are always a single breath away from the Kingdom of God.  No person knows the day or hour of his/her death. We must live our life to be found in Christ, not wait for signs of his return and scramble our way to grace.  The thing is, if you’re waiting for signs before you live out the Gospel, you will be distracted, diverted, or disconnected (Matt 25:1-13, Parable of the Ten Virgins).  “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” – James 4:13,14

2.  No one, except the Father, knows the day or the hour Christ returns.  The days before Christ arrival will be as in the days of Noah (Matt 24:38) –  people will be married, there will be parties, children will be born, parents will send their teens to college, couples will be building their dream homes, and many will be working hard to retire early (v.40-42).  Despite the best efforts of John to deliver his prophecy, many will be caught unaware of the harbingers of Christ’s return. Because of this, it is imperative we deliver the Gospel message wherever our feet are on the daily. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” – Matthew 24:36,37 

3. Many of the dramatic events that unfold in Revelation will happen within a single generation.  God has been working on His salvation plan since the foundations of the world (Col 1:16) with the culmination being (spoilers ahead) the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth.  According to the words of Jesus and the vision of John there are compounding and intensifying events as seals are opened and the wrath of God being poured out. Natural wonders, dramatic plagues, famines, wars, and a global political climate will feed off one another and spur along the intervention and return of Christ.  If this year has taught us one thing, it is how fast the world can change with some of these elements aligned; however, the ignition point for the return of Christ is already set.  There will be a fire that follows and it will consume quickly; the temperature need only rise a bit more. “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things <Matt 24:14-33> take place.” – Matthew 24:34

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” Revelation 1:3

-Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Revelation 1-3

Tomorrow we continue Revelation with chapters 4-8.

Times will be Tough; Keep the Faith!

2 Timothy 1-4

I wish I could tell you that after you are faithful, after you have lived a life dedicated to loving God and loving people, that everything is smooth sailing. I wish I could make and keep a promise that you will never get sick, never be poor, never be mocked, never be persecuted, for the faith that you have. But, the truth is that we live in a world full of sinful people, a world full of broken people. We may even be the cause of some of our pain. When the world gets tough, when life is hard, what are we supposed to do?


Paul addresses these questions in his second letter to Timothy that we have in scripture. We need to recognize that, when Paul is writing this letter, he is currently under arrest for his faith. He had spoken the name of Jesus and the Jews arrested him. Because he was a Roman citizen, he appealed to Caesar for his trial. Instead of walking free, he was bound, shipped around the Mediterranean, shipwrecked, and transported to Rome, where he was kept under house arrest. (Before, I thought house arrest didn’t sound bad, but 2020 lockdowns have drastically changed my mind.) In the midst of all this, everything that Paul is going through, his message to Timothy, a young pastor, is “Keep being faithful to the Gospel message.” Even though that message is the very thing that has Paul in chains, as he follows God’s will to be in Rome, Paul knows that the Gospel is the only source of life. The Gospel message of Jesus tells us about God’s Kingdom, both later over the whole world and in our hearts now, how to live as a citizen of that kingdom today, and how to be given eternal life in the future. No amount of suffering now can compare to the hope, peace, love and joy that come through the Kingdom Message. 


Paul notes to Timothy that this doesn’t make life easier. In 2 Timothy, we can almost hear the sadness in Paul’s words as he notes that his friends have left him. He’s not angrily ranting, but sadly noting that his entourage has turned into only the smallest, die-hard band. Moreover, Paul seems to know that his death is near (4:6-8). He is getting his affairs in order, even in case he dies before Timothy’s coming (4:9-15). He knows things are at the end. This is his farewell note before going to sleep.

So what does he say?


Teach others, Timothy! (2:2, 4:1-2) Paul wants the things that Timothy heard to be passed on to others, who will know the faith so well that they can pass it on to others. For the pastors reading this, this is CLEARLY meant for you (and me). If we are not teaching in order to create teachers, we are not doing the job he has called us to do. if you are not a pastor, there is still a calling for you in this. For our more mature readers, this is calling you to share your faith with others in such a way that it sinks down deep and molds people so that they will share their faith. And for those who are new to the faith, share your faith, but also seek out mature and faithful believers to see what they have to teach and offer you. Paul spoke to Timothy, AND TIMOTHY LISTENED TO, TRUSTED AND OBEYED PAUL. 


This is not giving everyone you meet a complex theological treatise. There is nothing wrong with complex theology; I’m a big fan myself. But Paul tells Timothy to keep the message simple to not wrangle over words or about things that don’t matter. (2:14, 16) Be FOCUSED on the things that matter because the days will get worse. You, Timothy, and you, reader, must be strong, because all those who desire to live holy lives, the best lives we can live, will be persecuted by those who don’t want to live that way. (3:12)


Finally, Paul lets Timothy know that there should not be despair at his “departure” (death). Paul knows who he is … and more importantly whose he is. Paul knows what awaits him at the coming of Christ. 
A Kingdom

A Heavenly Kingdom

A Kingdom that will come down from God on high and will last forever. 

Paul’s farewell letter is an ode to this Kingdom. He wants his Son in the Faith Timothy there. He wants those who have not yet heard the message there. His singular focus is glory to God through Jesus Christ. 


May you my brothers and sisters, be strong in the midst of difficult times. 

May you proclaim the faith boldly.

May you trust God, obey him, and serve him in his kingdom, now and forevermore. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Timothy 1-4.

Tomorrow we will read 2 Peter and Jude.

“Rome, we have a problem”

Daily Reading: Acts 27-28

A movie trailer gives us a taste of a film but by no means covers the depth of its entirety. When we read chunks of Scripture, it’s impossible to capture the fullness of its message in a short devotion. I hope that a short peek each day at a moment in each reading will tempt you to read the passage on your own and see what other plot twists you find!

Although Paul is the main character of the film, this trailer starts with a closeup of the Centurion.

A rugged soldier, captain of 100, standing on the deck of a ship at sea. He’s worried. A storm is brewing and as he looks to the man beside him, the man says, “You should have listened to me.” The man is not a sailor, he is a Jewish scholar and a prisoner, and he proceeds to instruct the Centurion how he can save everyone on board.

 “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”

Scenes flash across the screen of the Centurion cutting ropes in the blowing rain, Paul praying to God, the ship running aground a sandbar, soldiers arming to kill prisoners before they can escape, and the Centurion stepping in to protect Paul.

Dry and ashore the island of Malta, we watch, from the Centurion’s vantage point as Paul is bitten by a poisonous snake with no ill effects and as the islanders come to him to be healed. Music swells and we know that this is a story of changing perspectives and growing faith, and ours is growing right along with this hardened soldier’s.

Acts 28:16 says, When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.”  If I were writing this movie, I’d take some artistic license and that soldier would be the very same Centurion from the ship. It would make a great last shot, wouldn’t it?

Really, though, I wonder how this Centurion’s life was altered having made this trip with Paul. We’re told that his name was Julius, “When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius,” but not much else. The things that Julius saw and experienced must have changed him. They must have.

Along those lines, think of the ‘Centurions’ in your life. Those who live life in your peripheral. They might not be main characters, but they are on the sidelines. How is their life being altered having had you in it? What can you do to be more intentional about being a positive influence, planting a seed, showing a glimpse of the Father so that their story might be changed? 

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Acts 27-28

Tomorrow we read 2 of Paul’s letters – Colossians and Philemon.

Not a Blind Faith

Romans 1-3 (& Acts 20:1-3)

This is the first of 5 straight days going through the book of Romans.  That’s not much time for a book loaded with so many great refrigerator verses.  This is also my favorite book to read through, and something different stands out to me almost every time I read from it.  So my intent is to share one or two things that stood out to me THIS TIME from each section.

Romans 1:16 says, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

I hope you are not ashamed of the Gospel.  I do understand the temptation to be somewhat embarrassed or secretive of it.  Many of the ideas and truths in scripture are no longer “acceptable” in today’s progressive world.  That’s not really new, but it seems to be more true than ever before.  I think we also are often afraid of appearing foolish for believing many of the miraculous aspects of scripture, up to and including the existence of a Creator God.

1:17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.

We as believers must live by faith.  We have never seen God.  We did not witness the mighty miracles recorded in the Bible.  But thankfully, we do not have a blind faith that is not backed up by evidence.  We have had life changing experiences due to our decision to accept Christ.  We have had direct answers to prayers.  We have an abundance of historical documents and artifacts that confirm scripture.  We also have evidence of our faith all around us and even inside of us.

1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Simply put, we can know there is a Creator because we reside in His creation.  You can know there is a Creator because you are reading this right now, and YOU were created!  Well, at least that’s what scripture tells us.  But the secular world has different ideas, doesn’t it?  The secular world is only interested in what can be proven.  Or at least that is what they claim.  This is where the foolishness comes in.  We Christians are viewed as foolish for believing “a big guy in the sky” made everything in nature, when science has clearly shown that all living things have evolved from a common ancestor over millions of years.  Those who deny Darwinian evolution are mocked by its adherents.

Either the world was created or it wasn’t, and those who fall on the wrong side of belief in this area probably are foolish.  So which side does the actual evidence back?  As a side note, I have presented this very topic at churches and camps in the course of hours and sometimes days, so this is going to be a VERY abbreviated version of that.

As a Creationist, my confidence in the world being created is because everything actually appears to be created.  Staunch evolutionist Richard Dawkins even admits that (though he proposes that possibly aliens created our world).  Again, if everything appears to be created, then there is likely a Creator.

Perhaps the best evidence that living things specifically are created is the DNA found within every living cell of every living thing, including you.  This DNA is essentially a programming code, much like your computer uses, but DNA is much more complex.  Bill Gates has said that DNA is a more complex code or programming language than any of his best programmers could have created.  Languages and codes do not arise by chance, and to suggest otherwise is actual foolishness.  Beyond that, living cells themselves, as well as the systems that they combine to create, are so unbelievably complex, that they are beyond the law of probability to have evolved by chance.

So to believe in a Creator does still require faith, because we have not seen our Creator.  But it is not a blind faith, because we have ample evidence that we reside in His creation.

On the other hand, if you do not believe in a Creator, then you also must have a large amount of faith.  You must have faith that something can come from nothing (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is how big bang theorists imagine the universe started.  You must have faith that living things can come from non-living things (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is how most secular thinkers imagine life began.  And you must have faith that less complex organisms can become more complex over time, completely by chance (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is the essence of a belief in Darwinian evolution. 

Do not be ashamed of the faith that we hold dear.  It is indeed a faith-based belief system, but not a blind faith.  And keep in mind that those that do not share our faith have also been created by our Great God, and are also loved by Him.  If we have opportunities to share our faith and the reasons we believe with non-believers, I sure hope you will take them.  In the end, they will be without excuse if they have not accepted Christ, but what a shame it would be if they had an opportunity to hear truth from someone like you, and you passed on that opportunity.

-Greg Landry

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 20:1-3 and Romans 1-3.

Tomorrow we will continue with Romans 4-7.

Love others and tell them about Jesus

1 Corinthians 12-14

Happy December everyone!!

Most everyone following this blog has probably read through these passages today… each chapter could have its own devotional!  Within these we have the passage on Spiritual Gifts, we have the Love chapter, and we have one of the more argued and misinterpreted verses regarding women in the church – all in one day! 

The not so crazy thing about all these chapters is how at the heart of each of them, there is one message that prevails: Love others and tell them about Jesus.  Whether it is an outsider, a fellow believer, a spouse, or anyone you meet… we are told to show them love and tell them about Jesus.

When discussing the spiritual gifts Paul talks about the importance of each member of the body being placed exactly where God wants them (12:18) and remaining united within the Church (12:25).  I have usually heard these verses used to showcase why everyone is equally important within the Church and that you should never compare yourself or your gifts to someone else’s.  However, Paul gives a pecking order in verse 28: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages…   At first this can seem a little harsh, especially if you’re a helper or someone who speaks another language!  And it is harsh, if you stop reading there.

In chapter 14 Paul continues “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy.”  Paul is telling everyone that the main goal is to spread the message of Jesus, and love others.  He doesn’t say it’s bad to do any of the other tasks or fill other roles within the church, in fact in the previous chapter he describes at length why it is so important for everyone to be unique and do the work God intends for them.  What he is also saying here is that it is everyone’s mission to tell others about Jesus and the fact that he is coming back.  Just as every part of the body functions independently with the purpose of living daily, every part of the body of Christ must function independently with the message of the Kingdom coming.

This message continues even in chapter 14 verse 34, when Paul writes that the women of the church should be silent and submissive.  In these verses it is important to remember the historical context in which Paul is writing.  At this time, women did not hold places of leadership, and women did not *generally* have a role in proclaiming the message.  Additionally, the church in Corinth had women who struggled to act as godly women, partially because their husbands and other leaders in the church also struggled to live righteous lives.  I do not think that Paul is hating on the women, but rather explaining that when the church is struggling and in need of repair, the gossiping, adulterous, and unrighteous should not have a say in the direction of the church.  He is describing the importance of church leaders to be focused on the mission.

The call to prophesy is not one to be taken lightly, and Paul wants to make sure that the church understands that.  It is also one that the church is called to eagerly strive for, for the sake of the Kingdom.  Chapter 14 verse 24 reads “But if all are prophesying and some unbeliever or uninformed person comes in, he is convicted by all.  The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall facedown and worship God, proclaiming, ‘God is really among you.’”

Let that be our goal as the Church, that anyone who walks in will have no other inclination but to fall down in worship of our great God because of our focus on His mission! 

-Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 12-14.

Come back tomorrow as we together finish 1 Corinthians with chapters 15 & 16.

Watch Yourself – as you step outside

1 Corinthians 9-11

Remember when I said yesterday that the message about spreading the Good News was coming?  Well, we start slowly diving into that idea with these passages today. 

In chapter nine Paul discusses how he reaches outsiders… by becoming like them (9:20-22).  Did anyone else have to reread those verses a few times?  What apostle would tell people that they should become like the outsiders in order to reach them?!?  (Hint: Probably one who knew what he was talking about!)  Before we get too worked up, let’s look at what was really being written here:

Paul wasn’t saying that we need to go out and change our lifestyles to match the sins of the world, and then try to convince them that a godly lifestyle is better.  Rather, Paul is saying that in order to reach people on the outside, we must actually go out and meet people where they’re at.  As the Church, we cannot expect to sit high and mighty in a physical building and still reach the lost.  We must go out, find those people on the outside, and witness to them from a humble perspective that understands how desperately we need the same message of grace and hope that they do. 

Within these chapters Paul does not let the Corinthians forget to think introspectively.  In fact, he spins it to describe the importance of checking on our own faith life to continue in our mission.  Chapter nine verse 27 reads “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I will not be disqualified.” And chapter 10 verse 12 reads “So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.” And finally, chapter 11 verse 28 says “So a man should examine himself [before] he should eat the bread and drink from the cup.”.  All these verses are essentially Paul saying “Check yourself before you wreck yourself!” Which is completely valid!  As the Church goes out into the world to reach those outsiders the temptation and draw away from righteousness is greater than if we only surround ourselves with like-minded people.  Without taking time to focus on our own faith life, we will be just as ineffective in spreading the Word as if we did not go out in the first place.

The other idea that Paul writes about in these chapters is how the body of believers must respect one another and stay focused on what really matters.  “No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person.” (10:24) I think it is pretty clearly laid out here; put others first!  In chapter 10 Paul is touching on the disagreements that came up related to what the believers were eating, in chapter 11 it was on what the women were wearing while praying.  In both these areas, essentially Paul is saying, “It doesn’t matter as long as they aren’t going against God!”.  Sometimes the Church can get wrapped up in those little disagreements and start to divide over things that will not matter in the Kingdom, which is why Paul tells us that “whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” (10:31) When we can recognize what issues in the Church truly matter, the body is built up and can refocus on their main mission of reaching those on the outside.

Today, take time to evaluate your own walk of faith.  See where you can come closer to God while still being closer to those on the outside.  Reflect on your local church and see which little issues you can set aside for the sake of the Kingdom. 

I’m excited for our next few chapters as we talk about the importance of each member in the Church!

Happy Monday everyone!

Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 9-11.

Tomorrow we will continue with chapters 12-14.

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.

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.

Share Jesus – at all costs

Acts 4-6

            Earlier this year, in June, I experienced a first.  Let me walk you through the moment.  I was preaching at the North Hills Church of God in Springfield, Ohio, as I do every Sunday.  At this point in time, our church chose to worship outside because there were a lot of unknowns of the Coronavirus.  There were very strict rules in place to help prohibit the spread of the virus.  During my message, a police officer slowly pulled through our long driveway and checked what was taking place.  For a split second, I thought that I was maybe going to get in trouble for hosting a large group gathering.  I thought I could get in trouble for preaching to a group of people.  It was the first time in my life that I ever wondered whether or not I would get in trouble with preaching God’s Word.

            To say that we have it pretty easy in the United States is quite the understatement.  I praise God that we have the freedom to share God’s Word with others without even having the fear of being persecuted.  I have spent all of maybe 5 seconds in my life thinking that I could get in trouble/persecuted for sharing God’s word.  If I had to guess, I would say that most people reading this would have a similar experience to myself.  There are people today who do not have this luxury, and this was especially true in the book of Acts

            In Acts chapter 4, our heroes, Peter and John, were sharing God’s Word with others.  When they did this, they were arrested and presented before the Jewish council.  The council questioned Peter and John, and the council commanded them to no longer share the good news about Jesus and remain silent.

            I absolutely love Peter and John’s reply to this command to remain silent: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard,” (Acts 4:19,20).  Burn baby to you, council!  Peter and John made it obvious to the council, that they must listen to the voice of God over the voice of men.  They had to preach the good news of Jesus, for that is what God wanted them to do, not the council.  Peter and John did not care what the consequences would be for preaching about Jesus.

            Peter and John were eventually released after receiving more threats from the council.  Word got out of what had taken place to Peter and John.  The Christ followers responded by praying to God for boldness.  The early Christ followers did not succumb to the external pressures of the world.  Rather, they prayed to God and came together as one to share this radical message of the Messiah.

            These Jesus followers gave their all to further spread this message.  They were even willing to contribute all of their possessions to spread the knowledge of Jesus the Messiah, and that is literally what they did.  They pooled all of their possessions together for the good of the gospel message (outside of a few greedy people *cough* Ananias and Sapphira *cough*).

            My oh my!  Imagine what good we could accomplish today if we had the same mindset of the Jesus followers in Acts.  These people had no cares in the world what would happen to them for sharing the gospel message, even though the threat was very real and evident.  All they did was pray for more boldness, and it didn’t stop with just their voices either.  They were willing to give all of their possessions to help spread this gospel message.

            What great examples these early Jesus followers provide for us today.  In comparison, today, we seem to be a whole lot more reserved in our approach to spread this gospel message.  Maybe we should take a note from the early church and take some more extreme measures in our life to spread the gospel message.  If we do, God can work so many wonderful wonders in and through us. 

            Be bold and give it all to God!

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 4-6

Tomorrow we continue the exciting, inspiring historical account of the early church with Acts 7-8. Come read along!