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.

Why, God?

Habakkuk 1-3

Habakkuk 1 3 NIV sgl

It is a common question asked through the ages, “Why, God?”  Why do the wicked succeed?  Why do the violent survive?  Why is there injustice in the nation and even in the courts?  Why, God?  Why?

Habakkuk had the same questions.  He lived during the “end” days of Judah, before the Babylonian captivity we have read about the last 2 days.  He had a heart for God and sought to do what was right.  But, what about everyone else?  He was outnumbered, “The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:4 NLT).  And that can be a hard place to be.  Where right has become wrong and wrong has become right.  And, where was God?  Why was God not taking action to right the wrongs, punish the evil and make things right?

God answered Habakkuk, but it certainly wasn’t the answer he was expecting or wanting.  God did see the evil, violence and injustice. and he was taking care of matters – in His time and His way.  He revealed to Habakkuk that He was preparing the wicked, idolatrous Babylonian neighbors to the north to bring God’s judgment on Judah.  Wait, a minute, God – they are even worse than us!  That’s not fair!

If God had a penny for every time He heard that line – but, He owns everything already.

He doesn’t need your penny – or your advice.  God doesn’t need to be understood by His creation.  But we would be wise to accept His sovereignty, as Habakkuk did.  Even when faced with answers He didn’t fully understand or like, Habakkuk realized and accepted that God was in control.  He would punish Judah – and then Babylon – when and how He wanted.  And, He would show His power, His patience, His justice, His grace, and His love when and how He saw fit.  God’s people can rest in that knowledge.  There is a lot we don’t have to know or understand – a lot of “why’s” we can’t answer.  But we can rest in knowing that God knows.  He knows.  He sees.  He’s got this.  He is working out all things.  We can bolster our faith and reliance on God’s way by joining with Habakkuk as He proclaims:

I heard and my heart pounded,
    my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
    and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
    to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:16-19 NIV

 

In our questioning, in our fear, in our uncertainty – yet we will wait patiently for God.  He WILL set things straight.  His perfect judgment is coming.  Until then, wait and rejoice in God our Savior – He is our strength.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at Habakkuk 1-3

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 41-45 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

How to Avoid Belly Aches

Prov 21 2

I’ve always worked around construction sites. From the age of 5, my dad would have me help where I could and talk to the workers. I remember when I was 8 I saw a brickmason with what I thought was candy and asked for a piece. What he had was a can of tobacco but as an 8 yr. old I was convinced I was right because I was 8 and knew everything. Some of us never grow out of this and religious people are no different.

The Pharisees, Saul, David, and others thought they were right. Proverbs 16:2 says, “All a person’s ways seem right to them but motives are weighed by God.” And just in case you’re like me, Solomon says something similar in 21:2. How do we, as believers, keep our motives pure. Proverbs 3:5,6 says to lean on God and not on our understanding and he will make straight paths for us. We do this by reading God’s words: Psalms 12:6 says God’s word is flawless. The Psalms and Proverbs are big on that theme. In Hebrews 4:12 we see God’s word is active and when used, judges our thoughts so that, if we aren’t stubborn, we can make Godly choices.

At 43, I can still channel my 8 yr. old self. After so many times of telling the brickmason I was right, my dad said let him have one. I swallowed that and got sick for the next 30 min, but never have tried that again. I pray that today we acknowledge God first and his word and live by the Spirit that brings life. Try his word today and avoid some of the “belly aches” that come from thinking we have the answers. God bless you.

-Joseph Partain

Turn Away and Live

Sunday

Acts 3-19

No matter who you are, everyone has a cause or topic that they are passionate about, whether it be about social concerns, politics, or sports teams. I too am zealous for a particular topic: the gospel. For many years I thought I knew about the gospel, until I attended Atlanta Bible College, where for the first time in my life I read for myself how the New Testament described the message that is central to the Christian faith. However, I soon realized that many professing Christians were confused or ignorant about the gospel that our New Testament teaches. This is the inspiration behind this week’s devotions.

The components to the gospel message are: repentance, the kingdom of God, the cross, the resurrection, and obedience. Nobody, including yourself, has to possess a full scholarly understanding of each topic, but some knowledge of each is essential. The first component we’ll look at today is repentance.

Repentance is a word not used commonly today; however, it is widespread in the Bible. To repent is turn away from an aspect of your life that is not godly and pursue God’s way. Repentance is not a feeling and it’s not something you say. Repentance is action. The very first word of Jesus’ public ministry was “repent”:

 

“From that time Jesus began to preach and say “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – Matt. 4.17

 

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” – Mk. 1.15

 

Jesus speaks of repentance elsewhere in the gospels:

 

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” – Lk. 5.32

 

“I tell you in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” – Lk. 15.7

 

“I tell you no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” – Lk. 13.3

 

The desire of Jesus, is for those who hear his words to repent of their sin and turn to God. Repentance is intimately tied with the kingdom of God, which we’ll look at tomorrow. The reason a person should repent is because the kingdom is coming. An event when all evil will end and evil doers will be done away with (Rev. 21.8).

 

 

Forgiveness and repentance are sometimes confused as being the same thing, however they’re not. Take for example two sermons Peter preaches in the book of Acts:

 

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy spirit” – Acts 2.38

 

“Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” – Acts 3.19

 

In other words, forgiveness is predicated on repentance. Or to say another way, without repentance there can be no forgiveness. Forgiveness is something we can say and ask God for, while repentance is our action in response to God’s forgiveness in Christ. We can ask for forgiveness many times, but do our actions reflect the plea we make to God?

What is in your life that you need to repent from? Porn, lying, seeking validation from other people, not honoring authority, selfishness, gossip, manipulation? Pray and ask God to bring things to mind that you need turn from. God strengthens you through his spirit to turn from these things and offers forgiveness and mercy when you fail. Repentance must be a part of the gospel message that you present to someone.

-Jacob Rohrer

A Good King Allies with a Bad King (I Kings 21-22)

Friday, November 4

i-kings-22-14-pic
Melissa New
Israel was suffering under the leadership of their wicked King Ahab. Even when God had obviously given them the victory over the Arameans, Ahab decides to disobey God’s instructions. Ahab is recklessly impulsive. So you might wonder why the good king of Judah, King Jehoshaphat, bothered to visit Ahab. I picture a couple of powerful men getting chummy and having a good time and then, the clever Ahab says, “Hey man, Romath-gilead should be part of my kingdom. What do you say we go to war to recapture it for me?” And Jehoshaphat says, “Why, of course! Let’s first check to see what the LORD’s thoughts are on our plans. That really is the smart thing to do. But brother, I’m already liking this idea.” (Disclosure: this is not how the Scripture exactly reads.) Ahab calls in his prophets because they always say what he wants to hear. Jehoshaphat, in a moment of clear-headedness, says they need a true man of God’s advice. Ahab admits there is a prophet who could consult the LORD for them, but he never says anything good. And Jehoshaphat says, “That’s not the way a king should talk!” (I Kings 22:8) You would think at this point King Jehoshaphat would be having second thoughts about rushing into battle with Ahab. Especially after they hear what Micaiah, the prophet, has to say!!! Ahab must have been a smooth talker. Not only did Jehoshaphat go into a needless battle with him, but he put on Ahab’s king’s robes so that he would look like the perfect target for the enemy. In the end, Jehoshaphat is remembered as a good king who “did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight”, but there is a good lesson here for all of us. We need to be always alert to the warning bells that the company we keep may cause to go off. It may sound like a good time and we may really like the person or people we are hanging out with, but are they following God’s way?

When God Calls, Answer (1 Samuel 1-3)

Saturday, October 8
speak-lord
Shelby Upton
It is so easy to get lost in our understanding and planning sometimes. We forget just how little a scope we have on life and forget that God’s ways are not our ways and don’t trust what He is doing. Responding to the Holy Spirit and discerning the nudges that it gives is so important. I love the story in 1 Samuel 3 when Samuel is called. It is a powerful and even a little funny story.  I always chuckle a little when Samuel, after hearing God is running back and forth to Eli saying here I am and Eli just sends him back to bed.
I can’t imagine the intensity of that encounter! To hear God and have him tell you his plans.  The wonderful application I believe we can take from this story is to answer when God calls, trust his plans, and stay in the word.  The last few verses sum that up very well I believe. 1 Samuel 3:18-21″ So Samuel tole him everything and did not hide anything from him. Eli responded, “He is the Lord. He will do what he thinks is good.” Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and he fulfilled everything Samuel prophesied. All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear in Shiloh because there he revealed Himself to Samuel by His word.”

This Sounds Vaguely Familiar (Exodus 38-40)

Saturday, August 20

20-holiness-to-the-lord

We have made it to the end of the book of Exodus!  Even if this is your first time reading through the book of Exodus (and CONGRATULATIONS to you, if it is!), several parts of these final chapters should sound quite familiar – because we have read nearly the SAME thing just a few chapters back?  What is the difference?  Why the repetition?

In Exodus 27 & 28 God is giving explicit directions to Moses on how the priestly garments, the altar and the tabernacle courtyard are to be made – materials to be used, precise dimensions, and the exact designs God desires for His Holy Place and His Holy People.  And, in Exodus 38 & 39 we read that it WAS done exactly the SAME way – including once again all the materials, dimensions and exact designs.  In chapter 39 it says at least 8 times that the work was done “-as the Lord commanded Moses”.  At the end of the chapter (vs. 43-43) is says, “The Israelites had done all the work just as the Lord commanded Moses.  Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded.  So Moses blessed them.”  It seems that details are pretty important to God.  He didn’t just want it done.  He wanted it done correctly.  He wanted it done HIS way.  Sometimes I think we are quick to pat ourselves on the back if we can just cross a job off the list.  But, have we done it correctly?  Have we done it God’s Way?  Is there a job that needs some more of your attention to do it correctly?  To get it done God’s Way?

Another related phrase that caught my attention was a saying that was to be engraved on a gold plate and attached to the priest’s clothing with a blue cord:  “HOLY TO THE LORD”.   Holiness – to be set apart – total devotion  – unlike any other.   As a member of the royal priesthood (as explained in 1 Peter 2), how is your holiness quotient looking today?  Are you set apart – or blending in?  Are you totally devoted – or only when convenient?  Is there a visual reminder (like the priest’s gold engraved plate on their clothes) that will help you remember to be HOLY TO THE LORD?

    “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy , but now you have received mercy.  Dear friends, I urge you, as strangers and aliens in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that, thought they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”         I Peter 2:9-12

  Live Today

HOLY TO THE LORD!

And All Your Tomorrows Too!

(Thank you to Josiah Cain who wrote this week.  Since he was working so hard serving in Louisiana the devotion for today (Saturday) was written by Marcia Railton.  Keep praying for Louisiana – and let’s jump into Leviticus next!)