Be A Witness

Acts 1-3

If you have been following along with the SeekGrowLove devotions for the past 1.5 months, we have been able to take a look at the life and ministry of Jesus through the four gospels.  What a crazy, action-packed time during Jesus’ ministry on earth.  Today, we transition into the book of Acts, and we get to see how Jesus’ disciples will respond to these couple crazy years with Jesus.  As we near the end of 2020, we are all too familiar of what it looks like to live through some crazy events.  As we read through the book of Acts, we can take some notes of how Peter, Paul, and others responded to the crazy events revolving around Jesus.

Before Jesus ever ascended to heaven (yep, not even Jesus went to heaven right after his death), he spent 40 days preaching about the Kingdom of God.  Right before Jesus’ ascension, he told his disciples to, “Witness in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” (Acts 1:8). 

The order of locations that Jesus provides is important.  He starts off with Jerusalem; Jerusalem was basically the home base for the Jews and early Christians.  They first needed to witness to their home base of Jerusalem.  Then, they needed to witness in Judea and Samaria; that consists of the land surrounding the city of Jerusalem.  After they have witnessed to the surrounding area, then they had a calling to witness to the ends of the earth.  The book of Acts follows this exact blueprint, which I find to be so fascinating.  Chapters 1-7 are all witnessing in Jerusalem.  Chapters 8-9 consists of them witnessing in Judea and Samaria.  Then, chapters 10-28 cover the disciples, Paul, and others witnessing to the ends of the earth: Caesarea, Antioch, Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome.

We can learn a lot from this blueprint that Jesus provided for his disciples.  We have a calling to witness to those right around us, whether that be your family, friends, coworkers, etc.  Studies show that the most effective mode of evangelism is relational evangelism.  We are best able to spread the news to people we have a relationship with.  Are you using your relationships with nonbelievers, as an instrument to spread the gospel message of the Kingdom?  When you have spread the gospel message to those around you, are you helping that message be spread throughout the ends of the earth?  We have better capabilities now than ever to spread the gospel message to the ends of the earth.  Let’s take advantage of those capabilities.

We can’t go through Acts 1-3 and not mention Peter’s killer sermon in chapter 2.  It is truly one of my favorite sermons ever recorded.  Peter absolutely brings it to the Jews.  You can feel his passion for his Lord and Savior in this message, and he shares this passion with the Jews, the same people who had him crucified (as Peter so gracefully informs them)!  If you want to see someone who is on fire for God and his son, Jesus, then look no further than Peter’s message here in Acts chapter 2.  I hope and pray that we can reflect this passion in our lives today.

I look forward to covering the first half of Acts with you all.  It’s my prayer that we can all learn from the wonderful examples of Peter, Paul, and others throughout this wonderful book.  Witness to those around you, and then help spread that message to the ends of the earth!

-Kyle McClain

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

Tomorrow we continue this exciting book, with Acts 4-6. Now’s a great time to jump on board and finish 2020 strong with a daily reading of God’s Word as we watch to see how the world responds to the life, teaching, death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus. Let’s get ready for his return!

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

What’s Your “Jerusalem”?

Acts 1 8

“…you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

Today we are going to consider what is your Jerusalem and how do you witness there.  The disciples were told to be Jesus’ witnesses first in Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was where they were at, their home town, their local churches.

What is your Jerusalem?  That is where you should start doing the Great Commission.  The mission conference I mentioned yesterday will help, but what can you do today to prepare?

To get started it is necessary that you know and are passionate for the message Jesus gave us to preach.  You should know this message so well that it just rolls off your tongue without hardly thinking.  But how does one get to that point?  It is just like any other area of study or favorite hobby.  You must read about it, talk about and talk more about it.  We do this naturally with things that we are interested in.  How many of you know all about your favorite musician or sports team and can recite trivia any time the topic comes up?

I have found that the more we talk about things, the more we know and internalize them.  What we put in will come out. What we invest our time and energy in, shows what we love.

What did the early church do to prepare for the kingdom work they were given?  “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

Read Acts 2:37-47 to get a taste of the excitement and results of God’s spirit at work in the people after they heard a great sermon!  Be encouraged and dialog with other believers about what you read in the Scriptures.  This will put you on the right path to doing your part of the Great Commission in your Jerusalem and onward.

-Tracy Zhykovich

The Exciting World of Missions!

Matt 28_ 19-20a

What is missions?  To better understand what missions is, we need to understand what it is not.  Although humanitarian aid is good and needed, it is not missions.  Acts of service are kind and necessary, but they are not missions.  Although we must keep in mind that when Paul was on his missionary journeys and saw brethren in need, he let the churches back home know so that they could help their brothers and sisters.  And this we should be doing locally and globally, but it is not missions.

We must remember that the Great Commission did not send people to feed and clothe the nations; it sent people to preach the good news of the coming kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus, His chosen Messiah.  The Great Commission commissioned believers to go into all the world and to preach, teach and baptize.  (Matthew 28:16-20)

And what a blessing!  We are given power to do this. The purpose of the power given by the holy spirit is to be Jesus’ witnesses in your home town and to all the ends of the earth.  “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The disciples had asked Jesus if now was the time that he would establish the kingdom, God’s righteous government, on the earth.  Jesus basically told them not to worry about the “when”, but that they had a job to do.  Read Acts 1:1-11 and see what that job is.  Make note of what Jesus had spent his time talking about and emphasizing his last 40 days with them and what he was preparing them for.  Notice the end promise.  Meditate on what this means for you!

-Tracy Zhykhovich

 

Oh No! Not Again!

Watch this video before reading!

Pets! If you haven’t seen the movie I recommend it. One of my favorite themes in the movie is Max’s devotion to Katie. It reminds me of my childhood and all the dogs I have had over the years. It also reminds me of how dedicated the Apostles were to Jesus and the building the Kingdom. Even though they were dedicated the Apostles didn’t always know exactly what was going on. This happened with two particular events we can see in the Bible that relate to the scene you just watched out of Pets. First Jesus’ death, and second His ascension to heaven.

For the majority of us reading this, we know Jesus died and was raised. We were given the whole story after the fact. But to the disciples the three days Jesus was dead were horrible and they missed him very much. They didn’t know what to do without him, but then he was raised from the dead and everything was perfect for the disciples. But you guessed it, Jesus, like Katie came back for what seemed like only a few moments.

Now Jesus did this so that people could understand God’s plan for the future. That one day the Kingdom of God would be restored here on the earth and the resurrection of the dead was real. Acts 1:3 says “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” Even the disciples were asking him if he was going to restore the kingdom at that time, to which he said no one knows except the Father in Acts 1:6-7 But instead of establishing the kingdom at that point in time in its fullness Jesus gives instructions to those who believe in him in Acts 1:8 “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” He gives us this mission to go be witnesses of His resurrection. This also links the meaning of the kingdom with it by understanding now that resurrection is possible. (Although there are about 3 or 4 resurrections in the Bible.) After Jesus instructs the disciples to do these things they watch him ascend to heaven. The disciples, like Max, just waited at the door for some time thinking, “Oh No Not Again!” before Angels had to remind them that Jesus would be back, and to go be loyal to what he had told them. (Acts 1:10-11)

Here is my take away, GO! BE LOYAL TO JESUS AND BE HIS WITNESS. The Kingdom won’t come until this is fulfilled. He was raised from the dead so that you one day will also be raised from the dead.

 

May YHWH be with you always! Have a great Resurrection Sunday.

Jesse Allen

(Yesterday we finished reading the book of Matthew and now we will be reading through the book of Acts together – one chapter a day.  Having followed Jesus’ life through one gospel account, now we will read the account of the early church and Jesus’ apostles after he ascended into heaven. Keep reading and living and sharing His Word! )