Devotional Reading for June 25, 2022

Acts 10:34-48

Here is the culmination of Peter’s lesson: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him.” And how does that welcome become an ongoing relationship? “Everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” This lesson is cemented by the manifestation of the Spirit. Gentiles can know God too. Jesus is for everyone!

Do you live like this in your own life? Do you understand that we are all made in God’s image, and worthy of respect and dignity? Or do you ignore and look down on certain people because you think they are unworthy of having a relationship with God? The challenge in our own lives is to not allow this world or our own pride to harden us towards others. We need to be open and willing to engage with others when we see God working in their lives, just as Peter was here. Prejudice, heartlessness, and thoughtlessness are all sins to be avoided.

Devotional Reading for June 24, 2022

Acts 10:1-33

Cornelius is a follower of God even though he is a Gentile (10:4, 22). God intercedes on his behalf by sending an angel and telling Cornelius to send for Peter. God wants Him to know Christ! In truth, this is as much for Peter as it is for Cornelius!

God prepares Peter by sending him a vision. The vision shows Peter that all food is clean (10:15). Jesus showed the same thing during His sojourn on the earth (Matthew 15:10-11). The dietary laws were given to Israel for a specific time and a specific purpose. They were never intended to be eternal. Peter now has a better understanding of that! But this lesson is preparing him for an even bigger one: that Gentiles need salvation too. Anyone can have a relationship with God, regardless of their heritage or race!

Devotional Reading for June 23, 2022

Acts 9:23-43

Trying to understand God’s will can be difficult at times. Why was Stephen killed while Saul is continually spared? We need to trust that God has a reason and be content with that! We can certainly see how God continued to use Saul, but he still experienced difficulties. Do you remember the message that God gave Ananias about Saul? “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (9:16). Just because we see him spared twice here doesn’t mean that he didn’t experience hardship in his life, and much of that hardship related specifically to the ministry God called him to:

2 Corinthians 11:24-27 “Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea. I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers, in hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing.

Peter also performs some significant miracles, but we understand that not everyone got healed and not everyone was raised from the dead! God had a purpose and a reason for what he used Peter to accomplish, and we see that reason in verses 35 and 41: many turned to the Lord and believed! We are reminded again that we need to trust that God knows what he is doing in life, and in our own lives.

For example, God had already prepared the way for Paul’s ministry by providing an advocate for him with the apostles. Barnabas, the “son of encouragement” (4:36) took up Paul’s case. God has a plan! Incidentally, have you ever had anyone defend or help you when you were misunderstood or misconstrued? Perhaps you can return that favor by doing the same thing for someone else today.

Devotional Reading for June 22, 2022

Acts 9:1-22

We see both sides of the equation here. God doesn’t need to use us to accomplish His purposes. He reveals Himself to Saul supernaturally, even blinding him for a time. But then He uses Ananias to heal Saul. Why? We can envision some practical reasons for it, including the fact that this introduces the idea to the Christian community that Saul can now be trusted! But couldn’t God reveal that supernaturally as well? Perhaps this is once again a reminder that God wants to use us in the work of His kingdom. Amazing, right! We just have to be willing to be obedient to experience the blessing. Ananias reminds me a little bit of Moses here: “Are you sure about this God?” But he ultimately is obedient!

And what about the change that happened to Saul? Even without the supernatural elements, have you ever experienced that type of change in someone? Maybe it even happened to you! The work of God’s Spirit in someone’s life should never be discounted or degraded!

Devotional Reading for June 21, 2022

Acts 8:26-40

The angel of the Lord” in the OT is often thought to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. This is the second time we have “an angel of the Lord” in Acts (the first time is in 5:19). Is it literally an angel, or simply a messenger? With the ongoing emphasis on the Holy Spirit in the passage, it’s probably best to think of this as a divine messenger of some sort rather than a human one.

This passage is a wonderful display of how we are to live our lives as God’s witnesses for the gospel! Philip was sensitive to God’s leading and directing (8:27, 29). He starts a spiritual conversation when he realizes the Ethiopian is seeking God (8:30). He helps the man to understand what the Scripture says about the Messiah (8:35). And finally, he helps the man formalize his belief (8:38).

Acts 8:37 is missing in most modern translations, because it is missing in some of the oldest Greek manuscripts as well as in the vast majority of manuscripts. It was, however, seemingly known to one theologian writing around 200 A.D. (which is actually earlier than almost all of the known Greek manuscripts that we have of the NT). It reads, “Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God‘” (NKJV). Most believe that it was added to make sure that there was a profession of faith by the Ethiopian before baptism. Even without it, the profession of faith is certainly inferred by his desire to be baptized (since Philip must have talked to him about it while explaining the gospel), but also by the supernatural nature of the passage. God didn’t bring Philip there for no reason. He brought him there so that the Ethiopian could be saved! And that is the final truth about witnessing that we see from this passage. God uses us to share the gospel! Why? We are silly, sinful, and stupid people who continue to mess up. Why use us? I think that it’s because He wants us to experience the blessing that comes from obedience, and the joy that comes from seeing others enter the kingdom.

Devotional Reading for June 20, 2022

Acts 8:1-25

The early church theologian Tertullian famously stated, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Here we see that persecution helps to spread the gospel and fulfill Jesus’ prediction at the beginning of Acts: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria.”

Philip was one of the men chosen in Acts 6 to minister to the needs of the church. While not called apostles, Stephen and Philip both had unique apostle-like ministries. His ministry introduced many to belief, and it also attracted at least one other who liked spiritual power. Simon is identified as Simon Magus in the early church, and was recognized as an unbeliever and a heretic. That characterization seems appropriate based on what we read here. He believes that he can purchase the power of God, and is reprimanded by Peter: “you have no share or part in this matter because your heart is not right before God.” Some have trouble equating this Simon with Simon Magus because 8:13 says that “even Simon himself believed.” But does that mean saving faith? James 2:19 states that even demons believe that God is one and tremble with fear. So belief could easily mean something less that saving faith here. I think that it probably means that Simon professed belief, without actually being converted. That seems to make the most sense of the conflicting ideas we seem to have here.

What do we have happening here with the Holy Spirit? Why the delay in receiving the Holy Spirit? Perhaps it was to convince the apostles that yes, the Holy Spirit could even inhabit Samaritans! The Samaritans were thought to be descended from intermarriage between Israel’s northern tribes and pagan peoples relocated by Assyria. The faith that they espoused was hardly orthodox and was historically tinged with idolatry. By having the apostles present at the initial giving of the Spirit, it confirms that Samaritans can be a part of the kingdom! We’ll see something similar happen with the Gentiles in Acts 10.

How about you? Are there some people you think aren’t worthy of God’s love? That shouldn’t be saved? Remember what God says in His Word:

John 3:16 “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

And also remember that some people can look the part; some people can pretend to be believers. But at some point their lack of faith will be revealed:

1 John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us, because if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But they went out from us to demonstrate that all of them do not belong to us.

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many powerful deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’”

Sermon outline for 6/19/22 (Radio broadcast 6/26/22) — Esther 1:13-2:4

What Should Marriage Look Like?
Esther 1:13-2:4

I) ________________ is not God’s Standard

     A)  The 1st marriage was performed by __________

     B) The 1st marriage was _________________

     C) The 1st marriage shows God’s ____________

     D) Recording facts does not imply _______________!

     E) Scripture talks about _____________ to protect women

     F) And ________ are warned against it

II) Adultery is ________________ Forbidden

III) Polygamy and Adultery are _________________

IV) What Should the ____________ Relationship Look Like?

     A)	There is a hierarchy in the ___________

     B) But with privilege comes _______________

     C) Men are to _______________ love their wives

     D) Women are to ___________ their husbands

          1) If you have to __________ respect you don’t have it

          2) Respect flows from the _____________ example of love

Devotional Reading for June 19, 2022

Acts 7:30-8:1

Stephen continues his recitation of Jewish history by continuing the story of Moses, and then finishing with Joshua, David and Solomon. He quotes from Exodus 2:14, 3:5-8, Exodus 32:1, Deuteronomy 18:15, Amos 5:25-27, and Isaiah 66:1-2, as well as a few others. In it he details the Israelites rebellion in the wilderness, their refusal to follow the law, and their resistance to the message of the prophets. He likens the religious leaders to their ancestors who killed the prophets who prophesied about the coming Righteous One, except they actually put the Messiah to death!

The leaders are furious with him and get even more furious when he relays his vision of Jesus. I imagine the vision gives him assurance and strength for what is to come. They stone him, but he asks Jesus not to hold this sin against them. We end the passage by being introduced to Saul (who will become Paul).

Some thoughts:

  • Are we that gracious to people who wrong us? How about those who would like to see us killed? I imagine that the vision of Jesus helped, but it’s still pretty amazing.
  • As noted in a prior discussion, Jesus is the fulfillment of Moses’ prophesy of a prophet like him coming in the future.
  • Isn’t it amazing how much God moved in the lives of the Israelites, and yet they still rebelled? Is it any wonder that we rebel? Of course our rebellion may be worse, since we have the Spirit.
  • Jesus is the Righteous One! Not only is He righteous, but He passes on that righteousness to us:

2 Corinthains 5:21 “God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.”

Devotional Reading for June 18, 2022

Acts 7:1-29

Today’s passage covers half of Stephen’s response to the high priest. He has been charged with saying things against the temple and the law. His response is an attempt to show them that they are really the ones rebelling against God because they rejected the Messiah. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to finish his sermon…

Stephen’s sermon is a recitation of important events in Jewish history. This section covers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. It shows how the Jewish people were called by God, promised an inheritance, given a covenant, and ultimately protected by Him. The sermon is filled with Old Testament allusions and quotes, with the quotes in this section coming from Genesis 12:1, 15:13-14, Exodus 1:8, and 2:14.

Stephen shows us the importance of knowing the Word of God. The Word shows us how God has worked in the past. The Word reminds us of His promises and His plans. The Word gives us guidance for how to live. The Word gives us hope for the future. Many want to ignore the Old Testament, but they do so at their own peril. The Old Testament sets the stage for everything in the New, and much of what we read in the New actually comes from the Old!

For worship:

Devotional Reading for June 17, 2022

Acts 6

Is it comforting or disturbing to realize that problems have existed in the church from the very beginning?!?!? The apostles realize that they need some help in dealing with the day-to-day issues that arise, otherwise they will be overwhelmed and have to leave their primary duties of prayer and preaching. They ask the church to choose seven men who were full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom to help them. “Full” should be distinguished from “filled.” Being filled by the Spirit seems to be a momentary supernatural event for a particular purpose. Being full of the Spirit seems to refer to being close to God and allowing the Spirit to lead on a day-to-day basis. Some consider these men to be the first deacons in the church. They remind us that pastors in our day and age have a primary duty to perform as well, and they need help with the day-to-day ministry of the church.

One of these men, Stephen, performs signs for the people, and is confronted by Greek speaking Jews who had once been slaves but who had been granted freedom. They either deliberately lie about what he has said or completely misunderstand and mischaracterize his teaching about Jesus. But that shouldn’t surprise us, since Jesus warned that it would happen! We need to be aware that the same thing can and does happen today. We need to remain faithful regardless of the lies that are told about us.

John 15:20 “Remember what I told you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they obeyed my word, they will obey yours too.’