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Category Archives: Acts

Acts 20:24

24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

Acts 20:24

Dear God, this verse has been important to me for almost 35 years. I mentioned to my wife this morning that it was the verse of the day on Bible Gateway, and she asked if it still means as much to me as it did then. I said it does. What I see in this verse is that Paul was willing to walk the path of almost certain destruction (arrest, incarceration, and, ultimately, death) because that was the path you had for him as part of your will being done and your kingdom coming to earth. Should I be any different. If I have life circumstances that are seemingly unfavorable to me or even tragic, maybe that’s just the path you require in my life to mold me into who you need me to be and to mold the lives of others around me to mold them as well.

I was listening to a commentary this morning on Solomon. They talked about his the contradiction in how he asked for wisdom but then did not walk the path of the wise. The speaker suggested that his mistake was that he used his wisdom for his own glory and not for yours. He used it to amass his own fortune, even to the point of disobeying old commands from Deuteronomy about not bringing in horses from Egypt, so that he could have the best. He had the wisdom, but he did not have the humility. Ultimately, all of it corrupted him.

Father, I really don’t want my heart to be corrupted. I want any shred of wisdom I have to be directed towards you and your glory. I want to be at peace in the Holy Spirit regardless of my circumstances. I want to use any privilege I have, whether it be the unspoken privilege of my race or place in society or the financial and time resources you’ve given to me, to worship you with all my heart and love my neighbor as myself. My utmost for your highest, oh, Lord.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2022 in Acts

 

Acts 1:20-22

20 Peter continued, “This was written in the book of Psalms, where it says, ‘Let his home become desolate, with no one living in it.’ It also says, ‘Let someone else take his position.’

21 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— 22 from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”

Acts 1:20-22

Dear God, I’ve talked about this before, but I think it’s a good reminder to be patient. I think (and every theologian in the world might disagree with me, and maybe I am, indeed, wrong) that Peter jumped the gun here. He’s on his own for the first time in three years–without Jesus and in seemingly in charge. So he is looking for something to do and I think he is using his head instead of praying about what to do next. I think that he should have been waiting patiently for what ended up being Pentecost and the Holy Spirit coming over him in chapter 2 and then addressing the crowd in verse 2:14.

How does this play into my life now? My tendency right now is to force some things that I don’t like in my life. To be impatient. But even this morning, my job is to wait. It’s to pray, seek your presence and wait. Part of seeking your presence and being in your presence is becoming aware of sin I’ve allowed into my life. Idols. Selfishness. Lethargy. Whatever it might be, as I sit with you I cannot be in your presence without being aware of how sullied I am and inadequate to be with you. So I take an inventory, I repent, and I commit to you to do better.

Father, as I wait on you and your timing, I thank you for loving me and being here with me right now. I thank you for the bridge that Jesus is between you and me. I thank you for the peace you give me. For the joy. Please forgive me for my selfishness and for the times when I turn away from you. Forgive me for when I indulge my own desires instead of following your call. Forgive me for my impatience and my lack of faith in you, your timing, and your plan. Give me this day my daily bread. Help me to extend to others the grace you’ve given to me. Use my life to bring your kingdom and your will into this world.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2022 in Acts

 

Acts 20:24

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. – Acts 20:24

Dear God, you know I have a long history with this verse that goes back 34 years. It was one of the first verses I chose to memorize without someone like a Sunday school teacher or youth minister asking me to memorize it. But did I understand it then? Do I understand it now?

I came to see it differently a couple of years ago when I was studying Job. I used to think this verse was about being willing to be reckless for you. After all, that’s what Paul was doing. He was intentionally risking his life. Is that what I should do? Then realized after studying Job that that was partially true, but there was more. Job went through unbelievable trials to ultimately get to a point where he realized that nothing in the world or about his life was about being for his personal luxury. It was about whatever path you had fir him so that your will might be done in the world and in the lives of others–even an example for me thousands of years later. After studying Job, I realized that of all of the biblical characters, Paul seems to have gotten to that place of submission easier and faster than others. He sat in jail without complaint. He submitted to a path that, even though it meant his suffering and ultimate execution, lead to Christianity spreading to the West. And all of that spirit and knowledge is captured by what Luke recorded Paul as saying here.

Father, I have a financially comfortable life, and I sometimes feel guilty about that. But there are certainly other things that I don’t like about my life that you are using–at least that I pray you are using–to bring your kingdom and will into the world. So help me to really—ooo, this is a dangerous thing to pray–help me to really live into this concept. Help me to consider my life worth nothing to me. Help me to complete the task and finish the race you have asked me to run.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2021 in Acts, Uncategorized

 

Acts 15:1-11

While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem, and they stopped along the way in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them—much to everyone’s joy—that the Gentiles, too, were being converted. When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.” So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”
Acts 15:1-11

Dear God, we just don’t know. We are so confused, and the more we start to realize just how big the world is the more confused we get. It was easy for the disciples to know what to do when the converts were Jewish because that was their paradigm. They too were Jewish so it fit within their view of the world. But with the great commandment they had to confront their racism and figure out which edicts were important and which ones weren’t. In their case, the first things they came up against were unclean foods and circumcision.

Sexual immorality seemed easy enough to them, but now we are in a time when people are having true sexual identity crises, and the church—your church—is unsure how to respond. But sexual immorality is actually very broad and nearly every current American Christian has offended you in this area. From premature sexual activity outside of marriage to the use of pornography, there aren’t many people who sit in church blameless. I know someone who goes to church with his wife and young children every Sunday after having left his previous wife and children for the woman to whom he’s now married. And yet he is welcomed in their church while a committed homosexual couple isn’t. Which of these couples offends you more?

Father, open my eyes so I can see. I’m still not totally sure the apostles final ruling was the right one. Why did they draw the line at strangled animals? Blood? Were those edicts originally for their physical health? I’m a strong believer in monogamy and sexual purity away from pornography, but I don’t know that that doesn’t leave room for a committed same-sex relationship. To paraphrase Lloyd Dobbler from the movie Say Anything, “I don’t know. I can’t figure it all out today so I’m just going to [love everyone I can].” Please show me the way.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2021 in Acts

 

Acts 4:32-37

All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.
Acts 4:32-37

Dear God, I think I’ve always read this passage wrong. I’ve always read it as those with material wealth sold everything and brought it. But it doesn’t say that. It doesn’t say they gave up their own homes. It just says they sold their extra things and brought them to give away.

The other thing I wondered as I read this is how long this practice lasted. How long was everyone “united in heart and mind?” I know it didn’t last forever. How long did it last and how did it start to end? What were the selfish, arrogant, self-righteous issues that brought the first divisions?

I prayed yesterday about divisions in the church and how pastors have a difficult job right now. To totally die to myself is such a hard thing to do. Even yesterday afternoon, my wife and I were talking about some money we have and how we should allocate it. In our minds, we planned to save or spend for ourselves more than we planned to give away. Not that that is necessarily bad. But I don’t think it’s in this spirit of the early church.

Father, make me sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Make me sensitive to your leadings. Be glorified in me so that I might be the man you need me to be.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2021 in Acts

 

Acts 2:22-36

“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. King David said this about him: ‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’ “Dear brothers, think about this! You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. But he was a prophet, and he knew God had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne. David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave. “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today. For David himself never ascended into heaven, yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.”’ “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”
Acts 2:22-36

Dear God, I read an essay from The Wall Street Journal today about how we try to water some things down about Christianity, including Jesus’s resurrection. But you can’t water down the resurrection. You can discount it. You have to deal with it. Either you believe in it or you don’t. Either these men and women were crazy, liars, or telling the truth. For liars and lunatics, they certainly were consistent in their story and went to their deaths defending the lie.

In this passage, Peter makes it very clear that the resurrection is part of the deal with Jesus. He compares him with David with Jesus, but says that while David “dies and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us…God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.” The resurrection is real. It happened. And if we don’t believe everyone back then was telling the truth then we have to embrace the idea that they were either liars or insane. And when you start looking at what their possible motivations could be to lie about Jesus—Fame? Power? Wealth?—and realize the defense of the lie only led to torture, pain, and premature death (except for John) the idea of them lying about this across the board becomes pretty thin.

Father, my prayer tonight is that I would not water down my faith. I know that parts of my theology are wrong. The problem is that I just don’t know which parts are wrong. I do know, however, that you love me. You sent Jesus to be a bridge between my continued sinfulness and depravity and your holiness and purity. He lived. He taught. He loved. He suffered. He died. He rose again. His life changed the world. Thank you for that. Help me to hear with your ears and see with your eyes as I consider what I am to do at any given moment. All for your glory, my Lord and my God.

I pray all of this in Jesus’s name,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2021 in Acts

 

Acts 4:5-12

On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “ Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead— by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone . And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:5-12

Dear God, the Jewish rulers, elders and scribes were the “builders,” but they used the wrong materials to build. They got the cornerstone wrong. Little did they know you were going to make Jesus the cornerstone anyway.

I just keep coming back to today’s church in America. How many pastors are using the wrong stones to build? How many are focusing on the wrong things? How many are placating their congregations or their own pride and vanity instead of submitting to you?

And now that I am throwing stones, let me aim them at myself. Where is my head right now? Am I doing what I can to point people to you through Jesus? Am I building with the wrong materials? Am I pointing to my own “wisdom” and “ability” as the cause for success instead of you.? Am I trying to solve others’ problems or my own problems with my own intellect instead of leaning on you? Are you my personal cornerstone?

Father, it seems that repentance is always the order of the day for me. I am sorry. I am sorry for so many things. Help me to see my own sin clearly, repent of it, and then take up my cross and follow you. Help me to pray for others. I have a friend right now who is particularly on my mind. I have relatives as well. There are so many who need your help. Please help. And help me to not only have you as my cornerstone, but to build the world I can influence by using you as the cornerstone in all my my work.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2021 in Acts

 

The Church is Soft

Dear God, I heard two different pastors today say, in essence, “The church is soft.” The first was Andy Stanley’s September 13, 2020 Sermon (Be Rich 2020). Here is a quote from it:

“[Questions regarding COVID-19 that ask if these are the end times or if God is punishing us and we need to repent] are not the kinds of questions that first-century Christians asked when faced with similar circumstances. And, just my opinion, I think our fascination with these kinds of questions reveal, in some cases a limited knowledge or a limited understanding of history and of the suffering that people in other parts of the world have had to navigate for generations, and that many people were navigating in this generation before the appearance of COVID-19. Which makes me wonder–perhaps the question we all should be asking is this one: Why, why do Americans, and I’m including myself, why do Americans have such a low pain threshold? Because we really do, don’t we? Me included. And part of the answer to this question is, ‘We are so blessed. We are so resourced. We’ve been so protected.’ And those of you who have traveled to different and difficult regions of the world, you know this to be the case. You know that us Americans have high expectations of how we expect or deserve to be treated. We don’t want to be told no. We feel like we have the right to do pretty much whatever we want. In fact, think about this. The fact that fights have broken out and guns have been drawn over wearing a face mask in Walmart, on airliners…I mean, that should tell us a little something about our low tolerance for discomfort.

Later, I was mowing the lawn and couldn’t decide what I wanted to listen to, so I pulled up some recordings I have of Chuck Swindoll teaching a survey of the different books of the Bible. This was probably recorded in the 1981-ish time period. In the one on Acts he said:

“May I interrupt this time to say something straight to all of us? I don’t think we are tough enough in this generation. Now there are some beautiful exceptions, and you who are tough, you who are resilient, you spur us on when we get weak. But for the most part the church is getting a little flabby. Getting a little lazy. We get a little persecution that washes over us and, oh my, we’re ready to close up the book, and walk away and say, ‘Leave it to somebody else.’ I long for that pioneer spirit that didn’t just simply make this country great, but it made the church great. Some of those soldiers of the cross. Those warriors of the land. Those who refuse to lay back and let the responsibility rest with just a few off there in the limelight. People who rolled up their sleeves. Stout-hearted Christian men and women who put it together and stayed to the task. If you find yourself a little lazy, a little laid back more than you once were. If it’s beginning to bother you get a big dose of the book of Acts.

The order in which this all came up for me this morning was first listening to Andy Stanley’s sermon based out of Acts while I was working out and then I decided to listen to Chuck Swindoll’s survey of Acts while I was mowing the lawn. It’s interesting that both of them, when comparing the modern American church to the church in Acts, said the modern American church is soft.

I still think back on an editorial I read for a Christian back in the 2016 election cycle. He said that Christians in America have made an idol out of the Supreme Court. We vote for a President who we think will nominate the justices we want, and then we sit back and wait for them to do our work for us. There are two problems with that strategy: 1.) We abdicate our need to get involved and 2.) the conservative-leaning court often votes against what the conservatives wanted (e.g. it was a conservative court that ruled on Roe v. Wade). For for pro-life Christians, are we ready to do the work to support women and help them NOT choose abortion and, should something happen and abortion be outlawed in parts of the nation, are we ready to step up and work to help those children and their mothers?

Another question is, should church leadership hide from religious persecution. Should we want a government that will protect us as Christians, or should we want to experience the struggle of the church against the culture because it is the struggle that makes us stronger? As Swindoll put it, we are flabby. Said another way, we are fat and happy, and that’s a dangerous place to me. And when I say, “We,” I’m right in there with the rest. One of my biggest weaknesses as a leader at work is that I shun risk for safety. How much does my desire for safety limit my willingness to hear what you might be calling me to do.

Father, help me to not run from risk, but to prudently determine your will for me. Help me to shun self-pity when it comes to how I (or my church) am treated by society. Help me to embrace the responsibility to innovate under your guidance and provision. Help me to accept personal failure if it means advancing your Kingdom.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Habakkuk 3:12

In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations.
Habakkuk 3:12

Dear God, this is an Old Testament passage. In light of the new covenant, what makes you angry now, and how do you handle that anger? I’ll start out by saying that I doubt I’ll be able to work through this deep theological issue this morning and in this format, but it’s an interesting question.

I guess I can try to think about what angered you and Jesus in the New Testament.

  • Hypocrisy among your believers — This is the first thing that came mind as I thought about Jesus. The hypocrisy of the Pharisees seemed to really anger him.
  • Disrespecting you for selfish gain — I’m thinking about Jesus clearing the Temple during Passover on this one. There were plenty of people who disrespected you, but to do it so brazenly for profit really angered him.
  • People who cause others to stumble (Luke 17:1-2).
  • Stubborn, unrepentant sinners who are confronted (Luke 17:3-4).
  • Christians who intentionally mislead people into thinking they are doing holier things than they really are (Acts 5:1-11).
  • Rejecting others who need our charity (Matthew 25:31-40).

Is there a theme in all of these things? If there is, it’s selfishness and deception among your believers.

So what is your response to these things now? Frankly, I don’t think I can be sure of the answer to that. Is it separation from you in eternity? I don’t know? Do you remove a certain level of protection from us to bring us to repentance? I don’t know. Do you actively punish us? I don’t know (although I tend to follow the school of thought that you might remove some protection before you actively punish). And, ultimately, I suppose my understanding of your response isn’t nearly as important as my understanding of what makes you angry in the first place. What grieves you.

Father, help me to not grieve you. Help me to not anger you. I’m sorry for my selfishness. I’m sorry that I still doubt you. I’m sorry that I still indulge my own vanity and actively cultivate a less than genuine image for others to see. I’m sorry I don’t pursue relationships with the poor and downtrodden. I hope, I hope, I hope that when you look at me you don’t see someone who is constantly grieving you because you don’t deserve that from me or any of us. You are a good and wonderful God and I am very grateful for your love.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2020 in Acts, Habakkuk, Luke, Matthew

 

Pentecost — Acts 2:1-12


The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself is called “Communion/Pentecost” and was created by Chris Stoffel Overvoorde.

Acts 2:1-12
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Dear God, I have spent so much time with the passages about the Holy Spirit this week that it’s nice to have a fresh take on it, and the fact that I have this piece of art from Chris Stoffel Overvoorde is great. So let me take a look and se what I can see that Overvoorde might be telling me about his interpretation of the story.

  • The easiest people to make out are the man and woman silhouetted at the front of the image. I’m assuming these are the people who came to the apostles after the spirit moved through.
  • One of the people represented is a woman. Of course there was a woman there. We don’t normally picture that, but there must have been many women among the 3,000 who would become believers that day.
  • There is light flooding from above. I assume this is the Holy Spirit descending from Heaven and into humanity through the original apostles.
  • I can count nine faces that seem to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. The other three (we’ll throw Matthias in there since he was just made an apostle at the end of chapter 1) are likely there too, but not pictured.
  • I think that is a hand reaching out by the silhouetted man’s face. We’ll assume that represents Peter speaking to everyone a little later.
  • Artistically, there is a vague shape of a cross depicted where the Spirit is. The others are in darkness, but coming to the light.

Of this picture, Bustard writes:

The disciples of Christ are gathered together in an upper room just before Pentecost. There is expectation and fear in the various expressions around the table. The Spirit was promised by Jesus when he ascended, but for now they must simply wait and hope. They are in communion with each other and sharing in the Eucharist. The interplay of light and dark created by their bodies close together forms the shape of the Cross, symbolizing that together they are the body of Christ.

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit–Trinity–please be with me this morning as I preach. I pray that you will be in that room. I am almost afraid to pray this for what it could really mean, but please show up today. Show up in our church and your church all over the world. Surprise us. Use me. Help me to not look for any glory for myself this morning. Help me to decrease as you increase. Shine through me, sweet Jesus. Holy Spirit, please be with me and pray for me.

I pray all of this in submission to the name of Jesus my savior and with the help of the Holy Spirit, my God with me,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2019 in Acts

 

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