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Category Archives: Acts

Acts 4:13

13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. 

Acts 4:13

I was listening to the Bible in a Year Podcast from Ascension Press this morning and Father Mike highlighted this verse. I thought it would be a good prayer for me to pray over myself today. If I am to be bold, will they recognize me as an arrogant person who is foolish, or will they see that I am a man who has been with Jesus (you)?

Oh, Father. Oh, Jesus. Oh, Holy Spirit, please forgive me of my sin. Forgive me of my pride. My self-pity. My sense of independence. My need for approval from the world. My craving for things of this world. I am sorry. All of them get in the way of others seeing you in my life. They all get in the way of my branch being attached to your vine. When people look at me, I want them to simply see you and wonder what they might do to have the wonderful gift I’ve been given through Jesus’s life, death and resurrection. Through the Father’s love. Through the Holy Spirit’s presence with me. Help me to be all of those things.

I pray this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2022 in Acts

 

Judas

Dear God, I was listening to the Catholic Bible in a Year podcast from Ascension Press by Father Mike Schmitz recently when he was reading from 1 Maccabees. As a Protestant Christian, it was my first time to hear any of the stories. While I was listening, something occurred to me. Judas Maccabeus was a Jewish military hero less than 200 years before Jesus was born. There were two of Jesus’s 12 disciples who were named Judas. I don’t remember reading the name Judas in the Old Testament other than Judas Maccabeus. Is it possible that Judas was a common name to give boys during this era in Israel? Finally–and this one is a big leap–could Judas Iscariot have been wanting to live up to his namesake and frustrated by this fact even more that Jesus didn’t seem to care about Rome’s rule over Israel?

After that, I decided to see who else in the New Testament was named Judas. Just how common was this?

  • Judas Iscariot (we all know him)
  • Judas (not Iscariot): John 14:22
  • Judas, Jesus’s brother: Mark 6:3
  • Judas, called Barsabbas: Acts 15:22 [I wonder if he changed his name because of Judas Iscariot]
  • Jude (author of Jude)–some debate if this might be a duplicate–Jesus’s brother
  • Judas of Galilee: Acts 5:37–rebel leader

Yeah, I think this naming your kid Judas might have been a thing at the time. Of course, that went away over time. Judas Iscariot has become as abhorrent in Christian circles as Benedict Arnold or Adolf Hitler have become in our modern times. I don’t know how many people in Germany currently name their son Adolf, but I would be surprised if it was many.

Father, I don’t know what is in this story for me, but it’s interesting to stop and think about how little decisions, like what to name our child, might impact their lives. I have a few things happening today. Help me as I prepare to go through this day. Let your Holy Spirit go with me. Go with me to work. Let there be healing. Go with me to Rotary. Go with me to San Antonio tonight. Go with me as we strive to bring you glory for all that you do in our lives. Help me to be part of you bringing your kingdom and will being done into the world.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2022 in Acts, John, Jude, Luke, Mark, Matthew, Uncategorized

 

The God Hole

[In the story “The Rocking-Horse Winner,”] author D.H. Lawrence describes a home where the young family is haunted by the unspoken phrase, “There must be more money! There must be more money! The children could hear it all the time though nobody said it aloud.” The balance of the story is the sad account of how the young son, by rocking madly on his toy horse, discovers a way to predict the winners of horse races. Tragically, he eventually rocks himself to death because the voices never stop. There is never enough money.

Fred Smith, “The Overexamined Life”

Dear God, I read this piece from Fred Smith’s weekly blog this morning and pulled this paragraph from it. It made me think of a few things, so I thought I would pray about it.

The overall point of Smith’s blog post was about how he has noticed some people replacing the pursuit of money with a life of service, but even that seems like it’s never enough. People end up on the same treadmill the rocking-horse winner was on. Always trying to fill a hole in their lives. Always trying to fill what was described to me as a child as the “God hole.”

The God hole, as I understand it, is that shape in our heart that only you can fill. Anything else we try to put there will fall right through and never land. And I don’t fill that hole with you by simply believing in your, praying a prayer of repentance, and then moving on my way. No, I fill that hole with you by applying two of Jesus’s parables at the same time:

15 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:1-5

If I do not attaching the branch of my life to you and then give you the opportunity to prune me then I won’t produce fruit. It’s that simple. I attach my branch to your vine through prayer, scripture study and contemplation, worship, and Christian community–not necessarily in that order.

The next parable is as important:

18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Matthew 13:18-23

My biggest threat is verse 22: the seed that ell among the thorns. What am I doing to weed the soil of my life? What I am doing to give good soil to the Holy Spirit to work on my branch? Am I removing the “worries of this life and the lure of wealth?

I guess there’s one final thing that I think is the cherry on top of all of this. It’s what Paul says in Acts 20:24 when he is on his way to Jerusalem where he has a pretty good idea he will be arrested. People are warning him to not go and he replies, “I consider my life worth nothing to me. If only I finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me. The task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. At the end of the day, if I died today and you had only used my 52 years to touch one person then that’s all that matters. I can let go of my own ambitions for my life. Peace is found through just submitting to you today, being obedient when I hear you speak and then praying your blessing on the work you have called me to do.

Father, I give you all of this today. I don’t want anything for myself. I just want to rest in you and work by your direction, with your blessing, and for your glory so that your kingdom might come and your will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Act 12:1-11

About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration. ) Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him. The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered. So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him. Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!”
Acts 12:1-11

Dear God, I keep going back to the story of King Hezekiah laying the letter from the other king that told him to surrender to the Assyrians out before you and praying about what to do (2 Kings 19). The situation seemed impossible, but in 2 Kings 19:35 accomplished the impossible in a way no one could have ever seen coming. T

The same is true with this story about Peter. As everyone prayed for Peter, including Peter, they probably envisioned Herod’a heart turning and showing mercy or something like that. They never considered you would send an angel for a jail break.

Father, there are several seemingly immovable mountains in front of me right now. I know you can move them, but I simply cannot conceive how you might do it. But I lay it before you, like Hezekiah. Please come, move and work do it all for your glory and your plan.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2022 in 2 Kings, Acts

 

Acts 5:1-11

From Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. Image is “Ananias and Sapphira” by Micah Bloom.

But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”

As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?”

“Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.”

And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.”

10 Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.

Acts 5:1-11

Dear God, this can be any act of duplicity, not just money. Decrying pornography, but secretly looking at it. Decrying single-parent homes, but secretly fathering several children out of wedlock. Coming out against abortion while paying for abortions for women you got pregnant. Admonishing people to not drink or do drugs while secretly indulging your own vices. As I sit here this morning, I want to be cognizant of my own sin in this area, and not just sit in judgment over these two duplicitous people.

The image by Micah Bloom is interesting. Sapphira is obviously the center of it. She is seen with simple dress, earrings, and no shoes. In fact, everyone pictured is barefoot. I’m not sure why Bloom chose to not put sandals or something on them. She had money in both hands–the right for Peter, the left presumably for herself. Peter has his hand out for the money in the right, but your angel of death is grabbing her left wrist and her death is exposing the money hidden in her left hand. Looking out the door, we presumably see the bare feet of Ananias, who is already dead. Someone is attending to his body.

Bustard quotes C.H. Spurgeon in his commentary on the left:

“The nearer we come to God the more truly shall we find that he is a jealous God who will not wink at sin. It was not Peter’s word, but the judgement of God, which slew Ananias. [Sapphira] had time for reflection, yet she stuck to the falsehood. It is a sad thing when husband and wife go hand in hand to hell, and most of all so when they make a profession of religion…The chaff was driven out, and kept out, but the true saints were all the more ready to join the church. Holy discipline does not diminish the church, it is the sure means of increasing it with the right people.”

Reading this made me think of an article I read about the “Road to Majority” conference happening in Nashville right now. This is billed as a conservative Christian political conference in Nashville, US Senator Rick Scott said, “It is time to rescue America. God favors those who are bold.” The mixing of my faith in you and the desire for political power makes me really uncomfortable. There is a difference between saying, “I want to have the majority of our country as Christians because that means more people are worshipping God,” and “I want the majority of the country to be Christians so we can impose our will on the rest of the country.” Jesus did not seem to care that Caesar and Rome were in charge of Israel, but he did care about what the Pharisees were teaching. He didn’t want to make Israel great again, but he did want to shed light on sin and invite repentance.

Father, it can be tempting to point fingers in all of this, but I have to start with myself. I am truly sorry for my sin. For my hypocrisy and duplicitousness. I acknowledge it before you. I do truly love you. I do truly want to do better. I do truly want to be the man you need me to be. Help me to bring you and your presence into the world with the highest integrity so that I might not cause anyone else to stumble and allow any cancers to grow in my own soul.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Acts 20:28-35

“So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood —over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders. I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you. “And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself. “I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

Dear God, if I had ever asked myself, “What would Paul say if he were seemingly speaking to me for the last time?” I suppose these verses would be the answer.

  • Guard yourself
  • Protect over other believers from a theological perspective
  • Be part of edifying the church
  • Watch out for false teachers/teaching
  • The message of God’s grace builds you up and sets you apart
  • I didn’t expect others to serve me so don’t expect to others to serve you
  • Serve others
  • You’ll be blessed if you give

Father, help me to carry the spirit of these words with me today. Holy Spirit, counsel me. Comfort me. Guide me. Show me how to do all of these things for others.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2022 in 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