Scripture reading for November 11th: Acts 13-15
Missionaries are people that God has set apart for a special assignment to go to people who have never heard the Gospel message. They must be full of the Holy Spirit and called by God. They have to be willing to leave the comfort of their own homes, culture, and family and friends. They know ahead of time, that not all people will welcome them and that they may be called upon to give their lives for the One who called them.
In Acts 13, we have the record of the early church sending out the first missionaries. At a prayer meeting where they were worshiping, the Holy Spirit spoke through one of those present, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2b) They fasted and prayed, laid hands on them, and sent them off. It is important to note that this word of knowledge came as a confirmation to Barnabas and Saul. It wasn’t the first time that they had heard this because they had already been called by the Lord. It has been said that God doesn’t give “second hand mail”. His people can hear His voice personally as well as having it confirmed through others.
They went on their way, directed by the Holy Spirit. They preached the Word in Jewish synagogues in Cyprus and decided to travel the whole island. At Paphos, they encountered a false prophet and sorcerer who tried to hinder their work. Sergius Paulus, the proconsul (governor), sent for the missionaries and wanted to hear the Word of God. Elymas the sorcerer tried to keep him from the faith. The Holy Spirit filled Paul and he looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind.” (Acts 13:10-11) He was immediately blinded and the proconsul saw and believed in the Lord!
God always works with those He sends to confirm the Word. Those who hinder are taken out of the way. Truth is offered to all who will set them free! Pray for our many missionaries!
Scripture reading for November 10th: Acts 10-12
Peter was the head of the church at Jerusalem and leader of the original band of Apostles. He was a devout Jew before becoming a disciple of Jesus. It has been said that old habits die hard, and Peter was resistant to breaking out of the Jewish way of thinking. Acts records how God helped Peter to overcome his strict religious training.
Peter was praying about noon on the roof of a friend’s house where he was staying in Joppa. He became hungry, probably smelling the food being prepared downstairs. He fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and a something like a large sheet being let down to earth containing all kinds of four-footed animals, reptiles and birds. A voice spoke to Peter, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” “The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:13-15) This vision happened three times before the sheet disappeared back into heaven! Peter must have had a hard head!
As Peter was pondering what this meant, men were coming from Cornelius, a Roman centurion, to bring Peter to his house to share about Christ! The Spirit spoke to Peter once again, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” (Acts 10:19-20) Peter was obedient and went with these men, contrary to his strict Jewish training to say away from Gentiles!
Upon arrival at the house of Cornelius, Peter found Cornelius and he gathered a number of his relatives to hear what Peter had to say. Peter preached about Jesus Christ, his miraculous life, His death on a cross, and His amazing resurrection from the dead. He called these Gentiles to faith and repentance for the forgiveness of their sins. As he preached, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message and they began to speak in tongues and praise God. (Acts 10:38-46) They were all baptized in water and Peter taught them for a few days!
God has no favorites! We must break down walls of prejudice and religious tradition to follow the Holy Spirit. God works with us and His work will be done! Like Peter, even slow learners can change!
Scripture reading for November 9th: Acts 8-9
“Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:4-8)
Persecution, led by Saul (Paul) was hard on the early church. Many of the leaders of the church were forced to leave Jerusalem and scatter to all the other cities in the region to avoid imprisonment and possible death. Samaritans were considered by the Jews to be outcasts because they were of mixed race. Philip, one of the first deacons, felt directed to go to Samaria.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Philip began to preach the message of Christ and pray for those who were sick, crippled and bound by evil spirits. As the Lord had promised, healings and miracles began to occur and drew crowds. Demons came out and people watched and listened to the message of Jesus. Great joy was in the city because of the Good News of Christ! A revival took place from the simple preaching of a follower of Jesus being obedient as he entered this idolatrous and bound culture. God was at work in the midst of the persecution!
A powerful sorcerer named Simon was among those who heard the message Philip preached. Simon, along with many others believed the message and was baptized. He followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the many miracles. Peter and John came from Jerusalem to see these Samaritans who had believed and laid hands on them and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit. They were evidently baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Simon watched and offered money to get what they had! The Apostles sternly rebuked him, and Simon asked for prayer. They continued preaching in other Samaritan cities and the Word spread!
Simple believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed Christ. Christ worked with them, confirming their message with signs and wonders. Crowds were drawn, people heard the Word and believed and joy filled the city! People were baptized and delivered. More were filled with the Holy Spirit and sent out to reach others! Let’s do it!
Scripture reading for November 8th: Acts 5-7
Stephen was a young deacon in the early church. He was a man full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom and was chosen to help serve the Grecian widows who were being neglected in the daily food distribution and to insure no partiality. (Acts 6:1-5) His work was to take a load off of the Apostles so that they could give attention to prayer and ministry of the Word. The Apostles prayed over Stephen and the others, laying hands on them to consecrate them for their task. What a wonderful blessing it must have been to be so close to those who walked with Jesus and to be called to serve! In fact, we are all told that setting our heart on being a deacon or overseer is to desire a noble task! (1st Timothy 3:1)
Acts records that Stephen did many signs and wonders among the people. (Acts 6:8-14) This brought opposition from the Jews and they brought false charges against Stephen. They had him arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council. False witnesses accused Stephen of speaking against the Temple and the law of God. As Stephen faced these religious rulers, it is recorded that “his face was like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:15)
Stephen preached to them in the power of the Holy Spirit, recounting the history of God’s people from Abraham to Jesus Christ. He showed them how God’s people had rejected God’s leader, Moses, and broken His laws. He then spoke plainly to them about their complicity in crucifying Jesus. “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was their ever a prophet your father’s did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered Him–“ (Acts 7:51-52)
“When they heard this they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”” At this, they stoned Stephen to death as he prayed for their pardon to the One standing to receive him! It’s a noble task to be a deacon!
Scripture reading for November 6th: Acts 1-4
Luke wrote the Book of Acts to record the work of the early church following the ascension of Jesus to Heaven. Luke tells us how these first disciples waited and then received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and how they they then took the Gospel from Jerusalem to Samaria and then to the ends of the earth. In general, the first 12 chapters focus on Peter, the Apostle and the last 16 chapter focus on Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Peter’s preaching on the Day of Pentecost is an impressive example of Gospel presentation in this early church. Peter was in Jesus’ inner circle and had proclaimed that he would remain true to Jesus no matter what the others did. Peter denied Jesus three times as Jesus had predicted and he wept bitterly at his own failure. After the resurrection, Jesus restored Peter and Peter became the spokesman for the Apostles. After receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter stood to answer the crowd and the mockers that thought they were all drunk. (Acts 2:12-21) He told them that this was the fulfillment of the prophesy given by Joel concerning the last days. He told them about Jesus, the one who was shown to be the Son of God by signs and wonders, the one that they had crucified and put to death. He also told them of the resurrection of Jesus and the many witnesses of this truth. (Acts 2:22-36) Jesus Christ was both Lord and Christ!
This preaching brought great conviction on those who heard and they asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?” “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off.” (Acts 2:38-39a) Peter pleaded with them and warned them with many more words to be saved from this corrupt generation that they were living in. About 3000 were saved that day!
Good preachers care about their flock. They want all to be saved. They preach a clear Gospel message and give direct invitations to those who desire salvation. They warn and plead those who are wavering or unsure. Jesus will save all who call on Him, but we must save ourselves by calling out in faith!
Scripture reading for November 17th: Acts 27-28
Do you really believe that God can cause all things to work together for good for those who love Him? (Romans 8:28) Today, we read about events in Paul’s journey to Rome for trial before Caesar. These events were dangerous, exciting, and could have been fatal. But God worked them for good and His purposes stood through all the trouble! Be encouraged today as you read!
The trip from Caesarea to Rome was nearly 2000 miles by ship. It was decided that Paul would travel by a Roman navy ship in the fall season when travel in that direction was more difficult. As they made their way north, the centurion in charge of the prisoners, Julius, gave special favor to Paul by allowing his friends to minister to his needs. (Acts 27:1-3) As travel became more difficult, Paul warned the centurion and crew of impending danger and possible loss of life. They ignored Paul’s advice and sailed on. A great storm hit the ship and tossed it around for days. The crew threw the cargo overboard and after more days of battering, all gave up hope of being saved. (Acts 27:20)
Paul, again directed with a word from the Lord, encouraged the crew and passengers. He told them that an angel of God had given him a word, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” The ship would be destroyed but God would spare the passengers and crew! God is so merciful and His purposes will stand, no matter what trouble befalls us! All 276 men on board made it safely to shore when they followed Paul’s advice! (Acts 27:42-44)
As if the shipwreck and storm were not enough of a trial, Paul was warming himself over a fire on the beach after swimming ashore. Suddenly, a viper jumped from the fire and fastened itself on Paul’s hand. (Acts 28:1-6) Paul quickly shook the snake off into the fire and no swelling or death occurred. This opened the islanders to Paul’s message and he began to minister to those present with miracles of healing! God placed him on this island of Malta for three months to minister the Gospel to those there!
When you are committed to God, life takes on a new quality of supernatural direction and hope. God truly does work all things for His will! We can go through shipwrecks, storms, and even snake-attacks and trust that all works out for our good and His glory! What an exciting supernatural life! Are you ready for today’s episode in your life?
Scripture reading for November 16th: Acts 24-26
Are you focused on your mission of taking Jesus Christ with you today wherever you go? Are you ready to share your testimony and share the Gospel? Today’s reading causes us to stand up straighter and proclaim our testimony more vigorously! We are to bring close encounters with Jesus to a lost world!
The Apostle Paul visited Jerusalem and ended up in jail as he had been warned prophetically. (Acts 21:10-14) Nothing takes God by surprise and He prepares His people for the troubles ahead. Angry Jews falsely accused Paul and he was put in jail in Caesarea under the Roman governor Felix. Jews from Jerusalem came there to present their case against Paul with a lawyer named Tertullus. The charges that they made had no proof and Paul, with the help of the Holy Spirit, spoke convincingly. Felix was well acquainted with those of the “Way”. Later, he and his wife asked to have Paul brought before him for a private audience. Paul preached the Gospel and sought to convince Felix that Jesus was the “Way” for him as well. (Acts 24:24-26) Scripture records that Felix became afraid and cut Paul off. His real motive was a bribe! Money blinded Felix and his wife from finding the true treasure of eternal life in Jesus Christ!
Two years passed and a new governor, Porcius Festus, was appointed. The Jews came before him to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem for trial. They planned to kill him as he was being transferred. (Acts 25:3) Again, Paul speaks by the Holy Spirit and appeals to Caesar. He is granted his request! (Acts 25:10-12)
Royal visitors, King Herod Agrippa and his wife Bernice, arrived to pay respects to Porcius Festus. They stayed a few days and Festus told Agrippa about Paul’s case that he had inherited from Felix. Agrippa asked to hear from Paul. The leading men of the city, high-ranking officers, and King Agrippa and his wife held a meeting and had Paul brought in chained as a prisoner. Paul was invited to speak to the King in front of all these! Paul again shared his testimony of his encounter with Jesus! He passionately appealed to the King, preaching Jesus as the Christ! The King listened carefully, but in the end stopped the discussion with a question to Paul: “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28) Paul’s reply was that he wanted all present to become Christians, no matter how long it took!
What a heart to share the Gospel! What patience and courage Paul presented before those with authority! He did not bribe or seek to escape but continued his appointed mission of reaching the Gentiles! May we keep our focus this day on bringing people close encounters with Jesus!
Welcome to another day of rest in Christ Jesus! Because of what He was willing to give to us, we can now rest secure in our salvation and live today in freedom from fear of punishment, guilt or shame! What a blessing to know that! Let’s take time today to reflect on this blessing of Jesus Christ and His gift to us!
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35
This quote from the Lord Jesus is a truth that we can live by. Jesus lived to give His life blood for our salvation. He offered His body as a sacrifice for our sins and willingly laid down His life that we might have life. He always considered the needs of others above His own needs and readily gave His time and effort to meet their needs. He taught us that the blessed life is a life that is willing to give! If we give, we will be taken care of and our own needs will be met. What we sow we will reap!
I was talking to a person today who said that he had given away his electric dryer to someone who needed one because the rental house he moved into already had a dryer. When he recently moved here, he needed a dryer and told his wife that the Lord would meet their needs. After three days here, a person brought a dryer by his house and gave it to them! God blesses givers! The person that gave them the dryer will be blessed, too!
As you rest today, thank God for His generous heart towards you and ask Him to show you how you can bless someone by giving today. We are imitating our Lord when we give and His blessing will rest on us!
In His Love, Pastor John
Scripture reading for November 14th: Acts 21-23
Have you had a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ? Did it impact your life? The word of God tells us that we overcome the accuser, Satan, by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony! (Revelation 12:11) So sharing your testimony is a powerful thing. It does something in you and then does something to overcome the enemy of our souls in others who hear. Many people have been won to the Lord through the power of a testimony! In today’s reading, the Apostle Paul shares his testimony of his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road.
Paul had gone to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost and had taken Trophimus the Ephesian with him. He went through the temple purification rites for seven days and went to the temple to verify the dates and times and appropriate offerings had been made. There, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul and Trophimus and began to stir up a riot. They aroused the city and men came running from everywhere, seized Paul and drug him out of the temple, and began to beat him, intending to kill him! Religion and tradition can cause people to become irrational, particularly when Jesus is present or preached!
The Roman guards heard the commotion and stopped the beating, putting Paul in chains. The commotion of the crowd was so great that they had to literally carry Paul back to the barracks. The crowd was shouting, “Away with him!” (Acts 21:33-36) Paul asked the commander of the guard for permission to speak to the crowd. He gave him permission and Paul addressed the crowd in Aramaic, their Jewish native language.
Paul then simply shared with this crowd of Jews his testimony. These were his people and quite likely some of the same people who had earlier demanded the death of Jesus Christ. Many were likely their descendants for this was over twenty years later! In sharing his testimony, Paul told this hostile crowd of his own anger against Christ and His followers. (Acts 22:3-5) He could identify with their anger because he used to be there. He told them of his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road and how he was struck blind and Jesus spoke to him, giving him instructions. He told them of his healing and then his call by the Lord to go to the Gentiles. At this point, the crowd turned on him again and demanded his death!
What can we learn from Paul’s example of sharing a testimony? We see that Paul, himself, was touched by Stephen’s testimony on the day he was martyred! (Acts 22:20) We see that our testimony helps others to relate to us and us to them. It offers us a way to share a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The results are always up to the Holy Spirit and it may not appear positive at first! Share your testimony with someone today as the Holy Spirit directs!
Scripture reading for November 13th: Acts 19-20
The Apostle Paul had begun his third missionary journey to reach those in the province of Asia. (Acts 18:23) He ended up in Ephesus where he found a group of disciples gathered. These twelve men had been baptized into John’s baptism of repentance but had never heard about Jesus Christ. Paul gave them the Gospel of Jesus, told them about the Holy Spirit and then laid hands on them. The Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied! Thus the church at Ephesus was born. Paul’s ministry went on there for nearly three years. This event took place about 20 years after the first Pentecost!
Following this event, Paul spoke in the synagogue, as was his custom. He went to his own brothers, the Jews, first and sought to win them to Jesus. This caused a conflict so he left with the new disciples and went to another place in the city, the lecture hall of Tyrannus, and continued to preach and teach there for two years. His ministry was so effective that all the Jews and Greeks in the whole province of Asia heard the word of the Lord! (Acts 19:10)
The Lord has promised that signs will follow those who obediently preach the Gospel. (Mark 16:15-20) As Paul preached here in Asia, God did extraordinary miracles through him as a help in winning the lost and confirming that Jesus is the Christ. These miracles included supernatural healing and casting out evil spirits. (Acts 19:11-12) Even as handkerchiefs and aprons taken from Paul were sent, the sick were healed and delivered!
Paul’s preaching of Jesus and these extraordinary miracles caused some Jewish exorcists to try and imitate Paul’s methods. They tried to cast out a demon from a possessed man “in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches.” The demon spoke to them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:13-15) The result was that these seven exorcists were severely beaten by the demon possessed man! The word of this happening and all the miracles brought a revival of holiness. Fear seized the populace and they confessed their evil deeds, sorcery, and witchcraft. They publicly burned their books and charms and the word of God spread and grew in power!
What lessons can we learn from this account of Paul’s preaching in a town with strongholds of witchcraft? God’s power is no match against the powers of the Devil! Jesus told us that in His Name, we would cast out devils! The warning is that we must know this Jesus personally. It can’t be a second hand thing or you will be in trouble, just like the seven who tried it. Demons recognize and know both Jesus and those who have Him as Lord! In His name, extraordinary miracles will follow the preaching of the Gospel and the ministry of those who obediently go! Be bold as you enter your mission field today!