Scripture reading for April 21st: Acts 12
Key Scriptures: Acts 12:1-5 “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”
Life in God’s kingdom is the only real life! But it is not always full of joy and delights here in this life. Those that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution and James and Peter found out personally. James, the brother of John, one of the “Sons of Thunder” was probably beheaded by King Herod. It may be he resisted. Peter, the head disciple was arrested and put in prison and guarded by 4 squads of soldiers. They did not mess around with these Christ-followers. Because of Passover week, Herod just kept him guarded in jail, waiting until after the celebration to execute him in front of the Jews, many who were pleased to get rid of these ‘false teachers’. But God’s people were praying and it is not over even when it looks like it. A miraculous deliverance was brought about by angelic intervention and a squad of soldiers lost their lives for failure to guard their prisoner!
Acts 12:6-7 “Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands.”
Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You that life following You is never dull and boring. Help me to learn how to trust you like James and Peter in every situation. Take me by the hand and lead me step by step, and wake me up if necessary!
Psalm 34:6-7 “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”
Scripture reading for April 15th: Acts 8
Key Scriptures: Acts 8:3-8 “But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the Word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ and the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.”
The martyrdom of Stephen, the deacon, caused a great persecution against the church of Jesus Christ. All except the apostles were scattered out of Jerusalem to various towns, regions and villages. Another deacon, Philip relocated in Samaria and quickly began preaching Jesus there. He drew crowds of people who listened to the Gospel message and saw the signs of healing and deliverance that were done through his ministry. From the suffering and scattered church, God brought much joy to the places where they went through the Good News they brought with them. Out of difficulty and trouble came times of refreshing from God’s presence with His own. They took God’s glorious presence with them everywhere they were scattered, and like seed, they grew and produced fruit!
Acts 8:25 “Now when they had testified and spoken the Word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the Gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.“
Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, You worked all things for good and Your glory, even persecutions and martyrdom! Work in me and our troubled world as I share the Good News and carry the testimony and presence of Jesus Christ. Let there be much joy from healings and deliverance and salvation!
Psalm 20:5 “May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the Name of our God set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!”
Scripture reading for November 19: Ezra 1-2; John 21
Key Scriptures: John 21: 17-19 “He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything: You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This He said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.” And after this He said to him, “Follow Me.””
The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Jesus persistently asked Peter if he loved Him. Peter had denied Jesus three times and now Jesus was restoring him by asking him to affirm his love. Love is the basis for all ministry. Love for Jesus is the foundation of His Church and disciples would be known by their love for Jesus and one another. It would be for love of Jesus that Peter would die a martyr’s death, choosing to be crucified upside down. Jesus spoke prophetically about this and emphasized to Peter his need to lovingly follow the Master, even unto death.
Faith confession and prayer: Lord, You alone know what is ahead in my life and I ask You to help me each day to follow You, even if it leads to persecution or death. Your unrelenting love draws me to love You more each day and love people into Your eternal kingdom.
Ezra 1:1-2 “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the Word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”“
Scripture reading for November 11th: Ezekiel 43-45; Psalm 135; John 15
Key Scriptures: John 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the Word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My Word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of My Name, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”
The world as it is used here refers to the mass of unredeemed humanity under the darkness of sin and the world system of Babylon. Those who are still a captive of sin and Satan have a hatred for Jesus and those who follow Him. The world loves its own but despises disciples of Jesus and the Lord Himself. Disciples have been chosen by Jesus to come out of the world and join the kingdom of heaven. They are grafted into Jesus Christ, the true Vine of Life. Disciples remember the Word of Jesus concerning the world’s hatred and live by faith, loving each other and those still caught in the trap of the devil. They want to see all men saved and know Jesus Christ.
Psalm 135:14 “For the Lord will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants.”
Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your precious Word and Your patient endurance of suffering and persecution by those still under this world system. Your goodness has lead me and others to repentance and my eternal inheritance, Jesus Christ forever and ever.
Ezekiel 44:28 “This shall be their inheritance: I am their inheritance: and you shall give them no possession in Israel; I am their possession.”
Scripture reading for May 1st: 1st Samuel 20, 1st Chronicles 4, Psalm 56, 57, 142, Acts 14
Key Scriptures: Acts 14:19-22 “But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the Gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”
Paul was stoned for preaching the Gospel at Lystra and left for dead. The other disciples gathered around him and prayed and he arose and entered the city. The crowd that stoned him had been stirred up by Jews from Antioch, their home mission base. This did not stop them from their mission! They continued to preach in Lystra and made many disciples there and even went back to Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the church members. They understood that persecution and tribulation was a part of kingdom opposition.
Psalm 57:2-3 “I cry out to God Most High, to God Who fulfills His purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; He will put to shame him who tramples on me.”
Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the privilege of preaching the Gospel and for persecution for the kingdom’s sake. Help me to boldly trust You each day for strength and help.
1st Samuel 20:3 “. . . But truly, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.”
Scripture reading for May 22nd: Acts 13, Psalm 102, Proverbs 9
Key Scriptures: Acts 13:48-52 “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the Word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the Word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
Paul and Barnabas had been sent off by the church on a missionary journey to preach to the Gentiles. As they preached the Word of God, many Gentiles believed. This caused the Jews to incite persecution. Paul and Barnabas simply shook the dust off their feet as Jesus had instructed them and went on their way. Those who believed were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit! Unbelievers were filled with wrath!
Faith Confession: The Word of God brings salvation to the humble and causes persecution from the religious. Help me to respond appropriately to persecution and use me to spread Your Word throughout the place You put me. Thank You for filling me with joy and the Holy Spirit!
Psalm 102:12 “But You, O Lord, are enthroned forever; You are remembered throughout all generations.”
Scripture reading for May 21st: Acts 12, Psalm 101, Proverbs 8
Key Scriptures: Acts 12:1-5 “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James, the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”
King Herod hated the believers and followers of Jesus. He also wanted to please the Jews to appease them. So he violently seized James, the brother of John, and put him to death. He arrested Peter, but it was during the Passover celebration week. Not wanting to disrupt this, he decided to postpone Peter’s execution. But the church was praying! The result was an angelic intervention that freed Peter and brought about the death of his guards and the death of King Herod. God knows how to turn the tables when His people pray!
Faith Confession: Lord, thank You for Your care for Your people. I trust Your care and ways for both James and Peter and for me and Your church. Help me to always earnestly pray and seek You in times of persecution.
Proverbs 8:35-36 “For whoever finds Me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find Me injures himself; all who hate Me love death.”
Scripture reading for May 15th: Acts 8, Psalm 97, Proverbs 4
Key Scriptures: Acts 8:4-8 “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the Word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.”
Jesus had promised that His followers would suffer persecution. This happened after Stephen was martyred. The persecution caused the disciples to scatter out of Jerusalem into many other towns and regions. Philip, one of the first deacons, was scattered to Samaria. There he proclaimed Christ and preached the Word and God stretched out His hand in signs and healings and demonic evictions. Great joy was spread as the Word of God spread by those persecuted believers!
Faith Confession: Lord Jesus, help me to boldly proclaim Your truth wherever the Spirit takes me. I want the joy and light of Your truth and healing presence to flow among all people in my path.
Proverbs 4:18 “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”
Scripture reading for October 5th: 2nd Timothy 3
Key Scriptures for over-comers: 2nd Timothy 3: 12-17 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have know the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Paul did not pamper Timothy with smooth words or flattery. He told him straight out that persecution would follow all who lived a godly life in Christ. The world would not get progressively better, but would get worse! This would require a strong commitment to live by faith in the word of God that had been taught by godly believers in Timothy’s life. The Holy Scriptures provide the sound foundation of faith in Christ Jesus needed to over-come the terrible times of the last day! They equip the disciple of Jesus to do the good work prepared for them by the Holy Spirit.
Observations for over-comers: Over-comers esteem God’s word and those godly teachers who instructed them. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7-8)
Scripture reading for April 26th: John 15
Key Scriptures for over-comers: John 15:18-20 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also.”
Jesus chose His disciples out of the world system of religion and self-exaltation. He called them to follow His own example of servanthood. He went about doing good, casting out devils, and healing the sick and oppressed and calling men and women to repentance and a new life. For this, He was persecuted and ultimately crucified. Some obeyed His teaching and followed Him. Jesus emphasized the need for servant leadership and that persecution would follow those who followed Him. The world system and people in that system would hate them!
Observations for over-comers: We are called out of the world system into the kingdom of God. We no longer belong to that dead system and it will hate and persecute us. We must remember these words of our Master Jesus! “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His Anointed One.” (Psalm 2:1-2)