Read Acts 17:16-33
Key Verse: Acts 17:32 “When they heard Paul speak of the resurrection of a person who had been dead, some laughed, but others said, ‘We want to hear more about this later.” (NLT)
When we want to share our faith with others we are often nervous and hesitant because we are afraid that someone might laugh at us. The desire to Act Out for God is there in our lives but the idea of being laughed at makes it so difficult to do what we really want to do for God. The important thing that we need to remember is that we are not alone in this, even the Apostle Paul was laughed at, yet he never let that stop him from continuing to Act Out.
People always laugh at ideas that seem strange to them, it’s just a human reaction to try and deal with being forced to accept new ideas. People laughed at the idea of the world being round instead of flat, they laughed at the idea of space travel, they even laughed at the idea of gravity. It does not really matter that people laughed at those ideas in the past, what matters is that we have accepted them all now. Imagine if people stopped trying to prove that the world was round simply because they were laughed at. North America would hardly be populated at all and it certainly would not be the home of some of the world’s greatest nations.
People may laugh at you when you share your faith and Act Out for God. But the real important thing is that while some may laugh others may come to believe and you may be able to help change the world for somebody.
Prayer: “Lord, it is very hard to share about your love to people who laugh at me but I know that they only do it because they don’t know how to react. Help me to stand up and Act Out for you because although some may laugh, others may come to believe in you.”
Read Acts 16:1-18
Key Verse: Acts 16:10 “So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, for we could only conclude that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.” (NLT)
Paul and his companions traveled about looking for places to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to people who had never heard before. The Holy Spirit would not allow them to enter Asia at that time nor were they allowed to enter the province of Bithynia. God closed those doors, or opportunities, because He was about to open a different door for Paul and his friends.
God, through a vision, directed them to go to Macedonia. This was the open door they were looking for and as they went into this area God used them in great ways. They meet Lydia and she became a Christian. They even healed a demon possessed girl.
When an opportunity presents itself we often rush towards it and are excited to do whatever it takes. Sometimes God closes doors that we think are good. He has His reasons and He knows what He is doing even when we don’t understand. It is at those times that we need to wait upon Him and trust Him. What we want and what we want to do is not always what is best. God’s will is always best for us. We need to look for opportunities to share the Gospel. But we also need to be willing to let God lead us by showing us, through His Spirit, which doors are open to go through and which ones are shut for now.
Prayer: “Lord help me to accept the fact that your will is much better than mine. I want to trust you and know that you know best.”
Read Acts 15:1-21
Key Verse: Acts 15:9 “He made no distinction between us and them, for He also cleansed their hearts through faith.” (NLT)
Peter was called of God to do a very special work. He had to begin the work of spreading the Gospel message to the Gentile people. It seems that part of that responsibility was to protect and take care of them after they had received Jesus as their Lord. Peter found himself in the middle of a hot debate: Should gentile Christians be expected to do exactly what Jewish Christians were doing?
The decision was made that they were accepted by God the way they were and should not be weighed down with extra rules and regulations that would only make it impossible for them to stay true to Christ. The only regulations that the church decided to place on new Gentile believers were ones that related to purity, living a holy life, and protecting one’s witness.
As a Christian you are called to Act Out for God and reach those in your circle of influence for Jesus. Once they come to Christ, the question will then become: How should we expect them to live now that they are Christians? From Peter’s example we need to understand that many of the standards of living that we are used to as believers may be very important for Christian living while some may not be absolutely necessary for everyone else. The real issues that need to be dealt with are the ones that relate to how we live pure, holy lives while maintaining a high standard to protect our witness. Whatever the case, it is important that we not burden down new believers simply to try and turn them into us.
Prayer: “Lord, help me to accept that not all Christians have to be just like me and please help me to protect my witness.”
Have you ever read a promise in the Bible and wondered if it is possible that it could really apply to you? Have you ever heard the voice of God declare something over your circumstance and yet found yourself doubting? The truth is that all of us will come to this place of uncertainty at times, perhaps even many times.
Consider Abram for a moment. This man was just going about his life in a place called Haran when God suddenly interrupted with an amazing promise. Seemingly out of nowhere God shows up with a plan for Abram to leave his home and his relatives and for him to travel to an unknown area where God would turn this simple man into “the father of many nations.” (Genesis 17:4) What did Abram think about all that? Perhaps a better question might be, “How would you feel about that?” A little scared? Maybe a lot scared? Would you have reservations? Doubts? Concerns? Sure, we all would, if we are honest enough to admit it.
The reality is that God is not shy about making big promises and He may have a big plan in store for you right now. Has He promised to use you in some way? Has He promised to heal your body or create a miracle in your circumstance? Do you have an unsaved loved one or friend that God intends to reach out to? Whatever the promise is that God has made to you, you can be assured that He can and will get it done.
After making His promise to Abram we see God taking the time to encourage Abram in Genesis chapter 17.
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’..” – Genesis 17:1 NLT
Perhaps Abram was struggling with the magnitude of all that God had declared about him. Perhaps he was just having an off-day (we all have those don’t we?). Or maybe God just wanted to offer Abram a little reminder about who He was. Either way it must have been an amazing source of confidence to have God Himself state that He is El-Shaddai — “God Almighty”. I imagine God saying, “Just in case you have some concerns or doubts Abram, you need to know that I can do what I said I would do.”
He is God Almighty! He has no limits. There are no difficult promises for God to keep. He is not just able, or strong, or even mighty, He is “All Mighty!” I pray that you will be encouraged today to hold on to the promise that God has made for you. He is more than powerful enough to do what He said He will do. Our God never writes checks that He can’t cash. If He made you a promise, you can be assured that He has a plan and that He will provided. God gets it done.
The Biblical account of creation and the early history of humanity is filled with many wonders as well as many unfortunate events. Perhaps one of the saddest verses in the entire Word of God is found in Genesis 4:16,
“So Cain left the LORD’s presence and settled in the land of Nod.” – NLT
Settling in the land of Nod is not the peaceful transition that is appears to be at first glance. Nod is not simply the name of a nice alternative to the location that Adam and Eve had settled after Eden. Nod comes from the Hebrew word meaning “wandering.” The reality is that once Cain was forced to leave his family he never again found a place to call home. Cain became the world’s first nomad, wandering around just trying to find the bare minimum that he needed to survive. His whole life had become a struggle where he would never feel content or know peace. He lived in constant fear that others would do him harm and he lived with the guilt of having committed the world’s first murder and with the legacy of being the first person ever recorded to have told a lie, a lie that he told to God Himself (Genesis 4:9). Cain’s punishment was made complete when his wandering included the reality that he had been removed from the very presence of the LORD.
We have all wandered at times and if your anything like me you have probably felt what seems to be the absence of God’s presence. Sadly it is normally in our times of struggle, when peace is gone, and we are filled with fear and guilt that we find ourselves in the land of Nod (wandering) and away from God. But how is it that we end up there? One minute we are right where we need to be and the next we become an outcast of our own making.
Cain’s problems all started when he made the conscience choice to casually give God less than He deserved (Genesis 4:3). It wasn’t even a problem with Cain’s gift itself as much as was a clear problem with the attitude with which Cain approached God. From that moment, the moment he choose to treat God with this poor attitude, everything in his life began to spiral downward and away from everything that truly mattered. I hope our attitudes never lead us down a path so tragic as Cain’s (after all he did commit murder) but the truth is that once we start to see God as less significant and worthy of less than our best we have taken the first steps towards Nod.
Thankfully there is hope!
Even Cain experienced the mercy of God even as he was recieving his punishment for all the wrong he had done. God marked Cain in some way so others would know that there would be an even more severe punishment for anyone who tried to harm him (Genesis 4:15). Today, whether you find yourself in God’s presence or in the land of Nod wandering around just trying to survive, know that no matter how far you wander away God still loves you and has every intention to protect you until you come home to Him.
Read Acts 9:20-43
Key Verse: Acts 9:20 “And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God?” (NLT)
Things certainly turned around for Saul very quickly. He became a Christian and immediately started to teach others about Jesus. He went from trying to destroy the church to winning souls for Jesus Christ. He also went from being one who tracked down Christians to try and kill them to one who was now himself being hunted.
Being a Christian made Saul a lot of enemies. The Jewish teachers in Damascus wanted to kill him (v. 23) and the Greek- speaking Jews in Jerusalem wanted to kill him (v. 29). On both of these occasions other believers had to protect Saul by sneaking him out of the towns. Not only did Saul make enemies with unbelievers but even some Christians did not trust him, after all he did try to kill them.
Barnabas stood up and defended Saul to the other believers. He told them of Saul’s great preaching and how much he had changed since finding Jesus. Barnabas was able to convince the church to accept Saul as one of their own.
We can learn a lot from these two men. Saul Acted Out for Jesus even though he was once the Church’s greatest enemy. He preached the Good News after only just getting saved himself. Barnabas Acted Out and defended Saul even though it could have made him very unpopular with the other believers.
Prayer: “Lord, help me to have the courage to Act Out for you without being afraid of what anyone else may say or do.”
Read Acts 9:1-19
Key Verse: Acts 9:15 “But the Lord said, ‘Go and do what I say’…” (NLT)
The conversion of Saul (who was later renamed Paul) is one of the major turning points in the Church’s history. Saul went from uttering murderous threats (v.1) to being chosen as one who would suffer many things for the sake of the Gospel (v. 16). Saul was not the only one who was dramatically changed in this passage. We are also introduced to a Christian named Ananias who needed to be changed. When God first spoke to Ananias, Ananias reacted positively, “Yes Lord”, but as soon as he found out what God wanted him to do and who God wanted him to witness to his reaction changed to “But Lord”. Ananias began to try and make excuses as to why he should not have to do what God wanted.
Sometimes we are enthusiastic about doing things for God that is, right up until we find out what it is exactly that God wants us to do. It is at that point that we start to make excuses and try and get ourselves out of having to do anything at all. God responded to Ananias very forcefully and demanded that he do as God said. It would have been so much better if Ananias had trusted God from the beginning and did as God asked.
It is important for us to learn to trust God completely and to not hesitate when God asks us to do something for Him. God is in control and He knows what He is doing. That Saul who God asks you to witness to may be the next Paul.
Prayer: “Lord, sometimes it is easy to want to say “Yes Lord” when you speak to me but then my answer turns to “But Lord” as I look for excuses. Help me to trust you completely so I can Act Out for You.”