As I read today’s passages in Acts, I kept thinking to myself, “what has the modern church become, the Sadducees or the Pharisees?” I’m not thinking about their literal beliefs, but I’m comparing the quarreling we have internally as “Christians” when we get hung up on the mundane aspects of who we have become as a religion and forget to focus on Who made us as believers in the salvation we received through Jesus Christ. Every time we choose to focus on anything other than Jesus, we turn away from the reason Jesus came, died, and rose again in the first place. Let us not lose sight of our Savior and the freedom He has given to us. Not a freedom to sin, but a freedom to focus on Him and our true purpose in life which is to serve Him and draw others into relationship with Him.
From today’s reading, Acts 20:24, However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. Our lives are meant for the service of our King. Too often we feel our lives are worthless unless we are getting a lot out of it; whether its fun, recognition, or success. Paul’s example shows it is more important what we put into this life than what we get out of it. What is more important to you: what you get out of this life or what you put into it?
It almost feels like we are going too fast through Acts. There is so much information to absorb. The big thing that stood out to me was brought to my attention by one of the notes in my Bible regarding Acts 18:14-16:
Gallio, Proconsul of Achaia, made an important judicial decision for the spreading of the Gospel in the Roman empire. Judaism was a recognized religion under Roman law. As long as Christians were seen as part of Judaism, the court refused to hear cases brought against them. If they had claimed to be a new religion, they could easily have been outlawed by the government. In effect Gallio was saying, “I don’t understand all your terminology and finer points of theology. Handle the matter and don’t bother me.”
Because of Gallio’s decision, Christianity was able to grow under the radar for a little while longer. It wasn’t until later persecution increased that the early church had to be more cautious. It is important to understand our heritage as Christians to truly appreciate what God has done to get us here.
Today’s reading in the book of Acts focused on the beginning of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. While there are many examples of this throughout this book, what stood out to me the most was the Apostle’s perseverance. Though they were rejected, misunderstood, and even beaten at times, they never lost sight of what they were doing, why they were doing it, and Who they were doing it for. May we all keep our eyes on our purpose in life. We are here to serve God by serving people and to draw them closer to Him; everything else is of less importance.
The other important thing to remember is that we are here to work and it is for God’s glory, not ours, that we do what we do. If we do His work and find it to be a thankless job, then we are right where we need to be. Our reward and thanks are in heaven. This is one of the hardest things I personally need to accept, but it is exactly the intent and purpose of my existence here on earth.
For our reflection day this week, I came across a friend of mine’s Facebook post about lent. It originated out of YouVersion as far as I can tell (hopefully no one will sue me for posting this). It was very thought provoking to me so I thought I would share it here. I hope you enjoy it.
Lent for everyone
We know very, very little about Joseph. Some legends make him an old man who died while Jesus was growing up, but we don’t know that for sure. We know he worked in the building trade, including what we call carpentry. We know he could trace his ancestry back to the ancient royal house of David and Solomon (many first-century Jews knew their family history as well as many today know the story of their favorite soap opera, or the fortunes of their football team). And we know that Joseph faced a unique personal and moral challenge, and came through it with integrity and humility. Joseph, in this passage, provides a sharply personal angle for us to approach Matthew’s gospel.
Think how it was for him. Marriage beckons, quite likely arranged by the two families but none the less an exciting prospect. A home. Children. A new status in the community — in a small town where everyone knows everyone else and where, without television, everybody else’s life is part of a complex daily soap opera.
And then the shock. Mary has news for him, news to send a chill down the spine of any prospective husband. How can he possibly believe her strange story? What will people say? So he plans, with a heavy heart, to call the whole thing off.
Then, the dream. Mary’s story is true. What’s more, she and her child are caught up, not just in a personal challenge, but in a much older, stranger purpose. God’s purpose. God’s rescue operation, long expected and at last coming true. The child to be born will be ‘Emmanuel’, God-with-us. God with us to save us: hence the name ‘Jesus’, the same word as ‘Joshua’, the great leader who brought the people of Israel across the Jordan into the promised land. The name means ‘Yahweh saves’. God with us; God to the rescue.
Whenever God does something new, he involves people — often unlikely people, frequently surprised and alarmed people. He asks them to trust him in a new way, to put aside their natural reactions, to listen humbly for a fresh word and to act on it without knowing exactly how it’s going to work out. That’s what he’s asking all of us to do this Lent. Reading the Bible without knowing in advance what God is going to say takes humility. Like Joseph, we may have to put our initial reactions on hold and be prepared to hear new words, to think new thoughts, and to live them out. We all come with our own questions, our own sorrows and frustrations, our own longings. God will deal with them in his own way, but he will do so as part of his own much larger and deeper purposes. Who knows what might happen, this year, if even a few of us were prepared to listen to God’s word in scripture in a new way, to share the humility of Joseph, and to find ourselves caught up in God’s rescue operation?
TODAY: Speak to us, Father, in a new way as we read your word. Help us to hear your voice and follow where you lead.
In today’s reading the big thing that stood out to me was Peter’s reaction to Lord’s command to eat “unclean animals”. Peter’s response is in Acts 10:14, “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” This is what we try to do for God. We freely give the things that matter little to Him, but what He really wants is our obedience to His calling. We feel that as long as we give God something, then we are free to not give Him the things he really wants from us, which is a willingness to give anything and everything He asks for. He doesn’t want our silly sacrifices, He wants our entire sacrifice of obedience to Him. We must be open to it all.
Once again, there is a lot of information in the three chapters of Acts we read today. There is no clearer picture of God’s grace than the conversion of “Saul the persecutor” to “Paul the Apostle”. He is proof that Christ’s sacrifice is greater than any sin. It is also proof that anyone’s life, no matter how bad, can be changed by the Holy Spirit to be used by God for His glory. God’s grace is sufficient to cleanse us and allow us to be used by Him.
There is so much information to digest in today’s reading, but the big thing that stood out to me was Acts 5:41, The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. How powerful of a statement is that? May we all find ourselves worthy of suffering for the Name!
Today is a very exciting day because we get to start one of the most exciting and powerful books of the Bible, Acts! This is such a powerful book because it is foundational to all believers. This is our heritage, it is the place where it all started for our faith. There is also a lot of controversy in this book. There are some things that believers, and non-believers alike, find difficult to accept. But, if you can get past all that, you can find this book to be a guide for what God intended us to be and do as a result of Christ’s sacrifice for our sin. There is instruction, judgement, grace, and forgiveness in this book. Let us all strive to learn and apply the things this book means to teach us.
Proverbs 8:34 caught my attention today, Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. May we always be the ones who wait at the doorway of God for His instruction. The time we spend each day reading through His word is what is being talked about here. We are waiting at His doorstep for Him to open His words to us as we read. What a powerful picture this is to me.