Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Acts 27

Summary: Paul's plea to Caesar is starting to happen, as he boards a boat towards Rome; God protects him even though (to make a long story short) getting shipwrecked.

Response: There was never a doubt from Paul that he would survive this ordeal--and never a doubt that the ordeal would need to take place, either. I only hope the Lord can give me such confidence to see different circumstances as opportunities, not disasters.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Acts 26

Summary: Paul testifies now before Agrippa, who understands his situation. He understands, but Agrippa cannot release Paul because he must first see Caesar, and Agrippa and Felix wash their hands of the affair.

Response: Like everyone else, I feel busy quite often. I know I need to get out and be the hands of Jesus somewhere, but like the nobles, I often stop at simply giving my opinion and moving on.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Acts 25

Summary: Paul's accusers try to game the system, asking the new governor, Felix, to move Paul (where they would ambush him). Paul replies that he'd much rather be on trial before Caesar, which Felix consents to. Still, Felix wants a second opinion, so he brings Paul before a visiting dignitary, King Agrippa.

Response: I'll be honest, I liked the spread of the Gospel better than persecution, but it is great seeing God's hand move to protect Paul, and I know that same hand guards me. When I let it, of course.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Acts 24

Summary: Paul, on trial with the governor, is accused by the high priest of disturbing the peace. Paul offers a faith-based defense that the governor needs time to process. Unfortunately, that process ends up taking longer than the governor's time in office.

Response: Literally facing his accusers, Paul does not attack them directly. I'm not sure I could do the same.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Acts 23

Summary: Paul testifies before the actual Jewish Council, which goes about as well as one can expect. He has to be dragged from there by the Roman guard and snuck away by them to a nearby governor when a few dozen men make a pact to kill Paul.

Response: Paul's testimony, unlike other times, barely gets one sentence in before it is interrupted and ended. But he made it count. I pray that my talking (mostly with students at the moment) really does show the Christ in me.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Acts 22

Summary: Paul talks to the angry mob of Jews outside the Roman barracks in Jerusalem. Giving his testimony angers the crowd, so he is brought into the barracks, but protected due to his Roman citizenship.

Response: I sort of have dual citizenship, both in the Christian music world and either classical or secular music, too. My expertise in one bleeds into the others, and makes me more effective. God may be calling you (and me) not to a far off place but just to the people around you, the ones who may be just outside that heavenly influence.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Acts 21

Summary: Each town Paul visits on his way back to Jerusalem has a church member who warns him not to go or be imprisoned. But he does go and, after some dialogue with the apostles, big surprise--he's arrested.

Response: I think Paul knows he's walking a very fine line talking about Gentiles to Jews. The apostles sounded like they hadn't fully worked out the thought process behind all of this, and of course the crowds are frenzied at this point. I hope I can avoid the knee jerk reaction to God's hand like this and search for His wisdom in the crazy.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Acts 20

Summary: Paul's whirlwind tour is almost done; he sends word ahead to the church at Ephesus so that they can meet him at the boat he's traveling on for a sermon during a layover. He reveals that the Spirit has been telling him he won't get to see these towns again, that only prison and persecution await him. But still he goes.

Response: [Already we get Jesus misquoted with "better to give than receive;" oh well] The last day or so has had at least two studies of mine talk of eventual sacrifice. It's safe to say that I've noticed. I hope God can reveal to me what I need to prune out of my life.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Acts 19

Summary: Paul stays in Ephesus this time for over two years. He finds a small sect of believers in John the Baptist; he heals in Jesus' name, and others fail greatly when they try to cast out demons in Paul's name; and he resolves to go to Jerusalem before heading to Rome (going southeast to then backtrack West through the sea). Before he can go, though, yet more trouble is had when tradesmen connected to the worship of Greek god Artemis riot in Ephesus. Paul tries to enter the building they've occupied, but is forced to watch from the sidelines as one of his own is shouted down for two hours straight.

Response: [Okay so the guy in verse 33, Alexander, was probably going to try to deflect blame from Jews in general over to Paul, but that's okay, close enough for now] So we have a few aesops here if we want them, that we can't ride on someone else's coattails, and that there are things the Spirit will just veto regardless of how much we want/wish/need it at the time.

But I've been thinking about sacrifice. By tithing, by the choices and purchases we make, that affects our ability to give and, as we saw here, it can make a sizeable financial message to those who don't know Jesus.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Acts 18

Summary: After yet another almost flogging in Corinth, Paul begins a whirlwind tour, hitting Ephesus quickly before rounding back to Jerusalem by boat and running through the towns be visited in his last go around. Meanwhile, a couple he left behind in Ephesus meet and strengthen Apollos, a mighty speaker for Jesus that seemingly comes out of nowhere.

Response: I'm not sure where you are in your walk, non-existent reader, and to be honest, I'm not sure where I am in mine. To the Paul who is persecuted, may God send you the same message of hope, peace, and perseverance; to Priscila and Acquila, left behind, may God keep your hands useful and your mind sharp until God calls you again; to the Paul who revisits, may you find growth in all things and the wisdom to foster even more; and to the Apollos, may your fervor for Christ be tempered by your mentors into a refined instrument.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Acts 17

Summary: Paul continues his tour, starting in Thessalonica. The people there follow the usual pattern (some believe, others riot, Paul kicked out), and kick Paul out of the next town he visits, too. Without his traveling buddies, he settles in Athens, where the people follow any religious trend that pops up. Upon telling the Athenians about Jesus, most are skeptical but at least peaceful.

Response: I know that Paul (and I) should come to expect that most people who hear the Word will reject it, some defiantly so. It sucks, but it's part of the call as followers of Christ to spread His love.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Acts 16

Summary: Paul and his new sidekicks Silas and Timothy try going to several places, but the Spirit prevents it. Instead, Paul gets a dream asking for help from the region of Macedonia, so they go there.

In Philippi, the main town of the district, they preach and grow the church (including a woman named Lydia) until they're arrested, but are released supernaturally,  converting the jailer and his family on the way out. The leaders are terrified not because of the display of power but because Paul and Silas are Roman citizens that were just punished by a Jewish entity.

Response: The Spirit chooses different things for different people and expects different things, too. In the last few chapters, the apostles unanimously say that new believers don't need to be circumcised, but Paul wants Timothy to be respected by those he's reaching out to and so has him snipped himself. They try to go to a number of cities, but end up having to travel across the known world to get to Philippi. Hopefully I can start hearing that still, small voice.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Acts 15

Summary: Church drama ensues, but not for long, as some believers from Jerusalem start telling Gentiles in other countries that they must be circumcised to be Christians. Peter and Paul are both considerably against this, and convince the assembly in Jerusalem to send Paul with a letter expressing that sentiment. Some time later, Paul and his buddy Barnabas butt heads on traveling companions and split ways for now.

Response: So they saw a problem and talked about it openly with prayer and testimony, then sent people to talk it over with the other group. This is handled super well, especially compared to dysfunctions in churches today. I think a main reason for that is the authority Paul and Peter had in their ministry, as opposed to people (admittedly myself included) who haven't been fruitful or even trying. I am hoping to get on the wagon and serve those around me, but a more-than-full-time job and continuing to grow a family is not conducive to that just yet.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Acts 14

Summary: Paul and Barnabas, kicked out of Antioch, move to the towns of Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. In each, they are at first commended (in Lystra the people think they are Zeus and Hermes) before the Jewish leaders of the town incite riots against them. But after Derbe, the pair go backwards through the already visited towns, encouraging the believers they left behind.

Response: The inspiration sweeps back through. Not for long and not in exactly the same way, but there's at least a small visit. I hope that I can start to find my small rests and be able to give the same to my wife.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Acts 13

Summary: Saul (who nonchalantly becomes Paul here) preaches to the Jewish community in a town near Antioch but, when they are outnumbered the following week by Gentiles, the Jews reject the message and Paul is forced to reject them, too, preaching to the Gentiles.

Response: Again, I have real trouble "shaking the dust from my feet." I haven't been in enough situations like that to really discern between those who don't get it yet and those who have chosen to reject it. And without being the one spreading the Gospel and seeing the reactions of the listeners, I don't feel capable of sound judgment.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Acts 12

Summary: King Herod (he the grandson of "kill the babies" King Herod in the gospel) kills James and imprisons Peter. Peter, in the dead of night, escapes with help of an angel. While the church rejoices, Herod dies.

Response: I mean, I get that Herod was killing Christians, but it still feels wrong to me to rejoice in someone's death the way the author's tone feels to me. That said, the middle section, where Peter can't get the servant girl to open the door for him, reads like a sitcom script, and in a good way. I guess, at the end of the day, these are humans and flawed and that's okay because I am both of those, too, and if they can be flawed and still have God work in and through them, then there's still hope for me, too.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Acts 11

Summary: Peter, ever the leader in trouble, returns after visiting the centurion to quarrels over the rightness of his actions. Peter explains his dream, God telling him three times not to reject clean things, and the dissenters turn and rejoice. Similarly, Barnabas finds joy in welcoming Gentile Christians in far-off cities. Finally, the church sends relief aid to cities in a famine.

Response: The church has disagreements that end in joy. Connections are found between churches. The Church serves as the hand of God in helping the downtrodden. I want my church to be like this!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Acts 10

Summary: Peter, a Jew's Jew, and a centurion of Rome (who still obeyed God, but was not officially Jewish) both receive visions to gather together and accept one another as they are, even without ritual cleanliness or Roman citizenship.

Response: On the one hand, this is us, our chance to be in the Kingdom! But on the other, I know it's my obligation to go and seek out the lost and bring them in with loving acceptance.