Aug. 21-27 I am what I am... 1 Cor. 15:10

“By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain.” (I Cor. 15:10)

Aug. 21 – (I Cor. 14:26-40) Can you imagine if everyone shared in a service?  But we are encouraged to bring “something”.  This tells me we are to be communicating with the Lord through the week and have something fresh from Him that we could share. The corporate meeting takes on much deeper meaning when God gives you something during the week and you see it fitting in to what God has given other parts of the body that they share on Sunday! So, whether you share or not, it is a great faith builder.

Paul is now helping us to understand how to get the most out of a service where there is speaking in tongues and prophesying.  Explain the order that he suggests will most build up the body of Christ.

                I think verses 33-35 is hard for us to understand given our Western culture.  Paul assumes women will take leadership (I Cor. 11:12-16) roles in praying and prophesying.  Could it be that there needed to be some parameters because of the cultural setting of the time and Paul’s concern for peace and order?  I think this needs a cultural study. Anyone want to take the challenge?


Aug. 22 – (I Cor. 15:1-11) This chapter is one of the greatest sustained discussions of a topic which Paul ever wrote.  The theme is the resurrection.  He begins with Jesus ‘resurrection but continues to include all believers in Christ.  Paul is trying yet again to get the Corinthians to understand where they are and who they are in God’s long story.  If they understand where they belong in this story so many other things that have troubled them will be seen in the correct light. Do I really understand where I belong…where He has me every moment of every day and how I got there?  Hmm.

Paul is sharing how his former life contrasted against his current life. It shows God’s grace so dramatically.  It also shows me that we need to be careful what we would bank our life on. Let’s work on making sure how we view something is how God sees it.   Selah


Aug. 23 – (I Cor. 15:12-34) When you were a new believer in Christ, was there a great interest and enthusiasm for the things of the Lord?  It felt wonderful to be out from the burden of sin and brought many of us to almost a feeling of giddiness.  But then we realized the “weight” was coming back…  What was that all about?  Verses 15-19 help us to understand that Christ saved us at the point of our admission of need for forgiveness of sins but we needed to realize the sanctification process will continue until we see Him “face to face”. In these verses, it seems some of the Corinthians believed Christ died for their sins (and was resurrected) but they still believed there was no resurrection of the dead.  Can you think of a sect of Jews that Jesus dealt with who believed there was no resurrection for the dead? (Matt. 22:23)? Some also seemed to believe you could be baptized for another deceased person’s soul.  One source I read said there are cults today who still believe in this practice.  The ritual was a living person laid under the bed of a deceased person and spoke acceptance of Christ (The Book of First Corinthians by Paul A. Hamar; 1980; p. 147). Do you think they were having trouble changing “what they grew up believing”?  I know this sounds crazy but I have a feeling when I get to heaven, I will feel the same about some of my beliefs.  What did we “grow up believing” that God needs to sanctify (renew our mind) so we reflect “His image” better?  Ask Him!


Aug. 24 – (I Cor. 15:35-49) These verses are easy to misinterpret, especially if you don’t read it all together. Many versions of the Bible can mislead people by saying “physical body” and “spiritual body” (v.44) One interpretation is that Paul is not making a contrast between our physical and our spiritual self, something we might call a ghost.  They believe the contrast he’s making is between a body animated by one type of life and a body animated by another type.  One is animated by food, drink and air, the other by God’s own Spirit.  What do you think?


Aug. 25 – (I Cor. 15:50-58) You might think after a terrific chapter filled with hope even after we physically die ( or the Lord comes back for us), that Paul would finish with rejoicing over what we look forward to, but he doesn’t.  What does he do in verse 58 and why?

                Do you ever get discouraged that the work you are doing for the Lord is futile or too small to make a difference?  How can verse 58 be an encouragement for you in those times?


Aug. 26 – (I Cor. 16:1-11) Paul is talking at the beginning of the chapter about the Corinthian Christians (as he also instructed Galatians Christians) giving to the Jerusalem Christians.  How does this consolidate the ‘body of Christ’ universal? 

                In 16:9 Paul mentions an “open door” and “opposition”.  When we are trying to “spread the gospel” why does this always seem to be the case?  How do you push through to victory?  Why not share your testimony with all of us?  I think we all are due for some encouragement from you!


Aug. 27 – (I Cor. 16:12-24) There are four commands Paul gives in verse 13 almost like an army commander might give.  Name the 4 commands. How can we as a church obey those commands?

                As you think about difficult situations you are facing right now, what would it mean to approach that situation in love?  Please seriously consider this.  Why?  Let me share a situation I was in where I did not heed this verse and where it took me.  Maybe it will help you to circumvent something.  

I found myself in a situation where someone was clearly breaking a commandment. As I tried to show a destructive path that was unfolding, I spoke out of anger and hurt and frustration, trying to get light on the reality of the path it would lead to.  Obviously, it was not received well. I kept asking the Lord how to change it (yes I’m always trying to “help” fix things). After a time had passed God showed me that once again I am not the “fixer”, He is.  But most importantly He showed me from Eph. 4:11-16, that I spoke the Truth but it had not been in love…. and that is a key!  After being convicted, I had to go back and ask forgiveness for my wrongful attitude.  So the moral of this story is, if you need to speak to a brother or sister, make sure it is done in love…. the same kind of love Jesus had when He chose to die on the cross for your sins!  SELAH

Aug. 14-20 What part of the Body are you?

Aug. 14 – (1 Cor. 10:14-33) What comparisons and contrasts are found between the Christian celebration of Communion and eating at the pagan temple? What is the difference between eating meat offered to idols and eating at a pagan temple?  Can you relate these differences to our life today?  Every word in the Word is relevant to us today.  Some are just more difficult to understand how it relates to us…. but it’s there!


Aug. 15 – (1 Cor. 11:1-16) Go to a different culture and you will observe different (and sometimes subtle) pressures and constraints in actions and in dress or hair style. As you read this passage think about our culture and how we may not be consistent.  Most churches have stopped putting pressure on women to wear a covering in church, but nobody thinks it’s odd that we still pressure men not to wear hats in church.  Just something to think about as we try to get an understanding of what is ‘best’ in God’s eyes!


Aug. 16 – (1 Cor. 11:17-34) This part of the chapter is about the Lord’s Supper.  We all know it is important to remember what Jesus did for us.  Sometimes our repeated activities become mundane and just actions we go through.  Let’s read this again like it is for the first time.  God, our Father, loved us the most by sending His Son, Jesus to die for our sins.  His resurrection released all our sins as we accept Him.  It is the most wonderful act of love…. ever! 


Aug. 17 – (1 Cor. 12:1-11) I am most passionate about believers understanding and walking in what gifts God has given them individually.  There are several types of gifts God has put in us individually so we can ‘minister’ to those specific people in our everyday life to show His Glory and reality.  This passage is talking about spiritual gifts (gifts given by the Holy Spirit).  List the different spiritual gifts noted here. Does God give all of them to everyone?  Is there anyone He totally withholds from?  Is any ‘more important’ than another?  Since the Holy Spirit gives us at least one of these, how are we to use them as the body of Christ working as ONE?  It’s very important to answer these questions before you go any further.  May you be honest in your assessment.


Aug. 18 – (1 Cor. 12:12-31) By the end of this chapter, Paul will be listing some spiritual gifts (or body parts).  What gifts do Christians tend to regard as more important than others? What are some practical ways you have seen 12:26 in action? Paul is insisting that every member is just as important as any other member.  It’s like he is describing how the hand will bandage the injured foot and the foot will take the injured head to the hospital.  WE ALL NEED EACH OTHER!

What part are you in the body of Christ?  Have you ever thought about it?  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you if you don’t already know.  He will show you…because He made you for that purpose.  Your gifts, talents, abilities, and interests are all in you for this purpose.  I would love to know what part you are and how that plays out in the body!  Please share!!!


Aug. 19 – (1 Cor. 13) This chapter is more like a slow movement of a symphony whose first movement is chapter 12 and whose final movement is chapter 14.  Paul is teaching it as a symphony about corporate worship of the church, especially about the use of different gifts by different members of the worshiping congregation.  Consider the things which Paul calls less important than love (vv. 1-3).  How are each of these connected to the topics mentioned in chapters 11 and 12?  Here is a description of what love is…and what love is not (vv. 4-8 a). What do the verses 8-13 promise about the future?  Why do you think love is greater than either faith or hope? 

Oh, to have God’s love for every person we meet… and for ourselves!  As you read through these items, which one are you the best at (if you could choose)?  Thank God for His work, He has done in you!  Which is the hardest to be evident in you?  Ask God for new revelation about that area so you can continue to be “changed into the image of Christ”.  Remember sanctification (renewing the mind) is an ongoing process! 


Aug. 20 – (1 Cor. 14:1-25) Paul is speaking about the gift of tongues and prophecy and what edifies the individual as opposed to what edifies the corporate body.  Maybe it’s just my personality but I think we tend to not want to develop (and it does need developing) either. I think Paul is saying we need to develop both (what edifies individually and corporately) so that in love it will be used to build us up in Him.  That is our journey… to be more like Him as a corporate body and as an individual part!

 

Aug. 7-13 How Free Are You?

Aug. 7- (1 Cor. 6) Why do you think Paul is forbidding the Christians from taking each other to court?  On maybe a lesser vein, where in the church do you see Christians showing the world we are no different than they are?  How can we change that?

Paul is trying to say to the Corinthians how hurtful sexual sin is to the person and to all around them including the world that is watching.  Look at the list of unrighteous acts that will lead people not to inherit the kingdom of God (vv. 9-10). If you can relate to any of the sexual sins seek forgiveness and right standing before God.  If you can’t relate to those sins, look at the other ones…. seek forgiveness and right standing before God!  We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. Selah

How does Paul emphasize that the Christians’ relationship with Jesus is not simply spiritual but physical as well (vv. 12-20)?  He says (v.18) “Run away from immorality”. What form should this “running away” look like for Christians today?

                As you look over chapters 5 and 6, list the warnings and assurances you find.  Memorize verses to help you maintain a “temple” in which the Holy Spirit resides.  


Aug. 8 – (1 Cor. 7:1-16) What a mine field Paul is picking his way through!  Morality in those times is a lot like it is in the world today. Paul does not retreat from any subject…if it will help the new Christians grow in the Lord.  He divided his comments (vv. 8-16) into three area; a message for people who have been married but now aren’t (vv. 8-9), a message for married people (vv. 10-11), and a message for people in the tricky situation of being married to someone who is not a Christian (vv. 12-16).   Put that together with a new relationship with Christ and new Christians had a lot to navigate.  Do you remember as a new born Christian, some areas you wrestled with?  How did you come to a new understanding?  Who helped you?  Why not thank them this week for their mentoring and guidance?

The idea of mutual equality before God was very daring in Paul’s time and is still challenging today. How does Paul express this in practical terms in this passage?


Aug. 9 – (1 Cor. 7:17-40) One of the greatest achievements of the nineteenth century, (largely the work of devout Christians) was the abolition of the slave trade (not that it doesn’t continue in other forms; but the conscience of most of the world confirms slavery as evil).  Paul is not saying slavery doesn’t matter.  He’s saying regardless of your social status, your status as a member of the Messiah’s people is far more important. What things today do we choose (yes it is a choice) to become slaves to?  (ex. debt?) Selah

                DID YOU KNOW?  Paul probably left Corinth in A.D. 51.  This was right about the time when there was a famine (severe grain shortage). It was a time of great distress (v. 26) and people thought it might get worse.  What would be some examples of a “very difficult time” in which Christian believers should put on hold such life-changing plans as marriage or up-scaling in living? 


Aug. 10 – (1 Cor. 8) Paul mentions those with a weak conscience. Paul sees the conscience like a sort of internal compass, telling each person what is right and wrong.  The human conscience, like a compass, is a sensitive instrument and can easily malfunction.  Reeducating someone’s conscience takes time and patience.  Several of the Christians in Corinth (before their recent conversion) had been regular worshipers in the shrines of the idols.  And once you shared in that dark but powerful world on a regular basis, perhaps for many years, it would be difficult to separate part of it (the meat) from the whole thing.  Years of teaching, prayer and wise help would be needed to cope with any element of the old package deal.  Otherwise, it would be disturbing to see Christian friends (who didn’t have that background of worshiping idols) eating that meat. 

                It was causing Christians to feel that they (or the offending party) had sinned by eating this meat.  Do you feel free to do certain things that other Christians consider wrong, or do you refrain from certain things that another Christian think is okay?  Whichever side you sit on, are you judging others for doing the opposite?  (God is the only one to judge!) 

                DID YOU KNOW?  In those days, most of the meat sold had been offered to one idol or another. 


Aug. 11 – (1 Cor. 9:1-14)   This chapter seems to be a about a pattern of self-denial.  Paul said, “I could demand or expect thus and thus but choose not to, for in that choice, I may reach another with the gospel.”  Our culture demands we stand up for our own rights, even at others’ expense.  Yet Jesus keeps reminding us of the joy from self-sacrifice and humility.  What could you choose through self-denial today so that someone else might have a better “view of Christ”?

                Paul continues to press the point that he has rights but will not demand them so that maybe one more person will know Christ (vv. 9-14).  Think of how this has played out in your life whether an observation or an experience you had.  Was the gospel hindered or proclaimed? 


Aug. 12 – (1 Cor. 9:15-27) Expand on what Paul means by each of the different ways he would seek to remove barriers to the gospel (vv. 15-23). 

                Christian freedom is not freedom to do what you like, but freedom from all things that stop you from being the person God wants you to be.  This is freedom for the service of God and the Gospel.


Aug. 13 – (1 Cor. 10:1-13) The first part of chapter 10 reminds me to see the mistakes in others only so I don’t repeat them in myself. It says that most of the Israelites bodies were scattered in the wilderness.  I think Paul was saying that they all were led by the same cloud, they all ate the miracle manna God gave them but they still were not satisfied and ended up dying in the wilderness… not receiving entrance into the Promised Land.   It reminds me of the saying: “Only but for the grace of God…go I.”  Knowing and believing is not enough, it is responding to what you know and believe that brings the kingdom of God into your life.  Selah

                God does put limits on what He allows in your life (10:13).  Don’t ever doubt that!  Yes, it’s okay to remind Him of that (You are actually reminding yourself that you are trusting Him in what limits He sets and that all things can ultimately work for good!).

JULY 31-AUG. 6 Is It All About "Me" or All About Him?

July 31 – (Acts 28:17-31) Paul is back in relative physical safety.  What does He do?  Does he think the chains he is in or the impending “court date” says to stop ministering for a while and think about himself?  No, he uses this place and this condition to speak to a new group of people so that they may know the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ!  “Lord help us to see very ‘condition’ we are in, is to further your kingdom in our lives and those who are around us”.


Aug. 1 – (I Cor. 1:1-9) Max Lucado has a wonderful way of giving us insight into the general focus of a book of the Bible.

INTRODUCTION TO I CORINTHIANS BY MAX LUCADO

An Indian was walking up a mountain when he heard a voice.  “Carry me with you,” it requested.  The Indian turned and saw a snake.  He refused. “If I carry you up the mountain you will bite me.”  “I wouldn’t do that” the snake assured.  “All I need is some help.  I am slow and you are fast, please be kind and carry me to the top of the mountain.”

                It was against his better judgment, but the Indian agreed.  He picked up the snake, put him in his shirt, and resumed the journey. When they reached the top, he reached in his shirt to remove the snake and got bit.  He fell to the ground, and the snake slithered away.  “You lied!” the Indian cried, “You said you wouldn’t bit me.”  The snake stopped and looked back, “I didn’t lie.  You knew who I was when you picked me up.” 

                We hear the legend and shake our heads.  He should have known better, we bemoan.  And we are right he should have.  And so should we.  But don’t we do the same?  Don’t we believe the lies of the snake?  Don’t we pick up what we should leave alone? 

                The Corinthian Christians did.  One snake after another had hissed his lies in their ears, and they had believed it. How many lies did they believe?  How much time do you have?  The list is long and ugly: sectarianism, disunity, sexual immorality.  And that is only the first six chapters.

But First Corinthians is more than a list of sins; it is an epistle of patience. Paul initiates the letter by calling these Christian “brothers.” He could have called them heretics or hypocrites or skirt-chasers (and in so many words he does), but not before he calls them brothers.

                He patiently teaches them about worship, unity, the role of women, and the Lord’s Supper.  He writes as if he can see them face to face.  He is disturbed but not despondent.  Angry but not desperate. His driving passion is love.  And his treatise on love in chapter 13 remains the greatest essay ever penned.

 The letter, however personal, is not just for Corinth.  It is for all who have heard the whisper and felt the fangs.  We, like the Indian, should have known better.  We, like the Corinthians, sometimes need a second chance. 


Aug. 2 – (I Cor. 1:10-31) In a constructive manner, Paul admonished Christians in Corinth for being divisive.  He reminded them of the limits of human wisdom.  We must focus on Christ to understand God’s will.  Human wisdom given to us should just be a confirmation. 


Aug. 3 – (I Cor. 2) Have you ever thought of Paul as a ‘common man’?  That is what he says he is.  We see a very strong and wise man because he was operating in God’s strength and power.  Why can’t we see ourselves with that strength and power as well?  We have it! As we rely on Him, it will be shown for His glory!  Make no mistake about that!


Aug. 4 – (I Cor. 3) I like the way Warren Wiersbe describes this chapter.  It is three pictures of what the church is supposed to be. The church is a family and the goal is maturity (vv. 1-4).  The church is a field and the goal is quantity (vv. 5-9 a).  The church is a temple and the goal is quality (vv. 9 b-23). What do you think?

The goal of family is maturity.  Are we into milk or meat?

The goal of the field is quantity.  How are we doing in spreading the gospel…with those around us?

The goal of the temple is quality.  As we study and grow are making sure our foundation is strong and secure?


Aug. 5 – (I Cor. 4) Paul has written this whole chapter just to try to get verses 1 -2 across to the Corinthian people.  He tells them what it takes (vs. 2), how to judge (or I should say who should judge), and what it looks like (vv. 11-13).  He really is telling them these things to help them grow in Christ.  Who is that person for you?  Who are you to someone else?  God always wants us to first be accountable to Him but then to always have a ‘Paul’ (someone helping us grow spiritually) and a “Timothy’ (someone we are helping to grow spiritually) and I might add a ‘Barnabas’ (an encourager).


Aug. 6 – (I Cor. 5) In this passage and the next 3 chapters, Paul moves from one topic to another, raising two issues mostly involving questions about sexual immorality. The first is where to draw lines involving sexual behavior and the second involving the discipline of severe misbehavior.

The first discussion involves drastic behavior. Maybe you can’t relate to this but think back to when you first came to the Lord. What changes in behavior has God led you to make (or perhaps are still struggling with) because you belong to Christ?  Have the changes you made in His power, become a better reflection of Him?

In verses 6-13, Paul is describing leaven as something that spreads throughout the whole dough once it is introduced.  Sin does the same thing.  When the Jewish people had to quickly leave Egypt they were instructed not to put leaven in their bread.  They were also instructed to sacrifice a lamb and put its blood on the doorposts.  Passover has been observed ever since then.  It is no coincidence that Jesus died and rose again at Passover time; he was the real Passover lamb and his death won deliverance for the whole world.  The whole Christian life, from that point of view, becomes one long Passover celebration!  And at this Passover there must be no “leaven of the old life” – the kind of behavior that pagans engage in and that Christians can be lured back into if they aren’t careful. Get noticeable leaven out of your house and let’s set a watch guard to forever keep it out!

 

JULY 24-30 Praying for people who make wrong decisions

July 24 – (Acts 26: 24-32) Doesn’t it just amaze you how Paul is able to continue to speak the salvation message to anyone he comes in contact with?  In verses 28-29, Paul was urging Agrippa to respond to the gospel, but he puts Paul off.  Paul then responded to Agrippa using Agrippa’s own words: short or long.  Paul definitely was a wordsmith!


July 25 – (Acts 27:1-12) Here is some information that helped me understand these verses better: The “we” (v. 1) indicates Luke’s presence with Paul all the way to Rome. The ship of Adramyttium was probably a small coasting vessel.  “Under the lee” (v. 4) means sailing under shelter; they were protected from strong winds by sailing close to the island. Cilicia, Pamphylia, and Lycia were districts along the southern coast of what today is Turkey.  Myra was directly north of Alexandria. 

                 As Paul and all who are on this journey travel through this storm, there are some important lessons here.  Verse 11 says that the centurion listened to the helmsman and owner of the ship more than to Paul (who had been praying for wisdom). Especially in the midst of a storm, the Holy Spirit needs to be the loudest voice you hear. No educated or experienced human can give you better direction and wisdom than God.


July 26 – (Acts 27:13-26) In these verses, I see another important thing to think about (okay, it’s all important).  Paul must have been praying specifically for the lives of those on board.  In verses 9-10, Paul is saying that not only the ship but lives would be destroyed.  Now in verses 22-24, only “things” would be destroyed.  Paul knew all along what would happen and spoke to the authorities but they would not listen.  When things got worse, he began to pray for their safety despite their wrong decision.  How are we doing in our daily “praying for those who offend us or their decisions put us in harm’s way?  Selah


July 27 – (Acts 27:27-38) It’s interesting to note that Paul spoke to the centurion of the plan for the sailors to escape.  This would have left the boat without men to guide it, keeping it from shipwreck. Paul says “Unless these men stay in the ship, YOU cannot be saved.”  Very interesting.  Do you ever want to “jump ship”?  God has the plans…for our good.  He wants us to stay the course and do what He has called us to do for our wellbeing AND for others! 


July 28 – (Acts 27:39-44) Okay, back to the centurion.  Now he wants to save Paul. His efforts to keep Paul safe results in all getting safely to shore.  I can just imagine what this whole interaction has done to the centurion’s thinking on Jesus (not to mention all the others on the boat).  God thought it up.  Paul listened and obeyed what he was to say and do.  The result is this “captive audience” could not help but have to consider Jesus of Nazareth!


July 29 – (Acts 28:1-10) God brought them to an island called Malta where the natives were unusually kind!  They built them a fire in the rain!  Because a viper latched onto Paul, they thought a god was bringing justice to a murderer.  Because the viper was thrown in the fire and Paul was not affected by the deadly snake, they then thought Paul was a god.  These Maltans seemed to be kind, good people but from this passage I see they worshiped circumstances.  They watched what would happen and decided from the circumstance whether the person was good or evil.  Do we do that in any of our dealings today?  When a person loses his job, do we think there is unconfessed sin in their lives?  If someone gets really sick and prayer has gone up for healing, do we think there is still sin in their lives when they don’t get well? Maybe we don’t go that far.  Let’s take it down another level.  When things are “going our way” we think God is blessing us but when there is a glitch we think we have done something wrong or am being punish.  Idol worship has so many facets.  Planning our course by circumstances may be one of them. Selah


July 30 – (Acts 28:11-16) Paul’s party was met by Roman Christians at two points while traveling by land to Rome – the Forum of Applius, some 40 miles from Rome, and 12 miles farther on at Three Taverns.  Paul had written his letter to the Roman church three years earlier.  Though he had not personally visited Rome, his greetings at the end of Romans show that he already knew many people there. The fact that Paul was allowed to stay by himself in a house with only one guard, points to his high status as a prisoner. Can you imagine being that guard?  What do you think he witnessed?  Being around someone moment by moment gives us many observations to think about. Okay…here’s the question. What is my witness to those around me?  Selah                                                                  

JULY 17-23 DO YOU COUNT YOUR STEPS?

July 17 – (Acts 23:23-35) According to some commentaries, Lysias sent approximately half the Roman soldiers in Jerusalem to protect Paul. Antipatris was 35 of the 62 miles by road from Jerusalem to Caesarea (v. 33). This was a difficult but not impossible distance for soldiers to march in the cool of the night (Wouldn’t you say they got their “steps” in that night!).  Only the 70 “horsemen” (v. 32) continued on to Caesarea. These are interesting details that again support the fact that God’s plan and purpose for our lives will not be thwarted.


July 18 – (Acts 24:1-21) The closest thing to an actual trial for Paul took place before Felix when the Jews from Jerusalem brought their charges against him.  Felix was not persuaded.  He dismissed the court but continued to hold Paul in custody.  Felix spoke frequently with Paul in private.  All of these “trials” may have come about just so Paul would end up conversing in private with Felix about Jesus.  Was all this worth a moment to share the gospel with one man?  Selah


July 19 – (Acts 24:22-27) How long was Paul in custody in Caesarea?  Who was allowed to take care of his needs?  To whom did he testify?  Paul seemed to use every place he was in to affect anyone around him. He did this whether he chose to be there or was forced to be there.  This makes me think of places my steps have taken me, that I really don’t enjoy being at.  What can I say or do at those moments to bring His presence there for me or someone else?  Think of two places you don’t necessarily enjoy being at.  Ask God what He placed you there for.  Then take courage and make that an “out-post” of heaven! 


July 20 – (Acts 25:1-12) Paul practiced many things in his life.  Discipline was one of them.  He seemed disciplined before believing in Jesus.  He seems disciplined afterwards.  One of the main reasons that Paul was used so greatly by God was because he was greatly disciplined by God as well.  This puts a different slant on the word “discipline”, doesn’t it? Paul had to go through many difficult times so that he’d be sharpened into one of the greatest men the Church has ever known. He was learning to depend on the Holy Spirit to guide him.  We all go through difficult times.  Let’s remember it is discipline to follow God’s steps for us no matter what it looks like at the time.  It is bringing us closer (if we allow it) to His transforming image!


July 21 – (Acts 25:13-27) We need a little background.  Agrippa the king was Agrippa II, son of Herod Agrippa and great-grandson of Herod the Great.  He ruled over several minor, primarily Gentile territories.  The emperor Claudius had given Agrippa II rule over the temple in Jerusalem.  He also gave him the right to appoint the high priest.  Bernice was his sister and constant companion.  One source said they were living in open incest.  Needless to say, Paul was given audience to people who needed to hear of God’s love in sending Jesus.


July 22 – (26:1-11) Festus asked King Agrippa for advice on Paul’s case.  When King Agrippa asked to hear Paul’s case, Paul recounted how Jesus had changed his life.  Of Paul’s three “defense” speeches (chs. 22,24,26), this one before Agrippa gives the most detailed explanation of the gospel. Why do you think that was?   Paul had to tell them about his past.  He had to admit or voice publicly, his sin before he could explain how God had forgiven him and cleansed him, which set a new course for his life.  How do we testify today?  Do we try to expound on the “miracles” of God in our life and not show “where we have come from”?  Selah


July 23 – (26:12-23) As Paul continued to testify, his hearers were “almost” convinced to believe in Jesus.  They wanted to free him but felt restrained because Paul appealed to Caesar.  If Paul had not appealed to Caesar, he probably would not have had an opportunity to testify to those needing to hear God’s message of love on this day.  God orders our steps.  Let’s make those steps count. 

JULY 3-9 FREEDOM! AMERICA - IN CHRIST

July 3 – (Acts 19:1-10) What did they begin calling disciples of Christ at the time?   Do you remember when a Bible was produced with these words on the cover?  Do you remember that some felt this was sacrilege because it didn’t say Holy Bible?

                It says in verse 10 that all residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. That amazes me! All residents heard….  I’m sure Asia was not as far-reaching as it is today but they reached “all residents in a 2-year span!  Anyone want to do some research to put this in perspective?


July 4 – (Acts 19:11-20) God is very creative in all things.  We see here that God validated His spokesman in some very creative and remarkable ways.  He worked through Paul’s own hands in extraordinary ways, displaying His power to these people.   Then He shows the people who had the appearance of being His spokesman…. but was a counterfeit. 


July 5 – (Acts 19:21-27) Lives were coming to Christ but some businesses were beginning to fail.  Can you think of any other businesses in those times that would have failed?  What about today?  Do we hurt certain businesses because of our lifestyle?  Do they even notice?  Something to ponder….


July 6 – (Acts 19:28-41) The theater in which this riot took place held more than 20,000 in Paul’s time.  It was the place people gathered for town business meetings. That seems like a large space! Gaius and Aristarchus were eventually released.  Aristarchus reappears later as Paul’s companion.  The Asiarchs were the keepers of the imperial Roman cult in Asia. They were concerned about the safety of their fellow citizen Paul.  The town clerk was the chief administrative officer of the city.  The sacred stone that fell from the sky probably refers to a meteorite.  Meteorites were associated with Artemis worship. The proconsul was the head of government in a Roman province.  The town clerk’s reasoning shows the Christian gospel was not contrary to Roman law and did not disrupt public order. Now that we have defined some of these words, go back and reread these verses.  Does it give you greater understanding? 


July 7 – (Acts 20:1-6) In verses 1-16, Paul is ministering in many places.  Three of these will later become letters from Paul encouraging these new Christian small groups.  Name three that Paul wrote letters to.


July 8 – (Acts 20:7-16) In studying the book of Acts, we are seeing the direct fulfillment of our Lord’s promise.  In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His disciples they would be witnesses even to the remotest part of the earth.  Paul, on his third journey to regions beyond, is wrapping up his three-year stay in Ephesus.  He is about to travel hundreds of miles enroute to Jerusalem, some over land, most by water.  In these twelve verses, we find him and his companions amid several different reactions to the message…but they press on regardless.  This is a good lesson to learn in perseverance!


July 9 – (Acts 20:17-38) As Paul is talking about his journey of testifying of Jesus in the cities.  What things did he have to look forward to in Jerusalem (v.22)?   What I noticed was “bound in the Spirit”.  Paul not only knew where he needed to go but also knew the Holy Spirit would only reveal what to say at the time he needed to testify.  So many times, I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me to interact with someone but if I don’t have what to say ahead of time, I chicken out in initiating the conversation to begin with.  This reminds me that God will always give us the words to proclaim His Glory “at the time” He designs.  Trusting Him for the words in the moment He designs, is what I am working on.  Selah

June 26-July 2 Recognizing Miracles in Our Lives

June 26– (Acts 16:11-24) Verse 13 intrigued me. They went outside the city to pray. They sat down by the riverside with the women there.  Interesting.  I pictured woman doing laundry.  I also supposed it was a place where men and especially leaders of that area would not be. In this humble place, strong supporter for Paul and Christians would find the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  God can use every place we are to draw “all men (and women)” to Him!


June 27 – (Acts 16:25-40) Paul and Silas were praising God in jail and an earthquake freed all the prisoners vv. 25-34).  Isn’t the greater miracle that none of the prisoners left the jail?  Read verses 25 again. Could it have been that the worship and presence of God was so real that the prisoners felt it and didn’t want to leave God’s presence? Now that’s the power of praise and worship!

                Paul used his Roman citizenship to deal with the magistrates.  Was Barnabas (the one Paul did not want to bring along) a Roman as well?  Could this have been the reason Paul and Barnabas went separate ways?  Whether this is true or not, I don’t know, but it gives me cause to remember again that God allows only good for us as His children.  Selah!

DID YOU KNOW? Silas was a Judean Christian and a leader in the Jerusalem church.  He is known by the name “Silvanus” in the N.T. epistles.  He worked closely with the apostle Peter, and delivered Peter’s first letter to its recipients in Asia Minor (I Pet. 5:12)


June 28 – (Acts 17:1-9) Did you notice how Jason and the followers were “let go”?  I’ve heard personal stories of missionaries having to buy their way out of situations.  My “concrete thinking” struggles with that sometimes, yet here God has put it in the scriptures.  It amazes me how my belief system about certain things can be so messed up.  It also amazes me how God’s Word reveals those “messed up” areas and what thinking needs to change.  Want to share something that the Lord has shown you that needs to change in your thinking or belief system?


June 29 – (Acts 17:10-21) We again have mention of leading (prominent) women coming to believe in Jesus.  I would love to know how they impacted the immerging “church”. I am reminded again that all women are born leaders.  It may not seem that way but the fact that we were given the awesome responsibility and privilege to bear children shows us that.  God would not have created us to “grow” children in the womb and not “grow” them in this world to reflect His likeness and for His Glory.  I’m sure you can affirm children need to be lead! Selah


June 30 – (Acts 17:22-34) No matter where Paul was led to tell the gospel, He adapted to the crowd just enough to “get on their level” so they could apply what they were hearing.  The people of Athens had so many gods they worshipped.  Paul understood where they were coming from, what their felt needs were and spoke to them from that point.  If we are to reach our world today, we would be prudent to do the same.  Selah


July 1 – (Acts 18:1-17) We know that the Jews have been scattered many times throughout history.  Here are two familiar names connected with Paul because they were “scattered” yet again.  What were their familiar names (vv. 1-4)?  Do you see how their “uprooting” caused something good in their lives as well as their new neighbors?

                Was Paul ever afraid (vv. 9-11)? What did it take to give him courage to carry on?  This reminds me that God knows what we need and will always supply us.  (Phil 4:19)


July 2 – (Acts 18:18-28) Sponsored by the church in Antioch of Syria, Paul begins his third missionary journey in the spring of A.D. 52 (18:23-21:16). He traveled by foot through the region of his first mission on into Galatia and Phrygia.  On the second missionary journey the Spirit had prevented him from continuing west into Asia (16:6).  This time Paul heads directly west toward Ephesus.  It always helps me to get a map of his journeys so I have a visual.  

 

June 19-25 WHO (OR WHAT) DO YOU WORSHIP?

June 19 – (Acts 14:8-18) In verses 8-18, Paul prays for and God heals a man. The people then want to worship Paul.  Paul and Barnabas try to explain that God is the source but the crowd wants to sacrifice to them!  I   think it was because the people were idol worshippers and just added Paul and Barnabas to their list of idols to worship.  As we see something working in our lives, do we depend on that more than on God?  That could be idol worship.  Let’s take another look at our lives and see who or what we depend on the most.  Selah            


June 20 – (Acts 14:19-28) My how the attitude changes with just a few persuading them that Paul and Barnabas are evil (or have done wrong things).  First, let’s be very careful about voicing our “opinions” about the motivations of fellow Christians. Next, how do we react when we are persecuted because of our faith? Do you think they rejoiced that their tribulations were so much like what they saw Jesus go through?  And yet today when we face any tribulation because of our faith, we think we have sinned or are not in God’s perfect will.  Maybe we need to get a different perspective and “count it all joy”!


June 21 – (Acts 15:1-11) Do you think this is the beginning of division of the early church?  Today we’ve divided over all kinds of things.  Name a few different denominations and how they are different in how they believe.  What are the ‘sticky’ points?  What is the common ground?  How are we confusing the new believer and what are we doing about it?


June 22 – (Acts 15:12-21) When some apostles had begun to leave Jerusalem for a wider witness, the Jerusalem leadership was continued by others.  Jesus’ brother James had a prominent role (12:17; 21:18-25). At the Jerusalem council, James supported Peter’s conclusions about a “circumcision-free” Gentile mission and offered a suggestion for establishing fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians. James refers to the “prophets” (v.15), showing that he could appeal to more than one OT text to defend the inclusion of Gentiles by faith alone.  There is an allusion to Isa. 45:21. James concentrated however on Amos 9:11-12 which anticipated the time when God would restore the house of David and claim a people for Himself from among the Gentiles. James agreed with Peter that the time of including Gentiles in God’s people had arrived.


June 23 – (Acts 15:22-35) Once they had come to an agreement whether Gentiles needed to keep laws the Jewish people had practiced, they sent extra confirmation (in the form of some “common folk”) back to Antioch.  Once they delivered the letter, they stayed and encouraged the people as prophets. I bet they needed the Holy Spirit and prophetic words as they were having to change their belief system to a whole new way of thinking.  I’d say I need the same thing.  I need the Holy Spirit to teach me how to think and speak and act against “unrighteous beliefs” I have followed.  Selah


Jun 24 – (Acts 15:36-41) First there was division between groups of believers.  Then there was division between the two active heads of evangelism in the church.  Was one right and the other wrong?  Was God trying to get more ground covered by dividing them? God is so creative in how makes each of us unique…. for a special purpose in His kingdom.  We have different ways of looking at things and showing His glory.  These differences can cause division among the brethren.  The only way God can work and get glory from these differences is when we approach each other (and the differences) through God’s eyes of love.

                DID YOU KNOW? Paul’s second missionary journey centered on the cities of the Greek provinces of Macedonia and Achaia, including Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth.  This second journey probably began in A.D. 47 or 49 and ended in 51.


June 25 – (Acts 16:1-10) Paul and Silas were traveling to different cities preaching the gospel.  There were two areas the Holy Spirit prevented them from entering.  What were they?  Why do you think they weren’t supposed to go there?  Do those regions show signs today of not having the gospel at the beginning?  Does the Holy Spirit ever tell you not to go somewhere?  Oh…to be so tuned in to the Holy Spirit moment by moment so that you are right where God wants you….to show His Glory!


June 12-18 Extravagant Miracles & You!

June 12 – (Acts 12:6-19) God has truly delivered Peter from death in an extravagant way.  Peter had a very hard time believing it was really happening.  The Christians he went to, had a hard time believing it as well.    Herod would not believe it was from God and as a result the guards were killed.  As unbelievable as a miracle may be, it is still a real miracle.  When miracles happen in our lives, let’s not think of it as any less.


June 13 – (Acts 12:20-25) Herod Agrippa I was a grandson of Herod the Great.  He grew up in Rome, where the future Roman emperors Gaius (Caligula) and Claudius were his childhood playmates. It was largely due to these friendships that Herod was granted rule over various territories in Judea.  Herod was a violent persecutor of Christians, perhaps because he believed such persecution would help him gain favor with the Jews (v. 3).  He executed James, and had Peter put in prison.  Following a well-received speech given to the people of Tyre and Sidon, Herod was enthusiastically praised as a god.  Rather than reject the people’s worship, he embraced it.  The Bible says that because of this demonstration of godless pride, an angel of the Lord immediately struck him down, and he died a gruesome death (v. 23).


June 14 – (Acts 13:1-12) What was the sorcerer’s name?  What was his translated name? Do you think there are false prophets today?  How are they drawing people away from the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?  What about us ‘common Christians’, do we misrepresent Christ in our lives and words?  Selah

DID YOU KNOW?   Chapters 13 & 14 relate Paul’s “first missionary journey.” Sent by the Antioch church, Paul and Barnabas witnessed on Cyprus and in the southern cities of the Roman province of Galatia.  


June 15 – (Acts 13:13-25) In these verses, Paul and Barnabas traveled to Antioch in Pisidia.  The rulers of the synagogue ask for a word of encouragement.  Paul encourages them by retelling what God has done in their lineage in history.  It is always encouraging to recount how God has ordered your steps and guided you to where you are today.  Let’s remember…

            DID YOU KNOW?  Antioch in Pisidia was one of 16 cities that the Syrian king Seleucus named after his father Antiochus.  The city had a large Jewish population and the high status of being of Roman colony, probably Asia Minor’s most important.  Designed to be a smaller version of Rome, it was organized into seven districts and possessed all the amenities that Rome afforded.  These included an aqueduct, bathhouse, and most notable, its large sanctuary devoted to emperor worship.


June 16 – (Acts 13:26-41) As Paul is continuing his history lesson and God’s purpose in those events, I come to verses 36. “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in His own generation…”  I’m asking myself, “Am I serving the purpose of God in my own generation?”  Selah


June 17 – (Acts. 13:42-51) Barnabas and Paul spoke first to the Jews and when they rejected Christ, they then spoke to the Gentiles.  This was foretold in Isaiah 49:6. In this rejection by the Jews, they incited a specific group of people against Paul and Barnabas.  Who were they? I know it was common to incite prominent and devout men but it seemed rare that women are included (because of their cultural significance of that time).  Do women today have more influence than in Bible times?  In what way?  In my observations, I’m realizing how much impact wives have.  Though the man is to be the head of the marriage, I’ve noticed that eventually the head is turned to the attitude or direction that the wife has and sets.  It makes me fall at Jesus’ feet and ask Him to totally direct my will and emotions toward Him alone.  I don’t want to direct anyone anywhere but to His Presence and Glory.  Selah


June 18 – (Acts 14:1-7) Paul’s witness in Iconium followed the pattern in Pisidian Antioch; he began in the synagogue.  Both Paul and Barnabas are referred to as apostles (vv. 4, 14).  The word has the general meaning of “one who is sent.”  It is also used throughout the NT as a more technical term for someone chosen and commissioned by Christ for the proclamation of the gospel (Matt. 10:2; Luke 9:1; Acts 1:2,15-26).  Paul understood his calling as an apostle to be like the calling of the original Twelve in the technical sense, because he had seen Christ on the road to Damascus and had been specifically chosen and appointed by Christ (9:15; 26:16-17).

 [MG1]