Friday, November 30, 2007

Acts, Chapter 14

The entire book of Acts is filled with miracle, after miracle, after miracle. It seems like an old message at this point reiterating that God accomplished so much in the face of opposition that He left no doubt about the church in the minds of believers, but we are shown that again here in chapter 14. It is safe to assume that this theme plays out through most of the rest of the book of Acts, but it is no less amazing because chapter 14 marks the midway point through the book, yet the miracles and wonders keep coming.

Personally, I marvel at the conviction of Paul and Barnabas for continuing to preach even when chased away from one city. Keep in mind that this is still the first century. They couldn't hop a flight from city to city. They could only go as fast as their legs could carry them, and if enough people were behind them making them flee their ministry could have faltered. Still, as we see in the beginning here great numbers of people believed. If they can continue to preach under these conditions I can continue to spread the news to anyone who accesses this page by spending a few minutes on a computer each day. Just imagine what someone like Paul could accomplish today with the internet!

11When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" 12Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. – Acts 14:11-13

This is an interesting passage because it is one of the first times we get an insight into what other cultures thought of Barnabas and Paul. Up to this point we have seen them preaching in areas that had Jewish or Roman roots. Now they were in an area that was almost exclusively Gentile, and obviously not rooted in Jewish culture. Why wouldn't they think they were Gods based on what they were doing right before them? Of course they appeared to be miraculous beings because the power of the Holy Spirit working through them would appear to be almost magical and certainly divine to someone who had no idea of what the Holy Spirit was.

15"Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." 18Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. – Acts 14:15-18

I find this verse slightly troubling because of the promises of God, and I admit that I must accede to the fact that His ways are not our ways. It is troubling because, if God is willing that none should perish, why would He let some nations go their own way until this point? We had had several thousand years of human history before this point, so what about all those people that lived before the good news, or those that the good news was unable to reach until centuries later? It is wonderful that God began to reach out to all people and that Paul was preaching to all people regardless of their background, but why did God wait until now? Once again Paul and Barnabas faced adversity as some Jews won the crowd over and Paul was stoned, but the message had been passed. As they were forced to leave they still met with success in Derbe, proving once again that the Word of God will always bear fruit wherever it is preached.


  1. Why would God's Word be effective in one city (like Derbe) but not in another (like Lystra)?
  2. How did this set the stage for the future spreading of the gospel?
  3. Why would God let all nations go their own way in the past?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Acts, Chapter 13

Has there ever been a time in your life when you have wondered what you're supposed to do next? Have you ever wanted God to simply tap you on the shoulder and say, "Go (here) and do (this)"? In times of confusion many people feel this way. Since I am currently in one of those times I find myself wishing I were Paul and Barnabas who are so clearly told where to go and what to do here at the beginning of chapter 13.

Unfortunately for us, God does not always work in such dramatic ways, but we can still learn from the example that Paul and Barnabas set forth here. Sometimes we are simply called to a place in our lives where we don't know the true reasons why we are doing what we are doing. Right now I am answering phones at a temp job that I hate, but I know this is where God wants me at the moment, perhaps to learn some humility. Paul and Barnabas didn't know for sure what they were getting into when God called them to Cyprus. Still, they preached the word of God, knowing that they must do at least that and they accomplished many great things.

23"From this man's descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25As John was completing his work, he said: 'Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.' – Acts 13:23-25

Once again we must take some historical context when looking at the above verses. Since Paul and Barnabas were preaching primarily to Jews here, they had to break down conventions in order to truly raise Jesus up. The Jews believed King David was the highest ruler the Jews had ever known, so they properly linked Jesus to him as a descendent. They then raised him higher by quoting John the Baptist, who was the epitome of being a servant.

27The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30But God raised him from the dead, 31and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. – Acts 13:27-31

Once again, God uses man's misguided attempts to fulfill His work. Even in the killing of Jesus, they fulfilled prophecy that proved He was exactly who He said He was. They even put Him higher than David by reminding them that David died, yet Christ continues to live. Naturally, the Jews were not happy about this because they were being called out and asked to admit they were wrong. Who wants to readily admit this? Instead of facing this though, they stuck to their stubborn humanity and continued to speak out against Paul and Barnabas. Once again, however, God uses these mistakes for the good of all.

46Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47For this is what the Lord has commanded us: "'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth. 48When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. '" – Acts 13:46-48

Basically Paul and Barnabas finally said, "If you won't listen we'll find someone who will." This is further proof that the gospel cannot be stopped. It will always find a heart to change even when people reject the message. They were expelled from the region and the persecution of the early church continued, but Paul and Barnabas were not dissuaded from the message. There is even a lesson inside the lesson here, and a validation of the message because it could not be stopped even when man tried to stop it.


  1. How important was the life of David in validating the life of Jesus?
  2. Why did Christ have to be rejected by His own people in order to fulfill prophesy?
  3. Was it necessary for the jews to reject the message in order to take it to the Gentiles?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Acts, Chapter 12

The book of Acts is such a wonderful book because of the dramatic ways that Christ continued to push the early church. There is little doubt that the early church would not have succeeded if not for the dramatic, divine intervention of Christ and His angels. Already we have seen the Holy Spirit come upon thousands, a prison break, selfish people being struck dead for holding back from God, the first martyr for the cause, a miraculous conversion of one of the church's most virulent haters, and miraculous visions. Through all this the church continued to grow in the face of great persecution. Whatever man threw at the church God overcame. All of this was caused by the relatively simple message that Christ died for the sins of the world, and if we believe in Him and the resurrection, asking for forgiveness, we are forgiven of our sins and will have eternal life.

When you think of it in those terms it is so simple, yet also kind of wacky. It really is a leap of faith, and rationally sounds like a fairy tale. If it were merely a fairy tale would it have lasted through 20 centuries and been the most influential "myth" in history though? Part of the reason it lasted was because of the work of Peter, whom in chapter 12 is once again delivered supernaturally. It seems like this is old hat for him, as early on we see another martyr to the cause with James' execution and we also find Peter back in prison for preaching the gospel.

6The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists. 8Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. 9Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. – Acts 12:6-9

Sixteen soldiers were guarding him and he just walked out of prison like he owned the place. The amazing thing is that this was just a minor use of God's power. Peter himself was unaware it was actually happening until the angel left him outside of the prison. This is the same Peter who once denied Christ three times in one night, yet now has little reason to ever be stopped by the ways of man. When you take this small miracle into account, is there any wonder why the attempts to stomp out the early church failed?

13Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" 15"You're out of your mind," they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, "It must be his angel." 16But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. "Tell James and the brothers about this," he said, and then he left for another place. – Acts 12:13-17

This is another small incident, but it illustrates the power of unbelief. The church had been praying for Peter to be delivered, yet when he actually was returned to them they thought it was just his angel. They couldn't believe that it had actually happened even though someone was standing there telling them Peter was at the front door. This is an obvious reference to Revelation 3:20, where Jesus says that he knocks on everyone's door, and anyone who answers the door he will come in and eat with them. Much like Peter knocking on the door of the disciples, Christ knocks on the door to everyone's heart. It is up to us to answer the door and believe in Him, or to simply say that no one is really there. Also much like Peter, He will continue to knock instead of going away.


  1. Is the story of Christ real to you, or merely a fairy tale to believe in?
  2. Why would God choose to supernaturally deliver Peter from persecution, yet allow James to be martyred?
  3. How do you/did you feel Christ first knocking on the door to your heart?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Acts, Chapter 11

God is bigger than all of our faults and judgments. I am reminded of that today in the face of tragedy. My wife is a University of Miami alum and is also a big fan of the football team down there. Yesterday one of the former players from her time there, a guy she actually knew, was shot in his home as part of a robbery. This morning, sadly, he passed away because of his wounds. He was only 24 years old and had faced a lot of adversity in recent years for a few on and off the field incidents. Still, according to comments made by his father, he had come to know Christ since the birth of his daughter a little more than a year ago. Even though Sean had been involved in a few incidents of poor judgment, God still loved him, just as God loved the Gentiles with whom Peter met with in chapter 10.

1The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." – Acts 11:1-3

This is where our own human misjudgment can get in the way of the work God wants to do. The apostles could not get past their own biases and tradition when they heard Peter had visited with uncircumcised Gentiles. In their culture it was considered unclean to associate with such individuals, yet Peter knew better because he was asked by God to do what he did. This relates to my earlier point about Mr. Sean Taylor because many people have criticized him for what he did in the past, yet if he truly knew Christ as his father tearfully indicated on the news this morning then he is with Him today in paradise. It is further proof that we are not judged by what we have done in the past, but as these Gentiles experienced with Peter, it is what we do when we are presented with the message and overcome by the Holy Spirit. Once that happens we cannot be judged for anything because God is bigger than all of us.

15"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with
water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'
17So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?" – Acts 11:15-17

Peter's words here in verse 17 are so powerful. "Who was I to think that I could oppose God?" Who are we to think that God cannot forgive a man that is repentant for mistakes he has made, yet others still hold those against him and remember him for those mistakes (as some do in Sean Taylor's case)? Who were the apostles to think that God can overlook what they considered was unclean so that the message of the Gospel could be spread to the Gentiles? God is all powerful to overcome, and I love how He illustrates His mercy here to overcome our own preconceived notions.

19Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. – Acts 11:19-21

The final point that I wanted to make with this short chapter is one I have made several times before in this blog. God can use anything, even mistakes, to glorify His name. Here God uses the persecution of the early church to simply spread the message further to places it otherwise would not have reached. Since those that were not circumcised now were beginning to believe Peter's vision also miraculously opened a new door for the gospel to be spread through. The good news of the gospel will always bear fruit wherever it is spread, and it is my prayer this morning that even in the face of tragedy, God's name will be glorified.


  1. What was the big deal about preaching and associating with those that were uncircumcised?
  2. How are you opposing God today with something you believe in?
  3. How can God turn a trouble in your life into something that can glorify His name?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Acts, Chapter 10

It's been a few days since I have written here, but such are the needs of family and friends. It is my prayer that everyone had a great holiday weekend spent in thankfulness to the One that provides everything we need. It is appropriate that we are in chapter 10 of Acts just after Thanksgiving, as we begin with a man that was very thankful for what he was given. Cornelius was a rarity in that he was a Roman Centurion who was also a devout follower of God. Because he was thankful for what God had provided he gave back praying in thankfulness and by giving to the poor. Because of this God chose him for a special type of blessing, and we will see today that he was used in a special way to further the message to the Gentiles.

In today's lesson it is important to know he was a centurion because they weren't exactly liked by the Jews. Many people in Israel viewed the Romans as occupiers and oppressors, so this story of his visit with Peter is an example of God's love and His power to change things. Today we have a lesson in God's mercy and the fact that He sent Christ to die for ALL mankind, and not just the Jews. At the time the Jews couldn't even associate with the Gentiles, but God told Peter dramatically that those old ways had passed away.

"27Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. 29So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection." – Acts 10:27-29

The beauty here is the breaking down of barriers that we unfortunately still put up today. Here Peter sees Cornelius not as a Gentile, but a fellow human being. Even today, in 2007 there are still some people that categorize others based on their race, religion, or creed and not by the fact they are simply another human being. This leads to exclusivity and divisiveness that is counterproductive to the gospel. When we stop seeing people for these insignificant things, we can begin to truly let the Holy Spirit work, as happens in the next few verses:

"34Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." – Acts 10:34-38

Notice how Peter does not say, "God accepts men from just the Jews who fear Him and do what is right." He plainly states that every nation is accepted under God. It is a breaking down of barriers that were so critical in that day because the Jews did not widely accept that the Gentiles could find God's favor unless they became Jews themselves. The true power lies in the Holy Spirit, and that is a gift that can be given to everyone.

"44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God." – Acts 10:44-46.

The beauty of God's grace is amazing, and here we see that his Spirit is meant for all peoples, not just the Jews. Once again God triumphs over the ideas of man, as Peter's view of the Gentiles is totally changed. Not only that, but the Gentile converts receiving the Holy Spirit meant that the message was further sent to people who otherwise would not receive it. This is a lesson in overcoming divisiveness between people that we can still apply today.


  1. Why was important for Cornelius as a Gentile to have Peter visit him?
  2. Why would Peter need to have his mind changed to dramatically even though he already knew Christ's message?
  3. How important was it for the Holy Spirit to come over these Gentile believers?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Acts, Chapter 9

Without the ninth chapter of Acts we probably wouldn't have a New Testament. Why is that you ask? Well, it is because we are fully introduced to the character that is Paul, who is Saul at this point. Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus may be second only to the crucifixion in terms of importance to the New Testament. Without it, there would be 14 fewer books in the New Testament, which is more than half of the 27 total. As I have been saying all week, Paul was the greatest evangelist the world has ever known. The effect he has had on the world not only came through in the first century, but it has echoed throughout time since. He has literally influenced billions of people throughout the past 2,000 years, and all of this game from one of the church's most virulent haters.

1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" – Acts 9:1-4

Why would God chose to do this? Couldn't he have found someone who was more willing from the group of people that were already following Christ? Sure, God could have done it that way, but as He often does, He chose someone to make a point. The point in choosing Paul was to show his grace. Much as I used the extreme example of Hitler and how it was possible for even him to gain salvation a few weeks back to make a point, God chose Paul to show that anyone can be used to further His kingdom. At the time there was no one more against the church than Paul, yet Christ accomplished two things with his conversion. First he eliminated the church's greatest enemy of the time, and second he created the greatest champion for the Gentiles.

15But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." 17Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, -- Acts 9:15-18

At the time Christianity was largely a movement among the Jews. Later on we will see a bit of a conflict between Peter and Paul as to whether the Message was meant for the Gentiles or not. We see here though, through Ananias, that the message was indeed for the Gentiles, meaning everyone. Paul was selected as the one that would deliver that message. This show the amazing power to change that God has. Paul literally became a different person because God basically grabbed him by the neck and showed him what He wanted. From my own personal experience, sometimes that is what it takes for God to get our attention.

So naturally, since Paul was one of the leaders of the Sanhedrin, he immediately changed the minds of that august body and brought them over to the side of Christ right? No. In fact he had the opposite effect on them. As we see in the following verses, he returned to Jerusalem and began to preach the gospel passionately. He baffled the disciples there, and managed to enrage the Jews to the point they wanted to kill him. We then see Paul's first daring escape with his life on the line. This is an important lesson to keep in mind when you are feeling like God cannot change you and use you for His gain. If God can completely change someone like Paul, imagine what He can do for someone who is more willing.


  1. How is God's mercy evident in Paul's conversion?
  2. Why did Paul need to be appointed as the envoy for the Gentiles even though he himself was a Jew?
  3. Why would the Sanhedrin turn on him so quickly?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Acts, Chapter 8

Acts chapter 8 is a great illustration of how even with Christ in your heart and with the Holy Spirit working miracles there can still be adversity. We ended yesterday's chapter with the stoning of Stephen, and we also had our first mention of Saul, who would later be named Paul and become the greatest evangelist in history. Once again we see Saul at the beginning of chapter 8, and he viciously tried to fight back against the growing church by persecuting anyone and everyone he found worshiping Christ. It is amazing to see how diametrically opposite Paul was before his conversion. We will see more of this later, but at this time the furthest thing from his mind was spreading the word of Christ. Only the true power of God could change a man so drastically, as at this time Saul was ruthless and spared no mercy on anyone in the church.

Out of this persecution came hope, however. We see over the rest of this chapter that, even as things start to look really dark for the first time since Christ's crucifixion, there is still a light. God still accomplishes many great things through the Holy Spirit as the apostles were literally on the run from Saul. This is not attributed to anything the apostles did, as they were merely following orders. It is the Holy Spirit that accomplished these things, as God even used Saul's persecution as a way to scatter the message to where it was needed.

4Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ
6When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. – Acts 8:4-7

Imagine being on the run from someone that was asking you to change your very core beliefs or you would be killed. What would your response be? Surely your first instinct would not be to continue spreading those beliefs and converting more people to your cause because it would draw you further out into the open. Of course, these men were operating under a higher authority and therefore knew what they had to do. Instead of hiding from the persecution they took the message on the road with them. They stayed mobile and converted many more to Christ. This proves that even when Saul was persecuting the church God used it for good.

18When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money 19and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." 20Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin." – Acts 8:18-23

The apostles were doing many wonderful things in this chapter. We see Philip converting the Ethiopian eunuch and the message being spread to the Samaritans. Here, however, we are given an important lesson from Peter concerning the Holy Spirit. For those that are willing to accept it, the Holy Spirit is a blessing. It is one of the very small ways we as humans can have the power of God. We must be willing, however, to submit to its direction and not our own. Simon wanted this gift desperately and thought he could buy it, but as we see it cannot be bought. This is another important lesson in the way that we cannot earn God in our lives. We must submit to Him and welcome Him in His own way. Nothing that we can do for ourselves will earn His favor. The power of the Holy Spirit is also something that we cannot earn or distribute at our will, because the power of God is not for us to decide.


  1. How does Saul's persecution of the church set him up for his dramatic conversion?
  2. How important were the miracles performed by the apostles to spreading the gospel?
  3. Why don't we see as many miracles today?


Monday, November 19, 2007

Acts, Chapter 7

Can you imagine making a case for Christ with your life hanging in the balance? That is what was asked of Stephen. When we left him last week in chapter 6 he was facing the leadership of the day because of the message he had been spreading. Stephen had accomplished great things, but was now being asked to answer to them in the court of man. He does nothing less than make the case for Christ throughout Biblical history and how those with the true message of God had been rejected before him.

9"Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace." – Acts 7:9-10

This is the first instance Stephen mentions of the one that God has chosen to carry out His message being rejected by those around him. Joseph was thrown out by his brothers, but God put him in a unique position in not only to help them later on, but to lead them to a better life later on. What Stephen is trying to do is show that God can triumph over the will of man to advance His plan even when all hope seems lost. How else do you explain a young Jewish boy sold into slavery by his brothers becoming a high official in the court of Egypt? Another important message Stephen was trying to say here was one of forgiveness. Joseph easily could have turned his back on his brothers when they came for help, but instead he welcomed them with open arms. We all reject Christ in our own way when we sin, but He welcomes us back with open arms just like Joseph did.

35"This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, 'Who made you ruler and judge?' He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea[g] and for forty years in the desert. 37"This is that Moses who told the Israelites, 'God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.' – Acts 7:35-37

One time might have been a fluke, but we also see here that Moses was rejected by the Israelites as well. Stephen uses Moses here because of the high regard that he carried in Jewish culture. In the next few verses he also shows how Moses was rejected yet again because of the impatience and lack of faith the Israelites showed during the exodus. Here they had been delivered from Egypt by a sheer miracle of God, but they grew impatient and rebelled against God not long after. It is here that Stephen rebukes them for persecuting the prophets and calls them out for the role they had in killing Christ.

51"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it." – Acts 7:51-53

These are strong words, but Stephen had the courage to say them because they were true. It had to be difficult standing there knowing these words would likely cost him his life, but it was not his life to give since he had already given it to Christ. Once we are filled with the Holy Spirit we cannot resist its pull. These men needed to be called out because of the responsibility given to them as rulers and keepers of the law, so Stephen called them out. It cost him his life, but as the first martyr, his sacrifice was not in vain. He stayed strong until the end and surely made an impression on one young man that was in the crowd that day. That was a young man named Saul, who would later become the greatest evangelist that has ever lived.


  1. How does the Old Testament story of Abraham, Joseph, and the promise relate to Christ?
  2. Why would using Moses as an example speak to these men?
  3. What effect did Stephen's stoning have on Paul?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Acts, Chapter 6

Chapter 6 of Acts is short, but it is still very important as it shows another major step in the growth of the early church. As we have seen from past chapters, The church had begun the practice of sharing wealth, possessions and resources. As a result of this the church was growing so large that some people were beginning to be overlooked in the daily distribution of stuff. To this point the Twelve were still sharing and preaching the Word of God and handling on the administrative tasks of managing this material for thousands of believers. Naturally, they were overwhelmed and needed subordinate leadership to step in and help out.

2So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." – Acts 6:2-4

This is where the heart of the servant comes in, as we see the men that were called not to the glory of spreading the gospel, but of simply maintaining the church. My home church in Indianapolis has often pointed out that 80% of the church work is done by 20% of the congregation. The apostles were far less than 20% of the congregation at this time, so you can only imagine the burdens they were under. We see in the verses following this charge the effect Stephen and his new management posse had on the early church. This freed up the Apostle to go and continue to teach, leading many more to Christ.

So what can we take from this example? Quite simply it is a call to serve, and it shows us there are ways we can serve the cause without becoming ministers. Think about your home church. How many people serve humbly in the background? There are some wonderful guys at my church that I play on the softball team with. On Sunday mornings only one or two of us play an obvious role, but almost every person serves the church in some way. We have two financial experts who help manage the church finances. We have another guy who runs the lighting upstairs. Another person runs the PowerPoint presentation each week. We have worships leaders, builders, and small group leaders up and down our roster. No one serves an overly extravagant role, but each role is important in service to the church itself.

"8Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke." – Acts 6:8-10

This is window dressing for what we will see in chapter seven, but Stephen serves as an example to all of here. He was singled out by the leaders of the day to bear the brunt of their wraith, but he stood strong in the face of their opposition. Verse ten shows though that for all the wisdom and leadership they were supposed to exhibit they were no match for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was with Stephen as he stood before them, giving him strength at a time when he needed it most. He never stopped speaking about the love of Christ even though he was being accosted for it. We can only hope to have this amount of faith when facing oppression. Much like Peter and the rest of the Apostles in the previous chapter Stephen refused to back down in the face of opposition. He was emboldened by the Holy Spirit like we are promised to draw our strength from. As we will see in the future, this faith and strength will cost him his life.


  1. How are you being called to serve, referencing earlier lessons discussed here?
  2. Is serving in a Stephen type role more important than serving in an Apostolic role?
  3. What proof is there that Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit while facing the Synagogue of the Freedmen?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Acts, Chapter 5

The power of God cannot be stopped by the acts of mankind. That is the theme today in Acts 5. While I expect those that follow along to read the whole chapter, I will be concentrating primarily on the second half today. It is not that the first half of this chapter is not important. It is that I feel a more important message can be derived from the second half of the chapter, as a major turning point in the church is reached beyond verse 12.

As we saw yesterday, the early church had just begun to face its first challenge. It had already grown by leaps and bounds, causing the Sanhedrin to take notice and begin to fear for their own power over the people. Today we see that the church began to face that persecution in earnest through beatings, jail, and reprimands. In the face of this Peter and the rest of the apostles continued to share the good news unashamed of what they were doing. As a result miracles were being performed by the Holy Spirit and many more came to the faith.

"17Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20"Go, stand in the temple courts," he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life." – Acts 5:17-20

God 1, The Sadducees 0. This is just further proof that the ways of God cannot be stopped in the face of man. Apostles weren't even in jail 24 hours before the angel of the Lord freed them. What even better is that they were not told to run and hide, but to appear in the very temple court the next day to preach the gospel. They were told to boldly return to the place they were thrown out of and continue to do what they were arrested for in the first place.

27Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28"We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said. "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood." 29Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! 30The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him." – Acts 5:27-32

No truer words have been spoken than, "We must obey God rather than men." What conviction this men had. Remember, during much of Jesus' public ministry they were timid men. Many of them fled when Jesus was facing His crucifixion and didn't know what to do. Peter himself had denied Jesus three times, and now he was standing defiantly in front of many of the same people who had condemned Him to death. This is the kind of faith that we must exercise.

"34But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." – Acts 5:34-39

I would say that now, 2000 years later, Gamaliel has his proof. Other than the brief mention of Theudas and Judas I had never heard of them or their revolts, but Jesus and His followers have certainly persisted and grown stronger right up to the present day. Even the most virulent skeptic cannot deny this. Surely His message would have failed long ago if based on human origin, much like other human messages that have become footnotes to history.


  1. What is your take on the first part of the chapter about holding back from God?
  2. How dramatic was the change in Peter?
  3. How does God continue to prove that His message is from Him?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Acts, Chapter 4

Have you ever met people in your life that just don't seem to be connected with reality in any way? That is what we see today a bit in Acts Chapter 4. In chapter 3 we see that Peter used the power of the Holy Spirit to heal a crippled beggar in front of the temple. This is a great miracle, one that can only be wrought by God. I think we can all agree that if someone were to do this today we would all be impressed. Even the most skeptical wouldn't take the route that the Sadducees took toward this miracle. Did they praise God as the crippled man did? Did they honor God in his greatness and mercy? No, they chose to call Peter and John before the Sanhedrin and put them in jail.

"8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! 9If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed." – Acts 4:8-10

It would be one thing if Peter were claiming credit himself for this miracle. Peter instead deflected the glory to Christ, in Whom this miracle occurred. It is important to know the role that history and the selfish nature of man played in this pseudo-trial. The Sanhedrin did not want the glory deflected on to Christ because then it would make individual people responsible for their own atonement. Christ's sacrifice placed all the power of not only the Holy Spirit, but the ability to choose salvation for themselves. No longer would the Sanhedrin need to live in the temple and offer sacrifices for the atonement of the people. Basically, if the Christ story were true they would be out of jobs and stripped of the power they held. Instead of accepting Christ's sacrifice for themselves they instead chose to persecute the alleged myth of His resurrection. As we saw in verse four the story of the healing had already converted another 5,000 people, so the Sanhedrin felt they must do something about it.

"16"What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name." 18Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus." – Acts 4:16-18

As usual though, men's plans to stop the spread of the gospel were no match for God's plans. I just love how Peter and John never once considered following this mandate. The Sanhedrin acknowledged that a miracle had been performed, and they had no idea how to punish Peter and John because they were being loved by the people for what was being done. A similar incident occurred in John 9 when Jesus healed a blind man and the Sanhedrin questioned him. The blind man didn't care how it happened, it just praised God that he could see. So, of course, the Pharisees insulted and mocked him. Here the Sanhedrin were at a loss as to how they could punish someone for this miracle.

"29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." – Acts 4:29-30

We see here that Peter and John respond to the mandate that they not speak in the name of Jesus by speaking in the name of Jesus. Once again people were filled with the Holy Spirit as a result of this and God triumphed over the efforts of misguided men to stomp out the early church. This is really the first early challenge to the authority of the early church after the successes of the day of Pentecost and the first anointing of the Holy Spirit. The early church passed it easily and even grow out of it, setting the stage for further persecution because the rulers of the day saw that it was not a fad that was going to die out.


  1. How does the detached reality of the Sanhedrin show itself today?
  2. How would you stand in proclaiming your faith if told not to?
  3. Why is it important that the Holy Spirit came over the early church a second time if it was already there?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Acts, Chapter 3

In returning to Acts today we see the beginnings of the church after the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit had now been given to the disciples as well as the rest of the church, and as we saw in chapter 2, things were quickly happening. Three thousand people came to the faith that first day, so we can only imagine what the early church was going to accomplish with plenty of time to prepare, to worship, and to spread the gospel.

Perhaps the most marked change came in Peter, a man who was always so gung-ho for Christ yet still struggled with his messages. In Matthew 16 we see Peter, then known as Simon, getting praised and told that he would be the rock upon whom Christ would build his church. Just a few verses later Jesus rebukes him for showing a lack of faith in Christ's words. Peter was an up and down character, but here we begin to see the strength of leadership he was later known for.

"6Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." 7Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. 8He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God." – Acts 3:6-8

Here the same man that lacked faith in Luke 5:5-8 now has the faith and ability to perform miracles in the name of the Lord. This is nothing short of astonishing, as in the verses mentioned in Luke Peter doubted that Christ could simply catch fish after failing to catch any all night. This is a powerful testament to the changing power of the Holy Spirit. We can experience this ourselves when we become emboldened by faith in trusting God.

I know a personal example of comes from the Advent Conspiracy, which I mentioned yesterday. Earlier this year during the summer I was facing a precarious work situation. There is no way we could have taken up this financial challenge then because of the circumstances of the time. We continued to tithe faithfully though, knowing that God has promised we would never miss it. Now just four months later my wife and I have been blessed so much that we can return this blessing through the Advent Conspiracy. It's not quite healing a crippled beggar in the sight of many, but it is the fulfillment of a faith promise.

"13The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this." – Acts 3:13-15

What God was able to do for my wife and I was a very minor miracle of smart financial planning. Raising Christ from the dead though is the greatest achievement ever witnessed by man, and as a result Peter was restored to the faith. Imagine what it must have been like for someone such as Peter, who had seen Christ dead, then He was living three days later. Millions if not billions have believed this miracle for centuries, but here is a man that actually saw the miracle and is testifying to it! How different is this from an eyewitness account of any event covered on CNN? Just because it was written down 2,000 years ago does not mean it didn't happen.

If Christ had lived today and was crucified only to rise again on the third day it would be the most covered event in history and no one would ever be able to deny He was the Son of Man. It would be on CNN with live reporting by Anderson Cooper from Jerusalem and beamed around the globe instantly. Because this was written down so long ago many dismiss it as a fairy tale instead of proof of the loving God. This is not the time or the place to get into how this will be counterfeited by the Antichrist during the end times, but what we see here at the end of Acts 3 is essentially an eyewitness account of the biggest news story in history.


  1. Why did God work in such dramatic miracles then, but not now?
  2. Why would Peter use such forceful, accusatory language with the onlookers?
  3. Would Christ's death and resurrection have more impact today when it could be witnessed, or back then where we must act on faith it happened?

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Advent Conspiracy

I wanted to take a break today from Acts in order to promote something that has become very close to my heart. Those who know me know that I can be very cynical when it comes to the ways of the world, almost to the point of bitterness. This is especially true when it comes to the holiday of Christmas, which each year seems to depart further and further from its true roots all for the sake of not offending someone.

What I do believe in though is making a difference, and that is why I am here today. With the Christmas season nearly upon us my church here in Indianapolis has decided to take up a challenge that, if successful, could have world-altering after effects. We are calling it The Advent Conspiracy, and in effect it is simply a group of twenty and thirty-year olds sacrificing part of our own Christmas budgets in order to make a positive difference in the lives of thousands. As the message says, we are wanting to worship Christ through compassion, not consumption. This is not a crusade against the traditional Christmas asking you to give up everything entirely in order to support a cause. This is merely recognizing that we are blessed and giving part of that blessing back as the true spirit of Christmas. It is inspired by the story of Christmas in Matthew 2 where it is announced that Christ came to earth in order to change things dramatically. His coming was part of a conspiracy that had those in charge at the time (specifically Herod) shaking in fear at what was to come. We are not seeking fear, but we are seeking change from the typical consumption of the Christmas season.

The challenge is quite simple. We have an average congregation of 200 people. Our leadership estimated that if 200 people could give $200 at Christmas, roughly 25% of what the average person spends on Christmas, we could do something dramatic. Since there are those who like to think big though, we got another idea on top of it. What if each person of those 200 could inspire ten more people to give the same $200? That's 2000 giving $200, and is just a mind-blowing figure that only the Lord can truly accomplish.

We have four tiers of giving, and they can be seen on the website mentioned above. Each tier will positively affect the lives of thousands of individuals that would otherwise not be affected without this challenge. Instead of saying you got this and that for Christmas, you can say that you got together with some friends to save a school, feed and help the homeless of Indianapolis, provide clean water for people in Rwanda who would otherwise die without it, and help stop such despicable acts such as forced prostitution and sex-trafficking.

I don't know about you, but this certainly makes my "want" of a Playstation 3 a little less important.

It is also a very easy challenge to complete. If accepted, one needs only agree to donate $25 a week over the next eight weeks of the advent season in order to fulfill the obligation. The $200 limit is just a goal, as one can always give more and even if you give less whatever is given will be greatly appreciated. Personally I am humbled that God has prepared my wife and I through an up and down year financially to give our portion merely from extra funds I would earn from something I love doing. By covering a mere six basketball games this upcoming season, money I would normally just store away for a rainy day, we can commit ourselves to this cause.

I am also humbled that God has put me in a position through this blog, my other blog, and the connections I have to inspire others. As I have said many times throughout the course of writing here, I don't know why I am supposed to do it, I am merely supposed to write this and let God work in people's hearts. I cannot make people take up this challenge, but I can put it out there and let God work on people's hearts. This is how I choose to make a difference this Christmas season.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Acts, Chapter 2

We now come to the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in a dramatic show of God's power. While yesterday we saw the twelve do their best to hold things together after the physical departure of Christ, today we see what they were able to accomplish with the Holy Spirit. These had to be confusing times for these men. They had lost their leader. They had been commissioned with a monumental task, and they were still subject to persecution from their own people because of the way the Jews hated Christ and His followers.

"1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." – Acts 2:1-4

While I agree that the Holy Spirit is alive in all of us, I have never felt a violent wind from heaven or had a tongue of fire come to rest on me. This is quite a dramatic announcement for the coming of the Holy Spirit, but we must remember that this is the beginning of the church that would span centuries. In this very moment the commission that these men had been given became clear and they knew what they had to do. They were blessed with the power to carry the gospel to every nation and the ability to speak the language of the local people when they got there. Who else but God could bestow these gifts?

Perhaps the most dramatic change we see comes from Peter, whom was told by Christ in Matthew 16:18 that he would be the rock upon which Christ would build His church. Peter always was a leader who ran too far ahead during Christ's life on earth and often had to be disciplined. This discipline came from love though, as Christ knew the plans He had for Peter. Peter, of course, is also famous for denying Christ three times when he said he would stand strong before the crucifixion. Here we see him stepping forward and becoming that church leader he would be. There would still be some faults, as later we'll see his disagreement with Paul over the gospel, but it is in these moments that Peter truly begins to develop.

"38Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call." 40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day." – Acts 2:38-41

Can you imagine three thousand believers coming to the faith from one message, in one place, in one day? This just shows the phenomenal power of the Holy Spirit and how the early church just exploded from such a small core group. This is one of those glorious, joyous times in the early church before persecution and struggle would set in. We'll see in future chapters how the very people who attempted to kill Christ and put an end to His radical movement would become alarmed at the growth of the church. Those that killed Him thought His followers would disperse once He was gone, but now we see the church growing exponentially mere weeks after His death and resurrection. There were many more than these 3,000 too, as that was simply a one day experience. This chapter ends with the mention that many more were coming to the faith daily. Imagine what would happen in the world if there were that much of an awakening today!


  1. Though you may not have experienced tongues of fire, what was your experience when you first felt the Holy Spirit work in your life?
  2. Why was such a dramatic show of God's power necessary?
  3. How is God calling you to be a leader and spread His word?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Acts, Chapter 1

I was going to step into the Old Testament briefly, well, not so briefly when you consider the book, and do some work on Isaiah. This morning when I woke up and opened my Bible, however, I felt drawn to Acts because of the way it builds a base for what we have studied recently in Romans, Hebrews, and the rest of the New Testament. So on to Acts it is, where we begin with Jesus Himself and we are introduced to the person that is Paul.

"7He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 9After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight." – Acts 1:7-9

One would think that the final words Jesus had for his disciples on earth would be important, and what could be more important than the blessing of the Holy Spirit? His message here is one of faith. We must wait faithfully for the Father to work and deliver what He has promised. Next we see the promise of the Holy Spirit, which lives in all of us and allows for the message of Christ to be carried to the ends of the earth. After He was taken up to heaven Christ wanted His disciples to get right to work, as they were told to begin spreading the good news almost immediately after he had faded from sight. There would be no waiting for His return as promised because there was work to do.

This left the church at a key crossroads, and when you think of things strictly from a secular perspective it is amazing that the church has come has far as it has. We see in verse 15 that there was a core group of about 120 believers. Sure there were more, but this is the core group. They had just had the object of their faith physically leave them, and they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. How easily could the whole message died right there? Yet we know through Scripture that this group spread the message like wildfire across centuries of war, persecution, and disbelief to what we have today. We know so little about the first century world yet this message has been the most enduring across the ages from that time. Is this mere coincidence? I don't think so.

20"For," said Peter, "it is written in the book of Psalms, 'May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,' and, 'May another take his place of leadership.' 21Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection." – Acts 1:20-22

The first order of business was to replace Judas. As much as the church would grow over the next several years there was still a strong need for leadership and continuity among the twelve. The early church had come to rely on 12 solid leaders to function, therefore Judas needed to be replaced. Though we hear little of Matthias in Scripture beyond his selection here in Acts, we can rest assured that he served a role similar to the other apostles. It is not known if he suffered a martyr's death like everyone else but John suffered, but surely he spread the message of Christ far and wide because he was called.

Much of what we see here at the end of chapter one is merely window dressing for the events of chapter two, where the Holy Spirit is given to the early church. I won't spoil the message for tomorrow, but the anointing in the Holy Spirit may be the most important gift to mankind short of the actual birth, life, and sacrifice of Christ.


  1. What did Christ mean when he said they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit?
  2. How has the faith of His return endured through nearly 2,000 years of waiting?
  3. Why was it important for Matthias to replace Judas?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Romans, Chapter 16

We've reached the end of our journey in Romans, and while Paul has his typical greetings and prayers for his cronies of the day as he prepared to go to Rome there is still plenty of good news to take from this chapter. The first 16 verses of chapter 16 are nothing more than greetings and encouragement sent to other believers of the day that may go down as footnotes to history, but they were probably doing incredible work at the time for the kingdom of God. What we see is that though Paul received much of the glory of the New Testament through his writing, there were literally hundreds if not thousands of others who were encouraged by his preaching and took up their own crosses to serve. Paul himself reminds us in Romans 1:12 to mutually encourage others in our faith and he achieves that here.

So what benefit does this have? Well, much like working out at the gym, we often cannot do this alone. Think of the encouragement that we give other believers as kind of a spiritual spotting during a particularly strenuous workout. There is nothing harder in this world than the feeling that you are going at something totally alone. When we gather and encourage each other our spirits are lifted and we can be refreshed to go out and continue the work God has placed upon us. Paul shows this by encouraging many of the early believers that he ran into here at the end of Romans, and this carries over to the present day. On Tuesday nights my wife and I attend a Bible study sponsored by our church here in Indianapolis. Each week we walk away encouraged and refreshed by spending some midweek time in fellowship with our friends and with Christ. Though our group is small, we encourage each other to go out and live as we have been called to live. Because of this encouragement it makes things like this blog I have been called to do much easier.

"17I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." – Romans 16:17-18

This is another area in which encouragement between believers comes through as a form of assistance. This can sometimes be an act of spiritual warfare as we have talked about earlier, or it can simply be people who have their own agenda contrary to what we believe. In either case we are confronted with something that can trip us up and cause us to lose our way. It's hard to keep away from them too because sometimes this division comes from friends and family that we love and want to reach for the benefit of the kingdom. It is important to remember we don't want to avoid the person though, but the obstacles put forth by that person that may trip us up. Unity will always triumph over division, as years and years of playing sports for fragmented teams have taught me that much. We must be unified in Christ through encouragement to win the day.

"25Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him— 27to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen." – Romans 16:25-27

Paul ends Romans by giving the glory to Christ, as we should do in everything. Many scholars view Romans as one of the most important books in the Bible because of the way it outlines the plan for salvation. Though Paul could take credit for this and glorify himself he chose instead to glorify God for His work. We can apply this lesson simply by glorifying God each day for the work we have done since He is the one who provides for that strength.


  1. How does encouragement between you and fellow believers help you serve?
  2. What types of divisions and obstacles do you face in your spiritual walk?
  3. How do you give glory to God each day?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Romans, Chapter 15

Yesterday we saw that there are differences in the amount of faith people have. We were warned against condemning those with less faith or a different type of faith than we have as long as Christ is the author and perfector of that faith. Today we see the result of our own faith is to build others up regardless of what happens. We are here on earth not to merely grow and be selfish with the message we have been given. We are here to build others up and spread the gospel.

"1We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." 4For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." – Romans 15:1-4

Look at the example Christ set before us. As the only person who was ever both fully God and fully man he could have easily become the most powerful leader in the history of the world. The Jews were upset with Him because He did not become the conquering hero they expected. Instead he establish and an attitude and a pattern of servanthood. He lowered Himself not only to our level, but one further by becoming a servant for all mankind. Though He was given all the power in the universe He chose not to abuse this power, but to serve as we see based on the promises pointed out later in the chapter.

This is how we must live our lives as we offer encouragement and spread the message of God's faithfulness. Each day we are tested against our own selfish nature to live to this example. God has set up numerous ways for us to serve just in His requests upon on our Christian lives. We are tested to serve through tithing, through spreading the message, and through boldly and unashamedly living in faith. We are asked to do each of these regularly as a similar form of servanthood. Sometime we succeed and come through for God, while other times our faith is weak and we fail.

"14I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." – Romans 15:14-16

This right here points out Paul's mission as he sought to break down the barriers of the day between the Jews and Gentiles. Even though he was born a Jew Paul knew he was commissioned to take the message of Christ to the Gentiles at any cost. As we see later in the chapter, he longed to preach where no one had preached before, but he also knew he had to get to the center of gentile civilization in order to have the most effect. This is why he later went to Rome. Rome at the times was the center of the known world and from there Paul knew his message of Christ's love would have its largest effect. He was tireless in this mission, and we have him to thank for what we believe in today because of his efforts.

"17Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— 19by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation." – Romans 15:17-20

We must always encourage and serve one another, but at the same time we are called to take the message where it is not known. In that we become part of a new foundation, and we serve our purpose as well.



  1. Do you feel you are strong or weak in your faith?
  2. How do you Share your faith with others?
  3. Do the classifications of Jew or Gentile really matter in Christ's eye?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Romans, Chapter 14

My apologies to my regular readers for missing Thursday and Friday of last week, but I was feeling incredibly under the weather and was really out of commission for a few days. My strength has returned though and I feel refocused again on my task at hand.

As we know, our walk with Christ is based solely on faith. We do not have physical proof He exists. Any first hand account of His life and sacrifice is so old that we simply must trust that it really happened. In Romans 14 we see that there are differing levels of faith for each person. For some, their faith is large and they feel they can accomplish anything. I know I have long prayed to have the faith of my father, who has always been a pillar of my faith in the way he conducts his life. As we see in this chapter though, our faith grows throughout our walk with Christ, and each person's walk is different.

"1Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." – Romans 12:1-4

Those who know me know that I am more results oriented than details oriented. To me, it is more important that a task is accomplished rather than how it was accomplished. This, of course, got me into some trouble in some college math classes whent hey wanted a certain method on exams, but here we see that the destination is more important than the journey because the journey is different for everyone. The passage here refers to those who were afraid to eat meat in the first century because it may have been sacrificed to idols. Others held the view that it was fine to eat meat, but Paul tells us not to condemn others for their views on the subject.

This is where we see that each person's walk is different, but the goal is the same. Our lives must be centered in Christ, but beyond that we will have wildly different beliefs and views of spiritual matters. This is why we see so many different denominations of churches. You have the Catholics, who allow pretty much everything as long as you confess, and then more restrictive denominations like the Mormons or Amish. We can agree that Christ and His sacrifice are still the central focus, but the structures of those systems are vastly different.

"13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. 14As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men." – Romans 14:13-18

We see here that it is more important to grow in our own walk than do something that may prevent someone else from growing. If we believe something is good we must hold to it, and we also must not condemn what someone else thinks is good. Christ allows our faith to patiently develop over time so we must allow the same in others. Each person's walk is their own, and what works for you may not necessarily work for them. We are still to share our faith so others may grow, but they are responsible for their own growth.


  1. How do you see your method of faith is different than others?
  2. Where is the line between what is essential for everyone's faith and what is personal for your own walk?
  3. What are some stumbling blocks in your life?