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Today’s reading is from the 8th chapter of Acts.
Acts is a fascinating account, written by Luke, of the spread of Christianity following the resurrection of Christ.
The chapter opens with a divisive character named Saul of Tarsus, a Jewish leader, who eagerly persecuted, jailed, and condemned Christians, and abhorred the spread of Christianity. Saul was a supporter of the stoning and death of the disciple Stephen, described in chapter 7. He was described in Acts 8:3 as a man who “made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.”
For those that are familiar with Saul, we learn in chapter 9 that Saul converted to Christianity after Christ appeared to him. Saul would later be called Paul and would arguably become on of the most vital Christians in history, next to Jesus himself, to spread the Word and Gospel.
Perhaps like you, I read the Bible searching for application to my life. Life provides twists, turns, and challenges, and the search for peace and understanding are a constant.
I can see Paul’s life reflected in our present day. Many times, we are in seasons of life where we are not good. In fact, we might be terrible. Perhaps we are working through addiction, this could be to a substance or pornography. Sometimes we are surrounded by friends that encourage us to participate in the wrong things. Maybe we are in a bad relationship and our response is to be angry and nasty to other people. Or perhaps we live our lives in regret and angst due to previous trauma, abuse, or disappointment that our lives have not turned out the way we want. During these times, we don’t feel worthy of God’s grace and certainly cannot fathom there is a God that loves us.
The transformation and redemption of Paul is no different than the opportunity we have for our own lives. Paul, formerly Saul, was a bad person. He committed what may seem to be unforgivable sins. He hated Christians. He jailed them and ultimately supported their execution. How could God forgive someone who was so bad?
Jesus was the first person in the world to preach, model, and spread forgiveness. He brought to us the translation of who God our Father is, and what He wants from us. Christ spoke about the love, forgiveness, and the relationship our God wants with us. And to top it off, Jesus came to earth and converted prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers, and murderers to spread the Gospel. Did you catch that? Jesus chose the “worst kind of people” to demonstrate the love and forgiveness of following Him.
The blessing of the Bible is Jesus provided us a roadmap to live healthier and happier lives. We can be assured that no matter how bad the sins are that we have committed, our God will forgive us. All we must do is ask. The lessons and teachings of Christ can be applied to our daily lives. Stories of courage, acts of faith, redemption, and resilience can be applied to each day we live on earth. There will be trials and bad days. We see horrible, sinful acts committed each day. God has never committed to us that bad stuff, which ultimately is sin, will not occur. What the Gospel tells us is that no matter how awful the struggle, Christ is always with us and wants what’s best for us. If we turn to the Gospel, we can live our lives with purpose knowing that the challenges and struggles can be overcome.
I am guilty of trying to make God fit into what I want him to be, based on what works best for my life, how I feel, and what I want, versus what Jesus and scripture teach us.
1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
Perhaps you are searching for a church community to learn more about the Gospel and find meaning in your life. Here are great church communities to listen to live, watch recorded messages, or discover Bible study resources.
- Cornerstone Chapel – cornerstonechapel.nt
- Eastview Christian Church – eastview.church
- Northpoint Community Church – northpoint.org
I believe the only way to grow in our faith and gain understanding is to study and pursue God’s Word. The more we read, the more we study, the more meaning and understanding we gain and can apply.
In chapter 6 we learned that the explosion of Christ followers happened so fast that certain problems arose. The disciples through God‘s wisdom quickly identified that they should not have to deal with some of those problems as they were there to preach and pray with the people. So they needed to identify certain Christlike brothers who would be involved in ministries that needed special attention. I noted in my Bible that there may have been approximately 50,000 followers at this point in Jerusalem. So, the 12 disciples chose 7 men of good reputation, full of the spirit and wisdom and appointed them to these duties.
Have you ever had someone ask, if you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Evidently, these 7 men could easily have been convicted of being Christians and they couldn’t stop talking about it as Jennifer mentioned a couple days ago. Out of 50,000 people, these 7 stood out and were chosen for this task. That’s pretty amazing really. I am often chosen for things at church, but there’s only about 30 of us. Even though I’m 60, I’m one of the younger people in my congregation. I get chosen by default ha ha.
Stephen was full of grace and power and was performing great wonders and signs among the people. it’s important to note, he was performing the same types of wonders and signs that Jesus did. Jesus told his disciples that they would do greater things than He. The same expectation is for all of us. I quickly identify in my mind why I couldn’t or can’t do things, like Moses did when he was called to perform God’s greatness in Egypt. Remember all the excuses? How many times have I had that debate in my mind, and not just with spiritual matters but with personal circumstances as well as professional. I tend to have a limiting belief that I bow to.
We know how the Jewish leaders were jealous of Jesus which is why they had him killed. Can you imagine the jealousy that arose after seeing this huge number of people explode in Jerusalem after the death of the problem they thought they got rid of. And then to see someone like Stephen performing the same wonders and signs as Jesus made them furious to the point they wanted to falsely accuse him just as they had done with Jesus. I’ve been falsely accused by others just as I’m sure you have. Work, friends, family. Typically, these people can talk, they just can’t hear, won’t hear, will not listen to truth. They just want their way no matter what that is. The really crazy thing is, if everybody actually verbalized what it is they wanted, they usually say they want the same thing. Don’t you think the religious leaders of this passage wanted a strong and faithful walk with God, you know that’s what they would say. That’s what Stephen wanted, that’s why he was serving the ministry that he was chosen for, why he was able to perform the great wonders among them. But because it didn’t look the way some wanted it to look or wasn’t being done by the right people, jealousy distorted and blinded certain people to God‘s truth and lead them to follow Satan‘s distortion. There’s a lot of that going around in today’s world.
When asked by the high priest if the accusations of blasphemy were true, Stephen gave a bit of a history lesson, which means that before coming to know Christ he studied the books of Moses and knew what God’s word said. At the end of the sermon, he called his accusers “stiff necked people”, think he followed Jesus around? He stated their ancestors didn’t listen to the prophets and had them killed. This man Stephen, performed signs and wonders like Jesus, admonished his accusers just like Jesus and in the end, asked for his killers to not be charged with their sin just like Jesus did from the cross.
Acts 6&7 are basically the highlight reel for Stephen. Many of us like catching up on sports and we love to watch the highlights of the greatest moves. What we don’t see is that for every 20 seconds of great play there was hours of hard work, daily work. My daily routine with God gives me the confidence to know I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength (Phil 4:13) which helps me overcome my limiting beliefs. What great signs and wonders have you been doing for Christ? Don’t sale yourself short, your parting of the Red Sea in your life will look very different from Moses’ parting. Who are you excitedly telling about Jesus?!
When we are confronted with some painful truth, we’ve basically got two ways to respond. Accept, own, and move forward to resolution or dismiss, deny and spiral downward. One reflects a repentant and honest heart which leads to joyful living, the other reflects a selfish heart as we make excuses (lies) to ourselves and others. As we avoid the truth, tell lies, etc. and seem to get away with it, we tell more and more lies, thus building up inward and outward conflict, anger, and depression.
In January 2016 I shared thoughts on Acts 2:22-24 where Peter succinctly and eloquently shares The Gospel of Jesus Christ (in what I call a pocket sermon). My key point was the reaction from the crowd as they were “Cut to the Heart“. Their hearts were convicted, and rather than deny and deflect the truth, they owned it by asking “What then shall we do?” (Acts 2:37b).
In today’s reading (Acts 5) we find another pocket sermon from Peter and the apostles after they were again confronted for preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus after they were warned not to.
“We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5 29b-32)
After this sermon we find a significantly contrasting response. Instead of repentance, there was rage to the point of murderous intent.
When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. (Acts 5:33)
Just like Jennifer pointed out yesterday, these guys couldn’t stop talking about what they believed in. Jennifer talks about Crossfit, Aldi and Aquaphor because they have been put to the test; they are as trustworthy as Earthly things can be, which of course all of them will someday fade away… Sorry Jennifer!
I love what happens next with the Pharisees and the council after they were enraged. Gamaliel (a Pharisee) wisely recommends to basically put the preaching and teaching to the test. If it isn’t from God, it will fade away, but if it is, you can’t stop it. While that crew missed the message, I at least give them credit for knowing GOD IS GOD and he cannot be moved, he’s undefeated and will be for eternity!
38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, (Acts 5:38-39)
The message of Jesus has been spreading for over 2,000 years and it isn’t going to stop. It is trustworthy, and whatever you or I are in denial of today, there is one thing to be sure: Our days on this Earth are numbered, there is no denying that. What happens next is up to us. In physical death it will be similar to the impacts of our decisions here on Earth: We either accept, own, and live a joyful life (eternal) or dismiss, deny and reap the ultimate eternal consequences of death and separation.
If you’re in denial today (or even if you’re not), I challenge you to take one small step and ask God to reveal himself to you. If you do this with pure intent, start thinking now about how you will respond WHEN he revels himself. Will it be acceptance or denial? There are no small miracles because he’s a big God. He’s calling you today, how will you answer?
Today’s reading: Acts 4
When I encounter something that has a significant, positive impact on my life I have a tendency to talk about it a lot.
Case in point #1 – when I started Crossfit in 2009 I did exercises I never thought I could do and found muscles I never knew I had. I couldn’t stop talking about it and trying to get everyone else to try it with me. In fact, 12.5 years later I am still going and still talking about it. (I can see B.J. rolling his eyes as he reads this. Please do not ask me about Crossfit when he is around. He is not a “believer” and is very tired of listening to it after all these years…hehehe!)
Case in point #2 – my favorite store is Aldi. Yes, you have to have a quarter to get a cart and yes, you have to buy grocery bags if you don’t bring your own. But it is still the fastest store in town. Even at its busiest time, I can be in and out of that store with a cart full of food in less than 25 minutes. Their produce is great because they turn it over fast. While you can’t generally buy name brands at Aldi, I’m pretty sure many of their “off” brands are the made in the same factory and just have a different name stamped on the label. (Lovin’ Fresh Italian bread looks and tastes exactly like Brownberry.) Best of all, everything costs less! (Again, B.J. is tired of hearing about Aldi, although occasionally I get him to go there with me.)
Case in point #3 – Aquaphor is a miracle ointment. When Freddy was born, I can’t remember who told me about this supposedly fantastic product called Aquaphor, but I know I was skeptical. Do you know how expensive that stuff is? All it took was a teething baby with a red butt and I was willing to pay $1/ounce! Seventeen years later, I have Aquaphor stashed everywhere – in my bathroom drawer, in my purse, in my desk. While I don’t need a cure for diaper rash anymore, I still use it every day on every sort of skin disorder – chapped lips, dry skin, cuts, burns, etc. (Feel free to ask B.J. his thoughts about Aquaphor, he is a “believer”…or at least he uses it all the time too!)
The impact these 3 things have had on my life is measurable – I can see the muscles, count the savings and feel the relief. While I might drive you nuts with my chatter, you can’t deny the results.
Acts 4, our scripture for today, has a similar slant. Peter and John had spent the last 3 years with Jesus. They watched him turn water to wine, give sight to the blind, heal the sick, and ultimately give his life to take away the sins of the world. Now that he was gone they couldn’t stop talking about the impact he had on their lives. Even though he was no longer with them in person, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were able to perform miracles including healing a lame beggar (Acts 3). They wanted everyone to know the love of Jesus and experience the same hope they knew.
How fitting the reading for today is to my current situation!
3 weeks ago I had an accident, I misjudged some stairs and crumbled to the ground. Thankfully I was able to hobble to the phone and call my Mom for help. I prayed that I only had sprained my ankle and began the R.I.C.E method. 48 hours later my husband encouraged me to go get an X-ray. The Dr was amazed that I had been able to get around for two days as he saw 2 cracks in my fibula right above my ankle. I had to swallow my pride as I left the office in a full cast and crutches with instructions to not put any weight on that leg for 2 full weeks.
I took walking for granted! Scooting around with the help of a scooter and scooting up the stairs for the past 2+ weeks has opened my eyes to a whole new world. It is hard. It is hard to rely on others and ask for help. Thankfully, I have had ample help. I am now am in a walking boot and becoming more independent every day.
In Acts 3, Peter and John met a man in Jerusalem who had been crippled from birth. This man was destitute and relegated to begging on the streets for money, food, and help.
Peter and John were able to offer him something that he needed more than anything. Something more than the need to walk, which as I have recently experienced is a very necessary part of life. They did not offer him money, food or provision. They offered him Jesus! And, graciously, by God’s mercy and power, the man was given salvation and the ability to walk.
This is such a good reminder! We might have piles of problems we want God to fix. I sure want God to heal my broken leg right this moment! We might have money troubles, marriage troubles, sickness, or grievances with others. Yet, the most important thing that we need is not a quick fix from God. The most important thing we need is our Savior Jesus Christ.
Today in our reading of Acts 3 we see power from Jesus to heal. He can help us with our everyday problems, but more than that we see the power that Jesus has to SAVE. He can and has forgiven all our sins!
The man ran and jumped and praised God! Sure he was happy and relieved that he could walk, but he was now going to Heaven!!
Faith in Jesus’ name has healed this man standing before you. It is the faith that comes through believing in Jesus’ name that has made the crippled man walk right in front of your eyes!
This past weekend I was able to attend a funeral for the mother of my youngest sister Dakota. This celebration of life for Sue was in the hills of Avoca, New York, near the same place where my father, Ronald LaFrance, was buried many years ago. At the service, the pastor referenced Psalm 89 that reminds us how short our lives are. He also connected Psalm 23 and the comfort we can find in the loss of a loved one. In the less than 48 hours I had with family, we literally and figuratively experienced mountaintop and valley moments. Conversations included physical and spiritual loss. On the other side of these conversations, we experienced moments of hope and trust in the hope in the Lord. Special prayers for the family of Sue Johndro.
Today’s Reading of Acts 1 and 2 made me think of these conversations in addition to the On Purpose study we are focusing on at Eastview Christian Church. The Apostle Luke writes the book of Acts.
Acts 1:1-2 1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
I was once asked what my ministry was? I’ve reflected on this question often. The conclusion I come back to is to finish the work God has called us to. The book of Acts reminds us that Jesus began this work, and through giving us the Holy Spirit, we get to finish it. Sharing the hope we have in the Lord is living On Purpose. Jesus has given us everything we need to do this.
These connections the Holy Spirit helped me to see this last weekend pointed back to the following;
- Evaluate my time. How am I spending it? 1 Peter 1:17
- The time we have is short. Psalm 89:47
- Maximize the use of our time. Ephesians 5:15-16
- We don’t know when He is coming back. Luke 13:32
Live life On Purpose every day. Finish what the Lord began. He has given us the Holy Spirit to guide our days. Our life testimonies share what we have seen, heard, and felt. Go to the ends of the earth and share today. 1 John 1:1
Thank you to my family and brother in Christ Chet who made this visit possible!
Acts 1:8 But 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.”
Click here to start or continue your journey on purpose.
Psalm 23 – People & Songs
Today’s Reading : John Chapter 21
John chapters 19 and 20 are full of details of Jesus’ last hours on the earth, His death, and His Resurrection. These two chapters contain details of:
Jesus Sentenced to Death
The Death of Jesus
The Burial of Jesus
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
Jesus Appears to Thomas
Purpose of the Book
The last two verses in John 20 tell us the Purpose of the Book of John.
The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.
John wrote this book of the Bible to a very broad audience. People believed that it was impossible for Jesus to be the Son of God and a literal human being at the same time. Through the accounts in these two chapters, the crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus, John is demonstrating that Jesus had power that could only come from God alone. Jesus did this to show signs that He was who He claimed to be.
John included these miracles in his gospel so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name. He included 7 specific miracles in his book. These miracles changed the lives of not only those who received the miracle but also those who were watching the miracle.
The miracles were:
- Jesus changing water into wine (2:1-11)
- how He healed a royal official’s son (4:46-54)
- how He healed a lame man (5:1-18)
- how He fed the 5000 (6:1-15)
- how He walked on water (6:16-21)
- how He healed the man born blind (9:1-41) and
- how He raised Lazarus from the dead (11:1-57).
John wrote of these specific miracles to lead people to faith in Jesus. He included evidence of the things that Jesus did to help his readers believe that Jesus was and is who He claimed to be. His miraculous actions showed Him to be the Lord of creation. And, if we choose to believe, we have life by the power of His name.
To have life is more than eternal life. It is also life now, right here where we live. It is the assurance of God’s promises and protection. It is the love and community and purpose He gives us here and now.
I came that they may have life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].
Today’s reading is on John 18.
This passage is one of those that really blows me away with just how much God really is in control of any situation. With John’s focus on Jesus as Messiah, I feel amazed at how gracefully Jesus, fully man, trusted His assigned role of “lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” It lays out all we need to know about trusting God in verse 4: “Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward“ – when those who sought Him hard came to seize Him, He knew gruesome death awaited; but He knew exactly how God sent Him to bear witness to the truth of God’s salvation plan, and obeyed His calling as such. Just as Jesus knew completely what would unfold, we know we can trust that through everything that has ever happened and will ever happen, God knows exactly what He’s doing.
Jesus was not without trials brought on against Him in this passage. He was faithful in God’s plan when confronted with non-believers who shunned even the most direct and straightforward display of His power. When his trusted disciple Simon Peter rejected his association with Jesus, He still protected them, ensuring their safety until their faith would be strong enough for the persecution they’d endure. He held fast to God’s fairness and righteousness when the priests of Jerusalem chained Him, beat Him, and harassed Him unjustly. He even held His head high when the notoriously ruthless Pontius Pilate tried to convene on His behalf and God’s own followers rejected His truth and demanded His death nonetheless. Through all the forces of evil in the world fighting against God’s will, Jesus knew God would prevail, and held firm in His knowledge that God had it in control. Knowing this, how could I possibly not hold firm in the face of adversity towards His will, and believe He shall make a way for me every day when I follow His calling? I’m reminded of Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
In a recent reading, I was asked to pray over Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, oh God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” That came to mind when thinking about the Israelites, carefully following the externally visible rules of their religion, but rejecting God’s message and the Messiah’s call in their hearts and actions. These are not the actions of people trusting in the Lord, but putting faith in their own understanding. It can be easy for our sinful pride to cloud our judgement when confronted with God’s word and the weight of our own sin, lashing out against the Truth and the Savior as the crowds in this passage did. Instead, I lift up Psalm 139 as a prayer today against such selfishness, that God could search my heart, show me the errors in my ways, and lead me instead to trust wholly in His command for me as Jesus did. Just as our Savior knew, so do we know God will be with us every step of the way.
Today’s reading is John 17.
Two weeks ago I wrote about figuring out if God is the king of our heart. While the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as a whole help us know Jesus’ heart, today we read what is known as The High Priestly Prayer where we get to listen in on a one on one conversation with Jesus and God the Father to hear and know Jesus’ heart. I’ve heard prayer called the ultimate wireless connection because it’s a direct line to God 24/7 and how cool is it that we get to listen in and hear Jesus talk to the Father.
What is your “why?” Have you ever been asked that question? It’s really another way to ask you what your purpose is in life. Many would say their children, spouse, parents, or to make impact in the world in some shape or form. And while those are all good things, it is very apparent here what Jesus’ “why” is.
Jesus says in John 17:4, “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave me to do.” A few verses earlier in John 17:1 he says,”…glorify your Son that the Son may glorify You.” Jesus’ “why” was very clear, He was here to glorify the God. Personal coaches will tell you that your “why” should resonate in your soul and push you through challenges and hard times to strive towards it. You will do nearly anything to accomplish your “why.” No set back will stop you from pursuing it. To me, Jesus had the ultimate “why” that we should all strive to have in some shape or form..to glorify God through our life here on earth and to be able to say at the end of lives like Jesus did in John 17:4 and John 17:2 that we accomplished the work God gave us to do and that God was glorified through it. Jesus glorified the Father by showing the Father’s sacrificial love through laying down His life for the forgiveness of our sins.
While I could (and maybe should) stop here, there are a few other big takeaways I had in reflecting on John 17. The first is that when we are in the midst of striving towards our “why,” we will probably have some big wins and successes in life where people tell you privately or publicly great job and maybe there are even big awards and trophies. When this happens, who do you give the glory? Jesus gives us a great example in John 17:7, “Now they know that everything that You have given Me is from You.” I used to not like it when an athlete was interviewed after a game and thanked God because I thought it seemed silly…does God really care about who wins a game? Did God want your team to win more than the other team? My perspective has changed on this. The person is not saying that at all typically. They are saying all their talents and gifts and abilities come from God. They are giving Him the glory..no different than Jesus here.
My last big take away here is how Jesus prayed for us. He knew we needed protection from the evil one. He prayers in John 17:15, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” In John 17:17 he says, “Sanctify them in the truth, your Word is truth.” We must fervently pray for our children and family and even our country and governmental leaders and the whole world to know God and His truth and will. How cool is it that Jesus prayed specifically for us and our protection?! We should do the same for our loved ones…not just from physical harm and for good health..but for protection from Satan.
Those who know me well know that in text messages I will commonly use an emoji that looks like a hand holding up the number one. My interpretation of this emoji is that it’s not a number one, it’s pointing to the sky. When people tell me good job or thanks on something, I can easily get puffed up with pride thinking it’s me. When there is a problem, I can commonly think this seems hopeless or there is no way out. This emoji reminds me that everything that I do should be to glorify God and anything that was accomplished was because of what He has done through me. It also reminds me through Him there is a way out of every situation and problem because everything is possible through Him. Jesus gives us this example in John 17. May He, and He alone, be glorified through all things.