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February 27, 2022

  • Daily Devotional

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    DAY 1 – Acts 9:32 – 10:48

    Some chapters of Acts are closely connected. Acts 9:32-43 is a transitional story that sets the stage for chapters 10 and 11. The focus has shifted back to Peter. He is traveling around Judea and Samaria. A notable miracle of healing occurs in the towns of Lydda and Sharon. Many people turn to the Lord (v. 35). Peter then moves to Joppa (also spelled Jaffa) and settles down. A major miracle of raising a woman who had died, Dorcas, takes place and many people believe (v. 42).

    Now the action shifts to a MAJOR missional moment in Acts 10. The gospel will take a big step toward the ends of the earth and do it in the region of Caesarea (northwest coast of Samaria) in the family of the Roman Centurion Cornelius. Listen to the message of February 20.

    Notice the heart and soul of Cornelius (vv. 1-8, 22-26). God arranges a divine contact for Cornelius and his family to be saved. Peter needs a massive mindset shift. God gives a vision and a clear instruction to shake Peter loose from his inability to conceive of “unclean” Gentiles being saved. Ritual purity is essential in the way religion is practiced in 1st century Israel.

    Peter meets Cornelius, discovers his hunger to know God, and the breakthrough happens. Peter has a new understanding of God’s better mission for the world (vv. 34-35). Peter preaches Jesus (the crucified Messiah, the resurrected God, and the sovereign Lord) and forgiveness of sins in his name (v. 43).

    God powerfully confirms his mission to the Gentiles with a follow-up version of Pentecost, to make it absolutely clear that these Gentiles have been welcomed into the family of faith and the Kingdom of Jesus (vv. 44-48). The Jewish disciples are astonished at what God has done. Really astonished!

    This story intensifies in the next chapter. For now, ask God to give you eyes to see his greater work, especially among people you think are virtually beyond God’s grace.

    DAY 2 – Acts 11

    In Acts 11:1-3 Peter is in real trouble from a group of Jewish Christians who believe circumcision and ritual purity are essential for the Christian faith. What Peter did is inconceivable, almost immoral. Some of the hardest hearts are religious hearts who do not know the grace and love of God, and who do not love and extend grace to “outsiders.” Even Peter, with all his stature in the first church, is not exempt from these hard hearts.

    Peter explains how the Spirit had to change his own mindset, and then how the Spirit came on Cornelius and his household (vv. 4-17). Read verses 17 and 18. This is the new missional mindset that Jesus taught in Acts 1:8. Then, the hard hearts are softened. The biased eyes opened. The objections answered. They see the conversion of “unclean” Gentiles as a miracle and they worship God. A spiritual seismic shift has occurred.

    Now that the door to the Gentiles has been open wide, immediately other disciples go through that door and begin to travel to new cities. Some go only to the Jews, but others go to the Greeks. Always watch for summaries Luke provides. Barnabas joins in and sees much fruit. Be sure to notice how Luke the historian skillfully weaves the plot. Barnabas mentors Saul and they partner for even greater ministry. Be sure to see the new title given to the disciples (v. 25).

    Through the prophet Isaiah, God told his people he would do a new thing (Isaiah 43:18-19). God’s new thing is often far outside our theological and political boxes (Isaiah 55:8-11). Acts is all about the new thing God is doing. Do not suffer from what is called “hardening of the categories” where your personal opinions about people and groups you don’t like keep you from participating in the new thing God is doing. The good news is bigger than we imagine. We were all apart from God. We all needed forgiveness (Romans 5:6-11). We are called to love and serve all people as we bring the good news of the grace of Jesus.

    Pray all week for people you may view as outsiders and even as enemies. Pray for them to encounter Jesus. And most of all, see Jesus in the way you love them.

    DAY 3 – ACTS 12

    The church is on a mission in the world, but sometimes the world is not only dark, it is dangerous. Not since Stephen was martyred in Acts 7 has the negative world been described like Luke describes it in Acts 12.

    There are two primary enemies, and they are in partnership together against the Church. King Herod rules on behalf of the Roman Empire. He is there to keep order and keep the Jewish Zealots under control. To get the favor of the Jewish leadership, he executes James (one of the 12 disciples). He then arrests Peter, planning on killing him as well.

    In verses 5-11, we read the story of Peter in a highly guarded prison and how an angel orchestrates the escape. The Church is praying hard for Peter (v. 5). Peter goes to the place where the Church is praying and they don’t believe it is him (vv. 11-16). He then gives quiet instructions and departs the city for another unnamed place. Peter will greatly diminish from this point on. James, the brother of Jesus, is now the leader of the Church in Jerusalem.

    Herod has the guards executed (vv. 18-19). He moves to another location where he again shows poor rulership. The chapter finishes with the death of Herod for his vanity and evil (vv. 21-23). Note the summary: The word of God is flourishing in spite of the evil rulers who would suppress it (v. 24). The Word of God is unstoppable and the work is yet unfinished. There is much more to do. The final verse hints at what is to come.

    When the culture is neutral or negative about the Christian faith, opposition is to be expected. Christians in the United States live in a democracy where we have religious freedom. Much of the world does not have this freedom or security. In many nations, it is difficult and even dangerous to be a Christian.

    Take a few minutes and thank God for our freedom of religion, and then pray for the struggling and persecuted Church around the world. Pray for the Church in the world of Islam.

    DAY 4 – ACTS 13

    The rest of Acts will focus on the three missionary journeys of Saul. Chapters 13 and 14 describe the first missionary journey. A map is provided, but it may be helpful for you to do a Google search for: Paul’s First Missionary Journey and use a bigger version. Acts 13 covers the work on Cyprus and finishes on the mainland, in a major city of Galatia—Antioch in Pisidia.

    Luke provides many historical details. The church in the Syrian Antioch is a missional HUB. It has a multiracial/ethnic leadership team (vv. 1-3). They are sensitive to the leading of the Spirit and the Spirit is going to advance the Gentile mission through Paul and Barnabas. In this chapter, Saul’s name is changed to the more useful Greek equivalent—Paul.

    This chapter records a striking power encounter with a sorcerer. Paul preaches a profound message of Jesus: the crucified Savior, the resurrected God, and the sovereign Lord. Paul will consistently use a pattern. He starts in the local synagogue and speaks to Jews who are open, and to the God-fearing Gentiles (v. 26). He then goes to the marketplace to preach to the larger Gentile crowds. The gospel of grace and forgiveness of sin is preached (vv. 38-39).

    Luke reports the fruit of the mission as well as the opposition. You will see the negative world striking back in almost every chapter. But the gospel is unstoppable, and the work is unfinished. Be sure to read verse 52. May you be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit today.

    DAY 5 – ACTS 14

    This chapter covers a lot of territory. If you look at the map, they travel through the region of Galatia and then they backtrack and sail back home to Antioch. Pay attention to these notes from Luke.

    They are always led by the Spirit and their teaching is always the apostolic teaching of the Lord Jesus.

    They are not only doing evangelism, the mission is to see self-supporting churches started everywhere.

    There is always strong opposition from some of the Jews, while some Jews believe and so do many God-fearing Gentiles. God is at work at all times.

    The mission is in the Roman Empire. The cities where they preach are fully devoted to the gods of Rome and Rome itself. Religion was a way of life for Roman Empire cities and there was great risk for NOT worshipping the gods of the Empire.

    Paul and Barnabas are mistaken for gods, due to the miracle of healing (vv. 8-18). The crowd quickly turns against them, and they stone Paul (vv. 19-20). Be sure to note key verses 23 and 24. They put their trust in God for the missional work in a negative world. They keep on being missional. Resistance will not stop them.

    When they get back to Antioch, they give a full report of all that God has done and, most importantly, a door for mission to the
    Gentiles is now open (v. 27). They remain at the Antioch HUB for a long time.

    What lessons and insights are you learning from the 1st century Church for the 21st century church at Living Word?

     

     

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