Thursday, September 30, 2010

Week 5, Day 4 - Stand In God's Way

Acts 11:1-18

When God works, it doesn’t always make sense to us but we need to trust Him and follow His direction. Today’s scripture is a recap of what I looked at yesterday regarding Peter and Cornelius; however, God must have felt it important that we hear the story a couple of different ways in order for us to completely understand. A lesson that I looked at yesterday was the fact that God had gone to great lengths to ensure that Cornelius would learn of His love for Him. Something else that I hadn’t looked at in great detail was the fact that God had declared the Gentiles clean. This allowed Peter to enter Cornelius’ home and allow him to tell him about Christ. Please look at the story in Peter’s words in Acts 11:1-18.

Peter had begun to tell his story because he met great criticism from the believers for going into the house of a Gentile. Something this story has made me reflect on is this question: What do I consider unclean (or unapproachable) that prevents me from reaching out to a person who needs Christ? Maybe it is going to a place I do not consider safe or appropriate. Maybe I’m uncomfortable with a particular person. For Peter, this meant that he had to throw away a rule he had followed all his life to not enter the house of a Gentile. Can you imagine if Peter would have continued to shout out, “unclean!” to God after God had said, “Clean.”

I am reading from the NLV today, and I love what Peter says in verse 17, “And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” Who am I to stand in God’s way? I need to examine my life and think deeper on what I could possibly be doing to stand in God’s way. Maybe I’m standing in the way of what He wants to do in me! Am I really as prideful and as bold as to assume that I have a better way and I understand the situation better than God?

Take the time to examine and see if there are road blocks you are trying to put in God’s way. Where do you need to step aside and let God do what He does best?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Week 5, Day 3 - God's Gift Is For All

Acts 10

The story of Cornelius and Peter is beautiful because up until this moment, Peter’s ministry was only to Jews. Cornelius had a heart that sought God and was generous in his love for God by giving to those in need. God saw his heart and wanted to make sure that Cornelius would have the opportunity to experience Him. Please read the entire chapter of Acts 10 today.

The Bible is a story of redemption and love. This story to me sums up the reason why Christ came to earth, died and rose again. He didn’t just do it for the Jews; He did it for everyone on the earth! Please soak in this story and remember that you were once a Cornelius who didn’t know Him but came to know Him in a new way. Does this make you realize that God is drawing all of mankind to Him? Everyone is loved by God. In Cornelius’ story, God called Peter to go to Cornelius so he could hear how much God loves him. Have you ever been prompted?

I have, but I haven’t always listened or obeyed the prompts. Once, God kept prompting me to reach out to a neighbor that was not well received in that neighborhood. I have to admit that I avoided approaching that person because I knew it would be work. God wasn’t going to let me off the hook; however, and continued to prompt me. Finally, I had a friend pray with me about me obeying God’s direction and within a few days of praying, the person came to me. I was able to share how God changed me; however, maybe my neighbor would have seen it even more if I would have gone to them first.

Has God prompted you to reach out to someone you wouldn’t have normally reached out to?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Week 5, Day 2 - Making A Difference

Acts 9:32-42

A year ago, the name “Dorcas” didn’t ring a bell to me as a significant person in the Bible; however, God changed that for me. I was serving in our church’s children’s ministry when Dorcas’ story was told. The story didn’t focus so much on the fact that Peter had raised her from the dead, but on what she had done while she was alive. Since that perspective was told, I remember her story of how she touched the lives of the people around her. Please turn to Acts 9:32-42.

Peter came to the town of Lydda and healed a man who had been paralyzed for eight years. When the believers saw that, they rejoiced and sent him to Tabitha’s (Dorcas) house in Joppa because she was dying. By the time Peter arrived, she was already dead but the room was full of “widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other clothes Dorcas had made for them.” Dorcas had made a difference in the lives of the widows and they were greatly grieving their loss. It makes me think of what my former senior pastor would say to the church and how this statement challenged him when looking at the church’s direction: If our church were to disappear right now, would anyone in the neighborhood notice? This isn’t about noticing the church because it’s big; it is noticing the church because it is making a difference in the lives of the people that live around it.

Let’s step away from the statement focused solely on the church and look at our individual lives. Dorcas showed us that an individual can make such a difference that people feel it. There truly is more pain and suffering in this world than what one person can handle, but God placed each one of us where we are so we can make a difference in our immediate community. Dorcas did what she could and made clothing for the widows; we have skills that God wants to use to change the lives of the people around us as well.

If I were to disappear right now, would my neighbors notice?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Week 5, Day 1 - Jump Into Action

Acts 9:19b - 31

I am amazed by the first few verses in this section of scripture, "Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues saying, 'He is indeed the Son of God.'" That got me to think about my mission trip to Zambia coming up. At our recent meeting we discussed how we will be changed by the trip but that it is easy to fall back into the routine and rhythm of life when when we return home. I asked the question how do we avoid that from happening? And I think Saul lived a perfect example of how to avoid getting stuck back into the trap of routine.

The Bible tells us that Saul immediately began preaching about Jesus. He didn't wait until it seemed like the right time because he knew that he needed to do it now. I've felt passionate about something but because I didn't move into immediate action I slowly walked right into the trap of routine. Before I knew it, the passion was fading and I no longer felt called into action. I am praying that I will have the courage, strength and wisdom to move into action as I find myself changed by this trip.

Have you found yourself stuck in a rut or routine? What have you been passionate about that you have allowed to fade?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Week 4, Day 5 - Defining Moments

Acts 9:1-19

Have you ever had a defining moment with God where you walked away changed? The moment of your salvation is definitely a defining moment; however, in our walk with God we will have moments when our journey takes us to a new place. It is almost as if God reveals something new to us about Him or ourselves. In the Old Testament, we see the altars or “standing stones” the Israelites would erect so they would always remember those moments. One of those moments was when they crossed the Jordan River; God told them to collect rocks from the river bed and make an altar (Joshua 3-4). Another moment that comes to mind is when Jacob had a vision of God (Genesis 28:10-22). There are times when people were given a new name, such as Jacob after he wrestled with God (Genesis 32:22-31). That gives permanence to the moment when God proclaimed who they are in Him! Today we will get to read how a man named Saul had a moment with God that changed his life; please read Acts 9:1-9.

Saul was on his was to Damascus with papers giving him permission to arrest anyone belonging to “The Way.” On that road he met Jesus. Do remember when you first met Jesus? It is such an amazing moment when Jesus reveals Himself to us in a new way. At that moment, Saul knew that Jesus is God and he was a changed man. I find verse 7 very interesting, “The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.” Isn’t that the way our moments with God are like? We can have a moment and other people “hear the sound.” A perfect example was an opportunity to see Cici Wynans perform at a woman’s conference; it was a concert like I have never seen before or since. There was something happening between her and God while she was worshipping; we heard the sound, but she was in communion with God. I stood in awe of how she and God could have such a private moment when there were thousands of women watching. I have no idea if it was a defining moment for her, but there was something special happening between her and God.

In Wild Goose Chase, Mark Batterson writes of “Inattentional Blindness” (pg 43) where we become so used to our surroundings and routine that we become blind to the daily miracles around us. We miss out on the Holy Spirit’s promptings and opportunities to worship because we become accustomed to our environment. God gave Saul a physical reminder of how he was missing out on who God was because he was stuck in the routine of the law by making him blind for three days. I can’t help but wonder when the scales fell off Saul’s eyes if everything seemed new to him. He could probably look around and see the amazing work of God’s hands all around him.

What are your defining moments with God? Have you done something to help you remember those moments when things get tough? Where are your blind spots keeping you from appreciating all God has done?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Week 4, Day 4 - God's Lead

Acts 8:26-40

I am currently reading the book, Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson who writes that we need to follow the Holy Spirit’s direction, even if it doesn’t make sense at first. While I am only on the second chapter of the book, I have already found it challenging me to throw away the things that hinder my ability to follow the Spirit’s direction. I am currently reading the book as part of a team project, but I love how God’s timing of the book went with my personal Bible study. Please read another part of Philip’s story in Acts 8:26-40.

Before I jump in with my main point, I just want to say that it must have been really strange for the eunuch when Philip disappeared. And I also wonder what it was like for Philip being whisked away from the spot! What really stuck out at me after reading the first chapter of Wild Goose Chase and then reading about this event was the fact that Philip just followed and obeyed what God told him to do. He had no idea why he needed to walk on that desert road, but he did it anyway. God does that to us sometimes. He may ask us to do something that doesn’t seem to be a part of the plans that we had or maybe it just doesn’t make sense, but our obedience can lead us to a great adventure. In Philip’s case, he was led to walk the road and then led again to go to the eunuch. Philip was willing and had an opportunity to explain about Christ to the eunuch and baptize him!

I think of the missed opportunities I may have had because I felt a nudge and didn’t follow it because it just didn’t make sense. There have also been some incredible experiences I have had because I did jump in and follow the Spirit’s lead. Sometimes it may not seem like a pleasant experience like, “take a walk on the desert road,” but it is worth following the lead because we are about to have an adventure. Not every adventure is going to be huge, but life will not be boring. I once was at a conference where the author, Donald Miller was speaking. Without directly quoting him, he spoke a message that has since come back to my mind and challenged me often. His message basically said that if we are not living a life that is worth writing about or putting into a movie, we are not living the life God wants us to live. The point isn’t that we are to draw all attention to ourselves, but God wants us to live a life that is doing something. We need to be living a story worth telling. Philip followed God’s lead and had a story worth telling.

Where is your passion? What has God given you a “righteous anger” about? Are you following His lead and bracing for an adventure?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Week 4, Day 3 - Can't Buy Me Love

Acts 8:9 – 8:25

Do you remember the Beatle’s tune, “Can’t Buy Me Love?” The famous line in the song says, “I don’t care too much for money; money can’t buy me love.” Not everyone would agree with that line; there are several people that marry for the convenience of more money. God; however, can’t be bought with money; He really doesn’t care about it except that we trust Him with our money. God wants our hearts and today’s reading will show us how important the heart is over money. Please read Acts 8:9 – 8:25.

Simon was a sorcerer and was used to gaining attention by doing magnificent things. He had a following and enjoyed his status. When Philip came into to town, Simon noticed that people were amazed by what he was doing and began to follow him. In that process, he became saved and was baptized. Peter and John heard how many people in Samaria were becoming saved and baptized and came to pray for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Simon was amazed that people were receiving the Holy Spirit by laying their hands on them and offered Peter and John money so that he could do that as well. Remember that in Simon’s world, money bought him whatever he wanted; that was probably how he learned sorcery. Peter rebuked him for thinking he could buy a gift from God with money. Simon asked Peter to pray for him as a result.

We may not be approaching our pastors and asking that God gift them by offering money; however, that attitude is not that difficult to have, it is masked in a different way. It is easy to think that because we tithe faithfully that we will be blessed always; it is almost as if we tithe with the expectation of a gift. Maybe a person feels that because they give faithfully, the church should do and provide what they feel should be done. Maybe a person serves expecting favor from God because of what they do. God does not work that way! God is looking for people to follow Him because they love Him and to trust Him during times of blessing and difficult times. God just wants us.

Are you trying to buy God’s love and faithfulness?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Week 4, Day 2 - A Turning Point

Acts 7:54-8:6

When we are being treated unfairly, it is difficult to understand why God would allow such a thing to happen or how He could possibly use it. I’m sure you have either worked somewhere or have known someone who has worked somewhere with a terrible working environment. Usually, when that happens, several people come and go from that workplace and scatter. Scattering doesn’t sound like something God would want or use, but today we are going to read the rest of Stephen’s story and see how God can use difficulties and persecution to strengthen the church rather than weaken the church. Please turn to Acts 7:54-8:6.

Reading this selection, we can see that Stephen was killed because he was bold in his faith. I highly doubt that the early church looked at that moment and thought that now God was going to spread the truth to all nations. I’m sure that the church was discouraged, and we can even read in Acts 8:1 that, “all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” From the human perspective this seemed horrible; it seemed as if the church was going to crumble because it was scattering. However, we can see that was not the case as we read on in chapter 8. Please look at verse 4: “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” They may have fled from the persecution, but they didn’t stop spreading the truth and hope of Christ. We can even read how God used Philip in Samaria.

The early church had just reached a turning point and I’m sure they thought it was for the worse at the time. The fact that I am writing this blog and that you are reading it is evidence that when they were scattered, God used it to further spread His love. Just think on the fact that everyone was staying in Jerusalem until persecution hit. I don’t know if the persecution is what was needed to spread the word or if God used it as an opportune moment, but the end result was that the church grew instead of disintegrating.

Look back at your own life for a moment. Can you see times when God used something bad to bring you to a turning point in your relationship with Him? God can use both the good events and the bad events to work for His purpose if we are willing to let Him work in our lives. Please look up Romans 8:28 and see what the Bible says God can do.

What has God used as a turning point in your life? Are you in a difficult situation now? Are you trusting that God can use it for His glory?