Scripture: While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:59,60 NIV
Observation: Stephen is killed for his faith in Christ.
Application: Stephen dies in the same way that Christ died, by asking forgiveness for his killers. Once again we see a repeating of an action or truth restated in the bible. I believe that God intends for us to forgive our persecutors. The fact that this truth keeps recurring as I read daily may mean that the time is drawing close when persecution of Christians will increase. I believe that may be why God keeps reminding me to be a man of forgiveness. I can’t be that man without the strength provided by the Holy Spirit. I must trust the Spirit to supply that strength.
Prayer: Father, thank you for giving me a means to endure hardship when it occurs. I pray that I am able to lovingly withstand persecution no matter how great or how slight. Amen
Scripture: When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Acts 8:14-23 NIV
Observation: The gift of salvation is priceless. It’s a sin to attempt to purchase God’s Gifts with money. Money and actions can’t cover up what is in our heart.
Application: Giving to receive is never a good idea. It’s so self-centered whether it’s buying things to impress others or giving of your time and energy. Giving and servanthood inspired by the Lord come with a warranty that says “expect nothing yet receive eternity because I love you!” Salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit come paid for by the blood shed on the cross. To receive it you must admit your sin, ask forgiveness from the one true God and acknowledge Jesus as the son of that God who died for you. Jesus suffered for you and that suffering is so valuable we have nothing materialistic that compares. We have one gift for him and that’s our heart. The giving of it puts a smile on the Lord’s face. When we give of our talents, time and of our love to others with no strings that gives our Lord glory!
Prayer: Lord, help me to use my talents to glorify you. After all they are gifts that you have given me. Let me never take your love for granted. Lord, I never want to forget the life I came from before I knew you and the miracle of the new life I have built upon your word! Help me share your love with those around me. If given the oppprtunity, use me to further your kingdom. Your humble servant. Amen
Scripture: Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.” So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. Acts 6:11,12a NIV
Observation: The leaders and priests sought to persecute Stephen.
Application: These guys just missed the boat. They didn’t like the message of Christ that was being taught so they conspired to have one of the teachers, Stephen, charged with blaspheming Moses…and God. “And God,” really? That’s the problem. These people didn’t truly realize the real hierarchy. It’s God, then man. The leaders who conspired against Stephen put their faith in man, not God. Had their desires been to honor the Lord and not the memory of Moses, their hearts may have been receptive to Jesus’ message. Where does your heart lie?
Prayer: Lord God, help us to focus on you and your plan for salvation through Christ. Amen
Scripture: By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. Acts 3:16 NIV
Observation: Jesus healed a man yet many people didn’t recognize or were unable to see that Jesus was responsible for his new found health. True healing, either mental, physical, or spiritual only comes from the Lord. When we become Christians we are spiritually healed but we still have memories of our former selves. Those memories can interfere with our ability to be a force for Christ.
Application: It’s so difficult for people to recognize Christ in your life when they have known you before he changed you . Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to “die to our old self.” Still, people need to see Christ in us not just that we know catchy Christian clichés. With the healing help of the Holy Spirit we must fight the old Pharisees in our lives, “die to our old selves,” and let Christ shine through.
Prayer: Wow! Lord, I want everyone to see the healing that has come with you in my life. I need your help to be consistent. You have given me this wonderful gift of forgiveness and my life eternal is yours. I fall so short of helping you grow your kingdom, I don’t want “me” to get in the way! I am willing, please help me serve you. I love you Lord and my hope is found in you. Amen
Scripture: “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips. Exodus 23:13 NIV (Merriam-Webster dictionary states that invoke means to, petition for help or support, or to appeal to or cite as authority.)
Scripture: Do not let them live in your land, or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.”. Exodus 23:33 NIV
Scripture: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 14:1 NIV
Scripture: The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. Acts 5:41,42 NIV
Observation: There is a theme to today’s reading: “There is a God and man will forsake him if he is left to his own devices.”
Application: In Exodus God warns repeatedly about the dangers of the gods of the people the Israelites were displacing eventually causing them to stray. By the time David wrote Psalm 14, some had not only sought other gods but they had come to claim there wasn’t a God. These were the same people who were miraculously brought out of Egypt a few generations earlier. In Acts, the Apostles were flogged for doing God’s work in the name of Jesus by the very priests and leaders descended from Aaron. From the Old Testament reading through the New Testament reading today there is a steady eroding away of support for and belief in God. God knew that we would seek others if we got antsy or if he wasn’t “filling the bill” quick enough to suit us. That’s why the bible is full of these admonitions and warnings. All we have to do to see proof of this is to look at our society. We are either claiming there is “no God” and demanding that those that claim that there is one end claiming it, or we are calling on other names, (insert any number of Hollywood “gods” here). Not to mention those of us that worship cars, money, houses, sex, our looks, our jobs, etc. God knew we would corrupt his plan–and we have! Our job now is to acknowledge that our society is corrupt and going down the wrong path, seeking any and all forms of gods except for the one true God. We must speak the truth about him to those in our sphere of influence.
Prayer: God, forgive us for seeking other gods. Help us to guide the misguided in finding you. Amen
Scripture: “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people. Exodus 22:28 NIV
Observation: We are to neither curse our Lord nor our elected leaders.
Application: I had a vision last night as I drifted off to sleep. I had just watched part of the State of the Union address and I did not handle the president’s slant on reality very well. I was convicted of my attitude and speech toward President Obama. The Lord told me to stop it! This morning he gave me Exodus 22:28. I do not have to like President Obama’s politics. I do not have to “be okay” with the direction he wants our society to go. But I do have to stop cursing him and I have to honor to fact that he is our “ruler.” “God determines the course of world events; He removes kings and sets others on the throne.” Daniel 2:21. Whether I like President Obama or not is not the issue, my attitude about him is! God gave me a very clear message last night, I better heed it. I must start amending my attitude and the words that I use to speak of God’s chosen leader.
Prayer: Father, forgive me for my hateful attitude. You are sovereign and it is only by your will that our leaders are in their positions of authority. Help me to curb my tongue and amend my attitude toward politicians with whom I disagree. Amen
Scripture: He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.” Acts 1:7,8 NIV
Scripture: Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us.” Acts 1:24 NIV
Observation: I can’t waste time trying to figure out God’s plan for the future because it could hold my attention and I could get side-tracked from my true purpose. The Lord has empowered me with the Holy Spirit to give me the strength and courage to carry it out his plan.
Application: I need to remember how special it is to be “his chosen” and concentrate on making each moment count. I need to ask the Lord to help me with my attitude and allow the Holy Spirit to shine through me in every situation. I must take part in activities that grow His kingdom for his glory.
Prayer: Father God, help me to see and have confidence to pursue the work you have called me to do. Help me focus on your word that brings Christ-like behavior and leaves the when and where to you. Amen
Scripture: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. Exodus 20:7 NIV
Observation: Do not use the Lord’s name as a way of expressing yourself.
Application: Why would this even be listed as one of the ten commandments? Why would people turn to taking something holy and defiling it by cursing with it? We don’t say “Ashley dammit!” but we use “God” as if it were intended to modify the curse “dammit.” Why? How did God know that’s the point to which people would devolve. He made it a commandment because he knew that’s exactly what we would eventually do with his name–use it to emphasize a curse. He deserves better. We owe it to him to watch our mouths and honor him with our speech.
Prayer: Father, if we have offended you with our words please forgive us. Help us to honor you with our speech and our attitude. Amen
Scripture: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter 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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:36-39 NIV
Observation: Peter laid out the steps to gain eternal life.
Application: How do I become a Christian? “Believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord, that he died for your sins, and that he rose from the dead and reigns in heaven!” Says who? “Peter in the book of Acts, that’s who!”
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the simple plan to save my life. I pray that others follow the steps Peter laid out and become followers of you too. Amen
Scripture: “ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ Therefore 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, beginning 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.” So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 1:20b-26 NIV
Observation: The apostles took it upon themselves to choose Judas’ replacement.
Application: Jesus chose his followers, his apostles. I believe that God was in the process of choosing Judas’ replacement, the thirteenth, Paul. The choice of Matthias by casting lots, by rolling dice (gambling), was another example of the apostles not getting it. Many times when Jesus was still with the apostles he asked them “are you so dull?” They had difficulty understanding at times. When men choose to do things their way and ignore God, they fail. Matthias ministry never truly existed. He never made an impact. Paul on the other hand took the gospel to the Gentiles. Through his ministry you and I have been included into God’s chosen people, we’ve been grafted in. FYI, we received a large portion of the New Testament of our bible because of Paul’s writings. Instead of waiting on the Lord and following his desire, the apostles gambled–and they lost. We should learn from their impatience, it is God’s ministry, it’s God’s message, the gospel, and we are subject to his wishes as we take it to the world.
Prayer: Father, give us the patience to wait on you for guidance as we minister to others. Amen