Category Archives: Saturday–God’s Story (2)

My Delight is the Lord, December 31

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December 31, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 27:1-28:31

The centurion cannot be accused of not hearing different viewpoints when he had to decide if the ship would winter in Fair Havens. He heard the thinking of Paul, the pilot, the ship’s owner, and apparently others on board. He “paid more attention” to those who thought they should go ahead and set sail, than to what Paul said (27:10-11). Several voices were heard; that of experience (the pilot of the ship), that of vested interest (the ship’s owner), the majority, and an imprisoned preacher (Paul). On the surface it seems some of these opinions should carry more weight than others. But only one was correct and that was Paul’s. This is such a critical lesson, we must be very careful about whom we listen to more than others.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Was Paul’s advice inspired? (27:9-10)
  • What made them think they had made the right decision? (27:13)
  • Who spoke to Paul in the night? (27:23)
  • Did all the shipwreck’s victims make it safely in the same way? (27:43-44)

My Delight is the Lord, December 24

The Way

December 24, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 24:1-25:12

Paul’s accusers referred to followers of Jesus as “the sect of the Nazarenes” (24:5). On the other hand, Paul called that which he believed (along with those who believed the same) as “the Way” (24:14). It’s no wonder that enemies of the faith used terms like “sect,” which implies divisiveness, and “Nazarene,” a town of less than honorable reputation (see Jn. 1:46), to describe Paul and his ilk. Of more interest is Paul’s terminology. While “Christianity” dominates modern vocabulary, Paul uses the very expressive, “the Way.” It’s not a segmented portion of the larger body of Jews identified by their adherence to Jesus (such as “sect” suggests). Rather, this is everything that God has worked toward and for through the long history of his involvement with Abraham’s heirs. It’s that to which the Law and prophets all pointed. It truly is the Way.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What accusations were made against Paul? (24:5-6)
  • Of what was Paul always very careful? (24:16)
  • What interesting insight do we get about Felix in 24:22?
  • What was the real reason Felix kept Paul in custody? (24:26)

My Delight is the Lord, December 17

Acting on Advice

December 17, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 21:1-22:29

Paul’s return to Jerusalem was filled with the advice from friends, loved ones, and respected leaders. Concerned brethren strongly recommended he not even go there (21:12). The Jerusalem elders counseled that he take a course of action intended to appease unhappy Jewish Christians (21:20–24). What the first group feared (Paul’s apprehension) actually ended up saving his life and what the elders feared happened despite their strategic plan. At times we have to act based on our best judgment–which may not be right. The fact is, where God has spoken, we really don’t have a choice, but He does not address every possible eventuality. We sometimes have judgment to exercise and a decision to make. Nothing says, and God sure doesn’t promise, that this will always work out as we prefer. But, no matter what does happen, we should still have our trust in Him.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Whom did Paul seek out when his ship landed at Tyre? (21:4)
  • For what was Paul prepared in Jerusalem? (21:13)
  • Of what was Paul accused? (21:21)
  • Up to what point did the mob listen to Paul? (22:21-22)

My Delight is the Lord, December 10

Where to Begin?

December 10, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 17:16-18:23

The Bible certainly affirms what Greek poets said, that all of humanity is the family, or “offspring,” of God (17:28-29). What is to be drawn from or understood by that point is where a great difference of thought emerges. Paul does not entertain the notion that this is a concluding point in man’s relationship with God. That is, being in the family of man does not mean that a person is in good standing with God. The apostle says that this reality ought to compel men to “seek God” and “feel their way toward him and find him”  because “In him we live and move and have our being” (17:27-28). Paul does not start with Scripture in talking to the Athenians, instead it’s the created order and arrangement made by God. This is another example of working with people starting where they are.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What provoked Paul’s spirit? (17:16)
  • How did some perceive the subject of Paul’s preaching? (17:18)
  • What prompted some people to mock? (17:32)
  • What message did Paul testify to the Jews? (18:5)

My Delight is the Lord, December 3

Grace Through Faith

December 3, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 15:1-35

Paul preached salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). That also served as the crux of Peter’s argument to those “believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees” who maintained that the Gentiles must first be circumcised and keep the law of Moses to be saved (v. 5). Instead, Peter said God cleansed the hearts of Cornelius and his household–the first Gentile converts (see Acts 10)–“by faith” (v. 9). Not only so, but Jews and Gentiles alike will be saved in precisely the same manner; “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (v. 11). As it was for Jew and Gentile then, so it is for everyone still today. By faith our hearts are cleansed and through the grace of the Lord Jesus we will be saved.

Questions to Ponder:

  • With whom was this question discussed? (v. 2)
  • How did God bear witness to the Gentiles? (v. 8)
  • What role did the signs and wonders of Paul and Barnabas play? (v. 12)
  • What is said of Judas and Silas? (v. 26)

My Delight is the Lord, November 26

Hostile Environment

November 26, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 12

In the face of persecution, the Jerusalem church prayed. They did not protest. They did not picket and form political action committees. They did not stand on a platform of human rights to decry violations. True, they did not live under a representative form of government devoted to freedom as do we. Our present day avenues for response are much broader than theirs, but they are not any better. In our quest to defend and promote a philosophy of human government we deem much preferable to other alternatives, let us not mistakenly think that the kingdom of our Lord in any way needs the support and help and protection of any kingdom of men. The infant church not only survived but thrived in a hostile environment. They knew what they needed and sought it. Do we today truly understand what we need?

Questions to Ponder:

  • What motivated Herod to apprehend Peter? (vv. 2-3)
  • What is significant about the fact that Peter was sleeping? (v. 6)
  • Where had the church gathered to pray? (v. 12)
  • What role do angels play in this chapter?

My Delight is the Lord, November 19

Personal Piety Fails

November 19, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 10:1-11:18

Imagine an angel telling you that God has taken notice of how good you are. Wow!  He honors your religious activity and your generous service to others. That is mighty high praise and is exactly what Cornelius received (vv. 1-4). But that is not where this story ends. As this centurion later recounted this conversation, he was instructed to send for Peter who would explain the Lord’s command (v. 33). Get this: Cornelius’ personal piety was not sufficient to be right with God. God liked that in this man, but He wanted from him what He wants from us all–as Peter would explain–that we would fear God and do what is right (v. 35). As Jesus Himself said it, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21).

Questions to Ponder:

  • How is Cornelius described? (10:2)
  • What is similar about Saul’s and Cornelius’ experience?
  • Was Cornelius already aware of Jesus? (10:36-38)
  • To what do the prophets bear witness? (10:43)

My Delight is the Lord, November 12

What God Wants For His Church

November 12, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 8:4-40

Can you imagine what it was like to be a part of the church in Jerusalem? It was growing dramatically (5:14), no needs were going unmet (4:34), they enjoyed a very favorable reputation (2:47), and they experienced daily Christian fellowship (2:46). What an enviable situation! Why would any disciple want to leave this kind of a church? But God wanted them to leave. His intent was not for the church in Jerusalem to just get bigger and bigger, He wanted the church to spread and the gospel to go into all places. So, He used a serious hardship to accomplish this–persecution (see 8:1-3). The result was, “Now those who were scattered [because of the persecution] went about preaching the word” (8:4). That’s what God wanted. So, while we may be concerned for and working toward making our congregation more like Jerusalem, let’s never forget what God ultimately wants from His church.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Why had the people of Samaria believed Simon? (v. 11)
  • How is Philip’s preaching summarized? (v. 12)
  • Why did Peter and John go to Samaria? (vv. 14-15)
  • How is Philip’s message to the eunuch summarized? (v. 35)

My Delight is the Lord, November 5

An Unsuspected Threat

November 5, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 6:1-7

Threats come in all forms and fashions. The church in Jerusalem had been repeatedly intimidated through external opposition, including threats and beatings from religious authorities. They had withstood the influence of sin from among their own numbers (Ananias and Sapphira). Now two more potentially destructive influences reared within their ranks. One was ethnic dissension and we know what a powder keg that can be. The other? the misappropriation of responsibilities. What would have happened if the apostles took on the task of fixing this problem instead of designating others to do it? They would have failed to do what only they, as apostles, could do, and the church thus weakened. This potential threat was averted through devotion to exclusive responsibilities and delegation of more general responsibilities to others. The church is strongest, not just when things get done, but when the right people are doing them.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What was happening when this complaint came up? (v. 1)
  • What was the ethnic nature of this problem? (v. 1)
  • Why was it “not right” for the apostles to serve tables? (v. 2)
  • Did these seven men do all of the work for feeding the widows?

My Delight is the Lord, October 29

Attitude is It

October 29, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 5:1-16

It’s often said, to the point of cliche, that it’s not having money that’s the problem, but it’s your attitude toward it that matters. And, that’s true. Ananias and Sapphira illustrate this point. The problem was not that they were wealthy enough to own disposable property, many others did as well (see Acts 4:34). Their problem was wanting people to think they were more generous than they were. Their actions suggested they gave all the proceeds from their sale, but they did not. That they held on to their money shows that their money had a hold on them. The same basic act was for Barnabas and others a deed of gracious benevolence and for these two a deceit toward God. So, yes, attitude is what matters. 

Questions to Ponder:

  • To whom had Ananias and Sapphira lied? (v. 3)
  • Was what the early church practiced (4:34-35) communism? (v. 4)
  • To whom had Ananias and Sapphira lied? (v. 4)
  • What contributed to the growth of the early church? (vv. 14-15)