Devotion Text: Acts 2:1-21
The story of the first Pentecost is a marvelous story that so many Christians misunderstand.
It is natural for us to focus on the special miracles God poured out to his church on that day; to contemplate on the great lengths God used to grow and protect the infant Christian church. But, in doing so, we often miss the forest while we look at the trees.
The story of Pentecost is not the fire, the speaking in different languages or the sound of wind from heaven. The story of Pentecost is the marvelous power God gives to his Word to change hearts and minds. It is the transfer of power–from Christ walking this earth as he preached the Gospel to sending the Holy Spirit to his disciples to empower them to do the same. The story of Pentecost is the fulfillment of a promise Christ made when he said, “Go and make disciples…and surely I will be with you always.”
Pentecost leaves us with a lot of questions. Does God give those gifts of faith to his church today? If not, why not? How exactly did the speaking in different languages work? Is this the same speaking in tongues that Paul references in his letters? What exactly is Peter talking bout in his sermon? Is it just about the last day or is it the end times in general? (Including right now!)
With all the questions that the account of Pentecost leaves us with, it also leaves us with one very important answer–“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
That is the wonderful comfort to a world searching for it and a church commissioned to lead others to Christ. It is both the motto and the mission statement of the early Christian church and will be relevant to God’s church until he comes again to take us home to be with him. Until then, he will continually use and empower his people to grow his church with that life saving message.
Prayer: Christ Jesus, Lord of the Church, give your people the strength of Pentecost to preach your lifesaving message to all people of every walk of life. Protect your church until it is time for you to take us home. Comfort us with the power of your love and motivate us to share that message with others. Amen.
Devotion Text: Acts 11:19-26
Can you imagine?
This man was not only your worst enemy, he literally wanted you dead at every turn. You didn’t just disagree at the water cooler, he spoke out against your beliefs in the city square as led stonings of your friends and leaders. This was pure hatred. If you had once had the opportunity to kill him, it would have been self-defense.
Now, things had changed. This man had changed.
Once completely opposed to your teachings, he was now learning and teaching among your people! He was living among your friends and forsaking his former way of life. How could this be? Was it a trick? People don’t just change like this do they?
This is the story of Paul and Barnabas. Once an enemy of the church, Paul was converted by a vision of the risen Lord Jesus and he changed. Barnabas, a leader in the church of Jerusalem was asked to go to Antioch to see the blessings of the Lord as the church was growing like wildfire. Seeing the blessings at Antioch, Barnabas knew he needed help to serve this congregation and sought out Paul and the two of them became longtime co-workers, spreading the gospel together and the Lord blessed their efforts in Antioch and around the world.
This is the power of the gospel.
It changed the hearts of the people of Antioch, before Paul and Barnabas even arrived. It changed the heart of Paul to become a minister of the gospel instead of an enemy of it. It changed the heart of Barnabas to accept a one-time enemy as a brother. This same gospel changes our hearts and minds as well to willingly leave our lives of sin and serve God.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, change my heart. Turn me from selfish worrying and pride, from sins of habit and sins of choice. Turn me toward you in willful service to your church and my neighbors. Help me to live for you and for others rather than for myself. Give me that strength dear Lord. Amen.
Text: Acts 16:11-15
Do you remember what it was like to learn for the first time what Jesus means for you? I don’t have that privilege. I have believed in Jesus for as long as I remember, but I have had the privilege to see others come to faith in Jesus. It is different for everyone.
For some it is simply a quiet understanding that comes either suddenly or over time, a quiet peace that only Jesus can offer. For others the message of forgiveness for all past wrongs is enough to cause tears to stream from even the most stoic eyes. I knew a man who did not come to faith until he was in his 90’s. As a survivor of both world wars and the great depression there was no doubting this man’s toughness, but when it came to Jesus he could not stop the tears from streaming down his weathered face.
In the reading from Acts for today we are introduced to Lydia one of the many Jews that Paul had the privilege to bring to Christ. In a short time the Word worked on her heart and in just as short a time her life was changed. She already believed in God but did not know yet what God had done for her. Paul shared with her the message of the crucified and resurrected Christ Jesus and she believed. She came to understand the hope, forgiveness, and peace that can come only from Jesus and her life was never the same.
The excitement and peace that accompanies faith in Jesus is a tremendous thing. Unfortunately we often are very quick to forget what Jesus means to us. When times get hard, when the worries and struggles of this life begin to close in on us we can quickly be tempted to forget the peace that comes from the forgiveness won by Jesus.
I challenge you today to remember or imagine what it would be like to first find out that your sins are forgiven and that you have a right relationship with the all powerful God. Imagine what your life would be like without Jesus because when you do that you can begin to see what he does for you on a daily basis. Find some of that joy and excitement that was yours when your faith was new. Turn to Christ, he offers peace and a meaningful life.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive us when we fail to turn to you in every trouble. Forgive us for the spiritual apathy that so easily invades our lives. Open our hearts to respond to the wonders done for us in Christ. We know that forgiveness is ours already. Help us remember Christ’s love and live in that love every day. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
This is the seventh weekly reading in the plan for reading your Bible in one year. The assignment for this week is 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. It should only take about 12 minutes a day, or about 3-4 chapters a day to complete the assignment.
Here are some comments to help you grow in knowledge and faith as you read 1 & 2 Corinthians.
Background: Corinth was a city much like many modern metropolises in the United States. Today that is not the case. But back in Paul’s time, it had an estimated 200,000 residents. It had a booming economy. And the residents surely enjoyed “worldly” living. We might imagine that living in Corinth back then was akin to a Christian living in New York City, Miami, or San Francisco today.
Paul founded the Corinthian congregation on his second missionary journey. He went to Corinth after his stop in Athens. From there he went to Ephesus. While in Ephesus he learned of troubles in the congregation. It appears from the context that 1 Corinthians is actually the second letter that he wrote to the congregation. Much of it is very pointed, addressing certain issues specifically and directly.
Shortly after Paul wrote 2 Corinthians from Macedonia, perhaps around 56 A.D. From this third letter it appears that the second letter had affect and the congregation was changing. We can only pray that God works in our hearts through the wonderful message of these two letters in such a powerful way!
1 Corinthians 1: Paul begins this letter in the typical format for his letters. There are three parts to this opening: 1) Author, 2) Audience/Recipients, 3) Greeting. Though Paul has some harsh words for the Corinthians coming in the following chapters, he begins by thanking God for them and for their faith. But then he gets right into it. Immediately he appeals to these fellow Christians to be perfectly united in mind and thought. What a travesty it is in our churches when we experience what the Corinthians did–rifts, factions, fights, and quarrels! Read the rest of this entry