Acts 9-10 B

“And Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.’ And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” 9:34-35

love these chapters and what they say about the power of Jesus. An angry, fanatically religious heart softened and transformed. Lifeless bodies breathed into and rising again. A Holy Spirit made available to everyone. 

The verse above is such a great reminder to me that God heals us for a purpose. After eight years of paralysis, Aeneas is healed and told “get up and make your bed!” Don’t you think that’s interesting? If I had been bed-ridden for almost a decade, the last thing on my mind when I was miraculously healed would be housework. But Jesus doesn’t heal us so we can lay around, but so we can go and make disciplesYou can’t escape the evidence the Bible repeatedly gives us that productivity and work are part of God’s design. 

What has God healed you from? How has he radically transformed your life with his gospel?

Are you still lying in bed? Or are you living with deep purpose?

 

-Carly

 

 

Acts 7-8 B

I always love a good Old Testament recap, like the one in chapter seven. The emphasis, this time, is how skeptical of their own rescue Israel has historically been.

“Who made you judge and ruler over us?” (7:27)

“Who made you ruler and judge?” (7:35)

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (7:51-53‬)

It comes as a, “you’ve always been on the wrong side of this, so of course you reject your own Messiah,” sort of rebuke.

The persecution, which followed this speech and subsequent death of Stephen, drove the gospel out to the Samaritans, Judeans and Ethiopians in chapter eight. Jesus told them to take this gospel from Jerusalem to Samaria, Judea and into the ends of the earth. Now it’s beginning to reach there.

The stone the builder rejected became a cornerstone. As the leaders of Israel fought the assertion of Jesus as Christ, many Jewish people received Him, along with now, increasingly more Gentiles.

The book of Acts is a story of power. The gospel of Israel’s Messiah was going forward, with or without them. It never sheepishly depended on the response of man. It has a power of its own.

How does the power of the gospel affect you? Where does stubbornness lurk in our own hearts? What about the LORD’s authority to judge and rule still rubs you the wrong way? Let’s examine ourselves and find something to surrender today, before we let grace pass us by.

-Bethany

Acts 5-6 B

Welp, the honeymoon’s over. After a zealous beginning, full of new believers who were eager about and obedient to God’s message, sin starts moving in (6:1-7). These chapter’s reminded me of a few things:

1. Being a part of a healthy community means addressing conflict. Managing people will always be a part of the church.There’s no getting around it. Discontentment can and WILL grow. Freely communicate and approach it with grace!

2. We all serve the Lord and his church best when we do it within our God-given gifting. The apostles felt bogged down by the logistics of managing the church, so they delegated it to people who would do it well and it thrived. How are you serving your family and your church right now? We’re not all in our dream role all the time, but I’ve learned there’s always an opportunity available. Not sure what you’re gifting is? Ask God! He knows. He has specifically designed you to excel at something that will bring him glory and leave you feeling fulfilled.

3. God’s people will still sin. Even when the number of new believers is growing and lives are being changed, we are still broken people learning how to live like Jesus did. Sometimes we get greedy. Sometimes we lie about money. Sometimes we get discontent and whine. Sometimes we get jealous and tear down whoever we’re envying. Pray against the sin you see show up in your community. Anticipate it and address it head on!

Church is hard. Every person reading this could offer up an example, or two, of when God’s people failed them or what they don’t like about The Church. It’s flawed, and as we read today, it has been since the beginning. There is no such thing as a perfect church, but we can seek to be a part of a healthy one.

What did God reveal to you about his church in these chapters?

 

-Carly

 

Acts 3-4 B

It’s fun to read this after Isaiah. The list of places the Jews at Pentecost were from, in Acts 2:9-11, is similar to the one in Isaiah 66:19.

The Day has arrived and the international-ness of it all cannot be ignored. However, we need to remember that, so far, the audience is entirely Jewish.

I want to focus on 3:17-26. It is a beautiful invitation to the people of Israel to recognize Jesus as their long awaited Messiah, and also, a tender plea to not stay in the anger and shame of having just sentenced Him to death. It was prophesied long ago, and is able to be forgiven.

“And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.” (3:17-21)

I think every confrontation of sin can be taken as either A) a decent into anger and shame, or B) an invitation to recognize, repent and discover grace and forgiveness.

How do you respond when your sinfulness is revealed? It is human nature to retreat, then blame-shift, as demonstrated by Adam and Eve in the garden. It is God’s nature to come after us and offer a covering.

What was happening with the disciples was undeniably powerful, but also condemning to the Jewish leaders. Don’t we all need to confess our sins, whether committed out of fear or loathing, and admit we sentenced Jesus to death?

Know that admittance of sin is no longer for condemnation.

“It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘ AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” (3:25-26‬)

We are set free in order to be better conduits or blessing. What needs to be removed from our lives today, in order to make room for healing and blessing?

-Bethany

Acts 1-2 B

Here’s the overview of Acts from The Bible Project.

I absolutely love 2:42-47. I caught myself exhaling in relief after reading it this morning. Have you ever been part of a body of believers like that? Where you’re all united in Christ, eager to study the Scripture and ready to pound the pavement to share his gospel? If you have, you know how exciting this feeling is. You share meals, resources, stories and belongings. I have had the extreme privilege of experiencing this several times in my life. Whether it was on staff at a summer camp or in the beginnings of a church plant (or two. Oy vey.), we had glad and generous hearts and our time together was so alive. Everything centered around God and our zeal for our relationship with him.

But don’t miss this part: ”And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” 2:47b

Their group was growing. They fellowshipped with people who didn’t believe in this risen Jesus, the son of God, who then became people who did believe.

It’s good and beautiful to share community with people who are like-minded and share our same heartbeat for God, and line up with our same theology. But Jesus’ gospel is meant to be shared. Let’s not forget to leave room at the table for those who don’t know his story. In fact, let’s intentionally plan around that.

If you belong to a body of believers or attend church, take a minute and reflect on it. Does it remind you of the pace of life the early believers set? Why or why not?

 

-Carly

 

 

Isaiah 65-66 B

In this last section, My servants are the Redeemed people of God, and not only Israelites.

“I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ to a nation which did not call on My name.” (65:1)

These chapters describe the new heavens and new earth, and the LORD’s glory among us forever. The original reader would have wondered at the fruition of these days. The main promise to claim was that the LORD would enact justice for Himself on the earth, unable to be derailed by hypocrisy or rebellion, and make Jerusalem a place of joy once again. He will deal with sin and He will establish His kingdom in justice.

As a Gentile, 66:18-20 excites me. Foreigners declaring His glory among the nations! This sets us up nicely for our next book: Acts. Tomorrow we will read about the Day of Pentecost and I want us to remember this promise.

Let us never forget the supreme glory of the LORD, and His power to bring salvation to mankind. In Israel’s darkest hour, the prophet Isaiah declared to his fellow man the omnipotence and omniscience of the LORD, who is God with no savior besides Him.

“My eyes have seen the King.” He said, back in chapter six. Seeing Him, and beholding His glory, changed the way He saw everything else.

As we continue to live in this Kingdom, which has come, but is not yet fully realized, let’s continue claiming the promise that God will enact justice on the earth; bringing joy and redemption with Him. Let us press on to know Him and see Him for ourselves, and let us thank Him for revealing Himself to us before we knew how to look.

-Bethany

Isaiah 63-64 B

“…who is this in royal robes, marching in his great strength? ‘It is I, the Lord, announcing your salvation! It is I, the Lord, who has the power to save!’ ” 63:1

Focus your attention on that last verse. It is I, the Lord, who has the power to save.

I’m asking myself these three questions:

1. What do I need saving from? Besides the general concept of needing to be rescued from my sin by God, what specifically do I need God to save me from? (Pridefulness. Sigh.)

2. How am I trying (and failing) to save myself? It’s important to recognize how you try to escape from things. We all do it.

3. What has God been mighty to save in your life?

Sometimes God takes away something we aren’t willing to give up. Other times he gifts us with something (or someone) we didn’t realize we needed.

Reflect on the three questions above and spend time thanking God for his faithfulness!

-Carly

Isaiah 61-62 B

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (61:1-3‬)

As I mentioned the other day, chapters 56-66 are a chiasm, a mirroring literary style, which I will point out now, since we’ve arrived at the center. I want you to feel how much of a punch is packed!

E: Obedient foreigners included 56:1-8

D: The need for salvation 56:9-59:15a

C: A divine savior 59:15b-21

B: Zion, light of the world 60

A: The Messiah 61

B: Zion, light of the world 62

C: A divine savior 63:1-6

D: The need for salvation 63:7-66:17

E: Obedient foreigners included 66:18-24

When Jesus arrives at Nazareth and reads Isaiah 61:1-2 in the Synagogue, He says something incredible: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)

It, then, comes at no surprise the Nazarenes respond with a, “What? You?! It can’t be you! We grew up with you.” This was what everyone had been waiting for. How could this most cherished prophecy be fulfilled in their neighbor??

Let’s not miss the significance of His assertion, nor what He proclaimed: Good news for the afflicted, liberty for the captives, favor, comfort and glory for the grieved. Jesus not only brought spiritual salvation, He also physically healed and liberated people regularly. He lifted up those who were low; touching people with His divine power.

We are recipients of this wondrous news, as well as couriers of it. The gospel is truly good, especially for the afflicted. Let these chapters wash over you. Take hold of what it means for your own heart. It will help you communicate its power to the hearts of others.

-Bethany

Isaiah 59-60 B

“Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked. The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him.” 59:15-16

I like how things play out in these verses:

God believes the best in us and expects us to do what is right in his eyes. To his amazement and/or horror, we often don’t. So he steps in to save the oppressed himself.

God waits nearby, expecting us to defend people who are oppressed. But he doesn’t depend on it. He will step in and do it himself and, whoa, ya better watch out. There’s a “robe of vengeance” involved for those who harm.

Christ followers, we are called to these actions:

1. To defend truth and not bend towards worldly views.

2. Seek (God’s) justice.

3. To intervene when the oppressed are mistreated.

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

Evaluate your life. Or even just the conversations you had with peers today. Do they reflect these pieces of Scripture?

-Carly

Isaiah 57-58 B

As I went to write about today’s chapters, I looked back at Carly’s from last time and she really takes the words out of my mouth.

58:3-4 sounds to me like, “fasting the way you do it only makes you hangry and a bad boss.”

Instead of a self deprivation that makes us cranky, and simultaneously self righteous, why not deprive yourself for the sake of others?

Something I admire about how Muslims observe Ramadan, is how they “do it for the poor”. The purpose of this fast is to sympathize with the hungry, then collect and offering for the poor from the money saved during the fast. What a lovely idea.

The more I study the Bible and the law, the more I see how no command is an empty rule for the sake of discipline. Everything is for the practice of loving God and others, which is why Jesus can sum up the whole law and prophets (aka the Old Testament) with this One Greatest Commandment.

He wants us to take care of one another, and not just those who form symbiotic relationships with us. The hungry, homeless, naked, oppressed, afflicted, etc. He says He’s with this crowd.

“For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.” (57:15‬)

He has a special relationship with this group. He is with them and invites us to join.

“And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. “And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (58:10-11‬)

These verses really hit me, because I can attest to their truth. Much of my adult life has been a bonkers path of closed doors, disappointments, failed plans and dissatisfaction. This somehow all changed when my heart locked into a dedication to refugees. I had no idea what I was doing when I got into this work, but somehow the Lord has boosted my income and given me one open door and victory after another. He was already with them, and I’ve experienced His power in the most profound ways ever since joining Him in loving them.

He loves us, yes, but His blessings are so we can bless others. This is life lived abundantly. He dwells in high, but also with the broken, drawing ever near for healing and revival.

-Bethany