Before God changed his heart, Paul was basically a “hit man,” targeting Christians. He intentionally sought out those who claimed faith in Christ and had them put in prison and sometimes killed. Back in Acts 8 we saw where he “began to destroy the Church.”
In the past few weeks we have seen Paul (and others) on various missionary journeys teaching and preaching the message of Christ. Many lives were being changed. This week’s chapters see Paul’s life in danger as he continued the clear call of God on his life. How could Paul live this way with his very life on the line? Is it because he was a super holy guy from scripture, or can we live this way too? How can we make Christ the center of our lives and existence, becoming sold out to the ways of Jesus as opposed to being tossed about by the waves of the culture around us? What would that look like on a day to day basis? How do you give everything to the cause of Christ?
INVITATION: Richard Foster says: “We need habitual reminders that the Christian life comes not by gritting our teeth, but by falling in love.” Join in this week as we seek glimpses into just how Paul fell so head over heels in love with Jesus and the gospel message that he was willing to give his life for the cause of Christ. Perhaps you can fall in love a little more this week, producing increased courage and focus in your life?
MONDAY: Acts 20:1-12: Even a wearying 3 hour sermon can lead to an experience of God’s power! When have you most vividly felt God’s presence or power in worship? What made that experience come alive? As you reflect on the experience, what do you recognize about your own need for God in your life right now? What can you learn about God’s ways of reaching out to you?
TUESDAY: Acts 20:13-24: In these verses we see Paul saying he has not hesitated preaching anything that would be helpful, declaring to both Jews and Greeks they must turn to God in repentance and “have faith in our Lord Jesus.” Not only that, he is planning on going to Jerusalem, “not knowing what will happen to me there,” knowing prison and hardships are very likely. Paul is single minded in the face of persecution and possibly death, to the point of stating “I consider my life worth nothing to me.” Sometimes we don’t go to church because the weather is bad. Have you ever thought to pray to be more single minded to the cause of Christ? You might not face persecution and death but you could face ridicule and betrayal. Does that bother you? Have you ever felt the “nudge” of the Holy Spirit to share Christ and not done it? Interestingly, verse 22 specifically states Paul was “compelled by the Spirit” so we know Paul wasn’t just a deranged crazy person. The Holy Spirit was leading, guiding and directing him. What spiritual practices do you have in place to be attentive to what the Spirit is telling you? How might you listen more closely to the Spirit of God this week? Are you willing to be obedient to it – even if that means dying to your own will and desire?
WEDNESDAY: Acts 20:25-38: These verses are a beautiful picture of community. How do you participate in your faith community? What gifts do you have to contribute to the body of Christ to help strengthen and enrich the community? Do you pray for your faith community on a regular basis?
THURSDAY: Acts 21:17-22:2: Paul gives an account to the Jews of all God has done and many Jews are becoming believers. However, some folks began stirring up the crowd and seized Paul. Even so, God provides miracles in the midst of what must have been terrifying and trying situations. Life is hard. Have you noticed? All of us have hurts, pain and suffering. This world is not our true home. Ironically, the resistance of our pain and not the experience of it is what most often sabotages our growth and prolongs the process. Jesus is with us in the midst of our trials and pain. Can you trust Him and look for Him within them? How might you better enter into life’s hard circumstances? What can you do this week?
FRIDAY: Acts 22:3-21: Paul tells his story – his journey with God. Some people call this a testimony. I Peter 3:15 instructs us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” You may not ever go on a missionary journey or be called into the same type of life as Paul, but you can be prepared to tell your story. Have you ever thought of actually thinking and praying about how to most concisely, with gentleness and respect, tell your story to others? Perhaps you can write it out this week and pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance regarding using it and sharing it?
SATURDAY: Acts 22:22-30: When the Jews realize Paul is a Roman citizen, they release him and order a trial. Pastor Adam pointed out Paul could live with such intentionality and purpose because: 1) he knew what he believed, and; 2) He knew what he was supposed to be doing with his life. The Jesus life calls us to die to ourselves and live for Christ. What does that look like in your life? Are you willing to surrender your life to what Jesus might have for you? Do you trust His way will bring the most joy and satisfaction, or do you think you know best and just hope Jesus will bless it as you go along? How might you surrender more to Jesus this week?