Daily Reflections on Acts — July

Day One: Acts 1. Today we begin our journey through the Book of Acts. Lover of God (Theophilus), As we read chapter 1 today, take note of the ways Luke ties this volume to the first (the Gospel According to Luke). Let us pray together, asking the Spirit to come upon each of us in a fresh way as we read through Acts this month.

Day Two: Acts 2. Notice the role that being “together” plays in the birth and growth of the Church. Reflect on what this means today — for you, FBCS, and the Church throughout the world.

Day Three: Acts 3. As we read of Peter and John, let’s consider their commitment to giving what they have for the blessing of others. It is a thread that runs through this chapter and far beyond. How might we follow this pattern today?

Day Four: Acts 4. Notice what it was that the gathered believers prayed for when facing challenge (v.29-30. Hint: it wasn’t protection). Then take note of the answer to their prayer (v.31). What might God do in and through us if we learn to pray like the early church?

Day Five: Acts 5. This chapter is all about choices. And outcomes. Ananias & Sapphira . . . the Church . . . the Apostles . . . the Elders of Israel . . . Let us consider our choices. And the standard we use to make them . . .

Day Six of reading through Acts this month. In Chapter 6 we find a conflict has developed between believers with differing cultures, with the minority group feeling slighted (Hellenists embraced Greek ways, Hebrews did not). It is worth pondering this: The solution involved selecting 7 deacons and every one of them has a Greek name. What guidance and insight might this offer us in our place and time?

Day Seven.  Acts 7. As we read Stephen’s sermon and witness his martyrdom, let’s recognize this as more than a history lesson; this is part of our story. Perhaps we might learn something about ourselves here . . . and find in Stephen an invitation to continuing transformation.

Day Eight. Acts 8. There is much to ponder in the contrast between Simon and Philip . . . Simon, who is amazed by what people can do when filled with the Holy Spirit and, therefore, wants the Spirit for what the Spirit might do for him . . . and Philip, who goes wherever the Spirit leads him (Acts 8:26,29,39), and boldly proclaims Jesus wherever he is sent . . . What lessons are there for us in these two individuals as we seek to be transformed by the Spirit today?

Day Nine reading Acts. Chapter 9: Paul’s conversion . . . Ananias’ obedience . . . Barnabas’ encouragement . . . Peter’s first journey beyond the rules . . . This is a rich narrative with much to offer. And at the heart of it is this: God’s salvation in Jesus is for all people — even the enemy. Spirit of Jesus, transform us today. Amen.

Day Ten. Acts 10. It would be difficult to overstate the significance of the story told in this chapter — for Luke-Acts, the story of salvation, the nature of the Church, and our daily lives. “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Anyone. May this spiritual truth transform our hearts, minds, words, behaviors, and relationships. Now. Please. Amen.

Day Eleven. Acts 11. In this chapter we see God’s Spirit on the move . . . in ways that stretch and challenge God’s people. Given the option of resisting God (v.2-3) or rejoicing in God’s grace (v.23), may we choose to be part of what God is doing no matter how much it may stretch us! “Who was I that I could hinder God?” (v.17)

Day Twelve. Acts 12. The church faces opposition and crisis as James (John’s brother) is murdered and Peter is imprisoned for the third time. As this confrontation between Herod’s destructive power and God’s saving power unfolds, how do the people of God respond? And where does Luke place his focus? And what might we learn from them as we journey through our present challenges? “But the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents” (Acts 12:24)

Day Thirteen. Acts 13. Here we read of Barnabas and Paul being set apart by the Holy Spirit and sent out by the church on their first missionary journey. Notice that there are three spiritual practices identified as together creating the space for hearing the Spirit and responding: Worship, Prayer, and Fasting (v.2,3). How do these practices figure into our life together? Why is one practice less familiar than the others? And what shall we do?

Day Fourteen. Acts 14. This chapter records the wild swing of the crowd’s behaviors toward Paul and Barnabas — from hailing them as gods to pelting Paul with stones and leaving him for dead. Through it all is this constant: faithfulness to God and focus on the mission. How do the opinions of others — both positive and negative — influence our walk with God? And how might the example of Paul and Barnabas inspire us to faithfulness today? “There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith . . .” (Acts 14:22).

Day Fifteen. Acts 15. In this pivotal chapter, the church in Jerusalem wrestles “officially” with the inclusion of Gentiles. This was no easy matter and it involved “much debate” (v.7) among the believers. Why are we so attached to drawing distinctions between people? And what is it that makes it so difficult to welcome those with differing practices and worldviews? Let’s reflect today on our own openness to others and upon God, who loves all people. ” . . . and in cleansing their hearts by faith God has made no distinction between them and us” (Acts 15:9).

Day Sixteen. Acts 16. How does God guide? In this chapter we witness the Spirit’s guidance as a combination of closed doors and open, circumstances illumined by thoughtful reflection, and personal insight wedded with corporate decision making (Acts 16:6-10). And confirmation of faithfulness comes not through the absence of difficulty, but in people becoming believers in God (Acts 16:19-34). May we embrace this rich model of guidance and obedience today! Amen.

Day Seventeen. Acts 17. What might we learn today from Paul’s way with the men and women of Thessalonica, Beroea, and Athens? Notice how respectful he is when speaking; note how he refers to their valued objects and quotes their poets. Paul is clearly a student of the people he seeks to reach . . . How about us? Are we respectful of others? Are we students before we speak? And how might we follow Paul’s example in the world today? May we “look carefully” (v.23) and speak kindly, for we are all God’s offspring (v.28,29).

Day Eighteen. Acts 18. Pondering the ministry of Aquila and Priscilla today: Their generous hospitality, commitment to partnership, and gentle, wise mentoring of Apollos. And all of this after being forced out of Rome . . . What an example they are, together, of being light and life, come what may! How about us? Are we serving where we are right now? Even if it isn’t where we thought we might be? May we be present and faithful. Today. Amen.

Day Nineteen. Acts 19. Power for what purpose? Influence to what end? Today we see the contrast between power and influence entrusted to a spiritually mature person for the good of others (Paul) and power and influence in the service of self interest and financial gain (the seven sons of Sceva; Demetrius and his artisans). The results in the first case are healing, wholeness, and life; the effects of self interest? Violence, chaos, confusion, and a politics of ignorance (v. 16, 29, 32). May we follow Paul’s example, becoming spiritually mature servants of God, through whom God brings true freedom and abundant life. Amen.

Day Twenty. Chapter 20 of Acts: Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive (v.35).” How do you see this principle at work in Paul’s life, which he doesn’t count of any value to himself (v.24)? How does this principle guide your life? . . . And our life together? Suppose we choose giving as the focus of our lives today? How might this shape the day, govern our choices, and guide our gathering together? And where might it take us??? May we, each one, be “a captive to the Spirit” (v.22). Today. Amen.

Day Twenty One. Acts 21. Paul, having “resolved in the Spirit” (Acts 19:21) to go to Jerusalem, arrives — and is arrested and bound. And this after being warned and told by fellow believers, “through the Spirit” (21:4), not to go . . . Discerning the will of God through the Spirit is no easy or tidy task. So how do we move forward when discernment differs? By prayer (v.5,6) and trust — “The Lord’s will be done” (v.14). In the short term, circumstances may tempt us to say “I told you so” (the danger to Paul is real), but for those committed to trusting the Spirit for the long-haul, the danger of Jerusalem just may be the gateway to doing God’s will in Rome . . . May we trust God enough to stay with one another in prayer, no matter the circumstances. Amen.

Day 22. Acts 22: Paul’s story of transformation, told by Paul himself. Notice this: In this telling, Paul relates that he responded to Jesus with a question: “What am I to do, Lord?” (v.10) . . . Paul’s story invites us this day to reflect on or own stories of transformation; to ask the question: “What am I to do, Lord?” and to follow through on the answer received . . . Consider writing your story down . . . Be open to telling your story to someone . . . Our stories are meant to be remembered and told, you know . . .

Day 23. Acts 23. Paul, in deep and dangerous circumstances beyond his control, receives a word from the Lord: “Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome” (v.11). It is a word of encouragement and a call to trust God — Courage! No matter the circumstances, God is at work. How does Paul’s story speak into your circumstances today? No matter how dark, deep, or delightful things may be, may you — may we all — stand up and step out in trust and courage, for (as Paul later writes) “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Day Twenty Four. Acts 24. “After two years had passed . . . Felix left Paul in prison” (v.27). So ends chapter 24. Two years Caesarea. Two years between Jerusalem and Rome. Two years waiting. And the waiting isn’t over . . . Yet Paul, who does his best “always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people,” (v.16), invests those two years in speaking to Felix “concerning faith in Christ Jesus” (v.24). How do we spend our “in between” times? While we’re waiting and hoping for the next big thing in our life’s plan, do we make the most of the time we’re in? Paul’s faithfulness in Chapter 24 has the potential to teach us much . . . How will we make the most of the the place in which we find ourselves today? May we always do our best to have a clear conscience toward God and all people right where we are. Amen.

Day Twenty Five. Acts 25. “So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp” (v.23) . . . Imagine Paul attempting to schedule an audience before the King and Queen. Or the governor. Or “his Imperial Majesty.” And yet, by means of the machinations of his enemies, Paul is given the opportunity to testify for Jesus before the powers that be! And what of the twists and turns in our own stories? Have we ever ended up somewhere we could never have planned to be? And did we consider ourselves fortunate to be there? May we, by God’s grace, make the most of our opportunities today.

Day Twenty Six. Acts 26. “To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here” (v. 22). This word from Paul, spoken to King Agrippa, provides perspective as we ponder today’s reading. Consider: Paul is standing before the King in chains (v. 29). He has been unjustly arrested and imprisoned, and his enemies have tried to kill him (v.21). Prior to this he has, at various times, been attacked and left for dead (Acts 14:19) and imprisoned (Acts 16). And his perspective? “To this day I have had help from God.” Perspective. It is only by God’s help that any of us stand here today. If I believe this — that God has helped me, is helping me, and will help me — then why should I ever fear? What a difference it makes in our lives when we choose to see God with us! How the opportunities open up before us! Thank you, God, for your continuing help. May we see you wherever we are standing this day. Amen.

Day Twenty Seven. Acts 27. Paul is on his way to Rome because, as the angel of God tells him, “you must stand before the emperor” (v.24). Based on this (and our prior reading), we can be quite certain that Paul is where God wants him to be. Agreed? But wait . . . while in the center of God’s will, Paul and his companions endure a violent storm, extreme danger, and shipwreck . . . What shall we do with this? Well. Perhaps today is the day we can take one giant step forward in the process of disabusing ourselves of the notion that clear skies and smooth sailing are the surest signs of God’s presence and our obedience. May we faithfully follow, high seas or calm, courageously trusting God’s presence. Amen.

Day Twenty Eight. Acts 28. “Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe” (v.24) . . . As the book of Acts draws to a close, Paul endeavors to convince Jews in Rome about Jesus. Some believe, others refuse to do so. Paul then announces to them that God’s salvation “has been sent to the Gentiles” because “they will listen” (v.28). This chapter invites reflection: How well do I listen to God? How pliable is my heart? How open my ears and eyes? Surely we do not ever want to find ourselves in the shoes of those folks who refused to believe and, in so doing, shut out the good news of God’s salvation! May our hearts be ever receptive and our minds open, so that we might receive every one of the gifts God so graciously offers. Amen.