I really love the book of James. The writer does not mess around with trying to be politically correct or worry about offending anyone. He just says it as it is. Recently I did a women’s Bible Study on this book so when I went through the chapters over the last few days, it refreshed my memory on the power words spoken in these five short chapters. James starts off his book by clearly defining who he is. He is a slave of God. Imagine being a slave of God. When I think of a slave it does not paint a nice picture. But imagine doing exactly what your master tells you. Doing exactly what God tells you to do when he tells you to do it. Just think of the headaches and frustrations that you would not have to go through. This is a nice thought, but personally speaking I know I would not be able to do it. Mainly due to stubbornness, independence….and the list could go on!! James tells us first off that we need to have joy during the hardships. In those difficult, challenging times we need to have joy. Seriously? But God expects us to have a joyful heart at all times. This is so difficult when things aren’t going my way to express a joyful spirit. Yes, I realized that I said ‘my way’, instead of God’s way. I like how the writer tells us that we have not gotten what we want because we have not asked if it (v.5). We still may not get it, but we need to ask God for it with the full believe and confidence that he is going to answer. How many times have I asked for something thinking that the answer will be no? I know that God will not give me what I want, but only what I need in accordance to his plan for me. However, James clearly tells us to ask him with the expectation that he will answer. This chapter finishes with clear instructions about listening and doing. We are to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. How difficult is this? It is so easy to get upset or angry at someone or something and start verbally expressing our anger, frustration or hurts. But it is clear. We need to slow down in our expression of words and anger. It would be so much easier if there was a delay on our mouths after our ears hear something! Don’t play favourites! Don’t judge by appearance! This is the opening advice in chapter two. How easy it is to judge someone by how they look or just a situation by what we think we see? James is very clear in this chapter that we are to love our neighbours …. no matter who they are. He also points out that it does not matter is we break one of God’s laws or several, once you break one, you have broken them all and will be judged by God according to your actions. This chapter also includes the well-known verse about faith without deeds is dead. (v.14). We can claim to have strong faith, but if it is in played out in our actions and deeds, then it is not faith. Our faith is truly spoken on how we interact with others, in the things that we do, in our conversations. Knowing about faith is not the same has having faith. To have faith is to show it. I pray that my faith is clearly shown in all that I do. I am working on not being negative, but this is difficult. I am aware of this and actively trying to work on it. Oh, the powerful little tongue! Chapter three is all about the power of the tongue. For such a small thing, it packs a powerful punch. James tells us that teachers will be judged with greater strictness by God. To be a teacher of the Bible carries a responsibility and God will judge us stricter. This really puts into perspective the importance for me, and all who are called to teach to be right with God and constantly in his Word. Otherwise we may lead people the wrong way. My life has to reflect this. This really hit me as I read through this chapter. It is sometimes overwhelming the responsibility that is placed on teachers (pastors, preachers, etc). The tongue is referred to as an ‘uncontrollable evil’. I think that perfectly describes it! The tongue can praise God at one moment and then curse someone in the next. It is very important to learn to control one’s tongue. This really drives home the message to think twice before one speaks! The lessons in the first few chapters tell of the expectations that God has of us, but chapter four tells us how we are to do them. We need to be close to God at all times. This chapter starts out by telling us that we should not fight or quarrel with others or want what others have. We have what we have because that is what we have asked for (or not asked for). We need to look at our motive. What is my motive for wanting what my neighbour has? Lately the topic of Salvation Army officers becoming too materialistic has come up in several conversation. And it is a problem as I see it. There are ones that want better homes, more pay, less work…and the list goes on. This chapter has really brought home the importance of checking ones motives before asking for something. Why do we need more? Is it to keep up with those around us so that we can have all the latest gadgets? This is definitely a bigger issue than these few lines are giving it. While I can’t change others, I can always look to my motives prior to asking for something more. I am very thankful for all that God provides daily to me. I need to be focused on God’s plan and what he wants. Not on the worldly expectations of what it means to be successful. This flows right into Chapter 5 where James warns the rich that their earthly riches mean nothing and will not buy their way into heaven. We need not to grumble when others have more. If our goal is to get into heaven then we need to concentrate on God and his plans. Continue to have patience and move forward with much prayer at all times. James tells us to not grumble about what we are going through, but to look to the prophets for examples of suffering and patience. Keep praying! The book of James is filled with many lessons, instructions and warnings that need to be learned and followed. It is a book that does not always get very much attention, but it should. If you have not read this book, I would strongly suggest that you do. I am looking forward to looking into this book again in the fall with another group of ladies for Bible Study. May God bless you today and may you choose to follow him!
It has been several months since I last wrote a blog and realized that I was really missing this part of my devotions. In January I set three personal goals for myself: 1. read through the NT this year, 2. run a 5 km race, 3. eat healthier.
Well, it’s July and I am needing a little push in the right direction. I did manage to accomplish goal #2, but stopped running since the race. I have failed at keeping up with my reading, but have restarted this week. Eating healthier, comes & goes, but it is a work in progress.
Over the last week as I am getting back into reading through the New Testament I have been reading the book of Galatians. For six short chapters, this book packs A LOT of messages. As I read through and reflected on what God is saying to me, I was filled with a new sense of encouragement and desire to keep moving forward.
Paul’s reaction to people who are drifting away from the true Gospel is real and honest. As a pastor, I can so relate to his frustration and shock of how easily people just drift away from the Gospel truths and follow the world’s views. But I am also challenged. How can I be stronger in my faith to show a better example? How can I teach others, encourage others to be devote to Christ no matter what the world says? I pray that if there is a time (and I am sure there will be), that I start to drift, that someone will tell me.
Paul confirms his calling in Chapter 2 and notes that it is different from Peter’s. Just like all of our callings are different from each. God has called me to minister to his children where I am. But in order to do this my faith much be genuine and true. Christ has to live fully in me for this genuine faith to shine through. “I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Ch. 2:20 NLT
It is not about following laws and rules. In Chapter 3, Paul talks about the fact that we received the Holy Spirit because we believed — not because we followed the rules of Moses. These laws and rules taught us and lead us to have faith in Christ. It is so easy to get caught up with rules and regulations that our faith is pushed back. Paul reminds us to have faith, to continue to believe in Christ. In Christ Alone.
Once we know Jesus, why do we turn back to our old ways? This is a powerful question that Paul asks in Chapter 4. It is almost as if Paul can not get his head around the fact that people are turning back to their old ways when they used to follow Jesus. He does acknowledge that there are many false teachers that will try to take us down a different path, but we need to stand firm in the truths of Christ. Christ bought our freedom, so why go back to a life of slavery? So are you living a ‘free’ life or an ‘enslaved’ life?
In Chapter 5, Paul continues with the truth that we were set free by Christ, but builds on to it. We must live by the Spirit. What exactly does that mean…to live by the Spirit? In this chapter there is the well know verse about the fruit of the Spirit. If you read the beginning of this verse it tells us that we have to allow our lives to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. FULLY. Paul tells us that we are given this freedom to serve one another in love. (v.13b). I think that when I allow the Holy Spirit complete control of my life that it is so much easier to serve others in love. It is only when I take back control to parts of my life that this becomes challenging. I know that there are some people that are harder to love, but if I truly allow the Holy Spirit to take charge of my life, it is not that hard.
The final chapter gave me two main points to think about. First, as Christians we have a responsibility to help those who are struggling with sin — not judge or act superior — but to guide, encourage. This part is always difficult as when you point out someone’s sin, you need to be willing to accept feedback on your own actions. Is there sin in my life? Am I giving the impression that there is no sin in my life? I think there have been several times when I now that a brother or sister in Christ is sinning and I have not said anything. I know that I am not perfect, and am challenged to continue to strive to be honest with others. I think that part of the honesty in any relationship is telling our loved one when they are going down the wrong path. The second point that Paul makes is for us not to get discouraged. The harvest will come in God’s time. So often it is easy to get discouraged when we don’t see any results, but we are encouraged to keep faithful and strong to God’s leading. The harvest will come!!
Paul is one of my favourite writers and I always enjoy studying his word. In Chapter 6:4b, he reminds me to not compare myself to others. This is something that I need as I always feel that I am not enough when I look at other people.
So as I go forth this week I am encouraged to remain strong to the Holy Spirit’s leading and focused on what God has called me to do. Praying for you as you continue in your walk with The Lord.
I love this time of reading through the Scriptures and just allowing God to freely speak to me. It is a rewarding and growing experience. Over the last week and a bit I have been reading through the rest of Hebrews (ch.7-13). God has some powerful reminders for me and others as we walk this journey called life.
I found these chapters to be about COVENANTS. Have you ever made a covenant with God? In The Salvation Army, to become a soldier a person signs a Soldiers Covenant and also as an Officer in the Army one signs a covenant. I am blessed to have signed both of these. I often look at both of these signed documents that hang in my office. These are promises and commitments that I have made to God. Yes, they are being carried out through the work of The Salvation Army, but covenants are between you and God.
One of the things that jumped out at me in Chapter 7, was that a covenant is for life, not just a period of time. At this point in my life, I am okay with that. However, I do know of friends who signed an Officer’s Covenant who are no longer officers. I struggle with the changing or ending of a covenant, but like I have said a covenant that I sign is between me and God. What does covenant mean to you?
In chapter 8, I am reminded that once I have entered into this covenant it has erased everything that was before it. I am relieved! This means all the mistakes and wrong turns I took in my younger days have been erased. Yes, I have confessed years ago, but part of me still carried some guilt of these bad choices. God has erased them. It would be great if when God erases our past mistakes that they could be erased from others’ memories as well!
This chapter also challenges me to stay true to my covenant and not be trying to cut corners or take short cuts. Staying true to God only draws me closer to him. It is definitely a better decision for me to make. I think this is why I am often looking and re-reading my covenants to make sure that I am still upholding them.
But what happens when I fail? Chapter 9 reassures me that I need to continue in my covenant with God, daily seeking forgiveness, guidance, strength and comfort. It is a daily recommitment to him of the promises I have made. It is a daily fight to stay true to them and some days are better than others. God is there giving me the forgiveness and guidance I need.
The last several chapters of Hebrews is all about being faithful to the one true God. Persevere through the difficulties and hard times. Keep strong during the attacks. Standing firm in my faith in all times.
In Chapter 10, verse 22 really stuck out to me:
“let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (NLT)
Going into God’s presence with a true, clean heart is such a wonderful experience. Reminding myself that Christ’s blood has made me clean. There is a song we sing that has the line, ‘Nothing but thy blood can cleanse me.’ What assurance we have that a sprinkle of Christ’s blood can cleanse us.
The history of the faithful noted in chapter 11 is always encouraging to me. No matter what I face, as long as I remain faithful to God everything will work out in the end. While the reward may not come while I am on this earth, I may receive it in heaven. But I am assured in these verses that God remains faithful on his promises when we remain faithful to him.
Encouragement and discipline. I like the first, but not too eager to receive the second! In chapter 12 we are reminded that God disciplines those he loves, those he considers his children. I am a child of God and will be disciplined by my Heavenly Father, just as I was disciplined by my earthly father in my youth.
However, we receive some encouragement in verses 5&6
“My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.” (NLT)
Isn’t it wonderful to know that we are loved so much that God will take the time (and patience) to correct us when we make mistakes.
The final chapter in Hebrews reminds us to love each other and to help those in need. It also provides us with a warning. Don’t let new, strange ideas take us away from God. The world will tempt us in many ways and many new way of thinking that will draw us away from God. Stay close to God. Know when it is God speaking to you and when it is not. Verse 8 tells us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. If we believe this is true, then why is there a need to change what we believe.
Lately I have been challenged by this. There has been so many different opinions about different issues and when trying to stay firm to what the Bible tells us, I have been met with criticism and doubt. There is not doubt that the world has changed in the years since the Bible was written. But the truths of the Bible remain the same. I firmly believe that they are still relevant today as they were in the early days. I am standing firm on these beliefs and know that when I remain faithful to God, he will be there to give me the strength and guidance I need.
Keep strong, my friends!
As I have read through the first six chapters of the book of Hebrews I was reminded of the importance of continual growth during my spiritual journey.
In this chapter we are reminded that God puts his son first. This made me think of what do I put first in my life. I think that most days God is a priority in my life, but honestly, He is one of a few. Trusting in God at all times and turning to him first in all circumstances is an on-going battle with my independent spirit. I am getting there, but still have a ways to go.
This chapter is all about comfort and safety for me. It tells how we are placed under the angels. The visual I got while reading it was one of the multitude of angels spreading their wings protecting me, keeping me safe. It is very reassuring that God values us so much that he places us this close to his angels. The other key message for me was found in verse 18. No matter what I am going through, he understands as he has experienced it. There is no need for me to worry about the situation or even worry about telling him about it as he understands. Nothing is too small for God to care about.
I found this chapter to be on the similar path as chapter one. It is all about my focus. My focus needs to be on Jesus all the time. This chapter reminds us what happened to the people that Moses lead to the Promise Land who never got to entered it as they took their eyes off The Lord. I feel that over the last several years this is an area that I have grown in. I am feeling more connected when making decisions and in most situations that my eyes are firmly fixed on Jesus.
This chapter is always a challenge for me. It is about the importance of Sabbath rest. I get very frustrated with myself as I don’t think that I ever take a full day to just rest in his presence. I have been told by others that even a half day rest is better than none. But God really stresses the importance of a Sabbath rest. I am learning to take longer periods of time, but I always seem to come up with excuses for not doing it. It was interesting with this chapter as it was about rest and also about the Word of God being active. His Word is alive and active, but in order to truly discover these truths, I need to be resting in his presence. It all makes sense, just difficult to put into practice.
I like the truth in this chapter about people being chosen among the people for certain tasks/jobs, in this case the role of the high priest, but that they are appointed by God. In thinking my ministry, I believe that this is true. While the leaders of The Salvation Army may have chosen my husband and I to be in Chatham-Kent, I truly feel that God was the one who appointed us here. It is through this appointment of God that I gather my strength and purpose. In the last six years as I have grown closer to him, I have felt his presence in all of my movements.
It is important to be continually growing in my spiritual walk. While in chapter 5 it mentions the need to be on solid food instead of milk, chapter 6 really stresses this point. It has really encouraged me to stop wasting time and really focus on things. This was great reminder as I have spend most of the day doing not much of anything. While I am not sure this will change too fast, I am challenged by this chapter to continue to grow and mature. It also challenges me to challenge those in my flock to grow and move onto solid food.
God is good. All the time. I have found as I am reading through the New Testament that God is providing me with a fresh look on his living Word and challenging me anew every day.
As I have spent some time in quietness before God today, I realized how far behind I have let myself become in my readings. I have finished reading the book of Acts and know that I am a couple weeks behind in blogging what God is saying to me.
As I read each chapter I have been journaling what happened in the chapter, but have also asked the question ‘What is God saying to me?’ It is an important time of reflection and listening as I await God’s message. Eventhough I am behind the schedule, I do not intend to rush through the chapter. But instead take my time and concentrate on God’s message.
Today, I am going to summarize what God has been saying to me over the last several chapters of Acts (Ch.20-28).
Looking back over my notes I see words like: ENCOURAGE, FAITHFUL, KEEP MOVING, COURAGE, PERSEVERE, STRONG, OBEY, and FOCUS.
I think this is the first time I have read the book of Acts with such intention to listening to God. I am encouraged by Paul. He faced a lot of conflict and people doubting his message, but through it all he remained focused on God’s message and God’s plan. Never once in all these chapters did Paul focus on the negative things that were happening around him. How I wish I could be that focused. It is so easy to get trapped into the negative words and actions of others, of focusing on all that is wrong, instead of praising God for all that he is doing. Turning to God for strength and wisdom. My prayer is that as I will continue to listen to God’s voice and turn a deaf ear to those negative influences around me.
Paul was arrested, beaten and put in jail. He did not have a ‘pity’ party, but continued to witness and teach others about God. His location may have changed, but his purpose and mission remained the same. As he travelled to Rome, he did not waiver on his mission. He is a great example of a strong, dedicated soldier of Christ. He learned the importance of staying close to God in all circumstances.
Throughout these chapters, Paul takes every opportunity that is placed before him to tell his story, to witness about God and to provide a role model for us all to follow as we journey through life on earth.
As I read these chapters, I imagine Paul to be a quiet, simple man would not get stressed out or thrown off by the events that were happening around him. He did not scream or pout or blame others for his situation. He just kept focus on the task at hand.
I have been really challenged by Paul’s journey to keep my focus on the task that God places before me. To not get involved in the petty things in life, to avoid involvement in negative talk. It is not easy, but I am determined to be stronger in my commitment to God and focused on Him than on the things that are distracting me from his plan.
Prayers for me on this journey would be appreciated.
I am really enjoying reading through the book of Acts. It is so encouraging and motivating. But also it is a clear reminder that as a Christian I need to be active…not just coasting along.
Chapter 15 is all about the simple truth of the message. Often God’s message is made complicated by us. This chapter reminded me to keep things simple. I like this! I am not a deep thinker and don’t question many things in the Bible. For me it is a matter of faith to believe that these things happened. I do question God ALOT, but the basis of the Bible is what I use as my truth base. I know many people that will question and study everything until they have themselves into a tailspin. In this chapter one important lesson that came through was the need NOT to but barriers in the way of people becoming (and remaining believers). This is easily done when we start to judge others or put others down….this will discourage someone and perhaps turn them away from God as they feel they may never measure up. Another barrier that I have seen is when things and practices are so complicated and full of rules that no one can do it all. God reminded me that I need to preach and teach simply so that many will understand and believe.
Go Tell & Celebrate
Chapter 16 is about go tell the world about God. Spend time preaching and teaching new and old believers as God leads us. As Paul and others travelled around they told people what was happening with other believers in other areas. They celebrated the work of God in the lives of many at that time. Do we celebrate God’s work or are we focused on what is not happening? This chapter challenged me to focus more on the positive things that are happening. Perhaps a new blog on ‘Celebrate Chatham-Kent’ should be started. As I reflected and acknowledged what God has been doing in my life and those around me, I had stop and just praise him. The Holy Spirit is moving and moving big. I often think that when we read the accounts of God’s miracles in the Bible we are looking for similar events. I need to remind myself that God is still in the miracle business and he does them every day. I just need to pause and take notice.
Seek Him First, then Teach
This next chapter is all about seeking God first before trying to do anything. While the beginning of the chapter is all about Paul teaching and trying to reason with the Jews about the teachings of Jesus Christ, it is verse 27 that really sticks out to me. This verse talks about God created us so that we would seek him and perhaps reach out to him. This is not news to me, I know that God wants me to seek him and reach out to him. I need to work on slowing down more so that I am not in motion when I remember. Another important lesson that was highlighted for me in this chapter was to keep teaching, focusing on those who are willing to listen. There are many who will not accept the truth and all I can do is preach the message. I can’t make anyone believe, that is up to the Holy Spirit working in their lives and hearts. I need to stay true to the message and to remember to celebrate the victories.
Be Bold, Speak Up
The one message for me in Chapter 18 was to be bold and speak up for God. I love verse 9, it tells us to not be afraid, keep on speaking, and do not be silent. God did not give us a message to keep to ourselves. He gave us a message and instructions to GO TELL the world. Perhaps this is just in our small community or perhaps this is in other parts of the world. I know that God will lead me, but for now my part of the world is Chatham-Kent. It is easy to type that we all need to be bold and speak up, but for me this is really hard to be bold outside of my church circle. It’s so easy to be bold in front of other believers, but how am I doing in front of non-believers. Praying that I will be more in-tuned with God’s prompting to speak up in areas that may not be comfortable to me.
Chapter 19 encourages us to stay strong in our beliefs. However this can not be done if we are not encouraging each other and learning more about Jesus as we journey along in our faith walk. We need to be growing in our faith and not remaining as new Christians. I was really encouraged as I read this chapter to continue to study God’s word and meet with others as I grow. I am challenged to minimize the other activities in my life that is taking me away from what is important. While on vacation I read a book that was all about setting my priorities. God first, family second and then my ministry. I need to examine what I am doing to ensure that I am giving the appropriate time to God. A friend recently posted a pie chart with seven slices. Each slice was coloured according to how she spent her time. I would like to do this, but am not sure I want to be that real. I love friends who challenge me in this journey (and some without even knowing it!!)
These chapters were read when I was on vacation. It is so easy to focus on God and his message for me as I am sitting in the sun, relaxing on a cruise ship. Now the real challenge will begin as I arrive home tomorrow and have all the other ‘things’ trying to get my attention. I am very thankful for this time away with family and feel rested. I was able to see more of God’s wonderful, beautiful scenery that was not covered by snow. As we drive north, I am reminded that there is beauty all around me even in that ‘white stuff’ that I am started to see in patches.
The readings this week have not been done according to the plan, but my normal schedule is off as I am on vacation. I am on a cruise so there is so much beauty around me that I have not made the time to really spend reading God’s word.
But I spent some time one afternoon just catching up with God. It was great to sit on the balcony and just read God’s word. There was no distractions, except the beauty of the scenery.
And God spoke volumes to me as I read through the chapters 10 to 14 in the book of Acts. As I read through these chapters, I tried to put a word or two at the bottom of my journal page to just summarize the chapter. It really helped with my focus!
Chapter 10 was all about listening to God’s voice and treating everyone as equal. Both of these are challenges for me. First listening for God’s voice is difficult as I have too much ‘stuff’ in my life. I really want this year to simplify things as much as possible. This message is coming through clearly in many of my readings. I can only hear God’s voice when I am quiet. So for those who really know me, know that this can prove a little challenging. The second lesson in this chapter for me was the reminder to treat everyone as equal. It is easy to have favourites or people I avoid, but that is not God’s plan. In this chapter, Peter shares that God does not classify anything that he created as unclean, so why should we. Good point. Everyone is created by God and should be treated as equal!
As I read through Acts, I am reminded of the opposition that Peter and others faced in preaching the Gospel message. In Chapter 11, God reminds me to stand up for what I believe. To preach his message and not be quiet. It is so much easier to tell the message to people who are interest and actually come to church to hear it. But what about people that need to hear the message, am I using every opportunity to tell it. I was really challenged to stay focus on God’s mission for me. I need to stand up for him and not be afraid to meet with opposition. This chapter tells of taking the time to explain your beliefs to those who don’t believe. People are not going to believe just because I tell them to!
The importance of remaining faithful to God came through very strongly in Chapter 12. No matter what situation I am in or am facing, I need to remain firm in my faith. God will take care of those who oppose me. This chapter tells of Peter’s time in prison and his escape from prison (with the help of an angel). Things can get really bad, but have faith that God is in charge and will rescue me in his time.
During all the opposition and trials that I am going face I need to be focused on the truth. That is the message in chapter 13. Focus on his message and preach to those who will listen. For those who are stubborn and don’t want to listen/accept the truth, then I am to just move on. Do not get tangled up in the world’s or their views, but stay completely focused on what God wants me to do.
The message in Chapter 14 is similar to the previous chapter. Keep Focused! In this chapter Paul & Barnabas spoke boldly for The Lord (verse 3) even though many Jews did not accept their message. They spoke boldly. Not something that is in my comfort zone. I know that I need to be more bold! I am reminded lately of our younger generation and how they are bold in their faith. They are in 100% and are not afraid to share their faith in their daily lives. We often look to older generations for examples, but I think there is a lot to be learned from our younger generations.
God is moving all around me. As I continue to read through the book of Acts, I am opening myself to God’s message for me.
The reading of the book of Acts is coming at a time when I can really see and feel the working of the Holy Spirit.
As I read through chapters 5-9 of Acts there are two things that come through very clearly — Focus and Strength.
I need to be focused on God if I want to hear his voice, follow his plan and see his miracles. Through every opposition and conflict, I need to be focused on him.
We are reminded in Chapter 5 of the story of Ananias & Sapphira who tried to lie to God. We can put up a front to others, but God knows our heart. He knows the truth. When we try to hide things from him, we are just fooling ourselves. He is aware of everything. The easiest thing is just to be completely open and honest with him. This will allow our focus to be on him and from this we will be strengthen for anything that comes our way.
In chapter 6, the disciples know what they need to focus on and delegated everything else to others. They kept their focus firm on the mission God had set before them. I found this funny in a way that the disciples were called to preach and teach God’s message and did not have time or energy to worry about food distribution. This hit home for me as I am often torn between the social services side of my calling and the actual preaching & teaching. It makes me question whether I am really following God’s calling or if my focus is a little off. But on the other had, I can do a lot through the ‘food distribution’ programs that will tell others and show others his message. It is a balance and I am daily seeking God’s guidance as to what I should do.
Chapter 7 sees Stephen being stoned to death. This chapter is a reminder to stand firm in our belief no matter what. It also reminds me that I need to know the story, I need to know God’s message. It is hard to stand firm if you don’t know all the facts. The importance of study and continual learning will only assist me as I continue to fight the battle that God has place before me. Conflict and fear are part of my journey and I need to be strong in my faith and be bold in telling his story to the nations.
I found it interesting that in Chapter 8 when the church faced persecution, they scattered. But they did not go into hiding. They scattered so that they could tell more about God’s message. That they would spread the Good News even further. I realize that sometimes during persecution we need to stand and fight, but other times we need to move on. It is during these times we need to listen to the Holy Spirit for direction.
Chapter 9 reminds us that no matter how bad someone is, there is always hope that God can work in their lives. This story tells the story of Saul’s conversion. It is a powerful conversion. Sometimes when our conversion are not as bold as Saul’s we may wonderful if we have really been changed. At least I have always thought this when I read Saul’s story. But God has a different way of working with each of us. Sometimes we have a powerful testimony and other times our testimony is one of constant obedience.
While my conversion was not bold and powerful like Saul to those watching. But the work of the Holy Spirit in my life has been bold and powerful to my life. It is as I continue to break down the walls and barriers and allow God full access that I am truly noticing the work of the Holy Spirit. Saul’s conversion was quick and over a short period, mine is just taking a little longer!
Looking forward to more lessons and reminders in the book of Acts. For now I will focus on God and gather my strength and direction from him and him alone.
In reading of the New Testament, the reading plan has taken me to the book of Acts. This is such a powerful book!
As I have read through chapters 1-4, I am once again reminded of God’s greatness and strength and my responsibility!
I was reminded that Jesus did not leave right after his resurrection. I know that there was some time of teaching to the disciples, but had forgotten that it was 40 days. So after going through the emotional ride of Jesus dying and resurrection, the disciples and other followers needed to put aside emotion and focus on the teaching of Jesus as their time with him was limited. While I am trying to put myself in their shoes (or sandals!!), I imaging that there would be this great desire to soak in everything that Jesus said. While Jesus was doing his ministry on earth, he did warn people that he would not be around forever, but I don’t think it really became real to them until he died. These 40 days had to have been very precious to the disciples and followers. They had to wonder how much time they actually had and want to take advantage of every moment — I know that I would.
Then Jesus finally ascends into Heaven and the waiting for the Holy Spirit continues. They disciples go about regular business of picking a replacement for Judas. I guess they re-grouped and made sure that they were ready for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. They prepared, they prayed.
The importance of praying before action was very clear in this chapter. Seeking God’s direction for everything.
The Holy Spirit arrives!!! People were confused with everyone speaking different languages, but during this whole processed there were many believers made that day. Many joined the church, sold their possessions to help those in need and prayed together. They realized through the teaching of Peter that this was all a fulfillment of the promises made in years past.
God always fulfills his promises. This is so wonderful to remember especially when things are tough, no matter what, God will fulfill his promised — BUT in his time. That last part is always difficult for me as patience is not easy for me.
I was encouraged by the words of Peter to keeping preaching the Good News. Peter had the strength and determination to fulfill God’s plan for him which was to educate people to the true message of salvation.
Peter heals a lame beggar and people are shocked! Really??? After all that Jesus did, and all the prophets taught, people were still amazed when Peter helps the lame beggar.
This chapter encourages me to keep teaching people. That no matter how often they have heard the message, they may still not truly believe it. Keep preaching and teaching. Persevere!!!! In times of discouragement, I need to remember Peter’s strength and maybe a little stubbornness in the command given to him to go and preach to all the nations.
I find strength from Peter’s example. His faith is strong, he knows the truth and he was determined to reach as many as he could, no matter of the difficulties he faced.
Peter and John met some resistance from others when they preached. We all will. But they persevered and went to the church to seek prayers for the mission. The church of believers united and prayed. They were bold, just like Peter was. They prayed for courage to keep teaching others even if they faced difficulties.
What powerful examples these first century Christians provide us. I know that I will face difficulties but I need to be bold and go forth in the strength of the Holy Spirit.
A few words to really summarize these chapters:
Pray first. Have faith. Keep preaching. Persevere. Be strong. Be Bold. Take Courage.
Remember the importance the early church placed on meeting together for prayer. Pray with one another. Keep focused on the mission. Remove unnecessary things from your life.
In the final chapters of Mark’s Gospel (chapters 11-16), there are several messages I felt God was speaking to me.
The first was to be alert to the world around me. Whether this is in regards to false teachings, temptations or whatever else will take my eyes off him. I need to be constantly aware of what is happening around me and know that there are dangers. When I pause to reflect there are so many things and people that can draw me away from my focus — that is God. My life is busy. It’s crazy. Lots of people wanting my time and filling up the hours of my day with activities and tasks. But what is really important.
Over the last week, I was struggling to keep up with these readings and realized that I was rushing through them to get them done. I had to stop and refocus. The purpose I have for reading through the New Testament this year was not to just say that I read it through again, but to gain a new perspective to God’s leading in my life. I needed to not treat this as an assignment for school, but a step in my own faith journey. And God desires my full attention to this goal. So I re-read some chapters and spent some quiet time just trying to be quiet.
And yes, it was extremely difficult to just sit in the quiet and wait for God to say something. But after a couple of attempts, I felt comforted and at peace.
Life is as busy and crazy as I allow it to be. So, what can I stop doing to reduce some of the activities, committees, events that I am involved in? The answer is ….. I don’t have a clue. As I sat in a meeting today that resulted in another thing added to my plate. Is it e ever possible to say ‘no’. I so need to take a class on that — wait, that is just something else. Guess I just keep scheduling time with God and the rest of the work will either get done or is really not that important.
The second message that was clear in several of the readings was the strong need for me to be firm in my faith, in my beliefs. These chapters are the final days of Jesus’ earthly life. It details the physically, emotional pain that he went through for me, for you. He did all this for me, yet I feel like I continually let him down but not standing up for him.
I get so busy doing things that I am now wondering if the message of hope, love, salvation comes through in these activities. I know that it does in most, but I still have some work to do. My prayer is that as I continue to move forward that I am to better show the love of Christ in all my activities, decision and words.
I can get so excited for upcoming projects, and I am really aware that my focus has to be on him, not on the responses I get from others. Currently as part of my ministry, I am working on moving one of our family services to a larger location and expanding what we do. It really involves a shift in the way that we all think as we minister to our neighbours who are struggling. I really want us as an organization to make life-lasting impact on people that we serve. I have never felt so strongly of God’s leading as I do this year with where he is taking us in our family services operations. And as I read the words of Mark’s Gospel I am reminded that my focus has to be clearly and firmly on God, then all other things will become clear.
I know that God has great plans for me. I am determine to put my priorities aside and follow his leading. Whether these will be popular or not, God is in control.
The end of chapter 16 talks about not being shy, but go forth boldly in his name and witness. This is not a direct quote, but Jesus instructs the disciples to go forth. So away I go!