Free Bible Commentary

Free Bible Commentary

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Acts 17:10-15

Friday, January 29, 2016

“The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Acts 17:12 – “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” This is such a great compliment given by the Holy Spirit to the Jews in Berea, and I just love the sound of that word, “noble-minded”. The word literally means nobility of birth, but used in this context it indicates a noble and excellent quality of heart and mind. There are two actions that these honorable people engaged in that earned them the commendation of being “noble-minded”.

First of all, they received the word with great eagerness. These people kept their minds open to the Gospel truth and they were hungry for the word of the Lord. Friends, God can do great things with minds that are eager to seek His counsel and excited to absorb His word. It is far too frequent a thing for most of us to arrive at the end of an evening only to then realize that we failed to open our Bible’s up at all that day. And again, often when we do take the time to peruse and ponder the words of life, we force ourselves to do so with the attitude of obligation instead of eagerness. Can you imagine going hours and even days on end without opening up the refrigerator to satisfy the physical hunger of your mortal body? And yet, we will malnourish the part of us that was created in God’s image, and starve the spirit within us that will live on for eternity. Let’s develop an appetite for the word of God. Let’s learn to crave the milk (1 Peter 2:2) and then move on to the meat of maturity (Hebrews 5:12-14). In order to do this we must grow “accustomed to the word of righteousness” (Hebrews 5:13). That means we must force-feed ourselves for a while if necessary, until we learn to develop a taste and good appetite for the words of truth. Please taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8; Hebrews 6:5; 1 Peter 2:3).

Secondly, the Bereans examined the Scriptures daily to see whether the things that Paul and his companions taught them were true. In other words, they listened attentively, but they didn’t just take their word for it. They received Paul’s words, then they put them to the test. They opened up their Old Testaments to make certain that this new teaching about Jesus was consistent with the prophecies previously made about the life, suffering, death and resurrection of the Christ. This was not skepticism on their part. This was caution for the wellbeing of their immortal souls, and diligence to please God above all others. The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 4:1, “ Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” The truth is way too important and your soul is far too valuable to take anybody’s teaching at face value. Listen kindly to anyone. Keep an open mind when you do. But put everything they say to the test. Don’t place your soul’s eternal destination in the hands of any mortal man. We will all have to answer for ourselves on Judgment Day as to whether we learned and obeyed the truth or not.

Please read Acts 17:16-21 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 17:1-9

Thursday, January 28, 2016

“Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.’ They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Verse 2 – Paul “reasoned with them from the scriptures.” When Paul entered the city of Thessalonica, he went first to the synagogue located there to try to persuade the Jewish people to believe and obey the truth. From their own sacred scriptures (the Old Testament) he explained, he gave evidence, he drew conclusions (verse 3). He showed them clearly from God’s own revelation that the Christ had to suffer, be killed and arise from the dead. I’m sure he read them passages such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 that states conclusively that the death of the Messiah (Jesus) was all a part of God’s plan to save Israel from their sins. Many reasonable, stable, fair-minded people listened with an open mind, and honestly examined the evidence and believed (verse 4). Others allowed their emotions to poison their logic and they went on the attack (verse 5).

I know that “religion” can sometimes be a very emotional subject, and emotions certainly have their proper place in matters of faith. But let’s please try our very best to let logic and reason rule the day when it comes to studying the word of God. Let’s determine to honestly examine the evidence and believe the plain and honest truth so that we can make the necessary adjustments in our lives that will be pleasing to our Father in heaven. Nothing is more important to our eternal destinies than learning, believing and practicing the truth (John 8:31-36)

Verse 6 – “These men who have upset the world…” Friends and brethren, when you teach the plain, honest truth, sometimes it just upsets people’s world. That’s just the nature of the Gospel. That’s what it was designed to do (Matthew 10:34-39). Please keep right on teaching it anyway. Upsetting someone’s world is not always a bad thing. Sometime people need to have their worldview turned completely upside down so they can finally start to see things in the proper light. Eyes that have been long been accustomed to the darkness must first be blinded by the harsh light of the truth so that they can begin to see the world with spiritual clarity. Just ask the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:1-18). He most certainly had his world turned upside down.

Please read Acts 17:10-15 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 16:29-40

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

“And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household. Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their policemen, saying, ‘Release those men.’ And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, ‘The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Therefore come out now and go in peace.’ But Paul said to them, ‘They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out.’ The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed."

---End of Scripture verses---

The conversion of the Philippian jailer will forever be one of my favorite Bible stories. In these very few verses we see the full force of the Gospel’s power demonstrated in a snapshot of one man’s life. At one point this man was about to snuff out his own life by thrusting his sword through himself, and just moments later he was a baptized believer and rejoicing in the fact that he was saved and heaven bound. What could take a person from the precipice of suicide and eternal damnation and place him safely upon life’s solid ground and standing at heaven’s doorstep? In a word: JESUS! When the jailer saw the prison doors standing open he was certain that all of his prisoners had escaped. Instead of enduring the torcher of awaiting his own execution for his negligence, he decided to just kill himself and spare himself the agony.

Paul yelled to the man from within his prison cell, “Do yourself no harm” (verse 28). They had no intentions of getting away. The other prisoners were no doubt too shaken up from the earthquake to make a break for it, and Paul and Silas were not interested in escaping. They were both God’s free men while being confined in man’s prison, and they wanted to help people escape from the prison of sin and spiritual sickness. Even though they suffered great injury while trying to spread of the Good News of Jesus, all they wanted to do was help the people who wished to do them harm. They were just following the great example of their good Master. Friends, Jesus is the way, and the truth and the life (John 14:6). We can only find eternal life, and the answers to the problems of our life, when we humbly come to him in trusting, obedient faith. He is the only way to the Father in heaven, and the way He lived His life is the only way that we should pattern our own lives after. Love Him. Trust Him. Obey Him. When others treat you poorly for living like Him, forgive them, be kind to them and help them to see the better way.

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (verse 30). It is interesting that when people asked the Apostles the same question in Acts 2:37, Peter answered: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” (Acts 2:38) And yet Paul’s response to this question by the Philippian Jailer was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…” (verse 30). Why the difference? Why did one apostle say “Repent and be baptized,” and another say, “Believe in the Lord Jesus”? The answer to that question is simple. The crowd gathered around the Apostles in Acts chapter 2 had just heard a lengthy sermon about Jesus and they already believed in Him. They wanted to know what else they needed to do to be saved, so Peter told them what was required—repentance and baptism. On the other hand, the jailer in Philippi had not heard of Jesus as of yet, so Paul had to start from square one with him. After Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house” (verse 32), as you would expect, “immediately he was baptized, he and all his household” (verse 33). So you see, there is really no difference between the teaching of the various Apostles, and there is no difference in the ways that people are forgiven and saved. All people must believe in Jesus, repent of their sins and be baptized for forgiveness in order to be saved.  It was appropriately stated by divine inspiration that the jailer and his family “believed in God” only after having obeyed the command to be baptized (verse 34). Then there was every reason to have “rejoiced greatly,” because they had their sins forgiven and were added to the body of Christ.

Please read Acts 17:1-9 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 16:22-28

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

“The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!’ And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’"

---End of Scripture verses---

Human exploitation never ceases to disgust me. In yesterday’s reading we learned about a young female slave who had a “spirit of divination” (verse 16). This was an age in which God allowed tremendous supernatural activity, including demon possession. And while this is an amazing and sometimes perplexing situation to read about, the thing that stands out most in my mind is that this girl’s master’s viewed her merely as a meal ticket. They were making a lot of money off the “gift” that she possessed (or that possessed her), and that’s really all they cared about. She was the subject of abuse from both the spiritual and human worlds and my heart goes out to this poor, young victim. I would love to know her life’s story from the time that Paul cast the demon out of her, but those details weren’t relevant to the Holy Spirit’s lessons for us. I like to think that she learned and obeyed the Gospel after the Apostle helped her out of her terrible predicament.

And Paul actually did help this young girl when he loosened her from the grip of one of Satan’s ministers, even though her masters were sorely displeased and caused quite an uproar over it. They dragged Paul and Silas into the city marketplace and incited the fury of the crowd gathered there, which prompted some of Philippi’s city officials to order them beaten with rods and thrown into the local prison (verses 19-23). So much for a fair and impartial trial! I’ve noticed that the mentality of our present culture is not much different than that of the pagan world nearly 2000 years ago. We, like they, are a culture consumed with outrage and obsessed with vengeance. Clothing, hairstyles, technologies change, but the human heart remains the same. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Just like the heathens who walked the earth so many centuries before us, we need Jesus more than anything else to help us find peace and salvation and learn love and compassion for our fellowman.

Let’s learn the valuable lessons that Paul and Silas teach us from this dreadful experience that they endured together. Instead of feeling that all was lost and being consumed with anger and frustration and self-pity, these two godly men could be heard praying and joyfully singing praises to God, even as their feet were fastened in stocks in the interior of a dingy dungeon (verse 25). They still believed with all their hearts that God was in control, even when it seemed that their world might be spiraling out of control around them. Their faith didn’t allow their outward, physical circumstances to undermine their inner, spiritual peace. Please, friends, when the world has beaten you down and Satan has worked you over and you feel all alone and that all is lost, WORSHIP GOD! That is the time, more than ever, that you need to turn to the One who made you and knows you best and loves you most. Pray to God and sing praises to His holy Name. He will lift you out of the emotional abyss. Assemble with His saints as often as you can to pray to God and worship and praise Him, and to glean strength from His Christian warriors.

We are engaged in a battle of life and death, and Satan wants to destroy our lives and consume our souls. He brings the war to us every day, but we cannot fight him with convention or chemical weapons. If we try to we are bound to lose. This is a spiritual conflict and we must use the spiritual weaponry that God has equipped us with. And listen, WE MUST FIGHT BACK. We simple MUST put up a fight against our greatest enemy or we will become a casualty of war. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). So, armor up! Put on the belt of truth and breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation and STAND FIRM (Ephesians 6:14-16). “Shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15), and prepare for action. Grab your sword (the word of God), and hit your knees and pray (Ephesians 6:17-18). Muster with your fellow soldiers of faith and don’t dare try to fight this enemy alone. 

Satan hates a faithful, praying, worshiping child of God. He much rather prefers it when we are inactive and unwary. It’s time to take the battle to him. He is no match against our Almighty God. “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Get up. Get moving. Get studying. Get praying. Get worship. May God bless us and help us to do so.

Please read Acts 16:29-40 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 16:14-21

Monday, January 25, 2016

“A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon us. It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, ‘These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.’ She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!’ And it came out at that very moment. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, ‘These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

Does verse 14 teach us that the Lord worked directly on Lydia’s heart apart from the message she was taught? Does it teach us that God handpicked and predestined Lydia to be saved and therefore His saving grace was irresistible to the will of a powerless woman? The answer to all of these questions is, of course, “No”. With what method had “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul”? The first part of verse 14 gives us the answer to that question. Verse 13 tells us that the Paul and his travelling companions, “sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled” by the riverside to pray that day. And verse 14 tells us that Lydia “was listening”. Lydia’s heart was opened to receive the word because she was listening to the Gospel as it was preached, and because she had a good heart that was receptive to the word of God.

Romans 10:17 tells us that, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” This is the Lord’s chosen method for opening people’s hearts to the truth. When people choose to listen to the word with a good and honest heart, that good soil will open up and receive the seed of the word and it will produce good fruit unto salvation (Matthew 13:23). Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” Jesus then told His listening audience the manner in which the Father draws people to Him. “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.” The Lord and “opens hearts” and “draws” people to Him hear and learn the living, active, powerful word of God (Hebrews 4:12).

Friends, God will never impose His will upon you by circumventing your own free will. In just the same way that Lydia did, you must listen to (or read) the message of salvation, and you must make the good choice to willingly obey and follow Him. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The power of God for salvation is packed within the pages of your Bible, and that salvation is for everyone, not just a preselected few. You have to hear it, believe it and choose to obey it, just like Lydia did. Verse 15 tells us that she and her whole household were baptized that very day.

Please read Acts 16:22-28 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 16:1-13

Sunday, January 24, 2016

“Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe. So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily. They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.”

---End of Scripture verses---

It is so interesting to me that Paul took and had Timothy circumcised, then the two of them went around telling people that circumcision is not necessary. This is really a good illustration of the fact that being a Christian is all about giving up your rights in order to help other people prosper. Timothy was half Gentile and he had not been circumcised, even though he had been taught the Old Testament Scriptures since his childhood (2 Timothy 3:15). He had not been circumcised and he was still considered to be a faithful disciple (Christian) with a very good reputation (verses 1-2). It is obvious that circumcision wasn’t required for salvation for one who had already been saved, even though he was half Jewish. So why did Timothy willingly go through this painful procedure? Luke tells us that it was “because of the Jews in those parts” (verse 3). It was because he wanted no impediments to his influence and effectiveness when preaching the Gospel to the Jewish people who knew his background.

Paul wrote in 1 Cor 9:20-23 the following: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” Paul’s young protégé Timothy proved that he lived out the principle of “becoming all things to all men” in his life as well. We should do whatever we need to do and give up whatever we need to give up in order to help save peoples souls, as long as those things are not immoral or illegal.

Just a few quick words about the “Macedonian Call” and the events leading up to the Gospel first entering in to the continent of Europe. First of all, I’m not sure why God prohibited Paul and his companions from going into Asia “Minor” (verse 6) and Bithynia (verse 7) to preach the Gospel. What these verses do teach us, however, is that the Lord was directing the steps of these men as they were carrying the Good News throughout the world. God always knows what is best and His timing is always perfect. Secondly, the “Macedonian Call” is an appeal for help. The man in the vision pleaded with Paul to, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (verse 9). But what kind of help did the people in Macedonia need? Did Paul and his companions go there to help build houses in their communities, or gymnasiums or even church buildings in which they could meet together? No, they did none of these things. The understanding that Paul came to after seeing that vision was simply this: “God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (verse 10). God sent preachers and teachers into the mission fields of the world to teach people the truth. That is the help that all people need most desperately of all, and that is what these men were commissioned by the Lord to do. Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke at this point (in verse 10 he wrote “we”), along with other faithful teachers of the word, went and helped people with their greatest need. They helped and blessed them spiritually by teaching them the message of salvation.

Please read Acts 16:14-21 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 15:36-41

Saturday, January 23, 2016

“After some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Sometimes even the best of friends and most godly of brethren can have “sharp disagreements” (verse 39). This does not necessarily mean that one is right and the other is wrong. Sometimes good people just see things differently. The contention between Paul and Barnabas was obviously the result of personal judgment and not issues concerning the truth of the Gospel. “Paul did not think it wise” to take along John Mark after he had abandoned them so quickly during their first preaching trip together (Acts 13:13).

I can personally understand the reasoning behind the firm stance that both of these good men took, even though an explanation for Mark’s departure is not revealed to us. I can see why Paul would be hesitant to take along someone who proved himself to be undependable on such a spiritually important and physically demanding venture. And I can also completely understand why Barnabas, who was given the name “the son of encouragement,” would want to give a fellow a second chance to make things right—Especially when it was his own cousin (Colossians 4:10).

The great thing about this distressing rift between two exceptional Christians is that everything turned out well in the end. It is obvious from the way that Paul wrote of Barnabas in 1 Corinthians 9:6 that he still considered him to be his companion in the faith; and Paul wrote that Mark was “useful to him” (2 Timothy 4:11), and called him a fellow worker who was an encouragement to him (Colossians 4:10-11). But even more importantly, God took a troubling situation and turned it into a blessing, like only He has the ability to consistently do. When Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas and both parties went their separate ways, the Lord then set two powerful tandems to work for the Gospel, covering twice as much territory then they originally would have been able to.

We surely do serve a powerful and awesome God who always makes things work out for the good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). “The Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you” (Deuteronomy 23:5).

Please Read Acts 16:1-13 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 15:22-35

Friday, January 22, 2016

“Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas—Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, and they sent this letter by them, ‘The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.’ So when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message. After they had spent time there, they were sent away from the brethren in peace to those who had sent them out. [But it seemed good to Silas to remain there.] But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching with many others also, the word of the Lord.”

---End of Scripture verses---

The leaders of the Jerusalem Conference decided to write a letter addressing the conclusions they arrived at from their meeting. They sent this letter by the hands of some chosen men to the Christians living in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. Aside from the obvious facts of its contents, there are some important biblical principles that we can learn from this important letter.

Acts 15:24 – “Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls.” There is a very important biblical truth revealed in this short statement. We learn here that if “no instruction” has been given by God on an issue or a practice, then we have no right to do it. Some people were insisting that Gentiles needed to be circumcised in order to be saved, but this command didn’t come from God or any of His authorized ambassadors (the Apostles). God has told us clearly through Holy Spirit inspiration what people need to do to be saved. To acquire salvation, people must hear the Gospel (Romans 10:14-17), believe in Jesus (John 3:16), confess that belief before others (Romans 10:9-10); repent of their sins (Acts 2:38), and be baptized in order to have those sins forgiven (Mark 16:16). No other instructions concerning the acquisition of salvation have been given. Since those steps have been specified through divine inspiration, no other step is required—Including circumcision.

This is an issue of authority—Of the importance of trying to determine what we are and are not authorized to do when it comes to matters of “religion”. When trying to determine what the Bible authorizes us to do as we worship and serve God in Christ’s church, we often refer to the concept as “the silence of the Scriptures”. Where nothing is “instructed” or written on a spiritual matter, nothing has been authorized by God. Respecting the silence of the Scriptures is a matter of taking our determination very seriously to respect and obey God and His absolute authority over our lives and in Christ’s church. We simply cannot add things to God’s perfect plan if we desire to please Him, even if we like them very much and they seem harmless on the surface (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18). If God hasn’t authorized a belief or a practice then we should want no part of it.

This is the exact reason why members of the church of Jesus Christ should not offer worship to God with manmade instruments of music. Worshiping God with manmade musical instruments is very much like circumcision. Both of these actions were authorized in the Old Testament as requirements for God’s people under that covenant to be saved and worship Him correctly. But, in the same way that circumcision is no longer sanctioned as a requirement for salvation, worshiping with mechanical instruments is no longer authorized as well. Look all the way through your New Testament, from cover to cover, and you will find “no instruction” given for Christians to worship God with manmade instruments in His church. You will also find no examples of this or inferences that can be drawn for their approval either. What you find very clearly and simply are “instructions” (commands) to sing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). The “instruments” that we are authorized to use when we worship God are our lips (Hebrews 13:15), our voices and our hearts. Vocal music has been specified and no other instruction has been given. It is very clear from New Testament revelation that God commands us to sing and only sing when we worship Him.

I know this is a very unpopular biblical stance and that many do not agree with this conclusion. I respect everyone’s views and judgments on this and any other biblical issue. But I would urge all of us to make it our number one desire in life to do just what God wants us to do, and that requires a good appreciation for, and understanding of the subject of authority. 2 Corinthians 5:9 urges us to make it our main ambition in life to be pleasing to God. And please remember that just because it was a requirement to do something in the Old Testament, that doesn’t necessarily make it okay for us to do the same thing in Christ’s church today. Keep in mind that we do not offer animal sacrifices, burn incense, worship God in a tabernacle or temple, etc., even though God’s people did these things under a previous covenant. The Old Testament still serves a very important purpose for us today. It was written for our learning, instruction and encouragement (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11), but we are not bound by its authority today for our religious practices.

One other thing about what is written in verses 28-29 before we close. “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.” The letter that was written in Jerusalem said that these things were revealed by the Holy Spirit and that they were “essentials” (or “necessary” or “requirements” depending on the Bible version you are using). That’s why many people believe that it still is, and always will be, forbidden for Christians to eat food that has been offered to idols, and consume animal blood. I respect and understand this reasoning, and I honestly am not sure why anyone would want to do these things anyway. Where these issues can become more problematic is in cultures that differ from ours. No matter where we live or what the cultural norms are, however; pleasing God and staying pure in His sight is the most important thing we can do in our lives.

Please read Acts 15:36-41 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 15:13-21

Thursday, January 21, 2016

“After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, ‘Brethren, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, “After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago. Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

---End of Scripture verses---

After Peter spoke in defense of the Gentile converts, that they need not obey the Law of Moses to be right with God, Paul and Barnabas and James took their turns speaking to the same effect. Paul and Barnabas recounted the many conversions they had made from the Gentile ranks, and the implication was that all this was done without the requirement of circumcision or with keeping any other aspect of the Law of Moses (verse 12). Then James quoted Amos 9:11-12 as a single example of the many Old Testament prophecies that foretold of God’s acceptance of the Gentiles (verses 12-18). He then concluded that the non-Jewish converts to Christ should not be “troubled” with a law that had no spiritual or cultural bearing on their lives.

But what about the prohibitions suggested by James and accepted by the conference in verse 20? This seems like a strange list of restrictions, some of which obviously have their basis from the Law of Moses. In that verse, James suggested, “that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.”

Why prohibit “things contaminated by idols”? The Apostle Paul would later write under inspiration that “food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat” (1 Corinthians 8:8). But he also wrote in the very next verse, “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1Corinthians 8:9). Even though an idol is nothing (1 Corinthians 8:1) and food is just food, as Christians we must give consideration to the effect that our actions have on other people, especially other Christians. Since eating idol meat was and is a very offensive thing to many Jewish Christians, avoiding such food was in the best interest of the body of Christ as a whole. And also, the safest thing for former idol worshippers to do was to completely sever themselves from the temptations that come from those practices and that lifestyle, once they came to Christ.

What about abstaining from fornication? Shouldn’t that just have been a given? When a person dedicates His life to God through Jesus Christ, spiritual purity is of the utmost importance. Well, unfortunately this truth just isn’t as completely obvious to some people as it should be, especially to people who lived in a society that was steeped in sexual immorality. One of the slogans of the citizens of Corinth was that fornication was just as appropriate for the human body as food was appropriate for the stomach (1 Corinthians 6:13-14). Fornication was also an integral part of the pagan systems of worship during this era. It just needed to be impressed upon the minds of Gentile converts that those old habits and practices and customs have no place in the life of a child of God.

And finally, “things strangled and from blood.” From what I understand, the prohibition from eating animals that had been strangled results from the blood remaining in the body. There were proper ways to kill animals, but any way that allowed the blood to remain in the carcass was a problem because there was/is a prohibition against consuming animal blood. This was a law given by God that predates the Law of Moses and can be found all the way back in Genesis 9:4, immediately after Noah’s flood. Some people believe this law will remain in place until the end of time and some believe it ended at the cross of Christ. I won’t argue the matter one way or the other; but I do know that, once again, eating animal blood was and still is a very repulsive thing to many Jewish people. It is my person conviction that, excluding the injunction against fornication, the other three prohibitions were made more as concessions given to the Jewish Christians than they necessarily were prohibitions given for all time and in every situation. It would have been the height of foolishness to just disregard every issue that was repugnant to the mind of Jewish Christians and then expect there to be peace in the body of Christ that intermingled both Jew and Gentile.

The lesson for us? We simply must give consideration to the convictions and sentiments of our fellow Christians in order to live in love and harmony with them—As long as those convictions and sentiments are not sinful and do not go against the doctrine of Christ in any way (2 John 1:9).

Please read Acts 15:22-35 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 15:1-12

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

“Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.’ The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, ‘Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.’ All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.”

---End of Scripture verses---

We have here a clear case of converts resisting the apostolic authority of both Paul and Peter. Both of these inspired ambassadors knew by revelation of the Holy Spirit that Gentiles didn’t need to be circumcised to be saved. But many of the Jewish converts were so adamant about this error that it was decided that the apostles and church leaders should convene in Jerusalem to settle the matter once and for all. If you believe the apostle Paul described the events of the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council in Galatians 2:1-10, as I believe, then this meeting was actually appointed by divine revelation (Galatians 2:2). God Himself arranged this gathering of inspired men and leaders of influence to remove all doubt, and to establish the truth once and for all that circumcision is not a requirement for salvation.

But even more than that, some of the Pharisee converts insisted that, “it is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses” (verse 5). It was also concluded at the Jerusalem Conference that honoring any or all of the Law of Moses is not a requirement for salvation as well. Peter, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit said, “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (verse 10) The Law of Moses was a cumbersome burden that has been once for all time removed by “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2). Anyone who claims that Christians must observe the Law of Moses in order to be pleasing to God must dismiss what is clearly stated by the inspired writers of the New Testament.

Some religious groups even go so far as to teach that the Jews and the Gentiles have two different sets of laws governing them under the umbrella of the New Testament. This couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Peter went on to say in verse 11, “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” All people are saved in exactly the same way under God’s covenant with mankind through Jesus. We are all saved by obedient faith. There is no longer any distinction between Jews and Gentiles in the eyes of God (verse 9). We are all the same and we are all held to the same standard of authority. Jewish converts are not required to observe the Law of Moses in order to be saved in Christ Jesus, even though we read that many of them continued to observe parts of that law in keeping with the customs of their people and culture. They were allowed to keep much of the law for reasons of conscience and custom, but not bind those things upon others for salvation (Romans 14:5-6; 1 Corinthians 9:18-23).

Please read Acts 15:13-21 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor 

Acts 14:19-28

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’ When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. They passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they spent a long time with the disciples.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Verse 19 – “But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.” Isn’t it amazing how fickle people can be sometimes? One moment they were calling Paul a god and trying to offer sacrifices to him (verse 18); the Next they were hurling stones at him, dragging him out of their city and leaving him for dead. Obviously this is an example of two extremes, but bad things happen when we place our focus on human beings rather than on God. First, the people of Lystra were blown away by the things that Paul and Barnabas did. Then they were easily turned in the opposite direction and worked into a violent fury by a bunch of ungodly instigators. It is always better to follow the will of God than the will of the people. God will never lead you in the wrong direction or incite you to do harm to other people.

Verses 21-22 – “After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’” How many of us would willingly go back to a city in which an angry mob had recently tried in earnest to kill us? Well that’s exactly what Paul did when he returned to the city of Lystra. But the Apostle Paul had more concern for the wellbeing of the new converts there than he did for his own safety. There was a multitude of reasons to stay away from that place, but there were also many good reasons to return. There were young Christians there who needed their souls strengthened and their faith encouraged; and Paul and Barnabas were not about to turn their backs on them and leave them to fend for themselves in the hour of their greatest need. It is not always easy to do the right things. It is not always easy to be a faithful Christian. Sometimes we must endure “many tribulations” in order to serve God steadfastly. It is always more than worth it.

Verse 23 – “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” These cities where new churches had recently been planted also needed appropriate leadership for spiritual guidance, service and protection. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each of the congregations that they had recently help to establish. It is God’s will, and a part of His perfect plan for His people, to have qualified men serving as elders at each local church of Jesus Christ. We read about the qualifications of these men in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Always a plurality (more than one) in each congregation. Always men. Always married. Always having children of their own. In God’s perfect plan, apostles were not always going to be a living part of the leadership of His church. God ordained that godly men should serve as elders/shepherds/bishops, leading His people steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42).

Please read Acts 15:1-12 for tomorrow.

Have a great day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 14:1-18

Monday, January 18, 2016

“In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren. Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them, they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region; and there they continued to preach the gospel. At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And he leaped up and began to walk. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have become like men and have come down to us.’ And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.’ Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Verse 3 – “Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.” We’ve addressed this subject before, but this verse tells us exactly what the purpose of miracles was. When men endowed with gifts of the Holy Spirit performed miracles, it was to “testify to” or “confirm” the message they were teaching (Mark 16:15-18; Hebrews 2:3-4). Miraculous gifts were used as confirmation for the speaker and validation that what he was speaking was the truth. Since God has given us the Bible in its perfect, completed form, there is no need for a continuation of the use of miracles as a source of confirmation (John 20:30-31; 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; 2 Peter 1:1-3).

Verse 11 – “When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have become like men and have come down to us.’” When the idolatrous people of Lystra witnessed the healing that Paul performed on a lame man, they definitely received the wrong message. Instead of seeing the miracle as proof that they should listen up to the message that he was bringing them, they saw it as evidence that Paul and Barnabas were gods that had come to earth in the form of men. It took all their power of persuasion just to keep the people from offering sacrifices to them (verse 18).

Verse 15 – “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” Paul adamantly insisted that God had sent him to teach them to abandon these very practices that they were wasting their time with. It is the height of foolishness to offer sacrifices to lifeless idols and feckless humans, and refuse to honor and worship the ever-living, all-powerful Creator of the universe.

Verse 17 – “Yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." It is the God of heaven who gives us every good thing in our lives. He provides us with all of our physical needs, and gives us all the things that produce gladness within our hearts. Most importantly of all, He gave us the best gift of heaven when He sent Jesus to this earth to live and die and arise for us. God alone, through His Son Jesus Christ, gives us spiritual hope and blessings that extend beyond life on planet Earth. Because of what Jesus did, we have the hope of an eternity in heaven if we remain faithful to Him.

The living God of heaven is the only one deserving of our greatest love and our truest devotion. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

Please read Acts 14:19-28 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 13:44-52

Sunday, January 17, 2016

“The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, “I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, that You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.”’ When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

---End of Scripture verses---

“When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (verse 48). This is one of the favorite verses of the people who believe that God predestines certain individuals to be saved and predestines all others to be lost. When Paul referenced Isaiah 49:6 and said, “I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the end of the earth,” the Gentiles who heard this were jubilant. As many of them who had been “appointed to eternal life believed.” But how had they been appointed to eternal life? Was this something that God did against their will? And since God “desires all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4), is this something that God did against His OWN will? Of course the answer to both these questions is “NO”.

First lets consider what Paul said to the Jews in the audience who were “contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming” (verse 45). Paul told these rebellious people that, “you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life” (verse 46). These people judged themselves unworthy of the message that Paul had been preaching to them, so they were rejected by God. They were lost because of their own faithless hearts and shameful actions, not because God had determined before time that those individuals would be lost. They put themselves in that dreadful position because of their thoughts and their behavior. The same is true with the receptive Gentiles in the audience. When they heard the inspired revelation of God, they “began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord” (verse 48). The difference between those who were accepted (appointed) and those who were rejected was the condition of their hearts. The receptive Gentiles “heard the word in an honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15). The soil was primed and ready for the seed of the word of God, and it produced much fruit.

The only thing predetermined by God is that only people with willing and receptive hearts can come to Him, because only those kinds of people are going to be properly affected by the living word of God. We read a similar statement in John 1:11-12 that makes this truth much more clear. “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” Receiving the word of God is what “gives you the right” to become children of God. That is the precondition. The thing that has been “preordained” by God is not the individual person. It is the type of heart that is necessary to receive His word of salvation.

One other point on this subject. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13:1, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” That word “established” or maybe “ordained” in your version of the Bible, is the exact same word rendered “appointed” in Acts 13:48. Does anyone believe that God predetermines who the individual government officials are for each principality in the world? If so, does that mean that God hand-selected Adolph Hitler to be ruler over Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s? Well of course He didn’t do that. God established governmental rule, but He doesn’t choose the maniacs who sometimes ascend to places of preeminence. In the same way, God has foreordained a plan for mankind to be saved, but He doesn’t handpick the people would will choose to believe and obey that plan. We all have been given the free will to accept God’s offer or to reject it. The choice is always up to us!

Consider the invitation of Jesus himself: “Come to Me, ALL who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." The invitation is for ALL. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Please read Acts 14:1-18 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 13:32-43

Saturday, January 16, 2016

“‘And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, “You are My Son; today I have begotten You.” As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: “I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.” Therefore He also says in another Psalm, “You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you: “Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish; For I am accomplishing a work in your days, a work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you.”’ As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Just as Peter had done on the day of Pentecost, Paul impressed upon the minds of his Jewish and proselyte audience that Jesus had arisen from the dead (Acts 2:24-26). The resurrection of the crucified Messiah is the linchpin of the whole Bible. The Old Testament prophets had prophesied that Jesus would not “undergo decay” (Psalm 16:18-11), and the New Testament teachers and writers repeatedly stressed the importance of the Jesus’ resurrection. All of God’s promises concerning rescuing His people and blessing all the families of the earth were fulfilled in that one momentous, triumphant achievement (Acts 13:32). Yes, it is true that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had taken Jesus and killed him because of their envy and wickedness of heart (Acts 13:27-28); but this was all done in accordance with the predetermined plan of God (Acts 2:23). And even though they killed Him and “laid Him in a tomb” (Acts 13:29), God did not allow death to corrupt the flesh of His Only Begotten Son or the grave to keep hold of the King of glory.

Paul warned his listeners in verses 40-41, “Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you: ‘Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish; for I am accomplishing a work in your days, a work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you.’” Paul quoted Habakkuk 1:5 to warn them not to be as hard-hearted and unbelieving as their ancestors had been. Habakkuk had admonished Israel that they would be defeated by Babylon because of their unfaithfulness, and the people scoffed at the appalling thought of falling into the hands of those uncircumcised heathens. The biggest obstacle to obedient faith for the Jews in Paul’s day was believing that Jesus was the Christ. That the Messiah actually had to be killed in order to ascend His throne, and that Jesus had actually arisen from the grave and was sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven, reigning as Supreme Ruler over His spiritual kingdom.

As the synagogue services broke up for the day, many of the goodhearted Jews and Gentile converts followed after Paul and Barnabas, wanting to hear and learn more of the truth (Acts 13:43). Those two men encouraged them to “continue in the grace of the Lord” until they assembled again on the next Sabbath day when Paul would address them again (Acts 13:44). We get no indication that these people had obeyed the Gospel and received God’s SAVING grace at that particular point. When Paul encouraged them to continue in God’s grace, I believe he was telling them to continue to study the Old Testament Scriptures in order to verify the truth of what he had just taught them; and to continue to believe and cling to that truth. In Acts 20:24, the same Apostle Paul referred to God’s word as “the gospel of the grace of God.” Grace is unmerited favor. God has given His word to mankind as an act of grace, and within that powerful message is revealed all of the good things that God has done for us and promises to do for us if we are faithful to Him. All of these temporal and eternal blessings are unearned gifts from God. Paul wanted these believers to continue in that grace from that point onward. He urged them to hold on to that truth and cling to it until they had acquired salvation, and then remain faithful to God even until the end of their lives. Nothing less is expected of us!

Please read Acts 13:44-52 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 13:13-31

Friday, January 15, 2016

“Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem. But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, ‘Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.’ Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, ‘Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it. For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness. When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance—all of which took about four hundred and fifty years. After these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.” From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And while John was completing his course, he kept saying, “What do you suppose that I am? I am not He. But behold, one is coming after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.” ‘Brethren, sons of Abraham’s family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him. And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead; and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

A few observations:

“Paul and his company” (verse 13) – Paul has clearly been given the position of prominence by the writer from this point onward. In verses 2 and 7 we read about the things that “Barnabas and Saul” were doing. After the events that unfolded at Paphos on the Island of Cyprus (verses 6-12), Paul is no longer referred to as Saul, and he is recognized as the leader of the group by his words and actions.

Paul gives his Jewish audience a history report (verses 17-22) – Just like Peter (Acts 2) and Stephen (Acts 7) who taught before him, the Apostle Paul used a tried and true, effective technique to get the attention of his patriotic audience, and open a doorway to the hearts of potential converts. It is either appropriate or ironic, depending on the way you look at it, that Paul followed in the footsteps of the first martyr of the faith; the very one who, as he was being stoned, Paul assented to the death of and held the coats of the men committing the murder (Acts 7:58; 8:1). (Okay Jerri Wold Caliguiri I am ready for a grammar lesson on the best way to phrase that last improper sentence!)

Verses 22-31 – From the historical vantage point of King David, Paul preached Jesus unto them. Jesus was the One in whom God fulfilled all the promises that He had made from Abraham to David. In Jesus God blessed all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3), and in Jesus God raised up a King to sit on the throne of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Psalm 132:11). When God speaks it is always the truth, and when God makes a promise it is always fulfilled. The problem has never been with God’s word or with His plan. The trouble with mankind is that most people don’t take the time to know Him, and don’t make the effort to learn His will (verse 27).

Please read Acts 13:32-43 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 13:1-12

Thursday, January 14, 2016

“Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him, and said, ‘You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.’ And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Acts chapter 13 begins what most people refer to as the first “missionary trip” of the Apostle Paul. It is hard to overestimate the importance of the preaching tours undertaken by Paul and his various companions. Obviously all teaching of the truth is of vital importance, and the power to accomplish much good resides in the word, not necessarily in the human vessels that carry the message (Philippians 1:18). But these undertakings by Paul, as directed by the Holy Spirit, are of such extreme significance that the Spirit inspired Luke to dedicate nearly two-thirds of the book of Acts to the coverage of them.

Verses 1-3 tell us that the church in Antioch “set apart” Saul and Barnabas for the work that the Holy Spirit had called them to do. There is a lot in this “separation” that is not specifically clarified, such as the purpose for the two separate fasts, and just who the men were that laid hands on Barnabas and Saul before they set out on their journey. One thing is clear, however—this “laying on of hands” was not to impart miraculous spiritual gifts to these two men. Barnabas and Saul were obviously not lacking anything they needed in that regard. The only times that this action involved a supernatural endowment is when the Apostles laid their hands on Christians for that express purpose of conveying some special gifts (Acts 8:17-19; 19:6). The majority of the other times the term is used, it is merely an expression of approval for a person or the activities that they are involved in (1 Timothy 5:22).

On the Island of Cyprus, after Barnabas and Saul preached the Gospel in the synagogues of the Jews, Luke records the first incident of interest that they encountered. In the city of Paphos, the regional governor, Sergius Paulus, summoned Barnabas and Saul for the express purpose of hearing the word of God (verse 7). The proconsul demonstrated that he was a man of intelligence (verse 7) by doing this, even though he was foolish enough to have a fraud of a magician as his consultant (verse 10). When Paul (as Saul is referred to from this point onward) temporarily blinded Elymas, God removed another serious obstacle to the spread of the Good News, and confirmed the truthfulness of the word of salvation. Because of what he saw and what he heard, the Sergius Paulus believed the truth.

Please read Acts 13:13-31 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 12:20-25

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

“Now he was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; and with one accord they came to him, and having won over Blastus the king’s chamberlain, they were asking for peace, because their country was fed by the king’s country. On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. The people kept crying out, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!’ And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark.”

---End of Scripture verses---

For some unrecorded reason, the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon had strained relations with King Herod Agripp I of Judea. Today’s text tells us that “their country was fed by the king’s country” (verse 20). Their dependence upon the king’s support may have been intensified by the famine that had struck the Roman Empire (Acts 11:28), although I’m not certain about the timing. If so, they would have been that much more eager to make amends with ruler that fed them. When Herod arrived at Caesarea (verse 19), they seized upon the opportunity to shower the vain king with flattery (verse 21). Because of the work of the historian Flavius Josephus, we actually have corroboration of this very incident from secular history. Josephus wrote in “Antiquities of the Jews” the following:

“Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea he came to the city Caesarea, which was formerly called Strato's Tower; and there he exhibited spectacles in honor of Caesar, for whose well-being he'd been informed that a certain festival was being celebrated. At this festival a great number were gathered together of the principal persons of dignity of his province. On the second day of the spectacles he put on a garment made wholly of silver, of a truly wonderful texture, and came into the theater early in the morning. There the silver of his garment, being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun's rays, shone out in a wonderful manner, and was so resplendent as to spread awe over those that looked intently upon him. Presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another, (though not for his good) that he was a god; and they added, "Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.”

When Herod accepted the kind of glory and praise that is reserved only for God Almighty, the Lord struck him dead. There is no reason to assume from the text that God killed the arrogant king on the spot. Verse 23 says “immediately an angel of the Lord struck him…” According to Josephus, “A severe pain arose in his belly, striking with a most violent intensity.” Evidently the angel struck him with a severe illness which caused him great suffering, and he died shortly thereafter. Josephus tells us that he passed away five days later. Many sources think the worms that ate him up were maggots in his groin area. Maybe the reference is made to worms that would have eaten his cadaver after his death. Of that I am not certain.

One thing I know for certain is that God eliminated a serious threat to the wellbeing of His kingdom when He extracted Herod from the earth. The wicked king had already killed the Apostle James with the sword (verse 2) and intended to do the same with the Apostle Peter. Killing with the sword most likely refers to beheading. The Lord put an end to the king’s arrogance and wickedness and removed a dangerous obstacle to the progress of the church of Christ. Verse 24 tells us, “The word of the Lord continued to grow and be multiplied.”

Please read Acts 13:1-12 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 12:1-19

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

“Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, ‘Gird yourself and put on your sandals.’ And he did so. And he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. When Peter came to himself, he said, ‘Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’ And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, ‘It is his angel.’ But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, ‘Report these things to James and the brethren.’ Then he left and went to another place. Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers as to what could have become of Peter. When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there.”

---End of Scripture verses---

With the killing of James, the church suffered its second prominent martyrdom and the loss of its first inspired apostle. We are not told the reason why Herod (Agrippa I) put one of the sons of thunder to death, but the result pleased him so much that he quickly set his sights on Peter. Herod may have been poised to take the leaders of the church out one by one, and, but for God’s intervention, he may have succeeded. He had Peter arrested and was just waiting until Passover was finished to put him to death to the further delight of Jews that hated Jesus (verse 3).

Herod was very serious about taking Peter out and he took no chances that he might escape before his execution (verses 4-6). He put Peter in prison and set 16 armed soldiers in strategic locations to watch over him. He even had Peter chained between two of the guards as he slept through the night. Maybe Herod had heard that the Apostles had escaped imprisonment before (Acts 5:17-20), and he was determined to not have that happen on his watch. Unfortunately for Herod, he never learned the lesson that when you battle against God, even impossible things can happen, and you have zero chances of winning that fight.

“So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church of God” (verse 5). I wonder what the nature of those prayers was? Were the Christians praying for the strength of Peter’s faith, that he would remain loyal to Christ to the bitter end? If they were praying that he would be spared from the sword and delivered unto them once again, they obviously didn’t expect God to deliver. The brethren who had been praying at Mary’s house were so incredulous when Rhoda said that Peter was at the door that they accused her of being out of her mind (verses 13-15).

Brethren in Christ, prayer is a very powerful weapon against the forces of Satan. If we don’t believe that God can deliver on the things that we request of Him, then we take the spiritual legs right out from underneath our own prayers. It is very understandable that these brethren prayed for the best and expected the worst. They had certainly prayed earnestly for James as well, only to see him murdered by wicked and perverse men. But when we pray to God, we should not be driven to a state of utter disbelief when God answers “Yes” to those prayers. We serve a mighty and awesome God. Prayer works. Prayer can accomplish great things (James 5:15-16). Pray to Him often. Pray for the best and prepare for the worst. But pray with faith unwavering. And whatever the result may be, glorify God that His will is being done. I don’t know why it was God’s will to allow James to be killed and then to spare Peter. And I don’t know why God sometimes allows bad things to happen to us. But I do know this much: God is still there. God is still all-powerful. And God always hears and answers the prayers of His faithful people.

Please read Acts 12:20-25 for tomorrow. And pray!

Have a blessed day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 11:19-30

Monday, January 11, 2016

“So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.”

---End of Scripture verses---

The Gospel continued to spread as a direct result of the persecution of Christians that began with the murder of Stephen (verse 19); and also because of the recognition that uncircumcised men were welcome by the Lord into His church (verse 20). When the Apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem heard of the great success with which the Gospel was spreading to the north, they sent Barnabas to the church in Antioch to help out the brethren there. It is no wonder that they sent Barnabas for this mission and it is no mystery what they sent the “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36) to do.

When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, “he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with a resolute heart to remain true to the Lord” (verse 23). Sadly, babes in Christ sometimes fall away from the Lord shortly after they turn to Him in obedient belief. At times the difficulties of discipleship and human weakness overwhelm young converts, and accost their faith, and they may be tempted to abandon their conviction to follow Jesus. Quite often the difference between a fledgling disciple taking flight or falling flat is the encouragement that he does or does not receive from his brethren. Young Christians need the edification of elder statesmen and the courage that can be instilled within them by the kind and confident exhortations of veterans of the fight of faith.

It takes “a resolute heart” to remain faithful to the Lord. It is not always fun and it is not always easy to stay true to Jesus to the end, but it is always rewarding and always worth it. It takes diligence and determination to see the race through to the finish line, but God has promised us that He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5); and that He will help us if we are making the effort (Philippians 2:12). Even if all your friends abandon you and all your brethren let you down, God is always faithful and true. But remember that it takes faithfulness unto death to receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10). God rewards those believe in Him and seek Him with all diligence (Hebrews 11:6).

“The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (verse 26). There is some uncertainty as to whether this name was adopted by the disciples themselves or given in a derisive manner by their enemies. It doesn’t matter one way or the other. This is a glorious named to be called by. To be a Christians is to be a follower of Christ. To be a Christian is to be Christ-like. It is to obey His commandments and follow His example. To be a Christian is to wear the name of Christ. “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16).

Please read Acts 12:1-19 or tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 11:1-18

Sunday, January 10, 2016

“Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.’ But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, saying, ‘I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came right down to me, 6and when I had fixed my gaze on it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But I said, “By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” But a voice from heaven answered a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” This happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into the sky. And behold, at that moment three men appeared at the house in which we were staying, having been sent to me from Caesarea. The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings. These six brethren also went with me and we entered the man’s house. And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, “Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.” And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?’ When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

When the brethren in the Jerusalem church asked Peter why he “went to uncircumcised men and ate with them (verse 3), he recounted the story of the conversion of Cornelius and his Gentile companions to them. Just a couple of observations about some of the details of Peter’s meeting with the apostles and brethren in Jerusalem.

Acts 11:14 – We learn that the angel told Cornelius that Peter would “speak words to you by which you will be saved.” God has chosen to make salvation available to mankind through inspired words. Any “salvation experience” that takes place apart from revelation from the mind of God is not authentic. Some people are convinced that the Holy Spirit “moved” upon them and saved them apart from anything they had learned or personally did in response to God’s inspired word. Notice though that Cornelius and the people with him were not saved by the Holy Spirit “falling” on them (Acts 10:44). That action happened in tandem with Peter speaking the Gospel of salvation to them to divinely demonstrate that they should be baptized and be saved (Mark 16:16; Acts 10:47-48). The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The power of God to save our souls is packed within His living word and only obedience to it can produce salvation (Hebrews 5:8-9).

Acts 11:18 – “When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’” I love the fact that these men glorified God when they understood that He accepted the Gentiles into the body of Christ. No matter what kind of preconceived notions they may have had, and no matter how long it took them to come to the realization of this truth; when they were made aware of it they celebrated it. I also appreciate the fact that they accepted Peter’s word as truth and used logic to come to the proper conclusion. They trusted the inspired apostle’s description of the events without having to “see it to believe it.” When we read the inspired word today it should be good enough for us as well. We shouldn’t require some type of “miraculous intervention” to learn and do the will of God. We should be satisfied with God’s chosen method of speaking to us through the Bible, and just humbly and obediently do whatever He tells us to do.

For tomorrow please read Acts 11:19-30.

Hope you have a blessed Lord’s Day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 10:34-48

Saturday, January 09, 2016

“Opening his mouth, Peter said: ‘I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)—you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem.

They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.’ While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, ‘Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?’ And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Acts 10:34-35 – “Opening his mouth, Peter said: ‘I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.’” Peter began speaking the words of salvation to this predominantly Gentile audience by telling them that even HIS understanding of the truth had been incomplete. God showed Peter in a vision that Christ successfully tore down the dividing wall of partition that kept Jew and Gentile separated (verses 9-16; Ephesians 2:14). In God’s eyes there is no difference. People are just people and they all sin. Any person who has reverence for God and is willing to turn from his unrighteousness and obediently follow Jesus (verse 36), that person is welcome to God. God does not show partiality to people based on any physical basis, including Jewish people. Only spiritual qualifications must be met.

Acts 10:44 – “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.” If it seems odd to you that the Holy Spirit “fell” on people who had yet to become Christians, there is a very good reason for that. This was most definitely not the norm. The standard procedure was for the Apostles to lay their hands on some converts to impart certain miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit after they believed and obeyed the Gospel (Acts 8:14-17; 19:1-7). But Acts 10 was a very peculiar situation that served a very particular purpose. God was showing Peter and his Jewish companions that the Gentiles were acceptable to Him, and that they should not be excluded from the kingdom of Christ.

Holy Spirit baptism was not an every day occurrence and it is not used by God to accomplish His will today. Unless you include the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus when He was baptized by John (Matthew 3:13-17), it is only recorded in the Bible as having happened one other time. The 12 Apostles were baptized by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost around ten years earlier, and that also was for a very unique purpose (Acts 2:1-4). This is why the Jews assembled at Cornelius’ house were so amazed (verse 45). Because the same thing that happened to the Apostles all those years ago had now been done to some Gentiles right before their very eyes (Acts 11:15-17). It is interesting to me that Peter mentioned in his sermon of Jesus that, “God had anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power” (verse 38). And then a little later the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentile listeners as well. What an impression this must have made on the Gentile recipients and on the Jewish witnesses! Mission accomplished!

Acts 10:46-47 – “Then Peter answered, ‘Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?’” With these words Peter stated the purpose for the Holy Spirit falling on the Gentiles who had gathered around him that day. This extraordinary event took place to remove all doubts from the minds of the Jewish witnesses that the Gentiles should be baptized into Christ in order to receive salvation. “And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (verse 48). The unique Holy Spirit baptism was administered to demonstrate that the typical water baptism should be administered. The first was impermanent, unusual and involuntary. The second is continual, common and compulsory (Ephesians 4:5).

Please read Acts 11:1-18 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

-Louie Taylor

Acts 10:21-33

Friday, January 08, 2016

“Peter went down to the men and said, ‘Behold, I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for which you have come?’ They said, ‘Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you.’ So he invited them in and gave them lodging. And on the next day he got up and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am just a man.’ As he talked with him, he entered and found many people assembled. And he said to them, ‘You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me.’ Cornelius said, ‘Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, and he said, “Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Therefore send to Joppa and invite Simon, who is also called Peter, to come to you; he is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea.” So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

Verses 25-26 – “When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am just a man.’” It may have been the case that Cornelius was merely practicing the Oriental custom of paying honor to a person of high esteem and not worshiping Peter is if he was God. Just the same, Peter put a halt to any kind of reverential homage. Peter was just a man and he was deserving of no such treatment and he knew it. Of course, every time I read these verses I am reminded of the Pope and the way that people bow down to him and fawn over him. If Peter had been the first Pope as many claim him to have been (which he obviously was not), he would certainly not approve of such behavior. Peter was actually hand-picked by Jesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit and divinely authorized to speak with the authority of Christ (none of which any Pope has ever been), and yet he knew his proper place. Human beings were created to offer worship to God, not receive it from their fellowmen.

Verse 28 – “And he said to them, ‘You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him.’” Whether or not this was the spirit and intent of the Law of Moses is arguable, but nowhere have I found the prohibition against “associating” or “visiting” with a Gentile in it. The Jews were commanded to not intermarry with the idolatrous peoples living in and near the land of Canaan, and to not practice their religious atrocities (Deuteronomy 7:3-12); and yet we know that they often did the very things that God demanded they not do. Maybe the Jews of Peter’s day were just trying to be overly cautious and not get caught up in the same snares and trip over the same stumbling blocks that their forefathers did.

Verse 33 – “Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” All uncertainty aside about some of the details of this passage, one thing is obvious and absolutely undeniable. Cornelius and his companions were primed and ready to hear the word of God. Not only were they eager to learn what God wanted them to know and do, they wanted to hear ALL of it! Cornelius didn’t have a complete understanding of the truth yet, but he possessed a keen awareness that the words he was about to hear amounted to the most important information that could fall upon human ears. Would to God that His covenant people would open up their Bibles and come to worship services with the same avid appetite and eager anticipation that Cornelius did in Acts chapter 10! It is an awesome blessing and privilege to not have to personally call for an apostle of Jesus Christ in order to hear the perfect word of God spoken and learn the truth. We have it readily at our disposal in our Bibles every minute of the day, and we can hear it taught every Lord’s Day by able-minded and dedicated Bible teachers and preachers in the Lord’s church.

Please avail yourselves!

Please Read Acts 10:34-48 for tomorrow.

God’s blessings.

- Louie Taylor

Acts 10:9-20

Thursday, January 07, 2016

“On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and[crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.’ Again a voice came to him a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’ This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky. Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon’s house, appeared at the gate; and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there. While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.”

---End of Scripture verses---

We are still reading about the details concerning the conversion of Cornelius and his relatives and close friends specifically (verse 24), and the acceptance of Gentiles into the community of faith in general. So when we read about Peter’s vision in today’s verses, it is pertinent to the larger context of this momentous time in church history. But I do want to be clear that no new truth was being taught here. Before His ascension into heaven, Jesus had told His apostles to go into all the world and teach the Gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15). Even Peter himself had said in that first inspired sermon that, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). The blessed Gospel has always been for all and Jesus died for the souls of all human beings.

Indeed, Gentiles were a part of the first 3,000 souls who were first added to the Lord’s church in Jerusalem. Acts 2:10 tells us that “both Jews and proselytes” were among God’s faithful gathered together on that Pentecost day. A proselyte was a Gentile who converted to Judaism. God was showing Peter in the vision of Acts chapter ten that a person didn’t need to convert to Judaism first in order to become a Christian; and He was helping him understand that, “God does not show partiality, but in every nation the man that fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (verses 34-35). God could have revealed this to him in a more direct manner, but He chose to use the immediate circumstances of Peter’s daily activities to illustrate this truth in a very impressive way.

Peter went up on the housetop to pray at “about the sixth hour,” or around 12 o’clock noon our time (verse 9). Good things happen when we set aside time and designate a place to be alone with God in prayer. When we choose to humble ourselves and deliberately come into God’s presence, we open ourselves up to His graces and make ourselves more receptive to His will. I am not saying that God reveals His will to us in prayer. He does that through the Bible. But in times of solemn supplication and quiet reflection the truth can crystalize and come more clearly into view in our minds eye. While Peter was in this submissive state of mind, God taught him a lesson in the form of a vision—sort of a living illustration.

While Peter was praying he became hungry (verse 10). God used this basic human desire to teach Peter that he should be sharing the Gospel with all of mankind—Jews and Gentiles alike. In this vision God showed Peter a large sheet, or blanket, filled with all types of animals being lowered down from heaven (verses 11-12). God told Peter to kill and eat of those animals to satisfy his hunger. Under the Law of Moses some animals were considered “unclean” and were forbidden for consumption (Deuteronomy 14:4-20). Obviously there were clean and unclean animals set before him in this spread. When Peter refused to eat an unclean animal God told him directly, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (verse 15).

Two truths really stand out from this scenario and from God’s words. First, even though Peter had continued to only eat animals categorized as “clean” under the Law of Moses, when that covenant was replaced by the New Covenant in Christ’s blood (Luke 22:20), all such regulations regarding food had been abolished (1 Timothy 4:3-5). If God still considers certain animals to be unclean then the larger truth taught by this illustration is meaningless. The larger truth is that, with Christ’s sacrifice, God has removed all distinction between Jew and Gentile. The Jews are no longer God’s special, covenant people (Galatians 3:28). Christians are (Romans 2:28-29). The only way a Jewish person can ever again be a part of God’s “holy nation” is if he converts to Christianity.

More on the conversion of Cornelius and his family and friends tomorrow. But just to clarify for today—God doesn’t use trances and visions and dreams to teach His will to people now. We must understand that it was in the infancy of the church in its formative years that God used these miraculous methods of revelation and teaching. Now we have all we need in the Bible to teach us God’s will and make us pleasing to Him (Hebrews 2:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Please read Acts 10:21-33 for tomorrow.

- Louie Taylor

Acts 10:1-8

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

“Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, ‘Cornelius!’ And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ And he said to him, ‘Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.’ When the angel who was speaking to him had left, he summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were his personal attendants, and after he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Inasmuch as the book of Acts is largely a record of conversions, it might come as a surprise that a man of the caliber of Cornelius was in need of being converted. It is said of Cornelius that he was “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually” (verse 2). If you were to ask the typical person walking down the street, or sitting in a church pew for that matter, if Cornelius was in a right relationship with God, I think the answer would be a resounding, “Yes!” He possessed all the qualities and performed all the services that people would associate with eternal salvation. And yet Acts chapter 10 is an account of the conversion of Cornelius and some of his family and countrymen. If merely being a good person was enough for someone’s name to be written in the book of life, then Cornelius was certainly written at the top of the first page! And yet he still needed to hear words by which he and his household must be saved (Acts 11:14), and he need to act on those words.

Verse 1 reads, “Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort.”      A cohort was a regiment of the Roman military. It has been estimated that in the first century a Roman legion totaled about six thousand soldiers, and each legion had ten cohorts consisting of about six hundred soldiers each. Each cohort was divided into centuries, or 100’s. Each one of those centuries was commanded by a centurion who was roughly the equivalent to a sergeant in our military. These can be interesting details (and hopefully accurate!), but the pertinent fact that the Holy Spirit is drawing our attention to is that Cornelius was a Gentile. Up until this point in the history of Christ’s church and the narrative of the book of Acts, only Jewish people had been taught the Gospel and converted to Christ. The word was now going into uncharted territory and this was such a unique situation that God chose to use the intervention of an angel to usher in this new era of church history (verse 3).

Lord willing, we will look further into the conversion of Cornelius. For now just know that, even though he was a good-deed-doing, God-fearing man, he was not yet a Christian. He still needed to hear the truth about Jesus and obey the Gospel in order to be saved.

For tomorrow please read Acts 10:9-20. God bless.

- Louie Taylor

Acts 9:32-43

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

“Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed.’ Immediately he got up. And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, ‘Do not delay in coming to us.’ So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And Peter stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon.”

---End of Scripture verses---

With “the church throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria” enjoying peace (verse 31), the Apostle Peter seized upon the opportunity to travel through all these areas and teach the Gospel (verse 32). The latter two-thirds of the book of Acts focus heavily upon the deeds and teaching of the Apostle Paul. In chapters nine through eleven, an interlude between Saul’s (Paul’s) conversion and the dispatch of his apostolic duties, we are reminded that Peter was heavily involved in the work of the Lord as well. We do well to remember that the book of Acts is really only an account of “some of the acts of some of the apostles.” Luke didn’t record all of the endeavors of the all of the Lord’s ambassadors, but they all went about fulfilling Christ’s commandment to, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).

With the miracles that were done in the cities of Lydda and Joppa, we see a small sampling of the mighty works performed by the Lord through the hands of the Apostle Peter. In Lydda a man named Aeneas was healed who had lived in a state of paralysis for eight long years (verses 33-34); and in Joppa Peter actually raised a sister in Christ back to life who had passed away! These were truly amazing times and it thrills the heart to see the performance of these powerful deeds through the eyes of faith as we read these remarkable true stories. I love the detail that is given in the account of the raising of Tabitha. Verse 40 tells us that Peter sent the mourners out of the upper room where the body of the dearly departed had been laid. Then he knelt down and prayed. After that he turned to the body and spoke to it saying, “Tabitha arise”. “And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up.” Then Peter “gave her his hand and raised her up” (verse 41).

Friends, the events that are recorded in the Bible really happened! These were real people with real problems and the Lord actually intervened in their lives! But more importantly, God brought eternal spiritual life to the people who believed in and obeyed Jesus! That was the main reason for these supernatural works in the first place. As amazing as it was that Tabitha arose from the dead, the reality is that at some point, she died again physically. But we have every reason to believe that as a faithful Christian, she lives on in eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ. These miracles were performed to instill faith in the hearts of the people who witnessed them and heard about them, so that they would turn to the Lord and be saved. “And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord” (verse 35). “It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord” (verse 42). What kind of troubles are you experiencing in your life right now? You just trust in the Lord and turn to Him in obedient faith and you can rest assured that He is going to make everything perfect for you in eternity! That is the message that we should take away from these readings!

Let’s read some more tomorrow! Acts 10:1-8. Hope you have a great day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 9:19-31

Monday, January 04, 2016

“And he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, ‘Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?’ But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket. When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death. But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus. So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.”

---End of Scripture verses---

It is safe to say that when Saul converted from Judaism to Christianity he did not experience a seamless transition.  After he switched sides, Saul promoted the cause of Christ with the same vigor in which he had just previously opposed it, and that earned him some bitter enemies. I am reminded of when a sports hero changes teams and is met with hostility and antagonism from the fans in his old home stadium when he visits with his new team. But when Saul switched sides, he wasn’t just greeted with a chorus of boos from his Jewish ex-brethren. Twice in today’s text we see that his former teammates plotted to kill him because of his defection (verses 24 and 29). Jesus had said that Saul would suffer much for His name’s sake (verse 16). The difficulties began early and came often, but they would not deter Saul from his new mission and life’s purpose.

The transition was not easy with Saul’s new brethren either. “When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple” (verse 26). You can understand the skepticism on the part of the Christians in the Jerusalem church. Saul had left the city with the determination to arrest and kill Christians living in Damascus (verses 1-2). Not many brethren were willing to just take his word for it that he had “seen the light.” Saul needed the support of a trusted and prominent church leader who could vouch for his conversion, and that’s where Barnabas factored in heavily. “But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus” (verse 27). Saul and Barnabas would go on to become a powerful tandem in the spreading of the Gospel and the salvation of souls.

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase” (verse 31). Because of the conversion of Saul and the encouragement of Barnabas, the church enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity. I love the idea of pairing together “the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.” We don’t normally associate fear with comfort. But when we learn to respectfully fear the Lord in all reverence and obedience, we will experience the kind of authentic peace and comfort that only He has the power to give to us.

Please read Acts 9:32-43 for tomorrow. God’s blessings.

- Louie Taylor

Acts 9:1-18

Sunday, January 03, 2016

“Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.’ The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.’ So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Saul was a man on a mission. He was driven with the intensity and relentlessness of the winds of a category five hurricane. Paul was determined to destroy the work of Christ Jesus and he pursued that purpose with all the energy he had within him. Until that fateful day on the Damascus road when he came face to face with the Lord that he was fighting against. This story never ceases to amaze me no matter how many dozens of times I read it. God took the church’s greatest nemesis and turned him into arguably its greatest champion. Saul was a marked man and he didn’t know it. Jesus had chosen him to do His work (verse 15), and I am convinced it was because He knew that Saul would pursue the truth with the same vigor that he sought to destroy it. Do we serve an awesome God or what?!

Since this is the story of the conversion of Saul, let’s consider the steps he took to be transferred from the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13). After appearing to Saul in a blinding light, Jesus told him to, “get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do” (verse 6). When Ananias came to Saul and placed his hands on him, Saul received his sight back (verses 17-18). But that’s what Ananias did, not what Saul did. Saul had been in a house in Damascus, where he hadn’t seen anything, eaten anything or drank anything for three days (verses 8-9). What was he engaged in during all that time? Jesus tells us in verse 11. Saul was doing a whole lot of praying. We aren’t told the subject matter of that prayer, but I think it’s safe to assume that he was sorry for what he had done and, at some point, he prayed to be forgiven. But at what point did he have his sins forgiven and acquire salvation? Not during his prayer. If anybody ever prayed “the sinner’s prayer” it would have been Saul! But God didn’t forgive Saul’s sins until he did what Jesus told him to do. Saul’s sins were forgiven when, “he got up and was baptized” (verse 18).

Ananias told Saul, “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).

Please read Acts 9:19-31 for tomorrow. Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 8:25-40

Saturday, January 02, 2016

“So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot.’ Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He does not open His mouth. In humiliation His judgment was taken away; who will relate His generation? for His life is removed from the earth.’ The eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Throughout the period of the establishment and the early expansion of the church of Christ we see the Lord’s perfect wisdom and timing. In God’s perfect plan He chose the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem where thousands of people were gathered from all over the world (Acts 2:8-11), to empower the Apostles to preach the Gospel by inspiration for the first time. Thousands of people were converted from that gathering and eventually many of them carried the message of truth back to their countries of origin. In today’s reading the Holy Spirit instructed Philip to teach the truth to a government official from Ethiopia who learned and obeyed the Gospel as he was traveling from Jerusalem back to the continent of Africa. God’s plan of salvation was on the move and no human scheme of intervention would stop it from spanning the globe.

When Philip caught up to the Eunuch’s chariot, he was reading the prophecy of the suffering Messiah in Isaiah chapter 53. From that scriptural starting point, Philip “preached Jesus to him” (verse 35). We are not given the details of the wording of that sermon, but one thing is revealed for certain. Preaching Jesus involves teaching baptism because the Eunuch was primed to be immersed (verse 36). After they stopped the chariot and they both went down into the water and Philip baptized the man, they both went their separate ways. Philip travelled on through other cities preaching the word (verse 40), and the Eunuch went on his way rejoicing (verse 39) as he journeyed back home.

Friends, there is no better feeling and no greater reason for rejoicing than when you have your sins washed away in the waters of baptism (Acts 21:16). At that point you are born again spiritually (John 3:5) and you arise from the waters to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-5). “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Please read Acts 9:1-18 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 8:1-24

Friday, January 01, 2016

“Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. So there was much rejoicing in that city. Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, ‘This man is what is called the Great Power of God.’ And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed. Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.’ But Simon answered and said, ‘Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

What a great passage to start the new year off with. Yes a general persecution of the church arose after the stoning of Stephen, and Saul was determined to destroy God’s people and thwart Christ’s mission on earth. But what was the result of those efforts? The Christians “who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (verse 4). What a tremendous testimony to the resolve of God’s people and the impact of His word when implanted deeply within good and honest hearts.

When Satan rattled the tree, he only succeeded in scattering the seeds far and wide. God took a bane and turned it into a blessing like He has shone himself repeatedly doing throughout the course of human history. God’s word grew wings and took flight into farther regions of the Earth. Nothing can obstruct the plans of God and the power of the Gospel! I pray the Lord that we all grow a greater appreciation in 2016 for the power that we have at our disposal in the Bible, and that we go about teaching people the only message that promises them hope for eternity.

In verses 4-24 we see the effects that the spreading of the Gospel had on the people in the city of Samaria. “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike” (verse 12). The people in that old city had been captivated by the trickery of a sorcerer named Simon (verses 9-11), but with the arrival of evangelist Philip they experienced true power for the very first time (verses 5-8). They heard the truth that he taught and saw the miracles he performed and many of them turned from their superstitious ways and turned to God.

We don’t have the power to perform miracles today, and you know what? We don’t need it! God has packed all the power necessary to save people directly into His word (Romans 1:15-16). The truth is more than sufficient to teach people what they need to believe and do in order to please God and go to heaven for eternity!

For tomorrow please read Acts 8:25-40.

Happy New Year!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 7:41-60

Thursday, December 31, 2015

“‘At that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, “It was not to Me that you offered victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, was it, O house of Israel? You also took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship. I also will remove you beyond Babylon.” Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen. And having received it in their turn, our fathers brought it in with Joshua upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David. David found favor in God’s sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for Him. However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is the footstool of My feet; 3hat kind of house will you build for Me?” says the Lord, “Or what place is there for My repose? Was it not My hand which made all these things?” You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.’ Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Stephen had been arrested and accused of incessantly speaking “against this holy place and the Law” (Acts 6:13). The false witnesses that were brought forward also claimed that Stephen was teaching that Jesus would destroy the temple and alter the customs of Moses (Acts 6:14). As Stephen brought his history lesson to a close, he showed them the hypocrisy of their accusations. He showed them from the very Scriptures that they claimed to cherish that there was not a house ever built which could possibly contain the Creator of the universe (verse 40-50). The temple in Jerusalem would eventually be destroyed, but that was only because of Israel’s refusal to accept their Messiah and obey Jehovah God (Matthew 24:1-2). Even so, they should have understood that “the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands” (Acts 7:48).

Stephen also taught the council in the conclusion of his lesson that it was not he or Jesus that had refused to obey the Law. They were actually the ones following in the footsteps of their own spiritual forefathers by disobeying Moses (verses 35-43, 51). Moses had quoted God as saying, “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:18-19). They not only refused to listen to this Prophet, they took Him by cruel hands and had Him murdered (verse 52).

Of course the truth was much more than the psyches of these egomaniacs could endure. They stopped up their ears and rushed upon Stephen and overpowered and killed him. As this first martyr of our faith was being killed by evil people, he begged forgiveness for their ignorance just as Jesus had done before him (verse 60). To the very end, just like his Savior, he loved the people who wrongly took his life. But as we know, this was not the end for Stephen at all, but only the glorious beginning of his spiritual eternity. Jesus has opened up heaven for His disciples to follow after Him (verse 56), and He received Stephen’s spirit for safekeeping until He returns again (verse 59).

Praying you all have a safe and faithful New Year!

Please read Acts 8:1-24 for tomorrow.

- Louie Taylor

Acts 7:20-40

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

“It was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God, and he was nurtured three months in his father’s home. And after he had been set outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away and nurtured him as her own son. Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. On the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’ But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us? You do not mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?’ At this remark, Moses fled and became an alien in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning thorn bush. When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look. But the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt and have heard their groans, and I have come down to rescue them; come now, and I will send you to Egypt.’ This Moses whom they disowned, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush. This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren.’ This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you. Our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us; for this Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt—we do not know what happened to him.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

Moses had plenty of excuses to be arrogant, selfish and ungodly. He was wealthy, well educated and raised with all the entrapments of pagan royalty (verses 21-22). Hebrews 11:24-25 tells us, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” Unlike the men who stood in opposition to Stephen, Moses didn’t allow power and privilege to go to his head. While Moses chose to endure ill-treatment with God’s people, the Sanhedrin chose to mistreat a righteous servant of God who was, “of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). The same group that plotted the execution of Jesus would now murder one of His disciples, but they would bypass the appropriate Roman channels of authority this time around (John 18:31).

I pray none of us will ever be subjected to the type of abuse that Stephen endured. But let’s remember the words of the apostle Paul: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). If we are living our lives to please Jesus, the world will hate us because it first hated Him (John 15:18-19).

For tomorrow please read Acts 7:41-60.

Have a great day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 7:1-19

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

“The high priest said, ‘Are these things so?’ And he said, ‘Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, “Leave your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.” Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living. But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that He would give it to him as a possession, and to his descendants after him. But God spoke to this effect, that his descendants would be aliens in a foreign land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years. “And whatever nation to which they will be in bondage I Myself will judge,” said God, “and after that they will come out and serve Me in this place.” And He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. Yet God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household. Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with it, and our fathers could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time. On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family was disclosed to Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five persons in all. And Jacob went down to Egypt and there he and our fathers died. From there they were removed to Shechem and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem. But as the time of the promise was approaching which God had assured to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt, until there arose another king over Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph. It was he who took shrewd advantage of our race and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose their infants and they would not survive..”

---End of Scripture verses---

As Stephen stood before his abusers, he addressed them with the utmost respect and courtesy (verse 1). He would ultimately tell them the hard truth and not tickle their ears, but he made his case by telling them a historical account that all patriotic Jews loved to hear. He held his captors captive as he sketched out for them the story of their national ancestry from Abraham to Solomon. It is always good for a preacher to know his audience and Stephen struck right at the hearts of his intended targets.

These “spiritual” leaders proved themselves unworthy recipients of the oracles of God, but the Lord always takes care of his faithful servants even in the face of hardship. When Joseph’s brothers became jealous of him and threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery; “God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions” (verses 9-10). The council would soon follow in the sinful footsteps of the patriarchs, but God would rescue Stephen as He had delivered the godly Joseph. It is true that Stephen soon lost his life on earth, but he gained true life for eternity by staying faithful to Jesus unto death (Matthew 16:25; Revelation 2:10).

Friends, death is not the end of the road for God’s obedient children. It is merely the portal to a glorious eternity in heaven!

Please read Acts 7:20-40 for tomorrow. Appreciate you all very much!

Have a great day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 6:8-15

Monday, December 28, 2015

“And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly induced men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.’ And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. They put forward false witnesses who said, ‘This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.’ And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Satan is never more displeased than when Christ’s church is flourishing and God’s people are experiencing a modicum of peace and immense spiritual success. The Jewish council had been thus far unable to mount a serious resistance and threat to the spread of the Gospel by their antagonism of the Apostles. Now, with the singling out of one fearless, righteous disciple, all that is about to change.

Stephen was boldly preaching Jesus in the synagogues in Jerusalem, and no one could “cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (verse 10). As usual, when God’s enemies can’t logically and politely refute the truth, they simply stir up the emotions of the crowd by reverting to slander and false charges (verses 11-12). With the arrest and murder of Stephen, Satan unleashed a full-fledged campaign of persecution against the Lord’s people (8:1).

“And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel” (verse 15). I’m not really certain exactly how Stephen’s face appeared angelic in nature. In my mind’s eye I see this hypocritical tribunal looking Stephen squarely in the eyes, avidly searching for any sign of fear or shame or guilt on the face of the subject of their wrath. What they saw instead was a countenance filled with faith, confidence and serenity; a face radiated by the light of the truth. As the old song goes, I think Stephen was letting the beauty of Jesus be seen in Him.

When armed with the truth, the Lord’s soldiers have nothing to fear!

For tomorrow, please read Acts 7:1-19.

Have a blessed day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 6:1-7

Sunday, December 27, 2015

“Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them. The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”

---End of Scripture verses---

I found two separate commentaries I had written on this passage. Both are included below…

Even though this passage involves the Apostles and a special “untitled” group of servants selected to address a particular issue at the church in Jerusalem, Acts 6 serves as a good model for what elders and deacons do in local churches of Jesus Christ throughout the ages. So, what was the “problem” at the congregation at Jerusalem? They were growing! That is a good problem to have! And the spiritual leaders (the Apostles) needed help to carry out the more “mundane” issues that a church can incur so that they could devote themselves completely to the more important spiritual matters (verse 4).

Notice the type of men that were selected to serve in this special capacity. They were men who had a “good reputation” (verse 3), or, you might say that they were “beyond reproach” (1 Timothy 3:10). They were “full of the spirit and of wisdom.” They were knowledgeable and experienced (tested – 1 Timothy 3:10), and were trustworthy to be put in charge of this particular situation. Even though their work was primarily of a “physical” nature, they maintained a strong spiritual presence and influence and they used good discretion when working with people.

The specific task that the seven men were selected to perform in Acts 6 was to “serve tables” (verse 2). Deacons are servants who help elders to carry out much of the work in a local church that goes unnoticed and unappreciated, but that is absolutely necessary for the wellbeing and functionality of the family of God. Church buildings need to be maintained, lights need to be changed, things need to be repaired, bills need to be paid, finances need to be handled, teaching programs need to be prepared, class rooms need to be organized, etc. Under the oversight of the elders, deacons are assigned a multitude of necessary tasks that help a congregation to function smoothly so that God can be worshiped in spirit and in truth, and His word can be taught, and His people can be served and edified.

Thank you to all the faithful deacons serving in the Lord’s church!

Second older writeup…

As desirable as growth is, with the number of disciples continuing to increase at the church in Jerusalem, some problems accompanied the expansion. Some of the money from the common collection was not being used equitably in meeting the physical requirements of the needy saints. Even though this was the age of miraculous gifts, these brethren were only human just like you and me, and sometimes they just didn’t use the best judgment. But the Apostles, under guidance of the Holy Spirit, promptly formulated a plan to resolve this predicament.

Seven men were appointed to “serve” the tables of the neglected Greek widows (verses 1-2). It is interesting to note that the Apostles didn’t select these gentlemen. The Twelve gave the qualifications of the men to be appointed and the congregation chose from among themselves the seven fellows to fill this office. The qualifications were that they have a good reputation, that they be spiritually-minded people and men of great wisdom (verse 3). One can’t help but see a parallel between the Apostles and these seven servants in the church at Jerusalem, and the more permanent arrangement of Elders and deacons as officers in local congregations of the Lord’s church (1 Timothy 3:1-13).

J.W. McGarvey noted in his commentary or Acts – “It is a remarkable manifestation of generosity in the church at large that all these are Greek names, indicating that the men were selected from the very party whence the murmuring had proceeded. It was as if the Hebrews had said, We have no selfish ends to accomplish, and no jealousy toward you whose widows have been neglected; we therefore give the whole business into your hands, and fearlessly trust our widows to your care. So generous a trust could not be betrayed except by the basest of men: it was a continuation of the perfect unity which had existed before, and which the murmuring had not been allowed to interrupt.”

The result? – “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (verse 7).

Please read Acts 6:8-15 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 5:33-42

Saturday, December 26, 2015

“But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, ‘Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.’ They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

---End of Scripture verses---

We can clearly see why Gamaliel was “respected by all the people” (verse 33). He proved to be the one voice of reason in the entire gathering of the Sanhedrin. The other members were seething with fury and hatred because the Apostles blamed them for putting the Messiah to death (verses 30-31). Their very predictable response to that was to want to kill Jesus’ followers as well. But Gamaliel’s logic momentarily subdued them and their murderous intentions.

I’m not sure who Theudus (verse 36) and Judas (verse 37) were, but I do know that when they passed away their followers dispersed and their aspirations died with them. Now consider the extraordinary nature of the mission of Christ Jesus. It didn’t build up a head of steam until He actually did die. Jesus’ intentions from the very beginning were to die in order save His people and establish His church. But unlike all the champions of all other movements, our Leader didn’t stay dead. It was Jesus power over death that seated Him on His everlasting throne and provided His adherents eternal hope (Acts 2:30-32; Hebrews 6:19).

Gamaliel was wise to advise the council to, “stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown” (verse 38). There are a lot of bizarre religious fads in the world, and most times the best thing to do is leave a sect alone and let it fizzle out. But that would not have been good advice if the Apostles were religious radicals who actually posed a threat to the health and safety of the people they came in contact with. It is the height of foolish to take a passive stance toward the actions of evil, violent extremists.

“But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God” (verse 39). When we fight against God and His will for us, we never have a chance for victory. Either on earth or in eternity. Have you been resisting God’s commands and desires for you? Do you need to repent of your sins and be baptized in order to have your sins forgiven (Acts 2:38)? Do you need to be an active part of the one, true church that Jesus died for (Matthew 16:18; Romans 16:16; Acts 20:28)? Do you need to regularly assemble with the saints (Hebrews 10:25), and worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)? Relinquish your will to God. Follow Him and be blessed.

For tomorrow please read Acts 6:1-7.

Have a blessed day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 5:17-32

Friday, December 25, 2015

“But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, ‘Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.’ Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought. But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported back, saying, ‘We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside.’ Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. But someone came and reported to them, ‘The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!’ Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned). When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

“We must obey God rather than men” (verse 29). This is the simple but powerful takeaway from today’s reading. When the Apostles were arrested for preaching eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus and were ordered to stop doing so, that just wasn’t an option to them. They would not even consider disobeying the Lord in order to please other people and save their own skin.

My prayer for the entire group today is that we will all adopt this same mentality. That we make the determination to obey God no matter the earthly consequence. That we will not love father or mother or son or daughter more than the Lord (Matthew 10:37-39). That we won’t allow peer pressure or workplace influences or even our own selfish lusts and wants to cause us to sin against our Father in heaven. That we will give God priority over all others and all else by loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30).

Of course, in order for us to do this, we must endeavor to study our Bibles with earnest and learn “the whole message of this Life” (verse 20). If we truly desire to please God in every way and do His will and put Him first, we must first learn what His will is. May we not be satisfied with skimming the surface of “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Let us determine to dive deep and linger long and learn “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Thank all of you for taking the time to read and study God’s word with us! May that ever be the top priority of our lives!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 5:33-42.

Have a great day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 5:12-16

Thursday, December 24, 2015

“At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico. But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.”

---End of Scripture verses---

There is some uncertainty as to what all is going on in this short passage. It can be confusing to read that “none of the rest dared associate” with the brethren (verse 13), and yet multitudes were being added to their numbers (verse 14) and people from all over the surrounding areas were bringing sick people to be healed. And which people were actually being healed and just how did these restorations take place? Did mere “contact” with Peter’s shadow actually cause people to be cured of their infirmities (verse 15)? It is inconclusive from the text whether this was just a superstition on their part or if that tactic actually worked. Undoubtedly numerous people actually were made well, but the text doesn’t tell us which ones were and just how this was being done (verse 16).

All uncertainty aside, this is what I know to be true – the church of Christ grew in spite of all its challenges. After its Founder died, arose and actually departed from this earth, He still established His church (chapter 2). After Peter and John were arrested, threatened and ordered to not teach people about Jesus, the church still grew (Acts 4:4). After two of its members (Ananias and Sapphira) were severely disciplined (killed) for sinning, the church continued to expand (verse 4). In spite of, and maybe even because of, the fear that this church discipline produced in the hearts of the Christians and non-Christians alike (verse 11), the church increased. Even though some people from a certain demographic of the population refused to even associate with the brethren (verse 13), this didn’t inhibit the growth of the church that Jesus died for.

Lessons for us: Let’s boldly profess salvation through faith in Christ Jesus to others, even in the face of opposition, knowing that God’s word will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11). Let’s remain faithful to Jesus and increase our faith in Him even if people refuse to associate with us because of that faith. And let’s appreciate the fact that church discipline works, even if it is exercised with difficulty and seems overly harsh at that time that it is administered. If we want to contribute the expansion of Christ’s kingdom we must understand that God’s ways are always the best ways (Isaiah 55:8-9)!

For tomorrow please read Acts 5:17-32.

Have a wonderful day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 5:1-11

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’ And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?’ And she said, ‘Yes, that was the price.’ Then Peter said to her, ‘Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.’ And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Ananias and Sapphira suffered from the dual diseases that plague many people in our modern age. Their love for money was only equaled by their love of the praise of men. They did a good deed, but with a bad motive. They wanted to appear to be more benevolent than they really were. You see this kind of thing a lot in the world we live in. A rich person will openly donate a large sum of money to his favorite charity, and yet often the motivation is the positive public relations benefit acquired from it, along with the tax advantage. While this type of thing is perfectly legal and acceptable in the corrupt business world, there is no place for it in the sanctified church of Jesus Christ.

But why such a harsh penalty? It may seem on the surface that the punishment did not fit the crime. I will share my thoughts on why I think it was necessary for God to use such extreme measures to teach His people to be holy. First of all, lying is a very big deal. Of the seven things that God is said to particularly abhor in Proverbs 6:16-19, two of them involve lying. Revelations 21:8 tells us that all liars will have their place in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. People have the tendency to downplay lying, but with God it is a terrible sin. And while lying is a horrible thing in general, these coconspirators actually tried to lie to the Holy Spirit (verse 3). All Christians must understand that God doesn’t see as man sees. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). It is easy to pull the wool over the eyes of human beings, but it is impossible to deceive the Lord.

Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 8:11, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.” God executed this sentence quickly to promote fear in the minds of His people and to deter them from giving their hearts over to evil (verses 5 and 11). God always knows what we are doing and why we are doing it, and we will suffer the consequences for doing what is wrong – if not immediately on earth, then eternally at Judgment. God very rarely killed people on the spot for their sinful behavior, but He periodically teaches us in Scripture that He knows when we sin, and that He is not pleased.

I believe a couple of other issues are at play here as well. First of all, the money that Christians put in the common church treasury is God’s money and is sanctified to be used on God’s things. Once Ananias and Sapphira pledged that money to the church it was no longer their money but God’s. Therefore they were stealing from God. And since God’s money is sanctified, that also means that when we give to the collection it is an act of worship. God has never tolerated the adulteration of the worship that He commands from His servants. I am reminded of what happened with the two priests, Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1-5. When they tainted God’s worship by burning incense with “strange fire,” God killed them on the spot and they were unceremoniously buried just like Ananias and Sapphira. Once again, this punishment seems awfully severe. But God demands that, “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored” (Leviticus 10:3).

Just one more thought about today’s text. In verse 3 Peter asked Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” Does the Bible teach that the devil forces people to sin against their will when he “enters their hearts”? Well of course that is never the case. In verse 4 Peter asked Ananias, “Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart?” The devil can only enter our hearts and influence us when we allow him to do so. Peter blamed Ananias, not Satan, for the sinful choice that he himself made. While the devil is real and his sway can be strong, we are always willing accomplices when we choose to act on that persuasion and sin against God. Besides, a just God would never punish us for actions that are impossible to resist.

For tomorrow please read Acts 5:12-16.

Blessings!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 4:23-37

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

“When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, ‘O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, “Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples devise futile things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.” For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

---End of Scripture verses---

After Peter and John were released from their wrongful incarceration and interrogation, they returned to their brethren in Christ and reported the incident to them (verse 23). As you might expect, the first thing they did afterward was to pray. That should be our first response to the events and situations of our lives, whether good or bad. We should take it all to God in prayer. It is appropriate to offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving for all the blessed things God does for us, and to petition Him for help with the things that trouble us.

But I really love the nature of this prayer. Notice now, they didn’t pray the Lord to obliterate their enemies from the face of the earth. They didn’t ask God to insulate them from the dangers associated with living lives of firm conviction. They prayed for confidence and boldness to speak in the face of the perils associated with being vocal for Christ Jesus (verse 29). What these Christians were keenly aware of, and what we often lose sight of, is that they had the most important message in human history to deliver to the people of the world. May God grant us the courage to speak the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ to the people we know and meet, even if they are offended by the Truth. Everybody needs forgiveness whether or not they know it or choose to accept it.

Also notice that the shared trials and ordeals these brethren experienced only served to draw them closer together in their service to the Lord. I just love the statement in verse 32 that says, “the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and one soul.” This family in Christ truly loved one another and helped share each other’s burdens. It always helps to facilitate this kind of unity when there is a Barnabas in the mix (verse 36). Let’s try our very best to be sons and daughters of encouragement, strengthening our brothers and sisters when they need a hand to lift them up.

Please read Acts 5:1-11 for tomorrow. May God bless your day today.

- Louie Taylor

Acts 4:1-22

Monday, December 21, 2015

“As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, ‘By what power, or in what name, have you done this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.’ Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, saying, ‘What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.’ And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.”

---End of Scripture verses---

As you can see, teaching people about Jesus can get you into trouble. It’s getting bad now but it was much worse then. After Peter and John were arrested, the Jewish religious leaders asked them by whose power and authority they were acting and teaching. If they didn’t know the answer to this question, they should have. Peter told them everything they did and said was by God’s authority through the name of Jesus Christ (verse 10). Shouldn’t it have been obvious that only God could miraculously heal a man who had been lame his entire life?

Not only were all those things done and said in the name of Jesus, Peter went on to boldly tell those hypocrites that all of heaven’s authority is derived from the very One they had recently put to death. Notice what exclusive rights Peter ascribes to Jesus when it comes to eternal salvation. Peter said in verse 12 that, “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” That kind of restrictive statement doesn’t sit well with our politically correct culture today, and it didn’t go over very well in first century Jerusalem either. But the truth is still the truth even if the majority is offended by it. Unless you believe that Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God, and unless you obey His supreme authority, you can’t be saved and go to heaven (John 8:24; 14:6). The apostles didn’t apologize for such an absolute, exclusionary statement. No one should.

When the council saw the boldness with which Peter and John spoke, they “recognized them as having been with Jesus” (verse 13). It was only their association with Jesus that could have equipped these men, who had no formal education or training, to speak with such eloquence and authority. Friends, when you spend considerable time with the Master, the changes should be visible to the people you come in contact with. Please avail yourself of the power that is packed within the word of the God. The Bible is the expression of the very mind of Christ. When you pour yourself into it, the truth will transform you like nothing else can (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 3:20-21; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18).

In verse 18 the rulers told Peter and John to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus. Their response is classic: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge” (verse 19). It is always better to obey God and be declared “Faithful” by Him on Judgment Day, then to be condemned with the people who would have you defy Him on earth. The apostles would have rather been killed in the line of duty than to save their own skin avoiding persecution. Most of them actually were killed because of their obedience to Christ. Jesus said: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26)

Peter went on to say, “For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (verse 20). I pray that my faith will one day be this strong.

Please read Acts 4:23-37 for tomorrow.

Have a great day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 3:12-26

Sunday, December 20, 2015

“But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, ‘Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. 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. Moses said, “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.” And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 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.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

Several things in this sermon stand out to me. I’ll just mention a few here.

I love the names that Peter uses to refer to Jesus. He calls Him “the Holy and Righteous One” (verse 14) and “the Prince of life” (verse 15). Jesus was perfect in every way. He was always holy and always righteous, and yet Israel chose an insurrectionist and a murderer over Him when they demanded that Pilate release Barabbas at the feast (Mark 15:7). How utterly preposterous it was to put to death the Prince of life. They should have known from their own sacred Scriptures that the grave could never hold Him. But then again, this was all part of God’s plan to save mankind (verse 18). Even the people who murdered their own Messiah.

I love the fact that it was “faith…in the name of Jesus” that healed the once-lame man (verse 18). But whose faith was it? The so-called miracle workers of today will insist that a person must have faith in Jesus in order to be healed of their infirmities. If they try to heal someone and fail to do so, they will insist that the subject’s faith just wasn’t strong enough. But I see no reason to believe that the man who was healed earlier in this chapter had faith to be healed. When Peter and John first spoke to this man, he was expecting to receive money from them, not healing (verse 5). Even when Peter told this man, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene — walk” (verse 6), he didn’t really try to get up until Peter took him by the hand and raised him up (verse 7). It was Peter’s faith that allowed this miracle to be performed, not the lame man’s faith. When the apostles were unable to help a young boy tormented by demon-possession, and Peter asked Jesus why they couldn’t heal him, Jesus told him that it was because of their lack of faith (Matthew 17:14-21). The reason why faith healers can’t heal people today is because they are phonies.

‘Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away” (verse 19). This is why Jesus died. This is why the lame man was healed. This is why Peter preached to these people. This is why this inspired account is preserved for us in the Bible. So that they and we will learn and marvel and believe and repent our sins and follow Jesus. So that we will be healed from our greatest, most deadly illness – the spiritual sickness of sin. So that we will turn from our sinful ways and turn to the only One who can heal us and forgive us and save us.

I pray these stories pierce your heart and convict your conscience so that you will turn to Jesus. If they haven’t yet, please keep reading with us. The word of God is living and active and sharp and powerful and is able make positive changes in your life.

For tomorrow, please read Acts 4:1-22.

Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 3:1-11

Saturday, December 19, 2015

“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, ‘Look at us!’ And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!’ And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Acts 1:43 tells us, “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.” In today’s reading we see the first of these awe-inspiring miracles that was actually recorded for posterity. Undoubtedly Peter and John felt a sense of pity on this poor lame beggar who had been laid at the temple gate every day of his adult life. When his legs were healed he most certainly was able to live a much fuller and more meaningful life. But let’s notice the details of this account to learn the greater importance of this miracle and the ultimate reason why it, and all miracles were performed.

First of all it is noted that when John and Peter went to the temple that it was the hour of prayer (verse 1). That's a very significant detail. This tells us that there were numerous people present, going up to the temple to pray at that common, appointed time of night. Secondly, it is said that this man had been lame since birth (verse 2). This point coupled with the fact that he was laid at the Beautiful Gate every day informs us that nearly everyone would have recognized him and would have know without doubt that he could not walk. Most of them knew he had never been able to walk. So in other words, the amazing thing that happened to this man at the hands of the apostles was an undeniable miracle witnessed by likely hundreds of credible witnesses. Compare these facts to the fabricated setups of the so-called miracle workers of today.

Now please try to imagine this remarkable scene in your mind to catch the essence of it. Peter tells a man that had never been able to walk in his life, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene — walk!” (verse 6). He reaches down and grabs him and he leaps into an upright position and begins to walk (verses 7-8). They enter the temple together in the quiet of the evening at the solemn hour of prayer and this man is “walking leaping and praising God” (verse 8). What a commotion this jubilant man was making in the Lord’s temple! As you would expect, the crowd was “taking note of him” and “they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (verse 10).

Okay, now the apostles had the undivided attention of a primed, receptive group of potential coverts. Peter used that opportunity to preach another sermon about Jesus to the Jews and proselytes who were gathered together in Jerusalem at that time. After he did that, more than two thousand people believed in Jesus and obeyed the gospel, and were saved and added to His church (4:4). Friends, this is the very reason that God used certain people for a limited period of time to perform miracles. Miracles were performed so that people would believe in Jesus and accept the eternal life that only He offers (John 20:30-31).

Miracles were performed to confirm the message of salvation. Consider what is written in Hebrews 2:1-4: “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”

Please read Acts 3:12-26 for tomorrow.

Have a blessed day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 2:37-47

Friday, December 18, 2015

“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.’ And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’ So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

---End of Scripture verses---

After the apostles preached that very powerfully convicting, first inspired sermon about Jesus, many of the people wanted to know what they needed to do (verse 37). These folks were obviously inquiring about their salvation because Peter told them what they needed to do to have their sins forgiven (verse 38), and he told them to “be saved” from that wicked generation (verse 40). They had just been told that they were guilty of putting Jesus to death (verse 23), and they were “pierced to the heart” (verse 37) by the pain of conviction, and they knew they were lost. They were God’s chosen people but they killed God’s “Chosen One” and they knew they stood condemned before Him. They wanted to know what they needed to do to be saved.

Please friends don’t miss this most important truth. They asked what they needed to DO, and Peter told them exactly what they need to DO. Most people in the religious world tell us there is nothing we can DO to be saved. They say that Jesus did all the work and that we are merely saved by grace through faith. It is a fact that we are “saved by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). But there are still things we need to DO; there are still conditions that must be met before we can receive that grace through our obedient faith. What did Peter tell these people to do? He told them to “repent” (verse 38). That word implies that they must be sorry for their sinful actions, but that sorrow only leads to repentance, it is not repentance itself (2 Corinthians 7:10). To repent is to change your mind about sin and to purpose in your heart to no longer pursue a course of sinfulness. It is to be sorry about sinning and then to form a determination to do your best to stop sinning.

Then Peter told them “be baptized for the forgiveness of sins” (verse 38). Where there is no forgiveness of sins there can be no salvation (Ephesians 2:1-5; Galatians 1:4). In other words, Peter told them to be baptized in order to be saved. Peter didn’t tell them to believe to be saved. They already believed, but they were still lost. Peter didn’t tell them to say a prayer and accept Jesus into their hearts to be saved. Peter told them to repent of their sins and to be baptized in order to have those sins forgiven (consider Acts 22:16). Friends those commandments have not changed in the slightest bit. People’s views about salvation have changed over the centuries, but the word of God remains the same. What was true for those people in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago is just as true for us today.

When 3000 of those people obeyed the commands of God spoken by apostolic authority, they were saved and added to the church (verse 47). If you want to be a saved and be a part of the church of Jesus Christ and heaven-bound, you must do what these faithful people did. When Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:21 that “baptism now saves you,” he meant exactly what he said. Please don’t reason away the commandment to be baptized to be forgiven and saved. Jesus said this was true (Mark 16:16) and so did the apostles that He commissioned and inspired to preach with His authority.

For tomorrow please read Acts 3:1-11.

Have a great day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 2:14-36

Thursday, December 17, 2015

“But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: “And it shall be in the last days,” God says, “That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy. And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. For David says of Him, “I saw the Lord always in my presence; for He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will live in hope; because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.” Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’” Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

As the rule of the ignorant apologist states, if you can't deny the facts of a case, cast doubt on the credibility of the speakers. And these "devout" Jews certainly tried to do that! After being ignorantly accused of drunkenness, Peter delivers one of the most memorable homilies ever delivered by any disciple of Christ.

The text breaks down into two key sections in today's reading:

1) Verses 14-21 - Peter knew the insinuation of drunkenness could spread like wildfire so he stamped that baseless accusation out immediately. The Spirit-inspired Apostles were clearly and undeniably speaking in legitimate languages unknown and unstudied by them personally. The only proper conclusion was that the Supreme One was fulfilling His promises in them. Peter points out that these events were prophesied hundreds of years earlier by the prophet Joel (2:28-32 as quoted in Acts 2:17-21). The days of the Messiah's reign were in effect and national judgment would be meted out upon Israel as yet another typology of the divine punishment of denying God's Savior. The Jews, in Jerusalem for the Pentecost celebration and feast, could not deny the prophesy's fulfillment before their eyes. As a result, they could only rationally "call on the name of the Lord" (cf. Acts 22:16 and Romans 10:9-13)

2) Verses 22-36 - Peter draws out and boldly proclaims the message of the gospel - Jesus is the Lord (Greek: kurios) and He is the Christ (Greek: christos). Verses 22-23 review the recent events of Jesus' ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of which they ALL were eyewitnesses. This section also points out that rather than being regarded as some failed mission of some confused mortal narcissist, the recent events were the unfolding of God's eternal scheme of redemption through His only begotten Son. God had chosen the foolishness of this world to demonstrate His eternal wisdom; He provided life through death. Verses 24-32 illustrate, through an appeal to Psalm 16:8-11 (LXX - i.e. the Septuagint), that God accomplished the impossible in resurrecting Christ from the dead - He conquered death! Although Jesus died for us, death had NO power over Him and through death, He rendered the power of death as null and void. (Of course, the fullest realization of this will be in eternity (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). This David could not do and for that reason, his body lay entombed within visiting distance for the audience. Again, he pointed to someone and something far greater. In verses 33-35, Peter quotes from Psalm 110:1 (LXX) to further substantiate His point. Peter's essential point is that David, the author of the psalm, could not possibly have been referring to his son as Lord, so there must have been a greater meaning. That meaning is that Jesus, earthly descendant of David is in actuality the fullness of God in human form. As a consequence to their aligning themselves against this One with omnipotent sovereignty, they had aligned themselves against the One Who would judge them! What a terrible realization to be confronted with for the honest soul!

Peter's sermon uses the power of fulfilled prophesy (Joel 2:28-32; Psalms 16:8-11; 110:1), eyewitness testimony with pointed rebuke (verses 22-23), and rational deduction to prove the undeniable truth that Jesus is King and Savior. The only rational conclusion is revealed in verse 36, the keystone of the sermon, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”

God's plan for salvation is revealed in Peter's Pentecost sermon in a powerful and memorable way. God has provided the means and revealed the responsibilities we have in taking hold of that salvation. We will address the latter in the reading tomorrow as we proceed through the reaction of the audience.

We ask that tomorrow everyone finishes Acts chapter 2 by reading verses 37-47.

- Eric Parker

Acts 2:1-13

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.’ And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others were mocking and saying, ‘They are full of sweet wine.’”

---End of Scripture verses---

The events of this momentous day occurred on the day of Pentecost (verse 1). This was one of the three mandatory feast days that all male Jews were required to come to Jerusalem to observe. That explains the large gathering in the city that day. Jesus was killed during another one of the mandatory feasts: the Passover. It is only fitting that the sacrifice of our Savior and the establishment of His kingdom would correspond with two of the Jewish high holy days. Pentecost was calculated to occur 50 days from the Passover Sabbath (Leviticus 23:15). This means that the day of Pentecost always fell on the first day of the week. Again, it was only appropriate that the Lord’s church was established on the same day of the week that Jesus arose from the grave and the day that its members would assemble to worship Him and partake in the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7).

When the arisen Jesus was in Bethany with His apostles, He told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come to them as He had promised (Acts 1:4-5). In Acts chapter two we see the fulfillment of that pledge. Notice now that Jesus only promised this Holy Spirit baptism, and the miraculous power that would accompany it, to the apostles. That’s just who we see receiving this power and inspiration in the second chapter of Acts. The 120 people mentioned in chapter 1 verse 15 were not given this promise by the Lord, and they were not the subjects of the Holy Spirit baptism in chapter 2. Only the apostles were (1:24). Notice also that only the apostles were preaching by miraculous inspiration and in various languages (verses 14 and 37), and the people were astonished that all the men who were speaking were Galileans (verse 7). The promise of the Holy Spirit’s baptism and the endowment of miraculous powers associated with that was not universal in nature. It was given to certain people for particular purposes and only lasted for a limited duration.

Please read Acts 2:14-36 for tomorrow. Praying your day is a blessed one!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 1:12-26

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, ‘Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.’ (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) ‘For it is written in the book of Psalms, “Let his homestead be made desolate, And let no one dwell in it”; and, “Let another man take his office.” Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.’ So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.”

---End of Scripture verses---

Verse 13 – We find the eleven apostles assembled together in Jerusalem, just where Jesus had instructed them to be, waiting for the promised power from on high (verse 4).

Verse 14 – As they were gathered together they were engaged in the appropriate and important things. They were “continually devoting themselves to prayer”.

Verse 16 – “The scripture had to be fulfilled.” In case the brethren were overly discouraged about what the traitor Judas had done, Peter let them know that God had foreseen his treachery and used it to fulfill His purposes. David had prophesied beforehand that his place would be deserted and that another should take his office (verse 20; Psalm 69:25; 109:8).

Verses 18-19 – Obviously a lot more happened than Matthew revealed in his account of the suicide of Judas (Matthew 27:3-10). The “Field of Blood” didn’t just acquire its name from the fact that it was purchased with the “blood money” that lead to the execution of Jesus. Evidently when Judas died he hanged himself in that field, and at some point the rope broke causing his body to fall to the ground making a bloody mess!

Verses 21-26 – A successor is appointed to replace Judas as apostle. It is very telling that one of the qualifications of a true apostle is that he must have witnessed the resurrection of Jesus (verse 22). The Apostle Paul made it clear that when He saw the resurrected Jesus he had fulfilled this requirement (1 Corinthians 9:1). All others who claim to be apostles are mere frauds. It is also important to note that the apostles didn’t choose a replacement for Judas but God did that. They put forth the names of two qualified individuals and then left it up to the providence of God to make the selection.

Please read Acts 2:1-13 for tomorrow. 

Have a great day!

- Louie Taylor

Acts 1:1-11

Monday, December 14, 2015

“The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit [g]not many days from now.’ So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.’ And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

---End of Scripture verses---

The first account spoken of in verse one was a chronicle of the life, teaching, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, called the Gospel according to Luke (Luke 1:1-4). But Luke realized that the account of the life and work of Jesus is really an ongoing, never ending story. The impact that the crucified, risen Savior has on the lives of people is the reason behind the blood that Jesus poured out on Calvary’s cross. The next logical step was for Luke to compose a narrative about some of the acts of some of the men that Jesus empowered to carry out His plan of salvation after He ascended back to the Father in heaven. If the Lord is willing, over the next several weeks we look on as the ambassadors of Jesus implement the Great Commission and disseminate the Good News and alter the eternal destinies of people with receptive hearts from all nations.

Luke’s account of the Gospel ends with the ascension of Jesus (Luke 24:50-53). The beloved physician begins the book of Acts by filling in some of the missing details of Jesus’ conversations with His apostles shortly before He was “carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). What’s interesting to me is that Jesus was with them “over a period of forty days and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God” (verse 3) to them, and yet it seems they still didn’t understand the spiritual nature of that kingdom (verse 6). That misunderstanding would be corrected soon when the Holy Spirit would come upon them and they would receive the power previously promised to them (verse 8). The Holy Spirit would “guide them into all the truth” (John 16:13) and they would “proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:2) with a more perfect understanding of the nature of it.

“And after He said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (verse 9). What an incredible sight this must have been to behold by these privileged men. Jesus had told them prior to His crucifixion that it was to their advantage that He go away, even though the thought of Him leaving saddened their hearts at the time (John 16:6-7). Now, on the other side of the cross, the future was looking much brighter to them. When Jesus arose into the sky they beheld the spectacle with amazement, and after He had gone they actually “returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52). Their Master had defeated death and ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, and soon nothing would stop them from telling the world the Good News.

Hopefully I will have the reading schedule composed and posted within the next few days. For tomorrow, please read Acts 1:12-26. Have a blessed day!

- Louie Taylor

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