August 27 – “Transforming Lives”

Day 239 – Read Acts 9

 Acts 9:15 – But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”

 The story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus is an amazing testimony of God’s transforming power. Saul, a committed Pharisee and enemy of the church, was on a mission to stop the spread of the gospel when he met Jesus in a vision on the Damascus road. He was left blinded by the bright light, and for three days he prayed and fasted waiting for a man named Ananias to come and pray for him. From that moment of encounter with Christ, Saul was transformed into Paul, and became the most influential Christian in the history of the church.

When we read his story, we may have the tendency to think that his transformation was the exception, rather than the rule. But God is in the business of transforming lives. John Newton was a slave trader who was converted during a storm at sea. As a result of the mercy of God that he experienced, he wrote the famous hymn ‘Amazing Grace.’ That hymn has been sung by millions of people whose lives have been transformed.

Church history is full of stories of embittered souls, criminals, drunkards, and worse, whose lives were changed by the grace of God. At times, we look at people and think they are beyond the reach of the gospel. Their lives seem so far gone that we can’t see any hope for their salvation. But nothing is too hard for God. There is always hope as long as there is breath. God is able to take even the hardest heart and make it new.

If you are praying for a friend or loved one who is far from God, don’t give up. No matter what the circumstances look like, or how hard it might seem to you, keep praying. The Holy Spirit is able to draw people to Christ that we could never influence in our own strength.

August 26 – “Be Filled with the Spirit”

Day 238 – Read Acts 8

Acts 8:14-16 – Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

 Acts chapter 8 is full of important lessons, but perhaps the most important is the need to have the Holy Spirit in our lives. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached that if they would repent and be baptized they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. As the story unfolds, we find the disciples being filled with the Holy Spirit more than once.  Here, Phillip was preaching with great signs and wonders, and many believed and were baptized. But something was lacking.

When Peter and John arrived on the scene, they didn’t question the people’s faith or baptism, but prayed that they might receive the Holy Spirit in addition to what they had already experienced. How many Christians have put their faith in Christ, and followed it with the important step of water baptism, only to feel weak and struggling in their daily walk with God?

It is not because they don’t read the Bible and pray, or because they were insincere in their faith, but because they are trying to live the Christian life in their own power. They are lacking that important ingredient of being filled with the Spirit. Without the power of the Spirit working in our lives, the Christian life can be a daily burden to live out. It is the Holy Spirit that makes the indwelling Christ alive in us to be and do all that God has planned for us.

If you are struggling with your faith, or feel tired and dried up spiritually, ask God for a fresh infilling of His Spirit. It should be a regular practice of every believer to be continuously filled with the Spirit.

August 25 – “Pray for Boldness”

Day 237 – Read Acts 4:23-37

Acts 4:31 – And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

 The occasion for this prayer was the response of the church to threats and persecution by the local rulers. It is important to note that they didn’t cower in fear, asking for God’s protection; nor did they take a retributive stance, asking God to strike down their enemies or bind the opposition. The main focus of their prayer was for boldness to continue speaking the Word of God in the face of opposition.

When we look at their prayer, we see a group of believers totally relying on God. They begin by declaring His Sovereign rule. The word they used for “Lord” is only used here, and means “despot”, or “absolute ruler.” They were convinced that God was in control of all things. Nothing the earthly rulers could do would stop Him from fulfilling His plan.

Not only did they ask for boldness to speak, but for signs and wonders to confirm their message. The reason they were being persecuted in the first place was because of the miracle done to the lame man, so they knew that more miracles could mean more persecution. But, God showed His acceptance of their prayer by a demonstration of power when the place was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. This time, however, they didn’t speak in tongues, but in their own language they spoke with boldness.

How much do we need prayers like this in the church today. Instead of compromising the gospel, or holding back from declaring the whole truth, we need a church with boldness to declare the Word of God with power.

August 24 – “One Way”

Day 236 – Read Acts 4:1-22

 Acts 4:12 – Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

 We live in a world of great religious diversity. In the U.S., we are being told we must be tolerant of other religions. We must welcome them, give them the religious freedom we have known for over 200 years, and not force Christianity on anyone. While that may sound good to the natural mind, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that there are many roads to God, and in the end we will all be saved.

But, the Bible teaches that there is only one way to God. There was only one Lamb of God. The cross was a one-time, never to be repeated sacrifice for the sins of the world. No one else in all of history has risen from the grave and ascended into heaven. All of the other founders of different religions are still in their graves. Only Jesus is alive, and gives proof of eternal life by signs and wonders.

Peter was testifying to the healing of the man who was lame from birth. Only a risen Savior could have done that, and He is the One who, not only provides physical healing, but eternal salvation for our souls. Don’t look to other religions or religious leaders; only Jesus can give eternal life. There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. Only Jesus can guarantee eternal life. His promise is true.

August 23 – “A Significant Miracle”

Day 235 – Read Acts 3

Acts 3:6 – Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

 Thomas Aquinas went to visit the pope one day and found him counting a large sum of money. The pope declared, “You see that the Church is no longer in an age in which she can say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.'” To which he replied, “It is true, holy father, nor can she now say to the lame man, ‘Rise up and walk!'”

At the end of Acts chapter 2 it says that many signs and wonders were done by the apostles. But, this is the first one recorded in detail, and it is full of significance. While it is a literal healing that took place, it is also a type of the need of the world, and the power of Jesus to minister to that need.

The paralyzed man was living in hopelessness. He had no power to change his condition. The narrative tells us that he was paralyzed from his mother’s womb, and that he was now more than 40 years old. Every one of us is born in sin, paralyzed from living the life God designed for us to live, and hopeless to do anything about it. It is not until we come into a relationship with Jesus Christ that we can be delivered to become all that God intended for us to be.

Peter didn’t say to the man, “I will heal you.” He directed him to Jesus: “In the Name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.” The apostles never attempted to do miracles in their own power. They knew it was Jesus working through them. In themselves, they had nothing that could help the man; not even money. But, Christ in them was more than able. So it is today. We must not depend upon our wealth or resources, but always point the needy to Christ. He alone is the answer.

August 22 – “A Wonderful Promise”

Day 234 – Read Acts 2:29-47

 Acts 2:38-39 – Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

 Other than the promise of our salvation and eternal life, there is no greater promise than the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the “Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). Without the Holy Spirit we are unable to fulfill the great commission, or even live the Christian life. He is the life of Christ in us.

As we see in our verse of the day, the gift of the Holy Spirit is for all those who choose to follow Jesus. It was not just for the Jews, nor for those living at that time in Jerusalem. It is a gift for all, Jews and Gentiles, young and old, those living at that time, and those yet to be born. It is a gift for you.

When the gospel spread from the Jews to the Samaritans in Acts 8, Peter and John went to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. When Peter preached the gospel to a group of Gentiles gathered in the house of Cornelius in Acts 10, the Holy Spirit fell upon them as He did on the disciples on the Day of Pentecost. And when Paul found a group of new believers in Ephesus in Acts 19, the first thing he asked them was, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

And that is my question for you today.  Have you received the gift of the Holy Spirit?  It is a precious gift of God for you.  If not, ask Him to fill you now.

August 21 – “What should we do?”

Day 233 – Read Acts 2:1-39

 

Acts 2:36-37 – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

 

In Acts chapter 2 we have the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the 120 gathered in the upper room, and Peter’s sermon in response to the onlookers who were amazed and confounded by this event. Using the proof of scripture, and his own testimony and experience, Peter preached Christ as the Chosen One of God, whom they had rejected and crucified.

The goal in preaching is not just to impart knowledge. Anointed preaching will always lead to a decision on behalf of the hearers. Both Jesus and James warned against being a hearer, but not a doer, of the Word. Every time we read the Word, or listen to a sermon, we should always ask, “What should I do with what I have just heard?”

Peter’s response was that they should repent (v. 38). To repent means to change one’s mind, or to change directions. We are all in the process of being renewed in the spirit of our minds. There are many things we must un-learn, before we can learn the truth. There are things we must stop doing, before we can start doing what is right. The Word of God should result in our lives being transformed. If we apply it, we will never be the same.

August 21 – “What should we do?”

Day 233 – Read Acts 2:1-39

 

Acts 2:36-37 – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

 In Acts chapter 2 we have the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the 120 gathered in the upper room, and Peter’s sermon in response to the onlookers who were amazed and confounded by this event. Using the proof of scripture, and his own testimony and experience, Peter preached Christ as the Chosen One of God, whom they had rejected and crucified.

The goal in preaching is not just to impart knowledge. Anointed preaching will always lead to a decision on behalf of the hearers. Both Jesus and James warned against being a hearer, but not a doer, of the Word. Every time we read the Word, or listen to a sermon, we should always ask, “What should I do with what I have just heard?”

Peter’s response was that they should repent (v. 38). To repent means to change one’s mind, or to change directions. We are all in the process of being renewed in the spirit of our minds. There are many things we must un-learn, before we can learn the truth. There are things we must stop doing, before we can start doing what is right. The Word of God should result in our lives being transformed. If we apply it, we will never be the same.

August 20 – “Look up”

Day 232 –  Read Acts 1

Acts 1:9-11 – Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.  And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

My wife and I were taking a few days to relax at a hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida.  One morning, I walked out onto the balcony to see everyone on the beach looking to the south and staring up into the sky.  Not knowing what they were looking at, I began to look intensely in the same direction, but I saw nothing.  Then, all of a sudden, a bright light shot up into the sky, and I realized they were all looking to see the launching of a rocket from Cape Canaveral.

When I read this portion of Scripture in Acts chapter 1, I can picture the disciples intensely staring into the sky.  Never had they seen anything like this before.  At that moment, two angels appeared to them with a wonderful promise: Jesus would come back again in the same way they saw Him go.

Jesus had told the disciples in Luke 21:28-29, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

What an amazing promise.  One day soon, Jesus will come back again.  With all of the events taking place in the world, it seems like the second coming of our Lord could happen at any time.  Don’t let what’s happening in the world concern you, or fill your heart with fear.  God is still on the throne.  Look up, your redemption is drawing near.

August 19 – “Do you love Me?”

Day 231 – Read John 21

 

John 21:15 – So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

 

When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him “more than these,” it is not certain if He is referring to the other disciples, or to the fish. Both interpretations are correct. But our focus should not be on Peter, but on ourselves. It is a good exercise to put your name in place of Peter’s and ask, “Do you love Me more than these?”

The great commandment is to love God will our whole being. People can be very religious, but not love God. One can know all of the doctrines, but not love God. One can even be a good person, and still not love God. But, if we love God first, everything else will fall into place. If love for God is our primary motivation, all we do will be pleasing to Him. Our love for God will keep us from sin, keep us from seeking worldly things, and keep us from mistreating our fellow man.

Jesus was about to ascend to heaven and leave the gospel in the hands of His followers. He knew that if they truly loved God, He could trust them with things of eternal value. That’s really what Christianity is all about, loving God and loving people. Major in love.

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