What’s Yours?

Acts 24-28

purpose

Monday, June 12

 

In this section of scripture, I was most impressed with Paul’s focus on his purpose, to preach the kingdom of God and to teach the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:31) all through confrontations, imprisonments, and wild storms at sea.  Throughout these major crises, Paul kept his cool and stuck to his mission.  He saw every crowd, every Jewish leader or government official as an opportunity to share the good news.

 

Many times in our lives, we face overwhelming situations or things that aren’t fair and each time we have a decision to make.  Do you lose yourself to the circumstances that surround you or do you stay focused on your mission?  Have you made a conscious realization or decision about your purpose in life? If not, take a moment to write down and define your purpose.  Here are a few scriptures that might help:

 

Matthew 22:36-40

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’

“This is the great and foremost commandment.

“The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’

“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

 

Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 

These sections of scripture give a basis for our purpose.  Love God, love your neighbor, go and preach the gospel to all creation and baptize them, and teach them all that Jesus taught.  Paul was entirely focused on this, so much so, that being accused by leaders in the Jewish community did not deter him, nor did he get shaken when the governor imprisoned and questioned him.  He still maintained his calm and focus as he appealed to Caesar.  He used each situation as an opportunity to speak truth.  I found this section to be confrontational personally because there are times when I do lose my focus.  I only see what is happening around me and start to feel overwhelmed instead of putting my attention on God and the purpose He has given me!  We have power through the holy spirit just as Paul did.

 

We can harness our minds, no matter what our situation whether it is good or bad, to accomplish our mission.  We may be unjustly accused, people may lie and scheme against us, or we may even be imprisoned or face major storms in life…but we can look beyond the surface and fulfill our purpose by loving people enough to share the gospel and spread the truth.  Go be a Paul!

-Ruth Finnegan

 

 

 

Giving – the Very Best

Acts 20-23

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Sunday, June 11

I would like to start off this post with a short introduction.  My name is Ruth Finnegan and I am married to Sean Finnegan and we have four sons, who range from age 11 to 1 month old.  It is my joy and pleasure to be a stay-at-home mom!  When Sean and I first got married we had a lot of discussion about “how are we going to be.” We decided to set a few tenets or standards for our life together.  These were:  seek righteousness; don’t be cheap, tip generously, only use good toilet paper, and be given to hospitality.  Recently, I went to the store to stock up on toilet paper and they were out of our usual brand.  I bought a cheap package to tide us over until I could go to the store again.  Oh man! Mistake!!  Sean started declaring, “Have we lost all of our principles?? What is this, sandpaper?! Should we stop tipping too?” I burst out laughing when he said this because I was instantly brought back to that conversation early on in our marriage.  I went out and bought good toilet paper for the house and got rid of the cheap stuff.

 

Sean and I have been married for almost 14 years and we have always been passionate about being given to hospitality (Romans 12:10).  Over the years, we have had many people come stay with us.  Some come for just a night and some for many months.  We feel that God has given us much and blessed us abundantly and that it is our joy to bless others with our home (and with our good toilet paper).   I have found that you discover a lot about people when they stay with you in your home.  I thought about this as I read Acts 20:17-38.

 

When Paul was in Ephesus, his mission was certain.  He served and lived among the people, he kept back nothing, teaching them “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).  Paul was a true shepherd who cared for his flock and was very clear about his purpose.  He made sure that he was not a burden.  He took care of himself and those with him and he used every opportunity to teach and shepherd the flock there.  He truly cared for people and genuinely wanted the believers to be protected from the wolves that were sure to come.  Paul knew he had to leave and wouldn’t see them again.  He implored them with these final words:

 

35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

 

And with that, he knelt down with them and prayed for them.  When Paul left, they did not breathe a sigh of relief because he had inconvenienced them.  No, they had deep sorrow in their heart because he had been a blessing to them.

 

We have had people stay with us that were all about what they needed or being served so when their time of departure came, we were thankful!   We have also had the pleasure of having guests that infused our home with light and eternal blessings!  They had eyes to see and wanted to be a blessing and help.  When we go about our lives and come into contact with others, let’s strive to be like Paul.  He was all about teaching the eternal things of life like the Kingdom of God.  He was not a burden but a blessing to the believers and sincerely cared for them.  He didn’t complain about his lot as a missionary, he was driven by the holy spirit even when it came to his own discomfort and sacrifice.  Let’s strive to encourage others and remember it is more blessed to give than to receive!

-Ruth Finnegan

(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/acts-20-2016/)

 

 

 

Can You Be Called a Berean?

Acts 17-19

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Saturday, June 10

Does your church have a Berean Youth Group?  Way back when, as a child growing up at Garden Park Church of God our youth group was called the Bereans, and I know the name was also used in many other church youth groups.  Hopefully, even if you have never been called a Berean, you really are – or you are working towards that right now.

The name comes from Acts 17.  Paul and Silas had just barely escaped a mob of jealous Jews in the city of Thessalonica.  During the night they fled to the next town and their missionary journey continued – in the town of Berea.  Acts 17:11 says, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  Unfortunately for this church group the troublemakers from Thessalonica came to Berea to rile up the masses against the missionaries here, too.  Paul was quickly whisked away to safety in yet another town even further away (Athens) and Silas and Timothy were told to, “join him as soon as possible.” (17:15)  So, this is sadly the only mention in the Bible of the church group at Berea (besides one of its members accompanying Paul in Acts 20:4) .  And yet, what a great thing to be said about this body of believers!  I would imagine that this church did alright – even without the help of months or years of teaching and preaching and encouragement by the famous missionaries (as several other churches would receive).  This church was making sure that they were grounded in God’s Word – daily.  They were diligently using God’s Word (the Old Testament, at that time) to test the “modern” ideas and theories.  Looking to His Word to see – who is this Jesus?  Is Jesus really the promised Messiah?  Is everything that Paul says true?  I have no doubt that God blessed their searching and revealed the answers to them.

In these 3 chapters alone there are multiple other passages reminding us of the importance of Scripture.

Acts 17:2-3 “As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and for three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,’ he said.”

In Acts 18 we meet an interesting man named Apollos, a man with a “thorough knowledge of the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24) – remember that was the Old Testament.  He was on-fire for God, believed in Jesus and was a great speaker and spoke accurately all that he knew – even though he had thus far ONLY been taught about Jesus’ baptism.  Priscilla and Aquila saw his passion and heart and welcomed him into their home so they could teach him much more.  Armed with his new-found knowledge and understanding Apollos “was a great help to those who by grace had believed.  For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 18:27,28).

You don’t need to know everything to start standing strong for Jesus.  Start with what you know and keep using all your means and the Word of God given to you to deepen your understanding and your love for your Creator and His Son.  And, just like Priscilla and Aquila, be a Godly mentor and guide to anyone in need of just a bit more understanding.

My prayer for you and me is that we might love His Word more and more and learn what He has prepared for us.   Let’s be Bereans together – examining His Scriptures daily.  His Word is alive and active.  Love it and learn from it!

-Marcia Railton

 

JOY!

Acts 13-16

acts 16 joy

Friday, June 9

I love listening to missionary stories.  I love hearing how bold men and women have carried the good news of God’s love and plan of salvation to others, sometimes meeting with great success, eager ears, and saved lives, while other times being faced with disappointment, ridicule, shunning or great danger.  The book of Acts delivers all this and more as the great missionary Paul along with Silas, Barnabas, John Mark and others worked tirelessly to teach, preach, baptize and encourage churches and individuals through many towns and countries – growing the Kingdom of God.

One word that caught my attention in these chapters was JOY.  Acts 13:52 records, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”  Sounds great, doesn’t it!!   Things must have been going very well for our faithful missionaries to be experiencing such JOY.  But, wait, what were the verses just previous . . . “But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city.  They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.  So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.” (13:50-51).  Trials, persecutions, and hardships, being expelled, cast out – these can easily bring up lots of human emotions.  Anger, rage, depression, hopelessness, fatigue, giving up.  But instead it says the disciples were filled with JOY – and with the Holy Spirit.  That is the joy that I want to have.   A deep joy that comes not from everything going as planned, but from knowing you are doing the Father’s Will – even when it is hard, even when it hurts.  A joy that comes hand in hand with His Holy Spirit.

 

JOY is used again in Acts 16:34 – this time at a truly JOYOUS occasion.  “The jailer…was filled with JOY because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family.”  Can you imagine the scene – middle of the night, jailer hears singing from the cell as Paul and Silas praise God and pray.  Then – EARTHQUAKE!!!!  Prison doors thrown open and the jailer prepares to kill himself, since he would be executed if any of his prisoners ever escaped, and what prisoners wouldn’t escape if the prison doors were thrown open.  But then a shout is heard, “Don’t harm yourself!  We are all here!”” (16:28).  The astounded jailer needs to know more about these men and the Jesus they profess.  Paul and Silas gladly teach – and baptize – the changed jailer and his family.  The jailer takes them into his home and gives the missionaries a meal.  And there is JOY.  The baptism of a new believer is certainly one of the most joyful events.  But, what events were necessary to proceed this baptism?  In this particular case, the jailer would not have heard the gospel message if it weren’t for several catastrophes and trials: an earthquake, a mob attacking Peter & Silas (because they had healed a slave girl) which led to them being stripped and severely beaten and thrown in jail.  And, even then, if Peter and Silas had reacted differently to these crisis situations (perhaps with anger and selfishness rather than with praise and joy), the jailer would most likely have committed suicide instead of asking how to be saved.

I don’t know what you are going through today.  But, how can you face it with praise and joy and the Holy Spirit?  It just might lead to the saving of a life – maybe your own, and maybe somebody else’s.

 

-Marcia Railton

 

 

A Chosen Instrument

Acts 9-12

acts 9

Thursday, June 8

Saul fought Christ in every way possible throughout his life up until this point.  He was the most unlikely Jesus follower.  He loved God and served God and thought he was doing His will.  But he thought that Jesus had been a false teacher and liar and that everyone who followed and spread Jesus’ teachings needed to be stopped.  There are people today who think they are doing God’s will but instead are ignorant of the truth, possibly because, like Saul, they don’t understand who Jesus is.

 

And then came the light!  Following the spectacular flash of light and the great voice of Jesus, Saul was led to Damascus where he was blind and did not eat or drink for three days.   I imagine this was a time of tremendous wrestling and questioning and perhaps doubting everything that he thought he had known about his whole life’s work and about Jesus.

 

Enter Ananias.  In a vision, Ananias, a follower of Jesus, is given specific directions to find Saul and place his hands on him to heal him.  Ananias answers, telling the Lord what a bad guy Saul is and how dangerous this could be.  Has the Lord ever tried to send you in one direction and instead you had your list of reasons why it didn’t make sense?  God’s work and His will doesn’t always make sense to us, and it doesn’t ‘have’ to make sense.  Our list of excuses and reasoning is worth nothing in comparison to God’s plan and desire for us.  So the patient Lord once again told Ananias, “This man (Saul) is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.”  (Acts 9:15).  How might you also be the Lord’s chosen instrument?  To whom has he prepared and designed you to carry His name?  Perhaps not to kings, but maybe to your neighbor and facebook friends and co-workers?

 

So, with no more excuses left, Ananias went to Saul and placed his hands on him to give him sight.  Ananias told Saul he would be filled with the Holy Spirit.  With the Lord’s powerful light, three days spent questioning what he had thought he had known, and Ananias’ faithful intervention, Saul realized the mistake he had made in his life and he was healed and baptized.  Just like Saul, anyone can change their life and follow Jesus.  God can set anyone straight.  Keep praying for those fighting against Christ and consider how He wants you to carry His name to others?

-Jason Railton

Living Words

Acts 7-8

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Wednesday, June 7

Stephen had an interesting life that was cut way too short.  I wonder what would have happened had he lived longer?  How many more people could he have reached?  I admire the way he knew his Old Testament history.  Beginning with Abraham leaving his country, Stephen then recounts stories of Isaac and Joseph and Moses.

 

In verse 38 of Chapter 7, it tells us of the living words Moses received to pass on to us.  These words are still being passed on to this day.  Even when people hear the living words, they have a choice of what to do.  Back in Moses’ day, these living words were rejected.  The people refused to obey and in their hearts turned back to Egypt (7:39).  How have you heard the living words and what has your response been?  Are you listening to these words or rejecting them?

 

I respect the courage Stephen had in saying what needed to be said even if it meant angering those who could kill him.  Even as he was being stoned, he was full of the Holy Spirit and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  Stephan prayed that the Lord Jesus would receive his spirit and he asked him to not hold this sin against them.  This is an example of an extremely dedicated and devoted man of God.  How many of us can praise God as Stephan did while being persecuted?

 

While Godly men buried Stephen, Saul began to destroy and persecute the church.  Tomorrow we will hear more about Saul and his stories.

 

-Jason Railton

 

 

 

Spreading the Word

Acts 5-6

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Tuesday, June 6

As we continue into chapters 5 and 6 , Peter and the apostles could have stopped spreading the Word of God because of fear of discipline from the Sanhedrin.  Instead, they continued to teach and preach and perform miracles, always pointing others to Christ.  Once again they were arrested and put into jail.  In the night, an angel of the Lord appeared to them and instructed them to go back out into the temple courts in the morning to tell the people the full message.

Verse 42 of chapter 5 says, “Day after day in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”  This verse explains pretty well that they persevered and just kept going and going and going.  Ask yourself this, “Who have I talked to today?”  Or this week?  Are we as dedicated to spreading the Word as Peter?  What can we do to become better at spreading the good news?  How can we all become more like Peter?

So my question to you today is, “Are you obeying God rather than men?”

-Jason Railton