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

 

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JOY!

Acts 13-16

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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

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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

 

Be Bold!

Acts 3-4

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Monday, June 5

Peter and John were arrested for teaching about Jesus.  In 4:18, it says the Sanhedrin (the rulers, elders and teachers of the law,  making up Israel’s supreme court)  called them in again and commanded them to not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  Peter and John replied, and in verses 19-20, they said:  “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard”  What do we do today?  Do we listen to authorities rather than what God tells us to do?  Are we too tied up in being politically correct to say this or that or just plain don’t say anything at all just to be ‘safe.’  I think many people today don’t want to ruffle any feathers so they just sit quiet.  Do you stand up for what God says, or keep your mouth shut?

 

This just makes me think about being bold and not being afraid to speak the truth.  You should pay more attention to what God would desire, rather than being afraid you might offend someone.

 

In 4:23 it says: “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.  When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.”  So when we see something that doesn’t agree with a teaching from God, are we silent, or do we speak up and explain what is right in God’s eyes.

 

In verse 29 it says:  “Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”  Peter and John asked the Lord for extra boldness to speak His word.  Perhaps we should request the gift of boldness when it pertains to speaking up for what God instructs is correct.  This week let’s look for more opportunities to be bold.

-Jason Railton

 

Devoted

Acts 1-2

Devoted

Sunday, June 4

What are your three favorite things that your church currently does well?  Looking at the early church, what were their strengths and weaknesses?  We can learn from the early churches in many ways, such as learning from what they did well?

The people’s actions from the early church:

  1. Those who accepted the message were baptized. Does this still apply today?  Well we see many churches and different denominations baptizing their members, but some of them sprinkle, some use full immersion while others have different methods.  The Church of God of course, still practices the original immersion practice of baptism.
  2. The people devoted themselves to the teaching and fellowship of the apostles. Are we as devoted as the people in the early church?  How do you define “devoted?”  Is it 100% of your effort 24/7?
  3. They were consistent in breaking bread and prayer. What are the standards we adhere to in this generation when it comes to prayer?  Do we allocate time each day to prayer or do we get too busy with life to take the time?
  4. The early church sold their possessions and goods and gave them to anyone in need. How eager are the people of this generation to help others?  Do we sell our belongings and use the money to help those less fortunate?  Do we offer our talents that God has gifted us?
  5. They met together every day in the temple courts. Do the people of today’s church meet every day?  Sometimes we have a hard time just getting to church one day a week.
  6. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Do we break bread together in our homes anymore?

 

Peter warned and pleaded with them to save themselves from this corrupt generation.  Does that warning still apply today?  Are we living in a corrupt world?  Do we mimic the early church or do we fall into the antics of this corrupt generation?  How devoted are we to the church? How can we become more devoted?  If we are a righteous church, and a people that follow Him, then God will add to our numbers daily as in the New Testament.

-Jason Railton