Acts 19:1-41

by Crystal Townsend

As Paul persevered in his teaching and investment in the new believers of Ephesus, God continued to do great miracles through Paul, people confessed their sins and turned from their evil ways, and the number of believers grew! Just as Paul was about to move on from Ephesus, a riot broke out as some of the tradesmen became angry over the people’s conversion and feared they would lose business in their work on the temples of the false gods. The entire city became involved, and there was mass chaos with people screaming their arguments from both sides. “The assembly was in confusion: some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there” (Acts 19:32). This hysteria went on for hours before the city clerk was finally able to silence the crowd, remind them that the disciples had committed no crime, and warn them of the charge they may be facing for rioting with no reason. 

Imagine Paul’s desire to get involved and fight for the truth. Paul’s traveling companions were drug into the theater, but the disciples wouldn’t let him follow, while his friends begged him to stay out. We don’t know what would have happened had Paul entered and tried to end the riot, but we do know that he stayed out of it. This was not an argument based on truth. Remember most of the people involved didn’t even know what it was about. It was confusion and chaos caused by a prideful man wanting to continue gaining wealth through his work for the false gods. How often do we see arguments and rants going on all around us over one hot topic or another? Arguments where people’s emotions are ruling and words are senselessly flying? We are naturally drawn in to read or listen to them, and sometimes we even insert ourselves to be sure we have a say and our opinion is heard. I encourage you today to steer clear of the chaos. Draw close to Christ and focus on the truth of God’s Word. Remember, it is not always necessary to enter the riots, but rather, invest in those around you by teaching them and guiding them closer to Jesus. I pray we will choose wisely how we will spend our time and energy, that we will glorify God through our words and actions.

Acts 17:1-34

by Shaun Caudill

As important as it is to know what you believe, it is just as important to know why you believe it. Asking others the question, “Why do you believe what you believe?” is part of the ministry that God has given us to help others recognize their need for Christ.

In Acts 17, we see Paul reasoning with his audience. Twice in this chapter, the Bible uses the word “reason.” When we reason with others, we discuss two opposing views and respectfully show how one is a better foundation than the other to build one’s life upon. Acts 17:17 says “So he reasoned…with [them].” It is not a verbal argument to prove one person is better or superior than another but a discussion of which idea is more truthful. This is what Paul does as he talks with others in this chapter. In fact, when Paul is in Athens, he is so moved in his spirit by the idol worship that he begins to preach. He finds ways to reason with others about why Christ is the true God. The Bible shows us that Paul used what was familiar to his audience, as well as Scripture, to help people see if their worldview lined up with God’s truth. Notice that some scoff and walk away, but others think about what Paul states. They admit that it makes sense and want to know more. When you talk with others, do you reason with them, or do you argue with them? Can you let someone make up their own mind, or are you frustrated when people don’t believe what you want them to?

In the same way that Jesus used parables to get people to think, Paul reasoned with others to make them come face to face with their own beliefs so as to create a crisis of decision. I’ve come to realize that I have not walked in other people’s shoes and sometimes don’t understand the reason a person holds a particular belief. It could be because of a personal hurt or painful situation they have experienced. If I argue and make them feel stupid, I may being doing greater damage–even if I am right. If I share God’s truth and then ask questions, causing them to think about what they believe and why, they will have to wrestle between themselves and the Holy Spirit to come to the truth. Would you ask God to help you become a minister of helping people ask “Why?”

Acts 15:36-16:15

by Doug Bratcher

Things change. In fact, it is one of the few things in this world that you can count on even before COVID-19. My best friend from kindergarten through 8th grade was not my best friend in high school. We did not have a fall out, a fight, or anything of the sort. We simply grew apart. There was some tension about it from time to time, but for the most part it just became a normal part of the day to day. My freshman year of high school I met the man who would be the best man in my wedding (and I in his). While we live hours apart I would be there for him in a second to this day and I do not doubt that he would do the same. It is a relationship I cherish and one that grew from the diminishing of the previous friendship.

Paul and Barnabas’ situation was similar, but with one small exception. They disagreed on something. Paul and Barnabas want to go check on some churches they had established. Barnabas wants to take John Mark. John Mark traveled with them in the past but during one of these trips he left them in the middle of it. While we do not know why he left we do know that Paul must not have agreed with the decision because he does NOT want John Mark to go with them now.  

Barnabas is in a tough spot. He has two friends whom he wants to travel with, yet they are not getting along. If you have ever had to deal with two people, who were both your friends, not getting along then you know how stressful it can be. Unfortunately, so it would seem at the time, they could not come to an understanding and decided not to travel together. Barnabas left and took Mark with him while Paul decided to travel with Silas.  

On the trip with Silas, Paul discovers a disciple named Timothy in Lystra. The same Timothy that Paul is going to pour into and eventually write 1&2 Timothy to encourage him. Drawing conclusions can often be dangerous, but I wonder if Paul has time to invest in Timothy and a desire to take him on the journey with him if Barnabas and John Mark are part of the traveling party?  

When we take single moments of our lives they can seem to be wholly good, bad, sad, happy, etc… Our journey through this world is a long and complicated one. Sometimes we can have a happy/feel good moment that spirals us down the wrong path while other times we can go through something hard or traumatic that creates in us an opportunity to be and do better.

Me and my friend from kindergarten ended up reconnecting after college and we even coached varsity football together. His life was different and he was so happy with this wife and children and the people he had surrounded himself with. I cannot help but wonder what types of things the Lord is working out for me and you during this time in our lives. It would be easy, and wrong, to assume this is all just a set back and something to wipe from our memories as quickly as we could. I, however, trust in the one that has numbered my days and has worked them out for my good. 

Acts 14:1-28

by Crystal Townsend

Perspective. Do you ever look around and worry about life or get aggravated by the way things are unfolding? Possibly stressing about something small that feels ginormous? Deciding that your situation is simply “the worst”? If you are anything like me, you have been guilty of one or more of these mindsets on occasion. Now, I’m not saying it’s wrong to have feelings of frustration or concern, but our perspective helps determine what we do with those feelings. Do we have an inward focused perspective that causes us to live in self-pity, lash out in anger, and live selfishly? Or do we have an outward focused perspective realizing the fact that we live in a fallen world but are recipients of God’s grace and mercy? The latter generally leads to behavior that is glorifying to God and builds up our brothers and sisters.  

As we study Acts, we follow Paul and Barnabas on their early missionary journeys, reading of the persecution, hardships, growth, and joy. Chapter 14 gives a clear picture of these aspects of their ministry, from speaking boldly through the conflict at Iconium to dealing with a crowd bowing down to them as gods, only then for Paul to be dragged away and stoned as they redirected the people to the only One worthy of praise. The apostles’ perspective leads them to spend extra time dealing with conflict, to lead the crowds to the truth, and then finally to go back to the church rejoicing. Luke tells us “…they gathered the church together and reported on all that God had done through them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” (Acts 14:27). They didn’t gather the church together and complain about their hardships. They spoke of what God had done. This is a beautiful picture of Paul and Barnabas’ perspective. They were truly striving to live and serve for the glory of God. So maybe, just maybe, as we experience frustrations and hardships, we can remember to check our perspective and focus our hearts on the truth of God’s promises and rejoice, for He is always worthy of our praise. 

Acts 12:1-25

by Shaun Caudill

Peter was in an impossible situation. In Acts 12, the Bible tells us that Herod had killed James, and there were particular Jews who had loved that decision. Because of their accolades, Herod decided to wreak more havoc on the Christians. So, he arrested Peter and threw him in prison. Peter now found himself surrounded by four squads of soldiers and chained, with two chains, in between two soldiers. In the near future, Herod planned to present Peter to the masses and let them decide what they wanted to do with him (spoiler: the crowds would have demanded his death). What could Peter do? What could the church do? They did not have the strength to stand against such overwhelming odds. In verse five, we have our answer. The church began to pray. They began praying for Peter, but not just praying…praying earnestly.

The word earnest means to have a passionate desire in pursuit of an object. The church was passionate in seeing God work on Peter’s behalf because they knew that God was their only hope. The Bible does not say exactly what they prayed for on Peter’s behalf. They might have been praying he be freed from prison, or they could have been praying that he preach the Gospel boldly. Maybe they were praying for strength for him to be strong and not deny Jesus as he was surely going to be executed, but whatever they were praying for, they were praying earnestly to God. And what happened next? Peter was supernaturally freed from prison! It was such a miraculous event that even when he showed up to the house where they were still praying for him, they didn’t even believe it was him

There are times when we pray that we seemingly don’t see as dramatic results as what happened to Peter with our prayers, but the Bible reveals the truth to us. Prayers may not always have as dramatic results as we would like, but they are always powerful and effective if we come to God with earnest prayer. James 5:16b says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Prayer is not an obligation we are required to do. It is a conversation of intimacy that we are privileged to engage with our God who has redeemed us. We must remember that God will not listen to our prayers if we pray yet are still nurturing sin in our heart (Psalms 66:18). Prayer must be repentant (Psalms 139:23-24) but also earnest. What would happen if our prayers individually and together with Christian brothers and sisters were earnest about the current worldwide crisis? What if we prayed for God to start working to reconcile Democrats and Republicans to sincerely work together for what is best for our country? What if we had earnest prayer for countries that were slaughtering and persecuting our brothers and sisters in Christ? Would it make a difference? You might say, “Shaun, all that sounds good, but somethings are just the way they are. It won’t change. It’s not possible.” Matthew 19:26 says, “…’With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” Take a moment to meditate on this truth and think about Peter showing up at the front door of the Christians who were praying earnestly for him. Do you believe that your prayers truly have impact? That they are powerful and actually affect the world around us as God’s Word states? What does your prayer life reveal about praying earnestly, and what will you do about it?  

Acts 10:1-48

by Shaun Caudill

I was having a discussion with someone when they bluntly told me that Christians needed to stop trying to convert people of other religions to Christianity, especially the Jews. They emphatically implied that if people have sincere religious beliefs then they were on their way to heaven. How does the Bible answer this statement?

In Acts chapter 10, the Bible introduces us to Cornelius. Cornelius is a God-fearer, which means he is a follower of the Jewish faith even though he is not a Jew by birth. He has made a choice to leave whatever Gentile beliefs he has and to follow God through the Jewish faith. And how does he practice his faith? He faithfully prays, gives alms, and fears God. Not only that, but the Bible even states that God communicates a vision of an angel giving him a message. By most standards, we would state that Cornelius was Christian…and we would be wrong. Even though Cornelius was seeking after God, he did not have the complete revelation. The vision of the angel told him that he needed to hear a message from the apostle Peter. Why? We must remember that giving of our money to causes, praying faithfully, or having a fear of God is not what saves us from our sins. In addition, I can have a vision from God, but even that doesn’t give me salvation. In fact, there are several stories from current missionaries that reveal that people are having visions of Jesus Christ, but in all those testimonies the people having the vision are led to someone who shares the Gospel message with them in order to receive Christ for salvation. This is exactly what happens here in Acts 10. When Cornelius and his household hear Peter state, ‘To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him (Jesus) receives forgiveness of sins through his name’ (Acts 10:43), the Holy Spirit comes, and then they are baptized in the name of Jesus. It is faith in Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection that saves us. There are times when we will encounter others who tell us they pray, give generously, and even go to church, but we don’t need to make assumptions. Let’s find ways to talk with others about Christ because regardless how we think or feel about a person’s religious conviction, the Bible reminds us in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 9:1-31

by Scott Kerr

This passage in Acts 9 has to be one of the more popular. Everyone likes to talk about Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus. No doubt this was one of the more important events in the New Testament as the persecutor Saul becomes the evangelist Paul after having his life-changing encounter with Jesus. Hopefully you have had your own Damascus Road experience even if your change was not as dramatic as Paul’s. However, what often gets overlooked in this passage is the role played by Ananias. If you know Paul’s story, you most likely recognize the name Ananias but most likely haven’t given much thought to him. But Ananias gives us a great lesson on faith even if he is not famous.

Ananias shows how when you have faith in God, you sometimes have to confront your own fears. When Ananias was told by the Lord in a vision to go meet Saul, he says to the Lord, “But I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints.” It wasn’t as if God didn’t already know this but Ananias was expressing his fear. He had a choice, confront his fears and obey God or let his fears control him. Thankfully, Ananias didn’t let his fear stop him from obeying God. Ananias also shows us that sometimes faith has to deliver a difficult message. God told Ananias that he was to tell Saul that he was God’s chosen instrument. That is a great message. But he was then to tell him all that he would have to suffer in fulfilling this calling. Not such a fun message. Any person of faith at times has to deliver difficult messages whether that is a message that is pointing out sin or a message that reminds another believer that following the Lord is sometimes painful or filled with sacrifice. We like to share words that are exciting while we are reluctant to share the difficult ones. However, both are important and Ananias was faithful to share both with Saul.

In the end, here is what we see about Ananias as he lived by faith in God: he got to witness the great miracle of the scales falling off Saul’s eyes and help Saul begin his journey as Paul. And this is really what I want you to see today. Ananias, as a person of faith, had an impact on Paul’s life to help him be the evangelist he became. We don’t talk much about Ananias, but Ananias impacted Paul’s life and really played a part in every life that Paul touched moving forward. Maybe you will not be a famous evangelist. Maybe people will not recognize you even as a great religious leader on any level. But maybe you are the person of faith who impacts lives who then go on to impact many others. Maybe you are the one who doesn’t get the recognition but you play just as important a role as the one whose name gets recognized. God no doubt considers both equally important and equally faithful. Whichever role God has for you, be a person of faith. As you face your fears and are obedient to God, as you share God’s message whether fun or difficult, you are impacting lives that will impact lives, that will impact lives. As a person of faith your influence can be greater than you ever imagined and greater than the popularity of your name.

Acts 7:1-53

by Doug Bratcher

I punished one of my children the other day. The act of shoving a sibling might not seem very extreme, but it was really the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” for this child that week. Earlier, Kasey and I had conversations about how this child’s behaviors were getting out of hand and that they were on the precipice of disaster. This literally pushed us over the edge and the resulting punishment made them apoplectic, sad, frustrated, and unconsolable.  

When they finally found the courage to insinuate that the punishment didn’t fit the crime I was ready to pounce. Luckly, for the child, Kasey intervened by laying out all that had happened over the last few days and how this punishment wasn’t just for the one small mistake, but for the pattern that was developing. The child was on a course that needed to be corrected and the winds had just changed!

As we look at our scripture, we see Stephen addressing the Sanhedren. In boldness he, like Kasey to our child, pointed them back through the Old Testament – things they already knew very well, but did not understand the consequences of. From Abraham to the coming of the Messiah Stephen points to a history where the people, Sanhedren included, “always resist the Holy Spirit!”  

Unfortunately, I see myself in the position of my child and the Sanhedren all too often. I ignore all the signs and truths that the Holy Spirit has laid before me and wallow in things like self pity, guilt, and anger. Often I have to be at the bottom before I can trace back and see what has happened to lead me to where I am and that I need to be corrected so drastically. Stephen and the Sanhedren had the same truths in front of them. Stephen’s course helped change the world. When faced with the truth of their failure the Sanhedren doubled down and killed a righteous man. In all our lives we must look at where we are now, how we arrived there, and consider if we are in need of turning back to the truth. The good news is that when we turn back to the truth it sets us free (John 8:31-32).

Acts 5:12-42

by Crystal Townsend

Reading about the early church, I wonder what people were thinking. There was excitement as the apostles continued to serve God and do miracles in His name. There was also fear and uncertainty as the apostles were persecuted and the religious leaders attempted to stifle the spread of the gospel. What I find most intriguing and convicting is the obedience that Peter and the other apostles demonstrated. Things were not comfortable, their situation was changing daily, and they were under immense pressure. However, they continued in their kingdom work. They continued to be obedient as they were being arrested and flogged. They understood the cost of following Christ and they knew that it was not going to be an easy life or one filled with fame and glory. Yet, they were still willing to follow. 

The apostles reacted to these trials with grace and joy. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle with grace and joy…especially in the midst of uncertainty. My first inclination when I’m hitting roadblocks to “my plan” is not to rejoice, but to be annoyed. I will rejoice eventually, but it takes intentional prayer and sometimes being completely humbled. In this passage, the apostles rejoiced as they walked away from their latest beating. They followed Christ’s example and chose to be obedient to the Father’s plan. They chose not to give in to fear but to give up their own comforts as they spread the good news. I pray as we continue in obedience that we will have a heart filled with joy and grace, focused on glorifying God and spreading the good news! God is still at work and doing great things! Don’t be so distracted by our current circumstances that you fail to see what He is doing!

Acts 4:1-22

by Doug Bratcher

The truth is a slippery thing to grab hold of these days. If you were from Cub Run, you might say it is as hard to get a hold of as a greased pig. This is especially true when it comes to the facts about our current situation, quarantine from COVID-19. Social media has allowed for people to take some of the poor reporting and spread it as truth. When you see some good person you know posting from a “news” source, you can fall into the trap of assuming it is true without doing your own research. All of this and we haven’t even gotten into the slants the actual news puts on each story. Like I said, the truth is a slippery thing to grab hold of these days.

In our house, I know I’m not getting the full truth from one of our kids when I get a specific answer from them. I’ll ask, “Did you finish your homework?” If they respond with a drawn out “yeahhhhhhhh” while looking down at the ground or off in the distance, then I know I’m not getting the truth!  

The truth is a powerful thing. Not a guess of what the truth might be… not a very close approximation of the truth… not good information based off of what we think might be the truth, but the actual truth. The truth provides boldness. The truth provides an easy pillow to sleep on at night. The truth dissolves the pit in your stomach. The truth might come with consequences but gives you the strength to face them head on. It is no surprise that in John 14:6 Jesus says He is the truth.

In these verses, we see Peter and John in a tough situation. They are taken by guards, placed in jail in the evening so they would have to wait until morning to be heard, and then questioned by the authorities. They only had one thing to stand on in that moment… THE TRUTH. The truth was not what the authorities wanted to hear. The truth was not what the authorities believed. The truth could cost them everything at this moment. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke the truth. The truth was more powerful than the obvious fact that they were not educated. The truth could not be disproven, carried them through threats, and saw them to freedom.  

We may not have every truth we want on every topic right now, but we have the one truth that matters, the truth of Jesus. Let me assure you, no matter the situation, that truth is enough. Even in our current situation! I’ll leave you with Jesus’ words from John 8:31-32: “…If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”