Acts 27:1-28:10

by Shaun Caudill

It only takes one person who is obedient and has faith in Christ to change things. In Acts 27, things were bleak. Paul was traveling as a prisoner on a ship headed to Italy. The centurion, the owner of the ship and the captain had set sail against Paul’s dire warnings that everything and everyone might be lost in the storms at sea. The storm was horrendous and it seemed that all might be lost, but then Paul spoke. Starting in verse 21, Paul states that he had heard from an angel of the Lord that no one would perish, but the ship would be lost. Paul was not commanded by God to share this message with the whole ship, but he did so in order to do two things: 1) proclaim his God as the one true God and 2) to give comfort to those on the ship. When the time was coming closer for the ship to crash, Paul encouraged everyone to eat because they would need the strength, and that is exactly what the group did. They ate and were encouraged. There are times when we will be in bleak circumstances and we will encounter people who have no hope. As Christians, what are we to do? We should not give people false hope that sounds good in the beginning, but later reveals itself to be empty. We should not lie, telling others God has told us something, if in fact He has not. We should, however, be quick to give people the truth of the Bible and speak that which gives hope. Because Paul spoke up in that dark moment, the entire crew’s attitude changed, and they began to live in hope. It only takes one person. Will you choose to be that person?

Acts 25:1-26:32

by Doug Bratcher

I am envious of students today and the ability to do many, if not all, of their classes online. Don’t get me wrong, I think sitting in a lecture hall and listening to a professor in college is still an immensely valuable experience. At seminary, however, there was one thing I tried to avoid at all cost…the other students. Seminary is like every other institution, it trends to breed and draw in a particular type of student, and I didn’t fit in.  

I would sit for hours as the bow tied students waxed poetic about semantics and minute theological debates. To hear the audacity in their voice when they thought someone had an opinion that differed from their own still gets me fired up to this day. They loved to debate and quote and write papers. I’ll never forget in one of my classes, one I didn’t particularly like, the professor would always ask, “Who taught/preached this week and what was it over?” In a class of 40+, only 5-8 would raise their hands. I would be shocked every time.

I started taking classes in the Church Ministry department. They had their own building at the edge of campus and when you walked in the words “WHERE MINISTRY HAPPENS” was plastered prominently on the walls. I liked to convince myself it was a dig at all the “theologians” that were debating and not sharing, but I know deep down it wasn’t.  

I was in hours and hours of theological, ministry, history, spiritual disciplines, and educational classes, but the most powerful tool for sharing the good news came early in my time as a believer when I was told “no one will argue your story of what Jesus did in your life.” I think that is one of the reasons I would get so angry in those classes. I saw all these people, with all that knowledge, doing (what I felt) was not enough (yes I was too judgy).

Reading the story of Paul going through the judicial ringer reminds me of the advice I was given long ago. Paul lets us know throughout about his credentials as a Jew and a scholar, yet when he is asked to speak in his defense he doesn’t get into a theological debate, argue semantics, or try to disprove the opposition. He simply tells his story of how a risen Jesus changed his life to the point that he could do nothing else besides tell the world.

Over the last few years, it seems as though the art of debate has devolved from two sword masters trading parries to people slamming each other over the head with clubs (I’m looking at you social media). Today there is no “winning” an argument. My recommendation to you is to follow Paul’s example. Tell people how Jesus changed your life for the better. Tell them about the peace you have that passes all understanding, the patience you are cultivating, and how you can forgive and love others because Jesus forgave and loved you first.

Acts 23:12-35

by Crystal Townsend

Just the night before, Jesus stood with Paul and encouraged him to testify and share the good news of the gospel, going so far as to tell Paul that he would be going on to testify in Rome. The next morning, he listened as his nephew reported to him of the plot the Jews had formed to have him killed. His own people despised him so much so that they were willing to starve themselves of food and drink until they achieved their goal…ending Paul’s life. Paul sent his nephew to the commander to pass word of the threat, resulting in a covert nighttime transfer to save Paul from the uprising and get him to Governor Felix to stand trial. Paul was successfully moved and then kept under guard as he waited for the next chapter in his story to unfold. 

The entirety of this ordeal that Paul was undergoing must have been exhausting and frustrating to say the least. If Paul were anything like me, he’d have been racking his brain for logical solutions and ways to use diplomacy to his advantage, all while being rather put out that his own people hated him. However, we don’t read of any diplomatic pleas or arguments given by Paul. We don’t read of moping and quiet rants. We are only privy to one reaction that Paul has, he simply sends his nephew on to report to the commander. I can only imagine the comfort his encounter with Jesus the night before brought to him and the impact it made on his reactions. Yes, this was a ludicrous situation and he was in the hands of the Romans, but Jesus had told him to take courage. Jesus had told him he’d need to testify in Rome. So he waited as the story unfolded, ready and willing to testify in obedience to his Savior whatever the cost may be. This leads me to ask myself a few questions. Am I willing to trust Him with my next chapter? To follow Him in obedience no matter the cost? To boldly testify at every opportunity He provides? These are questions we should ask daily amidst the unpredictable and sometimes confusing landscape of our lives as we take comfort and courage in the power of our God.

Acts 21:1-36

by Shaun Caudill

There are times when we are so fearful of dying that we forget to live! Life is such a beautiful gift, but we must remember that a long life is not the goal in and of itself–but a life well-lived by faith to the glory of God. The Bible also tells us that there are some things worth dying for in order to find life. Jesus’ own words in Luke confirm this, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Paul was prepared to die, but that doesn’t mean he was recklessly seeking after danger. There were times when his mission meant he wisely escaped threats to his life, just like it is wise for us to avoid unnecessary danger during this pandemic. After having received salvation on the road to Damascus by placing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul had been given a ministry to proclaim this same message to others. For years, he had been faithful in this endeavor and then in Acts 21, as Paul and those accompanying him arrived in Caesarea, a prophet came to reveal to him that if he went to Jerusalem, he would be bound and turned over to the Gentiles. It would seem from this warning that suffering and possibly death was implied. You would expect for Paul to receive the warning with gratitude and make plans to travel away from the danger, but that is not what Paul did. God had already revealed to Paul (Acts 20) that in Jerusalem he would experience affliction and possibly worse, yet Paul stated, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Paul was confident in what the Lord had revealed to him and wanted nothing more than to please God.

The Bible makes this clear when Paul states, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21) Are you living a life that is pleasing to the Lord in all areas? Do you need to stop today and repent of attitudes, actions, or thoughts that are in rebellion to God? Are there things God has called you to be obedient about but you have resisted out of fear? Is there someone that God has placed on your heart to share the Gospel with, but you have been too scared? The Bible encourages us to seek after God and be about living a life that is pleasing to Him. Remember, it’s never too late to start living!

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.”