Thursday, November 14, 2013

Acts 11-13

The Good News just keeps spreading in Acts 11-13.  Saul (also known as Paul) and Barnabas baptize more disciples at Antioch, and they call themselves Christians for the first time.  Meanwhile in Jerusalem, tensions are rising for Jesus' followers.  James is killed, and Peter's strong voice lands him in prison.  Miraculously, by the grace of God, Peter escapes prison and wins even more hearts for Christ through it all.  Disciples are traveling all over the place, doing things they could not have imagined.

I am still amazed at the transformation in Saul's faith in those days.  He is such a determined
missionary and witness for Jesus, and it rubs off on people.  Just look at what he is doing.  He follows God's call to preach in far off places in the Jewish synagogues.  I know, as Christians, we are called to be "witnesses" for Christ, but something about that word has always made me a little nervous and shy.  And don't you know, there's nothing more discouraging than a bad "witness!"  

Paul, murderer turned faithful believer, does it right, though.  So, how does he do it?  Why is he so effective?  

First, he opens his heart to going wherever God leads him, even when that means new places and people outside of his comfort zone.  Second, Paul relates to people, as friends, not as a perfect, goody-two shoes.    

38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.

And third, Paul shares what he has come to know and understand about Jesus and God's story.  Paul's own life adds value to God's Word as he tells it.  People are able to see God's promises working in Paul.  Paul's personal struggles and triumphs give people hope that God's grace will work in their lives too.  Paul's message leaves people feeling encouraged, not condemned.  He (and Barnabas) make real and lasting connections with people.  

43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

God doesn't call us to be comfortable.  He calls us to go out into the world (near or far) and connect with those around us.  We all have unique stories of God's grace in our lives.  Those stories makes us perfect witnesses to the truth in God's Word.  How does God need you to share His grace today?  He might surprise you.

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank you for your amazing grace in my life.  Give me the determination and courage to share it with others.  I pray for your joy and Holy Spirit to fill and transform my relationships with others _____________________ (name the relationships that come to mind).

In the name of Jesus I pray,

Love, mercy, and grace of Christ,


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