June 3, 2019
June 4, 2019
June 5, 2019
June 6, 2019
June 7, 2019
June 8, 2019
June 9, 2019
1 I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up, after he had given instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After he had suffered, he also presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 While he was with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “Which,” he said, “you have heard me speak about; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?”
7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
9 After he had said this, he was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen him going into heaven.”
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 They all were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers and sisters—the number of people who were together was about a hundred and twenty—and said: 16 “Brothers and sisters, it was necessary that the Scripture be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David foretold about Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” 18 Now this man acquired a field with his unrighteous wages. He fell headfirst, his body burst open and his intestines spilled out. 19 This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that in their own language that field is called Hakeldama (that is, Field of Blood). 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
Let his dwelling become desolate;
let no one live in it; and
Let someone else take his position.
21 “Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us—from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
23 So they proposed two: Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “You, Lord, know everyone’s hearts; show which of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this apostolic ministry that Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias and he was added to the eleven apostles.
Reach: As Jesus ascended upward in Acts 1, He oriented His disciples outward in mission. The same Spirit that sent Jesus to proclaim good news would now fuel the mission of the church to witness to Jesus in all the world (Luke 4:18-19, Acts 1:6-8). Jesus outlined His agenda in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The Holy Spirit brought power, a new impulse that found expression in both a boldness for and a broadness in mission. The news of Jesus’ resurrection can’t be contained by timidity or ethnicity. Nothing less than the ends of the earth will do for news so grand.
But “wait” not “go” was Jesus’ departing word to His disciples in chapter 1. “Wait” suits the magnitude of the mission and the moment. Without the Spirit, Jesus knew this community would shrink back into the confines of their fearful hearts and selfish ambitions.
Rather than lacing up their shoes, this community waited. We find them praying. And nothing more fitting starts our journey through Acts. The Spirit must transform us if we are to be a bold people with broad ambitions for the world.
Pray: Ask the Spirit to have His way among our faith family, engaging us in the mission, to take the message of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Resistance: With a task so large, our first impulse is to get to work. But that is where Jesus understands our need better than we do. Jesus knows the world will not hear the gospel in our own strength. We need His Spirit. So we pray, posturing ourselves to receive His blessing and engage in His mission.
Reality: From Jerusalem to…Rome? Wait a minute. Rome is as far as the good news travels in the narrative of Acts. What about the ends of the earth? What happened? Luke coupled that unsatisfying ending with one pregnant word in the original: “unhindered” (28:31). That word concludes the book, yet it infuses a sense of anticipation, foreshadowing the forward progress of the gospel. He knew the same Spirit that pushed the early church further in boldness and pressed them outward in mission would empower the church of the next generation. And the next, and the next. And that church is us. That’s where we live. We live between Acts 28 and the world-embracing conclusion of redemptive history.
The Spirit has unfinished business in the world. “Unhindered” remains Luke’s final word on the gospel in our day. And we have a role to play.
Pray: Ask the Father to focus our minds and hearts on the role He has given the church to lead people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Ask the Father to open our eyes to the needs in the world around us. Pray for His Spirit to empower us to be both bold and broad in our global ambitions.
Pray specifically for God to show the Roots & Reach Mission Project Team where and how He would like our church to engage so the gospel can be heard and disciples made.
When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. 3 They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. 4 Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, devout people from every nationunder heaven. 6 When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 They were astounded and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 How is it that each of us can hear them in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts), 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the magnificent acts of God in our own tongues.” 12 They were all astounded and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But some sneered and said, “They’re drunk on new wine.”
14 Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them: “Fellow Jews and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it’s only nine in the morning. 16 On the contrary, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 And it will be in the last days, says God,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all people;
then your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
18 I will even pour out my Spirit
on my servants in those days, both men and women
and they will prophesy.
19 I will display wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below:
blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes.
21 Then everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him, just as you yourselves know. 23 Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him. 24 God raised him up, ending the pains of death,because it was not possible for him to be held by death. 25 For David says of him:
I saw the Lord ever before me;
because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad
and my tongue rejoices.
Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me in Hades
or allow your holy one to see decay.
28 You have revealed the paths of life to me;
you will fill me with gladness
in your presence.
29 “Brothers and sisters, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn an oath to him to seat one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: He was not abandoned in Hades, and his flesh did not experience decay.
32 “God has raised this Jesus; we are all witnesses of this. 33 Therefore, since he has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, he has poured out what you both see and hear. 34 For it was not David who ascended into the heavens, but he himself says:
The Lord declared to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what should we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off,as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!” 41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.
43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Reach: It was an odd day to say the least. Something happened in Jerusalem on that day that demanded explanation. What felt like a diverse crowd of Jewish people from all over the ancient world became a community. Walls came down. Language no longer hindered their oneness. Some sneered at these events and tried to explain them away, “They’re all drunk on new wine” (2:13b). But, of all people, Peter, the timid, fearful betrayer, stood to proclaim “with certainty” that God had made Jesus both Lord and Messiah (2:36). Joel 2 gives Heaven’s take on these events as the Spirit had come to create the prophetic community Joel envisioned. Words, which had fallen on calloused Jewish hearts for years, actually pierced through their hardness and were met with repentance, not resistance (2:37).
More than an odd day, it was the start of something new. Peter - a new man with newfound conviction. The new covenant - a new day in redemptive history. The Jewish people - a new response of repentance. The church - a new community indwelt by the Spirit. Heaven was breaking into earth, and the world was put on notice.
Luke placed these events against the backdrop of two moments in the Old Testament. He layered the giving of the Law to Moses and the Tower of Babel behind this narrative. At Babel (Genesis 11), barriers to unity were erected and people scattered in judgment; now, in blessing, the Spirit overcame the walls, and a new unity was born. At the giving of the Law (Exodus 32), sounds were heard, and 3,000 died. But not here. As the Spirit broke out, 3,000 were saved on one day and more and more every day after that. This community would not be bound to the narrow confines of the Mosaic law or limited to one culture. The Spirit brings life and unity, and Luke introduced us to what would become a worldwide movement: the Church. Unhindered unity, unhindered in mission by the Spirit’s power: that’s us, the church.
Pray: Praise God for the gift of the Spirit and the blessing of being a part of the new covenant community, the Church.
Resistance: The Holy Spirit descended to form a new community and forge a path for this community to witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth. Is the Spirit having His way in your life? Are you devoted to the church and to the cause? Let’s pray for a renewed passion for one another and for the world, for deeper roots and broader reach.
Reality: “For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (2:39). The promise presses on with broad ambition. It’s not content to seclude itself in one corner of the world, for one culture alone. It has an expansive impulse to enter into new territory, to run until those far off hear. Look how far it ran to reach us. Even today, it’s zeal to reach further remains.
Some of the least reached people groups in the world are easily accessible, but many of these ethnic groups remain distant for a reason. For some, governments actively suppress Christian witness. For others, like Nepal, climate and harsh conditions are limiting factors. Some religions, like Islam, have built-in defense mechanisms toward the gospel. Other people groups remain distant because they have isolated themselves through war and strife. But the promise refuses to shrink its ambition.
Pray: Pray for God to open doors for the gospel to reach those who have never heard.
Pray for the Dolpa in Nepal (info at brookhills.org/dolpa).
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple for the time of prayer at three in the afternoon. 2 A man who was lame from birth was being carried there. He was placed each day at the temple gate called Beautiful, so that he could beg from those entering the temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked for money. 4 Peter, along with John, looked straight at him and said, “Look at us.” 5 So he turned to them, expecting to get something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” 7 Then, taking him by the right hand he raised him up, and at once his feet and ankles became strong. 8 So he jumped up and started to walk, and he entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. 9 All the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and they recognized that he was the one who used to sit and beg at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. So they were filled with awe and astonishment at what had happened to him.
11 While he was holding on to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astonished, ran toward them in what is called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he addressed the people: “Fellow Israelites, why are you amazed at this? Why do you stare at us, as though we had made him walk by our own power or godliness? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied before Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14 You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer released to you. 15 You killed the source of life, whom God raised from the dead; we are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in his name, his name has made this man strong, whom you see and know. So the faith that comes through Jesus has given him this perfect health in front of all of you.
17 “And now, brothers and sisters, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your leaders also did. 18 In this way God fulfilled what he had predicted through all the prophets—that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, 20 that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send Jesus, who has been appointed for you as the Messiah. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about through his holy prophets from the beginning.22 Moses said: The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers and sisters. You must listen to everything he tells you.23 And everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be completely cut off from the people.
24 “In addition, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, have also foretold these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring. 26 God raised up his servant and sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
Reach: Acts is as much about how we live as it is about when we live. Our “now” informs the “how.” Recognizing the time in which we live has a transforming effect on us. A decided tone of fulfillment marks this chapter. A lame man’s fulfilled hope of healing was eclipsed by God’s fulfillment of all the prophets had spoken concerning Jesus. God’s faithfulness marked that moment. Peter reached back, pointing to activity of the “God of our ancestors” and “all the prophets” who anticipated God’s intervention which was unfolding before their very eyes. Hope had pivoted to reality and that changed everything.
As the boxes of redemptive history were being checked in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, a sense of excitement exudes from the text. God was at work in their day, bringing to pass the dusty promises made centuries ago. But the excitement of their present turned to heighten their expectation of what’s next, as those same prophets also said, “Heaven must receive him until the time of the restoration of all things” (3:21). All of a sudden, that promise seemed closer than ever, even just around the corner. One gets the sense that Peter’s sermon had a silencing effect, turning down all the background noise as the tick-tock, tick-tock of redemptive history became the only sound that mattered.
Faithfulness intersected with their day in such a way that the listeners felt the implication: their unfaithfulness had to stop. Repentance couldn’t wait. Sins needed to be wiped out in Jesus’ name before it was too late.
The “now” in which we find ourselves is no different. Excitement and expectation come with every passing hour. God’s plan hastens to its all-satisfying grand finale.
Question: How do you approach the “now” of your life? Would you say your life is marked by a casual attitude or a sober attitude regarding time (see Ephesians 5:15-17)?
Resistance: The Holy Spirit empowered Peter to meet the physical need of a middle-aged, lame man in Acts 3, yet Peter shifted the spotlight away from himself and even the miracle itself to the deeper, more fundamental need of humanity: sins need forgiveness (3:18-20). There are pressing earthly needs around the world, yet one need surpasses them all, the need for a Savior. The blessing Jesus brings is to turn us from our evil ways (3:26). A lame man walking evokes rejoicing and demands explanation, but it does not demand repentance and give eternal joy. Jesus does. He is King and He is coming again.
Reality: One other promise from this chapter lingers unfulfilled in our time: “And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring” (3:25b). “All the families” clarifies “the ends of the earth” from chapter 1. “All the families” specifies the target of the church’s witness. It’s not merely a geographical broadness the Spirit has in mind for the church at the ends of the earth. The familial, ethnic overtones of Genesis 12 shape our strategy. The ends of the earth could be next door to us in Birmingham. Or they could still be far, far away where the news of Christ crucified has yet to reach their ears. Lostness is a global reality. It’s everywhere. But some of the families of the earth still remain without access to the gospel.
This many unreached people groups have yet to have access:
7,090 people groups = 4.5 billion people
Pray: How does that number feel to you? Is that hard to stomach? Pray for us as a faith family to recognize the reality of our “now” - to apply ourselves anew to meet the world’s most pressing need.
Learn about the global reality of where the unreached are in the world
While they were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted them, 2 because they were annoyed that they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 So they seized them and took them into custody until the next day since it was already evening. 4 But many of those who heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
5 The next day, their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem 6 with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and all the members of the high-priestly family. 7 After they had Peter and John stand before them, they began to question them: “By what power or in what name have you done this?”
8 Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders: 9 If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a disabled man, by what means he was healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing here before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is
the stone rejected by you builders,
which has become the cornerstone.
12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”
13 When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And since they saw the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 After they ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What should we do with these men? For an obvious sign has been done through them, clear to everyone living in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that this does not spread any further among the people, let’s threaten them against speaking to anyone in this name again.” 18 So they called for them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
19 Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; 20 for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
21 After threatening them further, they released them. They found no way to punish them because the people were all giving glory to God over what had been done.22 For this sign of healing had been performed on a man over forty years old.
23 After they were released, they went to their own people and reported everything the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Master, you are the one who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David your servant:
Why do the Gentiles rage
and the peoples plot futile things?
26 The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers assemble together
against the Lord and against his Messiah.
27 “For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 28 to do whatever your hand and your will had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that your servants may speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand for healing, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly.
32 Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. 33 With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. 34 For there was not a needy person among them because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas (which is translated Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Reach: By the fourth chapter of Acts, the gospel wasn’t flying under the radar of anyone in Jerusalem. 3,000 people believed in one day (plus some), 5,000 in another (and that happened to be just the men). The Spirit sent the gospel bounding through the streets of Jerusalem, taking followers left and right. The news of Jesus as Messiah and Lord made quite the splash. The triumph of the church’s mission felt imminent. It seemed “the ends of the earth” was a foregone conclusion at this pace.
But not so fast. “Unhindered” is indeed Luke’s final word on the gospel message in the book, but even that word is laced with a sense of irony. The gospel was not bound, but the gospel messenger, Paul, was. Hindrances actually abound throughout the book, just none that can ultimately derail the mission. Gospel growth in Acts is less like a boat cruising along in an open sea and more like a cargo ship forging a path through thick layers of ice in the Arctic.
Acts 4 tempers our expectation as to what “unhindered” means. Not everyone will rejoice that Jesus is king. A sobering realization hits us in this chapter as the gospel makes its first collision with the religious establishment. The Sanhedrin had Peter and John detained and ordered them to stop speaking about Jesus so that “this does not spread any further among the people” (4:17). These leaders were losing control so their strategy was to intimidate the messengers, suppress the message, and eliminate the threat.
But their threats failed to threaten. An uncommon boldness fills this chapter as the Spirit forges courageous resolve in the face of opposition (4:13, 4:29, 4:31). The gospel presses on.
Pray: Ask the Father to embolden our resolve in mission. Examine your life for any signs fear is holding you back from proclaiming the gospel. Let’s confess any hint of timidity to share the good news.
Resistance: William Carey, the so-called father of the modern missionary movement, coined the phrase, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” We fear stepping out. We fear we will encounter opposition or even fail ourselves. But we are not alone. The Spirit’s emboldening presence presses us further than we would go ourselves, and He will not leave us, as this chapter shows.
Reality: The unreached remain unreached for a reason. Real obstacles remain. Threats can stifle the church’s progress among a people. Getting to all the families of the earth will not be smooth sailing. We need to be resolved. We need the Spirit to deepen our conviction.
Pray: Pray for Brook Hills what these early believers prayed after reading Psalm 2: “And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that your servants may speak your word with all boldness…” (4:29).
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. 2 However, he kept back part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge, and brought a portion of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
3 “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds of the land? 4 Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God.” 5 When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard. 6 The young men got up, wrapped his body, carried him out, and buried him.
7 About three hours later, his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 “Tell me,” Peter asked her, “did you sell the land for this price?”
“Yes,” she said, “for that price.”
9 Then Peter said to her, “Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”
10 Instantly she dropped dead at his feet. When the young men came in, they found her dead, carried her out, and buried her beside her husband. 11 Then great fear came on the whole church and on all who heard these things.
12 Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles. They were all together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared to join them, but the people spoke well of them. 14 Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers—multitudes of both men and women. 15 As a result, they would carry the sick out into the streets and lay them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 In addition, a multitude came together from the towns surrounding Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
17 Then the high priest rose up. He and all who were with him, who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 So they arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple, and tell the people all about this life.” 21 Hearing this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
When the high priest and those who were with him arrived, they convened the Sanhedrin—the full council of the Israelites—and sent orders to the jail to have them brought. 22 But when the servants got there, they did not find them in the jail, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing in front of the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 As the captain of the temple police and the chief priests heard these things, they were baffled about them, wondering what would come of this.
25 Someone came and reported to them, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the commander went with the servants and brought them in without force, because they were afraid the people might stone them. 27 After they brought them in, they had them stand before the Sanhedrin, and the high priest asked, 28 “Didn’t we strictly order you not to teach in this name? Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
29 Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than people. 30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had murdered by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted this man to his right hand as ruler and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was respected by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered the men to be taken outside for a little while. 35 He said to them, “Men of Israel, be careful about what you’re about to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, and all his followers were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and attracted a following. He also perished, and all his followers were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I tell you, stay away from these men and leave them alone. For if this plan or this work is of human origin, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even be found fighting against God.” They were persuaded by him.40 After they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. 41 Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name. 42 Every day in the temple, and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
Reach: This section of Acts has a sobering effect on us. The good news had indeed “filled Jerusalem” (5:28) and believers were “added to the Lord in increasing numbers - both men and women” (5:14). As the Spirit empowered Jesus to heal the sick, the Spirit was now working through the apostles in a similar fashion (5:15-16). Great grace was upon them all, resulting in great generosity and great gains for the gospel.
But a new emotion emerges in this chapter: fear. Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit, resisting His activity to enable them to sacrifice for the good of the community, and God quickly displayed His judgment, ending their lives. The result of their deaths was “great fear came on all who heard” (5:5) and “great fear came on the whole church and on all who heard these things” (5:11). Even from the surrounding community, Luke noted, “No one else dared to join them, but the people spoke well of them” (5:13). Lines were being drawn. A choice had to be made, and the seriousness of its implications escaped no one.
The high priest and the Jewish leadership made their choice. Filled with jealousy, the competition for the people’s allegiance had to cease. They “wanted to kill” the messengers, but a cautionary word from one of their own tempered their bloodlust. “If it is of God,” Gamaliel warned, “you will not be able to overthrow them” (5:39a) with the sobering implication, “You may even be found fighting against God” (5:39b).
“Every day in the temple, and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah” (5:42). It sure looks like this movement is of God.
Gamaliel got it right. The gospel goes on, unhindered.
Pray: Pray for your own heart, asking the Father to reveal any areas you may be resisting His work.
RESISTANCE: The shocking story of Ananias and Sapphira sobers us to the reality that we can be surrounded by the Spirit’s activity yet resist it for selfish gain. Satan has his twisted way of seeking to subvert the Spirit’s work in our lives. We are not immune to his cunning ways.
This married couple’s sad story is overshadowed by the joy of the suffering apostles for Jesus. Withholding nothing results in a life of no regret. Submission to the Spirit yields fullness of joy, despite the circumstance (5:41).
REALITY: The Spirit places us at the tension-filled intersection of God’s way and man’s way. The boldness of the ambitions He creates collide with people who want to maintain the status quo. But the joy of being right there, of being “counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name” (5:41) is shared by Christians all over our world today. The joy of these early believers is echoed in their joy today, as many of them would not trade their comfort in suffering for comfort from suffering.
Pray: Pray for the persecuted church, asking for persevering joy and unshakable resolve, knowing the church is not of human origin but “of God” and therefore invincible (5:38-39). Pray they will endure in this confidence.
In those days, as the disciples were increasing in number, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. 2 The Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 This proposal pleased the whole company. So they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a convert from Antioch. 6 They had them stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread, the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly in number, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.
Reach: Growing pains. Church growth is messy. As we move into the end of our first week together, stressors begin to enter the pristine picture Luke has painted of the church. Intruders like selfishness and racism invaded the new community and threatened to undermine the mission.
A complaint came to the leadership of the church from the Hellenistic widows. They were being overlooked in the distribution of daily food. Hellenists were a subset of the Jewish population who had assimilated more deeply into Greek culture. Their language and lifestyle looked more Greek than their Jewish counterparts. The widows within this group were going home hungry while the Aramaic speaking widows went home well-fed. Intentionally or not, Luke doesn’t say. Yet the implication was clear. Was this new community really distinct from the world surrounding them, or would it divide along cultural lines just like everyone else? Was the dream of unhindered community too good to be true?
This tension directly contradicted the Spirit’s work thus far in Acts. He had been tearing down walls and building new avenues for community that transcended cultural barriers. Yet, just six chapters into the book, favoritism and racism had crept back in. The old ways of the world threatened to unravel what the Spirit had woven together.
But the apostles put forward a solution to enlist wise, Spirit-filled men who could manage the distribution in such a way to preserve unity and take care of the needy. And the church agreed to the plan and affirmed the men. The Spirit protected their unity and preserved the broadness of the mission. The new wasn’t perfect, but it was real and was here to stay.
What seemed to be a threat to splinter the church, Luke concluded this way, “So the word of God spread, the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly in number, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith” (6:7).
Pray: Pray for our unity and our leadership. Ask the Father to open our eyes to the ways we need to change. Pray for Brook Hills to embody and preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Resistance: This chapter reveals the deep struggle of cultivating a caring, multi-ethnic community. Needs, often pronounced, abound around us. Embracing cultural diversity involves consistent sacrifice to put other’s preferences above our own. It will take Spirit-empowered effort to preserve the unhindered unity the Spirit has created among us.
Why? Because our default mode is to gravitate toward people like us and people who have manageable needs. Convenience and conformity normally define our relationships. But the Spirit pushes us further into community than we would normally go. We find ourselves in a depth of community we had not known. We move toward people not like us and move in to meet needs around us. The Spirit redefines our categories for relationship. Our “we” no longer centers on “me.”
Reality: Birmingham’s history of racism is no secret to us. And we don’t have to look far to see the narrative continues. Racial tension still haunts us.
We are hardwired to pursue community with those who look like us and do life like us. What if the Spirit worked among us like He did in Acts? There is a new story being written in Birmingham. Growth is often slow and it isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Let’s trust the Spirit to release us from our selfishness, raise up leaders, and restructure our ministries so that we truly reflect the multi-ethnic community the Spirit came to create. Let’s keep changing the narrative in the power of the Spirit.
Pray: Racism reflects poorly on the gospel and restricts the flow of the gospel to the nations. Pray against it in our church. Pray for an awareness of it and a quickness to repent of it among us. Pray for the Roots & Reach Mission Project Team to find the right projects that could serve to break down walls that isolate us.
8 Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from some members of the Freedmen’s Synagogue, composed of both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, and they began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they were unable to stand up against his wisdom and the Spirit by whom he was speaking.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We heard him speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; so they came, seized him, and took him to the Sanhedrin. 13 They also presented false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking against this holy place and the law. 14 For we heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” 15 And all who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
7- 1 “Are these things true?” the high priest asked.
2 “Brothers and fathers,” he replied, “listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran, 3 and said to him: Leave your country and relatives, and come to the land that I will show you.
4 “Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this land in which you are now living. 5 He didn’t give him an inheritance in it—not even a foot of ground—but he promised to give it to him as a possession, and to his descendants after him, even though he was childless. 6 God spoke in this way: His descendants would be strangers in a foreign country, and they would enslave and oppress them for four hundred years. 7 I will judge the nation that they will serve as slaves, God said. After this, they will come out and worship me in this place. 8 And so he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. After this, he fathered Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day. Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.
9 “The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt, but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his troubles. He gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over his whole household. 11 Now a famine and great suffering came over all of Egypt and Canaan, and our ancestors could find no food. 12 When Jacob heard there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there the first time. 13 The second time, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. 14 Joseph invited his father Jacob and all his relatives, seventy-five people in all, 15 and Jacob went down to Egypt. He and our ancestors died there,16 were carried back to Shechem, and were placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
17 “As the time was approaching to fulfill the promise that God had made to Abraham, the people flourished and multiplied in Egypt 18 until a different king who did not know Joseph ruled over Egypt. 19 He dealt deceitfully with our race and oppressed our ancestors by making them abandon their infants outside so that they wouldn’t survive. 20 At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful in God’s sight. He was cared for in his father’s home for three months. 21 When he was put outside, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted and raised him as her own son.22 So Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his speech and actions.
23 “When he was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 When he saw one of them being mistreated, he came to his rescue and avenged the oppressed man by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He assumed his people would understand that God would give them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. 26 The next day he showed up while they were fighting and tried to reconcile them peacefully, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why are you mistreating each other?’
27 “But the one who was mistreating his neighbor pushed Moses aside, saying: Who appointed you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me, the same way you killed the Egyptian yesterday?
29 “When he heard this, Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. 30 After forty years had passed, an angelappeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight. As he was approaching to look at it, the voice of the Lord came: 32 I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look.
33 “The Lord said to him: Take off the sandals from your feet, because the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. And now, come, I will send you to Egypt.
35 “This Moses, whom they rejected when they said, Who appointed you a ruler and a judge?—this one God sent as a ruler and a deliverer through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out and performed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years.
37 “This is the Moses who said to the Israelites: God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers and sisters. 38 He is the one who was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him. Instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron: Make us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we don’t know what’s happened to him. 41 They even made a calf in those days, offered sacrifice to the idol, and were celebrating what their hands had made.42 God turned away and gave them up to worship the stars of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:
House of Israel, did you bring me offerings and sacrifices
for forty years in the wilderness?
43 You took up the tent of Moloch
and the star of your god Rephan,
the images that you made to worship.
So I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.
44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the testimony in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses commanded him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. 45 Our ancestors in turn received it and with Joshua brought it in when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before them, until the days of David. 46 He found favor in God’s sight and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 It was Solomon, rather, who built him a house, 48 but the Most High does not dwell in sanctuaries made with hands, as the prophet says:
49 Heaven is my throne,
and the earth my footstool.
What sort of house will you build for me?
says the Lord,
or what will be my resting place?
50 Did not my hand make all these things?
51 “You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit. As your ancestors did, you do also. 52 Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They even killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. 53 You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.”
54 When they heard these things, they were enraged and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 He said, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
57 They yelled at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. 58 They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he called out: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” And after saying this, he died.
Reach: The hostilities between the religious leaders and this new movement sweeping through Jerusalem had reached an impasse. Now, not only were Peter and John and the apostles filling the streets of Jerusalem with this teaching, others, like Stephen, had gotten involved. In his case, the opposition desperately attempted to suppress his teaching, yet “they were unable to stand up against his wisdom and the Spirit by whom he was speaking” (6:10). All persecution attempts to silence witness, but his witness could not be silenced.
They falsely charged Stephen with blasphemy, and his extended defense consumes most of chapter 7. In a profound reversal, Stephen took the charges leveled against him and leveraged them against his accusers. His accusers stood condemned under the crushing weight of the biblical evidence Stephen employed. This enraged the mob, so they stoned him to death. Stephen calmly, as the original states, “fell asleep” in the horrific nightmare he was enduring.
Pray: The goal of persecution is to silence witness. We don’t face the same threat Stephen faced, yet we can silence our own witness at times. Why? Pray for God to expose and take out the fear that keeps us timid in witness and small in ambition.
Resistance: Fear has more of an effect on us than we often realize. Fear is that nagging false prophet who predicts harm in our future and makes us timid in the present. Fear shrinks our souls to the confines of self-preservation and narrow, self-oriented ambition.
But the Spirit expands the soul, even to embrace the costliest risk for a cause bigger than ourselves. This is what startled the ancient world about these Jesus followers. A resurrected Jesus meant death no longer threatened, and that robbed every other ruling authority of their primary method to keep control: fear. Their threatening lost its bite when death had lost its sting. Obedience to Jesus trumped everything for the church. A new fear controlled them.
Stephen illustrates the calm confidence with which we can face death, empowered by the Spirit. Is fear confining you to self-absorption? Or, is the Spirit freeing you from fear, producing both a boldness and a broadness in mission in your life?
Reality: One striking feature of this story is Stephen’s bold confidence to face hostile opposition, despite what it cost him. Luke bookended his sermon by highlighting the source of his resolve: the Spirit (7:10, 55). But, just like the believers in Acts 4 were emboldened by the Spirit through reading Psalm 2 when opposition arose, one other facet of Stephen’s story stands out: his knowledge of Scripture. A rough calculation has Stephen quoting at least 11 passages by memory in his speech. His wisdom, cultivated by Scripture, was employed by the Spirit to embolden his resolve.
Stephen’s story illustrates how the Spirit employs Scripture in the service of boldness to give the church the backbone to endure hostile opposition. Yet, some churches across the world still do not have access to both the Old and New Testaments that forges this resolve. Beyond that, 2,184 languages in the world still do not have a portion of the Scriptures in their own language.
“Faith comes by what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Faith presupposes the message is heard. Hearing presupposes the Word is accessible.
No Scripture equals no faith. The Great Commission predicates itself on being able to teach everything Jesus taught.
Pray: Praise God for the gift of having the Scriptures in our language. Pray for the 2,184 languages left with no translated scripture. Pray for the enduring faith of the churches around the world despite not having the whole Bible in their own language.
Pray for the Church
Praise God for the elders He has called out from among us to lead and shepherd our faith family. Ask God to give them the wisdom and strength needed to care for us well in all matters. Pray for God to grow us all in our dependence upon Him and to help keep us from temptation and to resist the schemes of the devil. Ask Him to grant us all courage to persevere through any suffering we may encounter in this world.
Pray for the City
This week we are praying for the Crossover Birmingham 2019 training and outreach event (June 5, 8 respectively). Crossover precedes the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (June 11-12 in Birmingham) and links arms with state conventions, associations and local churches to saturate the convention’s host city with the gospel. Volunteers from across the country will arrive in Birmingham a few days prior to the annual convention to participate alongside local churches in gospel outreach. Brook Hills is a host church for the North American Mission Board sponsored event. We are also praying for Sixth Avenue Baptist Church and Pastor John Lovelace Cantelow III.
Day 1: Pray for the SBC churches in Birmingham to have unity and love for one another as they come together to make a gospel impact in our city.
Day 2: Pray for The Lord of the Harvest to send an abundance of laborers into Birmingham’s harvest fields on June 8.
Day 3: Pray for the gospel to be clearly, truthfully, and graciously proclaimed to thousands of Birmingham residents and for many to trust Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Day 4: Pray for believers and unbelievers across our city to be deeply moved by the Holy Spirit through the prayers, compassionate good works, and good news shared with them.
Day 5: Pray for the Lord to protect the Word as it is sown so that it is not stolen away by the enemy, scorched by troubles, or choked out by worldly desires. Pray that it will take root, mature, and bear much fruit.
Day 6: Pray for the Lord to impart wisdom for follow-up meetings with neighbors who profess faith in Christ or want to know more. Pray that new believers will be discipled and joined with a local body.
Pray for the World
This week we are praying for our Brook Hills Long-Termers, Josh and Monika K. serving in North Africa. Josh and Monika serve on a team that strengthens local pastors and believers in a strategic city of unreached people groups. They are currently immersed in language study and building relationships with friends in their city. Join us this week as we pray for Josh and Monika.
Day 1: Some of Josh and Monika’s dear friends on their team just recently returned to the states for health reasons. This transition has been difficult for Josh and Monika. Pray for God to comfort them as they grieve and to make them steadfast in the work He has called them to.
Day 2: Josh and Monika are expecting their second child this Fall. Pray for Monika in her last months of pregnancy, especially that she would not be anxious about having her baby in a different context.
Day 3: Josh and Monika have been spending time with their friends A&A. They have become close family friends and they seem open to the gospel. Pray for God to continue to deepen this friendship and for A&A to have open hearts toward Christ.
Day 4: Josh and Monika continue to push hard in their language studies and have a very important language evaluation today. Pray for both Josh and Monika to be confident as they enter into their test today and for clarity of mind as they test their skill.
Day 5: Josh was able to share with his language teacher earlier this month. Pray for Josh’s language teacher to want to hear more about the good news of Christ and for boldness for Josh as he continues to share.
Day 6: Pray for God to use Josh, Monika, and their family to make his name known and strengthen His church in their community.