Therefore Take Notice ( by Carley Evans )

Paul finds himself in Rome lodging by himself, except for a soldier to guard him. He spends “two full years at his own expense, with a welcome to all who come to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the facts about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:30-31,NEB)

Earlier in his stay, Paul tells the local Jewish leaders that Isaiah gets his message directly from God, the Holy Spirit when he writes:

“Go to this people and say: ‘You may hear and hear, but you will never understand; you may look and look, but you will never see. For this people’s mind has become gross; their ears are dulled, and their eyes are closed. Otherwise, their eyes might see, their ears hear, and their mind understand, and then they might turn again, and I would heal them.'” (Acts 28:25-28)

Paul tells them the result. He says, “Therefore take notice” God speaks to those who listen. (Acts 28:28) Paul spends two years proclaiming and teaching in Rome. Take notice: Paul teaches the facts and proclaims the truth of the salvation of God “to all who come to him.” (Acts 28:30) He welcomes them into his home for they are ready to listen and understand God’s Word.

Father God, give us Your wisdom to speak to those who are readied by Your Holy Spirit to hear Your Truths. In Jesus’ Name, amen.


A Sense of Awe ( by Carley Evans )

After the day of Pentecost, the newly baptized Christians — some 3 thousand men and presumably their wives and children — “meet constantly to hear the apostles teach, and to share the common life, to break bread, and to pray. A sense of awe is everywhere.” (Acts 2:42-43,NEB) This awe is “an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful.”

“With one mind,” these early Christians “share their meals with unaffected joy, as they praise God and enjoy the favour of the whole people.” (Acts 2:46-47)

“A sense of awe is everywhere.” This awe explains their actions — their willingness to sell personal property to distribute funds for the needs of others; their joy and praise in their attendance at temple; their ability to be of one mind, and their obtaining of the favour of all people.

“And day by day the Lord adds to their number those whom He is saving.” (Acts 2:47)

Father God, the awe of the early Christians inspires. Help me to discover worship — true religion which calls for me to defend those who need my help — widows and orphans; to be exact — those who are abandoned, alone, helpless. Give me Jesus’ heart for the world. In His Name, amen.

Why Marvel at This? ( by Carley Evans )

“Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man walk?” (The Acts 3:12, KJV)

Peter is downright flabbergasted that anyone would be surprised at the power which makes men walk or raises women from the dead. But he is even more bewildered that anyone would attribute this power to Peter himself rather than to Jesus.

Peter is distressed but not surprised when some of these same “men of Israel” “confer among themselves” to threaten Peter and John “not to speak henceforth to no man in this Name, nor teach in the Name of Jesus.” (The Acts 4:17,18)

Peter responds, “we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (The Acts 4:20) In other words, Peter tells the “men of Israel” that he and John speak only the truth of God. Of course, the truth of God trumps the threats of the “men of Israel.”

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the reminder that any natural gifts we may possess are directly from You, but any power we show forth is always only of You, emanating from Your nature and not from ours. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

What I Have, I Give (by Carley Evans)

A man lame from birth is carried every day to the gate called Beautiful so people entering the temple complex are able to see him; and he is able to beg. Seeing John and Peter, he asks for help. Peter commands, “Look at us.” (Acts 3:4, HCSB) The lame beggar looks at Peter and John expecting a hand-out. Instead, Peter tells the man, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have I give you: In the Name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” (Acts 3:6)

I can imagine the man looking at Peter with some disgust and certainly disappointment. He may know the Name of Jesus the Nazarene; he also may be thinking only of his empty stomach and his aching body. Notice he does not take Peter’s hand or even reach up for him; rather Peter takes the lame beggar by the right hand, and raises him up. “At once his feet and ankles become strong.” (Acts 3:7) When the man realizes his legs are strong, then”he jumps up, stands, and starts to walk, and he enters the temple complex with [John and Peter] — walking, leaping, and praising God.” (Acts 3:8)

Recall it is “by faith in [Jesus’] Name; His Name makes this man strong.” Peter tells the crowd gathering in the temple complex, “So the faith that comes through [Jesus] gives [this man] this perfect health in front of all of you.” (Acts 3:16)

So what does Peter give to the lame beggar? Healing? No. In a sense, Peter loans him faith. Through Peter’s belief, the man’s body is made whole. Once healed, the man finds a faith of his own, leaping and praising God for himself.

“I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have, I give you.” (Acts 3:6)

Who Opens Her Heart? (by Carley Evans)

Paul sets sail from Troas to Philippi of Macedonia. On the Sabbath, they go outside the city gate to the river to find a place of prayer. Women are gathered there; so Paul and Barnabas sit down and speak to them. Lydia, “a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worships God, is listening. The Lord opens her heart to pay attention to what is spoken by Paul.” (Acts 16:14, HCSB)

Who opens Lydia’s heart? Not Paul. Not Barnabas, but the Lord. Lydia is enabled by the Lord to hear Paul’s message of salvation.

Thank You, Lord that You enable us to hear Your message of salvation, and to believe on Your Name. In Jesus, we pray. Amen.

God Loves the Communal Giver

Imagine “the full number of those who believe” being “of one heart and soul” with “not a needy person among them.” (Acts 4:32,34; ESV) No one among them says “that any of the things that belong to him is his own.” Instead “they have everything in common.” (Acts 4:32) If any one of them is an owner of land or house, he “sells them and brings the proceeds of what is sold and lays it at the apostles’ feet, and it is distributed to each as any has need.” (Acts 4:34,35)

God loves the cheerful giver; not that the one giving should then find himself in need, but that each person is able to meet his obligations.

Within this context of sharing one’s personal property among the body of believers, Ananias and his wife, Sapphira sell a piece of property and rather than give the entire purchase price to the apostles for distribution, they secretly withhold a portion for themselves. In doing this, Ananias and Sapphira “lie to the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 5:3) They are free to not sell the property, and even to keep part of the proceeds; what they are not free to do is lie to God.

When Peter confronts Ananias, Ananias “falls down and breathes his last.” (Acts 5:5) Three hours later, Sapphira comes to the apostles, “not knowing what has happened.” (Acts 5:7) When Peter asks her about the purchase price, she also “tests the Spirit of the Lord” by lying. (Acts 5:9) Sapphira joins her husband in death.

“And great fear comes upon the whole church and upon all who hear of these things.” (Acts 5:11)

Father God, thank You for Your enormous generosity. Help us to be willing to give to one another above and beyond. Keep us honest, Lord with You, with ourselves and with one another. In Jesus’ Name, amen.