Passage: Galatians 2:6-10
Prayer: Father, thank you for entrusting us with, and energizing us for, the Gospel. Like Paul, we have been called by Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations. Like Paul, we have been filled with the missionary Spirit to bring your message of hope and healing to all who will listen. This message is one in which one’s class, caste, color, college, or certification make no difference and wield no power. Instead, the gospel is one message that works in different cultures, with different traditions, and in different people. It allows for a healthy independence of conscience, so that individuals may own it for themselves, while building on the same apostolic message of, “Jesus is Lord.” Its message is one in which we all come into the same body, of which he is its head. A unity that allows this rich diversity to exist, but will not allow for one part of the body to esteem or demean another. Yes, a message that helps the least, the lost, and the left out to find a way into the grand temple of salvation and the warm embrace of the Savior. A message that invites all to sit at the same table and feast on the same riches of faith, hope, and love. So, dear Jesus, unify your body and send us with this wonderful message of the truth of the gospel. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Passage: Galatians 2:1-5
Point: It is amazing to hear stories about people who do amazing things in the name of what they believe in. The reason I feel this is so compelling is that, naturally, humanity is prone to just “go with the flow.” The brain wants to find the easiest way to learn something, and once we get into a rhythm, we settle. Then suddenly, something breaks into our world and changes us, and we realize that life is bigger than we are. We begin to wave the banner high for this thing that has renovated our thoughts, our hope, and our future.
When someone comes along and challenges our beliefs, a few things can happen. We are proven wrong and adopt a new belief with coinciding behavior….or we fight for our beliefs! Paul was a fighter! One reason is that he knew the thing that changed his life could not be disproven. When the naysayers in Galatia were spreading rumors that Paul wanted all the new Gentile Christian men to go under the knife, he stood his ground before the church leaders and advocated for unity in the body of Christ (both Jew and Gentile), and dispelled the rumors.
So today, the challenge is simple.
Ponder: This faith cannot be shaken by rumors and cannot be disproven. Will you stand up for what you believe?
Passage: Galatians 1:18-24
Prayer: Father, remind us of the power of personal conviction aligned with the corporate convergence of the Church. Paul’s message was one that independently came to him by Your divine revelation and yet it stood for the pure faith that has been handed down to us from the “apostles’ teachings.” In Galatia, he was called upon to assert his independence, as a true apostle of Jesus; so that he might undermine the muddled thinking that false brothers had sown into the minds of believers. However, he asserted this authority, not to sever himself from the other apostles, but to establish the church’s unified message of the Gospel. So, like him, show us how to capture a fresh vision of Jesus, which has the power of personal conviction and powerful witness! Like him, help us to not only defend this Gospel of yours, but to also embrace the universal harmony of the body of Christ, which is the pillar and ground of the faith. May we be so committed to the Gospel’s truth and power that no slick-tongued, credentialed-waving charlatan will ever be able to deceive us into thinking differently! May we be so committed to the Church’s unity and influence that no authority-questioning, people-dividing schismatic will ever be able to separate us from one another. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
Ponder: Why is it so important to hold these two things separate, while at the same time keeping them in tandem: personal conviction toward Gospel truth and corporate commitment toward the Church’s unity?
Passage: Galatians 1:10-17
Point: In this modern age of technology, most people use a GPS when they drive. Have you ever been driving somewhere new, trying to follow the directions of your GPS, but your passenger is telling you something different? When your GPS says, “Turn Right here,” your friend says, “No, take the next turn, it’s quicker.” Then someone in the back seat says, “No, go a little further, then we can stop by McDonalds on our way!” Everyone has their own agenda, but all you really want to do is get to your destination.
As Paul begins his letter to the Galatian church, he wants to make something clear to them: he is not trying to win the approval of any people, but only of God. As a Pharisee before his conversion, while he did what he thought was God’s will, he also sought to be seen by the Jewish people as a great Jew, as a powerful leader. What other people thought of him was more important than discerning God’s will. However, when he met Jesus, all of that changed. He discovered that the most important thing in life is to do what God desires of you. Trying to please other people can drag you in so many different directions, as you try to do what everyone wants, and can be exhausting. But if you only seek God’s approval, you will follow in the direction he wants you to go. God is the ultimate GPS for our life. As long as we follow His voice and seek to do what He wants, we can best serve Him.
Ponder: Do you find yourself trying to please everyone around you? What direction do you think God is calling you to go? Do you live your life trying to please God?
Passage: Acts 28:23-31
Prayer: Father… now our own journey begins. A journey perhaps not written down in a book, but nonetheless being penned by the choices we make and the road we take. For if we inhale the air of Acts, we breathe in the purpose and plan of God for our own day. We inhale the fire of Pentecost as we wait in our own upper room of prayer. We breathe out the Gospel in proclamation and imitation. We gather, as they did, in the community of devotion to the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, and the breaking of bread. We lay hands on the sick, as they did, and extend the Kingdom of God. Like them, we are led by your Spirit to new lands and new people in an ever expanding quest to transform the planet with the love of Jesus. We plant churches in every city, as they did, to establish through the word of your grace a people gathered for your praise. And yes, we will wear chains. We will be persecuted and laughed at. We will be maligned and cast out. And yet in wearing those chains, and in taking that abuse, we will be a gift to those who receive our message. Yes, we will face our storms and be hounded by dark powers, and yet the vision of God shall be our comfort and the words of the crucified Savior will be our encouragement. Until we arrive at the end of our own story, like Paul, only to discover that our story has just begun! So call us out upon the waters of the great unknown. Help our feet not to fail, carrying, and our tongues not to cease, speaking the wonder and magnificence of this God-story of redemption and transformation. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
Passage: Acts 28:11-22
Point: After months of sailing the monster that is the Mediterranean Sea, Paul is finally in Rome. It is a miraculous story of braving storms and shipwrecks. Staying strong in the midst of the seasons and possible murder from Roman Guards! This story would be a great lesson of the power of the human spirit and what it can do when it believes something, but that is not the case here unless you tweak the truth. The truth is God orchestrated this whole story. He told Paul before he even got to Jerusalem, that he would be handed over and sent to Rome. It was that message that kept Paul going all this time. It was God who sent the angel to encourage the crew that not a single one would perish in their journey. It was the Holy Spirit that gets all the kudos in this story.
It is the same spirit that keeps Paul loyal even to the Jews. He could have easily gotten to Rome and disregarded the Jews because of all the trouble they had caused him in Israel. However, that is not Paul’s motive. Even to the end of this book, he knew how God wanted to use His holy people to bring the Messiah Jesus to the world. He had to involve them first before the Gentile. Again by God’s grace, they were a breath of fresh air, having not heard any of the grumblings from Jerusalem, thus giving Paul a marvelous platform in Rome…or at least we would like to think that, since we don’t know all the details of how this story ends.
Ponder: Do you have a hope in your heart that keeps you loyal to this faith? Is it enough to keep you going if everyone around you comes against you?
Passage: Acts 28:1-10
Prayer: Father, when seas and snakes bow to your kingdom’s power, we stand as if we have witnessed Easter morning! Truly Your kingdom has come! Truly Your will is being done! Paul’s bedraggled journey reminds us that the church, no matter how battered from the winds and buffeted by the storms, is a force for transformation and blessing. The church, no matter how snake-bit it may come across at times, holds forth hands of healing within the communities it serves. And for what reason? So that the world may know that You are in heaven and You involve yourself down here on earth! So that they may realize You care for his world and that You have a gracious plan to establish a forever kingdom on this planet. Oh they may question the church’s intentions at times, and even watch to see why so much misfortune attends her way, but as they observe her steady consistency and her committed compassion, they will eventually realize that she is a hospital for the hurting, a shelter from the storms of life, and a house to come home to. And like the good bride that she is, they will see that she serves a benevolent Groom who is courting her all the way to the marriage day of the Lamb of God! A day when all the goodness of Heaven invades the Earth. A day when all the hopes and dreams of all the years will be fulfilled, and when all that harms and destroys will be driven out! In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
Ponder: Since the church is Christ’s bride, how can we help adorn her in more beautiful gowns of goodness and grace? What can we do in our choices and conversations that will build her up in the eyes of those who look on her?