God is WITH Us in Our Persecution: Day 3

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     Day 3: God is WITH Paul

If you were to think about what your life was like before you began to trust in Jesus verses what it has been like since you began to trust in Jesus, you would see some significant differences. To say Paul’s life was different before he trusted in Jesus would be a huge understatement. Before trusting in Jesus, Paul affirmed the death of Stephen. Before trusting in Jesus, Paul did everything he could to destroy the Christian church (See Acts 8:3, 1 Corinthians 15:9).

Due to his background, it would make sense that, after trusting in Christ, Paul would receive immense opposition from others for his ongoing ministry. Other followers of Jesus occasionally questioned whether they should trust Paul, due to his past persecution of Christians. Similarly, other Jewish leaders hated Paul because he taught about Jesus, which went against many of their traditions. If anybody was ever between a rock and a hard place, it was Paul. How did God respond in encouragement to Paul?

In Acts 18, God speaks to Paul in a vision. God says, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”

As you read today, consider this: What problems was Paul facing?

READING:

    ACTS 18:1-11

What problems was Paul facing?

How do you think Paul felt throughout these experiences?

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: 1 Samuel 9 & 10

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

Heavenly Father, it’s sometimes easy for me to think that my life and Paul’s are so drastically different that there’s not much I can learn from him. But reading about Paul this week has helped me to see that my life, like his, was very different prior to me trusting in You. And just as Paul experienced, my life has been very different since the moment I placed my trust in You.

Today, I am grateful for the reminder that just as You were with Paul, so You are with me. Just as You were with him in his persecution, so You are with me. Whether it’s in persecution or other hurts I have experienced, You have been and will continue to be with me through it all. Thank You! In pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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God is WITH Us in Our Persecution: Day 2

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     Day 2: Guilty Before Proven Innocent

Everybody who has ever lived has some semblance of what is right and what is wrong. For the most part, this is good. It’s good to fight for what’s true, honorable, and godly. But there can be a downside to this as well. Sometimes we may fight for something we believe to be right, only to later discover we were fighting the wrong battle. As Mark Twain once wrote, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Yesterday, we learned that prior to believing in Jesus, Paul was OK with Stephen being falsely accused and stoned to death. He was sure that Stephen deserved his punishment. But as he later discovered, what he was absolutely certain about, just wasn’t so.

In today’s reading, we’ll see that after Paul came to trust in Jesus, he was mistreated in a similar manner to Stephen. Paul was falsely accused of breaking some Laws and was imprisoned without a fair trial. As a Roman citizen, Paul wasn’t to be beaten or imprisoned without a trial. In Roman culture, the officials responsible could have been removed from office for their failure to properly oversee due process.

As you read today, consider this: What aspects of Paul’s story resonate with your own life experience?

READING:

    ACTS 16:25-40

What aspects of Paul’s story resonate with your own life experience? (Consider his family upbringing, his culture, those he interacted with, etc.)

What kinds of ambitions or hopes could Paul have had through his life experiences? In what ways does this help you to identify with the story of Paul?

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: 1 Samuel 3 & 8

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

Heavenly Father, I confess there have been times when I have known something with absolute certainty, only to later discover that it just wasn’t so. Today, I commit myself to meditating on the one thing I can know for certain – Your love for me. I’m grateful that the Christian life isn’t just about how much love I have for You, but is instead about all the love You have for me. Today, may I remember that I am not just worthy of being loved, but that I am deeply and wholly loved by You. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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God is WITH Us in Our Persecution: Day 1

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     Day 1: Paul Persecutes Stephen

Have you ever been driving down the interstate, see somebody pulled over by a police officer, and the thought comes to your mind, “I’m not 100% sure what they were doing, but they probably deserved to get caught.” Why do we sometimes have this ‘Guilty before proven innocent’ mindset?

This mindset is an oversimplified summary of what we learn about Paul early in the book of Acts. One of Jesus’ followers, Stephen, is experiencing extreme persecution for teaching about Jesus. Many people didn’t like this message, and Stephen was falsely accused of breaking some Old Testament laws. After attempting to defend himself, Stephen was found guilty of breaking the Law. He was then dragged out of the city and stoned to death.

As Stephen is being killed, we learn about a man named Saul (later referred to as Paul in the Bible). Acts 8:1 says, “And Saul approved of their killing him.” Unlike the example above, Saul likely knew exactly which laws Stephen had been accused of breaking. He likely knew that Stephen was a follower of Jesus. How does Paul respond? He begins by agreeing with the false allegations and death of Stephen.

As you read today, consider this: What does this passage about Paul and Stephen tell you about reality?

READING:

    ACTS 7:54-8:1

What does this passage about Paul tell you about reality? About humanity?

In what ways does this help you to identify with the story of Paul?

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: 1 Samuel 1 & 2

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

Heavenly Father, I acknowledge there have been moments in my life when I have had a ‘Guilty before proven innocent’ mindset. This week, I pray that You will help me better understand that it is You and You alone who will have the final verdict in the lives of others. It is You and You alone who will make all things right. It is You and You alone who will judge.

Because of these truths, I pray that You will lead and guide me to think about justice differently. May I remember that some forms of justice are outside of my control. May I rest in knowing that You are the ultimate Judge and I am not. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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God is WITH Us in Our Failures: Day 5

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     Day 5: God is WITH Us in Our Failures

READING:

    1 PETER 4:1-19

Who is the hero of the story of Peter? What passages in this story lead you to this conclusion?

In just one sentence, write out the one thing you learned from the story of Peter.

Then write out how you will respond to God as a result.

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Ruth 3 & 4

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

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God is WITH Us in Our Failures: Day 4

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     Day 4: Go, and Be Like Me

Have you ever given much thought to what you would say to your children, parents, siblings, and/or friends if you knew you would never see them again? Chances are you would tell them how much you love and care for them, and all of the hopes and dreams you have for them. Right?

A similar scene unfolds at the end of Jesus’ time here on Earth. He’s not on his deathbed (He had already defeated death!), but He is, in a way, leaving. What does He decide to share? He looks to His friends and says, “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

There are at least two things to note about this passage. First, Jesus encourages His disciples to be like Him. He encourages them to do for others what He did for them. He encourages them to make disciples. And second, even though He is leaving, Jesus says He will be with them always.

As you read today, consider this: How did Peter respond to the challenges he experienced, and to Jesus’ final command?

READING:

    ACTS 2:14-41

Think back through all of the readings from this week: How did Peter respond to the challenges he experienced? How did he respond to Jesus’ final command to go and make disciples?

Would you have responded any differently a year ago? 5 years ago? 10 years ago?

Would you respond any differently today?

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Ruth 1 & 2

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I realize that all of Scripture may be summarized in two simple commands: “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself; Go and make disciples of all nations.” As this week comes to a close, I pray that You will continually reveal to me the ways in which I can sacrificially love others, and tell others of the sacrificial love You have for them. These truths are life changing, and I want them to continually help me grow into the person You have made me to be. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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God is WITH Us in Our Failures: Day 3

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     Day 3: You Will Deny Me

Take just a minute to think about a time in your childhood when you broke a rule at home or at school and got caught. What was your first reaction? Did you try to hide, or perhaps play innocent? When the accusation was made against you, did you deny that you had anything to do with it?

Denial is often the first response we have to any serious problem or concern we’re facing. Those who wrestle with addiction of any kind often need to first admit that there’s a struggle, and then the real work of healing can begin.

In the life of Peter, Jesus had made a huge impression on him. Peter witnessed Jesus perform dozens of miracles. He heard Jesus teach with power and authority like no other before Him. He saw Jesus for who He was, God in the flesh. As such, Peter became a close companion, friend, and confidant of Jesus.

But right before Jesus was arrested, He told Peter, “…you will deny three times that you know Me.” Peter was aghast. He was in denial about the mere possibility he would ever deny Jesus.

As you read today, consider this: What do you think Peter ultimately learned from his denial of knowing Jesus?

READING:

    MARK 8:34, LUKE 22:31-34

What problems was Peter facing?

How do you think Peter felt throughout these experiences?

What do you think Peter ultimately learned from his denial of knowing Jesus?

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Judges 15 & 16

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, as much as I don’t want to admit it, there are times when I’m tempted to deny You. Whether it’s not accepting opportunities to share about who You are, or even denying that I personally know You, I realize that I have more in common with Peter than I may have initially thought.

Today, I commit to not being ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Let this power work within me, and through me, in all things. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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God is WITH Us in Our Failures: Day 2

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     Day 2: Come & Follow Me

Have you ever been traveling long distance in a caravan of vehicles with other family or friends? If so, you’ve probably experienced some good caravan leaders, who drive in such a way that it’s easy to follow them. You’ve also likely experienced some poor caravan leaders, who go too fast, too slow, or weave in and out of traffic making it nearly impossible to keep up.

When it comes to following somebody else’s lead, there’s no better to guide us than Jesus. By our own standards, He may not initially fit into the category of a good leader. He will most certainly lead you into places you may not want to go. He will sometimes lead you at a pace that seems too slow, and other times at a pace that seems too fast.
But there will be other times when you think to yourself, “I just can’t keep up.” And as you look around for your Leader, you’ll discover that He’s no longer in front of you, but is instead beside you, encouraging you every step of the way.

In the life of Peter, one of the first things and last things Jesus said to him was, “Follow Me.” But every step of the way, God was with Peter.

As you read today, consider this: What aspects of Peter’s story resonate with your own life experiences?

READING:

    MATTHEW 14:22-36

What aspects of Peter’s story resonate with your own life experiences? (Consider his family upbringing, his culture, those he interacted with, etc.)

What kinds of ambitions or hopes could Peter have had through his life experiences? In what ways does this help you to identify with the story of Peter?

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Judges 13 & 14

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I confess there are moments when I’m afraid to follow You. I have sometimes been afraid to follow You because doing so requires that I give up control. At other times, I have been afraid to follow You because I don’t always know where You are going. These fears, Father, are unhealthy. I know that You will not lead me into harm, and that You are with me through every situation. Help me grow in being with others in the same way You are with me. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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God is WITH Us in Our Failures: Day 1

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     Day 1: Come & See

If you read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John closely you may notice a pattern in how Jesus communicated to His disciples. This pattern may be summarized in three statements: (1) Come and see, (2) Come and follow Me, (3) Go and be like Me.

At first, Jesus encouraged his disciples to ‘come and see’ where God was already at work. After seeing and hearing Jesus’ teachings and miracles, Jesus raised the stakes by saying, “Come and follow Me.” After following Him for approximately three years, Jesus said, “Go, and be like Me.”

One of Jesus’ disciples, Peter (also known as Simon), accepted each of these challenges. Peter was a simple fisherman, but he would not have been wholly uneducated. When Jesus first introduces Himself to Peter, He asks Peter to take his fishing boat out into the sea and cast the nets. Peter likely thinks to himself, “You’re a teacher, not a fisherman. You don’t know my trade like I do. But if You say so, I’ll let down the nets.” Peter discovers that Jesus knows more about fishing than he realized. Jesus, then, encourages Peter to follow Him, and become a fisher of people.

As you read today, consider this: What does this passage about Peter tell you about reality? About humanity?

READING:

    LUKE 5:1-11

What does this passage about Peter tell you about reality? About humanity?

In what ways does this help you to identify with the story of Peter?

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Judges 6 & 7

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, like the disciples, I’m honored that Jesus is regularly inviting me to come and see where You are already at work. There are many moments in my life in which I have already seen where You are at work. Some of these include, (______), (______), and (______).

As I begin this new week, I pray that my eyes will once again be opened to see where You are working within my own life. Reveal to me the ways in which I may be denying Your presence, and forgive me for the times I trust more in myself than in You. I pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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God is WITH Us in Our Running: Day 5

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     Day 5: God is WITH Us in Our Running

READING:

    JONAH 1- 4 (if possible, read through Jonah in one sitting)

Who is the hero of the story of Jonah? What passages in this story lead you to this conclusion?

In just one sentence, write out the one thing You learned from the story of Jonah.

Then write out how You will respond to God as a result.

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Judges 4

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

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God is WITH Us in Our Running: Day 4

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     Day 4: Jonah’s Anger

If you’ve ever read through a good novel, you know that authors often use a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter so that you’ll want to turn the page and keep reading. There’s this thought of, “I’ve just got to find out what happens!” Oddly, the book of Jonah ends in a similar manner. It isn’t a cliffhanger per se, but it ends with God asking a question that is left unresolved.

Jonah is the only prophet in the Old Testament whom God commanded to provide a message to people who were not the people of Israel. In his displeasure with God’s request, Jonah runs, and runs, and runs some more. He eventually answers God’s call and goes to Nineveh, only for these ungodly, unholy people to agree to turn from their wicked ways. It’s strange to think about: Jonah speaks God’s message; the people of Nineveh hear this message; turn to God; and Jonah is angry with God about it! He’s angry that God offered mercy to the Ninevites. Even after everything he had experienced, he still wanted a God of his own making.

As you read today, consider this: Think back through all of the readings from this week:

How did Jonah respond to the challenges he experienced? Would you respond any differently today?

READING:

    JONAH 4

Think back through all of the readings from this week:

How did Jonah respond to the challenges he experienced?

Would you have responded any differently a year ago? 5 years ago? 10 years ago?

Would you respond any differently today?

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Judges 2 & 3

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, having read through the story of Jonah, while I would like to say that I would never respond in the same way Jonah responded, I know the opposite to be true. There are times when I question Your grace or mercy for others. But the story of Jonah is an excellent reminder that the grace and mercy You showed the Ninevites is the same grace and mercy You have shown me. It’s also the same grace and mercy You invite me to show others. Today, I simply pray for wisdom in how I can better reveal Your love, grace, and mercy to others. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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