Believe It 5

Friday, August 31

Acts 8:34-38

This passage is from the Book of Acts, as were the previous two. There are still other passages in Acts that talk of someone, or many, being baptized. Why do you think that is?

Today’s reading is the conclusion of Philip’s encounter with an Ethiopian official. Philip is one of the twelve disciples and has been sent by an angel to a desert place south of Jerusalem where he encounters and teaches the treasurer of the Ethiopian queen.

What does the official ask? What opportunity does this give Philip? What does the official then request? What do they do?

An interesting way to look at this story is to ask, “Who is in charge?” The easy answer is “God.” But specifically, it can be argued that in this entire situation with Philip and the official, it is the official who is in charge. He was reading scripture. He asked the questions. He suggested the baptism.

God is certainly at work, and Philip does his part, but the official is the one who is pursuing spiritual depth by reading Isaiah and by confessing his ignorance. He seeks guidance through questions, and when he has learned, he determines that he will be baptized.

The Book of Acts is about the beginnings of the Christian church, and at that time there was great passion to follow the teachings of Christ. This passion was marked by baptism. That is why there are so many accounts of baptism in Acts.

The story is a story of passion, of people eagerly seeking the presence of God. And when they experience God, they are baptized. Is God any less at work now than He was then? No. Should we be seeking God as passionately as the first believers did? Yes.

The question is, will we? Will we be like the official and seek a deeper faith? Will we take the initiative to draw closer to God, and will we ask, “What prevents me from being baptized?”

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to deepen your faith?

Believe It 4

Thursday, August 30

Acts 10:44-48

The random actions of the Holy Spirit are not limited to times and places. The Holy Spirit is also random in the selection of people. How often have we seen individuals turn themselves over to God and we have said “I can’t believe God called him!”

The Cenacle is the last standing portion of a Byzantine and Crusader Church heir to the primitive Apostolic Church (Acts 2-15). In Acts 2 Peter was preaching to the Jews. In Acts 10 Peter is preaching to a group who has gathered with a centurion named Cornelius. What happened? What was particularly unusual about this? How did the circumcised (Jews) know the Holy Spirit was working?

What did Peter want to do? What did he do?

The Jews were the chosen people of God. He made a covenant, an agreement with them going back to the days of Abraham. Because they were the chosen people of God, God sent Jesus to offer salvation to the Jews. Some accepted it; some rejected it. Then Jesus spread his message among the Gentiles – the non-Jews.

The early church followed the same path. The first believers were those Jews who had accepted the message of Jesus. But then, mostly through Paul, the message began to spread to all people everywhere.

Naturally, this caused some division – a type of “we were here first” attitude among believers. Sound familiar?

Peter preached to a crowd of Jews and non-Jews, and suddenly the Holy Spirit was working among the non-Jews. To mark this sudden change, this alteration of their lives, they were baptized. A new life was beginning.

What about at your church? Does your congregation or do you as an individual welcome the ability of the Holy Spirit to change the lives of strangers? Can you celebrate a change in someone who is not like you? Do you see all of us as sinners saved by grace, or do you rank some sins as worse than others with those people being pushed out of your church?

DAILY CHALLENGE: Think of someone in your church who you feel is least likely to be used by the Holy Spirit. Pray that the Spirit will work in that person.

Believe It 3

Wednesday, August 29

Acts 2:36-38

The Spirit of God is a mysterious thing which can move unpredictably in unexpected places and in unexpected ways. Many who hear the gospel message are brought to their knees the first time. Even as a lifelong Christian believer there are times when a Bible passage or a message or a song moves me to tears, even though I have heard it all before.

In today’s reading Peter has taken the opportunity of the Pentecost experience to preach. The Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and gave them power to speak in different tongues. Now Peter stands up and preaches (Acts 2:14-36). This is not a story they know and have heard before.

How does Peter conclude? How does this sermon affect the hearers? What does Peter instruct?

Those hearing the message were smitten with the truth of Jesus Christ. In hearing this they were moved emotionally to respond in some way. Their lives MUST change; the old was gone, the new was here.

The first thing they were told to do was to be baptized. This ritual was a two-fold act for these people. It not only symbolized a cleansing, it also marked a new beginning. This action would not be an empty ritual, but would be something full of meaning to these people. They were ready to believe in Jesus.

And now, what about us? Are we ready to truly embrace the message of Christ? Are we ready for the old to fall away? Are we ready to commit ourselves to a new relationship with the Messiah in Christ Jesus?

So often our worship and our walk of faith can become old and tiresome, habitual and empty. The message has never changed. What needs to change is our attitude, and our ability to listen and hear.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Can you hear the familiar story of Jesus with a new attitude, as if hearing it for the first time?