We All Need a Priscilla & Aquila in Our Lives: Acts 18

“He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.”

Acts 18:25-26

I think if Paul lived today he would be considered a frequent flyer with all the miles he travels on his missionary journeys. This week we see him go from Athens to Corinth to Ephesus to Caesarea then a stop at Jerusalem before going to Antioch.  That is a lot of miles by foot.

Along his journey we meet a believer named Apollos who is from Egypt. He was an enthusiastic follower of Jesus having come to know Him by John the Baptist.  Apollos taught others accurately about Jesus because he could not not share the Good News. Aquila & Priscilla, a husband and wife who were taught by Paul, sat down with Apollos to teach him the full Gospel of Jesus. This was not to say that Apollos was wrong but rather Apollos only knew part of the story.  Now he knew more fully the story of the Gospel as he can shared it with others.

We learn in Acts 18 the importance of learning from more mature followers of Jesus.  While Apollos knew the Gospel he did not know the full Gospel.  Priscilla & Aquila sat with Apollos to tell him about Jesus’ life and ministry.  By sitting down together Priscilla and Aquila shared with Apollos how to live one’s faith in daily life.  They taught him Jesus’ lessons on loving one another, on serving one another humbly.

In our faith journeys we learn from one another about faith & being resolved disciples of Jesus Christ. We need “Priscilla & Aquila”s in our own lives so we can learn from mature followers. They teach us from their experiences so we can benefit. They help us discern what God is teaching us. We learn by watching them how to serve with our whole lives, how to share the hope we have in Jesus.

So who is a Priscilla & Aquila in your faith journey?

Who are you learning from to gain a fuller understanding of the Gospel?

Who could you learn from that is already in your life?  Is there someone in your small group or faith community who’s faith you admire and would want to be like in your faith journey? If so, ask if you could have coffee or a virtual call with to talk.

If you do not see someone right now write down in your journal the type of faith you would like to grow into with the Holy Spirit. Pray fervently for God to lead you to a person you can learn from as Apollos learned from Priscilla and Aquila. 

As you take these steps ask God to open up your heart so that you can humbly receive the teaching.  God created us to be in community with one another.  Our differences are opportunities to draw us closer together. They give us different perspectives in God to grow in our faiths.

May we have the fervor of Apollos to share the Gospel joyfully with all as we learn humbly from Priscilla & Aquila to grow in our faiths.

This Week’s Challenge

Set up a time to meet with another follower of Jesus who’s faith you admire.  As you meet bring 2-3 questions with you to ask about faith, life and ministry.  Learn humbly from him/her to see what God is teaching you.

Expecting the Unexpected

We do not always get what we want BUT…. God ALWAYS provides us with what we need. #resolvedfaith #prayer

I learned this lesson when I got my rescue dog, Lia seven years ago.  I had wanted to get a dog once I was in my own house. I had done the research into what breed was the best one for my life.  After hours of research I found Boston Terrier was the breed for me. They are smaller. Friendly, active, can get plenty of exercise indoors during the long, cold Minnesota winters. 

So the next step was to connect with a rescue group & adopt my forever pup. Into the search box goes “Boston Terrier” and out comes some pictures of really cute dogs.

As I was scrolling through the available dogs I stopped on a picture of a black dog with big ears and an odd looking pink bow.  She was not the cutest picture in the lot but there was something in her eyes.  I knew I needed to meet this puppy.

The thing is she was a Black Lab/Corgi mix.  Nothing like a Boston Terrier.  But I needed to meet this dog in person.

We set up a home visit with her foster parents for the following week. This non-photogenic dog arrived at my house and has never left.  From the moment she entered the house she was at home.  While we talked with her foster mom this pup wondered around the house as if she lived here. 

Lia and I have been best friends for over 7 years now. She does a little dance each time I come home whether I have been gone for an hour or a week.  She is so happy that I’m back with her.

She hangs out with me while I’m working at home (albeit most of the time she’s snoring or sleep barking). When I am able she’s always up to go on an adventure with me.

I may have thought I wanted a smaller breed of dog but what I needed was this furry best friend.  I cannot imagine exploring life without her.

As we journey along with Jesus we pray for many things.  Some of which we think we want something specific because from our perspective it’s the best thing.  What we don’t always consider is what God knows what is best for us. 

God knew that what I truly needed was a best friend to go on adventures together. Sure, a Boston Terrier would probably do the same but Lia was the friend God knew I needed.  

As you pray go ahead and pray for what you want but also continue to pray for the open heart to receive what God knows you need. Be receptive to the unexpected gifts God has in store for you. You know it is exactly what you need even if you may not know it at the time. 

Well, my unexpected best friend and I are going to go out on an adventure before it gets too cold.

Learn How to Recognize God’s Voice: Acts 17

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. Acts 17:11

We have traveled along with Paul and the Apostles from the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem through Paul’s Missionary journeys around Asia. Along the way we have witnessed the Holy Spirit changing lives with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Individuals have experienced the joy of the Gospel and could not help to share it with everyone they met.

This week we study Acts 17 where Paul & Silas travel to Thessalonica teaching in the synagogue three weeks in a row. He taught from the Scriptures (our Old Testament) how Jesus is the Promised Savior.  Many Jews believed, both men and women came to become followers of Jesus. 

As not everyone believed the Gospel message Paul & Silas moved to Berea to continue teaching about Jesus. There they were more warmly received by the open hearts and minds of the people in Berea.  So much so that the people read the Scriptures for themselves to ensure what Paul & Silas were teaching was true.

The Bereans believed Paul & Silas but studied the Scriptures for themselves to read God’s Word with their own eyes.  They heard the stories of faith and then went to God themselves to learn more and begin growing in their faiths.

We learn much from the Bereans.  We see the importance of reading Scriptures in our own lives so that we can hear directly from God.  We cannot solely rely on someone else studying the Bible and then teach us what they learned. We learn from teachers of the faith.  We also learn from our own time in the Bible hearing from God directly. 

The more time we spend in the Bible on our own we better recognize God’s Voice.  We more readily know the quiet nudges in our hearts when God is leading us in a new direction or giving us courage in the face of fear. For the times we wonder what God is doing we can hear God whisper in our ears “I got this.”

As you continue on your faith journey spend time each day reading the Bible for yourself.  It can be a chapter at a time highlighting verses that pop out to you. Or it can be 3-4 chapters seeing how the story of God flows through the pages. 

YouVersion Bible App is a great resource with 100s of reading plans.  They range from 3 days in length all the way to over a year.  You can search for a plan by topics such as faith, patience, hope. Or you can find a plan that takes you through the Bible in a year chronologically (not in the order they are in).  Find the plan that works for you.  If more than one plan interests you save it for later.

Spending time in Scripture is a vital part of one’s faith journey. It helps each follower to recognize God’s Voice.  May your time in God’s Word be encouraging so you grow closer to God each day.

This Week’s Challenge

Begin a Scripture reading plan this week.  If you currently have a reading plan save one for later in the YouVersion app. 

Learning Humbly From Jesus:Acts 16

“One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying.”

Acts 16:14

Paul continued traveling throughout the Mediterranean sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone who would listen to them. On this journey he meets a young disciple named Timothy. He wanted Timothy to join him on the remainder of the trip so Timothy can learn from Paul directly.

Along their journey they met some women outside the city of Philippi who were God believers.  By the riverside Paul, Timothy & Silas shared the Gospel with them. Lives were changed that day.  In that group of women was a business woman who received the Gospel and was baptized.  In fact her entire household was baptized.  

Paul, Silas & Timothy’s job was to preach the Gospel in each city as the Holy Spirit led them. How the seeds of faith took was not necessarily their responsibility.  Each person who hears the Gospel can receive it or reject it.  Their hearts are open by the Holy Spirit to be transformed by the Gospel.

Lydia teaches us having an open heart when being taught by God.  She was an accomplished business woman who probably had great influence in the city.  Selling purple cloth was not a small time business. Who could blame her if she thought she did not need God in her life.  She had everything she ever could need in life.

In life today we have many creature comforts that can falsely lull us into believing that we can do everything on our own.  We do not need God because we have everything that we need.  We can take care of ourselves. But that is not true.

God reaches out to everyone in love.  While God desires everyone to be in a growing relationship with Him it is not forced on anyone. Lydia is an example of receiving the Gospel message in one’s heart.  She received the Gospel as the Holy Spirit opened her heart.  Lydia did not push God away falsely believing she could do things on her own.

Lydia teaches each of us this importance of learning from God.  She sat with Paul & Silas learning from them about Jesus Christ.  She led others in her household to come to know Jesus for themselves. We can do the same in our lives when we gather together with other followers of Jesus to learn from Scripture.  We can share the Good News of Jesus with those closest in our lives by sharing how Jesus is changing us. 

May we all be like Lydia learning from Paul & Silas receiving the Gospel freely as the Holy Spirit opens our hearts.  Before our eyes God will change the world one changed life at a life.

This Week’s Challenge

In your prayer time this week ask God where there is an area in your life that is closed to the Gospel.  Learn from God how to freely receive God’s teaching. 

Differences Can Bring Us Together: Acts 15

“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

Acts 15:11

Differences. They divide relationships. They keep people apart when individuals land on either side of the difference.  We see in the news the differences between groups regarding politics, racial issues. As more differences arise the further apart people become from one another. 

But differences do not need to divide. 

This week we are looking at Acts 15.  The believers gathered in Jerusalem to discuss how to welcome the Gentile believers. Some thought the Gentiles needed to be circumcised in accordance with the Law of Moses. Others do not see the necessary need for this extra burden on them. This was a great difference.

They discussed for a long time.  Then James spoke about how the Old Testament prophets foretold the Gentiles coming to faith.  There was not word about them being circumcised. They agreed this truth and wrote to the Gentile believers to abstain from immoral life and grow as followers of Jesus Christ. 

The Jerusalem meeting could have resulted in a division amongst the Apostles.  Rather than argue to win a point they chose to listen to one another, study Scripture together and prayed for God’s wisdom. They did not seek to be divided by their differences.  Instead they sought to be in agreement.  They listened to learn from one another. 

We learn from them the importance of learning from differences.  Many times we find ourselves in arguments whether in person or via social media working to prove that we are “right” and the other side is “wrong”. The health of the relationship does not matter as long we ‘win’. 

As followers of Jesus we resolve to listen to learn from one another. Everyone receives the undeserved grace of Jesus Christ.  No one is better than another because of how one lands on an issue.  We freely share God’s love with all from our own experiences with God. We see differences as a way to connect with each other. 

During these times may we reflect God’s undeserved grace to all people.  As we are forgiven so are they. As God loves us unconditionally so are they. As Jesus rose from the grave to save us from sin He did so for those we disagree with on some issues. 

The times we find yourself disagreeing with someone on an issue look to the Apostles in Acts 15.  See how they listened to learn from one another.  Find common ground with one another.  There are probably more things you agree on than disagree. Seek to find a solution as the Apostles did about the Gentiles. 

May we be examples in the world of how God’s love unites us together.  May each of us begin to see that differences do not divide us but rather brings us together.

This Week’s Challenge

Have a conversation with a person who you disagree with on an issue. Seek to understand one another finding common ground together.

Why It is Important to Tell the Story: Acts 14

“Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too.”

Acts 14:27

Paul & Barnabas traveled far & wide on their first missionary journey.  They visited many cities sharing the Gospel of Jesus with Jews and Gentiles seeing many lives completely changed. 

This week we see them return to Antioch sharing the stories with the believers there who were waiting for their return. They shared stories of the lame man who was healed. The time Paul was stoned and left for dead. And countless other stories not included in the text.

Many beautiful things occur in ministry.  The conversations between people sharing stories of life & faith.  The incredible serving opportunities where God blesses all involved whatever their needs may be. The lives completely changed after beginning to follow Jesus Christ. 

As you travel along on your faith journey share the stories of ministry with your close friends.  Share with one another what God is teaching you right now. Share stories from serving others not to gain glory for yourself but to praise God together for the lives impacted by the Gospel. 

Think back to when you first heard about Jesus Christ.  Who shared their faith story with you? What stood out to you when you heard it?

Sharing stories is one way that we connect with one another.  We get to know someone in ways that only stories tell us.  We have a further bond with an individual that matures our friendship with them. 

Paul & Barnabas shared their stories from their first missionary trip so that the believers in Antioch can see how God answered their prayers for Paul & Barnabas.  The believers were together with Paul & Barnabas in ministry through many miles separated them. 

When you gather with fellow believers what stories do you share from ministry with one another? By sharing stories from living The 168 Life you are able to see how God is reaching the world through you.  Also you see the fruit of your prayers for each other.  As a community you are connected together sharing and serving together. When you share stories with each other or to someone who has not heard yet you are sharing God in your words. 

There is no need to be nervous about being able to speak well or not.  God promises to give you the words to share by the Holy Spirit. Share from your heart.  Share what you saw. The story will flow from you in ways you did not conceive.  Be assured that God’s Word does not return empty (Isaiah 55:11). 

This Week’s Challenge

The next time you get with friends share a story from when you first heard the Gospel story.

How to Be Encouraged During Opposition: Acts 13

“And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 13:52

Let the traveling begin. Paul & Barnabas were being sent now by the Holy Spirit to begin traveling to different cities to teach the Gospel of Jesus to the people in each city.  Their fellow believers prayed over Paul & Barnabas and then sent them out on their trip.

This trip is known as Paul’s 1st Missionary Trip.  He would eventually take 3 different trips over the course of his ministry.  With Barnabas they travelled far staying in the cities and sharing the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. 

Some people responded in believing what they were preaching. Others rebelled against them trying to stop their preaching. There were some Jewish leaders that did not like what Paul & Barnabas had to say.  The leaders rallied others to drive Paul & Barnabas out of town.  

This opposition did not stop them or slow them down.  The duo continued on their journey all over the region seeing many come to know Jesus personally for themselves.  There was much rejoicing celebrating these changed lives.

A key learning from this week’s chapter for us today is the importance to persevere in the face of opposition.  I grew up in a church tradition where change was hard.  In fact there was a joke saying “How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb?”  Punchline: “What’s change?”  

Yeah true story.

Paul & Barnabas were changing how people were worshipping God.  They were teaching everyone how Jesus is the Messiah, the Promised One.  From the Scriptures (our modern day Old Testament) they showed how Jesus fulfilled all of God’s promises and how by His life, death & resurrection we are saved from sins.

This Good News is life changing! It disrupts the status quo.

Some people are not ready or willing to hear this change.  They will be opposed to anyone who is changed by the Gospel. 

As you continue to follow Jesus with your life be encouraged to keep growing and sharing.  Yes, you will face opposition.  You might be facing opposition right now from family &/or friends. Stand firm in your faith.

Look to Paul & Barnabas as they went on their first missionary journey. They preached the Gospel in the town to all who would listen.  When it was time to leave they rejoiced for what the Holy Spirit did.  For those cities that rejected them they shook the dust off their sandals and went to the next city.

This week hold tight to Jesus’ hand as you go about your life. Listen to God’s Word when you pray, read the Bible, converse with fellow believers.  Ignore the opposition.  Shake the dust off your feet and move on to the next place where God has you to serve.

Be filled with joy as you mute the naysayers and sing the praises of God.

This Week’s Challenge

Memorize 2 Bible verses to say to yourself when you face opposition for the faith.

You Are Not Alone: Acts 12

“But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.”

Acts 12:5

Have you watched the reality show Alone on the History Channel? Its premise is simple – place 10 individuals in the wilderness to survive on his/her own & see who lasts the longest.  They are completely cut off from all civilization & humanity. After 7 seasons the longest someone has remained alone is 100 days in the Arctic.

Each contestant is completely alone.  There is no camera crew to capture the footage for them. They film everything themselves.  About once a week they receive medical check-ups but otherwise they see no other human being.  Most contestants reflect on the loved ones they miss and wanting to get back to them.  Some tap out because they simply want to be with their loved ones. All contestants process what it means to be alone and how difficult it is to thrive completely alone.

During our study through Acts we see in each chapter how God does not have the apostles or followers be on his/her own.  God sends out the apostles at least in pairs, like Paul & Barnabas.  We read continually how the followers gathered together almost daily to share life together.  They live in community ensuring that no one felt alone.  

This week’s chapter we read how Peter got in trouble again for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.  He was arrested by the Israelite king, Herod and thrown into jail.  He awaited his trial when the Holy Spirit intervened to release him from jail and return him to the believers. (I love how Rhoda was so surprised she kept the door closed on Peter. Check it out.)

Peter may have been arrested but he was not alone.  The believers showed how they we were with him in spirit when they prayed earnestly for him.  They would not forget their brother Peter.  They loved him in words and actions.  They lifted him up in prayer to plead with God for Peter’s safekeeping while he was in jail.

As we continue in this pandemic we can feel alone ourselves.  We are not able to spend time with family and friends as we are accustomed to being together. We video chat with each other but it’s not the same. Perhaps we are experiencing our own season of Alone right now. 

Hear this: You are not alone.  As a follower of Jesus Christ you belong to the family of God.  We are connected to one another when we worship God.  We lift up one another in prayer trusting one another into God’s care. 

If you feel alone reach out to a friend.  Connect with a small group to share life together.  Pray to God to bring you comfort.  You can leave a message on any of our social media accounts to connect. 

As you study this chapter read how God was present with Peter in jail.  Note how Peter was followed the angel when he was woken up in the middle of the night.  Model the prayers of the followers when they were at Mary’s house.  

May you go about your day, your week remembering you are not alone.  You belong to God.  You belong to God’s family.  Be connected with the followers of Jesus through prayer, worship, fellowship via Zoom. 

This Week’s Challenge

Complete this sentence: When I feel alone I will reach out to________________  by ______________________. 

What is A Christian? – Acts 11

“It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.”

Acts 11:26b

As we have journeyed through the book of Act we have seen God send out ordinary people to spread the news about Jesus rising from the grave.  They did not necessarily go to college specializing in ministry. Their credentials? A heart for God and a willingness to serve.

In Acts 11 we see Peter sharing about his dream with the Jewish believers in Jerusalem.  They did not think the Gentiles (non-Jewish people) follow Jesus without converting to Judaism.  Peter told them about his dream and how the Lord taught him to love the Gentiles as God loves them.

The Gospel was being taught among the Jews and Gentiles with lives being changed completely.  All were praising God for the blessing being shared to all people who believed.  While in the city Antioch Barnabas joins Saul (aka Paul) to team teach for a year.  While there the believers began to be called Christians.  

So what is a Christian?

A Christian is a person who follows Jesus Christ with his/her whole life.  This individual has surrendered to Jesus, accepting that s/he cannot save one’s self. Complete change begins in his/her heart so that s/he becomes more like Christ has s/he grows in faith.

A Christian has his/her identity solely in Jesus. So far we have learned from the early Christians how to live and share in the Gospel. They changed their lives to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

What does a Christian look like in today’s world?  Do we have to walk away from our careers to move to a foreign country?  Not necessarily. 

Being a Christian in today’s world means the same thing as it did in Acts 11.  We surrender to Jesus, acknowledging that we cannot save ourselves. We grow in trust in God and see ourselves completely change from the inside out. 

Since we are Christians we live The 168 Life.  Our faith guides our decisions, determines our actions. We become examples in the world of how God loves everyone. Rather than arguing and causing divisions with others we listen to learn and gain understanding. Where one is in need physically, emotionally or spiritually we serve willingly without judgment.

As a follower of Jesus you are a Christian.  You represent God in the world.  What is the message you are saying about God with your life?  Think about the one thing you want everyone to know about Jesus? This is the story you have to share.

You are a Christian.  You are a missionary. Seek where God is sending you to share your story.  Is it at work with a fellow co-worker?  Perhaps it is with a neighbor?  Or maybe God is having you volunteer in the community to help others?

So as a Christian live the 168 Life in such a way that others see the difference in you and ask what it is.  Take courage from fellow Christians in the Book of Acts to persevere when opposition arises. Listen to the voice of God to go where you are led and to share the words you are given.

Christian, may others see you and praise God in Heaven for all things God has done for us.

This Week’s Challenge

Write in a paragraph the message you want others to hear about Jesus.  To help think about why you love Jesus.

Acts 10: God Does Not Have a Favorite

“Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism.”

Acts 10:34

What’s your favorite thing to do on a day off?

What’s your favorite color?

We all have favorites, our go-tos in life.  Favorite song. Favorite meal. Favorite book to read.  Favorites bring us comfort.  We love them for a reason whether it invokes a beloved memory or helps us feel connected to a loved.  We keep our favorites close to us.

This week we spend time with Peter as he prays and receives a vision from God.  He is led by the Holy Spirit to meet with three men who are not Jewish to share with them the Gospel story. Peter learns to not judge others because God loves them as much as God loves Peter. God does not show favoritism to any of His people.

Peter believed that since the Jewish nation was God’s Chosen people than those who were Gentiles (non-Jewish) needed to become Jewish to be saved.  Rather God teaches Peter that all people are loved unconditionally by God, regardless of nation, class or gender.  

We can become exclusive by spending our time with those things/people that are familiar to us.  We feel comfortable around them so we spend more time with them.  But by doing so we can lose out on new experiences or new relationships.

God teaches us through Peter the importance of accepting others.  As we journey along with Jesus we learn from God’s perspective.  We begin to see anew other people and other experiences.  God works in our hearts to not be judging but rather accepting.  We will not always argue with one another but we can learn from one another. 

As God does not show favoritism we do not show favoritism.  God welcomes all to a walk with Jesus Christ so shall we welcome all people.  We may be tempted to shape someone to be the “right type” Christian first.  But we must remember that God accepts us just as we are, right we are.  God does not show favoritism meaning some can come as they are while others have to change first.  All are welcomed at the feet of Jesus as s/he is that day.

So as we live the The 168 Life, we love others as God loves.  We get to know people for who they are as God created them.  We pray for God to open our hearts to love openly, to open our eyes to see one as God sees them. We share our story with Jesus with all so all may have their story with Jesus for themselves.

Let us show God’s love for everyone by loving all. Pray in your daily walk to see as God sees, to open up to new experiences with new people.  Pray that you do not show favorites because God surely does not show favoritism.

This Week’s Challenge

Meet with someone who is different from you.  Learn from one another. Each share who you are, what makes you unique.  See what God loves about this individual and how you can come to love them.