“To live is Christ, to die is gain.”
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Who is Paul?
Paul of Tarsus was a man who shaped and marked the Church. Anywhere from 8 to 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament are credited to him. Paul’s story from church persecutor to faith defender is remarkable!
Many can quote the generics. We utilize his words in times of trial, when we are unsure, when we need some encouragement. And yet, how many of us really know how he got where he was? How many of us know why Paul was so remarkably trained and geared for his unique ministry? How many of us really know that much about the infant church?
Over the next six weeks I invite you to read Acts with me. It is the story of how Peter fulfilled the promise to become the rock Jesus would build his Church on (see Matthew 16:18). It is also the story of how Paul (once known as Saul) walked into the mission God had for him. One only he with his upbringing and heritage could do.
Below is a reading plan that will take us through the end of March. I welcome you to join the discussion on my Facebook page and then check back here every Tuesday where I will post some thoughts on one of the chapters from the previous week.
Get into the Word
The greatest way we can grow in our knowledge of God is to read His Word for ourselves. It is fine to do a bible study or read another’s ideas. But we cannot allow our vision of Him to always be clouded by other people. God left His Word for us to read. He invites us into alone time with Him so He can reveal things to us. The greatest thing about the gift Jesus gave us is we no longer need a mediator to meet with our Father!
Reading a book about Paul is easy. Reading God’s word directly is a bit more intimidating. But we cannot shy away. We serve and follow a loving and generous God. What he reveals to you in a particular text might not be what jumps out to me. We have to verify our findings against His Word, just as we should verify what other people say about the Bible. But to do that we have to know it, and to know it we have to jump in for ourselves.
Some tools to Help!
Grab the Bible and a notebook and get ready to be changed. Ask God to be with you as you read, to open your eyes and heart to new insights. As you read the chapter each day, take it slow.
I like to read the same chapters in two versions (say NIV/ESV and The Message or AMP version). You can read versions side by side on biblegateway.com.
It is also good to be able to look up what words mean. Too often our modern versions broke down more complex ideas from the Greek or Hebrew into a word or two. Over time meanings got watered down or the correct usage and its connection with other verses in Scripture were lost. Blueletterbible.com lets you look at the original Greek and where else that exact word/phrased is used.
I know sometimes we can read a passage and have questions but no idea how to drill deeper. When this happens first – pray and ask God for insight. “Lord, what would you have me learn here?” And then be still.
But sometimes resources are helpful! There are two I turn to frequently:
If we ask God for insight He will give it. It might come at unexpected times or places. I cannot tell you the number of times themes will appear in my week that tie back into what I was reading! He wants us to know Him and He wants to be involved in our days. But we have to give Him the time and attention.
Also, don’t be afraid to mark up your bible. Underline, add in notes from what you discover or learn. You can even draw an image that stands out or a prayer back to Him. If His Word is a letter to us, then marking up your Bible is a response back.
Here is a rundown of how the reading will work. Read one chapter a day one week days (not Saturday or Sunday).
- Feb 19 – Feb 25 : Acts 1 – 5
- Feb 26 – March 3: Act 6 – 10
- March 4 – 10: Acts 11 – 14 (March 10 no reading)
- March 11 – 17: Acts 15 – 19
- March 18 – 24: Acts 20 – 23 (March 24 no reading)
- March 25 – 31: Acts 24-28
So, let’s get started!
Acts was most likely written by Luke the Physician. The same Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke. He occasionally traveled with Paul. Many scholars believe the two books might have been a single volume at one time. Acts 1 picks up where Luke 24 leaves off after the resurrection when Jesus left his disciples and ascended into heaven.
It appears as though Luke is writing Acts as a letter to someone named Theophilus. Though no one is sure who this person was. Warren Wiersbe tells us: Luke’s salutation suggests that he may have been an important Roman official (see Acts 23:26; 24:3; 26:25). One thing is for sure, Luke is detailed and accurate in his historical accounting.
“The historical record of Acts is remarkably accurate regarding the specific practices, laws and customs of the period it claims to record. It is definitely the work of contemporary eyewitnesses.” – William Ramsay, noted archaeologist and Bible scholar.
It is also important to note that Acts covers some 33 years! It is easy to think it is just a couple of years. But within what Luke recorded we cover the time when Paul wrote the majority of his letters. This is not just a book covering the start of the Church but provides an overview for much of what we will read in the New Testament. I consider Acts the border pieces to the “puzzle” of the New Testament. Without taking time to read and understand it, we really won’t be able to connect the other books.
See you next week!
Father God, help me to quiet my heart and mind so I can learn from you. Lord nudge me to set aside time, knowing all you really want is some undivided attention. Help the Words You left become a way for me to know Your heart more. Amen
As you read note: What stood out to you in the passage? What are you learning or seeing from a new perspective? What response does the passage inspire from you? What questions are still lingering?