Scripture reading for May 22nd: Acts 13, Psalm 102, Proverbs 9
Key Scriptures: Acts 13:48-52 “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the Word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the Word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
Paul and Barnabas had been sent off by the church on a missionary journey to preach to the Gentiles. As they preached the Word of God, many Gentiles believed. This caused the Jews to incite persecution. Paul and Barnabas simply shook the dust off their feet as Jesus had instructed them and went on their way. Those who believed were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit! Unbelievers were filled with wrath!
Faith Confession: The Word of God brings salvation to the humble and causes persecution from the religious. Help me to respond appropriately to persecution and use me to spread Your Word throughout the place You put me. Thank You for filling me with joy and the Holy Spirit!
Psalm 102:12 “But You, O Lord, are enthroned forever; You are remembered throughout all generations.”
Scripture reading for May 21st: Acts 12, Psalm 101, Proverbs 8
Key Scriptures: Acts 12:1-5 “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James, the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”
King Herod hated the believers and followers of Jesus. He also wanted to please the Jews to appease them. So he violently seized James, the brother of John, and put him to death. He arrested Peter, but it was during the Passover celebration week. Not wanting to disrupt this, he decided to postpone Peter’s execution. But the church was praying! The result was an angelic intervention that freed Peter and brought about the death of his guards and the death of King Herod. God knows how to turn the tables when His people pray!
Faith Confession: Lord, thank You for Your care for Your people. I trust Your care and ways for both James and Peter and for me and Your church. Help me to always earnestly pray and seek You in times of persecution.
Proverbs 8:35-36 “For whoever finds Me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find Me injures himself; all who hate Me love death.”
Scripture reading for May 15th: Acts 8, Psalm 97, Proverbs 4
Key Scriptures: Acts 8:4-8 “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the Word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.”
Jesus had promised that His followers would suffer persecution. This happened after Stephen was martyred. The persecution caused the disciples to scatter out of Jerusalem into many other towns and regions. Philip, one of the first deacons, was scattered to Samaria. There he proclaimed Christ and preached the Word and God stretched out His hand in signs and healings and demonic evictions. Great joy was spread as the Word of God spread by those persecuted believers!
Faith Confession: Lord Jesus, help me to boldly proclaim Your truth wherever the Spirit takes me. I want the joy and light of Your truth and healing presence to flow among all people in my path.
Proverbs 4:18 “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”
Scripture reading for October 5th: 2nd Timothy 3
Key Scriptures for over-comers: 2nd Timothy 3: 12-17 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have know the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Paul did not pamper Timothy with smooth words or flattery. He told him straight out that persecution would follow all who lived a godly life in Christ. The world would not get progressively better, but would get worse! This would require a strong commitment to live by faith in the word of God that had been taught by godly believers in Timothy’s life. The Holy Scriptures provide the sound foundation of faith in Christ Jesus needed to over-come the terrible times of the last day! They equip the disciple of Jesus to do the good work prepared for them by the Holy Spirit.
Observations for over-comers: Over-comers esteem God’s word and those godly teachers who instructed them. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7-8)
Scripture reading for April 26th: John 15
Key Scriptures for over-comers: John 15:18-20 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also.”
Jesus chose His disciples out of the world system of religion and self-exaltation. He called them to follow His own example of servanthood. He went about doing good, casting out devils, and healing the sick and oppressed and calling men and women to repentance and a new life. For this, He was persecuted and ultimately crucified. Some obeyed His teaching and followed Him. Jesus emphasized the need for servant leadership and that persecution would follow those who followed Him. The world system and people in that system would hate them!
Observations for over-comers: We are called out of the world system into the kingdom of God. We no longer belong to that dead system and it will hate and persecute us. We must remember these words of our Master Jesus! “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His Anointed One.” (Psalm 2:1-2)
Scripture reading for January 7th: Matthew 5
Key Scriptures: Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jesus warned and taught His disciples that they would be persecuted. He, Himself, suffered persecution because of His stand for God’s truth. Our attitude in times of persecution should not be “woe is me!” Jesus taught that His followers should rejoice and be glad because of a great reward in heaven! This takes faith and an understanding of God’s word and His precious promises. He promised great reward and that is enough! We are not the first to experience this persecution and Jesus wasn’t either. The prophets of old also suffered! It is said that Isaiah was cut in half with a saw. Jeremiah was cast into the mud of a cistern and eventually stoned in Egypt where he had warned God’s people not to go! The people wanted to kill Moses and return to Egypt. We stand in good company with God’s prophets when we are persecuted for righteousness!
Observation for over-comers: Our attitude reflects the faith and rest we have in God’s promises in times of persecution that are already here! “The Lord is my Light and my Salvation–whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
Scripture reading for May 25th: Acts 14
Paul and Barnabas, commissioned by the church in Antioch, went out under the leading of the Holy Spirit to do the work that God would prepare for them. (Acts 13:4) They found many willing listeners and some believed. They also ran into opposition, primarily from the strong Jews who felt threatened by the Gospel message. They then took the message to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
“At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of His grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.” (Acts 14:1-3) God worked with and through these missionaries enabling them to preach effectively. They also had the message confirmed by miracles. But this also stirred up opposition and a plot to stone them caused them to flee to Lystra and Derbe.
“In Lystra, there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.” (Acts 14:8-10) Paul discerned what God could do through the faith of this man. Paul encouraged him with a command and this man jumped up and walked around! This opened the door for the apostles to preach to a great crowd of people before the Jews from Iconium came and stoned Paul and dragged his body outside the city! God works through faith!
Scripture reading for June 18th: Acts 12:1-23
The church experienced times of peace, but also went through times of conflict. The church could grow in times of peace but did not stop growing because of conflict! God is able to use even the wickedness and wrath of man to bring Him praise and nothing will stop Him from accomplishing His program of winning the lost from the whole world!
King Herod began to persecute the church and arrested James, the brother of John and had him put to death. He also seized Peter during the Jewish celebration of unleavened bread following Passover. He wanted to gain some political capital with the Jews. The church began fervent prayer for Peter, who was imprisoned by being chained to guards in a locked cell.
In the night, Peter was awakened by an angel. He was told to get up and dress. As he obeyed, the chains fell off his wrists and he followed the angel out of the prison past the sleeping guards and having locked doors swing open before them. (Acts 12:9-10) Peter went to Mary’s house and knocked on the door. The disciples were there praying and a slave girl answered the door. When she heard Peter’s voice, she ran and told everyone but they thought she was crazy! Peter kept knocking and they finally let him in to tell his amazing story!
Why James died at the hands of Herod and why Peter was spared is not answered by God’s word. We do know that after James’ death, when Peter was seized, the church began to pray fervently. (Acts 12:5) God heard and answered! Prayer moves the hand of God and can open closed doors.
Herod seemed oblivious to what God was doing. He questioned the soldiers guarding Peter and then had them put to death for allowing Peter to escape. God was not mocked, however. Herod was sitting on his throne sometime later giving an address and the people were worshiping him as a god. Herod was soaking in the worship instead of giving praise to God. An angel of the Lord struck him down and he was eaten by worms. (Acts 12:21-23)
Through all of this persecution and spiritual conflict, the word of God increased and continued to spread. (Acts 12:24) Conflict purifies and unites the true church for prayer and ministry. Be prepared for the battles that are coming!