Acts 10

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“…But God has shown me that I shouldn’t call any man impure or unclean.” (v 28 NIV)

“…I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.” (v 34-35 NIV)

“All the prophets testify about Him that EVERYONE who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” (v 43 NIV)

All over this globe, Father, there are hearts who RIGHT NOW are seeking to know You.  There are people who’ve had some idea of who You are, but NOW they are hungry to know You really, to know You personally.  Some of those people live here in my corner of this world.  Will they cross my path today?  Will I notice the searching in their eyes?  Will I hear the wondering in their voice?  Will I recognize the lives today that You want ME to touch?  WHO might I encounter today that is seeking to know You, and in their life, You want me to shine a light toward the cross?

Create in me a heart that breaks over the hearts that don’t know You.  As Your Son wept over the city of Jerusalem, longing to draw each one near, cause my pulse to beat with His passion for the lost and His compassion for the searching ones.  Make me just like Jesus.  Amen.

Acts 9

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“Then Ananias went to the house and entered it.  Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord — Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here — has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.'” (v 17 NIV)

Here’s Ananias, who expressed his fear of Saul to You when You called on him, as he greets Saul, Lord.  In spite of his own feelings — in this case, fear — Ananias chooses to obey Your Holy Spirit.

Several people I’ve encountered in this life are difficult for me to treat lovingly when I’m acting on my own.  The “barrier” might be their personality, their attitude, or perhaps, the way their actions or words have hurt me.  Still, whether it’s easy or not, You’ve called me to show love to others, even when I’m afraid of them or doubt their motives (1 Pet 4:8; 1 John 4:11, 14, 16, 18, 23; 4:7-8, 10-11, 19-21).

Lord Jesus, You have set me an example of how to love those who hate You and hurt You, who send You mixed messages about how they feel about You, who try You and trample You … and even of how to love those who love You back.  I can’t do this kind of loving without YOU doing it through me.  My flesh is weak and wants to withhold loving actions and words.  I need You, Lord Jesus.  Help me to love like You love.  Amen.

Acts 8

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“BUT YOU WILL RECEIVE POWER WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT COMES ON YOU; AND YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES IN JERUSALEM, AND IN ALL JUDEA AND SAMARIA,AND TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.” (Acts 1:8 NIV)

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place…. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Ac 2:1, 4 NIV)

“Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went.  Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there… When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them… they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit… Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Ac 8:4, 14-17 NIV)

“At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment.  He and all his family were devout and God-fearing … While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message… the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles…” (Ac 10:1, 44-45 NIV)

Just before You returned to Your Father’s side, Jesus, after You’d conquered death, You told Your followers “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49 NIV).  You explained that the reason for this was that “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in [Your] name TO ALL NATIONS, beginning at Jerusalem” (Lk 24:47) and that You were “going to send [them] what [Your] Father promised” (Lk 24:49).

As I read in this passage in Acts 8, I could see the components falling together from the passages above, Lord.  In Acts 2, You share the account of Your clothing Your followers with power.  Your Holy Spirit is poured out and “Jerusalem and all Judea” hear the message of “repentance and forgiveness of sins.”  In Acts 8 is the account of the outpouring of Your Spirit which opens the doorway of Your Church to Samaria.  Finally, Acts 10 gives a view into the beginning of that same message and promise poured out on people who stretch “to the ends of the earth” (Ac 1:8).

These three outpourings of Your Spirit on Your people opened the doors and ushered in those who hearts were open to You.  These beginnings paved the way for that message to reach ME!  Thank You for looking across time, as we humans see it, and seeing me…beginning a work that would lead me to know You, to love You, to follow You and to allow You to shape me to be just like You one day.  Amen.

Acts 7

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“…But God was with him and rescued him from ALL his troubles.  He gave Joseph wisdom…” (v 9-10)

Father, I realize that this little portion of this chapter doesn’t bring out the whole of what You were conveying through Stephen’s speech.  Yet, today, this is the part that wrapped itself around me–the portion that highlights an aspect of Your character that touches my life today.

YOUR PRESENCE–“But God was with him…”

You are with me.  You never leave me.  You’re always here beside me, even when I don’t notice … even when I fall … even when I’m too stubborn to acknowledge You … even when I’m too proud … even when I’m distraught … You are constantly Immanuel, “God with us.”

YOUR PROTECTION–“But God…rescued him from all his troubles…”

YOU are my Defender, not me.  YOU are my shield, not another human being.  You alone can bring the true victory in each battle waged against my spirit, mind and body.

YOUR PROVISION–“…He gave Joseph wisdom and…”

You know exactly what I need for what I’ll face.  You know just when I’ll need what I’ll need.  YOU are my Source for all things–My Creator and Sustainer of this life I live for You as You work to make me just like Jesus!  Amen.

Acts 6

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“…choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom…” (v 3 NIV)

“…They chose Stephen…a man full of God’s grace and power…they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke … All … looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel…” (v 5, 8, 10, 15 NIV)

Father, thanks for prompting Luke to write about Stephen, to include aspects of his character.  He was a follower of Yours who was “full of the Spirit and wisdom” and “full of Your grace and power.”

May my life be such that You are free to reign and move in me in such a way as You did in Stephen.  Make room in me for Your Spirit to fill me up.  Replace my own thinking with Your wisdom.  Make my life one that’s characterized by grace.  Send Your power through me to impact this world as You keep on making me just like Jesus.  Amen.

Acts 5

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“We must obey God rather than men!” (v 29 NIV)

Father, You have called me to be Your own, to follow in the footsteps of Your Son.  I chose to follow and continue to choose Your path to this day.  I recognize that following You will not always coincide with the path of those around me.  Yet YOU hold the Words of life; YOU are my Source of all things — there is no other one worthy of my devotion.  YOU are GOD.

— “the God of our fathers [who] RAISED Jesus from the dead…” (v 30 NIV)

— the “God [who] EXALTED Him to His own right hand as Prince and Savior that He might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” (v 31 NIV)

— the God who “has GIVEN [the Holy Spirit] to those who obey Him” (v 32 NIV)

You are my God who resurrects the dead, who exalts the humbled, who gives the Comforter!  You are all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving!  YOU are MY God!

“…if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God … The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.  Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they NEVER STOPPED teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” (v 38-39, 41-42 NIV)

Make me as bold, zealous and Christ-reliant as Your early followers, Father.  Take who I am and continue to shape me to be just like Jesus… May there be less of me and more of You visible when others encounter me!  Amen.

Acts 4

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (v. 12)

You alone, Jesus, are the Source and Author of my salvation.  You alone are worthy to be the Lord of my life.  You deserve my total allegiance — no other gods before You.

Highlight to me, Lord, where I have allowed “other gods” to take Your rightful place in my heart, mind, soul, and life.  Help me to see this sin of idolatry and to rid myself of it.  Cleanse me, Lord.  Set my primary affections and attention on YOU.  May I run to YOU first for what I need, even if that’s simply by saying to You, “I need …” and then waiting for YOUR supply, YOUR solution, YOUR answer.

All too often, my first reaction to a situation, a trial, a heartache, a struggle, a conflict is to think of which person to contact and talk with about it all.  Oh, You’ve helped me get better at crying out to You; yet, I desire to do so even more … so that my FIRST cry is YOUR name … so that “I lay my requests before You and wait in eager expectation” (Ps 5:3 NIV).

Make my desires and focus like those expressed by the psalmist, as You make me just like You:

“When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood … When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You. 

Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You?  And earth has nothing I desire besides You.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but

GOD IS THE STRENGTH OF MY HEART AND MY PORTION FOREVER …

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;

I will tell of all Your deeds.” (Ps 73:21-28 NIV) Amen.

Acts 3 – Affecting Lives Beyond Just Today

As Peter and John were headed to the temple, they encountered a man with a physical problem that he’d had since birth (Acts 3:1-2).  Every day someone took him to the temple gate where he begged everyday.  That “someone” seemed to think that was the best that could be done for the man.  The person helped him “manage” to get through life.  The man sought assistance from others that would get him through the day and meet his short-term needs to get him through again in order to do it all over the next day.

“When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money” (v. 3).  Peter and John broke into this man’s cycle and changed everything.

“Peter LOOKED straight at him, as did John…” (v. 4).  Who knows whether this man ever got any eye contact from others?!  How many times do people see someone panhandling and try hard not to see him or her?  However, in this situation, on that day for this man, two people “looked straight at him.”

“…then Peter SAID, ‘Look at us!’” (v. 4).  They not only gave him eye contact, but they SPOKE to him as well.

“So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them” (v. 5).  Still in his usual frame of mind, he was looking for what he’d always been looking—something to get him by for that day, his short-term needs.

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I GIVE you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’” (v. 6).  Peter didn’t worry about not having that for which the man was asking.  In fact, Peter chose to give what would have a long-term effect on the man’s life—in this case, an eternal power entered a finite moment and brought physical change.

Affectling Lives Beyond Just Today

“TAKING him BY the right HAND, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk” (v. 7-8).  In Peter’s interactions with this man, he touched the man—another possible rarity in this formerly invalid man’s life (aside from whoever took him to the gate daily).  How easy it can be to avoid offering the simple act of touch to others, especially to those most in need among us.

“… Then he went WITH THEM into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God” (v. 8).  This man hung out with Peter and John, getting a bit of social life.  From what we read about the man, this may have been one of those very rare moments in his life when someone welcomed his company.  They even were okay with him touching them: “While the beggar held onto Peter and John…” (v. 11).

“When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who sued to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him….all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonade…” (v. 9-11).

The gift that was given to this man that affected his long-term needs also affected the entire community.  No donation given to him on any of those other day-after-days to meet his short-term needs had such a widespread impact on the community.

Consider how this man’s life and community were affected by the choice of two men who gave from the resources to which they had access to meet his long-term needs.  His physical health was the most obvious effect.  Yet, his emotional and mental health were improved through the way Peter and John looked at, spoke to, touched, and spent time with him—boosting his value and affirmation.  His social health surely saw improvement with that time spent with them too.

The community saw the change in him.  They were in awe and amazement.  Peter and John took the opportunity to sue what happened as a teachable moment, explaining God’s role in what had happened and tying it into their own eternal needs.  Even though the two of them were put in jail later by the temple leaders, “many who heard the message believed” (4:4).

Often, it can seem so much easier to accept the way things are and never wonder what could be better if something were done differently.  Those who took the man to the gate daily were only seeing his symptoms, his current situation.  Peter and John looked at the root cause of his begging and did what it took to set him on a new course toward ending his crippling condition.  They didn’t just do a little something to feel like they helped at least in some way; they made a big something that had far-reaching results.

When it comes to addressing big issues in our communities like poverty and homelessness, will we do things that allow us to “manage” the problems and feel like we’ve at least done something?  Or, will we examine the root causes—the entire gamut, not just the typically attributed—and seek ways to work together to “end” homelessness and poverty?

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“The church that develops long-term, trusting relationships with the community is the one that has an opportunity to influence its culture.  The most effective way to do that seems to be in the context of serving.  In meeting the needs of others and serving alongside them, we cannot help but create relationship.  Relationship is key to building bridges into the community.”

– Rusaw/Swanson

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“…poverty and despair can become so internalized that it can take generations to heal.  There is a family…with four children… No member of this family has had a meaningful job for two generations, and both parents and some grandparents have been in and out of jail.  Getting a minimum wage job will not fix this.  Just giving them enough to keep starvation at bay is not enough.  Poverty is not just a lack of cash, medicine, or technology.  It is also about the confidence, skills, and belief that people can use what they have for the community’s good.  Surely poverty is as much about identity, meaning, and belonging as material goods.  Surely God’s hope needs to be involved to change the world and rid it of poverty.”

– Ash Barker, Make Poverty Personal

Acts 3

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“…Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? … By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong.  It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through Him that has given this COMPLETE HEALING to him, as you can all see.” (v 12, 16 NIV)

YOU, Lord God, are my Healer.  You are the Maker of my body and You know just how it’s put together and how to mend it when it’s broken.  You, too, crafted my heart and mind.  It’s YOU who knows best how to heal a wounded spirit, a confused mind, a hurting heart.

I run to You, my Daddy …arms outstretched for You to take hold of me and draw me near to Your heart.  I need You, Daddy.  Only You can soothe my troubles and inner storms.  Only You can speak peace and completely make a difference.

Where there is confusion in my mind, I lay that down before You.

Where there is aching in my heart, I lay that into Your hands.

Where there is turmoil in my spirit, I lay that at Your feet.

Where there is temptation in my life, I lay that at Your cross.

Where there is unrest in my soul, I lay that at Your throne

… and I choose to trust YOU to be the God You are

as You work in me to make me just like Jesus.  Amen.

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“It is as if God were saying, ‘What I am is all that need matter to you, for there lies your hope and your peace. I will do what I will do, and it will all come to light at last, but how I do it is My secret.  Trust Me, and be not afraid.'”    ~ A.W.Tozer

Acts 2

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“…this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you.  And you pinned Him to a cross and killed Him.  But God untied the death ropes and raised Him up.  Death was no match for Him.” (v 23-24 MSG)

“...it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (v 24 NIV)

Oh, Jesus!  MY sin pinned You to that cross, pierced Your hands and feet to impale You on that wretched tree.  Yet … THAT wasn’t the end of the story nor the last step in Your Father’s plan.

No way could You be kept in the grave!  YOU are Lord of life, Lord of all.  Your power supersedes all things, all powers, all authorities!  And the wondrous thought that comes with this is that You supply that kind of power to me when I surrender my life to You.

You wrote to me centuries ago through Paul’s pen: “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…” (Eph 2:4-6 NIV)  And elsewhere, he wrote: “…’Death has been swallowed up in victory.’  ‘Where, death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:54-57 NIV)

You have promised me a resurrected body after this earthly one is gone.  You have promised me a new life forever with You in a new Home.  Even now, in this life, with every “death” You bring a resurrection.  When a part of me finally dies, when I die to my self, You are free to bring forth a new me.  You carve away the old scar tissue and bring forth new skin, new tissue, new organs.  You make me new in my thinking and discard the old patterns.  When I die to the choices, events, experiences that have bound me for so long, that have immobilized my spirit, YOU bury it all and bring forth a new “me,” a freed “me,” a “me” that knows, relishes, and dances in Your victory!

As David said about Jesus, Father, may it be said of me:  “I saw the Lord always before me.  Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will You let Your Holy One see decay.  You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence.” (Acts 2:25-28 NIV)  Bring on the resurrection, Father, as You keep on making me just like Jesus!  Amen.

Acts 1:1-4

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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…wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about…” (v 4 NIV)

“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth…” (v 7-8 NIV)

They all joined together constantly in prayer…” (v 14 NIV)

Way too often, Father, I can be so eager to get on with things, to move forward, to see action.  In reality, it’s YOUR time table, not my own when it comes to this life in You.  Help me to patiently wait on You.

In the meantime, as I wait on You, keep my knees bent, and my mind and heart seeking You in prayer.  Call me continually to pour out my heart to You, to listen intently for your voice, to entrust my times into Your most capable hands as You continue to make me just like Jesus.  Amen.

Acts 1

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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” … Lord, You know everyone’s heart …” (v 24 NIV)

” … I am He who searches hearts and minds …” (Rev 2:23 NIV)

“And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, …” (Rom 8:27 NIV)

Your eyes are always upon me, Father.  You gaze at me and You peer inside me.  You see who I am to the world around me and You KNOW fully who I am inside (even things I don’t even know yet).  When no one’s looking and it’s just You and me, there before You stands the reality of “me.”

May You take this person that I am and mold me to be like the person of Your Son.  You’ve given me His mind and His heart — that was on the day I proclaimed Him Lord of my life.  You moved into the home of my heart as Your Holy Spirit.  Please, Father, have the “run of the house,” be the Head of me.  Cause Your holiness, Your love, Your nature to be vibrantly evident in me as You work to make me just like Jesus.  Amen.