Tag Archives: Book of Acts

Turn Around


“…I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds …” Acts 26:20b

Did you know that the word repentance, as used in the Bible, actually means to “turn your guts (or insides) around”?  Repentance doesn’t just mean saying “sorry” or even feeling sorry.  It means going forward in a different direction — doing an about face.  Many times, maybe most of the time, we really don’t want to do this.  Sometimes we think we can’t  do this, because the sin is so deeply ingrained.  Saying sorry often means we’re sorry we got caught.  We’re sorry our bad behavior was noticed.  We want to look good instead of being good.

In the verse, the apostle Paul is explaining to King Agrippa exactly why the Jews want him to be prosecuted and put to death.  He had the audacity to demand that they change their ways!  He expected them to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, and it made them furious!

True repentance is a willingness to turn away from our sin (whatever that happens to be) and start walking in a different direction, walking towards God’s way instead of our way.  It’s difficult, and sometimes we’ll stumble or even fall.  When that happens we need to get up, get going, and stay focused on the goal.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

Are you willing to turn around?



Book Learning #2


In my last post, I promised to share some of what I have been reading lately.  I read widely and eclectically.  I read because I’m curious, and I like to know how and what others think.  I don’t always agree with everything I read, and so I don’t want our readers to necessarily take this post as a recommendation or endorsement of every book I mention.

First of all, in our weekly Bible study, we’re doing Acts this year.  I can certainly recommend this book!  Acts is exciting reading.  It includes miraculous events, travel, interesting people, sermons and even a ship wreck!  Written by Luke (the gospel author), it can be seen as a bridge between the gospels and the epistles and also between the work Jesus did on earth, and the work He continued to do through the Church.

In our Sunday School class, the material we are using comes from Concordia Publishing House (good if you are looking for solid Lutheran teaching, I recommend you look at their website).  This quarter we are studying kings and prophets.  Our first lesson deals with Solomon, David’s son, and his prayer for wisdom.

I’m also reading two books from our library and both are fairly new.  The first is My Utmost:  A Devotional Memoir by Macy Halford.  I chose it because I’m fond of what I call spiritual autobiographies.  I enjoy hearing about the spiritual journeys of others.  Ms. Halford was raised as a Southern Baptist;  when she was twelve, her grandmother gave her a copy of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  She has read this daily devotional through every year since.  Wow!  That was the greatest take away for me — I never thought of using the same devotional over and over.  I tend to use one for a year and then it remains on my bookshelf forever, seldom touched.  This is an idea I may try.  I admit I have never used My Utmost for His Highest, but I know our author, Leslie has, so maybe she’ll chime in to tell us more about it.  (hint, hint).  I learned a lot about Oswald, who was definitely not a Lutheran.  According to Ms. Halford:

“Attempts at pinning Oswald down generally failed:  ‘He was a sort of proto-Pentecostal mystic, and Wesleyan in his theology,’ wrote an anonymous commenter on Puritanboard.com.’ That was as close to correct as one was likely to get, but it still wasn’t entirely correct.”

He definitely tends toward the Holiness traditions (Methodist and Wesleyan) and my husband and I had a lively discussion about the difference between how the Lutheran view of sanctification differs from the Holiness churches– they believe in the possibility of entire or complete sanctification” — Lutherans, I guess, believe sanctification is always incomplete, on this side of heaven.  (Maybe my friend, Nancy, who is Methodist would like to comment on this).  At any rate, according to the book, someone can read the My Utmost devotional without even noticing Oswald’s views on this.  (If you enjoy theological debates, the book also covered different views on the end times — post and pre millennial, the rapture, etc.).  The author says My Utmost has been called “the little black dress of books”  perfect for every occasion.  I liked that.


My Utmost: A Devotional Memoir                          An Oasis in Time: How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life by [Marilyn Paul]

The second book I am reading is written by a Jewish woman named Marilyn Paul and it’s called, An Oasis in Time:  How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life.  I haven’t gotten too far into it — just reading a chapter a day– but it is about the importance of taking a Sabbath day of rest, and she talks about Christian and Muslin traditions, as well as her own.  I found it interesting to realize how much our life revolves around a weekly routine –on Monday, we plan the things we want to accomplish, and by Friday we’re assessing how we’ve done and winding down.  Rest is an important part of the routine (built into us since creation, when God “rested” on the last day).  Without rest, we lose that routine and become more and more burned out and stressed.  There are suggestions at the end of the chapter and exercises to help learn how to celebrate a day of rest.

Well, that’s it for me and what I have read, studied and learned about this week.  I’d like to hear from other writers and readers:  what are you reading?  What do you like/not like?  What has been edifying?  I want to hear your suggestions, too.



Achieving Unity


” And all who believed came together and had all things in common;  and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

I’ve already mentioned that unity doesn’t happen in a day;  it’s a process.  The early Christians worshipped, ate and praised God together.  They shared one another’s lives.  They cared about each other. They were willing to make sacrifices for the congregation.  This made their fellowship so attractive to others that they wanted to be a part of it.

You may join a congregation by coming to church on Sunday and/or standing up front and professing your desire to be a member.  However, true unity comes from day-to-day working and serving together, having fun together, sharing stories and lives.  It comes from seeing children grow up and older people die.  It comes from being willing to contribute your time, talent and yes, even money to support and nurture the group.  It means sticking in there to resolve problems and disagreements, instead of walking away.

Of course, these days it’s rare to belong to the same church for your whole life.  There are times when we must change because we move.  There may be times when we are called to leave our congregation to serve elsewhere.  Maybe there are even times when our doctrinal positions become so far apart that leaving is the only option.  When this happens, though, I believe we should join into our new church home with vigor and commitment.  We can’t achieve unity without doing our part.

“…and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:24-25

I would like to hear from our readers and other authors.  Do you feel unity with your congregation?  What had led to that unity for you?


Evangelistic Acts


“..the word of God continued to increase and spread.”  Acts 12:24

If you’re looking for a primer on evangelism, turn to the book of Acts.  If there is one overarching theme of Acts, it is the verse above –the spread of Christianity.  Acts is also a book about people, individuals, who through their words and deeds made an impact for Christ.  I’m going to list a few of them here.

  • Philip:  one of the first to preach the gospel outside of Jerusalem (Acts 8:4-40)
  • Peter:  led by God to Cornelius, one of the first Gentiles to become a Christian(Acts 9:32-10:48)
  • Barnabas:  went to Antioch as an encourager; traveled on to Troas (Acts 11:25-30)
  • Apollos:  left Alexandria for Ephesus, preached in Athens and Corinth(Acts 18:24-28)
  • Priscilla & Aquila:  taught the complete gospel story to Apollos (same reference as above)
  • Paul:  went on missionary journeys along with Barnabas and John Mark (Acts 13: 1-14); Silas, Timothy and Luke (Acts 15:36-18:22); Erastus (Acts 18:23 and 19:1-21:4)

In all, Acts mentions over one hundred people who contributed to the growth of the church.  It’s inspiring and exciting reading!

What’s On Your Bucket List?


I sometimes hear people say something’s on their “bucket list.”  In other words, it’s something they really want to see, do or accomplish before they die.  So what’s on yours?  Do you want to travel to Europe?  Write a book? Rise to the top of your profession?  Become a parent? Build a house? There’s nothing wrong with having goals such as these.

The apostle, Paul, however, had an even more important item on his bucket list.  Listen to how he describes it in Acts 20:24:

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

So today I just want to challenge you (and myself) to compare our bucket lists to Paul’s.  What’s really important in the long run?  Does anything I may have or accomplish compare to the joy of telling one more soul about Jesus? Your life may be the only Bible some people ever read:  is it pointing to the One who wrote it?


New Month/New Theme


This month I asked the Lutheran Ladies to help me out by posting on the verse below:

“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

This is the basis for the theme at the Women’s Missionary Federation day on June 13th at the AFLC conference and I will be giving a devotion on the topic. So the ladies will be thinking and writing about witnessing.  What does it mean to be a witness?  To whom do we witness?  How do we witness? Who witnessed to you?  Hopefully this focus will help all of us, writers and readers, to improve in our personal witness of Christ.

That being said, the Lutheran Ladies have also decided that there may be times when we go “off topic.”  We want to allow room for the working of the Holy Spirit.  So when inspiration strikes or we feel a nudging to talk about a particular issue, each writer will be free to follow that leading.

I look forward to seeing how this month works out, and I hope you are, too.  Send us your comments and thoughts, as always, and remember God loves you and so do we!




Study Resources for Ladies


Since we have no set topic this month, I thought I would post about the Bible Study resources available for women through the WMF (Women’s Missionary Federation).  Every year this group publishes a Bible Study written by a woman of the Association of Free Lutheran Churches.  Each study has 11 lessons, intended to be used at monthly women’s meetings within the congregation.  Of course, the studies could be used by other small groups or individuals as well.  Writers are not paid for their work, and proceeds go toward the printing of the studies and the WMF projects — missionaries and education.

Click on “WMF” on the header of our blog to go to the website, then choose resources to see what studies are available.  I was privileged to write this year’s study on the book of Acts.



Maintaining the Balance


“And when they had brought them they set them before the council.  And the high priest questioned them saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’  But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men. The of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.'” Acts 5:27-32

In my last post, I wrote about Paul’s instructions in the Book of Romans, advising us to obey the authorities placed over us by God.  We see in the verses about that obedience to other authorities must be balanced with the necessity to place God’s commandments above all others.

Obvious, right?  However, the more I thought about this, the more difficult it became to sort out.  In the instance above, Peter and the apostles were told by an angel to “…stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”(Acts 5:20).  This is what prompted their willingness to face the consequences(imprisonment, etc.) of disobeying the Jewish authorities to obey God.

Most of us don’t get such concise instructions delivered by angelic visitors.  Our primary source is the Bible.  The Ten Commandments can guide us in many situations:  if our employer tells us to be dishonest in our business practices, we refuse;  if we’re called upon to testify in court, we tell the truth, even if someone in authority tells us to lie.  We wouldn’t renounce our faith, even if we lived in a country where Christianity was a crime.

But then there are other things…. if our government tells us to kill people, we say no, correct? Well….what about soldiers?  Is it acceptable for them to kill the enemy?  And what about the death penalty in certain criminal cases?  Can a Christian agree to this extreme punishment if they are on a jury?  Can they pull the switch to execute someone if it’s part of their job description?

Suppose the government declares something to be legal that many Christians deem morally wrong — abortion,, for example.  What action should we take?  Peaceful demonstration?  Should disruptive or even violent behavior be taken to prevent something God says is wrong? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran theologian I have quoted often our our blog participated in a plot to assassinate Hitler.  Was he being obedient to God in trying to save innocent lives?  Or disobedient in planning to take a life?  I’m beginning to see why the Jews tried to formulate all those rules to nail down the precise meaning of the commandments!

There is sometimes (maybe more often than we like to admit), a tension between obeying the authorities that God has place over us, and obeying God.  How do we hold both of these  instructions in balance?  I hope some of the other Lutheran lady bloggers and readers will weigh in on this.  I want to hear your thoughts.





Good and Bad Fruit


” You will recognize them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” Matthew 7:16-18

In the second Chapter of Acts, we learn about the coming of the Holy Spirit to the believers.  In Galatians, Chapter 5, we find a list of the fruit that flows out of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  There is another list, the list of “bad fruit.”

“Now the works of the flesh are evident:  sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these…”Galatians 5:21

The fruit of the flesh comes naturally to us;  when sin entered the world, it became our default position.  The fruit of the spirit comes from being rooted in God, and is part of being born again and transformed as Christians.  As we become more like Christ (sanctification) the good fruit will be evident in our lives.

Which kind of fruit is growing in your life?  Are you walking the walk, or just talking the talk?  Remember, the world will know what Christianity means by the fruit you display in your daily life.

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit…”  Galatians 5:29


Church History


“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  Acts 2: 46-47

I recently finished writing and editing a Bible study on the book of Acts for our denomination’s national women’s group (click on WMF on our header to learn more about them).  If you want to learn more about the early history of the Church, Acts is the place to start.

Acts is an accurate historical record;  even hostile critics have been unable to disprove the detailed political, geographical and cultural information given by Luke as he describes the spread of the Christianity.

It’s exciting reading.  The book includes not only history but travelogues, inspiring sermons and speeches, miracles and even a shipwreck. It falls into a literary genre common to the time:  a record of the great deeds of certain people or cities.  In Acts you will learn about more than 100 people who along with many others in the early church “turned the world upside down.”(Acts 17:6).

I encourage you to read through Acts this month as we think about the church.  What can we learn from the early followers of Christ?  How did they respond to and resolve the problems they encountered?  The daily lives of Christians and basic principles of ministry are set out in Acts and are still relevant to us today.

Let us know what you learn from these original believers.  We want to hear from you.