Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mar 15: Acts 1

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 1. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)

  • Acts is a continuation of Luke’s first letter, which we just finished reading. Similarly, this letter is addressed to a guy named Theophilus. Unlike Luke, however, the central focus of Acts is on Jesus' followers and what they did following his resurrection. Jesus makes a brief appearance in the opening of the book but is then taken into the sky. But even though Jesus isn’t walking and talking with his followers like in Luke’s gospel, he’s still with them through the work and guidance of an entity called the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God working in and through Jesus’ followers.
  • A verse that summarizes the book and gives an outline is Acts 1:8, “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.” The book gets its name from the “acts” of Jesus’ followers: what they did to advance the Kingdom of God after Jesus left. The first twelve chapters focus mainly on what happened to Peter in Jerusalem (chapters 1-9) and in Judea and Samaria (chapters 10-12). The rest of the book focuses on a guy named Paul, who spread Jesus’ message throughout the Roman Empire (chapters 13-28).
  • The first chapter of Acts picks up right where Luke finished. As we continue in reading this book we will get to see how the disciples lived after Jesus had left them. Here’s a brief summary of the chapter:
  • Jesus stays with the disciples for more than 40 days and tells them to wait for the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus floats into the sky and out of view. Two men “dressed in white” (probably angels) tell the disciples that Jesus was taken into heaven.
  • The author tells how Judas died.
  • The disciples chose someone to replace Judas in the group of twelve. When the group decides to fill Judas’ shoes, they prayed and cast lots, which is like drawing straws. This method of decision is merely reported to us in this passage and not explained or taught.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)

  • When reading the Bible it is important to keep in mind that some passages are descriptive, while others are prescriptive. In other words, some (descriptive) parts of the Bible just tell us what happened at a given time, while other (prescriptive) passages tell us how we should live our lives. In this chapter of Acts we can see that the disciples prayed before their method of decision. Their example is excellent but we are not commanded to make all decisions this way.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • Speaking of decisions, do you know how many you make in the course of one day? There are so many instances of choice in life that it could be said that our existence is shaped by the decisions we make. Do you talk with God before making choices? Not just the big financial and relationship ones, but also about things like possessions and how to spend free time. God is with us every moment of every day and wants us to share our lives with him. Talking to God about this subject might be the way to start praying, or begin a revitalization of life with God.