Friday, March 15, 2013

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 the book of Luke, however, the central focus of Acts is on Jesus' followers and what they did after 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. This book gets its name from the “acts” of Jesus’ followers: what they did to advance the Kingdom of God after Jesus left.
  • Jesus (after his resurrection) stays with the disciples for 40 days to prepare them for their mission, which is to be his witnesses. Then he tells them to wait for the Holy Spirit to empower them in the mission, and he goes mysteriously into the sky. Two men "dressed in white" (probably angels) tell the disciples Jesus was taken into Heaven and that some day he will come back.
  • The group decides to fill Judas' position of leadership, and they do so by praying and casting lots. Casting lots is kind of like drawing straws. (This method of decision-making is merely reported to us in this passage and not explained or taught.) 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.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The mission Jesus gives his followers is to be his witnesses to everyone. A witness is someone who gives testimony about something they have experienced. The idea is that when a person experiences Jesus, he or she needs to share it with others.
  • Though the idea of casting lots seems weird, take note of two other facets of their decision making: Peter looked to the Bible for direction (see verses 16 and 20) and the group prayed (verse 24), believing God had an answer for them. In the same way, we should use the Bible and prayer to receive God's direction when we have decisions to make.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • How are you doing with your mission of being Jesus' witness? Who have you been telling about Jesus and what he's doing in your life? How will you be Jesus' witness this week?
  • What decisions are you facing? Have you looked to God (through the Bible and prayer) for direction in making your decision? Why not do that right now?