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 In the space of almost 200 years the number of people who claimed to be followers of Jesus grew from around 25,000 in AD 100 to 200 million by AD 310! To put it another way, without vehices, iPhones, YouTube, GPS, or PowerPoint, a collection of Christ-followers the size of Vicksburg, MS, reached the size of 2/3rds of the population of the United States of America in the span of about 200 years! If you think 200 years is a long time, remember Cade Chapel celebrates 135 years of existence this year. Simply put, the rate of growth of the early church was explosive! How’d they do that? Great question. The answer, in large part, is public information. It’s all right there in the 28 short chapters of The Book of Acts–a New Testament book that informs us of the foundation that was laid by the People of God who obeyed the Word of God and lived under the control of the Spirit of God to expand the Kingdom of God. This year, for our 28 Days, we invite you to join us on a journey through the book of Acts, but more importantly on a journey with the Holy Spirit to participate in an adventure with God. 28 Days of Acts is designed to take us as a church family through this remarkable God-movement of the middle years of the 1st century AD. Together, reading the chapter corresponding to the day of the month, we will read the 28 chapters in Acts from February 1- 28. This is an “all-in” experience. That is, we want YOU to be fully engaged and participating all 28 days. Here’s how. 1. Monday Morning Meditations – Join the prayer conference line with Senior Pastor Buckley each Monday morning at 6:00 a.m. To join the conference call, dial 1-712-432-3066. Then when prompted enter the Pass Code: 988652. The call should last for about 10 minutes. 2. A Chapter a Day – Complete the chapter reading for the corresponding day. For example, On February 5, read Acts 5. 3. Each reading has a corresponding discussion in the 28 Days of Acts devotional guide. There are three follow-up questions upon which you should reflect and consider. 4. Along with each discussion, there is an ACT(ion) for each day. The ACT(ion) may be challenging and push you in some uncomfortable but meaningful way. Do the ACT(ion) and experience the growth! 5. Each week, during the 28 Days of Acts, we will participate in acts of self-denial. Week 1 – Sugary foods, sweets, candy, desserts Week 2 – Social Media, Video Games (email is permitted) (If you’re not on social media, then consider eliminating something else – i.e. caffeine, tobacco, alcoholic beverages) Week 3 – Fried foods, high-fat content foods and snacks Week 4 – Sodas, pops, diet drinks (drink water and natural juices) 6. Mid-Week Worship – Wednesday nights, come to the main sanctuary and experience God’s awesome power through a time of worship and prayer. 28 Days of Acts should prepare us for a great movement of God. We are poised for God to unleash His power and His presence in and through us. Our desire is that by reading through Acts each of us (and thus, all of us) will be just as motivated and intentional as the disciples of the early church to make a huge impact for the Kingdom of God. ACTS 1 Crucified! Buried! Risen! Everything Jesus said has proven true! More than a good teacher, more than a wise friend, He is God of all! Fear evaporates and hope springs up as we encounter the risen Lord. Imagine the anticipation and excitement building among the first followers of Jesus as they waited together for the promised Holy Spirit. What an amazing time to be part of the Church! 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) Jesus tells the disciples in Acts 1:8 that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes. What comes to mind when you think of the word “power”? Does your life exhibit the power of God? 3) Who can you share the gospel with today? Who can you invite to church? The promises and commands of Jesus resonate with us today just as they did over 2000 years ago. Acts 1:8 says, “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 mission is not finished. God has called us and empowered us to take the gospel to the world. Are you ready for God to move in your family? Do you anticipate an amazing move of God in your workplace? Are you eager for God to change your community? The time for waiting is over. God is moving! The local church is an unstoppable force. Its potential as an agent of change in our world is realized when those in the church begin operating with urgency for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Are you ready for change around you? If so, begin by asking God to do something new in your heart. Let’s go! TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Pray for the presence and the power of the Holy Ghost to be unleashed in your life. Ask God to fill you and use you for His purpose and submit yourself to being used the way God determines. ACTS 2 Do you tend to stay to yourself? Would you consider yourself to be more of an introvert, meaning you’re most comfortable in spaces where you are by yourself? No matter how introverted you might be, deep inside of all of us is a need for relationship. That longing is first for a relationship with God and second for a relationship within community. God never intended for humanity to go about life isolated from each other, but rather in community with one another. In Acts 2, Peter and the other believers shared meals and prayed together. In that communal experience, God manifested His power and His presence. Like Peter and the early Christians, we are to connect and share within our faith community, Cade Chapel, and experience the power and presence of God whether through testimonies that encourage us, wise counsel that instructs us, or prayers that minister grace to us. Through the local church, God has given us a way to connect with other believers, so we can love and encourage one another as we become more like Jesus. But just like our relationship with Jesus required a first step, relationships with other believers requires a first step. Building God is constantly working through groups to change lives and help people take next steps in their walks with Jesus. God helps us overcome sin in our lives and community is a great support system to help you overcome. As Cade Chapel grows, we look forward to adding small groups called LifeGroups where you can connect with other believers and experience life, with its ups and downs, together. Also, if your heart is grieving after the loss of a loved one, why not join GriefShare, where you can experience healing together with other grieving believers in a safe, supportive and caring space? There’s always Sunday School, another group that connects you to a smaller community of believers who will study God’s word together and pray with and for you. At Cade, we encourage all to CONNECT. Engage in a smaller group or ministry where you may experience the blessing of community. 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) What are some things going on in your life that you need support from a Christian community? Are you willing to share those things? Why or why not? 3) Are you plugged in to a Cade Chapel group? If so, are you comfortable sharing with those people? If not, why have you not connected with a group? What is holding you back? Todays ACT(ion) – Commit to connecting to a smaller community at Cade. Laymen or Missionaries, Bible Study or Sunday School are great places to start. ACTS 3 In Acts 3, Peter and John met a beggar who sat in close proximity to the temple at a gate called “Beautiful.” Everyone knew the beggar at the Beautiful Gate because he had begged there for many years. This man sat a few feet away from what should have been a house of healing, unable to enter because in this temple the sick and broken were unwelcome. This man watched for years as healthy temple-goers walked inside to worship and pray. The title “Beautiful” ironically describes this place because what happened there was not beautiful at all. The broken were begging at a place called “Beautiful.” The needy were ignored at a place called “Beautiful.” Where do you see yourself in this story? Perhaps you identify with the beggar—spiritually and emotionally broken. You’ve been stuck in the same place for weeks, months or maybe years. Others perhaps call your situation normal, reinforcing your cynicism. However, you know deep down that definitive change is needed. But how? Or perhaps you identify with those walking by the beggar. Perhaps not in a cold and calloused manner – but simply with a resolve that there’s nothing you can really do about it. What can just one person do about a system that’s broken when it comes to caring for the poor? What can one church do? No matter where you find yourself in the story, know that hope is found in the name of Jesus. Through Him, healing happens, religion evaporates, communities transform and lives completely change. Through Him, what is broken is made whole; what is ugly is made truly beautiful. 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) Are there any sins in your life that you have accepted as normal? What are they? 3) We see in verse 11 that the beggar held on to Peter and John as they stood by him. Who are some people in your life that you can hold on to in times of need? Who are the friends who will help you stand? Today’s ACT(ion) – Do ONE good thing that will change somebody’s day today. ONE thing done consistently may begin to make the difference for that which looks to be too big. ACTS 4 Just months before the events in Acts 4, Peter and John denied any association with Jesus and fled into hiding. Now, in what seems to be a reckless disregard for their personal safety, we see Peter and John boldly speaking the name of Jesus and confronting those who ordered Jesus’s crucifixion. These uneducated fishermen stood confidently, speaking truth to the religious, political and intellectually elite of their day. What they did seems to contradict who they were. This dramatic turnaround was noted by those who listened, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). For anyone feeling underqualified, underprepared or in over their head, this chapter offers an abundance of hope. God will always do more through you than expected. It is not education, wealth, position or political influence that makes us competent or qualified to do great things for God. Rather, it is our time spent with Jesus that makes us ready for His purposes. Spend time connecting with Jesus every day instead of putting your trust in solely in your level of preparedness for the task ahead. Sure, do all that you can to be used by God in terms of preparation and education. But know that ultimately, your preparation is not the only prerequisite to being used by God. However, if you seek Him consistently and wholeheartedly, God will make you ready for all He wants to do through you! 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) What qualified Peter and John to stand before the Sanhedrin and present their case? What qualified them to preach to the crowd? 3) What does boldness look like in your life? How can you be bolder at work, school or home? 4) How best can you prepare yourself for how God wants to use you? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – If there is something you can do to be better prepared to be used by God, run towards it. Perhaps its continuing education, reading more, or being mentored. Position yourself for service and watch God do the rest! ACTS 5 The book of Acts is not for wimps. It’s a direct challenge to our natural desire to play it safe. While some well-intentioned preachers say Christianity is about comfort and prosperity, the Bible paints a much different picture. Peter and John’s trial before the Sanhedrin is just the beginning. Members of the early church endured prison, beatings, exposure to death, stoning, shipwrecks, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst and nakedness as a result of proclaiming Jesus as Lord. Instead of quitting they rejoiced when they suffered for Jesus. Most of us have never been flogged for our faith. We shouldn’t feel guilty that we haven’t endured that kind of persecution—rather, we should be challenged to stand up in our current circumstances. God placed us in this time and place so His name might be glorified now. Are we boldly carrying His name into every area of our lives or are we hiding behind apathy and comfort? The reward of a life spent living boldly for Jesus far outweighs any temporary consequences we may endure. Who knows what the repercussions of sharing Jesus in your school, workplace or family will be. But we can be sure that whatever we face, Christ is with us. In any situation, we can boldly share the gospel. 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) Have you ever thought of persecution as a blessing or something about which you can rejoice? 3) How is God challenging you to get out of your comfort zone today? TODAY’S ACT(ion) - visit the website www.opendoorsuk.org/pray/nigeria.php and familiarize yourself with the persecuted Christians in Nigeria. Pray today for those fellow brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. ACTS 6 Some people do well with change and some don’t. What is the difference between those who can handle change and those who can’t? It comes down to what we value. Some of us value our own ambition and self-preservation more than Jesus’s mission. If personal comfort is our goal in life, we will fight against change. However, if Jesus is our ultimate treasure, change becomes an exciting opportunity. In Acts 6, the apostles make a tough leadership decision that affected lots of people. Some people probably responded positively and others probably responded negatively. When change comes, you get to decide what kind of person you’re going to be and what you value most. Will you embrace change positively and allow growth to happen? The apostles realized that without a drastic change in how ministry was managed, the gospel would not reach the world. Because the early church was willing to change the delivery method of ministry, three things resulted. (1) God’s message continued to spread, (2) the number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and (3)many of the Jewish priests were converted, too. (Acts 6:7). Imagine what can happen in your walk with Jesus when you open your heart to change. Imagine what can happen in our church when we are willing to make the changes necessary to see more and more people hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Such change may require using different methods, employing different people, or utilizing different formats or implementing different ministries. But when change is embraced by the people and guided by the Holy Spirit, outcomes await us that we could have never imagined. 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) Are there areas of your life where you are unwilling to change? Why? 3) Is God asking you to change anything in your life today? Is there anything you need to start doing or stop doing to take your next step of faith? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Where you see change taking place in the church, intentionally support it today. Reach out to newer staff persons with a word of support, send a note of encouragement, or pray now for an open spirit to what the Lord wants to do today at Cade. ACTS 7 Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy but I’ve come that you might have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). How do we measure fullness? How do we know if we are experiencing the fullness Christ offers? 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) How does our culture measure success? What is the biblical definition of success? Stephen’s recorded ministry career consisted of delivering food to widows—the equivalent of a 1st century Meals-On-Wheels program—and a brief gospel message delivered to a group of stonethrowing religious types. In both ministries, Stephen gave everything he had to the task. He performed faithfully behind the scenes receiving the thanks of a few well-fed widows, and he performed just as faithfully on a more public platform when death seemed his likely end. No doubt Stephen was motivated by an empty tomb and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Stephen’s life was full despite its brevity. The measuring stick for fullness is not the length of our days, the number of our accomplishments or the frequency of our happiness. Stephen was boldly and faithfully obedient in every situation. He was all in. His life shows us that fullness is found in a life of Christ-centered purpose. 3) How is God using you to accomplish His purposes? Is there anything distracting you from fulfilling God’s purpose in your life? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Do something small that would never get attention by media or at church, but matters greatly to the person for whom you’re doing it. Suggestions include delivering a meal or doing laundry for someone who is sick; running a few errands for someone who can’t get out; visit with seniors or veterans in the hospital. ACTS 8 Occasionally we encounter someone with incredible passion for the gospel, and we wonder what makes them different. We might think their passion results from the gift of evangelism or a powerful conversion story. In reality, their enthusiasm stems from a deep understanding of what Jesus has done for them. This knowledge has transformed their behavior. The believers in Acts were undergoing tremendous persecution. Their lives were threatened if they spoke of Jesus, yet “those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4). Jesus is alive; He is the only way to God. Not even death could prevent them from sharing the gospel with the world. To see the gospel spread and lives changed, we have to do more than pray. We have to go! In Acts 8, Philip was so passionate about the good news he ran alongside the Ethiopian’s chariot waiting for an opportunity to share the gospel. If you’re not running with the gospel, it’s time to reevaluate what Jesus did for you. Our only reasonable response to all He’s done for us is to get moving! 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) How has the gospel changed you? How has it changed what you talk about? 3) Can a person know Jesus and not want to tell others about Him? Why or why not? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Pray in faith about with whom the Lord would have you share your faith today. When the opportunity presents itself, go for it! ACTS 9 Have you ever seen something in nature that was just aweinspiring? Have you ever beheld something that just took your breath away and reaffirmed your faith that only a God could create something so beautiful? That happened for me (Pastor Buckley) when I stood at the edge of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur. It’s a powerful experience. The monumental size of the mountains that just seem to suddenly give way to the crashing of the crystal blue waves is almost more than you can fathom. The overwhelming feeling of standing on the rim can best be described as awe. There’s no doubt that the wide expanse of the ocean is some of God’s best handiwork. It is too big, too blue, and too beautiful to have been made by man’s effort. The wide expanse between Saul and Jesus, seen in this chapter, is wider than the Pacific Ocean. Saul’s life was radically changed when he saw Jesus for who he really is. Everybody could see this awesome difference – but the response was vast. Some people were excited and wanted to help Saul in any way they could. Some people wanted to kill him. The before and after in Saul’s life was too big to miss. His life was dramatically affected by Jesus and that affected others. Nothing was the same for Saul and it never would be again. There is a vast difference that Jesus makes in our lives. There should be an expansive chasm between who we were and who we are today. These differences made in our personal lives, should also translate to a different church – vastly different and expansive. As God has so created nature with special touches that testify of His greatness, I stand with great anticipation to behold the great work being done at Cade Chapel through His people. Let us not only watch the change – but be a part of the change! Are you ready to be awed by God? 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) Saul had been religious and kept rules well. He was an enemy of God before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Can we be good enough for God? Why or why not? 3) Maybe you didn’t have a dramatic conversion experience like Saul. Think back on your decision to follow Jesus. What happened? How is your life different now than it was before you met Jesus? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Ask someone you know well about their conversion experience. Compare your experiences and thank God for the great work begun in each of you. ACTS 10 I can’t help it! That’s just the way I am!” Have you ever used that excuse? It’s so easy to use the way we were raised or the things we’ve been taught as excuses to hold on to the habits and attitudes God calls us to change. Peter would’ve understood. What God asked Peter to do went against everything Peter’s family and culture believed. Jews didn’t associate with “those” people—ever. Verse 29 is such a startling response, “so when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection.” Peter’s attitudes and beliefs were passed down to him over many generations but Jesus’s calling was bigger than any of that. Is that true for you? It doesn’t matter if your past is filled with great memories or painful ones. You’ve inherited attitudes and habits, some of which need to change. As the Bible shows you new ways to think and feel, how will you respond? 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) We are all works in progress. How has Jesus changed your perspective since you met Him? What is God changing in you now? 3) Many people struggle to accept that God loves all people and all races. Does your heart hold any prejudices that God wants you to overcome; any pasts that He wants you to forgive; any hurts that He wants to heal? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Think about the situation or person/people for which your mind is set. Simply ask God now, “Lord, change my mind. Change my attitude about it/them. Change my heart and how I feel about it/them. I don’t want to be kept by stories passed down to me or grudges that I’m guilty of nursing myself. Let this mind be in me which was also in Christ Jesus!” ACTS 11 The fact that God made salvation possible for people outside of Israel broke thousands of years of religious tradition and theology. In this period, Jews would not even associate with non-Jews, who were called Gentiles. They were considered the low rung of society, cursed by God and unfit for interaction with a holy people. However, Jesus makes it clear He came to save the whole world, even those who at one time seemed unreachable. The Jews had no reason to believe Gentiles were loved by God. But verse 23 says when Barnabas arrived in Antioch he saw people who had been changed by the grace of God. God was active in Antioch long before Barnabas had even considered making the trip. It’s amazing how closed-minded we can be sometimes when it comes to where we think God is. God’s saving power is not restricted by our geography and even our sense of morality. God’s résumé is full of converted murderers: Moses, David and Paul. By the way, we fit nicely on that list too, don’t we? It was our sins that crucified Jesus. Before we give up on others, remember that God didn’t give up on us. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Who do you know who seems too far gone? Who have you determined as “too far gone” to serve God or for God to save? No one is too far for God to reach! It’s time to reach out in faith and discover where God is already at work. You may be amazed at what you find out about God’s grace. 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) Is there anyone in your life who you believe to be too far from God? How can you reach out to that person this week? 3) Do you go out of your way to share the love of Jesus with those far from God? If not, what stops you? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Ask God for courage and grace and start a conversation today with someone you normally wouldn’t talk to. Look to discover something you didn’t know or wrongly assumed. ACTS 12 Chained to two soldiers and guarded by 14 others, Peter needed a rescuer. God rescued Peter from a hostile court and certain death by sending an angel to free Peter from his chains. The angel escorted Peter past the guards, and Peter walked out of prison unscathed. Peter’s escape was miraculous, but no more miraculous than God’s work in our church today. Every day God offers people freedom through a group, a bible study, or a ministry connection. He storms prisons of loneliness, addiction, financial bondage, worthlessness and rejection. He sets people free with the love, fellowship, teaching and purpose-filled living. Are you waiting for God to “beam you up” and out of your difficulties? Or are you willing, like Peter, to wake up, get up and follow God out of prison by taking your next step? Freedom from those things that plague us often times requires that we walk through the process of being delivered. That walk is not always easy, but is made more manageable with fellow believers who are willing to walk with you, pray with you, and hold your hand on your way out. Your angel may very well be sitting next to you in a service, or waiting for you in GriefShare or assigned to meet you in Sunday School. God assigns them to us. But we must be willing to walk with them. 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) Write about a situation in your life where you need God to show up big. Ask Him to do just that. 3) Peter walked out of the prison unscathed, but it all started with his first step. What first step is God asking you to take today? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Take a bold step today and sign up for a group that will help you conquer that which is most negatively affecting you. Perhaps you need deliverance from alcohol or drugs – seek out treatment today. Maybe its financial ruin – call a credit counselor. Perhaps its grief – contact our Minister of Restorative Care (Rev. Marino Bruce) to get signed up for GriefShare. Take that step today! ACTS 13 In Acts 2, the early church movement starts with believers gathered in one room praying and seeking wisdom from God. A couple of chapters later, they gather for a prayer meeting and the room physically shakes with the power of God. In Acts 13, the Antioch church meets to pray and fast over their next step, and Barnabas and Saul are sent out on mission. The power of prayer is unmistakable in the life of the Church. For what are you praying? Not the casual give-a-brief-thought-andlook-up kind of prayer. Not the “prayin’ for ya” text or post on Facebook that you never follow through on. For what are you desperate and for what are you asking that without a miraculous move of God will never happen? The good news is you don’t have to be perfect to pray or perfect at prayer - just persistent. 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) Saul and Barnabas immediately responded with obedience when they knew what to do. Are you delaying obedience on something God has asked you to do? Why? 3) How did the persecution against the Church allow early Christians reach more people with the gospel? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – What is the most desperate situation you know about right now? Take 10 minutes today of quiet, uninterrupted time and pray to the Lord about it. Turn off your cell phone and go to a place where you will be undistracted and lift that situation to the Lord and expect a great move of God. ACTS 14 Do you ever feel that no matter what you say about God, people misunderstand you? Paul and Barnabas were misunderstood many times as they traveled and spoke about Jesus and salvation. Some believed. But in synagogues, the Jews who refused to believe, “stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds” (Acts 14:2) and “the people of the city were divided” (Acts 14:4). Later in Lystra and Derbe, people thought Paul and Barnabas were gods because of the miracles they performed in Jesus’s name. They even started making sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas, convinced of the “god-status.” God did amazing things through these two men and crowds of people still hated Paul and Barnabas. The good news is that God has not left us to face the world alone. Paul and Barnabas were brothers who had each other’s back and served to encourage the other through the difficulties of misunderstandings during ministry. We should remember that we have not been promised not to be misunderstood in our ministering. All will not respond the way we hoped when sharing the gospel or even sharing the blessings of the Lord. But in such moments of misunderstanding, we have God and we have each other. When Paul and Barnabas returned from preaching, they came to the local church for encouragement and prayer. Don’t be afraid to live boldly even if others misunderstand your ministry and motive. You’re not alone. We’re in this together! 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) Despite repeated threats, Paul and Barnabas continued to boldly and patiently share the gospel. Where did they get the strength to live boldly in the face of trouble? 3) Even after nearly being stoned to death, Paul got back up and went to Lystra and Derbe. What kind of adversity are you facing today? How can you be like Paul and boldly continue the mission God has given you? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Consider that last or memorable situation where you and/or your motives were misunderstood. Why were they misunderstood? Could you have presented differently? Were you clear in your message? How did you contribute to the misunderstanding? Ask the Lord to show you if and how you played a part in the misunderstanding. If so, and if it’s possible to correct it – take the next step and repair what resulted from the misunderstanding. Go and be reconciled today! ACT 15 As the gospel spreads and grows in the early church, a diverse group emerged. What was once a small band of Jewish locals now included a large number of non-Jews or Gentiles. Differences in opinion caused friction among the church body. People hoped the church leaders would pick a side, but they didn’t realize they were all working toward a common vision. Our church must be on guard against division springing up from our different backgrounds, traditions and preferences. Unleashing the power of the Holy Spirit requires us to make room for God to do what He wants and to bring to us whom He wants. While we have many differences, our common denominator is salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. Our mission to see the gospel spread throughout the world unites us! Peter says in Acts 15:8 that the same Spirit lives in all of us; God has not made a distinction. Those in Christ are all under the love of God. We are the body and we each have a role to fill. Embracing our differences and focusing on our united mission will help us reach people faster. Let’s be mindful that divisions in the church are cancerous to the body. We are one body. 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) What are the benefits of a diverse church? How can you help make Cade Chapel the kind of church that welcomes those who are turning to God? 3) Jews and Gentiles were united by the recognition that they could not earn their salvation. The same is true for us today. Are you trying to earn God’s approval through good works? Flip over to Hebrews 11:6. What pleases God? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Look around church today. What do you see? Who do you see? It is certain that people tend to stay within their own people groups. However, God is certainly bigger than race. Mississippi has its sordid history of race relations, but God is the God of history and destiny. Ask God this week to direct you in conversations with people of other ethnicities and that in so doing a natural invitation might be extended to worship at Cade next Sunday! ACTS 16 Finding people far from God was Paul’s primary ambition. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, Paul was obedient to this mission no matter the cost. Paul followed the Spirit’s lead wherever he needed to go, even if that meant prison. After freeing a girl from an evil spirit, Paul is persecuted again. This time he was publicly humiliated in his own home country, flogged and imprisoned. Most of us would want to shout out, “Wait, I’m a citizen! What do you think you are doing?” And, in prison, I’m sure we wouldn’t be singing hymns and praying— unless it was praying for a quick way out. Through Paul and Silas’s imprisonment, a whole family came to know the Lord as Savior! Because Paul was obedient and faithful, he got to see God change hearts. Are we willing to get uncomfortable in order to see others come to know Christ? 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) Every one of us has experienced hardships in life. Think through some of the difficult times you have experienced. How have you seen God bring good things out of bad situations? 3) Are you willing to do whatever it takes to reach friends and family with the truth? What does that look like for you? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Deliverance Day! Let’s revisit what you were supposed to do on day 12. Today is Monday, the first of the week. This would be a great time to get enrolled in that class or that group, or contact that counselor. The girl delivered from the evil spirit was healed by Paul. God still uses the touch of His children for healing. They may be therapists who are believers or counselors who are Christians. Here are a couple of counseling centers we recommend: The Shepherd’s Staff - 200 Park Circle, Suite 1, Flowood, MS 39232 Office: 601.664.0455 (Family and Marriage Counseling) Alcohol Services Center - 950 North West Street , Jackson, MS 39202 Phone: 601.948.6220 (Substance Abuse) ARK - Mississippi Children’s Home Services, Jackson, MS 39215, Phone: 601-352-7784 (Substance abuse for adolescents) ACTS 17 Paul stood before a group and boldly proclaimed the truth. How awesome is it that Paul’s words exude confidence, not insecurity? Why was he able to speak with such authority? Because Paul knew Jesus intimately. He had spent time studying God’s word and committing it to memory. In Paul’s speech, he quotes from the books of Isaiah and Deuteronomy. His confidence came from the knowledge of God’s Word he had received through spending time in the Bible. When Jesus changed Paul’s heart, Paul experienced an extreme spiritual transformation. We grow in our relationships with the Lord by spending time with God each day, studying the scriptures and praying. Maybe you’ve made a decision to follow Jesus, but you’ve never taken that next step of reading the Bible regularly and doing whatever it takes to get to know Him better. Acts 17:27 says God is not far from any of us. That is great news! 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) What about your life has changed since coming to know Jesus? How has time with God contributed to that change? 3) What is your next step in spending time with Jesus daily? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Stick with it. Keep reading a chapter a day. You’ve already complete 17!! ACTS 18 Paul left Corinth, setting sail for Ephesus with these final words, “I will come back if it is God’s will” (Acts 18:21). That phrase—“if it is God’s will”—punctures our hedge of comfort. Paul was sailing toward more persecution and suffering. Soon he willingly journeyed to Jerusalem knowing he would likely be arrested and put to death. Why? Because it was God’s will, spoken to Paul, and there was no other decision but joyful obedience. How often do we make plans and purchases assuming that God is with us? Do we really want to know God’s will for our lives? What if it means discomfort or worse? What if God wants us to leave our city, state or even country? It is easy to make decisions based on personal comfort instead of purpose. You are created on purpose for a purpose. God has a plan for you. Are you ready to obey no matter the cost? 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) What next step is Jesus asking you to take today? Is there a big decision you have been praying over recently? Are you ready to obey? 3) Hardships never seem to slow Paul down. Do you think Paul’s attitude is a result of positive thinking or something more? What helps us to move forward even when we’re discouraged? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Today is Wednesday. Two things to do today: (1) Make it to bible study tonight! That for which you have been praying, we will seek God for together. (2) If there is a big decision you’re making, call the church office to schedule a conference with Pastor Buckley. Let’s get some spiritual guidance on the matter!! (Church office: 601.366.5463) ACTS 19 In Ephesus, people had strong emotions about the silver statues of their goddess, Artemis. The silversmiths knew if people started believing in God instead of their man-made idols their income would suffer. While silver statues may not be the objects of our affection, we have plenty of false gods of our own. One of our most prevalent gods is the unquenchable desire for more—more income, a bigger home or maybe just a cooler phone. Solid biblical principles can help break the idolatry of more, bigger and better. Learning to steward our resources God’s way can bring peace to our finances and break the hold of idolatry in our life. 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) What does it mean to value God more than material possessions and money? How do your budget and your priorities need to change to make God your most valued treasure? 3) Is it possible to be close to Jesus and talk about Jesus without actually knowing Jesus? What does this look like in the modern day Church? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – So you hear it week after week. You are encouraged to give %10 of your income as a tithe to the Lord. But perhaps, you have yet to experience the great blessing associated with practicing this spiritual discipline. If you have not committed to giving a tithe, I want to issue this challenge. For the next three months, try God! Give 10% of your total income to the Lord and see what happens in your finances. Tithing is a principle that God honors. Join your fellow brothers and sisters and experience the spiritual and material blessings you’ve been missing. ACTS 20 Sometimes we all feel like giving up. We make promises to do better, we pray more or try harder in hopes of finding our way out of the depression created by life’s hardships and ministry’s challenges. When even our best efforts don’t seem to work, God reminds us of the truth. He loves us and will never abandon us. This is the message of Jesus: while we were still sinners, he came to save us. Nothing we do will ever separate us from the love of God. In Acts 20, Paul faces the bleak prospects of ministry in Jerusalem. His lucid perspective of the persecution that awaits him in Jerusalem is not enough to keep him from going. Sometimes, we conclude that God’s will is a path paved with ease and convenience. But Paul’s journey with God was taking him into a hostile environment. Paul battled through tears, overwhelming opposition, loneliness and weariness, but he never gave up on his calling to follow Jesus. He did not attempt to do it alone either. Throughout his ministry, Paul was surrounded by a community of believers. Some encouraged and helped him, others let him down, but he never gave up. And he also used his own persecution as a testimony to encourage fellow believers. 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) How does Paul’s testimony in verses 18–35 encourage you to share your faith? Has discouragement kept you from telling someone else about Jesus? 3) Paul says in verse 24 that he counts his life as nothing, except to finish the mission God has given him. Can you say that? What calling has God put on your life? What can you do today to obey God’s call? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – “Going not Knowing” - that’s what Paul was willing to do. He decided to go to Jerusalem not assured of the outcome. What fear(s )have kept you from doing that which God has called and equipped you to do? Is it a fear of failure; a fear of suffering; a fear of the future/ unknown? Remember that God has not given you the spirit of fear! Today, BY FAITH, face your fears. Be honest about them and do ONE thing today by faith for which you couldn’t know or determine the outcome. Perhaps it’s a conversation you’ve been dreading having. Maybe it’s a venture you’ve been afraid of beginning. Are you willing to go for it with only the assurance that God is going with you? ACTS 21 Paul didn’t play around. He took his commitment to Christ seriously. So seriously, he insisted on walking boldly in obedience toward prison and hardship. Despite the persistent warnings of other believers, he could not be deterred from what God had for him next. Why was that? Because Paul had a personal encounter with Jesus that proved to him that God can be trusted. God’s foresight is perfect and His plans are always ripe with purpose. God’s way is rarely easy because easy never results in a spiritual profit. If there ever was a definition of committed, it lives in verse 13, “...I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Paul’s resolve was wellguarded by his courageous faith. He did not entertain fear or selfinterest. 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) In your gut, what is really holding you back from the courageous faith and bold obedience like Paul’s? 3) Has there ever been a time when influential people tried to dissuade you from doing what you felt God was directing you to do? If so, how did you decide what to do? How can you know what God wants you to do? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Thank God for the person or people who influence you greatly. Then commit to making sure that person (or persons) is put in the right perspective. Isaiah 6 describes the prophets encounter with God happening in the year that King Uzzah died. Some interpret that to mean that sometimes those who influence us most can get in the way of our own spiritual development. How is your relationship with God. Can you hear His voice for yourself or do you rely too heavily on another’s thoughts to direct your actions? Draw closer to God today with an honest intention of knowing and hearing His voice for yourself. ACTS 22 There are few things more powerful and disarming than a story, particularly the story of how Jesus changed someone’s life. Paul could have argued the finer points of the law with anyone in the crowd. He could have expounded on Christ’s fulfillment of every nook and cranny of Old Testament prophecy. Instead, he shared his story of transformation with a vicious mob. A murderer of Christians morphed into a preacher of the gospel—that’s compelling stuff! Every Christ follower has a story to tell. All of us have been rescued from a life of sin and disobedience, set free to follow Jesus. God does not call us to be articulate salesmen or well-educated theologians. He has equipped us better than that. God has given each of us a story of life change and the power of the gospel. Who are we sharing our stories with? 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) In Acts 22, Paul gives a great example of how to share your story. If you’ve never practiced sharing your story, share it with us on the Cade Chapel app under the “Tell Your Tetimony” tab. 3) How do you feel when faith comes up in mixed company? Do you shy away from talking about Jesus with friends, family and coworkers? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Convincing the unbeliever is no small task. Often times, the most convincing argument is not a theological one, but rather a personal one. TODAY, listen to the prompting of the Spirit to engage a conversation that leads to faith. Be authentic; be honest; be fair; and by all means be loving. You may do more convincing by how authentic you are in demonstrating Christ’s love rather than by arguing points of faith. ACTS 23 Paul shared his story before a violent crowd of people. Perhaps a few hearts were softened, and maybe even changed by his message. But mostly his message was greeted with resistance. Paul could’ve been bitter about his circumstances. He could have been angry with God. Beaten, attacked, pulled on and almost torn to pieces, Paul was aware of the purpose behind his hardship. In verse 11, the Lord tells Paul, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” (Acts 23:11) Paul could have seen his circumstances as a series of bad days. But through each twist in Paul’s trial, God made a way for Paul to share his story with as many people as possible. Paul pressed on to finish the race to which he was called. Comfort, safety and personal preference were not considerations. The good news was ever on his lips and the gentle encouragement of a compassionate Father in his ear saying, “Take courage!” Paul had eyes to see the Lord at work in his circumstances and ears to hear God’s consistent reassurance of His certain faithfulness. 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) How do you see God wanting to use your current circumstances for spiritual benefit, whether it’s your own or someone else’s? 3) What hypocrisy does Paul call out in the high priest in verse 3? Why is it dangerous to say one thing yet do another? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Get a different view. No one likes tragedy or trials. No one gets giddy over problems and pain. But Paul reminds us the ALL things work together for good. Think about those days that have been dark and those challenges to which you have been most adverse. What good has come out of it? How has it changed you for the better? How has it impacted your faith or your priorities? Thank God TODAY for the good that came from life’s challenges. ACTS 24 Convenience is not something we should expect from God. It may feel poorly timed, perhaps even prickly, sharp and uncomfortable. The paradox is this: God’s Word is always perfectly timed—just by a different timepiece. Any attempt to schedule growth—to wait until life isn’t so busy, to wait until the children are older, to wait until God’s commands feel less confrontational—will mean missing out on what God is doing now. Felix, though “well acquainted with the Way,” (Acts 24:22) missed out on a relationship with Jesus because God’s truth felt like a spur in Felix’s indulgences. He tried to take God in small doses. Felix sent for Paul frequently then dismissed Paul when he had enough. It can be easy to slip into comfortable religion, consuming morsels of truth sporadically so as to dilute its impact. Growth and change require a daily diet of God’s word—not appetizers of scripture served up on special occasions. 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) What do you think frightened Felix about Paul’s message on righteousness, self-control and judgment to come (Verse 25)? How is it possible to hear truth and remain unchanged by it? 3) Is your commitment to growth and change more like Paul or Felix? How? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Grow! That’s all. Be intentional today about what you will do to grow in your walk with God – and then do it!! ACTS 25 During college football season, passion is on display every Saturday in stadiums all over the country. Fans have no problem losing their minds in excitement for their team. They identify with the school and have a passion to see it succeed. Passion is a powerful thing. When you are passionate about something, you have no issue in being bold to support it. Paul was passionate about spreading the Gospel, and his boldness goes on display in Acts 25. Paul responds to Festus in verses 10-11 saying, “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” Notice the tone that Paul uses to end his statement. He is on trial and could be sentenced to death, but because he believes in his actions and his purpose, he speaks boldly. Paul’s passion for spreading the message of Jesus made him passionate and willing to face even death. When we catch on to this kind of passion for the Gospel, we can gain a boldness that will change not only our communities, but a boldness that could spark a movement of God that will change the world! 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) How can you display passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in your life? 3) Who do you need to be bolder with, so your passion for Jesus shows? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – What ONE bold thing could you do today that would start the change your workplace, your home, your church, or your community? What bold prayer could be prayed or what bold vision could be supported in a bold way? What kind of bold giving could you do that might spark a giving revolution in the church which might then afford the church to do something grand for God? Be BOLD! ACTS 26 After finally receiving an opportunity to plead his case before King Agrippa, Paul instead chooses to share the story of his miraculous conversion to Christ. Why would he do that? Jesus is the hero of Paul’s story. His life focuses on the message of the cross, offensive to some and unbelievable to others. Through it all, Paul focuses on Jesus and the eternity Christ offers rather than the temporary consequences of this life. It is all about Jesus! Paul’s attitude and focus is most clearly revealed in Acts 26:29—“I pray that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” Paul understands that light and momentary trials achieve an eternal glory far outweighing any hardship he faces. That’s why, given this opportunity, he shared the gospel instead of begging for his life. When given an opportunity, do you make much of you or much of Jesus? We were put here to make Him known! 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) How do you react when people respond negatively to you? What can you learn from Paul’s response to Festus and Agrippa? 3) Think back over your conversations and stories the past few weeks. Who is the focus of your attention and hero of your stories? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – What have you been on the verge of doing in obedience to God? What have you almost been willing to take on but retreated from? On what have you almost been convinced concerning God’s word, but talked yourself out of or simply refused to go forward with? When confronted with the good news by Paul, King Agrippa says, “you almost persuade me………” Today, by FAITH, believe that which you almost believed concerning God’s word; act on what you almost did concerning God’s commandments; do what you almost did concerning Gods will for your life. ACTS 27 Paul’s journey to Rome was frustrating. Transferring from ship to ship, he was hauled across international waters, chained as a prisoner at the mercy of poor decision makers. Although Paul warned the captain that pressing forward would be disastrous, the captain listened to other advice and the ship crashed, splintering into pieces. If everyone on the ship had perished but Paul, he would have been a free man. Instead, Paul accepted his role as prisoner and instructed everyone how to survive after the storm. Instead of bitterness, Paul saved lives. How many of us can say we would have responded the same way? Paul valued the salvation of others more than his own comfort. Do you value others’ salvation more than your own comfort? 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) Have you ever listened to the wrong people and made a wrong decision you regretted? How has God been faithful to you in spite of that decision? 3) How has God proven trustworthy in your life? Are you more concerned with others or your own preservation? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Today, give someone you wouldn’t normally help a helping hand; reach out and give someone a piece of advice that will help them stay afloat. Whereas it would be easy to sit back and do nothing, TODAY unleash the love and care of Christ by offering unexpected assistance. ACTS 28 Acts 28:31 is an incredible epitaph to Paul’s life and ministry: “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 28:31) Paul faithfully completed all God called him to do. He faced difficult and challenging times in his life, but he never gave up and never let his circumstances deter him from serving his Savior. God accomplished His purpose in Paul’s life because Paul said “yes” to God. Will you surrender to God’s purpose for your life even before you know what God will ask of you? Make this commitment to the Lord: “God, whenever you say ‘move,’ I’ll move. Wherever you say ‘go,’ I’ll go. Whatever you say ‘do,’ I’ll do.” The story of God changing the world through the church doesn’t stop in Acts 28. His work continues today through passionate people like yourself who surrender everything to God and say with confidence, “Yes, count me in!” 1) What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you? 2) What desires has God put in you? What is your next step to be faithful to what God has asked you to do? 3) What do you want people to write about your life one day? Would people say, like Luke did of Paul, that you were focused on Jesus? TODAY’S ACT(ion) – Commit yourself today to being used by God in a way never done before. How the Lord moved through the early church, He still moves today through a yielded and willing people. Such a great movement, however, does require faith to go where you can’t see the end; faith to experience discomfort; faith to accept difficult assignments; and faith to do what’s right even when you’re helping someone who hasn’t been very helpful to you. That’s the kind of people and the kind of church that God will use to do great and wonderful things for the Kingdom.
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