our journey home
 
Our 365 Daily Readings and Devotionals for 2018

October 7

Who are you?
by Kevin Clark
 
 
Have you noticed our growing affinity toward labels? Are you gay or straight or a mixture thereof? Does your identity include a hyphen to highlight your cultural heritage or beliefs? Native, European, African, Evangelical, Fundamental, Conservative, Liberal, Progressive, Independent, Baptist, Pentecostal, Non-affiliated, and the list seems endless. Are you defined by your generation, your profession, your diet, your place of birth, or your hobbies? In a quest to find our unique identity we have created great division and distrust.
 
 
In the three verses of this opening passage in Acts 13, we see how the early church united people from a vast variety of backgrounds. A very encouraging picture of unity. Faith in Jesus, in its purest unadulterated form, is unifying. I would hope that we could return to that place of grace, set aside our divisions and embrace our identity in Jesus.

Read more...

October 3

Gangsters Loved
by Michael Dunn
 
 
In today’s reading, we see religious people getting mad at Peter for hanging out with a group of people called the Gentiles.
 
 
A Gentile was a name given to anyone who was not a Jew. Most Jewish believers thought that God offered salvation only to the Jews simply because God had given His law specifically to them. The Jews were just as broken and imperfect as we are today, and religion can’t save you anymore today than it could back then. Because of our imperfections, we needed someone who was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. That sacrifice would come in the form of a person by the name of Jesus.
 
 
I recently read an article about a Christian rap/hip hop artist by the name of Thi’sl. He was recently a victim, who was shot during an attempted robbery. He wrote this article from his hospital bed after the doctor told him that he was going to have a long road to recovery. He said “I’m out here every day breaking my back to save the very dudes that just tried to rob me.” I instantly combatted those thoughts with, “This is the reason why I have to go harder, so these dudes don’t have to do this.” This will not shake me or change the way I view these young men. I still want to see these young men changed.  I still want to see them come to know their creator and experience the saving grace of Jesus!
 
 
Thi’sl was sharing the same good news that Peter was sharing. He knows that because of what Jesus did, you can be saved. He has the power to save you no matter where you are from, no matter what you did, or what you’re thinking about doing. Whether Jew, Gentile, or gangster, he died for you! As you read through today’s verses, let Peter’s courage inspire you to share the good news wherever you go! .

Read more...

October 2

Would You Like to Come Inside?

By Kristen Dunn
In our current ladies’ bible study, we are studying biblical hospitality and what that looks like in today’s society. We are digging in and learning how to see Jesus as our greatest example. You see, He was always moving, never had a permanent address, and yet He was always inviting people to join Him. It is no different in verse 34 & 35 when He tells us the door is open.
 
God is offering this constant invitation. He is always there ready for us, and His door is always open.  It doesn’t matter what we look like, how we dress, what we do for a living, what color our skin is. He is giving us an invitation and it is up to us accept His offer.
 
“It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open.” Acts 10:34-35 Message  
 
If you were there listing to Peter as a Gentile, what would you do? Would you accept the invitation? It is crazy to think that same invitation that was offered so many years ago is still alive and relevant today.

Read more...

October 1

COMING TOGETHER
by Pat Norman
 
I don’t know about you, but I have never had an angel of God appear in a vision and tell me to send for somebody…anybody. And Peter’s noontime vision of “something like a large sheet let down from heaven with all of God’s animals, reptiles, birds on it” sounds like a giant movie projection screen from heaven. So, I’m thinking these spiritual visions were coming attractions of what God wanted Cornelius, a Roman centurion who was a God-fearing man, and the apostle
 
Peter to perceive in the natural. Cornelius needed to meet Peter, hear his witness and teachings about Jesus Christ and become one of the first Gentiles to be a baptized Christian.
 
Peter did not know what to make of the voice telling him to “kill and eat” anything on the sheet, which was against Jewish law. But he came to realize that what he heard three times, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” 10:15, also applied to men. “God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” 10:28.  Peter needed to change his perspective about Jewish law regarding food and relationships with Gentiles.
 
Both men heard and obeyed God through visions which brought all who were with them together because of their faith. I may never have a spectacular vision, but I pray I will not miss hearing even a whisper of God’s voice.

Read more...

September 30

Only takes One

by: Valery Dierdorf 
 
Why do you think Luke included these two stories? As an example of what we are to do? Or is there more to see here? Are we to pray for the sick? Sure!  But as we read on, I think we start to see the ‘bigger’ plan of God.
 
Peter finds this guy named Aeneas who was paralyzed for 80 years! Peter said,  “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up… and immediately he got up. It doesn’t even say he needed physical therapy to build up his strength after his 80 years in bed! Complete! Not a partial or as you go miracle. When the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent for him to come to Joppa. He was told of the death of a disciple named Dorcas. She was known for her goodness in helping the poor. He was taken to her room where widows stood around, crying and showing Peter the things she had made. I’m not sure why Peter sent them all out of the room before he prayed, unless he wanted to remove any fear or doubt or maybe just pure obedience to the Lord. It doesn’t say. Yet he prayed, then said, “get up”. The passage says she opened her eyes, saw Peter and sat up. So what are we to draw from these two really great miracles? One in Lydda, and one in Joppa that was recorded. What happened in both towns after each miracle is what I believe is the greater miracle. If we look back at these two stories, we see in both places that revival broke out! All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him walking and knew his story and turned to the Lord. When Peter presented Dorcas alive to the believers, especially the widows, it became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord from that day forward.
 
People are looking to us and the church saying; “show me the plan for love, grace, men, women, healing, marriage, family, peace, anxiety, hope, trust, anger, deliverance, wisdom, joy, depression and doubt.” Maybe this passage is showing us it only takes one Real Miracle? Are you that miracle that God wants to use in your area of influence? They didn’t become perfect.  They had just felt the hand of God move in their situation. They had a story to tell of how He came into their darkness and brought light. The physically or spiritually dead or handicapped still need a miracle. And I believe He is still a miracle, healing, life giving- City Saving God Today!

Read more...

September 29

Got to tell somebody!

By: Valery Dierdorf

Acts 9:19-31

Saul was the type of guy, if he really believed something he wouldn’t hide it. He wasn’t afraid of offending someone. He wasn’t going to be a secret Christian. It was so real and he was so full of the truth that had been revealed to him that he could not contain this love. Had he lived nowadays, he might have broken out in, “Praise Will Be My Song—I cannot contain, I cannot contain this love.”

So, this passage tells us as soon as he started feeling good he began to preach in the synagogues and tell everyone Jesus really is the Son of God. Many were like, “Isn’t this the guy that raised havoc over in Jerusalem with those who believed in this Jesus, even taking them as prisoners and killing them?”

Yet Saul became more powerful which really brought a division in the Jews living in Damascus by him proving Jesus was the Messiah to those who would hear. Then Saul learned of a plan of how these Jews were looking to kill him. But his followers helped him escape to Jerusalem. Oh, more fun begins! He wants to join up with the disciples. Can you imagine…let’s be honest! We would have been just as afraid and not trust him. The zebra stripe story I’m sure would be quoted.

But Barnabas took him to the apostles and explained what had happened and how the Lord had spoken to him and how fearlessly he was now preaching of Jesus. So Saul was then able to stay with them and move about freely in Jerusalem speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He even debated with the Hellenistic Jews which once again put a price on his head. So a new address was in Saul’s future! Caesarea to Tarsus was the new itinerary.

Then in God’s plan, the church in Judea, Galilee and Samaria had a time of increase, peace and strengthened as they lived for the Lord and was encouraged by the Holy Spirit.

In God’s time, He does all things beautiful in His time! He sees so much farther ahead than we ever could. He anoints, He calls, He sets apart, He protects—yet I love that it takes the whole body of believers to have His plans succeed. Serving God is exciting and can be costly far more than being a 007 agent. Because it’s real! And so are the rewards!

Will you accept this mission?


Read more...

September 28

Open the eyes of my heart

by: Valery Dierdorf

Acts 9:1-19

Have you seen the movie: Paul, Apostle of Christ? If not, there is no other movie I could recommend to be seen more than this one! It shows the risk and cost and reward of following Christ.

You see Paul was formally Saul. No one had hated the believers like Saul. Hunting them down like dogs with the blessing of the high priest.

You’ve heard the expression “but God!”.  We use it when God steps in with a different plan or a different view of what the outcome should be.  The Bible is filled with examples of lives changed when God stepped in. I’m not sure of many I enjoy more, or that give the lasting effect more, than Paul’s encounter with Christ.

He first calls him by name (he already knew him), he met him on the road to Damascus (he knew where he was and the direction he was going), he spoke into his life that He was Jesus, the One he was really persecuting by his daily actions.

Those with Saul heard the noise but saw nothing except Saul fall. Helping him, Saul traveled for three days, blind, no food or drink.

Then the “but God” part starts. The Lord goes to Ananias in a vision and tells him to go to Judas’ home and, in short, pray for Saul as the Lord had already prepared him. Sounds great! Stop: Ananias said, but I have heard this is the guy that is hurting your people and has the chief priests’ okay. But the Lord still said, GO! I have chosen to use ‘this’ man to proclaim my name to the Gentiles, their kings and people of Israel. So, Ananias (obeyed) went, prayed and, of course, the results were healing, and the Bible says Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized.

I love this story because it gives me hope. Not just for me, but all who are away from God or those who have never met Him. He knows us by name, He knows where we are going, He has the healing we need and who will bring it to us, and He has a purpose for our lives. A purpose way beyond today… beyond what we can ever imagine. Yet for the “but God” moment to happen, we see both men had to obey and blindly trust in someone bigger than themselves. More than just physical sight—maybe I need to sing the song, “Open the eyes of my heart Lord. I want to see you.”


Read more...

September 27

Part of my daily prayer is that God would put someone in my path to share the good news of the gospel, and He usually does. A frequent comment that is usually shared by people is that they don’t understand scripture. I love when people say that. That statement presents the opportunity to share and explain the gospel.

 

The disciples of Jesus often asked him to explain some of his teachings when they were alone. A family my wife and I visited said that they were confused because too many had shared their opinions and not the gospel. I read them John 15:1-8.  After reading the scripture, I asked them if they had understood the reading.  They replied that it was very clear to them.

In Acts 8:26-40, the Ethiopian eunuch had the word of God in his hands but needed someone to explain to him the meaning of the scripture.  So, God’s Holy Spirit prompts Phillip to go to the eunuch. Scripture tells us that one sows the word of God and another reaps or “leads a person to Jesus”, but God gives the growth. Evangelism is one thing, but a divine appointment is something else. When God leads you to someone, or someone is led to you by the Holy Spirit, it’s because it’s harvest time.  Opinions lead to confusion, but the word of God leads to “salvation” for the word shall not return void!

 

Blessings – Pastor Andy

 


Read more...

September 26

 Cultural Barriers Fall
by Kevin Clark
 
 
I have seen a significant transformation in my lifetime. Regional diversity is much more difficult to identify in 21st Century America. What are the causes of that trend? Is it mass media, mass transportation, far-reaching commercial interest, television, radio, the internet or a combination of all that has monoculture our communities? As I travel from community to community across our great land, it is harder and harder to distinguish one town or state from another. Even as many cities are protecting their identity and celebrating their roots, others have long forgotten what made them special. I am not ready to condemn this trend even as I mourn the loss of those unique distinctions in our culture. The changing trends may also be unifying.
 
In today’s reading, we witness a significant cultural barrier fall in the early days of the Jesus movement. Philip courageously goes to the “dogs,” the Samaritans, the racially impure half-brothers of the Jewish people. He follows the lead of His Savior and reaches out in love to share the hope he has embraced. What barriers are we being called to break through to love another person? What do we have to give up to reach out? Pride? Safety? Convenience? Fear?

Read more...

September 25

A Crucible of Pain
by Kevin Clark
 
In the death of Stephen, the fledgling movement that is the body of Christ is launched. You may ask does anything good come from pain? As we reflect on many stories in the Biblical account, we see a relationship between difficulty and new growth. As parents, we explain some childhood muscle aches as growing pains. Those who work hard in the gym begin to embrace pain as a necessary evil.
 
In the early church, the action that is meant to snuff out the heritics, in the end, globalized the movement. It is ironic that Saul, who will be renamed Paul after he becomes a follower and one of the greatest advocates of “The Way” is now the catalyst that begins the missionary movement. The church of Jesus Christ was born in the crucible of pain. But later Paul will teach that “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” We also learn that “no weapon formed against us can defeat us.” How reassuring it is t0 remember that He who “who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
 
It might be tempting to feel defeated by our circumstance, but I wonder if we could, instead, embrace the pain we may feel today as an opportunity to allow Jesus to continue His work in us.

Read more...