Month: February 2016

Is Christ Divided?

By Susan Rasinski

Paul came with the gospel only, not with words that would draw people to himself. He wanted nothing to distract from the message of the gospel. Paul understood that the message he was given to preach was a message of wisdom to the mature in Christ. He called people out for being ‘mere infants in Christ,’ as evidenced by their jealousy and quarreling. They heard the gospel, even received the truth of the gospel, yet they still chased after their traditions and desires. They had one foot in world, straddling the fence, with no commitment to either side.

We are no different today. We separate ourselves according to many dividers. However, we are called to be separated to Christ alone. We are funny little creatures. We have been given everything in Christ. We have nothing that God didn’t give us. And yet, we argue and bicker about who has more and whose is better. We strive for more from this world.

We can learn much from Paul in these passages. Paul strove to bring nothing but the good news of Jesus Christ. Nothing of himself, nothing of the world.

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2

What have we added to God’s Word? What things of this world have we allowed to cause division among the members of the body of Christ?

“Let us throw off everything that encumbers and the sin that so easily entangles us…” (Hebrews 12:1). Let’s go back to the basics of the Word of God, strip off everything else and find the unity of mind and thought that Paul talks about. And let us pursue a life after God’s own heart and find joy in that journey.

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here

 

No Room for Cynicism

By Stewart Linthicum

This may be the first time in my life that I’ve ever attempted to read through a large section of the Bible and look at it as a whole message. It seems that I’ve always been caught up in looking at specific verses or passages and failed to see the writings as they were originally intended. The NT8 experience has been eye opening in incredible ways.

You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.1 Thessalonians 5:5

Paul tells the people of Thessalonica that it’s God’s will for Christians to be sanctified. Being involved with the church for my entire life, I’ve heard this word “sanctified” talked about over and over. We must be set-apart. We must be holy.

During the past few years, I have seen myself become very cynical and jaded about life, the church, and my faith. Since early January, I have seen God point this out to me here and there. While reading this section of scripture it hit me straight on. I have not made it a priority to set myself apart from the people around me. I get wrapped up in the business of work and life and I slip right into the ways of today’s world. It seems that in today’s society, we are taught that cynicism is reality and that nothing is really as it seems.

As Christians, we have no reason to be cynical; in fact, our cynicism should be blown away by the hope we have in Christ. We are called to be set apart. We are called to be “children of the light.”

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here

 

 

Captivated

By Sarah Battle

Captivated is a word I would use to describe my experience after reading our NT8 reading. I sat at a local restaurant during my lunch hour with the goal of reading ten pages. I was caught up immediately in Paul’s story, so much so that the sound of the open kitchen, the chatter of the managers and wait staff, and the dining room’s lunch conversations all went into mute mode. I caught myself tuning out everything around me.

The characters in Acts came alive. I was able to picture the law abiding governors, the angry crowds, the confused soldiers, the curious court, and the courageous believer, Paul. My thoughts were pounded by the justice system of the Roman world. I could understand the reality of the government officials wanting to appease the raging crowds while at the same time trying not to send a non-guilty man to be tried. A similar story occurred years before Paul’s story.

What I was reminded of was that God’s plan for Paul was crystal clear. God would continue to use Paul despite his past and through his hardships.  Paul’s boldness, tenacity, courage, leadership ability and wisdom would be evidence of the Holy Spirit working through Paul.

After Paul’s arrest, we see on two accounts that Paul was able to share his testimony. First, Paul shared his story with a raging mob, an angry crowd wanting to desperately get rid of him. (pp. 91-92) Then we see Paul sharing his testimony with the curious King Agrippa and his wife. (pp.97-98) God also uses Paul’s leadership ability during his treacherous voyage aboard a ship. Paul was on his way to stand trial before Caesar. Paul demonstrates his faith by encouraging the soldiers and fellow sailors on the ship to eat and explains to them their lives would be spared if they listened to his commands given by his God.

Paul saw the ability to share the gospel even in hardships as a privilege.

Paul states, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. (p.89) I believe Paul was trying to reflect not just upon giving material possessions or monetary gifts but giving and sharing what God has done and what He is doing in your life.

What is your story? As for me, God has done an incredible work in my life. I choose not to be silent.

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here

 

The Word of God

By Robert Thomas

“But the Word of God continued to spread and flourish.” Acts 12:24

What an encouraging way to begin today’s reading. In Acts, as God’s Word is preached, lives are changed forever.

The story of Paul and Silas’ jailer in Acts 16 really spoke to my heart. This man saw the prison doors had been opened and thought his prisoners had escaped. He would have killed himself if not for an urgent warning from Paul, who sat waiting.

The jailer’s touching, trembling response in verse 30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Their simple reply, the Gospel: believe in Jesus, and you will be saved. The word of the Lord was spoken that night, and the jailer’s entire household was baptized. They were all filled with joy. Those lives were noticeably, radically, and permanently changed.

The Word of God is a catalyst for life change.

When it is spoken, people respond. Unfortunately, the response is often in opposition to God, but the Bible tells us, throughout Acts, of many, many times that people heard the Word of God and responded properly.

In Acts 19:18-20, people confess their sins. People who practiced sorcery burned their scrolls, at great cost to themselves. But, it was worth everything they gave up. Their lives were placed on a different path; they believed in the Lord Jesus. The Bible says in verse 20, “In this way the Word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” In this way, through people hearing and responding. People heard the Word of God and repented, and as they were born again, their lives were never the same.

I pray that you would hear the Word of God today, and that it would change your life. Let this change show itself in your response to God.

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here.

Everyone Can Make a Difference

By Michael Cook

Wow! If you wanted a day with action packed pages, pages 64-75 provided that and more! In my reading today, I was reminded of the value of boldness. Stephen, Philip and Peter are standing firm in their service for the Lord. Stephen speaks with tremendous boldness and he pays for it with his life. Philip is called of God to share his faith with a eunuch. Peter has multiple tasks each requiring their own set of care.

God brought to my heart the reminder of the distinctiveness and uniqueness of our service. People were interacting in different places and different ways. God is at work orchestrating His tapestry.

As I read, I thought about the First Baptist family going out all over the city. You are in schools, businesses, and government offices, a true tidal wave of servants. I prayed today that God might use us in the distinctive place that He has planted us.

Boldness is essential for us to accomplish what God desires.

I could not help but to think that Saul (becoming Paul) was in for a big change. He was a fire breathing, Christian persecutor when we chronicle his life in these pages. Now as God transforms his life, he will go on to write half of our New Testament and impact the world. One heart and one life can make a difference. Make a difference today!

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here

 

 

 

Why Does This Surprise You?

By Kristi Sullins

Why does this surprise you? This question stopped me in my reading. The story is a simple one I have heard many times. Peter and John heal a man at the gate called Beautiful. The man was fully healed after 40 years of being lame. All the people are astounded, and then comes the question “Why does this surprise you?” A man was healed in the name of the same power that raised Christ from the dead. Why are you surprised? The same God that kept His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, rescuing and redeeming them and the generation that followed empowered this man to walk. If God can do that they why are you surprised?

I found myself asking the same question. Why am I surprised that God can truly forgive my sins when I know His Son carried the weight of all our sins? Why am I surprised when He brings physical or emotional healing when I know that the dead were raised by just the power of His name? Why am I surprised?

This brief story in Acts forces me to acknowledge that I am surprised because I don’t think He will do it. My surprise is rooted in my faith or lack there of, not in God’s actual ability. Time and again in scripture we see the evidence of what God is capable of doing in and through lives.

When my faith is firmly set in who He really is then I will watch in expectation and not just stand in surprise.

Where do you find yourself? Are you waiting in expectation for what you know God can do, or are you always surprised He even bothers with you? Today, lift up prayers to Him, and then wait in expectation because you have faith in His power and love.

Psalm 5:3- In the morning I will order my prayers to you and eagerly watch.

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here.

 

The “Why”

By Trey Sullins

Often times we get wrapped up in the process of ministry. We look at how to get the most people through our doors by using the most effective means possible. In doing this, we can lose sight of the “why” of what we are doing.

In the scripture I read, it deals with the ministry of Christ from the time He was born until the time He died. Reading this very familiar passage, it stood out that Jesus was not the most popular among the “spiritual”, but He was popular among those who needed Him most, those who craved to be close to Him. I wonder if we foster the same feelings today with the focus on the right song or stage setting. I know from first-hand experience that as a staff we do everything we can to communicate the Gospel in the most effective way. Yes, we use modern technology, unique methods, and pretty buildings, but we never lose sight of the “why.”

Have you ever just sat and read what Jesus went through in His life here on earth? They didn’t have the modern technology of today to communicate salvation. The people around Him lived it. They experienced the disappointment first hand with Jesus right there in their midst. It is difficult to bring yourself to the point of total vulnerability with the possibility of rejection.

Jesus did what He did for us, for you and me, even in the midst of rejection.

With all of today’s modern methods of communication, we have it much easier to share the message of Jesus. Yet, we often choose not to share the “why” because of the fear of rejection. Jesus stood in the face of rejection to the point of death because of the love He had for us. Jesus told us to love others the same way. Don’t forget the “why.”

Go and make disciples, share the same love that Jesus showed you on the cross. It’s the only way of Salvation. Now, go!

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here.

Not Just for Looks

By Ty Haguewood 

If we look through Luke, we get a very special account of a young son that has wondered off and returned home after leaving rebelliously. You have most likely heard this story called, “The Prodigal Son.” This is a beautiful account of a father’s love for his son and a bitter rivalry between brothers.

We have the younger brother who has abandoned everything his family stood for and walked willingly against his family. In this culture, this was unacceptable. On the other hand, we have the older brother who did everything right!! He did exactly what his father wanted him to do.

When the younger brother returns and is accepted and greeted by his father like nothing happened, the older brother becomes infuriated. Now, I know if you have been in church we all like to pride ourselves in being the younger brother!! I would like to challenge us to check our hearts to ensure that we are not the older brother. The older was representative of the religious while the younger were the outwardly lost. If we are not careful we can become so consumed by the outward and looking good for everyone that we become the religious.

I challenge us to embrace God’s grace and submit to God’s authority. Why? Well, it never works out good for the religious. The people who had everything looking good on the outside!! We have to understand that our good works will never be enough. Our religion, outside of Christ, will always be empty. We need the love of Jesus.

The greatest part: He meets us where we are regardless of what we have done. Beautiful. Grace.

Throw the empty religious attempts in the trash and run to Jesus. It is He that frees us. It is through His blood that we have redemption.

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here.

 

Mary or Martha?

By Gerry Wakeland

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 11:41 – 42

There were so many great illustrations in this section of Luke that it was hard for me to choose just one that had impacted my life, but the story of Mary and Martha really hits home for me.

For the first half of my life I was a textbook Martha. My husband and I entertained a lot. We hosted large family gatherings, parties for his clients, and numerous block parties for the neighbors. I was the one that planned and prepared and he was the more social of the two of us. He was far more interested in relationships and I was far more concerned about hosting the perfect party.

Following a gathering one night I was in the kitchen unloading the third load of dishes. He came in, leaned against the door frame and said, “You didn’t come out of the kitchen all night.” To which I responded, “Someone has to keep food on the table and the mess under control.” He looked at me oddly and replied, “People don’t come to our house just for food and drinks. They want to visit with us, with you.”

That night I learned that loving and caring for others is more than just feeding them. It means spending time with them, giving them your undivided attention.

In a way that was what Jesus was saying in Luke 11:41-42. He was not interested in Martha’s to do list. He did not care about the cleanliness of her house or the banquet she had planned. All He wanted was to have a loving relationship with her. Mary got it. Martha didn’t.

Some of us spend too much time worrying about what we are going to say to Jesus and when and where we are going to spend time with Him.

In reality, we need to stop planning and preparing and just come and sit at His feet.

Can you do that? Will you do that? It might actually change your life. It did mine.

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here.

The Boldness of Jesus

By Matt Snook

Today’s reading is one of the most fascinating sections of the Gospel. It gives real insight into the boldness of Jesus. Insight that we do not traditionally discuss in small groups or Sunday School lessons. In a few short years, Jesus accomplished more than any other man achieved over the course of a lifetime. He did not waste any time or mince any words introducing Himself.

As a thirty-three year old minister who still gets told I look too young, I have to smile at what Jesus did in this passage in Luke. He walks up, takes the scroll from the attendant, reads the Messianic prophecy about Himself, and tells His home church that He is the fulfillment of scripture. Then He confronts the people for not accepting Him as a prophet in His hometown and walks right through the middle of them when they take Him out to be stoned.

He walked through the crowd. He didn’t run away to the side, He strolled right down the middle untouched.

After this incredibly bold introduction, He goes on to perform miracles. He calls His disciples and He preaches the greatest sermon of all time.

Many people place Jesus in the category of great moral teachers and philosophers, but this is clearly not the picture presented in this account of His early ministry. People either followed Jesus whole-heartedly, or they called Him a lunatic and reacted violently to His words. They were not casually chatting about His moral ideas in the Jerusalem Starbucks. His teachings are not a buffet line of ideas to be perused for thoughts plucked out here and there as inspiration. He is a man of passion and action in addition to being our teacher. He must be accepted as Lord or rejected all together.

Learn more about NT8 at AFBC here.