My memory verse this week:
"You have made known to me the paths of life; you fill me with joy in your presence." -- Acts 2:28
NTC Challenge Day 6
Matthew 11-12 and Acts 16-18
In the past couple of days, I have been listening to the audio version of the Bible (a very pleasing, British sounding narrator makes it quite enjoyable) and also checking in the Message translation and using my study bible to look up passages I don't understand. It has helped me grasp concepts I never understood before and has caused me to spend more time on Bible study than I have ever spent before...I don't always have ENOUGH time and wind up running late to something else, but it has been worth it so far!
In both the Matthew and Acts readings for today, there was a lot of referring back to the Old Testament scriptures to prove that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Both Jesus and Paul quote scriptures that the Jewish leaders would be familiar with. This is their language...this is what they study and know. While some Jewish leaders are persuaded to believe, many refuse and become jealous of the following that Jesus is getting. That is why they begin plotting how to kill Jesus (Matthew 12:14) and why Paul, Silas and other Christian leaders are harassed and put in jail. (Acts 16:23)
I guess I can understand the Jewish leaders feeling threatened by this new way of thinking, but I am confused by the fickle nature of the people in the towns. One moment we read how Jesus has many people following him, bringing their sick and lame to be healed, and the next minute they turn on him. The same goes for Paul. He was also healing many people in the name of Jesus, and instead of rejoicing in that fact, the people get stirred up by the Jewish leaders and want Paul put into prison. Are people THAT afraid of truly believing what they see and feel in their hearts?
There was so much meat to today's readings! A lot of background information and history. If you are reading along with me, don't skip over the history parts or the parts about the politics of the area being discussed. It really helps to understand the motivation of the people.
For example, when Paul was in Athens (Acts 17:16-33) we learn that the Greeks had many gods and were so afraid of offending the gods, they even made an alter "to an unknown god." This gives Paul the chance to explain about God, and how He is a more personal God who created everything and is the designer of everything, which is in great contrast to how the Greeks believed.
Sometimes it gets hard to keep telling people about the Good News when they don't seem to want to hear or even care. In today's society, if you talk about your faith, you are many times looked at like some "Jesus freak" and it gets tiresome always defending yourself. Even Paul felt this way...
In Acts 18:5-6. Paul was teaching and preaching and talking with the Jews. They didn't want to listen and even became abusive. He kind of gives up and says I'm done with you!
But Jesus speaks to Paul in a vision and encourages him to not be afraid and not give up speaking. He tells Paul he is with him. This vision gives Paul the strength to go on.
Jesus can encourage us as well. We can tell others what we believe, why we believe and how Jesus has made our lives different and better. Ours is a very relational journey. It is not necessarily just about "winning souls for God." or getting people to convert...it is about being honest and talking with people and telling them what works for you. It's not about "religion," it's about faith. God will do the hard work of winning their souls...he is God. We are his children and are his best spokesmen!