Gospel Motivation

Scripture Focus: Acts 16:3
Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

Reflection: Gospel Motivation
By Carolyn Westendorf 

On the heels of the Jerusalem Council’s decision to not make circumcision a requirement for believers, Paul decided Timothy needed to be circumcised. Why would he do this? 

Paul did not do this so Timothy could become a believer. Timothy was a disciple of Jesus Christ, highly praised by other believers, half-Jew, half-Greek, and uncircumcised. Verse 3 explains that Paul was concerned about the Jews they would encounter on their missionary journeys. 

There were cultural concerns in Paul’s mind. Perhaps he desired not to bring contention among those Timothy would be ministering to. Because Timothy was half Jewish, circumcision would be an indication that he embraced his heritage. Timothy could remove this stumbling block in the hearts and minds of his fellow Jews. Perhaps by doing so, the message of the gospel could soften their hearts. 

We can be sure of this: the gospel motivated Paul to act with Timothy in this way. The good news of the gospel frees believers from the power of sin. We are free from trying to prove ourselves worthy of God’s gift. Circumcision does not save a person, but it teaches us that our sin nature needs to be cut off. Similarly, baptism does not save us, but it is a symbol of new life in Christ.

Paul, living in this gospel freedom, circumcised Timothy; not to save him, but to help him. The gospel motivated these men to think of the people they would minister to. What could they give up so that others might hear and receive the gospel? If the sacrifice does not result in sin, if it does not compromise our commitment to the gospel, then why would they not give it up?

What could you give up so that others might hear and receive the gospel? In Paul’s mission to share the good news, he proclaimed: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9.22‭b-‬23) May we join Paul and Timothy in their commitment to sharing the gospel and also join the church in being strengthened and encouraged with this reaffirmation of the gospel (Acts 16.5).

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 58 (Listen -3:09)
Acts 16 (Listen – 5:53)

This Weekend’s Readings
Isaiah 59 (Listen -3:54)Acts 17 (Listen – 5:28)
Isaiah 60 (Listen -3:55)Acts 18 (Listen – 4:06)

Read more about Resisting Culture’s Mold
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We Need to Talk

Scripture Focus: Acts 15.39
39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company…

Reflection: We Need to Talk
By Dennis Nicholson

“We need to talk.”

Imagine receiving a text like that from a friend. What’s your first reaction? 

If you’re like me, those four words send a shiver running down your spine. It’s one of those messages you’d rather “leave on read,” because if you answer, you’re bound to spark conflict. Or maybe those four words fill you with anger rather than dread. “What do they have against me this time?”

Scripture warns against both of these perspectives on conflict. Solomon warns us that troublemakers pick fights (Proverbs 16.28), but love heals all wounds (Proverbs 10.12). Jesus didn’t back down when the Pharisees challenged his teaching, to the point that he was almost stoned twice (John 8.59; 10.31-33).

How, then, are we to disagree? 

In Acts 15, we see that God strengthens his church when believers disagree charitably. Luke describes two conflicts in the early church. First, men from Judea disagree with Paul and Barnabas about whether or not new Gentile converts should be circumcised. Later, Paul and Barnabas disagree about whether to bring John Mark with them.

The church could have ignored the dispute over circumcision. Similarly, Paul could have condemned or belittled Barnabas. But instead of leaving Paul and Barnabas “on read,” the church addressed the dispute. Paul voiced his concerns to Barnabas.

The outcomes of these arguments are different. The first conflict ends in peaceful compromise. The second ends in separation. And yet, in both cases, the church is strengthened (Acts 15:32, 41).

God always works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). God will always strengthen his church.

Do you have a friend in your life that you’ve avoided confronting? Are you hesitant to defend controversial Christian claims for fear of rejection? Be encouraged! Engage in conflict gently and charitably. Whatever the outcome, God will work it out for good.

Are you angry with a brother or sister because of something they’ve done to you? Quick to shut down the bad takes of your opponents? Don’t answer quickly or harshly! “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

Let your conflicts bear witness to your love. And let those “we need to talk” moments remind you that God’s still working—even when you disagree.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song. — Psalm 100.1-2

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 57 (Listen -3:37)
Acts 15 (Listen – 5:43)

Read more about The “Ideal” of the New Testament Church
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True Power

Scripture Focus: Acts 14.7
…where they continued to preach the gospel.

Reflection: True Power
By L.E. Mulford

Today’s reading begins with Paul and Barnabas fleeing to surrounding cities after hearing of a plot to stone them. BUT they continued to preach the gospel!

The first sign of trouble was when some Jews refused to believe. Not only did they simply not believe, we read that they refused to believe. These Jews didn’t stop there; they poisoned the minds of the believers. They were so desperate to overpower the message of the gospel that they coordinated with Gentiles to do so. For a Jew to cooperate with a non-Jew was something of a miracle itself. In their minds, the ends justified the means. They linked themselves with impure people to attack and kill Jesus’ followers. But even under threats of death, Paul and Barnabas continued to preach the gospel.

And the crowds were still confused even after God allowed signs and miracles. It’s similar to Elijah in 1 Kings 18.16-45. The Jews were wavering between two opinions. Just as God demonstrated his power then, he demonstrated his power here. But where Elijah left in fear, Paul and Barnabas left in power and continued to preach the gospel.

That’s the real power and the purpose of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. Not the signs and wonders but rather bearing witness. You can know God. You can have a relationship with Him. You can have the right lineage. But without the Holy Spirit you won’t have the power that Jesus mentioned in Acts 1.8. This is that power! That power to continue even when your life’s on the line and everything seems bleak. Even when they felt they could do no more at Iconium, they left and were still empowered by the Holy Spirit and continued to preach the gospel.

This power didn’t come from themselves. It came from a reliance on the Spirit. How are you relying on the Spirit? How are you relying on yourself? Sometimes we don’t realize we are relying on ourselves. Some outward signs look good, but can mask inward selfishness and self-reliance. These might be believing the right doctrine, attending the right church, or having the right friends. But God wants more for us! He wants us to receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us so we can be his witness and, no matter what, continue to preach the gospel.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
When Jesus spoke to the people again, he said: “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark; but will have the light of life.” — John 8.12

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 56 (Listen – 2:11)
Acts 14 (Listen – 3:54)

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Eyewitness News

Scripture Focus: Acts 13.29-31
29 When they had carried out all that was written about Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead, 31 and for many days He was seen by those who had accompanied Him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now His witnesses to our people.

Reflection: Eyewitness News
By Rev. John Paul Davis

Whenever I hear the word “eyewitness,” I am immediately reminded of a television newsman, Marvin Zindler. Mr. Zindler was known for his personal investigations and his sign-off statement, “Marvin Zindler, Eyewitness news!”

Likewise, Luke and Acts are eyewitness accounts of Jesus’s ministry and Luke’s own eyewitness account. Luke is an “eyewitness” investigative reporter and his journalistic approach gives the believer accurate and factual documentation of how Jesus’ Kingdom of God ministry eventually evolved into the religion we know today as Christianity.

The book of Acts provides us with hope and encouragement upon which Christians today can build their faith. We too can commit to actions that embody Jesus’s Great Commission (Matthew 28.16-20).

In Acts chapter 13, Luke gives an eyewitness account of how the early apostles had to overcome many trials and tribulations to fulfill the Great Commission. Prior to verses 29 through 31, Luke records how Paul stands boldly and courageously before the synagogue leaders in Jerusalem and professes Jesus as the fulfillment of “The Law and The Prophets,” foretold in ancient Hebrew scriptures. Nevertheless, contrary to their initial intrigue and acceptance, these Jewish leaders eventually turned against Paul and the apostles, thus beginning Paul’s church planting ministry among the Gentiles.

Today, we can stand on the fact that Luke puts his stamp of approval on this eyewitness account of the acts of the apostles after the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 1.1-4). Because of this, we stand boldly and courageously before a postmodern world and profess the same message as the early apostles. “Jesus rose from the dead and lives even today as the risen savior of the world!”

Two millennia have passed since events described in the book of Acts, and yet the truth of the acts of the Holy Spirit and the apostles is still transforming lives today.  Pray and meditate on God’s word today, remembering the same Holy Spirit that resided in the apostles, resides in us through Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father, bless us as we embrace your calling to be doers of your word. Remind us that, “they can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us.”(Philippians 4.13).

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us saying: “I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples.” — John 13.34-35

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 55 (Listen – 2:11)
Acts 13 (Listen – 7:36)

Read more about Paul’s First Sermon  
Whenever you encounter a sermon in Scripture, one way to approach it is to take notes as if you were hearing it.

Invitation to Participate

Scripture Focus: Acts 12.5, 11-12
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 

11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” 
12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.

Reflection: Invitation to Participate
By Jane Schaible


Countless books are written on it. Countless days are wasted without it. 

Herod had political ambition. Eliminating the Jesus-followers, like Peter and James, furthered his goals for power (Acts 12.3). Peter’s experience echoed his Savior’s, and like Jesus, he was seized, imprisoned, handed over, bound, guarded, and prepped for trial. 

But the church was praying. 

Peter thought the light that woke him was a dream until he was left alone in the dark street,  chains gone. 

He. Was. Free. 

The church’s prayer wasn’t just about rescuing Peter. It was for the bigger picture of continuing the teaching of the Savior, the true King, and spreading the word of his salvation. The eternal will of God became the prayer of the church, and God acted. 

Later, after executing his judgment upon the soldiers who had failed to guard Peter, Herod experienced his own judgment from God (Acts 12.23). The church then and now gives all glory to the true King, Jesus, because his word continued to spread and flourish (Acts 12.24). 

The church had gathered, and the church was praying. Are we?


Countless books are written on the subject. 

Yet there are countless days wasted without it. Countless moments of human wills trying to prevail. Countless moments where there weren’t two or three gathered (Matthew 18.20). Countless moments where we just did not participate.

Prayer is an invitation to join in the bigger picture—the eternal mission of God. The Spirit calls us to pray that his followers will endure and overcome and that his word of salvation will spread and flourish. How are we, O church, responding to that call? When we gather, do we gather with an atmosphere of prayer? Do we pray, asking and anticipating God’s word to flourish around us, in the midst of us, beyond us?

Oh, Father, we are so often prayerless. We dream big dreams of glory, cry loud cries against evils, and yet too often neglect to pray and ask for your power. Oh Spirit, empower us for your mission and help us to pray. Remind us of who our true King is, and gather us and lead us to pray in our homes, around our tables, at our churches, with our brothers and sisters.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.

Today’s Readings

Isaiah 54 (Listen – 3:14)
Acts 12 (Listen – 3:49)

Read more about Resisting Herods
The Herods epitomize the kind of people that the Jesus community is so often drawn to in hopes of gaining their approval. #EugenePeterson