Bible Readings for September 5-11

Acts 24

Why were the Jewish leaders so adamant to slander Paul, even when their accusations made little sense and were basically unsubstantiated?

What sort of actions do you take or safeguards do you have in place to ensure you have a clear conscience before God and man?

What do you think caused Felix to be alarmed while listening to Paul? To what degree do you think Felix was affected by his repeated conversations with Paul?

Acts 25

In what ways was Festus used to save the life of Paul?

Why is it that Felix in the previous chapter and Festus in the current one wanted to do the Jews a favor? Was this a successful political move? How else might we evaluate their actions?

What does it say about Paul’s actions that despite all the accusations Festus heard about Paul, Festus still is at a loss about what charges to bring against Paul?

Acts 26

How would you summarize Paul’s defense to King Agrippa?

How does Paul’s conversion story here compare to the previous stories we have read about Paul in Acts?

Why would it have been important for Paul to be obedient to the vision he faced while on the road to Damascus?

Acts 27

What would make Paul think the centurion guarding him would listen to Paul’s advice about sailing more than he would listen to the owner and pilot of the ship? What might this tell us about the rapport Paul had with those he was around?

Do you think perceptions changed about safe sailing times after the storm hit? Why do you think this is the case?

In what ways does Paul’s sharing food with the crew resemble a sharing of the Lord’s supper? Is this significant and if so, why?

Acts 28

Why do you think the Christians in Rome had heard nothing negative about Paul? What sort of credibility does this give Paul’s message and ministry?

How significant is Paul’s statement that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles?

What do you think happened to Paul beyond what we have recorded in the book of Acts?

Bible Readings for August 29 – September 4

Acts 19

Once again, we have a story about the Holy Spirit coming upon those who have turned their lives to God. What role or purpose does the Holy Spirit play in this story?

Why would someone try to use the name of Jesus to satisfy their own desires or dreams? In what ways might we do the same thing today?

How do people turning to faith impact the nonbelievers they are around? Would you say this is similar or different to what happened here in Ephesus? What reasons do you have for your answer?

Acts 20

Some have said in a tongue-in-cheek way that the story of Eutychus teaches us not to fall asleep in church. Why do you think the story IS included in Acts?

How do you think people would respond to the power of being able to raise people from the dead? Do you think this would help of hinder people coming to faith? In what ways?

How difficult would it have been for Paul to continue his journey knowing that imprisonment or affliction awaited him? Are there ways we face these challenges today and how do we handle them?

Acts 21

Why do you think Paul continues his journey even though other disciples—through the Spirit—were telling Paul not to go? Why would the Spirit tell one person one thing, but someone else something different?

What would it take for you to say you are willing to die for the name of Jesus … and mean it?

In your own words, describe the reception Paul received when he arrived in Jerusalem.

Acts 22

Paul tells his conversion story to the people in Jerusalem. What similarities and/or differences do you find between this telling and what we read in Acts 9?

How do you think you would have responded if God told you to do something completely outside of Christian faith or tradition, such as Paul was told to go to the Gentiles?

What advantages did being a Roman citizen bring Paul?

Acts 23

In what ways did Paul play his accusers against each other when he faced them in the Council?

To us, Paul’s overall message probably seems legitimate and worthwhile. Why would religious people vow not to eat until Paul had been murdered?

What does Claudius Lysias’ letter to Felix tell us about the way Roman authorities viewed Paul? Do you think their view was appropriate? Accurate? Why or why not?

Bible Readings for August 22-28

Acts 14

We see here a pattern that is repeated throughout the entire book of Acts: Jewish opposition against the message of Christ and those who preach it. How do you think you would have reacted to this opposition if you had been Paul?

In what ways do you see the church today facing opposition to the message of Jesus and what should or what can we do about it?

Should the miracles the disciples were able to perform have been able to convince the Jews that the disciples and their message were legitimate? Why do you think they did not do so?

Acts 15

In what ways does our past and our desire to continue in the ways things have always been shape the way we move forward toward new faith? In what ways should it affect the future?

How do you think you would have responded to the requirements given by the Jerusalem Council? Is there anything you would have had a problem with? Why or why not?

What lessons can we learn about dealing with conflict from this episode with Paul, Barnabas, John Mark, and Silas?

Acts 16

Who are the people you are encouraging to continue to grow in their faith, including people who may be younger than you? Who can you develop a relationship with in order to work on seeing this happen?

Does it seem odd that the Holy Spirit would tell the disciples NOT to go to Bithynia? Why or why not? In what ways has the Holy Spirit told you “No” to some of the ways you thought you might use to help share the message of Christ?

What are some ways you have seen God act miraculously in the lives of his faithful followers? What was the result of these actions?

Acts 17

What does it say about Paul that he regularly went to the synagogues to preach Jesus, especially given all that had happened to him at the hands of the Jews?

How can we receive the word of God “with eagerness?” What are some specific practices that might demonstrate this earnestness?

In what ways can we use the attitudes or values we see in the people around us as conversation starters when it comes to sharing our faith with them?

Acts 18

In what ways are you ministering to others through the vocation you hold?

How important are people who can travel from place-to-place encouraging followers of Jesus to grow in their faith? How can we support people who do this more?

Apollos represents a “2nd generation” disciple of Paul’s, that is, someone who was taught by someone who was taught by Paul. How are you developing relationships with people with the idea that your strengthening them will help them strengthen or disciple others?

Bible Readings for August 15-21

Acts 9

Having someone breath “murderous threats” against us as Christians is not something we are typically accustomed to or something that happens to us often. How do you think you or other followers of Jesus would react to these circumstances?

The shift from preaching to Jews to preaching to Gentiles was a huge change, unheard of up to this point in the history of God’s people. What other shifts of similar magnitude are you aware of in Christianity? Do you know of anything similar that has happened in your own day and age?

What would it be like to have the kind of power Peter did? What would you do if you had that sort of power? How would you use it?

Acts 10

What does the fact that Cornelius—a Roman soldier—believed in God prior to hearing from Peter tell us about the spread of the gospel?

What laws, rules, or traditions might we hold that God wants us to change in order for people to come to know him better?

What purpose did the Holy Spirit serve in coming down on those who were hearing Peter’s message? What might this tell us about the ways God brings people to him?

Acts 11

Why might the Jewish Christians have had a legitimate concern about the Gentiles hearing—and following—the good news of Jesus?

Is the scattering of the church, as described in this chapter, a good thing, or a bad thing? Why do you say this is the case?

What does it mean to be called a Christian?

Acts 12

How do you think the church today would have responded to church leaders being imprisoned or even killed because of their faith?

How does the church collectively respond to hardships faced by members of our own body? Is earnest prayer one of those responses and in what ways?

Why do you think we are told about the death of Herod, especially the details, here in the book of Acts?

Acts 13

What does this chapter tell us about the importance of prayer and fasting as we seek to be God’s church today? How can we incorporate prayer and fasting more in our regular practices?

In what ways does the Spirit enable you and me to identify and call out evil when we see it?

Summarize Paul’s sermon found in this chapter in a sentence or two.

Bible Readings for August 8-14

Acts 4

Why was it Peter and John’s preaching that Jesus was raised from the dead that was so problematic for the priests and other Jewish leaders? How effective was their stand against the preaching of these two?

How is it that ordinary people can speak powerful messages about Jesus? What does this tell you about that message?

Who do you choose to listen to: God or man? How is this choice demonstrated in your daily life?

What is your response when people oppose or challenge your message about Jesus? In what ways is prayer a part of your response?

Acts 5

What do you think was going through Ananias’ (and Sapphira’s) mind as they said they had done one thing when in reality, they had done another? What are some examples of ways we are tempted to do similar things today?

Can you imagine the surprise of the Sadducee’s when they found out that the men they had arrested and put into prison for preaching were miraculously freed and instead of hiding, they were back in the temple continuing to preach?

Why do you think it was so hard for the Jewish leaders to stop trying to squelch the preaching of the apostles, as outmaneuvered as they often seemed to be?

What would it take for you to celebrate suffering dishonor and to consider that suffering as something worthwhile?

Acts 6

What does the way the apostles solved the problem of food distribution tell us about the importance of preaching the word of God? Do we have similar responses today? Why or why not?

Who are individuals you know of whom it can be said often: they are full of the Holy Spirit? What is it in their lives that demonstrate the Spirit in them? Or stated another way: How can you tell they have the Spirit?

How would wisdom and the Spirit help you talk about Jesus more effectively? What sort of things are you doing to get both more wisdom and to be more Spirit filled?

Acts 7

Do you think the high priest regretted giving Stephen the floor to speak? What are some reasons he might have?

What ideas or thoughts in Stephen’s sermon strike you as important for you to remember as you share about Jesus today?

How do you think you would have reacted to being called “stiff-necked” and “uncircumcised?” Given this, why might the Jewish reaction against Stephen not have been so strange after all?

Acts 8

Was the persecution against the church a good thing or a bad thing? Why do you think this to be the case? In what ways might it be good for the church today to face a little persecution?

How does Saul’s back story give credibility to the person he became later in life? Do you think we would accept someone like Saul (pre “Paul”) gladly or with some hesitancy? Why do you say this?

In what ways might God through his Spirit place us in the presence of those who need to hear God’s message or perhaps place them in our presence? In what ways would you say you have seen this in your life? Any examples you can give?

Bible Readings for August 1-7

Luke 23

Why do you think Jesus did not just come right out and answer all of Pilate’s (and other’s) questions, explaining what all was really going on?

Although Pilate wants to release Jesus, the crowd demanded him to be crucified. What was it that made the crowd so against Jesus?

If you knew nothing about Jesus, but ended up at his crucifixion, how do you think you would have responded?

Luke 24

Even after all Jesus told his disciples about his being crucified and rising again, they still seemed unaware of any of those conversations. Why do you think the disciples had such a hard time remembering and believing what Jesus said to them?

Why was it necessary for Jesus to “suffer these things?”

When Jesus appears to his disciples, in the closed room, he asks them: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Had we heard their responses, what do you think they would have said?

What troubles and doubts do you have in your own life? How does Jesus’ resurrection change those doubts?

Acts 1

What connections do you find between Luke 24 and Acts 1?

Why was it important for the disciples to remain in Jerusalem? What would have happened if those had chosen not to do so?

Acts 2

How do you think you would have responded if you had been with the disciples at Pentecost? How do you think you would have responded if you just happened upon the event and witnessed what was going on?

Why was it so difficult for the people at Pentecost—disciples included—to understand the full significance of what was going on?

When you think about God giving his Spirit to us today, what sort of things come to mind? How does this compare to what we read about in Acts 2?

Is your experience of church community similar or different than the description of community we find in Acts 2.42-47? What from this list is most like your community? What is most different? How can we work to ensure our community looks more like what we see here?

Acts 3

Why might a beggar be looking for silver and gold more than they might be looking for what Peter and John were handing out?

In what ways have you seen God do amazing things that astound people and result in people giving him praise?

How often do we take these moments for granted? How often do we take them as an opportunity to share the story of Jesus with others?

Acts 9.1-9 – November 9, 2020

Acts 9.1–9

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. 
 (Acts 9.1–9, NIV)

While we know him as Paul, the one who wrote a large part of the New Testament, he wasn’t always the follower of Jesus we know of him. People change when they see Jesus!

Thought Questions:

What reasons did Saul have to threaten followers of Jesus?

How do you think Paul reacted when he heard Jesus ask: “Why are you persecuting me?”

How do you think your life would have changed if you had encountered Jesus in the same way Saul/Paul did?

Acts 3.11-16 – August 28, 2020

Acts 3:11–16

While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.  (Acts 3:11–16, NIV)

The man who was killed, but rose again provides the power that heals a lame man!

Thought Questions:

Do you think you would have been astonished to see a man you knew had been lame now walking? How willing do you think you would have been to believe the cause of his healing? Why?

Peter is not winning any friends by his condemnation of the people who killed Jesus. Why do you think he had the power or courage to speak against them in this way?

How much credibility did the man–now walking–have in supporting Peter’s claims?

Acts 2.1-41 – July 7, 2020

Acts 2:1–41

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues  as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
 (Acts 2:1–13, NIV)

“When everyone came together in one place, the holy Spirit swept through and showed his mighty power by making them speak in tongues. It shows the magnitude of the Holy Spirit. We do not discuss the Holy Spirit enough, but this passage helps explain how the Spirit works in us. It is also a reminder that anyone can receive the Holy Spirit and be filled with this power.”

Thought Questions:

Why do you think the Holy Spirit appeared in this way–a loud wind and tongues of fire–to the people gathered in Jerusalem? In what ways do you find the Spirit appearing to you today?

How do you think you would have reacted had you been witness to the events described here?

How does the Holy Spirit help us understand the death and resurrection of Jesus, as well as live for Jesus today?

Acts 2.42-47 – June 14, 2020

Acts 2:42–47

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42–47, NIV)

What a fantastic picture of what it looks like to be a part of a fellowship of believers!

Thought Questions:

As you look through the description of the early church, what aspects that are described match your own experience today? What are areas that look nothing like your life?

What does it look like to be devoted to one another in today’s church setting? How can we be more devoted to each other?

What specific ways can you make the description found here a part of your everyday church experience?