Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 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. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 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. 9 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!
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?
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!
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?
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 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.”
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?
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!
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?
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1.7-8, NIV)
We do not have to do this alone. Sometime you might need to wait on God, but he never sends you out without empowering you to go.
Why do you think people are so focused on when the end times will come? What might change if we knew the time of the end times? What would not change?
What things might you be able to do with the power of the Holy Spirit that you could never do on your own? How have you experienced the Holy Spirit guiding your life?
How can you be a witness of God today?
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.”
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Romans 12.1-2, NIV)
What would it have been like to pray in such a manner that the entire room in which you were in was shaken?
Peter and John actually rejoiced that they had been worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus and asked God to let them speak boldly, not in such a way so as to be effective without causing too much attention. How do you think you would have responded in a similar circumstance? What is the same and what is different about your response?
When have you been required to speak boldly, knowing that there would be some sort of repercussion if you did? How did you handle that situation?
What do you think is required of us to be so in tune with God in our prayers that something miraculous like the building being shaken might be a result? Why do we tend to assume that such an act is beyond possibility today?
1 Chronicles 11.1-12.18; Acts 28.1-31; Psalm 9.1-12; Proverbs 19.1-3
If I told you Paul welcomed all who came to him, boldly sharing the Good News, and no one tried to stop him, you probably would not be surprised. This just describes who Paul is, doesn’t it. But, if I told you that all of this happened while Paul was in prison, what would you think?
What does the reaction of the follower’s of David tell you about his standing among the people? Would you expect anything less from him?
What do you think you would have thought upon seeing Paul bitten by a poisonous viper, yet not facing any harmful effects from the bite?
During times of suffering and crisis, how has the Lord shown himself to have not ignored you?
People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord. When have you seen this to be a true statement about people?
1 Chronicles 9.1-10.14; Acts 27.21-44; Psalm 8.1-9; Proverbs 18.23-24
The book of Chronicles (the two parts are one continuous story) contains stories that are a repeat of things we have read in the books of Samuel and Kings. One of the questions we try to determine is why these stories are repeated and in what manner are they told with a different emphasis, so that we can determine the purpose of each of these books. To this end, Saul is said to have been killed due to his unfaithfulness of God. Why was he said to have been killed in 1-2 Samuel? Why the difference and do you think it is significant for understanding the purpose of the Chronicles?
What is the reason the people of Judah were exiled to Babylon? How does this impact our own understanding of God’s punishment today?
How did Paul go from being ignored when he gave recommendation on when to sail to someone that all of the crew and officers listened to and did what he said?
How do your children show you God’s strength?
There are “friends” who destroy each other. Why would we ever call these people friends in the first place?
1 Chronicles 7.1-8.40; Acts 27.1-20; Psalm 7.1-17; Proverbs 18.22
Paul has been promised he would have opportunity to share the gospel all the way to Rome, yet it seems at every turn there are obstacles thrown up to prevent that from happened. These are not just everyday, ordinary occurrences, but events such as shipwrecks that leave people feeling a loss of all hope. What do you think is going through Paul’s mind as he faces each of these challenges?
Why do you think the Chronicle writer lists out the number of warriors in each of the tribes mentioned in this passage?
Which makes more sense to listen to concerning the ability to sail: the captain and ship owner or Paul? Why do you think Luke (the writer of Acts) seems to indicate some surprise that Paul’s advice was not heeded?
How hard do you think it is to say to God, “If I have done anything wrong…” let them give me the punishment I deserve?
How is finding a wife finding a treasure?
1 Chronicles 5.18-6.81; Acts 26.1-32; Psalm 6.1-10; Proverbs 18.20-21
All along Paul’s journey from initial arrest to final imprisonment in Rome, we hear different officials comment: “He has done nothing worthy of arrest” or “He could have been set free, had he not appealed to Caesar.” Obviously, it is purely speculation, but how do you think the gospel spread would have been affected had Paul NOT appealed to Caesar and taken his trip to Rome?
We discover many capable warriors in the book of Chronicles, but also discover these same warriors were unfaithful to God. Why does it not matter how powerful you are if you are not faithful to God? How do we try to use our power to overcome faithfulness?
Why would it have been nice to have such a clear and specific call to ministry such as the one Paul had?
Why do you think the psalmist was facing God’s anger? Why do you think he deserved God’s compassion?
What are the consequences the one who loves to talk reaps?