Will You Carry the Baton?

by Kathy Howard

Billy Graham spent his life taking the Gospel to the world. According to estimates, Graham preached in almost two hundred nations and territories. About 215 million attended his events. Two billion more heard Graham via radio and television. Most importantly, estimates of how many responded to his invitation to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior exceed two million souls.

We can’t statistically measure the impact of the life and ministry of the apostle Paul. But both Scripture and history prove that the Holy Spirit used him to launch the Gospel like a rocket across the world. Not even the chains of his Roman imprisonment impeded his ministry. God simply brought the lost to Paul, including an early opportunity to preach to a big crowd of curious Jews.

“When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets” (Acts 28:23 ESV).

Picture an ancient version of a Billy Graham crusade. Great numbers of lost Jews showed up to hear Paul preach. And he preached all day! From the Law and the Prophets, Paul presented Scriptural evidence to persuade them that Jesus was the Messiah they’d been waiting for. Like those who hear the Gospel today, some believed, but many others rejected the evidence and did not believe.

“He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30-31 ESV).

Luke’s account of Paul’s two-year house arrest is brief, but other Bible passages show that Paul was not idle. He wrote many letters to encourage and instruct churches and ministers. Four of them – Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon – are part of the biblical canon. Paul also used his rented house as a hub for ministry. Some ministry partners consistently stayed with him and others – like Timothy – came and went as they continued the evangelistic work outside Rome. Believers from other churches also visited, like Epaphroditus who brought financial aid and encouragement from the Christians in Philippi (Philippians 2:25).

But what happened after the book of Acts ended? The Holy Spirit powerfully propelled the Gospel from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and all the way to Rome (Acts 1:8). But for those of us who want to know more, Scripture and church tradition offer clues. Likely, Paul was released (Philemon 22, Philippians 1:19-26, 2:24) and continued his evangelistic work for a few more years (1 Timothy 1:3, Titus 3:12). Then, based on Scripture (2 Timothy 4:6-7) and early church tradition, Paul was arrested a second time in the mid-60’s AD and beheaded by order of Emperor Nero.

The end of the book of Acts is not the end of the story. The Holy Spirit’s work to take the Gospel to the world has continued through the millennia all the way to today. And now it’s our story. It’s our commission. We hold the baton. We cannot be silent. JESUS CHRIST is the hope of the world.

Pray: Lord Jesus, You alone are the hope of a lost world. Open my heart to the great need of the lost and open my mouth to boldly proclaim Your name.

This post is adapted from “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts.”

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate, richest coffee, and cherished stories of faith. She also digs deep into Scripture, mining God’s eternal truths. Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and has taught the Bible for more than 30 years in a wide variety of venues. Kathy is the author of 11 books, including “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” and the “meaty” devotional series “Deep Rooted.” Kathy and her husband live in north Texas. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Find free discipleship resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Here’s more about “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts”

Deep Rooted: Growing Through the Book of Acts: A 50-Day Devotional Journey by [Kathy Howard]

Pack your bags and join Kathy Howard for the journey of a lifetime. You’ll experience the powerful arrival of the Holy Spirit, witness the birth of the church, and walk the dusty roads alongside those first missionaries as they boldly share the Gospel of Jesus with the world. 

This volume of Deep Rooted — will show you how to interact with and apply Scripture, not just read it. These meaty daily devotions use a simple study framework designed to help you:

  • Develop a regular habit of spending quality time in God’s Word
  • Learn how to dig into Scripture on your own
  • Foster a desire to share the gospel with others 
  • Depend on the Holy Spirit as you follow Jesus

Finally, a devotional with some meat on its bones!

Yellow Rose Surprise

by Ginger Sanders @GingerSanders

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…  Philippians 2:14-16 NASB

This afternoon I had pleasant surprise when I went out to water my roses. I had planted them two years ago in a different spot, but they had failed to thrive. We had recently transplanted them in hopes that a sunnier location would give them a second chance.  

Since then, they have perked up, reaching upward as the sunrise catches them each morning, rising to the noonday sky. Then they cool for a bit in the shade of the trees until the setting sun again peaks through and bathes them in its golden light. 

Today, as I walked around the house lugging the hose pipe (water hose for those of you in the north!) to spray them with the cool water, I almost tripped over what awaited me. There among the little red rose buds and some weeds bloomed a beautiful yellow rose! Now how in the world did that yellow rose come up from those transplanted red roses? I was so excited!! For you see, the yellow rose is my very favorite rose of all!! 

The yellow rose stands tall and proud…any rose can be a red rose, but it takes something special to stand out from the rest. My daddy only gave me one rose in his lifetime. I was riding around with him one day and he had to stop at Roper’s Florist, because he had been doing some work for Mr. Roper. He told me to stay in his truck and he would be right back out. He came out with a tissue paper and handed it to me. I unwrapped it to find a long stem yellow rose. It was a moment I will never forget. 

As I stood there today, enjoying this beauty among the ordinary, I thought about how we as Christians live among the thorns and weeds in this world. There were other roses there, ordinary red roses, budding and blooming as they do. But then, there among them was one that was different, standing out with its glow and grace.

Paul told the Philippians to “do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom  you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…” (Philippians 2:14-16 NASB). The Philippians were living in a pagan society, where the true God was not recognized. They regarded Caesar as deity, and found those who did not troublesome.

But rather than advising the Philippians to withdraw from this antagonistic population, he wanted them to live among them, holding fast to the truth of the gospel. They were to conduct themselves “in a manner worthy of the gospel; standing firm in one Spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27 NASB). They had something to offer to those living in darkness. And as they followed the example of Jesus’ humility and love (2:5-8), they would stand out from the crowd like lights in an otherwise dark sky.

We should be like that rose; we should bloom right where we are planted. When we live out our salvation, following Jesus’ example, we will stand out by reflecting the light that shines on us. Like an unexpected yellow rose blooming among the ordinary.

Yellow Rose Surprise – encouragement & insight from  @GingerSanders on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ginger Sanders

About the author: Ginger Sanders has been a Chaplain Coordinator with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team since 2008. Ginger and her husband, Denny, have responded to many disasters such as tornadoes, floods, and storms, as well as the Aurora and Sandy Hook shootings.

Ginger’s book, He Goes Before Us, features chaplains’ stories of God at work in disaster. She’s also written, and two children’s booksRound Eyes: An Adopted Child’s View of Love, and the award-winning Fireflies, which explains death to children with hope and love. Ginger also co-hosts a Christian television show and has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows. She and her husband of 50 years have four children and eleven beautiful grandchildren.

Your Witness Lives On

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

I was blessed to have close relationships with my mother’s two unmarried sisters. Ours was a combination child/sister/friend experience. When my aunt Marge died, I delivered the eulogy at her funeral.

Marge had been in a care facility for several years, and as is often the case, had a number of roommates during her time there. The day Marge died, her roommate and the roommate’s daughter, Linda, cried with us.

When we gathered for Marge’s celebration of life service, Linda attended. Following the service, she came to me in tears, telling me how much the eulogy meant to her and how she wished she’d known Marge better. I assumed the account of my aunt’s faith, humor, and love for family and friends touched a nostalgic place in Linda’s heart. But several weeks later, she contacted Marge’s sister, Marilyn, and told her the eulogy caused her to experience a spiritual awakening.

“I haven’t been to church in years,” Linda said. “But hearing about Marge’s life has caused me to question my own approach to things, my attitudes, my actions, and my faith. I want to know more.” Marilyn sent her a devotional book and invited her to attend our church.

Weeks passed without response, but one day, Linda came to Marilyn’s house and talked for over an hour about what God had done in her life since Marge’s death. The changes in Linda’s life included reading the Bible daily and watching our church service on TV.

I’ve often heard the unattributed quotation, “Your life is the only Bible some people will ever read.” Linda knew Marge only as someone who shared her mother’s room at the care facility, until Marge died. God used the testimony of Marge’s life, presented in the form of a eulogy, to touch this woman’s heart and move her to embark on a faith journey.

God can use any means, even a funeral, to draw people to himself.

The story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection is still as powerful and life-changing today as it was to early converts to Christianity. Faithful disciples relayed the Good News then, and now it is up to us to share the gospel by various means.

Often we’re hesitant because society conditions us not to push our beliefs on others, and fear tells us we’re not equipped. So your living example of God at work in your life may be the only gospel some people ever hear. Paul reminds us not to hold back on sharing the gospel with others. “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16 NLT

Do people watch us to see how we speak, act, and react? Can our lives convey a message of Christ’s love? Can the testimony of our lives reach beyond the grave? I’m confident the answer to these questions is yes, and that’s why it is important to live in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Above all else, you must live in a way that brings honor to the good news about Christ.                                                                                                                                    Philippians 1:27 CEV

Your Witness Lives On – insight and encouragement from @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: What examples have you seen that have inspired you in your faith journey?

Love in the Age of Suppression

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.                                                                                                                                                   Matthew 24:12 ESV

If you’re looking to the Bible for morality stories, it will leave you frustrated.

Oh, it’s loaded with stories and occasionally there’s a person in that story making a right choice, but three stories later, that same person may be choosing the wrong way. In fact, in many biblical stories, everyone is wrong.

That’s because the Bible is a book of truth, not fables written to teach children to stay out of the woods.

God’s not into heroes. Our faith isn’t built on the notion that there’s a group of us capable of living properly if we just have the right role models, education, and information. It’s not designed to promote a fear-based morality, or a moral-of-the-story method of soul-control.

The Bible is a mirror into the human soul, designed to reveal the truth of our glorious design, the truth of our fallen nature, and the truth of God’s loving, redemptive plan. It’s frustrating if you’re hoping for a “nice read.” There are down-right ugly stories told within its pages.

Which makes it the perfect book for our times.

We live in the age of suppression. The times when lawlessness is so rampant, we’re tempted to let our love grow cold.

Romans 1 explains that when people choose to live exactly the way they feel like living, regardless of how that lines up with the plan of their Creator, their actions suppress truth. When truth is suppressed, deception seeps in over the transom like a toxic gas. Lies create a climate hostile to love. And love cannot be divorced from truth or it has no spine. Hence, the danger of our times.

The gospel of Jesus Christ, which is that among humans, there is no one righteous, no, not one, and the only way of salvation is through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. It is life for all who believe it.

The gospel doesn’t make us heroes or good guys or moral kings—it makes us recipients of grace, living by faith in Jesus, until He returns. Our salvation doesn’t rely on right living but on the person of Jesus, and only Jesus.

Which brings me to love in the age of suppression.

Jesus continues to call His followers to love, even when truth is suppressed, and deception is the visible king. How can we be expected to rise to this calling? Isn’t it impossible to love when everyone is doing whatever they want?

It is. Without Jesus, that is. Don’t try it without Him. That’s like wandering onto a battlefield without armor.

If we attempt to love with our own resources, they’ll deplete in a heartbeat. We’ll wind up dead on the doorstep of false religion, cut into pieces, a signal to other fools that they should send their own hearts into a deep freeze.

Instead, we must follow the way of Jesus. Lay our lives at the cross. Immerse ourselves in His story—His truth. Through His power, empty our minds of hatred and fear. Open our hearts to His Holy Spirit who will love others through us with a love that can withstand the times.

There’s nothing easy about loving in the age of suppression. Wounds are a near certainty, but we can resist growing cold because we were designed and equipped for such a time as this.

In times of immorality and deception, truth must marry love and give birth to life. That’s Jesus. Even when other hearts grow cold, He will warm ours with His own blood, poured out for us, and we’ll find courage to love even against the icy, prevailing wind of the age.

Love in the Age of Suppression – insight from @LoriSRoeleveld on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

lori Roeleveld Headshot 2015About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

Join the conversation: Have  you been wounded while trying to love?