Sharing Your Story, Day 10

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Today’s reading is drawn from Acts 4:1-22.

Peter and John are “unschooled, ordinary men.” Both are fishermen—a lower-class vocation. Some of the Pharisees who arrest the two for healing a crippled beggar are particularly puzzled by the men’s ability to speak articulately and effect healing. The only possible explanation is that these men have spent time with Jesus.

Jesus’ forgiveness and grace together comprised the only reason Peter and John had a chance to succeed in life. The same holds true for Ken Freeman, who emerged from homelessness to become a lifelong evangelist.

His mother was an alcoholic, and his father didn’t care enough to stick around. In a seemingly unending succession, Ken called nine different men his stepfather, but not one of them proved to be a worthy father figure. His home life brought only continuing abuse and neglect. As a young teen, Ken decided that he was better off on the streets than living the continuing nightmare at home.

When he was 16, Ken heard about a local church revival. He didn’t care about the revival as such, but he was lured by the free pizza being offered. Although he attended with the goal of filling his belly, God had other plans.

That night Ken met Jesus for the first time, and the encounter transformed him completely. He developed a growing passion for teenagers and their families, and at age 19, he began traveling and speaking at youth camps and church revivals across the country. Ken did not attend seminary to learn how to tell people about Jesus. He simply told his story. And people listened.

More than 200,000 people have come to know Jesus through Ken’s ministry. Despite having grown up in a broken home, he and his wife have been married for almost 40 years. Ken credits Jesus for the miraculous changes and incredible ministry that have blessed his life.

  • How do you think Ken Freeman can maintain such a positive outlook on life despite his difficult childhood? Explain.
  • Do you regularly share with others the story of your relationship with Jesus? Why or why not?

Come, Holy Spirit. Draw Near to Me, Day 6

Today’s reading is drawn from John 14:16-17, Acts 2:6-12, Acts 4:13, and Romans 8:27.

The Bible makes it clear that there is no way we can live our Christian faith without the Holy Spirit as our guide.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is like turning on a light bulb. It’s powerful. Sudden. When the disciples first experienced the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they were forever changed, and people around them noticed this change. According to Acts 4:13, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished.”

Imagine going from ordinary fishermen to seminary grads to pastors in an instant. Also note in Acts 2:6 ñ 12 that the disciples spoke different languages — actual languages. Talk about amazing! It was so amazing that the people thought they were drunk. So how do you and I know if we have been filled with the Holy Spirit?

The Bible says the Holy Spirit is like an advocate. He speaks truth to us. He guides our path. He also prays for us and intercedes on our behalf. I don’t know about you, but none of that sounds spooky or scary about this Holy Spirit. It sounds exciting. Necessary.

What I appreciate most about the Holy Spirit is the transformation that takes place when God chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary tasks. No matter what you believe about the Holy Spirit, the Bible makes it clear: there is no way we can live our Christian faith without the Holy Spirit as our guide.

That’s why Jesus knew his physical presence on earth wasn’t enough. He told the apostle Peter that the cross was necessary. Peter, the leader of the disciples, was the kind of guy who was full of courage, and yet he kept sticking his foot in his mouth. One minute he was thinking like Christ, and the next minute Jesus was rebuking him, saying he was full of Satan.

And yet. God still used Peter as a disciple for his glory. When Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome went to visit Jesus’ tomb, the angel specifically mentioned Peter by name (see Mark 16:7). As if to remind Peter that his faith, in fact, hadn’t failed.

No matter how weak, strong or courageous your faith is today, the Holy Spirit is waiting for you. Come. Draw near to his presence.

Reflect

Have you ever felt like your actions discount you from relying on the Holy Spirit’s help?

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Hannah, A Devoted Mother, Day 4

Today’s reading is taken from 1 Samuel 1.

Out of the materialism and ruthlessness of Israel during the period of the judges, Hannah emerged as a woman of faith. From her home in the hills north of Jerusalem, she had traveled to Shiloh, the national place of worship. Her sadness of heart and persistence in prayer contrasted sharply with the prevalent corruption in worship led by Eli’s sons (1Sa 2:12-17).

Hannah’s personal life was one of despair in her childlessness as she recoiled from Peninnah’s pestering reproach. Her prayer exhibits selflessness as she pleads for a son whom she might present to God for his use (1Sa 1:11). Clearly, Hannah was loved and valued for herself by her husband, Elkanah, but even the intensity of a devoted husband’s love could not penetrate her inner disquiet nor overcome her yearning for a child (v. 8). The throbbing emotions of her despair were so evident in Hannah’s prayers that the aged Eli accused her of drunkenness. But beyond her prayers and tears, a vow erupts. Hannah, in effect, makes a pact with God; she pledges to give back to him the precious life he might give to her. God honored her bold and decisive act.

Hannah’s faith is rewarded, and her son is named Samuel (Heb., shemu’el, “Heard by God”) because she “asked the Lord for him” (1Sa 1:20). According to custom, she probably nursed him several years, giving time for her to convey to Samuel her own spirit of deep reverence and piety and also to knit her heart with his through maternal bonding. Nonetheless, she kept her word to the Lord. Into the defiled worship center she placed her very young, impressionable son. Although humanly it seemed to border on foolishness, this was an act of saintly sacrifice. Her commitment was to God; her gift was prearranged with him. With prophetic insight she planted the next generation just as promised.

Samuel grew up to become the last judge, an outstanding and gifted prophet and the one who would anoint the first two kings of Israel. Samuel was the pivotal spiritual leader who turned the nation toward Yahweh. His mother Hannah played her part in this spiritual awakening as she trusted God, leaving for all posterity an example of determined devotion in her motherhood.

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