Harvest Raleigh Church

Loving God, One Another, & Others

Reading Plan Reflections – Acts 9

150 150 Ronny Mannebonia

Paul’s influence upon the early church is so powerfully apparent that non-Christians debate whether Paul was a mere follower of Jesus or the actual founder of Christianity. I debated with a Muslim apologist a few years ago, and he claimed that Paul founded Christianity. They say that because of his influence on the church’s history. Besides writing thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, he was also very effective as an Apostle, missionary, and church planter.

From our reading plan last week, however, when we are first introduced to Paul, he was a violent persecutor of the Christian church (Acts 9:1). Like most today, a “crucified Savior” was a stumbling block and an oxymoron to Jews (1 Cor. 1:23-24). Paul knows God had already expressed his judgment against Jesus by hanging Him on the cross—case closed (Deut. 21:23), so he thought.


However, on his way to Damascus, a bright light from heaven suddenly shone around him at noon with a voice asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul immediately recognized that this heavenly light was the glory of God. Consequently, he responds, “Who are you, Lord?” The answer to Saul’s question came in the divine glory, “I am Jesus.” He thought he was serving God by persecuting Christians. And he is now faced with the Name that he hated the most. Paul’s conversion was so dramatic that his heart, once filled with hatred toward Christians, was replaced with love, peace, and faith. 
In this brief devotion, I want to draw a couple of observations from one verse, Acts 9:4, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”.

 
First is Jesus’s identification with His people. Before this encounter, Paul had never met Jesus. Did you notice Jesus’s question? Jesus did not ask why he persecuted his disciples. He asked, “Why are you persecuting Me?”. Jesus so intimately identifies with His people that, when they are persecuted, He feels persecuted. Paul understood that our Lord had some kind of intimate connection with His followers, resulting in Jesus sharing our experiences. Isn’t that the best news for all of us? This verse has been the most precious verse to me. It is one thing that we would share in His sufferings (Phil 3:10). It is an entirely different thing that He would share in our sufferings. This kind of relationship is unique to Christianity, while some religions view this as blasphemy. The God who holds all the creation together (Col. 1) is the One who identifies and shares in our suffering and pain.

 
The second is the principle of sanctification. The truth of Jesus’s relationship with His people would be foundational for Paul’s ethics. Perhaps the most overlooked observation, in my opinion, is the implications of Christ’s union on how we treat each other. This verse has impacted how I view my marriage, relationships, and ministry. The same Lord who identifies with my sufferings also identifies with my brother and sister’s sufferings. When the emotions are high, and it is easy to be upset, I start asking myself, do I treat this person the same way if it was Lord Jesus? The One we love and seek to honor the most loves them and has died for them. Should we not love those whom our Lord loves?

 
Pauls says to the Ephesians not to grieve the Spirit of God (Eph 4:30). We grieve the Spirit when we are bitter, angry, clamor, and slander one another (Eph 4:31). Rather, Paul tells us to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph 4:32. Let’s be a church that is kind and tenderhearted towards one another and seek reconciliation because we are people forgiven by God for our sins. I don’t do it perfectly, but it really changed my relationship with my wife and how I interact with other brothers and sisters in Christ. Everyone who feels dishonoring our Lord is unthinkable should treat one another with love and respect.

 
We should also view this positively, based on Matt 25:40. If we serve even the least of the disciples, Jesus says, “You did it to me.” And Heb 6:10, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” It is a great honor to serve our Lord by serving one another. 

Worship Devotional – August 7th, 2022

150 150 Charles Su

Finish the Course

Acts 20:24

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself,

if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, 

to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Choosing Life Over Life

In the passage, Paul is preparing for imprisonment. He knows that he won’t see the people he’s talking to again. In this moment, he starts talking about his life and its purpose. As I was reflecting on this passage, I started thinking about the fact that as christians we have been given two lives. We have life from birth and we have a new life through Jesus Christ. Both are gifts from God. Paul is clearly choosing the new and transformed life that he has through salvation in Jesus. Our hope like his should be in the life that we have in Christ Jesus and not the one that is of this world. But, the life we have on this earth is a tool that we have to glorify God. God has given us ministry to complete while we are still here. Our charge is to Finish The Course you’ve been given.

Yes I Will

Great Are You Lord

Yet Not I But Christ Through Me

Worship Devotional – July 31st, 2022

150 150 Charles Su

All Glory Be to God

Acts 14:15

“Men, why are you doing these things?

We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, 

who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.

Devotion

After Paul heals a man who cannot walk, the people start worshiping him thinking that he is the incarnation of a Greek god. But, Paul rebukes them and redirects them to what they should be worshiping, the One True God. Our God ‘who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them’.

Our worship is a response to what God has done. From creation to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to today. God is doing great things and is worthy of our praise. So, we must not be like the people and misattribute what God is doing and give the glory to men or false gods.

Take some time to think about what God is doing in your life and praise Him, thank Him, give Him the glory.

Open Up the Heavens

Over All I Know

Holy Holy Holy (Jesus Reigns)

Worship Devotional – July 24th, 2022

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Acts 7:51-53

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 

52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?

And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 

53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

God So Loved

Come Thou Fount

King of Kings

Worship Devotional – July 17th, 2022

150 150 Charles Su

Psalm 148:5-6

Let them praise the name of the Lord!
    For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
    he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

All The Earth

What a Beautiful Name

Praise His Name

Worship Devotional – July 10th, 2022

150 150 Charles Su

Psalm 139:13-16

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

Lion and the Lamb

Praise His Name (Psalm 148)

Yet Not I But Christ Through Me

Worship Devotional – July 3rd, 2022

150 150 Charles Su

Psalm 124

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—
    let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord who was on our side
    when people rose up against us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive,
    when their anger was kindled against us;
then the flood would have swept us away,
    the torrent would have gone over us;
then over us would have gone
    the raging waters.

Blessed be the Lord,
    who has not given us
    as prey to their teeth!
We have escaped like a bird
    from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
    and we have escaped!

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

Oh Our Lord

Come Thou Fount

Cornerstone

Worship Devotional – June 26th, 2022

150 150 Charles Su

Let Them Praise His Name

Psalm 148

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his hosts!

Praise him, sun and moon,
    praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
    and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord!
    For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
    he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.[a]

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
    stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
    creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
    princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together,
    old men and children!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his majesty is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
    praise for all his saints,
    for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the Lord!

Context to Psalm 148

Open Up The Heavens

Praise His Name (Psalm 148)

O Praise The Name

Worship Devotional June 19th, 2022

150 150 Charles Su

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So

Pslam 107:1-3

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.

We have joy because of the redemption we have through the Lord! Because he is good and his love endures forever, He sent His Son to die for us. So, we are gathered in one body through Jesus Christ to enjoy community and bless his name.

God So Loved

How Deep the Father’s Love For Us

Yes I Will

Meditation and Memorization

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Life is in the Word because it is God-breathed, living, and active. Several falsely assume that the early Church created the Word. But, the Word created the Church and will sustain it until Christ returns. The Church does not own God’s Word; we are its stewards and servants. As its stewards and servants, we must be found faithful. Our faithfulness stems from our understanding and obeying God’s truth.

We have been working through a two-year bible reading plan. As we increase our Bible’s knowledge in terms of its breadth, let’s take it a little deeper with scripture memory and meditation. This Summer, from June through early September, we are memorizing God’s Word together. The small group coaches have prayerfully chosen these passages to help us pray (Matt 6:9–13), help us praise God (Psalm 148), and help us know the gospel (Romans 1:1–7, 16–17).

Psalm 148 is a great praise Psalm. We rarely take time to praise and worship God in our prayers but quickly run to make our needs known. It will be good to memorize this one, so praising Him becomes a part of our life. There is power in us praising and worshipping Him. In fact, it is more powerful than any of our resolutions to battle sin. Just as we worship our way to sin, we must worship our way out of sin. As we memorize this Psalm, worshipping God remains on our lips and hearts.

Romans 1:1–7, 16–17 concisely summarizes the gospel’s content. We can never take the gospel for granted, as our growth in Christ is never beyond the gospel but in growing deeper into it. As we meditate on the gospel, let our praise and adoration for Christ increase for the ultimate price He paid for our sins. The same gospel that released us from the penalty of sin also releases us from its power.

Memorizing and Meditating on God’s Word

Memorization and meditation are commanded in the Scripture.

  •  Psalm 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
  •  Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law … you shall meditate on it day and night.
  •  Deuteronomy 11:1819 You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and soul ….
  •  John 15:7–– If you abide in me, and my words abide in you …
  •  Colossians 3:16–– Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly….
  • Meditation is crucial to understanding, and memorization makes meditation accessible. Meditation separates us from a pharisee, a Muslim, or an unbeliever. They memorized the Scripture too, only to argue with a Christian. But they don’t internalize or meditate on it and could never reap the benefits of God’s Word. As we aim to wrap our minds around a text, we are greatly aided by already having it in our minds.
  • Meditation is marked by submission to God. Our goal in memorizing the Scripture is understanding and obeying the Word. This exercise is not mastery of God or His Word, but God’s mastery of us through the HolySpirit’s ministry.
  • Meditation aims at communion with God. If we forget that meditation aims at communing with God, it may become transactional instead of relational. Don’t waste too much time thinking about how to meditate or memorize. It is more important to spend more time thinking about God and speaking to God than focusing on how we should do it.
  • Meditation on God’s Word helps you to speak truth into others’ lives. Jesus said out of the abundance of the heart mouth speaks. If we store God’s Word in our hearts, it will inevitably come out of our mouths. Often when you try to speak God’s truth on the fly, the Holy Spirit will call your mind from the toolbox of Scripture you have stored up.
  • Meditation doesn’t always feel awesome. We won’t necessarily memorize much of God’s Word on any given day, and the practice gets complicated, especially during a dry spell. It doesn’t always feel awesome. But, we don’t allow ourselves to believe that reading God’s word and memorizing is “not doing anything.”

How to Meditate on Scripture

  •  Read Prayerfully
  • Read attentively
  •  Read, then write, then recite and call it to mind
  •  Read and memorize it with your small group to keep each other accountable