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            The apostles continued telling people the Good News about Jesus the King. They did this every day in the temple and in people's homes. The word of God was reaching more and more people. The group of followers in Jerusalem became larger and larger. Even a big group of Jewish priests believed and obeyed.

            Finally the Jews began to mistreat the believers in Jerusalem. The Jews pounded a preacher named Stephen with rocks until he died. A Jewish leader named Saul went into believers' houses. He dragged out men and women and put them in jail.

            The mistreatment became so bad that all the believers left Jerusalem. Only the apostles stayed. The believers went to different places in Judea and Samaria. They were scattered everywhere. Every place the believers went they told people the Good News about Jesus. 

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            A follower of Jesus named Philip went to the city of Samaria and preached about the King. Philip told the people the Good News about the kingdom of God and the power of Jesus Christ. Men and women believed Philip and were baptized. 

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             Then Philip went south to the road between Jerusalem and Gaza. There he saw a man riding in a chariot. This man was an officer in the service of Candace, the queen of faraway Ethiopia. He was responsible for taking care of all her money. He had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was now on his way home.

            The Spirit said to Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." So Philip went toward the chariot, and he heard the man reading from Isaiah the prophet. Philip said to him, "Do you understand what you are reading?"

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            The man answered, "How can I understand? I need someone to explain it to me!" Then he invited Philip to climb up into the chariot. The scripture he was reading was this: "He was like a lamb that makes no sound when someone cuts off its wool. He was shamed; and all his rights were taken away. His life on earth ended; there will be no story about his descendants."

            The officer said to Philip, "Who is the prophet talking about? Is he talking about himself or about someone else?" Philip started with the same scripture and told the man the Good News about Jesus. 

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            While they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The official said, "Look! Here is water! What is stopping me from being baptized?"

            Then the officer commanded the chariot to stop. Both Philip and the officer went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away, and the officer never saw him again. The official continued on his way home. He was very happy. 

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             In Jerusalem, Saul was still trying to scare and kill the followers of the Lord Jesus. So he went to the high priest and asked him to write letters to the synagogues in Damascus, the capital of Syria. Saul wanted the authority to find believers in Damascus, to arrest them, and to bring them back to Jerusalem.

            So Saul went to Damascus. When he came near the city, a very bright light from the sky suddenly shined around him. Saul fell to the ground. He heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul! Why are you doing these bad things to me?"

            Saul said, "Who are you, Lord?" 

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              The voice answered, "I am Jesus. I am the One you are trying to hurt."

            Saul said, "What shall I do, Lord?"

            The Lord answered, "Get up and go into Damascus. Someone there will tell you what you must do."

            Saul got up from the ground. He opened his eyes, but he could not see. So the men with Saul held his hand and led him into Damascus. For three days Saul could not see, and he did not eat or drink.

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             There was a follower of Jesus in Damascus whose name was Ananias. In a vision Jesus said to him, "Ananias!"

Ananias answered, "Here I am, Lord."

            The Lord said to Ananias, "Get up and go to the street called Straight Street. Find the house of Judas, and ask for a man named Saul. He is there now, praying."

            But Ananias answered, "Lord, many people have told me about this man Saul. He has done many bad things to your people in Jerusalem. Now he has come here to Damascus with power to arrest all people who believe in you."

            But Jesus said to Ananias, "Go! I have chosen Saul for an important work. He must preach about me to kings, to the Jewish people, and to other nations."

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            So Ananias went to the house of Judas. He put his hands on Saul and said, "Saul, my brother, the Lord Jesus has sent me so that you can see again and can be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes and Saul was able to see again.

            Then Ananias said to Saul, "Now, don't wait any longer. Get up, be baptized and wash away your sins. Do this trusting in Jesus to save you." So Saul got up and was baptized. Then he ate some food and began to feel strong again.

            Saul's Greek name was "Paul." Saul the killer became Paul, the great apostle of Christ.  

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             In the city of Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius. He was an army officer in the Roman army. Cornelius was a good man. He and his family worshiped the true God. He gave much of his money to the poor people, and he prayed to God always.

            One afternoon about three o'clock, Cornelius saw a vision. An angel from God came to him and said, "Cornelius!"

            Cornelius said, "What do you want, Lord?"

            The angel said, "God has heard your prayers. Send some men to Joppa. Invite Simon Peter to come. He will tell you things that will save you and your family. He is staying with Simon the leather-worker who lives beside the sea."

            The angel who spoke to Cornelius left. Cornelius called two of his servants and a soldier. Cornelius explained everything to these three men; then he sent them to Joppa.

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            The next day these men came near Joppa. At that time, Peter was going up to the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, and Peter was hungry. Suddenly, a vision came to him. Peter saw something coming down through the open sky. It looked like a big sheet being lowered to the ground by its four corners. Every kind of animal was in it. Then a voice said to Peter, "Get up, Peter, kill one of these animals and eat it."

            Peter said, "I would never do that, Lord. I have never eaten food that is unholy and impure." 

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            The voice said to him, "God has made these things pure. Don't call them unholy!" This happened three times.

             While Peter was wondering what this vision meant, the men that Cornelius had sent found Simon's house. They stood at the door and asked, "Is Simon Peter staying here?"

            The Spirit said to Peter, "Three men are looking for you. Get up and go downstairs. Go with these men and don't ask questions. I have sent them to you." 

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             The next day Peter and several Jewish Christians went with the three men. When they arrived in Caesarea, Cornelius was waiting for them. He had gathered his relatives and close friends. Cornelius fell down at Peter's feet and worshiped him. Peter said, "Stand up. I am only a man like you are." Then Peter went inside and saw a large group of people gathered.

            Peter said to the people, "It is against our Jewish law for a Jew to associate with any person who is not a Jew. But God has shown me that I should not call any person unholy or unclean."  

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              Then Peter said, "I understand now that to God every person is the same. God accepts any person who worships him and does what is right. It is not important what country a person comes from. Jesus is the Lord of all people! God made him the King by giving him the Holy Spirit and power. Jesus went everywhere doing good things for people. Jesus healed the people who were ruled by the devil. This showed that God was with Jesus. We saw all these things that Jesus did in Judea and Jerusalem. But Jesus was killed. They put him on a cross made of wood. But, on the third day after death, God raised Jesus to life! God let us see Jesus clearly. We are witnesses! We ate and drank with Jesus after he was raised from death. Jesus told us to preach to the people and to tell them that he is the One whom God chose to be the Judge of all people who are living and all people who are dead. Every person who trusts in Jesus will be forgiven." 

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             While Peter was speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came upon all those people who were listening to Peter speak.

            Then Peter said, "We cannot refuse to allow these people to be baptized in water. They have received the Holy Spirit the same as we did!" So Peter commanded that Cornelius and his relatives and friends be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. 

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            Later, the apostle Paul and others traveled throughout the Roman Empire preaching the Good News about Jesus the King.

            At Troas, Paul saw a vision in which a man said to him, "Come across to Macedonia and help us!" Immediately Paul and his friends left Troas and went to Philippi, an important Roman city in Macedonia. Thus, the Good News spread to a major city in Europe. (See map on page 6.)

            At Philippi, Paul and his companions found a special place of prayer near the river outside the city gate. There they taught some women who had gathered for worship. A businesswoman named Lydia listened to Paul, and the Lord opened her heart. She believed the things Paul said. She and all the people in her home were baptized.

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             While Paul and his friends were going to the place of prayer, a servant girl met them. She had a spirit from the devil in her. This spirit gave her the power to tell what would happen in the future. By doing this she earned a lot of money for the men who owned her. This girl followed Paul and his companions shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God! They are telling you how you can be saved!"

            She continued doing this for many days. This bothered Paul, so he turned and said, "By the power of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of her!" Immediately, the spirit came out.

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             The men who owned the servant girl realized that they could no longer use her to make money. So they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the city officials. Paul and Silas were beaten with sticks and put in jail.

            About midnight they were praying and singing songs to God. Suddenly, there was a great earthquake. The jailer woke up and saw that the jail doors were open. He thought that the prisoners had escaped, so he got his sword and was ready to kill himself. But Paul shouted, "Don't hurt yourself! We are all here!"

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             The jailer told someone to bring a light. Then he ran inside. He was shaking. He brought Paul and Silas outside and said, "Men, what must I do to be saved?"

            They said to him, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved--you and all the people living in your house." So Paul and Silas shared the Good News about Jesus Christ with the jailer and his family. It was late at night, but the jailer and all his people were baptized. They were all very, very happy because they now believed in God. 

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            In Ephesus, the seven sons of a Jewish priest named Sceva tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus to make evil spirits go out of people. They said, "By the name of Jesus that Paul talks about, I order you to come out!"

            One time an evil spirit said to these Jews, "I know Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit inside him jumped on these Jews, beat them up, and tore their clothes off. These Jews ran away from that house bruised and bleeding.

            All the people in Ephesus heard about this and began to have great respect for God. And they gave great honor to the name of Jesus. Many of the believers began to confess all the bad things they had done. Some of them had used magic. These believers brought their magic books and burned them before everyone.

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             Christianity spread throughout the world like a forest fire. From Jerusalem, the Good News spread to Judea, Samaria, Ethiopia, Caesarea, Antioch, Asia Minor, and Europe. Everywhere the Good News was preached, the word of the Lord influenced more and more people in a powerful way. And more and more people believed. 

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            1. Jesus will be our Judge. Peter said, "Jesus is the One whom God chose to be the Judge of all people." God decided long ago that on a certain day, all people in the world will be judged by his Son Jesus Christ. There will be a day of judgment.

            History is not moving in cycles. We are not born again and again into different bodies. We live only once. And we die only once. After death comes the judgment, then heaven or hell. History is moving in a straight line toward the day when God will call us by name and ask us to give an account of our lives.

            How do we know that there will be a judgment day? God proved this by raising Jesus from death. As surely as Jesus was raised from death, we will stand before Jesus to be judged.

            This thought does not need to scare us. Jesus is the one who can judge us guilty. But he is also the one who can save us.

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              2. We must choose between God and Satan. The kingdom of God is in conflict with the kingdom of Satan. The servant girl in Philippi had a spirit from the devil in her. By the power of Satan, she revealed that Paul and his companions were servants of God, and were telling people how to be saved.

            Even though the girl was telling the truth, Paul did not want to be associated with Satan or to join forces with him. So he made the evil spirit come out of the girl.

            At Ephesus, some people thought they could be Christians and still practice the magic arts. They learned, however, that people must choose between God and Satan. So they burned their magic books and followed Jesus with all their hearts.

            We, too, must make a choice between God and Satan. God is saying to us, "You must choose for yourselves today. Today you must decide whom you will serve."

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             3. You can become a Christian. God is inviting you to be a Christian--no matter who you are or where you live. Peter said, "To God, every person is the same. God accepts any person who worships him and does what is right. It is not important what country a person comes from. Jesus is the Lord of all people."

              Do you believe that Jesus is the descendant of Eve who crushed Satan's head? That he is the descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who blesses all nations? That he is the true King who comes from the tribe of Judah and the family of David? Do you believe that he is the divine Suffering Servant who died that we might live? Do you believe he is the Son of God? Do you trust him enough to change your heart and life and follow him? 

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             If your answer to these questions is "Yes," then God is saying to you "Don't wait any longer. Get up and be baptized and wash away your sins. Do this trusting in Jesus to save you. Then arise to live a new life, dead to sin, and alive to God."

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  Scripture References: Acts 5:42; 6:1-7; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11:1-18; 16:1-40; 17:16-31; 19:1-20; 22:1-16; II Corinthians 2:11; 11:14.



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