Free

Today’s reading is Acts 28.

I love the way Acts ends. Don’t get me wrong. I hate that Paul is in prison. I would much rather he be free to travel. However, what I love about it is the Jews were doing everything they could to keep Paul from preaching and keep the gospel from spreading. But even with Paul under house arrest in Rome, the proclamation of the kingdom and the teaching of Jesus Christ is free. It is progressing with boldness and without hindrance. That is how amazing and powerful the gospel is. Even when its #1 teacher is stuck under the watchful eye of Roman guards, the gospel is still progressing and growing. You know what that means? We have no excuses about spreading the gospel today. Let’s get busy.

Tomorrow’s reading is Romans 1.

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Who Saved Them?

Today’s reading is Acts 27.

The crew and passengers of the Alexandrian ship had done all they could do in the midst of the storm. They had abandoned all hope of salvation from storm and shipwreck. Then Paul let them know God would save them. However, when the ship was breaking up, those who could swim jumped overboard and made for land. The rest grabbed planks and pieces of the ship. By these means, all were brought safely to land. When they got to land Paul commended everyone for their swimming efforts and ability to choose good flotsam and jetsam. Of course, you know that isn’t true. This was not a time to brag about their swimming and floating prowess, this was a time to thank God for saving them. And that is exactly how the gospel and salvation works. After we have done all we can, we eventually come to realize there is nothing we can do. All hope of saving ourselves is to be abandoned. God must save us. But we must swim and grab pieces of the ship. However, when we are saved, having exerted our efforts in swimming and hanging on to whatever we hang on to, we don’t brag about our efforts, we praise God for His salvation. These men didn’t earn rescue, God gave it to them. The same is true for us. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 28.

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Raising the Dead

Today’s reading is Acts 26.

“Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?” What an interesting question. Once again, I think of the skeptics today who think the reason Christianity took off is because folks were so superstitious during the Bible times that they would just accept anything. Yet, once again we see that people during the times of the Bible believed exactly what we believe. People don’t come back from the dead. Yet, if God exists, why would it be incredible to think He could make that happen? And this highlights the circular argument some make. Consider the following:

Skeptic: “Jesus wasn’t resurrected because we know that can’t happen.”

Christian: “But if God exists, couldn’t He choose to make an exception to the general rule and raise someone from the dead?”

Skeptic: “But God doesn’t exist, so no one can be raised from the dead.”

Christian: “But doesn’t the historical testimony and evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead suggest God exists?”

Skeptic: “Absolutely not! People don’t rise from the dead, so Jesus’s resurrection can’t be evidence of God’s existence because it simply can’t have happened.”

Christian: “And yet, if God does exist, couldn’t it have happened?”

Skeptic: “But God doesn’t exist, so it can’t have happened.”

On and on the circle goes. Where it stops, nobody knows. But please notice, the above is not an argument based on evidence or testimony, it is based on a philosophical predisposition against God. And Paul is amazed at such a predisposition. So am I.

Monday’s reading is Acts 27.

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Consequences

Today’s reading is Acts 25.

“If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death.” WOW! What a statement. This is one of the characteristics of penitence. Often, we aren’t actually penitent, we just want to escape the consequences of our actions. The great thing is God has promised if we repent and surrender to Jesus, we will not face the ultimate consequence of separation from Him through eternity, which we call Hell. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t face earthly, temporal, and natural consequences to our actions. Paul wasn’t trying to escape the consequences. He was willing to accept them. When we repent and respond to the gospel, that is exactly the mindset we need to have. That is, when we repent and submit to the gospel, we escape Hell and the judgment of God’s wrath because He removes our sins from us by the blood of Jesus, but our sins have consequences in this life. People have been hurt. Sometimes laws have been broken. Being penitent means accepting that and being willing to face the consequences. Of course, it is so much easier to do that when you know God has wiped the slate clean by the blood of Jesus and that no matter what you face now, you will be with Him forever. Whatever you’ve done, whatever the consequences, turn to Jesus and hang on to Him. It will be worth it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 26.

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Righteousness, Self-Control, and Judgment

Today’s reading is Acts 24.

What’s wrong with Paul in this chapter? Is he just mad at Felix, so he’s being negative and harsh? Doesn’t he, of all people, know the gospel is about grace? There’s no place for preaching to the lost about righteousness, self-control, and judgment. And yet, that is exactly what Paul reasons with Felix and Drusilla about. And this highlights the mistake that is so often made. Some think, and others fear, that teaching grace means ignoring righteousness, self-control, and judgment. Not for Paul. But that isn’t because, as too many people say, “Grace only goes so far. We have to talk about these other things too.” Not at all. It is because judgment is coming and apart from grace, we will not have righteousness or self-control. We need the grace Jesus provides through the cross and the strength God provides through His Spirit or we will not have righteousness and self-control and we will fall in the judgment. We can’t preach any of these topics too much. And it really isn’t a matter of balancing as if these are topics on opposite sides of a scale. They all go hand in hand. Let’s pursue righteousness and self-control. The good news (gospel) is, as much as we’ve failed at those, because Jesus died on the cross and God has given His church His Spirit, we can actually attain them by His grace. So let’s keep putting one foot in front of the other in our walk with Jesus and let Jesus grow us by His grace.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 25.

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Resurrection Hope

Today’s reading is Acts 23.

Everyone dies. It’s just a fact of life. That is what makes the gospel so powerful. Don’t get me wrong, obeying the gospel often improves the present life. However, as Paul pointed out while on trial, the hope of the gospel is not a better job, a better marriage, a better retirement, a better house. The hope of the gospel is resurrection. The hope of the gospel is when this life is over, life isn’t. The hope of the gospel is being with God for eternity. We cannot escape death as an event, but we can escape death as an end. Would you live eternally with God? Then hear and heed His gospel message through Jesus Christ. Then hang on to the hope it gives no matter what.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 24.

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Don’t Forget to Pray

Today’s reading is Acts 22.

To our readers who don’t attend the Livingston congregation, I’m sorry. I can’t help but connect today’s reading to a recent sermon.* In today’s reading, Paul recounts his conversion. Here was a man with authority to attack Christians among the Jewish synagogues. He was commissioned by the high priest and the San Hedrin to imprison them. And yet, on the road to Damascus, he met Jesus. God delivered His kingdom from the kingdom of men in a way unimaginable to anyone. I am reminded of the text in 1 Timothy 2:1-7, in which Paul tells Timothy to teach the Ephesians that their first task was to pray for those in high position, including kings. This is good because God wants them to be saved too. Who would have thought that God would bring peace to the churches by converting their number one opponent? But He did. What I learn is our prayers accomplish more than our votes. So, tomorrow, go vote. Who knows, God may work through your vote. But don’t forget to pray. God definitely works in response to our prayer.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 23.

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