God's Hand, Not Mine

Today’s reading is Acts 7.

Over the last two days, we’ve noticed Stephen’s not so subtle messages about not focusing on holy men and holy places, but on the God who made them holy. In both of those streams of thought, Stephen brings together an interesting contrast. In his look at Moses, in Acts 7:25, he explains that at one time Moses had supposed the folks would know God was delivering the people by Moses’s hand. Of course, we know that didn’t happen. Then in Acts 7:35, we see this Moses was sent as redeemer and ruler by the hand of the angel (that is, of the Lord) to lead the people out of Egypt. Granted, the play on the word “hand” is not in the original Hebrew, however the meaning is. I appreciate the ESV bringing it out. Israel wasn’t led out of bondage by the hand of Moses, but by the hand of the Lord. In Stephen’s look at the temple, in Acts 7:48, Stephen highlights that the temple was made by men’s hands. This was a jab against the Jews because it hearkened back to their time worshiping the golden calf which was the work of their own hands (Acts 7:41). The Jews were actually doing the same thing with the temple they had done with the calf. They had made the temple into an idol. Then Stephen quotes Isaiah 66:1-2, in which God explains His hands had created the entire world. That is, God can treat any place He wants as Holy. In both streams of thought, Stephen makes a contrast–our hands vs. God’s. And in both streams, he highlights a struggle I have. I can get fixated on what my hands can accomplish. I can start to think that what my hands have built, what my hands have forged, what my hands have constructed, what my hands have done is really, really important. Not so. God’s hands are the power. God’s Kingdom, Christ’s Body, the Spirit’s Temple will not be built by my hands, but by God’s. I may be an instrument He uses. I hope and pray so. The power is not in my hands, but God’s. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 7.

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You Crucified; God Delivered

Today’s reading is Acts 2.

Peter demonstrates the intersection of God’s foreknowledge and man’s action. Jesus’s crucifixion was not a shock to God. He had known it was going to happen. Not only that, He had planned for it to happen. Yet, Peter tells the Jews, “God delivered Jesus up, but you crucified Him.” When folks try to walk through the issues of foreknowledge philosophically, they get wrapped around the axle. Were the Jews bound to crucify Jesus? Of course not. If they hadn’t crucified Him, God would have foreknown something else. However, before our minds explode trying to keep all of this straight, can we simply notice what Peter, by inspiration of the Spirit, explains? Even though God foreknew this was going to happen, these Jews were still responsible for their actions. They chose their actions. They were not bound to those actions. They were not manipulated by God to accomplish those actions. They were not forced by God. In like manner, whatever God knows about us and our future, when we choose to do it, we are responsible for it. However, let us never think we are going to outsmart God. These folks crucified the Son of God, but they did nothing but accomplish what God wanted. We can fight all we want against God, He will be glorified in the end. He will either be glorified by our defeat as we try to fight against Him and fail, or He will be glorified by our surrender, as we give our lives up in service to Him and He saves us. No matter what, God is glorified. We might as well pursue the side that allows us salvation. Praise the Lord He has offered that option to us.

Today’s reading is Acts 2.

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Your Mina

Today’s reading is Luke 19.

“Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.” Did you catch that? The servant didn’t say, “Hey Lord; look what I did with your mina.” As far as the servant was concerned, the mina did the work. This explains the fatal flaw of the third servant. The servant’s problem was not that he didn’t believe in himself. The problem was he didn’t believe in the Lord’s mina. He thought the success of the business depended on himself. So, he did nothing. The other two believed the success depended on the Lord’s mina. I know I have a lot to learn from these servants. How about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 19.

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Fear! No Fear!

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

Mary praises God saying, “And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). Zechariah, on the other hand, says, “We, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:74). Which is it? Does He have mercy on those who fear or can we serve Him without fear? Yes! I admit, it is possible Zechariah is referring to a fear of the enemies. That is, he might be saying that because we are delivered from our enemies, we can serve God without fearing them. That is a lot like the prayer we hear so often in worship assemblies today saying, “Thank you for letting us gather here without fear of persecution.” My struggle with that is when Christianity started, that is exactly what all Christians faced. Perhaps we can read this as we have no reason to fear our ultimate enemy, Satan. There is definitely truth to that. I can worship God without fear that Satan is going to win. However, I think this struggle we have between scriptural commands to fear God and scriptural promises that we don’t need to fear God comes down to a very simple principle. It was one I was taught back in my college days when I was trained as a trim carpenter. A table saw is a powerful thing. One wrong move, and a finger is gone or an artery cut, and you’re bleeding out on the wood (my boss was always more concerned about blood getting on the wood than leaving my body). However, when you recognize the power and fear it–not a paralyzing terror, but a healthy fear–then you take the proper precautions. When you take the proper precautions, you don’t have to fear the saw. Another illustration comes to mind. When driving, if I fear getting a speeding ticket, I drive the speed limit. When I drive the speed limit, I don’t have to fear a speeding ticket. As odd as it sounds, my fear removes the need for my fear. God has mercy on those who fear Him. Because of that, we have no need to fear Him. Today, because you fear God, go forth without fear.

Next week’s reading is Luke 2.

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Worship

Today’s reading is Revelation 4.

I find it interesting and a little bit challenging, when I search my photo stock using the word “worship,” especially connected with images of “Christian worship,” I am inundated with pictures of people standing up, eyes closed, faces to heaven, arms upstretched. However, when I look through the Bible at pictures of worship, what I find (Old and New Testaments) is people falling down, laying on the ground, bowing, casting off crowns. Don’t get me wrong, I know men are to lift holy hands in prayer. I know through Jesus Christ we are forgiven and undefiled, therefore we have confident access to God’s presence, and we don’t have to come into it with self-flagellation, scraping on the floor, and begging for entrance. Therefore, I don’t want to establish some bodily posture rule about worship. Nor do I want to paint with such a broad brush as to say every prostrate worshiper has the right mindset and every upright worshiper does not. But I wonder if this stark contrast in the majority of “pictures” between modern Google and ancient Bible demonstrates some kind of shift in our view of worship. Obviously, each of us must examine our own heart regarding what we are doing in worship. Here is what I do know. No matter how we are sitting, standing, laying prostrate, raising hands, worship is the casting down of our own selves and our own worthiness before the Lord who is the only worthy One. Whether our bodies lie prostrate or not, worship is the prostration of our hearts and minds before a holy God who was and is and is to come, who is worthy to receive glory and honor and power because He is creator and we are creation. And whether we are actively involved in a worship action or not, this must be the state of our heart before God at all times. He is worthy. Praise God!

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 5

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I Think I Can

Today’s reading is Matthew 17.

Sadly, more Americans base their lives on “The Little Engine that Could,” than on Jesus Christ. You know the story. The little train engine started up the hill and slid back down and tried again and again. Finally, as it started up for a final attempt, it repeated to itself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” and finally did. And now another generation knows that success comes from believing in ourselves. I’m sure there are some aspects of life where that really does work. However, it won’t work for spiritual success. When the apostles couldn’t cast out the demon, Jesus wasn’t telling them, “If you just believe in yourselves more.” He was telling them, “If you believe in Me.” When we are climbing up the spiritual hill, repeating “I think I can, I think I can” will only lead to failure. We can’t. If we could, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to die and God wouldn’t have needed to send the Holy Spirit. Rather, we need to declare again and again, “I know Jesus will; I know Jesus will.” Then take another step in the faith that Jesus will give us the strength to take that step and then another and then another. And in those moments when the enemy knocks us down and tries to convince us we can’t, get back up and repeat, “I know Jesus will; I know Jesus will.”

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 18.

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Suit Up and Fight

Today’s reading is Ephesians 6.

I love the parallels in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul prays that we may be full of God’s power, recognizing God’s power in us can do far more abundantly than all we ask or think. That leaves me wondering, “Okay, what must I do?” Do we just sit around and wait for that empowering? Do we cooperate in some way? Then Paul gets to Ephesians 6:10-20 and tells us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” He basically tells us to suit up and fight. Did you notice how? The armor of God is truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, and the Word. I can’t help but recognize something about that whole list. They are all found by us in God’s Word: “Your word is truth” (John 17:17); “All scripture is…profitable…for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16-17); “when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:13); “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17); “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15); “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Do you want to be strengthened by the power and might of the Lord?  Suit up for battle with God’s Word. There is no other way for us to prepare to fight. But then we need to fight. Did you notice how? “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” How many times do we skip prayer because we think we have to get into the fray? And then how many times do we walk away beaten and battered? Be strong in the strength of the Lord. Suit up and fight. Wear the Word; battle with prayer. If you haven’t done this yet today, get after it.

Monday’s reading is Philippians 1.

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