Persecutions Without

Today’s reading is Acts 6.

Yesterday, we saw problems within the congregation, today we recognize the ongoing persecutions from without the congregation. Up to this point, the leaders of the Jews had persecuted and threatened the Christians, but they had been afraid to act too decisively because of the people. But now there is a shift. While Stephen was performing wonders and signs among the people, folks from the synagogue of the Freedmen started disputing. This wasn’t the Council. These aren’t leaders from the Pharisees or Sadducees, these are members of one of the synagogues. This is the people. Being unable to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit of Stephen, however, they decide to repeat history. Just as the Jews drummed up false charges against Jesus, these guys drum up false charges against Stephen. If you’ve read Acts 6-8 before, you know how this ends. Stephen is stoned. A great persecution begins. The church of Jerusalem is scattered. However, that isn’t the end of the story, is it? Actually, the story goes on from there. The scattered Christians go out teaching in other places. Many other congregations are started. Many other people are converted. Additionally, the apostles stay in Jerusalem and the church there grows to many thousands again. Certainly, we hate to witness the stoning of Stephen, but let’s make sure to see the whole picture. Just like with the problems we saw yesterday. At first, it seems like a terrible defeat, a struggle, a problem. However, in the end, it becomes a magnificent opportunity. We don’t beg for persecution any more than we beg for problems. However, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, keep obeying His will, and then be shocked to discover that though we thought persecution would kill the church, it actually causes it to explode with growth. Things look different when you are on Jesus’s side. Never forget that.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 6.

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Lake of Fire

Today’s reading is Revelation 20.

Babylon has fallen. The beasts have gone to destruction. The armies of the enemy have become a feast for the birds. God’s saints reign victorious. But then Satan gets to raise another army. What’s up with that? I could be completely wrong, however, I think the Holy Spirit’s point is Revelation recounts a particular war with the enemy. Satan had used a particular beast and false prophet to attack Christ’s kingdom–some suggest Rome and Emperor worship, others say Jerusalem and Temple worship. Whichever the specific enemy John had in mind, that enemy would be defeated. However, that doesn’t mean Satan was completely defeated. He would attack again. As with the temptation of Jesus, he departs and awaits another opportune time. John isn’t trying to give a prophecy of a particular moment in history; he is simply saying Satan will lose that war, but he’ll be back. However, no matter when he rises again, no matter what kind of army he gathers, no matter which earthly city and kingdom he works through to attack Christ’s kingdom, he is going to lose. Ultimately, like the cat’s paws he uses to attack, he will be thrown with all his minions, armies, messengers, beasts, into the lake of fire. He won’t be reigning there as the “King of Hell.” No, he will be tormented there just like everyone else who ends up there. Yes, siding with Satan provides pleasure and power for a moment, but its end is in fire. Hang on to Jesus. He always wins.

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 21.

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Today’s reading is Revelation 17.

A great contrast starts in this chapter. We finally meet the immoral woman. The seductress who competes with the Bride to steal the love of the Hero, or at least keep the proper marriage from happening. Think Ursula in the Disney version of “The Little Mermaid.” Or the step-sisters in the stories of Cinderella. She has been mentioned earlier in the book (think Jezebel in the letter to Thyatira). John sees her as a woman on a seven-headed dragon. She is named Babylon and is described as a city. Doesn’t that also fit the hero stories we’ve read in the past. This is the enemy city that needs to be defeated for the Hero to win the day. The one key I hope we notice in all this is a statement that is often overlooked. The ten horns are ten kings. We often get so distracted by trying to figure out who the ten kings are that we actually miss the important part. These ten kings will receive authority. They will make war on the Lamb. However, that authority is only for one hour. Doesn’t that highlight what we’ve noticed about everything in this book. Yes, at times it looks like the enemy is winning. Babylon is drunk with the blood of the saints. Her supporting kings have authority with the beast who in earlier chapters made war on the saints and even conquered them (Revelation 12:7). But this authority last for only one hour. That’s it. Just one hour. Then the Lamb conquers them. Obviously, this is not a literal amount of time. It is, however, demonstrating that the time is small, so hang on. Yes, the immoral city arises and conspires with the kings of the earth in great immorality and attack on Christ and His Bride. But their victory is short lived. So hang on. Jesus always wins! Judgment is coming on the seductress, the immoral woman, the sinful city. Don’t join her, avoid her. Which, by the way, was the heart of the warning to Thyatira.

Monday’s reading is Revelation 18.

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The Old Good News

Today’s reading is Hebrews 4.

Did you know we weren’t the first to receive good news? I don’t mean that people have heard the gospel since the first century even before we arrived. I mean, God gave good news before He gave what we call “the gospel.” Yep. God gave good news to the Israelites who were in Egypt. He gave them the good news of rest in His Promised Land. As we have often said, there is law in the Gospel, just so there was gospel in the Law. Recognizing this gives some insight. The Israelites received good news, just like we have. However, a whole generation abandoned that good news and missed out on the Promised Land because they lacked the faith to obey God’s promised good news. They could not see God had given them the land, therefore they refused to take possession of it. God has a rest prepared for us. We must fight the battles to take possession of that land He has purchased and prepared for us. May we believe His promised salvation and because we believe it, may we obey His battle instructions. And where we struggle, which we will, may we turn to Jesus who is our great High Priest. He is able to sympathize with us and, therefore, will help us in our time of need to gain the victory. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Hebrews 5.

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It Costs Too Much for the Rich

Today’s reading is Matthew 19.

The rich man asked, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” He was, after all, rich. Good deeds were easy for him in his privileged state. Just name it. “Do you want me to give alms to that guy over there? Do you want me to finance the building of a synagogue? Do you want me to make a donation to Your ministry, Jesus? If it will secure eternal life for me, tell me, and I’ll do it.” The rich man thought his riches would make getting eternal life easier for him, but they didn’t. They made it harder. Why? Because the rich, like the strong, the powerful, the wise, the industrious, the gifted, believe there is something they can do to secure eternal life. They believe they will spend some money, perform some feat, achieve some accomplishment that will secure salvation. The problem is eternal life, while free, costs everything. The admission price to eternal life is admission that I can’t afford the price for eternal life. For many, that admission simply costs too much. Jesus tells the rich man, “This thing you think you can offer to pay for your eternal life, you need to get rid of it, and instead follow Me.” Is there something you keep trying to offer to God as payment for eternal life? Realize that by that approach, the cost is too high for you. Count it as loss. Lay it at the cross. Follow Jesus. He is the only one that can afford the price. He has already paid it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 20.

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Whose Leaven?

Today’s reading is Matthew 16.

If I were a betting man (which I’m not, but that is a different post entirely), I would bet my last dollar you have heard about, thought about, even talked about the leaven of the Pharisees. We know those jokers. Hypocrites, legalists, loophole seekers, all around jerks. But that isn’t the only one Jesus mentions. He also says we are to beware the leaven of the Sadducees. Now, I wouldn’t bet my last dollar on this next one, but pretty close. If I were a betting man, I would bet you haven’t spent any time contemplating the leaven of the Sadducees. Of course, with you individually, I might be incorrect. However, ask around. See how many people have thought about that at all. My point today is not to define the leaven of the Sadducees for you. Rather, it is to highlight something we all need to be careful about. We all do it sometimes. We all skip bits on occasion. We all gravitate to the easy part we’ve heard about a lot and read past the parts that don’t get discussed much. For many people. This is one of those things. Granted, it is probably not essential to your salvation to know exactly who the Sadducees were or what their leaven and influence might specifically be. Well, not anymore than knowing the leaven of the Pharisees. But, of course, we won’t know how essential it is until we ask the question. My encouragement: keep your eyes open while reading. What are the questions you haven’t asked about the verse, paragraph, chapter, book you are reading right now? Why not ask that question and see what you learn?

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 17.

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If They Kill Us, So What?

Today’s reading is Matthew 10.

I sometimes have the idea that if I share the gospel at just the right time in just the right way, everyone will accept it. However, if anyone knew exactly the right time and exactly the right way, surely it was Jesus. And look what happened to Him. They killed Him. However, when they killed Him, He was resurrected. Certainly, the pain Jesus went through was no picnic, but ultimately, He had nothing to fear from those who executed Him. In like manner, if those who killed Him decided to kill us, so what? All they are accomplishing is ushering us into the very presence of our Savior and King Jesus Christ. We have nothing to fear and nothing worthwhile to lose. Let’s share the gospel in the light and on the rooftops. Let’s expose what Jesus has said and taught and done. Let’s be unashamed and unafraid. And if they kill us, so what?!

Monday’s reading is Matthew 11.

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