Send for Peter

Today’s reading is Acts 10.

An angel of God appeared to Cornelius in a vision. It scared the daylights out of him. He asked what the angel wanted him to do and the angel gave him instructions. You realize, of course, the angel could have told Cornelius about Jesus. The angel could have told Cornelius the gospel. The angel could have told Cornelius about being baptized in Jesus’s name. If the angel could instruct him to send for Peter, the angel could have instructed him in the way of God. But, he didn’t. He told Cornelius to send for Peter. Why? Because God, for some reason known only to Him, has decided to work through people. He has decided to allow His gospel to be taught, proclaimed, and propagated from one person to another. He still works that way today. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying God can’t do whatever He wants, whenever He wants in order to save people. I am saying, He has always relied on and will always rely on people hearing the gospel from other people. He wanted that from the very beginning. He wants it today. He wants us to be those people. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 10.

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You Just Don’t Make This Stuff Up, Folks

Today’s reading is Luke 24.

It is not so shocking to us today. So we likely read right past it. The first witnesses to the empty tomb were women. The first proclaimers of the resurrected Savior were women. And, of course, the men treated them just like men of that day often did treat women. They thought it was an idle tale. But here is what we need to recognize. If Luke were making up this story (or any of the other gospel writers), the very last thing any of them would do is make the first witnesses women. Women were not respected. My understanding is their word was not considered as strong as a man’s. If Luke were making this stuff up, why would he put the very first report of the empty tomb and the resurrected Savior in the mouths of women? You just don’t make this stuff up, folks. But when this is simply the way it happened, you record it. And that is what Luke is doing. He isn’t involved in creative writing. He is involved in record keeping. Jesus rose from the dead. The women knew. The disciples will come to know it. We can know it. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 24.

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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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Believe the Word

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

Why was Zechariah rebuked and disciplined for not believing, while Mary who also questioned the angel was ultimately praised for believing? Good question. Notice there is a subtle difference between the questions asked. Mary asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Zechariah asks, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” Do you see the difference? Obviously, I cannot see into the mind of Mary. Was there doubt in her question about whether God could perform this? I don’t know. However, her question actually only asks the mechanics. It is not necessarily a question of doubt, but rather one about a lack of understanding. Zechariah’s questions, on the other hand, is essentially, “How do I know you are actually going to fulfill this promise?” Interestingly, there is one other place in Scripture where this kind of question gets asked. In Genesis 15:8, Abraham asks for this very kind of proof when God gives him a promise. Zechariah may have thought he was on good ground asking this question since he was mirroring Father Abraham. The angel demonstrates that this was not a time for mirroring Abraham, but for learning from Abraham. God gave Abraham a son even in his old age. God fulfilled His promise to Abraham. Abraham was the first and perhaps his doubts and questions can be understood. But Zechariah should learn from Abraham that God need not be doubted. God will keep His Word. And that is the lesson for us. We may sometimes wonder how God will accomplish His promises. We may even ask. However, let us know God always will fulfill His promises. God always keeps His Word. May we never doubt that.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 1.

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The Prayers of the Saints

Today’s reading is Revelation 8.

When the seventh seal is opened, we are reminded of the fifth seal. There we saw the saints beneath the altar praying for God to take vengeance on the enemies who had slaughtered them. When this seventh seal is opened, this image is called to mind again and seven trumpets are given to seven angels. As those trumpets were being handed out, an angel offered incense on the altar alongside and mingled with the prayers of the saints. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth. As the angels blow their trumpets, we see the prayers of the saints being granted in part as God allows partial judgment to come upon the earth. Of course, all of this is telling of a time long past. However, what we can learn from this is that even in our extreme suffering and pain, God does listen to our requests. He may not respond in our timetable or with exactly what we have asked for or want. However, He always does what is right. He always does what will most benefit us and most glorify Him. In these partial judgments, He is giving response to the prayers of the saints and yet, at the same time, seeking the salvation of others. What a glory that will be for Him if those who were persecutors become saints. Keep praying. God is listening. He is responding in the best way possible even if we can’t tell it right now. And He is seeking the salvation of as many as will come just as He patiently sought your salvation. Praise God!

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 9.

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Angels of Darkness

Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 11.

You know that old cartoon picture of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? That picture gets it wrong. That is rarely the way it works. The way it actually works is there is an angel on one shoulder and something that looks almost exactly like an angel on the other shoulder. The devil rarely attacks in obvious ways. Rather, he makes tiny adjustments. He gets close to the truth, but shifts it just a little so as to be almost unnoticeable. Of course, those who do notice and sound the warning are often rebuked. But let us take care. Satan isn’t attacking the gospel with clearly, obviously false gospels. He is attacking the gospel with gospels that are pretty close. Let us not be ashamed of the true gospel and let us always defend it against gospels that are mediocre copies and slightly adjusted.

Monday’s reading is 2 Corinthians 12.

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A Mediocre Copy of God’s Genius

Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 11.

Satan doesn’t always tempt us with obvious error and sin. Sometimes he disguises himself with just enough truth and gospel veneer that his way even appears to be God’s. He can appear as an angel of light and his servants appear as servants of righteousness. We must not be distracted by such attempts. For instance, God is love. What a powerful statement that is. But Satan would twist it by saying love is God. Close. Seemingly meaningful. What could be so wrong about such a small change? And yet, it is nothing more than a mediocre copy of God’s genius. Don’t be fooled. Know the true gospel and be saved by it.

Monday’s reading is 2 Corinthians 12.

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