My Spirit and My Times

Today’s reading is Psalm 31.

“Into your hand I commit my spirit,” David says in Psalm 31:4. That sounds beautiful. I want to do that. But what does it mean? Practically, how do I commit my spirit to the Lord? Perhaps Psalm 31:15 gives us some insight. David also says, “My times are in your hand.” That is, my circumstance, my life events, my days, my nights, my seasons, my weeks, my years. If “my times” are in God’s hands, doesn’t that imply my behavior during those times is in God’s hands? Paul provides a great example of this in 2 Corinthians 12:10. Having become convinced of God’s grace in his life through a thorn in the flesh, he says, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” In other words, “My circumstances are in the Lord’s hands. If He decides to make me sick, if He decides to make me go through a shipwreck, if He decides to put me in prison, if He decides to make me abound in prosperity, I’ll trust Him that He is doing what is right; and I’ll just obey Him no matter what.” Of course, Jesus demonstrates this on the cross. He even quotes it (Luke 23:46). Even if God puts me on a cross. Even if I’m thrown in a fiery furnace or a lion’s den. Even if the fig tree doesn’t blossom, there is no fruit on the vine, the produce of the olive fail, the fields yield no food, the flocks and herds get destroyed, I will rejoice in the Lord (Habakkuk 3:17-18). He’ll get me through. I trust Him. My job will just be to do whatever He says and rejoice in Him no matter what. I know in the end, He’ll work it out for His glory and my good. My spirit and my times are in the Lord’s hands. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 31.

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Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk podcast conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post.

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Why Didn’t Paul Tell Them He Wasn’t a God?

Today’s reading is Acts 28.

I’m shocked. I’m stunned. I’m completely surprised. When Paul didn’t die or even get sick due to the snake bite, the people on Malta decided he was a god. But he doesn’t say anything against it. He just moves along and then heals someone of fever and dysentery. Then he is greatly honored by the people as they finally leave. Wow! Did you expect that from Paul? Of course not. In fact, even as you’re reading that, you are saying that I am wrong. But go read it again. The text doesn’t include any protest from Paul. There is no correction. Hmmm. Why didn’t Paul tell them he wasn’t a god? The answer, of course, is that he did. Certainly Paul corrected them. But Luke doesn’t have to tell us that. Why? Because in earlier chapters, Acts 14 to be precise, Luke had already revealed how Paul responds when people think he is a god. Luke doesn’t need to repeat it for us in this second event for us to know. I simply want to draw out a parallel. In Acts 2:38, when the post-resurrection gospel is preached for the first time, Peter declares that the proper response is to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. In later cases of conversion, Luke doesn’t have to repeat those same words or mention those same actions every time for us to know they happened. He told us at the very beginning how people receive the remission of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, later accounts are not variations or alternative methods. Rather, they are merely accounts written with an awareness of what was written earlier. Paul really did tell the Maltans he wasn’t a god. And we really need to repent and be baptized for the remission of our sins. Have you done that? If not, can we help? Let us know.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 28.

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Many Corinthians Believed and Were Baptized

Today’s reading is Acts 18.

For some reason, many today bring up 1 Corinthians 1:14-17, claiming it teaches we don’t need to be baptized for the remission of their sins. Their, Paul wrote that he was glad he hadn’t baptized many of the Corinthians himself, lest they boast in him. Then he says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel…” Paul’s point was not that we do not have to be baptized in order to have our sins forgiven. His point was that we do not have to be baptized by Paul (or any particular person for that matter) to be saved. In fact, Acts 18:8 demonstrates that when the Corinthians heard Paul’s teaching, they responded by believing and being baptized. They may not have been baptized by Paul himself, but when Paul preached what Jesus sent him to preach, people believed and were baptized. If we are going to teach the same thing as Paul, we may not be the ones doing the baptizing, but people should respond by believing and getting baptized just like the Corinthians did. Otherwise, we aren’t teaching the same thing Paul was sent to teach. How about you? Have you responded to the gospel by believing and being baptized? If we can help you respond, let us know.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 18.

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When Did They Believe?

Today’s reading is Acts 16.

Paul and Silas landed in jail. The jailer overheard their singing and their praise of Yahweh in the name of Jesus Christ. Their praise must have included some details about the gospel, because in a crisis moment the jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then, in a beautiful demonstration of literary parallelism, after the jailer washes the wounds of Paul and Silas, he and his household are washed of their spiritual wounds in baptism. I hope you noticed a very subtle point in this text. It is most certain Paul’s answer about salvation is believe. But do you notice when they rejoiced because they had believed? They didn’t rejoice at a moment when they developed a mental assent or even a mental acceptance. They didn’t rejoice when they washed the wounds of Paul and Silas. They didn’t rejoice in the claim of belief until after they had been baptized. Please, do not miss the import of this situation. In Acts, a person didn’t claim to be a believer unless and until that belief resulted in baptism. Are you a believer? I don’t just mean do you give mental assent to Jesus. I mean have you believed Him enough to give him your allegiance by being baptized? Then and only then can you rejoice in having believed as the Philippian and his household did.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 16.

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Praying with Faith

Today’s reading is Acts 12.

I’ve heard multiple preachers really give the Jerusalem church down the road for praying without faith in Acts 12. After all, they were praying for Peter, but when Rhoda claims he’s at the gate of Mary’s house, nobody says, “Awesome! Our prayers were granted.” Rather, they say things like, “You’re out of your mind” or “It must be his messenger.” The ungodly, heathen wretches. Why were they even praying if they weren’t going to believe it when their request was granted? I hope you read those last two sentences as sarcasm; I think the claims that they were praying without faith are not entirely fair. First, are you sure they were praying for Peter to be released at all? How do you know they weren’t simply praying for Peter’s faith to remain strong in the face of this persecution? Further, have you ever noticed that the text doesn’t say directly Herod’s plan was to execute Peter, but to bring him out to the people? In other words, Herod was planning to leave Peter’s fate up to the people because he was only pursuing this course of action to please the people. With that in mind, I’m guessing the prayers of the Christians were much more along the lines of praying that either Herod would change his mind or the people could be swayed to push for Peter’s release. I’m guessing it never crossed their minds that God would respond to their prayers by miraculously releasing Peter from prison in the middle of the night. In fact, I’m guessing it never even occurred to them to pray for that. After all, it didn’t occur to Peter either–even while it was happening. Certainly, praying in faith means not being shocked when God does do what we ask (though admittedly, He does not always grant our requests). I just don’t think that was the problem here. Here, we see that praying in faith means not limiting our requests by what we can imagine God will do. Paul says God can do far more abundantly than all we ask or think (see Ephesians 3:20). We need to have the faith to pray and think BIG!!!! When everyone else is praying for Herod to change his mind, we need to have the faith to ask God to send His angel and jailbreak Peter.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 12.

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Proclaiming the Christ

Today’s reading is Acts 8.

Yesterday, we learned the scattered Christians went about preaching the Word. The very next verse describes this preaching a different way. Philip made his way to Samaria. He proclaimed the Christ. Preaching the Word means preaching the Christ. It means preaching the Anointed One who is the Savior and the Lord. If we are not careful, we can drop Jesus Christ right out of our preaching, all the while convincing ourselves we are preaching the Word. When we jump from passage to passage finding tidbits about moral living, proper marriage, financial planning, relationship development, successful career growth, we can convince ourselves we are preaching the Word. After all, every sermon, blog post, podcast has an anchor verse found in the Bible. Folks will applaud how relevant we are. They will eat up our preaching as they do the self-help, business management, and leadership sections of the Amazon library. But that is not preaching the Word. We aren’t preaching the Word unless we are preaching the Christ. Certainly, preaching Christ and the Word will impact many aspects of our lives. But Jesus didn’t come to give us good health, prosperous wealth, fulfilling relationships. Jesus came to save us from sin. We need Jesus. We need to proclaim Jesus. That is what Philip did. He did it using the Scriptures. He did it in Samaria. He did it with the Eunuch. And when he did, folks believed, received, were baptized, and were saved. Let’s preach the Word. Let’s proclaim the Christ.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 8.

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Believe Enough

Today’s reading is Luke 5.

I vacillate on Peter’s faith in the account of the great catch of fish. Sometimes, I think Peter is demonstrating great faith in Jesus. Other times, I think it is just barely any faith. After all, he does what Jesus says, but not without first having to make sure Jesus knows he thinks it is pointless. But, he did what Jesus said. That is the key I always end up getting back to. Whether he had great faith or small faith, he had enough faith. He had enough faith to do what Jesus said. That is how much faith I need to have. I may struggle with my faith. I may not understand why Jesus has asked what He has. I may even complain about it and think it is pointless. In the end, I need to believe enough to do what Jesus says. Today, my goal is to believe enough.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 5.

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The Real Strength

Today’s reading is Romans 4.

Can I correct what I believe is a common misunderstanding. To some, this may just seem like being worried about words, but I think the way we say things sometimes misleads us and has negative consequences. I have said and heard many others say, “If God commanded it, you can do it. God won’t command anything you can’t do.” I’d like to modify that. “If God commanded it, He will strengthen you to do it. God won’t command anything and leave you helpless to accomplish it.” Consider Abraham. God promised a descendant. But Abraham knew his body and Sarah’s womb were dead. Yet, he was fully convinced God was able to do what He promised. Abraham’s faith was not in his own ability to obey God’s precepts, but in God’s ability to keep His promises. Therefore, he kept stepping out in faith. He knew that with God, he could mount up on wings like eagles, he could run and not be weary, walk and not faint. So, he jumped off the cliff, he started running, he put one foot in front of the other, not because he believed he could do those things, but because He believed God would do those things through Him. Then when he was done, he gave the glory to God because he knew God was the strength. Don’t obey God today thinking, “I can obviously do this because God tells me to.” Instead, obey God today, take those footsteps of faith, thinking, “God will do this through me because He tells me to.”

Tomorrow’s reading is Romans 5.

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Rejoice

Today’s reading is Acts 8.

Can you imagine being the Ethiopian eunuch? Clearly, he is devoted to Yahweh. He travels thousands of miles to make the Jerusalem pilgrimage. However, according to the Law, he actually isn’t allowed to be a citizen of the kingdom (see Deuteronomy 23:1). No wonder when Philip shares the good news of Christ’s kingdom with him, he questions, “What hinders me?” Philip’s answer really is, “Nothing!” He enters the water, is immersed for the remission of his sins, and then goes on his way rejoicing. He wasn’t allowed in the assembly of the Jews, but he is now part of the assembly of Jesus. Here’s the cool thing. In reality, we are all in the same boat as that eunuch. According to the law, we really don’t get to be part of the kingdom. We are sinners. The law condemns us. However, that doesn’t hinder us from being part of Christ’s kingdom. Let us surrender to His gospel, confess Him as Lord and being buried with Him in water immersion for the remission of our sins. Then let us rejoice. There are no second-class citizens of Christ’s kingdom/ Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 9.

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Obedient to the Faith?

Today’s reading is Acts 6.

“A great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” The priests were teachers of the Law, but they became obedient to the Faith (Perhaps we should capitalize this as we do the Law). They were not becoming obedient to their subjective faith but becoming obedient to an objective system known as The Faith. For many years I have used the verbiage I learned in my late teens, referring to the Old Covenant as the Old Law and to the New Covenant as the New Law. The Bible however never uses these terms. The Bible terms are the Law and the Faith. No doubt, the Law contained faith and the Faith contains law (after all, if it didn’t contain law, there would be nothing to obey). I wonder, however, what impact our non-scriptural terminology (which I’m sure was made up with the best of intentions) has on how we view the two covenants? Clearly, God sees a fundamental difference in these two systems. After all, if the New Covenant was merely a better system of laws, He would have called it the New Law. But what good would that be to us? Law, represented by The Law, cannot justify. That is why we need something different. That is why we need The Faith. We will not be justified by The Faith while disregarding and rebelling against the law it contains; we must be obedient to it. But neither are we justified by The Faith because of how well we keep its laws. Praise God, The Faith is not just another legal system we must  measure up to in order to justify ourselves. It is not a modified version of The Law. It is something different. It is something that does justify. Let’s obey it. Let’s proclaim it.

Monday’s reading is Acts 7.

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