From “Me” to “Us”

Today’s reading is Psalm 31.

Track the pronouns in this psalm. Sometimes the main pronoun is the first person singular, sometimes it is the second or third person plural. That is, in some parts it is, “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge.” In other places, it is, “How abundant is your goodness, which you have…worked for those who take refuge in you.” Sometimes it is “I trust the Lord.” Other times it is “Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful…” In this, David moves from praying about “me” the Lord’s anointed to praying about “us” the Lord’s people. This isn’t just some weird poetic thing. This is David setting himself up as the example. This is how God deals with His anointed, the head of His people. Therefore, this is how God deals with all His people. Especially when we get to the ending thoughts. David’s point is, “Look at me, people! Do you see how God has demonstrated himself faithful and loving with me? Do you see how God did deliver? I get it, I had some troubles along the way. But do you see how it ended? The same will be true for you. Hang on through the trouble. Stay faithful. Through me, God has proved Himself faithful.” We should see the same principle in our King. After all, a disciple is not above the teacher but when fully trained will become like the teacher. Do you remember what happened with Jesus? He was persecuted. He was afflicted. It even seemed that the hands of the enemies prevailed against Him. However, on the third day, He burst forth from the grave victorious. That is how the Lord gave victory to our King. We too, though the hand of the enemy seems to prevail, perhaps even killing us, will be victorious. We will also burst forth from the grave. So, commit your spirit into the Lord’s hand and hang on to Him no matter what.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 31.

PODCAST!!!

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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The Fool’s Prayer

Today’s reading is Psalm 14.

As we learned on Monday, our psalm is not merely about the avowed atheist. It is about the person whose heart and mind denies God even if he would never say it out loud. In fact, it can include the “faithful” church attender. This isn’t simply the person who declares and confesses for all to hear that there is no God. In fact, vs 4 explains who this person is. It is the person who doesn’t call on the Lord. The fool is not only the person who confesses to others that there is no God, it is also the person who simply doesn’t confess to God. This person may technically believe God is out there, but she sees God as inconsequential. God doesn’t actually have a meaningful impact on his life. And that comes out no place more starkly than in prayer. Or, perhaps I should say, in the lack of prayer. The fool’s prayer simply doesn’t happen. The fool postpones prayer because he thinks his effort matters more than God’s. The fool neglects prayer because she doesn’t see God as having a real effect in her day to day life. Oh, I’m not saying the fool never, ever prays. But the fool doesn’t recognize the absolute, utter need for God, and therefore, doesn’t see the absolute, utter need for prayer. Prayer gets put on the back burner. The practical atheist is just as much a fool as the avowed atheist, perhaps more so. At least the avowed atheist knows he is one. When is the last time you prayed? When will be the next time?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 14.

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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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Thousands of Jewish Christians

Today’s reading is Acts 21.

When Paul got to Jerusalem, James and the elders of the Jerusalem church wanted to impress upon him how important it was that the Jewish Christians understood he wasn’t teaching them to abandon the Law or forsake Moses. They asked him to “See how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed.” That is amazing because back in Acts 8:1, the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were scattered. Essentially, only the leadership of the Jerusalem church was left in town. But by Acts 21, there are thousands of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem again. WOW! That shows the incredible working and grace of God. When the Lord’s hand is with a congregation, it is amazing what can be done. It also shows God’s incredible use of strong leaders. When Jesus conducted His life ministry, He did make disciples, but mostly He developed a handful of leaders. God used that handful of leaders from the day of Pentecost onward to cause exponential growth in the kingdom. And when the church of Jerusalem was scattered, it was essentially that same handful of leaders that God used to prompt exponential growth again. It’s important for churches to make disciples, that is our commission. However, as we make disciples, let us also develop leaders. After all, it is the leaders who will do the lion’s share of making more disciples down the road.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 21.

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Barnabas: A Son of Encouragement

Today’s reading is Acts 9.

We started the week with the shocking choice of Saul, but we are seeing a whole cast of supporting disciples who made Saul successful. Without Ananias, Saul would have not even been a Christian. Without Barnabas, Saul would have been forever on the outskirts of the church. It took Barnabas, a son of encouragement, a merciful, compassionate, trusting disciple to bring Saul in and stick his neck out for Saul before the apostles. By the way, did you notice that it wasn’t the Holy Spirit who brought Saul before the apostles? It wasn’t the Holy Spirit who revealed to the apostles or the Jerusalem church that Saul could be trusted. It was Barnabas. Why? Because God works through people. We need to be the kind of people the Holy Spirit works through. We need to be the Barnabases that God uses to grow the church and comfort the brethren.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 9.

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Preaching the Word

Today’s reading is Acts 8.

When the Christians from Jerusalem scattered, they didn’t go quietly. They went preaching and teaching. However, notice what they went teaching and preaching: The Word. They didn’t go teaching and preaching self-help psychology. They didn’t go teaching and preaching philosophy. They didn’t go teaching and preaching cultural mandates. They taught the Word. The Word has been so linked to the kingdom of Christ that the growth of the Word has been used interchangeably for the growth of the kingdom (see Acts 6:7). While the Word teaches us to be moral, moralism is not the foundation of the kingdom. The Word is. While the Word provides guidance for successful living, successful living is not the foundation of the kingdom. The Word is. While the Word gives instruction in a psychologically fulfilling and meaningful life, psychological fulfillment is not the foundation of the kingdom. The Word is. When what we teach and preach looks and sounds more like the self-help section of the local bookstore than it does the preaching and teaching of Jesus, Peter, and Paul, we are going to be in trouble. And while folks’s lives may seem to improve, they won’t be saved. These early Christians were scattered, but went about preaching the Word. Folks were saved. May we do the same.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 8.

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Simon: A Picture of Discipleship

Today’s reading is Luke 23.

Yesterday’s picture of discipleship was great, wasn’t it? Learning that Barabbas is us and we are Barabbas is just awesome. Jesus died in my place so I don’t have to. Wow! Today’s picture is just as great, but we rarely see it that way. In fact, this is a picture many Christians forget and ignore. We love the picture of Barabbas. We rush through the picture of Simon of Cyrene. Here is a fellow seized by the Romans to bear a burden because they could do that to subject people. Now imagine in your mind’s eye watching these two men walking up Golgotha’s hill–Jesus leading the way with Simon following in His footsteps while carrying a cross. That is discipleship. Discipleship is not waving at Jesus as He walks up Calvary and then heading on our merry way. Discipleship is placing the cross on our shoulders and falling in line behind Jesus. He is still the one that does the dying, praise the Lord, but we carry the cross. We walk in His footsteps. We follow Him wherever He goes, even if it is up the hill of death. Bearing the cross is not merely going through some hardship. Bearing our cross is walking in Jesus’s footsteps. In today’s story and yesterday’s, we find the complete picture of discipleship, confessing Jesus as both Savior (the picture of Barabbas) and Lord (the picture of Simon). We take comfort in the salvation from His sacrifice, and we willingly lift up the cross to bring glory to His name.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 23.

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Hate is No Surprise

Today’s reading is John 15.

It is surprising to me how many times throughout the Scripture the Holy Spirit prepares us for hate. Considering how good, loving, compassionate, and kind Jesus was, it is amazing that He was hated. But He was. In fact, so hated, He was taken to the cross. This was the very point those around Him didn’t grasp. If He was the Messiah, even if hated, He shouldn’t suffer for it. And this is, perhaps, one of the largest aspects of following Him that we miss today. If we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus, we heedlessly believe, everyone should like us. The world and the worldly will be so impressed with our Christlike love and compassion that they will long to hear what we say (if we are doing it right). The world shouldn’t hate us, we think. If they do, we are doing it wrong, we believe. And yet, Jesus prepares His followers again and again and again. It will not be different for us. Hate is no surprise. The world is going to hate us. The world is going to make us suffer for it. Obviously, we aren’t trying to be hated. But be ready. And be ready to keep loving one another and also loving those who hate us. That is what Jesus did when hated.

Tomorrow’s reading is John 16.

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They Wish to see Jesus

Today’s reading is John 12.

Alright. I admit it. I have yet to hear a good explanation of why the Holy Spirit had John include this bit about the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus. I’m sure there is some contextual point that a great scholar could pull out and explain. However, I do think it shows the place of the disciple. These Greeks hadn’t come to see Philip. They hadn’t come to see Andrew. They hadn’t come to see any of the disciples. They had come to see Jesus. What is the disciple’s role, to show people Jesus. That is still our role. I have to especially remember that when I’m preaching. People aren’t coming to see me. They are coming to see Jesus. If too much of me gets in the way, I’m clouding the proper view. The same is true for everyone. We are disciples. What we are doing isn’t about us, it is about Jesus. Let’s make sure we are showing people Jesus today.

Tomorrow’s reading is John 13.

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Why Make Disciples?

Today’s reading is Matthew 28.

If you had asked me before today, “Why do we need to make disciples?” I would have said so people can be saved. And, certainly, that is true. However, it hit me in today’s reading that Jesus’s stated reason for us to make disciples is because “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Why do we make disciples of Jesus? Because Jesus is the King of heaven and earth. Why do we share the gospel? Because Jesus is King. Why can we be unashamed of the gospel? Because Jesus is King. I often say things like, “Will you make Jesus your King?” And while we all know what is meant by that statement, it isn’t actually the right question. Jesus is King. He is your King already. You need to be His disciple because He is King. The real questions are: Will you confess Jesus as King, and will you surrender to Him as such? How about today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Hebrews 1.

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