Let Him In!

Today’s reading is Psalm 24.

Those final verses of Psalm 24 are a conversation between the gates of the temple and the triumphal procession of Yahweh. The temple was charged to open wide its gates and its doors to allow the King of glory entrance. But this should give us pause for a moment. Where is that temple? Can this song be sung today? That temple has been shaken out of the way so what cannot be shaken could remain. The kingdom that cannot be shaken remains. And so does the temple that cannot be shaken. What temple is that? That, my brothers and sisters, is us. We are that temple. According to Ephesians 2:19-22, we the believers in Jesus Christ, whether from among the Jews or from among the Gentiles, are the temple of the Lord. We learned yesterday of Israel’s great failure. We must not also fail. We are to be the dwelling place of the King of glory. He should dwell in our hearts. He should dwell in our churches. He should dwell in His church. We must lift up our heads, open our hearts and our minds to give Him entrance. We must open our lives to give Him free reign. He is the King of glory. He is mighty in battle. And when we give Him entrance, He will fight on our behalf and we will be victorious. God be praised! Our King is great! Let Him in !

Next week’s reading is Psalm 25.

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We Need More than Pauls

Today’s reading is Acts 20.

Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus, and Trophimus. That is a troupe of workers going along with Paul. In fact, it is a list of people we don’t know all that well with names we may find hard to pronounce. How many times have you come to a list like this and just skipped them. I mean, okay some guys went with Paul and did some things, but let’s get back to the action. Let’s get back to Paul. He’s the main guy, right? Wrong. The main guy is Jesus. Paul is just a servant who is working as Jesus gives him opportunity. Sure, he takes a leadership role in the last half of Acts, but he isn’t the only person Jesus is using. These fellows are important. Without them, Paul couldn’t do what he is doing. Without them, Paul’s work couldn’t continue on after he left a region or especially after he died. Sure, we need Christians like Paul. We need leaders, drivers, movers, and shakers. But we need more than that. We also need the Sopaters, Aristarchuses, Secunduses and on down the line. Maybe you’re a Paul. That’s awesome. Maybe you aren’t. That is just as awesome. We need more than just Pauls. We need you active in the kingdom. Go do what you can do in the kingdom today. We need it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 20.

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The Parenthesis Closes

Today’s reading is Acts 11.

Acts 11:19 sounds vaguely familiar. Oh yeah. It says something very similar back in Acts 8:4. Both mention those who were scattered and preaching due to the persecution surrounding Stephen. This second one adds the detail that some people started preaching to Gentiles. The technical term for Luke’s rhetorical device here is inclusio. Good luck finding an excuse to use that in a sentence. I typically refer to it as a parenthesis or bookends. You have the same statement made at the beginning and the end. That means everything in between is supposed to be seen as a unit. And that is the point. Luke was giving a series of arguments to prepare us for the shift from Christianity being dominated by the Jews to being dominated by the Gentiles. But the entire parenthesis essentially has one point. We see the salvation of a Samaritan sorcerer, an Ethiopian Eunuch, the Priest’s persecutor, and even a Caesarean Centurion. The message is quite simple. If these guys can be saved, anyone can be saved. If these guys can be saved, you can be saved. If these guys can be saved, I can be saved. Praise the Lord!

Today’s reading is Acts 11.

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Devoted to Praying

Today’s reading is Acts 1.

I have no desire to make any of us feel guilty. However, today I can’t help but notice how the apostles and other disciples behaved as they awaited the coming Holy Spirit. “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14, ESV). I have to ask myself a tough question. If Luke were writing about me, could he remotely record, “Edwin was devoting himself to prayer”? Then I have to ask about my congregation. If Luke were writing about us, could he remotely record, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer”? That is, not only are the Christians in the congregation praying regularly, but are we devoted to praying together as a congregation? I have no doubt Luke could record that we are devoted to learning. Between sermons, classes, “short” talks, and even Lord’s Supper devotionals, our devotion to teaching and learning is clear. But what about prayer? What about prayer together? Recently, I was pondering the seemingly universal decline in the attendance of Sunday night assemblies. I think it is clear that fewer and fewer Christians view what their congregations do in a second assembly on Sunday evening as really all that important. It makes me wonder what would happen if we turned Sunday evening assemblies into times to be devoted to praying. Would the attendance increase? Would your attendance increase? Would your participation increase? Or would the thought be, “Oh, they’re only praying tonight”? Again, I have no desire to heap any guilt upon us. I just can’t help but pondering and doing some self-examination. Would Luke remotely be able to claim I’m devoting myself to prayer? What about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 1.

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Pray to Avoid Temptation

Today’s reading is Luke 22.

The night of His betrayal had come. Jesus knew it would happen. He knew who would betray Him. He knew how the rest of His disciples would react. His instruction to His disciples in order to prepare was simple: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” The statement has a dual meaning. First, pray. And when you pray, make sure you are asking God to help you avoid, overcome, and defeat temptation. You can’t do it without His help and strength. As Jesus had instructed in His model prayer, though it is the most confusing bit, we pray, “Lord, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” However, there is a second direction this prayer leads us. Pray. And by praying, by praying intensely, by praying repeatedly, by praying continually, you can overcome temptation. Prayer combats temptation not merely because we ask for help in the time of temptation but because prayer itself, whether the words of the prayer address the temptation or not, is a discipline that fights against temptation. The greatest part of Jesus’s teaching here is not that He said “Pray that you may not enter into temptation,” but that He exemplified it. Jesus was facing the darkest moments of His life. Satan would be taking up his weapons to get Jesus to cave. At any moment, Jesus could abandon the plan and avoid the agony, both physical and spiritual, of the cross. How did He combat the temptation? He prayed. If Jesus prayed to avoid temptation, how much more should we? Pray that you may not enter into temptation.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 22.

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May the Stones Keep Silent

Today’s reading is Luke 19.

The disciples were praising Jesus, glorifying Him, worshiping Him. The Pharisees were incensed. “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Jesus explained that if He silenced the people, the stones would cry out. My prayer today is that the Lord will never have to make the stones cry out. My prayer is that we His people will always praise Jesus for all to hear. My prayer is that we will glorify Him day by day. When the stones cry out, something has gone very wrong. May we His people praise Him and may the stones keep silent.

Monday’s reading is Luke 20.

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Who on Earth is This?

Today’s reading is Luke 8.

So, what’s the answer? Who is this that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him? This is so much more than a guessing game. This whole story calls to mind Psalm 107:23-32. In that passage, men went to do business in ships on the sea. There they saw the great deeds of Yahweh. He, that is, Yahweh commands the storms to rise until the men are at their wits’ end. Then they cry to Yahweh in their trouble and He delivers them from their distress. He then brings them safely to their haven. Can you see it? Here are men on the sea, witnessing the great power of the Lord raising up a storm. They are at their wits’ end and cry out to Jesus in their distress. What does Jesus do? He stills the storm, hushes the waves, quiets the waters, delivers them, and brings them safely to their haven. Who is this that commands the winds and the water, and they obey Him? He is Yahweh, Creator of heaven and earth, Lord of the land and the sea, King of storms. He is Jesus, which name literally means Yahweh is salvation. Praise the Lord! He is our Deliverer.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 8.

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“Jesus is Lord!”

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 12.

Okay, wait a minute. Paul says, “No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says, ‘Jesus is accursed!'” And yet, Paul, speaking in the Spirit of God, just said those very words. What’s up with that? His point is not that someone in God’s Spirit can’t even utter those words in any context. His point is people who abide in God and His Spirit know Jesus is Lord. Anyone who truly denies Jesus’s lordship is separate from God. No matter how spiritual they seem, no matter how nice they are, no matter what good works they do, they are not in God and God’s Spirit is not within them. In like manner, his point about those who say, “Jesus is Lord” is not that people separate from God are physically unable to say those words in any situational context or that they are unable to fake it. Neither is he saying that anyone who makes this claim is automatically right with God just by saying these words. His point is everyone who sincerely and truly confesses and surrenders to the lordship of Jesus has the same Holy Spirit we do. They may not have the same gifts, abilities, opportunities, and resources as we do. They may be at a different level of spiritual maturity. They may have a completely different ethnic background, skin color, gender, national history, language, socio-economic class, but they are filled by the same Spirit. Since we have the same Spirit, let us work together in the same Body, remembering we are not only members of that same Body but members of one another.

Monday’s reading is 1 Corinthians 13.

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The Real 12th Man

Today’s reading is Acts 1.

With no offense intended to Earl King Gill, his family, my Aggie subscribers, or football fans everywhere, we see the real 12th man inĀ Acts 1. Judas had abandoned his post as an apostle, betraying the Lord Jesus to His death. Rather than repenting as Peter did over his triple betrayal, he solidified his abandonment through suicide. A 12th man was needed. Matthias stepped into the gap. Interestingly, he is never mentioned again. However, he stepped up to take the place the Lord was calling him to. He was willing to do the work, to testify about Jesus, to lead others to the Lord and His good news. Matthias is an example for all of us. Of course, we are not being called to be apostles. Their number and names are set for all time. But there is work to be done. There is a gospel to be spread. There is an enemy to stand against. Let us all be that 12th man, not on the gridiron, but in an even more important battlefield–in the fight for the kingdom of Christ.

Monday’s reading is Acts 2.

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Pray for Laborers

Today’s reading is Luke 10.

Once again, I get it exactly backwards. I tend to believe there are a lot of disciples sharing the gospel, but not many people interested in it. Jesus says it is the other way around. There is a huge harvest waiting to be harvested, but not many people laboring. I’ve never thought about it before, but Jesus doesn’t teach us to pray for a big harvest. He says that is already there. He tells us to pray for workers, for harvesters, for disciples to get out there and share the gospel. WOW! Let’s spend today praying, not for a harvest, but for more laborers. Oh yeah, and let’s be ready to be part of God’s answer to that prayer. Let’s get into the field and start harvesting.

Monday’s reading is Luke 11.

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