Even Priests Became Obedient

Today’s reading is Acts 6.

Wow! Even priests were becoming obedient to the faith. There are multiple things I can’t help but notice in this simple statement. First, notice a reversal in the chapter. In earlier chapters it was priests (Acts 4:1) who were disagreeing with the Christians and arresting the apostles. However, they wouldn’t do great harm to the apostles because they feared the people (Acts 4:21). However, in this chapter, there are priests being converted and the people from among the synagogues turning on the apostles and Christians. Second, just be amazed that the gospel was powerful enough to impact priests. As we have noted before, the priests were often connected with and among the Sadducees who didn’t believe in resurrection. But now many of them are becoming obedient to the faith. Think back to the priests who were arresting the apostles. In that moment, the apostles might think they didn’t have a chance of converting priests. But give it more time and the gospel impacted many of the priests as well. Finally, I simply want to notice that issue of obeying the faith. That isn’t a very common way to refer to the faith these days. In modern times, it is almost like we think faith and obedience are opposites. They don’t go together and in fact contradict each other. But here they are. The faith is something to be obeyed. The priests became obedient to it. May we always obey the faith. And may we always pass the faith along because we never know who it will impact or how long it will take to do so. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Acts 7.

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Be Annoying

Today’s reading is Acts 4.

I’m going to go out on a limb today. I want to encourage you to be annoying. Yep. That’s what I want to provoke you to be today…annoying. Peter and John had healed a lame man who went walking and leaping and praising God. Then they started preaching the gospel and explaining the power of Jesus to heal that man and to save everyone’s souls. But then the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees come up and are greatly annoyed with them because they were teaching about the resurrection from Jesus. Of course, Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection. Thus, Peter and John annoyed them with this teaching. Based on this, I want to encourage you to be annoying. Now, don’t misunderstand. I actually do not mean that you should teach in an annoying fashion. I don’t mean you should purposefully strive to annoy people. However, we need to be aware that when we teach what the Bible says, there will be plenty of people who don’t want to hear it. There will be plenty of people that don’t believe what the New Testament says. No matter how kindly, carefully, and lovingly we teach it, they will be annoyed. When that is the case, we have a choice. We will either quit teaching or we will be annoying. With that in mind, today, I want to encourage you to be annoying. Go ahead. I give you permission.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 4.

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And So It Begins

Today’s reading is Luke 22.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read the story or heard the story proclaimed. I know the victory with which the story will end. But there is always a part of me when we get to this part of Jesus’s story that wants it to take a different turn. Surely, this time all the people involved will realize how things ought to be. Judas will have learned his lesson and decide not to betray Jesus. Peter will have learned his lesson and decide not to deny Jesus. The Pharisees, scribes, chief Priests, and rulers of the Jews will have learned their lesson and decide not to crucify the Son of Man. Sometimes, I even want Jesus to teach them all a lesson, show them all who’s boss, and drop the bomb on them all. Yet, here I am reading for the thousandth time, and every one of these make the same mistakes over and over again. Well, Jesus wasn’t making a mistake. And, of course, that is the key. In this whole sordid mess, Jesus was the only one who knew what He was doing. And He was doing it for me. Because, as painful as it is for me to watch for the thousandth time, I am just like Judas, Peter, the Jewish leaders. You would think I had learned my lesson. But I have made the same mistakes over and over again. As a friend of mine reminds me, let’s not soften the blow. They weren’t mistakes, they were sins. I am a sinner, and I need what Jesus is giving. As much as I find it hard to read what Jesus is going to go through, it is the only thing that can save me. I need Him to keep making that choice. And so it begins. Judas is betraying Him. Peter is denying Him. The apostles are fleeing Him. The Jews are condemning Him. And it is all because I rebelled against Him, but He loves me anyway. Praise the Lord!

Monday’s reading is Luke 23.

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Why Do I Ask?

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

I’ve never quite understood the chief priests, scribes, and elders in the first account of Luke 20. Why didn’t they respond, saying, “We asked you first”? However, their obtuseness gives me a warning. They were not asking Jesus their question because they wanted to learn. They had already made up their minds about Jesus and were just looking for “evidence” they could fit into their theory. Sadly, that is often how everyone makes decisions. We have an emotional reaction, settle on an “opinion” from our gut, choose a course of action. Then we rationalize the available evidence to support our emotional response. Finally, we tell ourselves and everyone else that what we believed or did was the only logical option. I have a tendency to think everyone “out there” acts like that while I am truly the epitome of logical reasonability and rationality. However, this Jewish attack on Jesus causes me to back up and do some internal evaluation. With every question I ask of Scripture, of God, of God’s people, of my brethren, I have to ask: Why am I asking this question? Am I trying to learn, or am I just trying to find support for my cognitive biases? Am I really examining the available evidence, or am I just playing mental games? The point I think we all need to take from this story is before we start using it to explain away everyone who disagrees with me, I need to make sure I’m not the one guilty of studying like the priests, scribes, and elders. Asking is actually a good thing. Let me always make sure I’m asking to learn and grow.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 20.

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The Marginalized Crucified Jesus

Today’s reading is Matthew 27.

There is an increasingly romanticized notion about the life and ministry of Jesus. To hear it told today, Jesus came into town, ticked off all the oppressive elites, while He called all the marginalized, vulnerable, oppressed people to Himself just loving on them until they turned their lives over to Him. But those wicked, awful Roman oppressors and hypocritical religious elites got Jesus crucified. Have you ever noticed though who actually got Jesus crucified? It was the crowds. It was the marginalized, vulnerable, weak common people. Pilate knew the religious elites had brought Jesus to him because they were jealous. That is, he knew Jesus had garnered a following among the people of which the Jewish leaders were envious. So, Pilate, backed into a corner because of his own political situation and trying to get out of crucifying Jesus without causing a career ending riot, decided to give the decision to the people–the oppressed, vulnerable, marginalized people whom Jesus had welcomed, touched, loved, served, healed, cleansed. And they shouted, “Crucify Him!!!” They chose a known thief, murderer, and insurrectionist to be set free. Of course, the priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to do this. But how? Up until then, they hadn’t taken action because they feared the crowds. But somehow on that day they were able to persuade the crowds. And here is the key we need to understand. The vulnerable, oppressed, weak, poor, marginalized crowds turned on Jesus for the exact same reason the scribes, elders, priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees did. Jesus didn’t measure up to the kind of Messiah they expected or wanted. As far as every one of these groups was concerned, Jesus had demonstrated He didn’t come to serve their interests. And so they were pliable. A week earlier, they were ready to make Jesus King. But He hadn’t come in doing what they expected, so today, they were amenable to His execution. Wow! The amazing thing was, there wasn’t a single person in that crowd that if you had asked them would have said, “Why yes, I think the Messiah should be crucified.” Yet, they ended up doing so because they all, with just a handful of exceptions (perhaps 120), decided this guy couldn’t possibly be the Messiah because He didn’t act the way they wanted Him to. I know I need to take that as a warning.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 28.

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