Rejoicing to Suffer

Today’s reading is Acts 5.

Certainly, we know we are supposed to count it all joy when we face various trials. But, the apostles didn’t just face various trials. They faced persecution. They weren’t just facing the general ups and downs of life. They weren’t just doing the best they could but got sick, got fired, got hurt. They were serving the Lord faithfully and were targeted for that exact faithful service. A more natural, flesh-based response might be something like: “Lord, what’s up? I thought you were King of the world. I thought you had conquered these jokers. I thought you had seated us above all the principalities and powers on earth and in the heavenly places. Why are you letting this happen?” But that isn’t the apostles’ response. They are excited to suffer for Jesus. They are excited to sacrifice for Jesus. They rejoice to be prisoners for and of Jesus. This is so topsy-turvy. Most people rejoice when their King promotes them, gives them land, servants, money. Jesus’s ambassadors rejoice because they get to suffer for Him. In a day when Christianity is touted as the way to have your best life now, this look back at what serving Christ looked like in the beginning makes me stop and do some real self-examination. I have a lot of growing to do.

Next week’s reading is Acts 6.

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Don’t Miss the Celebration

Today’s reading is Luke 15.

The older brother missed out on the celebration. Of course, he missed out on the celebration of the younger brother’s return. However, I’m actually talking about a different celebration. In his complaint against the father, he says, “I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.” Wow! That is sad. What an awful dad. But wait, did you catch the father’s response? “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Not, “All that is mine will be yours.” “All that is mine IS yours.” In other words, if the older son never celebrated with his friends, it wasn’t because his mean father wouldn’t share. It was because the older son didn’t understand what a relationship with his father actually meant. The older son was so busy trying to be obedient in order to get his inheritance someday, he didn’t realize he already had the inheritance. He didn’t realize he could celebrate with his friends right now. No, having the inheritance didn’t mean the older son could abandon his father’s will, that was the mistake the younger son made. What it did mean is he should have been celebrating with his friends already. Let me make this very practical. It’s Friday when this is posted. In two days, your home congregation will be meeting, perhaps even more than once. Will you be there? Why? Will you be there because you are convinced it is commanded (or perhaps only if you are convinced it is commanded), and you want to obey exactly so that one day, way off in the future, you will get to celebrate with your friends in heaven? Or will you be there because you know heaven has come down to earth and brought salvation with Him, and why would you do anything other than celebrate with your friends who have also received heaven?

Monday’s reading is Luke 16.

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What Makes You Rejoice?

Today’s reading is Luke 10.

I can understand it. If I were able to cast out demons, heal the sick, speak in foreign tongues, raise the dead, speak prophecies, pick up snakes, tread on scorpions, I would rejoice. That would be so cool. In fact, I’m a bit bummed God doesn’t work through us in that way anymore. However, did you catch what Jesus said even to the people who did some of those things? “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In other words, you and I have the exact same reason to rejoice as those disciples. We who are in Jesus Christ are recorded in heaven. God knows us. We don’t have to do miraculous things or even amazing things. Jesus has died for us. His kingdom has come near. No matter what else we accomplish or experience, we are enrolled as citizens in the eternal kingdom. Rejoice in that today. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 10.

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Rejoice, O Heaven

Today’s reading is Revelation 18.

Babylon is Fallen! We have been repeating the cycle over and over. Jesus goes out to conquer, but things don’t seem to be going His way, but then He wins. We come to the ending of the final cycle. Each time, we’ve been given a fuller picture of the story. For the next several chapters, we’ll see the judgment of the enemies and the victory of Jesus. Heaven rejoices! The apostles, prophets, and saints rejoice. And what an interesting statement is made in Revelation 18:18. “What city was like the great city?” In one sense, no city. Babylon was vile, immoral, ungodly. However, it is actually an ironic question. When asked from the perspective of what other city was so mighty as Babylon, the obvious answer is, “Well, the city of God which defeated Babylon.” We’ll meet that city in a couple of chapters, but we already know who that city is, right? Yep. It’s us. We are the city of God. No matter how mighty Babylon, Rome, Moscow, London, Washington ever think they are, the Heavenly Jerusalem is more mighty and will always come out victorious. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 19.

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Seeking the Lost

Today’s reading is Luke 15.

I am reeling from today’s reading, which is shocking because this is one of the most read Bible chapters for me. However, today, it is stomping on my toes and stabbing me in the heart in new ways. How often have I looked down on the older brother because he would not rejoice when the prodigal came home? “I would never be like him,” I tell myself. And yet, I haven’t consistently gone seeking the lost like the shepherd did for his lost sheep or the woman for her lost coin. Sure, I rejoice when the lost return, but today I am humbled that I need to be making disciples so we can rejoice. How about you?

Monday’s reading is Luke 16.

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