Yes, Sadducees, There are Angels

Today’s reading is Acts 5.

I can’t help but laugh when I read Acts 5. I think about the Sadducees and the fact that they don’t believe in angels (see Acts 23:8). So they toss the apostles into jail, and they promptly escape. How? An angel let them out. HA!!! It also just blows my mind that when the Council hauls the apostles back into their meeting hall, they don’t ask, “How on earth did you get out of the prison?” That is the question that would have been burning in my mind. The doors were locked. The guards were still stationed outside. The apostles were gone. How did that happen? Nope. They don’t want to know. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, they still aren’t dealing with the question of how Jesus escaped a locked and guarded tomb. Answering these questions might have implications and consequences they don’t want to consider. Instead, they just get mad that the apostles were back to teaching in the name of Jesus. Wow! This is just a reminder to me of the world we live in. Folks who don’t want to believe, won’t. Further, they won’t give us a fair shake about it. They won’t ask the questions that really matter or consider the topics that are really important. They will continue to sidestep and focus on the parts they don’t like. However, that doesn’t change the fact that there really are angels. That doesn’t change the fact that Jesus is real and He really rose from the dead. That doesn’t change the fact that Jesus is my King. Like the apostles, I can keep spreading the good news about Him no matter how others act. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 5.

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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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No Pretending

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

It broke my heart. I had become friends with a couple of baristas years ago in Texas. They had invited me to their coffee shop/diner. They often gave me steep discounts. I would try to talk to them about the gospel, Jesus, the church. They were always nice to me. I think they liked me, but they always stiff-armed on the spiritual conversations. I remember one conversation though. They didn’t say it quite this politely, but one of the ladies said one day, “You know how you can tell a business owner is going to take advantage of you?” “How?” I replied. “If he’s got a fish or a cross on his business card.” In other words, business owners who make their Christianity part of their marketing are probably out to make a buck, not save your soul. I’m sure her statement was painting with way too broad of a brush. But it does get at Jesus’s point at the end of Luke 20. God doesn’t like pretending. Christianity isn’t a game. It isn’t a business strategy or a marketing ploy. Jesus Christ intends to change lives down at the heart level and then outward to the behavior that loves God and loves your neighbor. It doesn’t matter how often you go to church, how you dress up when you are there, or how actively you participate, if you are taking advantage of people, you’re just pretending. If you aren’t going to really follow Jesus, don’t pretend.

Monday’s reading is Luke 21.

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On Questions and Answers

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

There are lots of questions out there. Many of them are good. Some of them…not so much. I know I have to learn from the Sadducees’ question about the resurrection. I need to hear its warning against my own arrogance. We need to ask questions. We need to be free to ask questions. But when I am not careful, I can develop an arrogance around my questions. Sometimes I come up with questions that I can’t seem to answer. They flummox me to no end. Sometimes I’ll share the questions with others, and they aren’t sure they know the answers either. Herein lies the arrogance. I start to assume that because I don’t know the answer, there must not be one. Then the real danger sets in. Someone actually comes along and answers it, but I can’t accept their answer because I’ve already bought into my own arrogance that the question has no answer. Usually, I am invested in the lack of answer because it leaves me free to pursue something I want or avoid something I don’t want. Jesus’s interaction with the Sadducees teaches me that just because I couldn’t figure out the answer to a question, doesn’t mean there is no answer. When someone does answer it, providing Word of God evidence, it’s time for me to humble myself and let the answer change my life.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 20.

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Beware the Yeast of These

Today’s reading is Luke 12.

Jesus warns against the yeast of the Pharisees. Exposure to their hypocrisy is subtly influential. A Pharisaic influence even suckered Peter and Barnabas in Galatians 2:11-13. We’ve often heard about the leaven of the Pharisees. However, I can’t help but think about this concept of leaven or yeast as influence in general. This leavening effect is not exclusive to the Pharisees. After all, in Matthew 16:6, 11, 12 it was also applied to the Sadducees. In other words, we need to beware who and what are influencing us. Whether we are considering false teachers, secular worldviews, ungodly outlooks, immoral examples, political strivings, cultural consensus, or any other person or perspective that runs counter to Christ, we must beware. Clearly, we can’t leave the world. We will always be surrounded by ideas, behaviors, worldviews, perspectives, and outlooks that oppose Jesus. We can’t isolate ourselves from or shut ourselves off to all the people around us. In fact, we don’t want to. How can we be the influence we are supposed to be if we do? However, we need to beware. The influence of the world is subtle. Like yeast that spreads imperceptibly through an entire lump of dough without even really knowing that it is happening, sin and sinfulness can alter our perception and perspective until what we consider faithfulness to Jesus Christ doesn’t look anything like Jesus at all. In fact, perhaps we should take a long hard look even today to make sure we are becoming like the Lord and not like a cultural caricature of Him. Beware the yeast. It is all around us.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 12.

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Who Is My Neighbor?

Today’s reading is Luke 10.

In order to save face, the Lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus didn’t answer the question; He told a story. Then Jesus asked His own question: “Who proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The Lawyer asked the wrong question. The Lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” What he should have asked is, “How can I be neighborly?” That is the same question each of us needs to ask. But Jesus really takes it a step farther. Whenever people read stories or hear stories, we naturally place ourselves in the shoes of someone in the story. Whose shoes was the Lawyer wearing? Clearly, he was not the Samaritan. He would never rob anyone. As a lawyer, he would align with the Pharisees and would not see himself as either the Priest or Levite, whom the Lawyer would naturally assume were Sadducees. Who does that leave? The most likely person the lawyer would relate to is the robbed and beaten man. Recognizing this, we discover the very genius of Jesus and this story. The Lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells a story that essentially says to the Lawyer, “I don’t know, Lawyer. Who would you want to be your neighbor if roles were reversed?”

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 10.

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