Today’s reading is Psalm 31.
“Into your hand I commit my spirit,” David says in Psalm 31:4. That sounds beautiful. I want to do that. But what does it mean? Practically, how do I commit my spirit to the Lord? Perhaps Psalm 31:15 gives us some insight. David also says, “My times are in your hand.” That is, my circumstance, my life events, my days, my nights, my seasons, my weeks, my years. If “my times” are in God’s hands, doesn’t that imply my behavior during those times is in God’s hands? Paul provides a great example of this in 2 Corinthians 12:10. Having become convinced of God’s grace in his life through a thorn in the flesh, he says, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” In other words, “My circumstances are in the Lord’s hands. If He decides to make me sick, if He decides to make me go through a shipwreck, if He decides to put me in prison, if He decides to make me abound in prosperity, I’ll trust Him that He is doing what is right; and I’ll just obey Him no matter what.” Of course, Jesus demonstrates this on the cross. He even quotes it (Luke 23:46). Even if God puts me on a cross. Even if I’m thrown in a fiery furnace or a lion’s den. Even if the fig tree doesn’t blossom, there is no fruit on the vine, the produce of the olive fail, the fields yield no food, the flocks and herds get destroyed, I will rejoice in the Lord (Habakkuk 3:17-18). He’ll get me through. I trust Him. My job will just be to do whatever He says and rejoice in Him no matter what. I know in the end, He’ll work it out for His glory and my good. My spirit and my times are in the Lord’s hands. Praise the Lord!
Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 31.
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Continue reading “My Spirit and My Times”
Today’s reading is Psalm 15.
“O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell in your holy hill?”
What amazing questions. Who would ask questions like these? Who would even want to sojourn in the tent of the Lord or dwell on His holy hill? Are these questions I would ask? Are these questions you would ask? This is important. Before we jump to the answers, we need to examine ourselves to see if we are even really asking the questions. Scholars will tell you this psalm must have been some kind of worship entry or temple entry liturgy. Maybe. I don’t know. I can’t shake the imagery of David asking God, “Can I be Your roommate?” Who really wants that? That would be a bit of drag, wouldn’t it? I mean, could I still watch the movies and tv shows I watch now? Could I have the parties I enjoy having now? Could I rock out to the same songs I love to get into? Wouldn’t I want to be sneaking out, hoping God won’t ask me where I’m going tonight or what I’m up to? There is only one kind of person who really asks the psalmist’s questions: the person who has decided they want God more than they want anything else. I want to be that person. How about you?
Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 15.
Continue reading “Oh Lord, May I Come In?”
Today’s reading is Acts 23.
Why is Paul on trial? Because he saw the resurrected Savior. He saw Jesus on the road to Damascus. For him, that changed everything. Prior to that, as a Pharisee, he believed in a coming resurrection, in angels, and in the spirit. However, once he actually saw resurrection, it went beyond merely believing these things. It meant he knew the mechanism of that resurrection. The mechanism of that resurrection is Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords. The mechanism is not the Law. The mechanism is not circumcision. Because of that, he knew Jesus could be King of the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Therefore he cries out in the middle of the council trial, “I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead.” He’s not lying. He’s not tricking. He’s not manipulating. Rather, he’s boiling it down to the heart of the message. The Pharisees believe in resurrection in theory. Paul has seen it happen. Everything he does and says is based on that hope. It is our hope today. And what a hope it is.
Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 23.
Continue reading “Hope and the Resurrection of the Dead”
Today’s reading is Acts 22.
I’m not writing for everyone today. Today, I’m writing for you who have not been immersed in water in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins. I have one question. What are you waiting for? It’s what Ananias asked Saul. Honestly, it is the only question you need to answer. Are you waiting for better health? What if it doesn’t come? Are you waiting to be more holy? I can promise you that won’t happen unless you are baptized for the remission of your sins. Are you waiting to see if you can really measure up? You can’t. That is why you need Jesus, His grace, His strength, His gift of the Holy Spirit that all come through baptism for the remission of your sins. Are you waiting to be convinced you are a sinner? If you don’t already believe that, may I suggest considering how the sin of pride may be your downfall? Are you just not sure you want to give Jesus full allegiance? Well, that is a problem. I encourage you to count the cost. But may I remind you the cost Jesus paid for you? He stepped off His heavenly throne, came into the world, lived as one of us, and then died on a cross to fight the battle against death on your behalf. And He won! Just as God defeated Pharaoh’s army while Israel simply marched through the sea, Jesus defeated death, sin, and Satan. Why would you do anything but give your allegiance to Jesus? What are you waiting for? Comment below and we’ll figure out how to help you give your allegiance to Jesus in baptism today.
Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 22.
Continue reading “What are You Waiting For?”
Today’s reading is Acts 19.
Paul baptized in the name of Jesus. He preached in the name of Jesus. He cast out demons in the name of Jesus. So Sceva’s seven sons decided to ride on his coattails. They confronted a man possessed by an evil spirit saying things like, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” But the evil spirit didn’t listen. Instead, he attacked them, whipped them, and sent them packing. “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And we learn a significantly important point. The name of Jesus isn’t merely the word “Jesus.” Just pronouncing the collection of letters J-E-S-U-S does not mean we are acting in the name of Jesus. Acting in Jesus’s name means actually acting based upon the authority and power that He offers. You can’t just tack His name onto something and suddenly spiritualize or Christianize it, or even make it right. Cycling for Jesus. Karate for Jesus. Cooking for Jesus. Just adding the word doesn’t actually make it for Jesus. It really has to be what Jesus has asked for or authorized. Only then are we really doing something for Jesus.
Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 19.
Continue reading “J-E-S-U-S is not the Name of Jesus”
Today’s reading is Acts 2.
Here it is, the first proclamation of the post-resurrection gospel. Jesus was raised from the dead and is King. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord, the King. “But what are we to do,” the crowds cry out. This is not polite plea for more information. This is no quiet request to know how to get saved. This is a desperate cry. “We killed the King, what are we to do?” Do you think they expected Peter to have a response? Don’t you know they expected to hear, “Well, nothing. I mean, what could you do? You killed the Messiah. You’re toast.” That, however, is not what they heard. Peter responded by saying, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Here is the very first time people responded to the gospel message that Jesus was the resurrected Lord and King. What was the response? Repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. Every other story we read in Acts about forgiveness, salvation, submission to King Jesus is predicated on this very first explanation of the gateway into the kingdom. It’s odd to me. Many people today will turn to all kinds of passages to explain to people what they should do when they want to surrender to Jesus as king. But they won’t turn to this, the very first time it ever happened for anyone. Why? Because this one doesn’t say what they want it to say. It doesn’t say, “You don’t have to do anything. If you’re chosen, God will do it.” It doesn’t say, “All you have to do is believe.” It doesn’t say, “Repeat this prayer after me.” It says, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins.” May I ask you a very simple question. Have you repented and been baptized for the remission of your sins? That is, have you decided to let Jesus be your King and then been immersed in water in order to let Jesus forgive you? If not, why not surrender to King Jesus the same way the very first kingdom citizens did? Why would you try to accomplish that any other way? There is no way to enter the kingdom but God’s way. Can we help you enter today?
Next week’s reading is Acts 3.
Continue reading “Repent and Be Baptized”
Today’s reading is Acts 2.
What prompted one of the greatest evangelistic events in all of Christian history? Or perhaps I should say “Who.” The Holy Spirit. About 3000 souls were added to Jesus Christ on that very first day of Pentecost all because the Holy Spirit attracted the attention of myriads of people dwelling in Jerusalem. The Spirit caused the noise of a tornado and then caused the apostles to speak in tongues. All of this attracted and grabbed attention of listeners. I think if we are going to come anywhere close to having that kind of addition to Christ’s church today, we are going to need the very same starting place. That is, we need the Holy Spirit to grab the attention of people in order for them to listen. That being said, I don’t believe the Spirit is going to grab our community’s attention with the sound of a tornado or with our speaking in tongues. However, I do believe the Holy Spirit will grab people’s attention by bearing and growing His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). When we demonstrate that Spirit empowered fruit, living in ways that are so incredibly different from how the worldly live, some of the worldly will wonder why and how (see 1 Peter 3:15). They will want to know exactly what is our hope? Then, as we share our hope with them, some will repent and be ready to glorify God on the day of visitation. However, where will it begin? It will begin with the Holy Spirit attracting the world’s attention. May we sow seed to the Spirit (Galatians 6:7-9) so our lives will burgeon with the Spirit’s fruit.
Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 2.
Continue reading “Holy Spirit Evangelism”
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.
Continue reading “Devoted to Praying”
Today’s reading is Luke 11.
While we are certainly supposed to put our sins to death, being a disciple is not about stopping behaviors. It is actually about replacing behaviors. If all we do is cast out the evil spirit, we can do our dead level best to sweep up the house and keep it in order, but that spirit will simply bring seven more. Nature abhors a vacuum. So does our very being. If all we strive to do is get rid of bad stuff in our lives, we will only ever find the bad stuff taking over. It’s like trying to make yourself not think about pink hippopotamuses. Jesus doesn’t verbalize the actual instruction when He offers the warning. But can there be any doubt what the instruction is? When the evil spirit is cast out, it needs to be replaced by the Holy Spirit. I can try with all my might to keep out the evil spirit, but if I don’t invite God in, allowing Him to take up residence, rearranging the furniture as He sees fit, controlling the remote, calling the shots, and filling the space with His presence, then all my attempts at control are nothing more than vacuuming the carpet as the tornado targets my house. Don’t evict the spirits, replace them. That is discipleship.
Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 11.
Continue reading “Replace the Spirits”
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.
Continue reading “What Makes You Rejoice?”