Monday, June 26, 2017

"How Big Is Your Gap?" June 26 Readings: 2 Chronicles 9-10, Acts 2:42–47, Psalm 78:1–4, Proverbs 16:2–4

Today's Readings - 2 Chronicles 9-10, Acts 2:42–47, Psalm 78:1–4, Proverbs 16:2–4


As we read about the fire of God falling on the people of God on the day of Pentecost, we can get bogged down in sideline issues like the discussion of tongues and such things. But today's reading in Acts is a powerful one. Acts 2:42-47 describes the Early Church and what life was like in the church that was full of the Spirit of God.

This is not the time for a theological treatise, so please forgive me for simply stating my conclusions. We ought to, in our churches today if we are filled with the Spirit of God, see the kinds of things that are described in Acts 2:42-47. We might not see them to the same degree or with the same intensity that they saw them at the birth of the church - there always seems to be a unique outpouring of God's power at times like that - but we ought to see the things that are described here.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
What are some of the things that happened there?

1. They were devoted to God's word. They didn't have Bibles like we do. All they had was the teaching of the Apostles that was later written down into what we have in our Bibles now, but they were devoted and obedient to all that God spoke to them.

2. They were devoted to one another. The church was not a place they went on Sunday; it was their life. Fellowship was real and powerful. Look at some of the descriptions of the fellowship. They prayed together and worshiped together. They blessed each other with supernatural generosity. Their fellowship was daily.

3. The power of God was evident in them in such a way that there was awe not only in the church but also in the community.

4. As was mentioned above, they shared everything with one another. Holy Spirit-empowered generosity.

5. They lived lives of constant praise and thanksgiving, in spite of the suffering and hardship they lived through.

6. Salvation was a regular act of God among them. Daily the Lord added to their number!

No, your church doesn't stack up to this. It was the Jerusalem church just after Pentecost and none of us is likely to ever match up completely. But the gap shouldn't be nearly as big as it is today! We ought not to ignore God's word, treat fellowship as optional and a burden, find the power of God rare, find giving forced, live lives of complaining and find the salvation of the lost a rare occurrence.

If there is a huge gap between the Jerusalem church and my church, the problem isn't God. "He just doesn't do those things anymore." Nonsense. The problem isn't our programs or strategies. The problem is our lack of the one thing that caused them to be what they were.

They were what they were because they were full of the Spirit of God. If we would see more of what they saw we must be full of what filled them!

There can be no better prayer than...
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me.Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me.Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me.Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me.

Think and Pray

How's your gap? We all have a gap between what we are and what we ought to be. But it ought not to be what it is. How's yours?
Does your life match up with the life of the Spirit-filled Christian of the early church?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"And the Fire Fell" June 25 Readings: 2 Chronicles 7-8, Acts 2:1–41, Psalm 77:12–20, Proverbs 16:1

Today's Readings - 2 Chronicles 7-8, Acts 2:1–41, Psalm 77:12–20, Proverbs 16:1


What an odd coincidence (if you believe in that sort of thing) in today's readings. In 2 Chronicles, we have the story of Solomon building a temple for the glory of God. When he finished building it all exactly as God commanded after he prayed diligently for the power and presence of God to come on the people of God, we read this in verses 1-3.
When Solomon finished praying, fire descended from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 The priests were not able to enter the Lord’s temple because the glory of the Lord filled the temple of the Lord. 3 All the Israelites were watching when the fire descended and the glory of the Lord came on the temple. They bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground. They worshiped and praised the Lord:

For he is good, for his faithful love endures forever.
The fire fell and the glory of God came down on the Temple of the Living God. God was among his people in power, ready to work among them as they obeyed him and served his purposes. 

Then we read Acts 2, where on the day of Pentecost the disciples were gathered in an upper room praying and waiting for the Spirit Jesus had promised to them. Verses 1-4 describe what happened. 
When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. 3 They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. 4 Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.
The fire fell, this time in the form of a tongue, and the glory of God (the Spirit of God) came down on the Temple of the Living God (we are the Temple of God now, are we not?). God was among his people in power, ready to work among them as they obeyed his Great Commission and served his purpose to go into all the World. 

Oh, that God would write episode 3 on our hearts today! May the fire would fall on us, purifying us and kindling our zeal for him and his kingdom. May the glory of God that dwells within us, the Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on us. May we be renewed by the Spirit, filled for the work that God has for us, empowered to be conformed to the image of Christ, enlightened and purified by the Word, and encouraged and strengthened in all that we face in this world. As the fire fell on Solomon's temple and on the church of Jesus Christ, may it fall on us. As the glory of the Lord filled the temple and the Spirit of the Lord filled the people, may we be so full of Christ's Spirit that people see Jesus in us!

Father, may the fire of your Spirit fall on us anew today. Break us, melt us, mold us, fill us! Use us for your kingdom and the glory of your name. 

Think and Pray

Is the fire of God's Spirit evident in your life?
We have the Spirit, but need to seek God, submit to him fully, and walk in obedience, that we may walk daily in the fullness of the Spirit.
"Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me."

Saturday, June 24, 2017

"You Have to Love Yourself..." June 24 Readings: 2 Chronicles 5-6, Acts 1:12–26, Psalm 77:4–11, Proverbs 15:30–33

Today's Readings - 2 Chronicles 5-6, Acts 1:12–26, Psalm 77:4–11, Proverbs 15:30–33


If you don't love yourself first, how can anyone else love you?
Be good to yourself, or no one else will.
You have to be aggressive, promote yourself.
Never let anyone step on you - you are no one's doormat.

We get so many messages in this world about putting ourselves first, loving ourselves, about self-esteem, and self-promotion. Much of that has even found its way into the Christian world, baptized and sanctified with Christian-sounding terms, but still as ungodly and unholy as ever.

I would issue the Miller Challenge here. Get your Bible out and read it cover to cover. That in and of itself will be a good thing. But take two markers - one green and one red. When you come to a passage that tells you to esteem yourself more highly, that encourages pride and self-confidence, or that demands that you love yourself first and foremost, mark it with a red marker. When you come to a verse that calls you to humble yourself, to deny yourself, to put others above yourself, to love others - mark that one with the green pen. When you are done with the Miller Challenge, simply flip back through the Bible. You will see a lot of green markings in your Bible. I'm not sure you will find anything marked in red. (Some might mark the words "love your neighbor as yourself" - but that isn't a command to love yourself, it's an assumption that you already do!)

Pay special attention to Proverbs as you read through it - it will have a strong green hue. It contains numerous admonitions against pride as well as calls to humble oneself before God and others. Notice Proverbs 15:33.
Humility comes before honor. 
It is when we humble ourselves before God and walk in the fear of the Lord that we attain true wisdom. Wisdom is rooted in humility and that humility produces honor. Pride produces folly which results in destruction and dishonor.

Don't listen to the false messages of the world - of course, they are lies, Jesus promised us that! Pride is the path to spiritual powerlessness. We must humble ourselves before God and before one another to be used by him and honored by him.

Father, may I humble myself daily, reminding myself that I am weak and sinful and that all that I am is because of Christ and all that I have flows from your bounty of grace. 

Think and Pray

Have you bought into the worldly idea that you need to put yourself first, or do you live in obedience to Christ and his word, which calls you to die to self, deny self, and live for him - walking the way of the Cross?
Do you live in pride or in humility?

Friday, June 23, 2017

"The Song that Never Ends" June 23 Readings: 2 Chronicles 3-4, Acts 1:1–11, Psalm 77:1–3, Proverbs 15:28–29

Today's Readings - 2 Chronicles 3-4, Acts 1:1–11, Psalm 77:1–3, Proverbs 15:28–29


It is the song that never ends.
It just goes on and on my friends. 
That annoying song has been sung on young people's outings for decades, and truly it never ends, my friends. It has a beginning, but the nerves of the adult sponsors run out long before kids got tired of singing the song.

Just like the song, the story of Jesus goes on and on. When the religious leaders crucified him, they thought they were done with Jesus, but they could not have been more wrong. The end of his life was only the beginning of his work.

Luke opened the book of Acts with these words,

I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day He was taken up.
All that Jesus BEGAN to do. Began. The story of Jesus did not simply continue in his resurrection, but it continued in the lives of the Apostles in the book of Acts, as the Holy Spirit worked through them to spread the gospel. And that story continues today in us.

We do not study Jesus as simply a man from history, a great philosopher, or a religious guru. He is a living Lord, working in and through us today. Our lives are the continuation of the story of Jesus Christ. He walks in this world today, and he talks, and he reaches out and he displays his love. He does it all through "his body" - the church. That's us, folks!

It is our duty to see that we sing that song well, that we bring honor to the Name and not disgrace. We must serve the gospel with our hearts and souls.

It is a song that never ends.
Father, may my life be a fitting and powerful continuation of the story of Jesus.

Think and Pray

Your life is meant to be a continuation of the life and work of Christ? Are you continuing that life, that purpose, that work of Christ on a daily basis? 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Going Fishing" June 22 Readings: 2 Chronicles 1-2, John 21, Psalm 76, Proverbs 15:25–27

Today's Readings - 2 Chronicles 1-2, John 21, Psalm 76, Proverbs 15:25–27


Peter was a fisherman. He had done it all his life, even when he was a disciple of John the Baptist. Then, one day, Jesus walked by. “Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.” And Peter followed him. He left the nets behind and followed Jesus for more than three years, throughout Galilee, to Jerusalem, to Gethsemane, and to the Sanhedrin. There, it all ended. 

“I swear to you, I never knew this man.” 

With those words, Peter denied the Lord he had sworn to serve. And even when the most glorious miracle of history occurred, even when Jesus was raised from the dead, even when Jesus appeared to the disciples, Peter could not forget the fact that he had failed. 

And so, he told the other disciples, “I’m going fishing,” in John 21:3. The way this verse is constructed gives the idea that he wasn't taking a day off to drown some worms. He wasn't getting away for some rest and relaxation. No, this was not recreation or a vacation. Peter was giving up. He was a fisherman before Jesus came to him beside Galilee. Now, he would be one again. He had failed - miserably and spectacularly - and he was through with this whole disciple thing. 

Ever felt that way? It happens to me often, usually on a Monday morning. When I fail, or when the pressures of life pile up, or trials and opposition come, I have the impulse to throw it all in, resign my job, and go fishing. Metaphorically, at least. Actual fishing is not a temptation to me. 

I bet sometimes you feel like giving up. It may be because of your own failure, or because of the hurtful actions of someone else. You gave your best, and no one recognized it. You poured yourself into ministry, but nothing came of it. The pressures of life have snowballed to the point you just can’t take it anymore. Like Peter, and me, you want to go fishing. 

But Jesus won’t let that happen. He appeared to Peter by the Sea of Tiberius. He took Peter back to where it all began. He renewed the miracle of his provision. “Cast your net on the other side of the boat.” Jesus did it all over again. He took Peter right back to the beginning and renewed his faith and the wonder of God’s power. That’s where healing begins with us. We must return to the presence of the Lord and renew our minds and hearts in him. The good news is that Jesus always begins the process of healing. 

Jesus did not ignore Peter’s failure, or sweep it under the rug. He made him face it. Three times Peter denied Jesus. Three times Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” Jesus renews us by making us deal with the sin and failure that drew us away from him. When we repent, the blood of Christ covers our sin and brings us renewal. 

Then, Jesus gave his command to Peter. “Feed my sheep.” God renewed Peter by giving him an assignment. Take care of God’s sheep. Jesus renewed Peter, then sent him out to serve. The fallen soldier was back on the front lines.

Jesus will never let you give up. As his child, he won’t let you go fishing. He will come to you, inviting you back into his presence. He will help you find forgiveness for your failure and will restore you to a life of fruitful service. 

No, my friend, it is not time to go fishing.

Father, I thank you that you never give up on me. I fail; you restore. I get discouraged; you renew. When I am ready to quit, you give me strength. Thank you God, for your renewing power. 

Think and Pray

Have you ever felt like giving up because of your failure?
Remember that God's faithfulness extends farther than our failure.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"The Joy of Giving" June 21 Readings: 1 Chronicles 28-29, John 20, Psalm 75:7–10, Proverbs 15:23–24

Today's Readings - 1 Chronicles 28-29, John 20, Psalm 75:7–10, Proverbs 15:23–24


In the good old days, there would be one or two weeks a year when a preacher might preach a "stewardship" sermon, which was little more than an appeal for members to open their wallets and give - more. Churches have often struggled with money and pastors have given appeals to their people to be more generous, more faithful.

One thing that was often absent from these pulpit appeals was the spirit demonstrated by King David in 1 Chronicles 29:10-19 when Israel was overwhelmed with generosity for the building of the Temple. David did not whine or wheedle but set forth the joy and glory of giving, of investing in the things of God.
But who am I and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? (29:14)
Is there any privilege greater than that of giving money, which is so often an idol and a distraction, to invest in eternal things? David realized this. So did Paul when he told the Corinthians about cheerful, joyful giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

David gives several reasons why giving is a great privilege and joy. In verse 14, he declares that since everything belongs to God we are just giving him what is his. Joyful, generous giving is a reminder to us that God, in fact, owns it all. It is a means of giving thanks and praise to God for his provision in all things.

In verse 17, David speaks of God testing our hearts. Giving - not the forced, manipulated, guilt-based kind that has been so often used in churches, but the joyful kind - is a marker of a pure heart of devotion for God. What greater privilege is there than to use our money to enable worship and the proclamation of God's glory?

Of course, the greatest reason to give is the reason David gave in verses 10-13.

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

It is great to give because our God is great, exalted over all things and the rightful owner and Lord of all that is. Giving is an act of praise and worship that demonstrates that we know that God is great.

Father, I thank you for the privilege of giving faithfully to honor you and make Christ known in the world. 

Think and Pray

Is giving a joy to you - investing in the Kingdom of God?
If not, why do you think it is not?
A famous preacher (my dad - famous to me) used to say that giving is a gauge of the heart. What does your giving say about you?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"Three Glorious Words" June 20 Readings: 1 Chronicles 26-27, John 19:28–42, Psalm 75:1–6, Proverbs 15:20–22

Today's Readings - 1 Chronicles 26-27, John 19:28–42, Psalm 75:1–6, Proverbs 15:20–22


Three words. Simple words. But since the beginning of time, no more glorious words have ever been spoken. In English translations, it is three words. In the Greek translation that our New Testament is written in it is only one word. I do not know whether it is one word or more in the Aramaic that Jesus would have actually spoken on the cross. But those three English words, in whatever language they are spoken, changed everything. John 19:30 records them as the last words that Jesus spoke before he commended his spirit into the hands of the Father.
It is finished.
Since Adam and Eve chose sin over obedience in the Garden, the weight of sin had been growing. Some people, like Ahab, like Manasseh, like Herod, sinned heinously and boldly. Others have sinned in self-righteousness, keeping their sins inward, hidden deeply in their hearts. Some have lived such respectable lives that it is hard for other sinful humans to even believe they have a sinful nature. But we do. We all do. All have sinned. Even at the end of his life, Paul called himself "the chief of sinners." That weight of sin grew throughout time - bigger, heavier, uglier.

It had to be paid for. The holy God of heaven is not one who can wink at sin and say, "don't worry about it. His righteousness demands full payment for every sin ever committed, every violation of his law. And Romans 6:23 makes it clear what that payment is.
"The wages of sin is death."
Someone had to die for my sins, and yours. We faced an eternity separated from God under his judgment because of our waywardness. The debt must be paid. And that is exactly what Jesus was doing on the Cross that day. He was paying the price, paying the wages that our sins demanded. Jesus hung on the cross paying the eternal payment for my sins. Death. He was suffering all the wrath of God for all eternity against all the sins of all the world.

As Jesus was prepared for crucifixion, Jesus experienced the evil of man. But on the Cross, hanging there bearing the sins of the world and standing in our place, Jesus experienced as no man ever had to that point, the eternal wrath of God against sin.

The sun grew dark as Jesus hung there.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
There is an answer to the question. You. And me. Why? Because Jesus was in our place and he was experiencing our hell. He was there for us and experienced all the horrors of hell in the hours he hung there, the full weight of God's wrath for our sins poured out on the sinless Lamb.

And then, when it was done, he uttered the words. "It is finished." It's done. Your sins are paid for. Your atonement is complete. You are washed, cleansed, justified, redeemed, forgiven, and every other word you can imagine. Completely. Infinitely. Eternally. It is finished. Nothing else ever has to be done for you to be saved forever!

So, when we come to Christ in repentance and faith the debt is paid. Done. I can add nothing to my salvation. I can only believe.

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel's veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. It is finished. Jesus paid it all. It is finished. Mercy there is great and grace was free, pardon there was multiplied to me. It is finished. Because Jesus spoke those words, because he paid for our sins, we are free.
Father, I am in awe of your grace and love, that you would punish your beloved Son for my sins. Why would you do that for a sinner like me? But you did, and I glory in Cross on which Jesus finished, completely, my eternal redemption.

Think and Pray

Take time to read the John 19 passage slowly and carefully. Christianity is rooted in the "old, old story" of Jesus. Take time today to think and pray through that passage.