November 16; Wisdom From Heaven

James 1-3

I will be honest. I haven’t been watching the impeachment hearing on TV. My blood pressure has it’s limits. I don’t know on which side of the aisle you are, but I think God has something to say to all of us through James this morning.

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find discord and every evil practice. (3:16)

I guess when I try to watch the proceedings I find discord and evil practices fueled by envy and selfish ambition. Did God give James a glimpse of the USA in 2019? It seems so. But the next verse is what I want to highlight today:

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (3:17)

Can you imagine the change that would come about in our country if God poured out the wisdom that comes from heaven onto Washington DC? Peace-loving? Considerate? Submissive? Merciful? Impartial? Sincere? I don’t care which side of this issue you are,  but can you say you wouldn’t want those things to be evident in all our politicians?

Let’s pray for the wisdom that comes from heaven for our political leaders. But let’s also pray the same for each of us. Our country can hardly be described as peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial, or sincere, can it? Can you be described in those terms? Can I?

We need the wisdom that comes from heaven.

 

November 15; Even the Gentiles

Acts 9:32-11:15

I am so thankful for the Jews. They were the ones through whom God chose to bring salvation to the world. God had stuck with them even when they disobeyed, protected them even when they put themselves in danger. They didn’t deserve His kindness, but God knew that He would come to earth through a Jewish woman. And in spite of the Jews who rebelled, Jesus was indeed born of Mary.

It’s no wonder the Jews felt Jesus was exclusively their’s. For centuries they knew they were chosen, set apart, and they felt superior to anyone not Jewish (known as Gentiles). The Holy Spirit had come to the Jews there in Jerusalem. Salvation through Jesus was their’s.

So Peter’s vision and subsequent encounter with Cornelius, a Gentile centurion, was met with criticism. “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (11:3)

What were you thinking, Peter?

But I love that when Peter explained his vision, shared what happened when the Holy Spirit was given to non-Jewish believers just as it had been give to them, the once horrified Jews “had no further objections.” Then this:

(they) praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” (11:18)

Yes. Yes He did. Even Gentiles. Even me!

 

 

November 14; To Change or Not To Change, That Is The Question

Acts 7:54-9:31

Simon believed he was someone great. He wasn’t the only one. It sounds like he had quite a following. His sorcery must have been amazing, because people even thought he was divine.

That is, until they heard Philip preach the “good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus.” Many believed in Jesus, and were baptized – including Simon. Simon ended up following Philip around after that. Being a sorcerer, he was amazed at the miracles he saw Philip do.

Then when Simon witnessed Peter and John placing their hands on believers who then received the Holy Spirit, he wanted in on the action. He was willing to buy that ability. Peter recognized Simon for who he really was, and addressed Simon’s sin in no uncertain terms. “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right with God.”

Simon had believed in Jesus. But Simon was still the same old Simon. His heart had not changed.

Saul, on the other hand, was not only NOT a believer, he had dedicated his life to destroying the church by getting rid of anyone who did believe in Jesus. But his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus changed him.

Completely.

Saul became Paul who then dedicated his life to sharing Jesus with everyone, in hopes that everyone would believe. Paul’s belief in Jesus didn’t stop with the knowledge that Jesus is the Savior. Paul’s belief in Jesus changed his heart.

Do you believe? Scripture tells us even the demons believe, and shudder. (James 2:19). Belief is the first step, but it isn’t the only step.

If accepting Jesus as your Savior hasn’t changed you, let me suggest you check your heart. Is your belief head-knowledge, or a heart-changing, person-transforming, sin-defeating relationship with God Himself?

Change, or no change? That’s the question. And the answer is the difference between being a child of God, and being someone who has no part in His ministry, His kingdom.

Let your belief in Jesus change you.

November 13; On Every Page

Acts 5:17-7:53

Many people find the Old Testament hard to read. It’s repetitive, long lists of hard to pronounce names, accounts of things that happened so long ago, who even cares?

Well, Stephen for one. His 53 verse sermon is an overview of Old Testament Scripture. He knew the Old Testament pointed to Jesus as the Messiah, and he wanted everyone to know it, too.

I hope you’ll read what Stephen had to say about the Old Testament, about how God worked in and through a nation of people to prepare the world for His Son. Then I hope you’ll turn to the pages of the Old Testament for yourself and read first hand what God wants you to know.

Don’t read it merely as a history book, but as God’s love letter to you. Get to know Him by reading about Abraham, Joseph, Job, David, Esther, Daniel… Put yourself in their stories and hear God tell you how much you are loved, how He longs to fellowship with you, and how He works in your life to bring about good. Understand that He is the same God today as He was back then, and He wants you to know Him.

And He wants you to see Jesus. The entire Old Testament is a beacon pointing the way to the Savior. I believe you, like Stephen, will see Jesus on every page.

November 12; Unschooled and Ordinary

Acts 3:1-5:16

Peter amazes me. The disciple had spent most of the three years he was with Jesus, with his foot firmly planted in his mouth. You can’t fault Peter’s enthusiasm for the Messiah. He just didn’t always think before he acted or said something. He seemed an unlikely leader.

But something happened to Peter. Acts 4:8 tells us what that something was:

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit…

Peter and John were known as “unschooled and ordinary men” to everyone in town. But, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter could stand before the same church officials who had crucified Jesus, and boldly proclaim that Jesus is the Truth!

Peter, now filled with the Holy Spirit, wouldn’t back down, was willing to go to jail rather than deny Jesus. But this same Peter had very publicly denied Jesus three times just a few weeks earlier.

Here’s the thing: God uses unschooled and ordinary people who are filled with His Spirit to boldly proclaim that Jesus is the Truth. You don’t need a seminary degree. You need to accept Jesus as your Savior. You need to be yielded to the Spirit. He’ll take hold of you like he took hold of Peter, and who knows where that will lead?

Do you feel God is prompting you to talk to a neighbor or friend about the Lord? Maybe you hesitate because you think you wouldn’t know what to say.

Good!

You are in a perfect place to be used by God on behalf of that person for whom He died, and in whom He is preparing a heart to receive Him. Let Him fill you with His Spirit. Let Him use your voice to speak His words to that soul. He will if you let Him.

You may be unschooled compared to your pastor, but you are anything but ordinary when the Spirit fills you. Peter said in verse 20:

For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.

And neither will you be able to stop speaking about Jesus. When His Spirit fills you, it just naturally spills out, bubbles over, and touches everyone around you. Nothing ordinary about that!

 

November 11; It’s Thrilling

Mark 16:9-20; Acts 1-2

Yesterday’s Scripture had me reaffirming my belief in the resurrected Jesus. Today Peter reminded me of the Old Testament Scriptures, prophecies that were perfectly fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

It must have been thrilling to have been part of those first few days at the beginning of the Church; the dramatic coming of the Holy Spirit, 3,000 people accepting Jesus in one day, then boldly being baptized in a public declaration of their faith in Him.

That act of baptism in itself is amazing considering they were alining themselves with the very Man the Jews had just crucified a few short weeks before. Talk about thrilling!

But it is also thrilling to be part of God’s Church in 2019. Sometimes we get caught up in the negative, we lament the sin in our world, and wring our hands at the seemingly weakening of the Church.

But God is reminding me today that He is still alive and well and working in the hearts of all men and women in every corner of the world. Jesus still lives! The Holy Spirit is still present! Hearts are still being changed, and eternity is won every day.

Now that’s thrilling!

November 10: Ask Me

Matthew 28:11-20; Luke 24:13-53; John 20:19-22:25

I get that some people have trouble believing Jesus was raised from the dead. I mean, His disciples had trouble believing it, and Jesus was standing right in front of them with nail-pierced hands. The truth is, however, Jesus is alive.

There’s an old hymn we used to sing. “He lives! Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along the narrow way. He lives salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!”

I love that old hymn. But as I read this part of Scripture today I realize it’s not just knowing Jesus lives in my heart. I believe He lives because the Bible tells me He lives.

He’s not just a spirit in my heart (although that is pretty awesome in itself). He’s a living person with a real body who actually lives in heaven. He’s as real as you and me.

You ask me how I know that? Because I know Him personally; first through the pages of God’s Word, then through the precious blood of Jesus. He does walk with me, and He speaks to me from Scripture, He is my ever present help in time of need, and the One I want to share my day with.

Ask me about Jesus. I serve a risen Savior.