Monthly Archives: November 2016

November 20 – Not What He Expected

Acts 11-12

I had one of those laugh-outloud moments again this morning as I read these chapters. Peter had just been miraculously freed from jail. An angel appeared in his cell where Peter slept, chained with two chains and lying between two soldiers. Guards were watching the prison, too.

But the angel told Peter to get up quickly. The chains fell off! Peter put on his shoes and coat and he followed the angel right past the guards. When they came to a gate, the gate opened all by itself. Peter was free! What an adrenaline rush.

Peter hurried to tell his friends what had happened to him. I can imagine his excitement. And we know how excitable Peter could be. He probably couldn’t wait to share the good news. I’m sure his heart was pounding in his chest.

So here’s what made me laugh out loud. A servant girl, Rhoda, answered what was probably Peter’s frantic knocking on the door. When she heard his voice and recognized it as belonging to the jailed apostle, she didn’t open the door. Instead she ran back to the other disciples to tell them Peter was there.

So here’s Peter, full of anticipation and excitement with the most amazing news to share. His hand was probably on the door knob, ready and eager to enter, when he realized he was alone. The door hadn’t  opened.

Not exactly the reception he’d imagined, I’m sure.

Of course, eventually they opened the door and let him in. He was able to share what had happened. But the moment was gone. Perhaps a little of the wind in his sails died a bit.

Sometimes people who come to the Lord have the same experience as Peter had. They meet the Savior. They ask Him to forgive them and for the first time in their lives they know what real joy is. They are washed clean, a new person in Christ, set free from the chains of sin. And they want to tell those closest to them.

So with excitement and anticipation, they burst on the scene to share the details of their conversion, only to be met with blank stares and cold shoulders. Not the reception they’d imagined.

But learn from what Peter did. He kept knocking until his friends opened the door. And I think God would have us do the same. If God has blessed you, if you have witnessed His hand in a situation, or if you’ve come to know Him for the first time, and your friends and loved ones don’t share your excitement, don’t stop knocking.

Keep talking about the Lord, keep pointing them to the Savior. Because one day, like in Peter’s case, I believe that door will open and you’ll be able to share the most incredible news with the people you love.

November 19 – Growing The Church

Acts 9-10

As I read these chapters today I thought, “Wow. Ananias was a brave man!” God told him to go heal Saul, the church-hater, the persecutor of Christians, the one who had come to Damascus to arrest anyone naming the name of Jesus. God told Ananias to go to Saul. And he did.

Was that an act of bravery? If it were me, I’m not sure I’d be feeling very brave approaching Saul. I’d be shaking in my boots (or maybe sandals).

No, I don’t think Ananias is so much an example of a brave man, as he is an example of an obedient man.

One thing I noticed, the thing that’s convicted me this morning, is that God didn’t send Saul to Ananias. And God didn’t tell Ananias to paint his house or hire a rock band to entice Saul to come to him. God told Ananias to get up off his couch and knock on Saul’s door in person.

Ok, God. I hear You. This is how You intend to grow Your Church, one obedient person at a time. Forgive us if we depend on our pastors to do the legwork, and the praise team to draw people into our services, or our programs to get people into our doors. So often in Your Word You tell US to GO. Jesus went to the people. Philip went to the Ethiopian eunuch, Peter went to Dorcas, then to Cornelius. I don’t hear any of them inviting people to come to church. Rather, I hear them inviting them to know Jesus. I hear You saying the same thing to me. May I help grow Your Church today, as I obey Your leading to GO.

November 18 – Seeing God

Acts 7-8

Bad things happen. People get sick, some die. Wars and terrorism are in the news all the time. Tragedy strikes across the world, and in our own homes. Life isn’t fair.

So where is God in all of this?

When Stephen was being pummeled by rocks, he “gazed intently into heaven.” He was dying a painful death. His world was as out of control as is ours. But Stephen saw what I pray we all can see. That is Jesus, seated next to God the Father in all His glory.

Stephen didn’t focus on the stones being thrown at him, or even on the people trying to kill him. His attention was on God.

I’m not going to question God about why bad things happen. He’s already made that perfectly clear in His Word. What I want to see is Jesus, ready and willing to heal our land and our lives if we only humble ourselves and let Him.

It’s not God causing bad things to happen. He didn’t force any of those people to pick up rocks and hurl them at Stephen that day. He doesn’t force anyone to be a terrorist, or an abortionist, and He doesn’t implant cancer cells in people’s bodies to make them suffer.

Bad things happen as a result of living in a fallen world. It’s mankind’s disobedience that has taken God out of the picture and we are left with the consequences.

So where is God when tragedy strikes? Right there, waiting and willing to draw us to Himself, to comfort and strengthen, and ultimately to take us to be with Him forever. If we, like Stephen, gaze intently into heaven, into the eyes of our Savior, it’s God who gives us everything we need in the midst of the heartache and pain.

Circumstances might not change, but we might. Our hearts might be broken, but our hearts might also be healed by an encounter with the Savior, and other hearts might be healed as well because of our testimony. What Satan intends for evil, God can use for good in and through us. No matter what is happening, God wants to give His children everything we need for this life and eternity.

He wants to give us Himself. And if you think that’s not enough, dear one, you are wrong. It’s everything.

 

November 17 – We Must… I Did

Acts 4-6

Last night my pastor shared some thoughts from Paul’s letter to Titus. He pointed out that the grace of God starts at salvation, but doesn’t end there. God’s grace instructs us to live godly lives and to look for Christ’s return. God’s grace reveals Jesus who redeems and purifies His children, who then become “zealous for good deeds.”

Then Paul says in Titus 2:15:

These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

The pastor challenged us to be zealous in talking about Jesus. If we really believe what Peter said in Acts 4:12, that there is no other salvation than in the name of Jesus, that our family and friends will go to hell without Him, then how can we remain silent?

The high priest warned Peter and John to stop talking about Jesus or bad things would happen to them. Peter answered:

We must obey God rather than man. (5:29)

Then Peter proceeded to talk to the high priest about Jesus. That’s zeal!

There are some people in our world today who continue to name the name of Jesus with a black hood over their heads, and machetes at their necks. We don’t face that threat yet in this country. But I wonder if we’re allowing ourselves to be bullied into silence, anyway.

God is asking me, and maybe asking you, who it is we are obeying. I don’t face a threat on my life if I talk about Jesus. But do I let public opinion handcuff me, am I afraid of stepping on toes, do I allow Satan’s voice to stop me from talking about Jesus because he’s convinced me my friend isn’t interested, or that I won’t know what to say?

Who cares? If I really believe that Jesus is the only salvation, and that anyone who doesn’t know Him as Savior will spend ETERNITY IN HELL…

then I must be zealously sharing Him every chance I get. I must make opportunities to talk about Jesus. I must ask the hard questions of my unsaved loved ones.

I must obey God and forget what man thinks about me.  Because in the end, I won’t be accountable to the United States government on that day. I will be accountable to God, however.

And when I look Jesus in the eye, I want… because of God’s grace… to be able to say that Paul’s “We must…” became my “I did.”

 

 

 

November 16 – Transformers

Acts 1-3

Is anyone else blown away by the change in Peter? He was an uneducated fisherman who had become a disciple of Jesus. He was a bit impulsive. What did he do when Jesus asked him to pray for Him? Peter fell asleep. More than once. And when things got sketchy, our hero denied even knowing Jesus… three times. That after swearing to Jesus he’d be faithful.

Uneducated. Impulsive. Weak. That’s the Peter we know and love.

So what happened? If you read these first chapters in Acts you’ll see a confident, articulate, controlled leader. The first sermon he ever preached saw 3,000 converts. That sermon, and his second recorded in chapter 3, are still speaking to hearts thousands of years later.

And, dear one, these things happened only weeks after Jesus’ death on the cross. Peter hadn’t gone to seminary, or watched You Tube videos on public speaking techniques. The change in Peter happened after the Holy Spirit filled him.

You and I have the same Holy Spirit in us, once we repent of sins and accept Jesus’ gift of forgiveness. That same Spirit that transformed Peter has the power to transform us, too.

If you have kids, you know what Transformers are. They are toys that can morph from one form to another. The child is in control. He manipulates a few parts, and you have a powerful robot to fight their battles. It’s a completely different toy. The transformed toy doesn’t look like the original toy at all.I thought of that when I read about Peter.

Because Peter was transformed when the Holy Spirit took control. And the transformation is astounding.

Do you have the attitude that God can’t use you? You’re too shy. Or uneducated. You don’t know what to say. Your past is too ugly. You can’t sing, and you would probably die before you had to stand in front of a Sunday School class full of eight-year-olds. That’s the old you.

If you know the Savior, the Holy Spirit is living within you. And if you adopt the attitude of, “I can’t” you are telling the Spirit that HE can’t. Do you really want to go there?

I believe God wants us to be His Transformers. He wants to change us, to use us, to morph us into vessels through which He can reach the world. He transformed Peter in a dramatic way.

And He’s transforming lives still today. Has He transformed you?

November 15 – He Is Risen Indeed!

Luke 24; J0hn 20-21

The risen Savior appeared to His disciples and invited them to touch His body. They were not seeing a vision. They were in the presence of Jesus, alive and well.

As you read the last chapters of the Gospels you’ll see Jesus walking and talking and sharing meals with people… after the cross. Many people were witnesses to the miracle of the resurrection of Christ.

One exchange between Peter and the resurrected Jesus got me thinking today. First, Jesus allowed Peter to confess his love for the Lord three times, to equal the three denials Peter had uttered while Jesus was on trial. I love how Jesus loves!

Then Jesus told Peter a little about his future. It doesn’t seem like Peter had much to say about what he’d heard. He looked at John instead, and asked Jesus: What about him?

Let’s consider Jesus’ answer as recorded in John 21:22:

If I want him (John) to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!

Sometimes we’re tempted to compare ourselves to other people. Maybe we rationalize that we’re not as bad as so-and-so, so we must be ok. Or we get jealous if we think someone is blessed more than us. Some people use imperfect Christians as an excuse for not accepting the Savior. The question they ask is, “What about them?”

Hear Jesus say: Don’t worry about them. YOU follow me. YOU!

Jesus died on the cross for sinners, of which you and I are two. Then after three days, He got up from that grave and lived once again. He defeated sin and death, and lives today.

He is risen. He is risen indeed!

Do you believe it? Do YOU believe it? Then YOU follow Him. Don’t worry about anyone else. They have nothing to do with YOUR response to the Savior.

November 14 – He Is Risen!

Matthew 28; Mark 16

Jesus is alive. The One who died on that cross got up from the grave and showed Himself to many people. Oh, some say it isn’t true. The guards were paid to say the disciples stole the body, and many people still believe that today.

Some say Jesus wasn’t really dead. It was an elaborate hoax executed by Jesus and the disciples. But it’s hard to explain away the water and blood that poured out of the dead body of Jesus when the soldier ran Him through with his sword. It’s hard to refute the eyewitness accounts of His death and burial.

They have trouble explaining how so many people could report seeing, talking to, and eating with Jesus after He died. But many people choose to believe the feeble explanations.

People can try to theorize about how it is Jesus pulled off such an impressive hoax. But the truth of the matter is, Jesus died, and then lived. He died. And then lived.

If you know Him, doesn’t that Truth make your heart soar? Jesus is alive! The tomb is empty because Jesus rose from the grave to live again.

Oh, what a wonderful Savior! Praise God! He is risen!

November 13 – Mission Accomplished

Luke 23; John 18-19

“It is finished.” (John 19:30) Jesus had completed the mission He had set His mind to before creation. If He was going to create man with the ability to choose, God was going to provide a way back to Him when those very choices tore us away.

Everything that occurred in the ancient world happened to point men and women to Jesus. The Law was given to show us what holiness would look like. The consequences spelled out there, and carried out in the lives of the Jewish people, show us how serious God is about unholiness. And it proves we are unable to claim holiness on our own. Fallen man – that’s you and me – have no place in God’s Holy Presence.

But Jesus.

We only get a glimpse of what it cost Jesus to fulfill the Law’s requirements on our behalf. The Man took on God’s hatred of my sin, of billions and billions of people who have walked this earth. He suffered everything that we had coming to us. He fulfilled the prophesies from hundreds of years before to reinforce that Jesus is The Great I AM.

At exactly the right moment, Jesus said “It is finished.” And then He died. Account paid. Sins forgiven. Mission accomplished.

I pray you have accepted what Jesus did on your behalf that day He hung on a cross. Your sins – YOUR’S – are forgiven. All you have to do is ask Him to forgive you. “It is finished.”

November 12 – Humbled

Matthew 27; Mark 15

Every time I read the account of Jesus’ last few hours on this planet, I am humbled. He endured it all for love of me. He quietly listened to the lies, was punched and kicked and spit on. He heard every insult, and felt the pain of those nails tearing through His flesh. He even experienced what happens when God the Father turns away.

It takes about ten minutes to read about it. But Jesus lived it one minute after another, one long hour after another. Jesus suffered excruciating pain, and died a humiliating death – because He loves me that much.

I believe that as He breathed His last, His mind went ahead to 2016, and He saw my face. And your’s. That’s why He did what He did. He died so we could be forgiven.

Charles Wesley wrote a hymn the speaks to me every time I hear it. In it he asks a question: Can it really be that Jesus Himself shed His blood for me, the one who cause His pain in the first place?

The angels can’t even understand the depth of love that put the Immortal God on the cross to die. Jesus left heaven, took on mortality, and emptied Himself of everything except His love for me. And it’s by His grace that forgiveness found me.

It was like I was imprisoned by sin, chained to desires and actions that caused me pain. But I met Jesus, and those chains fell off, my heart was free. I’m alive in Him. I’m clothed in His righteousness. I got up off my knees a free woman, and followed Jesus.

Now I don’t fear judgment. Jesus, His righteousness is mine. I can boldly approach the God of the Universe, washed clean by Jesus’ blood. And I can claim the Son of God as my own!

Amazing love! How can it be, that You… my God… should die for me?

I am humbled. I am grateful. I love my Savior!

November 11 – What Jesus Wants Us To Know

John 14-17

I love reading John’s personal account of his last intimate moments with the Savior. Jesus talked to His disciples around the dinner table about what was ahead, about His suffering and death. He promised them they’d see Him again, that He would be preparing their place in eternity. He assured them of God’s love. He promised the Holy Spirit. And He prayed for them.

As a follower of Jesus myself, I hear Him speak these words to me, too. I am assured that Jesus and the Father are One. That Jesus is the way, the truth, and life, and no one can go to the Father except through Him. I am strengthened when Jesus tells me He has overcome the world.

Do you doubt that Jesus is God? I challenge you to read these chapters today. But before you do, ask God to reveal the Truth as you read His Word. Put aside pre-conceived notions for the ten minutes it will take you, and allow God to show Himself to you, and to introduce you to His Son.

Because you’ll read the words, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (14:9)

Jesus is Who He claims to be. Jesus is God. Jesus is the Savior of the world.

And He wants you to know Him.